Monday, 16 February 2009

God's Own Country

We are just back from our overnight stay in Kerala's backwaters. An area of endless canals, rivers, waterways and lush vegetation, it's at the same time densely populated, and heavily polluted.

We had decided to do an overnight boat, but had chosen one that instead of having a kerosene engine was punted around. It also had solar panels for electricity and some special toilet with a compost bin.

Anyway, I was feeling very self-righteous with our choice.

I did feel a bit uncomfortable at the beginning as we were the only two on the boat, and there were three staff. I don't like to be served on, it's just not me. But I got used to it pretty quickly, with the help of a Kingfisher.

At a very slow pace we made our way through canals of varying sizes, enjoying the tranquility granted by the lack of an engine, giving us the chance to view at much closer range kingfishers, kites, cormorans and egrets.

Chinese fishing nests are used across all the backwaters
After a delicious lunch we moored on a lake and everyone driffed off into a siesta except me, as I was busy reading, learning how to use my camera...and having another beer.

In the afternoon we went on a smaller boat so we could travel up into the narrower canals. I really wanted to absorb the pace of life here, and see everything up really close.

Pivi, our cook, waiter and guide, seemed to know a lot about wildlife and local isssues. I discovered that in the last 8 years prawn farming had overtaken fishing, but thankfully, and not like in other parts, the locals were profiting from it.

At this time of the year the backwaters are salty and they farm prawns. When the monsoon comes, the water will be fresh and the backwaters will become rice paddies. My issue with prawn farming is the extensive use of antibiotics and the risk of putting all your eggs on one basket..a collapse on the price of prawns will ruin these people...and everyone has jumped on the prawn farming wagon.

After another delicious dinner I sat on the bow and watched the sea eagles on their evening hunt, sky diving in front of us and picking fish out of the water with their claws. An amazing spectacle.

I just wish birds were a bit more considerate and stopped from time to time so I could take a better pic.
Bright and early, palm trees in impossible angles

This has been one of the most memorable days of our time in India. The beauty of the place, the warmth of its people, tainted by the ecological damage we are causing, though that has been ubiquitous across the whole country.

Next stop will be Varkala and the beach...

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