There is about 1000 km of lakes, rivers and canals criss-crossing Kerala providing irrigation, transportation and communication. These stretches of water, just inland from the Arabian Sea, are the backwaters.
The “kettuvallam” (rice barge) was designed to carry rice, coconuts and spices. They were built of wooden planks sewn together with coconut fibre. A roof of woven palm fronds soaked in sardine oil for waterproofing protected the cargo from the weather. There are 1000-plus houseboats, everyone different, plying the backwaters. We were pleased to find our Spice Coast Cruises houseboat was locally constructed using these traditional designs, materials and techniques. The handmade coir matting added to a wonderful atmosphere as soon as we boarded. Our experienced professional Captain, Chef and Crew were all from local villages and treated us like royalty. Every day, Chef David presented us with different delicious Keralan foods, fresh fruit juices and snacks all prepared in a tiny kitchen at the back of the boat.
Most trips are for only one, or sometimes two, nights but we are glad we chose five nights which took us further south into smaller channels and where the bigger boats don’t go. After the first day we didn’t see another houseboat until almost back at Alleppey. In our own private boat chugging slowly along for 6 days watching life happening along the water then stopping for the night, tying up to a coconut tree in quiet secluded spots on the river – this is our kind of cruising!