Thursday, 10 March 2011

Kerala Backwaters, India

We left Varkala, and took a boat approximately two hours to the backwaters of Kerala, just outside of Alleppey.

On the boat.

-One of the locals gave us an orientation of the Kerala backwaters, during which time I learned some interesting tidbits.  For instance:

Notice the plethora of coconut trees.

-An alcoholic beverage called toddy is made from the sap of a coconut tree.  "Toddy tappers" come to extract sap from the tree.  Coconut sap ferments rapidly, and toddy has about a 3-day lifespan before it turns to vinegar.

Another view from the boat.

-It takes a coconut nine months to mature on the tree.

These lilypad-type flowers were everywhere in the water.  I was told that this plant is not native to Kerala and has become something of a pest. 

-All parts of the coconut tree are utilized.  For instance, the roots are used for fuel, fermented coconut sap becomes toddy, the oil is used for medicinal purposes, coconut milk (due to its high electrolyte content) is better than gatorade IMO, coconut "meat" is edible, and so forth...

A young boy biked past and handed me these flowers.  He said, "Welcome to Kerala," then pedaled away.

-The backwaters of Kerala once had an almost fuedal system.  The peasants could not even talk with the landlords.  The peasants would meet at night to discuss they grievances.  They composed songs that they'd sing in the rice fields during the day.  (I remember in American History that African slaves did the same thing.)


-The backwaters of Kerala are called the "Venice of the East" due to its extensive canal system that waters the rice fields.

I talked for a while with these 15-year-old boys.  Their English was not great, but they made a valiant effort to converse with me.

-This area is called the "backwaters" because it is below sea level and it receives ocean water during part of the year.  During this time, the river is filled with saltwater creatures like lobster.

This man gave us the orientation of the Kerala backwaters.

-The scarecrows in the rice fields are made of plastic bags.  The man giving us the orientation explained that this is because the workers tending the rice fields often wear plastic bags on their heads to keep the sun at bay.  (The crow on the stick in the background, below, doesn't look convinced.)

After our orientation, we had dinner at the home of a local family.  Anytime there was a hole on our plate, it was quickly replaced with another heaping portion.  I'm certain I've gained 10 pounds in India so far.  But it's been worth it.

My guide, Tofek.

Rice fields as far as the eye could see.

Seriously considering a future job as a toddy tapper.


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