BACKWATERS A trip to kerala

A journey through the jungles of Kerala

Nupoor and I caught a flight from Pune to Kochi early in the morning after saying goodbye to Aneeka. It was a short 2 hour flight but it was a marked difference in climate. The weather in Pune is dry and in the mid to high 80's whereas the weather in Kochi was in the high 90's and extremely humid. After the flight, we had a 2 hour drive to the Baker estate (now a Taj hotel) where we were staying.

An empire lost in a kingdom of nature

The Portuguese first colonized Kerala in the 1500's and established a large Christian mission in the area. They maintained control of the area until the 1700's when the Dutch East India Company took over with the Treaty of Mavelikkara in 1753. In 1792, the British annexed the territory from the Dutch and held influence there until Indias' independence in 1946.

The Baker estate was built by Henry Baker of Essex England in the 1820's who came to India to perform missionary work in the field of education. Over the next 50 years, his family acquired over 1600 acres of rice paddies, rubber trees, and coconut fields. The property was slowly dissolved due to changes in a post independent India that prohibited argricuiltural land ownership by non-Indians. By 1962 the family had moved back to Essex England and managed the property from afar until 1977 when they sold off any remaining property.

A place to heal body and mind

The bungalows were built with a philosophy of incorporating nature into their design. Outside showers and bathrooms would seamlessly blend the outdoors into the indoor living spaces. French windows opened to large terraces overlooking manmade lagoons and canals that acted as a natural sanctuary for wildlife. Original teak furniture and carvings provided a rustic and charming living space that seemed at home in a Rudyard Kipling novel.

Top: Our bungalow and the lagoon we faced. Second row left: The writers nook with a view of the lagoon. Second row top right: Pulleys used for the bamboo blinds. Second row bottom right: Clay ceiling tiles over porch. Third row left: Room skeleton key. Third row right: A view of the canal system on the estate.

The night comes alive with diyas

Nourish the mind as well as the body

Top: Kerala fish fry. Bottom row left: Breakfast dosa and chutney. Bottom row right: Kerala style coconut dish.

A palace on the lake

After indulging in an Ayurvedic message, Nupoor and I chartered a houseboat to cruise around lake Vembanad and its backwaters. The boat was built with amazing craftsmanship in the traditional Kerala houseboat style. This boat had 3 bedrooms each with its own bath and shower and a second floor lookout all housed under a hand thatched roof.

Top: A view of the boat we had chartered. Second row left: Looking down the hallway of the boat. Second row right top: Our Captain at the wheel. Second row right bottom: Looking back on the thatched roof from the second floor seating area. Third row left: A bedroom on board the houseboat. Third row middle: The dining room. Third row right: A full working kitchen. Forth row left: Ceiling woodwork on boat. Forth row right: Architectural detail on doorways. Fifth row: Our crew of 3.

Life in the backwaters

Often secluded, people make their living fishing and tending to their rice paddies. With no road access, the only transportation is via boat.

Top row left: Woman washing clothes in canal. Top row right: Fishermen casting their nets. Second row: Fisherman spearfishing. Third row left: Laundry being left out to dry. Third row right: Hand carved canoe docked on shore. Fourth row: Home painted pink on the shores boarding the rice paddy.

Harmony in nature

The backwaters of lake Vembanad contain manmade dams to flood rice paddy fields which is the major crop in Kerala. It is the second largest lake in India and mixes with the Arabian Sea to form its brackish waters. Its depth is relatively shallow at an average depth of 10 feet with the deepest parts being no more than 30 feet deep. This becomes the perfect habitat for wildlife on the waters.

View of rice paddy
Rice paddies seemed to go on for miles

Thank You

Created By
Mike Gordon
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