Room without a view

After our two nights in Periyar we were on the move again and off to one of the stops I’d most been looking forward to. We were on our way to the Keralan backwaters. First we’d be stopping in the Backwater Heritage Homestay for two nights and then we’d be on a houseboat for one night.
The drive down from Periyar was again a really long, bendy, precarious route and we seemed to be heading downhill for most of the four hours it took. Once again we passed through some splendid scenery and by now we were able to point out the various different plantations (tea, coffee, cardamon, rubber etc) as we passed through. The road was incredibly busy with folk coming and going to the two and a half month long Hindu festival at Sabarimala. They might have been pilgrims but they weren’t very good drivers.
We had a few stops along the way. First of all at a quirky old fashioned cafe for a cuppa coffee and a loo break, then Jane wanted to stop in a ‘real town’ and have a look at their shops. Vaiju pulled up in just such a place and out we got. The temperature down here was incredibly hot in the sunshine so it seemed a little incongruous that we were visiting their local Christmas shops trying to find the best giant hanging star! We’d seen these all around Kerala and we needed our own. We also found that we needed to visit a local hardware store where we once again bought presents for the lucky people back home. We finished our Xmas shopping trip with a very acceptable cornetto.
The next stop involved the purchase of alcohol from a Government store. This one was in a very busy city called Kottayam. They are exceedingly seedy places only frequented by men, but they do sell their beer and wine very cheap (compared to hotels) and something was telling us that we’d need this to get through the next few days….
We also needed to exchange some money as we were by now running out of rupees. Vaiju found the place down the back streets of Kumarakom which is itself in the backwaters and Jane got excellent service from the three ladies who served her.
Finally, after much driving round some really tiny lanes and over bridges over the narrow waterways and asking for directions several times, we found ourself at the Backwater Heritage Homestay. The place looked really lovely from the outside and Xavier greeted us warmly, although with limited English.
Vaiju left us to it as he was off to stay with his sister for the next couple of nights so we were on our own. As he left, we were being distracted by some duck herding that was going on in the backwater river just by the garden. Basically, two guys in canoes herding about one hundred noisy ducks up river.
Well, when we were shown our room it was the hottest little box I’d ever had the pleasure of sleeping in. It is a really old traditional house but this room was like a cell. It was small, dark, humid and had no windows. In addition there was a welcome party of at least 3 mosquitos that we could see. Oh gawd.
Anyway, before we had to put up with that we went for a short walk with the other guests who we’d get to know better later. We walked along to the local fish farm and watched a man climb a coconut tree to tap toddy. Then we brought some back to taste. You have got to me kidding me. The stuff looked revolting. It’s basically coconut water/sap which ferments but the stuff in the bottle had brown sediment at the bottom and a variety of insects floating on the top. Er, no thanks, we will open one of our cold beers.
When we got back we ate our dinner on the verandah of the other part of the property where the other guests were sleeping. The food was good, simple, plentiful and definitely local with a mix of fish and veggie dishes. Bananas for pudding were by now starting to take their toll on my tummy.
We had an excellent night talking with the other guests putting off the inevitable of having to go to our cell to sleep.
By the time we did, Jane was completely paranoid about the mosquitos and she had completely covered herself in Deet, said she was wearing all her clothes to bed and turned the air conditioning (oh yes) down to 17 degrees. The room was absolutely freezing and so I too had to put my fleece and tracky trousers on but still couldn’t get warm as we only had a sheet for cover. It was horrendous and in the middle of the night (4am) I’d had no sleep and had developed both a cold and a serious sense of humour failure when Jane asked if I was ok. The air con went off but the temperature barely lifted. Not good. The scenery on these backwaters had better make up for it.

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