The Keralan Bayou: Alleppey Backwaters

The Kerala Backwaters are a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets, a labyrinthine system formed by more than 900 km of waterways sometimes compared to the American Bayou.

We spent the day exploring some of Kerala's backwaters. Slow-boating through small canals, the jungle canopy lush over head, voyeuristically taking in the romantic rural homes as we passed by, women gathering water from ancient stones steps that lead straight into the river, men gazing into tiny mirrors shaving, washing their razors in the river every so often, children playfully fishing for crawfish and taunting frogs. 

Life in the backwaters seems quaint and romantic, yet I couldn’t help but wonder how the monsoon transforms the landscape with the influx of excess water.

We had the chance to visit a few families who live in this area, learning a little about each one of their various trades. One family grew pepper for sale, but also their land is a naturally rich spice wonderland. Curry, cinnamon and nutmeg trees, ginger and turmeric, cardamon and cumin - everything is at their fingertips. It’s no wonder this area was a central part of the spice trade, its incredible to see how these plants thrive in this environment. The other families wove intricate palm rugs and made their own rope from coconut husks - incredibly time-consuming processes that lead to high quality end products.

After a traditional Keralan lunch on banana leaves (including starfruit pickle!) we moved to a larger boat and a larger canal. Steered by a man with a long pole, it reminds of you of the Venice canals. Although ours was more rudimentary for a day trip, the houseboats in the backwaters can get quite snazzy. Some with A/C, private chefs and even seven bedrooms!


Madison McClintockComment