Cruisin’ down the Lazy River

Atop our houseboat somewhere in the backwaters of Kumarakom

This is amazing! Lori and I are spending the day aboard a luxury houseboat, cruising through the rice paddies, coconut palms, marshes and other low lying topography that is typical of the backwaters of the region. This part of Kerala is becoming a major tourist destination but as yet has not lost the charm of what would draw an intrepid traveler to this part of the planet. As I look out the port side, there is the full arc of a rainbow. I can see the entire bow, where it starts and where it ends.

There is a placidity and tranquility to our journey down the waterways. The rainbow only contributes to the surrealism that has permeated this India trip from start to finish. A two man crew accompanies us aboard the vessel. We started as 3 but an emergency call on cell phone here in the middle of the waterways necessitated an abrupt detour resulting in the dropping off of one of the crew. I immediately volunteered Lori to pick up any of the slack resulting from the labour shortage as I sit here drinking my Kingfisher beer, taking in the liquid landscape. A storm is brewing off the starboard side and as the wind picks up, it serves to further cool us down, bringing with it a new set of smells and scents, adding a further element to the inexhaustible supply of sensory experiences that have become the hallmark of this adventure.

We had spent the night at the Coconut Lagoon. Hats off to Amita, our friend and travel agent who has arranged and directed a trip that will remain top shelf in our memory banks. The hotel sits on a huge tract of land and is accessible only by launch.

Unfortunately we arrived at about five for dinner and missed launch. The hotel, one of a chain of 15 resorts owned by a Kerala family is dedicated first and foremost to doing it right, on every imaginable level. Lets start with the environment. All of the water is recycled, part collected from rainwater during monsoon months, the rest reused from the facility. There is an advanced European filtration system which uses sand, activated charcoal and reverse osmosis to provide water that is absolutely pure. Interestingly, the PH levels are more acidic here which can cause upset stomachs to the more sensitive Europeans and North Americans. As a precaution, even though pure, the water is boiled. The cost of the installation was very expensive but with the facility in operation for 17 years, it has achieved and surpassed break even. Other hotels in the area are forced to purchase and truck in their water in plastic containers. Aside from being environmentally conscientious, a byproduct of the owner’s foresight provides a leg up on financial benefit now that their water supply is significantly less expensive that their competition. Additionally, being able to market the resort as eco-friendly is a huge plus.

Nothing there was wasted, not even the waste. It is used to create methane gas which provides energy; the other byproduct is compost which helps fertilize the fruit and vegetables grown on premises and served to the guests. There is a butterfly sanctuary that, unlike others I have visited, is not enclosed in netting or glass. Plants have been cultivated which attract various species of butter and dragonfly. The result is an all natural theatre to watch nature do her thing. Caterpillars, pupae, full grown butterflies and beautiful moths populate the area. Even the villas and bungalows are recycled.

Former homes, constructed over the past 100 years that formerly served the upper class as summer homes in Kerala have been disassembled, brought to the resort and rebuilt. The result is antique hand carved teak bungalows, with fans, air conditioning and modern plumbing. The shower and toilet are exterior, a privately enclosed twenty square foot open-aired lavatory affording a great view of 80 foot high flowering trees while sitting on the throne or under the shower.

Having spent a mere eighteen hours at The Coconut Lagoon equivalent to a European sightseeing cruise, which I detest.

It gives you a taste without the pleasure of digestion. We left on our paddy cruise this morning feeling slightly cheated of the opportunity to indulge ourselves a bit more in this paradisaical setting. Oh well, we will have to endure a day on this slow boat to Alleppey, pampered, fed and exposed to the sensual delights as uniquely presented in full SurroundSound by a nation that we have come to love, admire and respect.

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