We neared the Punnamada Lake, our eyes got a visual treat with numerous beautiful and artistic houseboats lined up for their journey. Our journey guide took us to the houseboat we had booked. The guide told us that a night cruise on the backwaters is one of the most popular cruises offered. A round trip from Alleppey in the backwaters, after having spent the day and night in the tranquility of the backwaters leaves you spellbound. The cruise takes you through the clear waters of the prominent Punnamada Lake – the venue of the legendary Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race. You can visit the 400-year-old Champakkulam church, one of the 7 churches established by St. Thomas. The Chavara Bhavan, located at 6 km distance, is another interesting place that one can’t afford to miss. The ancestral home of the Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the Chavara Bhavan houses the legendary 250-year-old beacon of light – preserved intact in its original and primitive form.
Excited on hearing the account of this exotic location, we moved towards our ship – our houseboat. We were amazed the moment we saw a houseboat. Bedecked with world-class facilities, a houseboat is not less than an architectural marvel created on a smallboat. With absolutely no interface with the outside world, apart from few stoppages on the nearby shores, we gave in to the journey. Cruising along the Punnamada Lake, we got a slice of true Kerala lifestyle. The view of villages along the banks, green paddy fields and coconut groves captivated our mind body and soul.
Cruising down the backwaters on the houseboat, locally called kettuvallam, for some quiet moments reflected solitude. While I relished the traditional Keralite breakfast – kappa (tapioca) and fish curry, my friend connected his laptop with some nice music and whole new experience in water came striking back to us. The water lilies when seen in the night dazzle like the twinkling stars in a dark sky. Fishing women and men add to the magic with their imaginative ways of fishing. The cruise tantalised us with its breathtaking serenity to remain as the most beautiful reminiscences of our lives. As the boat covered kilometres in water, we were left with rich experience of watching coconut trees leaning to the water and touching the blue sky. The thought reinstated in my mind why Kerala is God’s own Country.
Guide told us that Alleppey just 63 km from Kochi. A visit to Kochi is rendered incomplete without visiting Alleppey, land of amazing backwaters and snake boat races. The word snake boat races rang alarms in our heads, and we wanted to know more about these. We were informed that the world famous ‘Nehru Trophy Boat Race’ is held on second Saturday of August every year at the Punnamada, the lake we were cruising in. The main highlight of the race is ‘Chundan Vallam’, the 130 feet long snake boat that requires 100 people to row. Thousands of spectators from all over the world watch this event avidly from the banks. On tourist demand, the race is now repeated during the tourist season also – in mid Jan – and is called ‘Tourism Snakeboat Race’.
Having struck a good rapport with the crewmembers, we were served excellent lunch that had traditional Kerala dishes like fried fish delicacy called Karemeen fry. Post lunch we tried a bit of fishing, but had no luck! In some time the boat came to a permanent halt for the day. We celebrated the birthday of one of our friends and hit the bed by late night. Savour traditional Kerala cuisine, witness the spectacular backwater regatta, lounge at pristine beaches or buy coir products, Alleppey has it all.