Kerala’s backwaters are beguiling. Life moves at a slower pace on these famous waterways and there’s a distinct sense that dreams can effortlessly be born and nurtured there. The quiet lagoons and lakes are about 45 minutes from the pleasant tourist town of Fort Kochi, making them the perfect spot to escape the hustle and bustle that is standard, but fascinating fare in India.
Several weeks ago, we left our Fort Kochi guesthouse early to embark on our own backwater exploration. Even at 0700, the air over the coastal town was piping-hot and muggy — easily in the low 80s. On a playing field across from our guesthouse, hundreds of young men and boys took advantage of the day’s relatively cooler morning temperatures, sporting wooden bats, cricket balls and heaps of enthusiasm for the game.
Along with a quartet of Bulgarian and Ukranian-American visitors we hopped into a crowded, non-air conditioned van bound for the backwaters. Our group was soon married up with adventurous souls from France, India, Brazil and the Maldives, and before we knew it we had boarded a handsome houseboat crafted from wooden planks, jute ropes (made of coconut fiber), bamboo poles and palm leaves. Though these Kettuvallams are now primarily used for leisure travelers, they formerly overflowed with spices and rice bound for Fort Kochi. (In Malayalam, the language largely spoken in the state of Kerala, Kettu means ‘tied with ropes’ and vallam means ‘boats.’)
The experience was instantly calming and magical: The water acted as an ever-changing canvas, reflecting palm tree canopies and lush shrubberies. Meditative cows and kingfisher birds stood guard at water’s edge. We were greeted by young siblings playing hide & seek, who followed us on our journey. Ladies did dishes and laundry in the water, and locals of all ages had a cooling bath. Men also unloaded heaps of coconuts from a mustard-colored boat, taking them to a small facility where they would be laboriously processed by locals for their fruit and outside fibers. It would have been naïve for us to have assumed that life was easy for locals there, but from our perspective, it seemed more peaceful, less complicated.
As our two boat drivers powered our elegant vessel with the use of tall bamboo poles, our group transitioned from initial conversation – to speechless, thoughtful moments – to a conversation about following dreams, the power of positive thinking and not allowing fear to hamper the pursuit of dreams.
All around us, locals steered vessels of all shapes and sizes toward specific destinations, just as they’ve been doing for centuries. The task was not easy for them, but the waters, along with their efforts, would eventually carry them to where they were aiming – a fitting metaphor for those of us pondering life changes and perceived obstacles to reaching our dreams. I’m so thrilled that the backwaters of Kerala brought us all together on that lovely afternoon so that we could all take a collective step forward toward our dreams.
What places have inspired you to dream big? What lessons have you learned while on the road or in one of your favorite spots back home?
Where in the World?
- We used Kochi (Cochin) as our hub during our time in the region. From there, it was easy to book day-trips into Kerala’s backwaters, and to Munnar, which we explored after leaving Kochi.
- Need more inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from India.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.