Backpacking trip to Alleppey and Kochi

Backpacking trip to Alleppey and Kochi

I did this trip last year, in August 2019. Finishing this was long overdue.

Trying to follow up with the manager of Khawa karpo as Sushant and Rajat also finished their sharing of dinner which we were grabbing to call it a day. We all rushed as I grabbed my takeaway, to get a rick to catch my bus which was due to leave in about 15mins or so.

Didn’t try bargaining too much and just went ahead with the exorbitant charge for the meagre ~1km which was to be traversed.

Reaching the bus stop, Deepak was waiting already for me to board the bus whose tickets we had booked 2-3days ago.

Fast forward a few more tense moments, till we manage to switch seats with someone to have both of us sitting together, we settled into our seats for good and off we went, the bus zooming through the traffic as we edged closer to leaving the city behind. Zoning out looking out of the window, looking at the city dwellers leaving office and going back in their shiny cars and two wheelers made me realise that most of us are part of the same race, each day when we try getting back to out lives after work. Only difference today being, that I was escaping away back from the humdrum of the city to something new. That new being. God’s own Country - Kerala

As I devoured my takeaway from Khawa korpo, I felt giddy happy as I have always wanted to visit Kerala, which is something which I wanted to do while I was doing my solo trip in the south-western edge some years back. And this was my moment I guess.

Alleppey

And what better timing could it have been. I was visiting during the legendary Nehru Trophy Boat Race, the cherry on top being that Sachin Tendulkar was gonna visit too being one of the chief guests.

Morning shined bright on our faces waking us up to the serene view in front of us, the drenched roads with the fresh bits of rainfall, the trees growing on the side of the road, making way for us as we swisshed passed them.

All of this, while checking google maps constantly to look for when do we need to get off the bus to be nearest to the hostel where we were gonna crash in Alleppey.

Similar to the gokarna trip, I managed to get bunk beds for me and Deepak in Zostel Alleppey, and off we went walking with out rucksacks towards the hostel, looking at google maps every now and then to check if we were not headed in the wrong direction.

Luckily, we got a rick to deliver us straight in front of the hostel. It was still super early for us to checkin to our rooms, but our host was kind enough to let us keep our rucksacks aside and let us use the washrooms.

I love how zostels have always ended up placing their hostels at some really gorgeous places. This being no different, it was right next to the Alleppey beach!

Another early bird was Samiksha, who had arrived maybe a day or two earlier than us to the zostel and we ended up striking a conversation with her and our host about the things which we had planned on doing.

As Anirudh had bailed out the last minute of the whole thing, we had an extra ticket spare with us for the Nehru tropy, which samiksha was ready to grab as we were laying down our plan for the day, to her.

After dilly dallying for a bit on whether to have breakfast right now or later, we went ahead with skipping it till we reached the venue as we heard from our host that the whole thing gets very crowded and the seats are assigned on a first come first serve basis, which made us not risk getting a distant seat in the stands.

As we arrived closer to the venue, famished with walking almost more than a km or two, guessing the main entrance of the race, which we had highly underestimated when we got down of our rick. We caved in with our hunger pang and decided to try out a small restaurant which was right next to the road which we had to follow to get to the entrance of the event.

To just describe this road, the road had an adjacent canal running next to it, which had a lot of boats, ranging from the size of a small canoe to that a decently sized ferry which would be able to carry at least 20-30 people. Their operators trying to woo us with their tarrifs, for them to chaperone one around the canals as well as the backwaters, bundling meals along with the whole deal.

Coming back to what we ate, I ordered some appam for myself, of which I repeated another serving of the same, along with some chicken dosa.

Filling out our tummies, gave us the energy to trod faster towards the venue and take our seats.

Nehru Trophy

The atmosphere was electric to say the least, everyone cheering their own team, clear evidence of a few rivalries between a few teams, the sound of the vuvuzela echoing the stands, the vendors shuttling around, trying to keep up with the demands of the buyers, rain droplets hitting your countenance as you cheer for the rowers from each team as they row with the mission of winning. All of this happening in the middle of the majestic backwaters.

It also accompanied a lovely cultural show being put up by folks as we started the race, which they were performing on the top of huge boats. Absolutely brilliant!

One thing which I was really happy seeing was that the organisers had asked for people to buy 10 rupee tokens to get stamped for their plastic bottles, and then they people can give the tokens back to the organisers by showing their number of bottles which they had gotten the token for to get back their token money, good way to incentivise people not throwing the plastic bottles.

We left at around lunch time as we passed the crowd off through the main gates, in our search for another restaurant where we would vanquish our thirst and pacify out tummies.

And the stubbornness to eat something authentic was really an itch we add had, so off we went in an aimless search for something which was cheap as well as something which was local.

We landed up at Subash Hotel, not very far off from where we started searching for a hotel. And luck behold, it was also co-incidentally a Toddy (palm wine) shop. The host seeing all three of us a bit uncomfortable at first as we had samiksha with us, told us not to worry at all by showing us around the kitchen and his family who were helping him run the shop. The sight was a delightful one, where we could see freshly made tapioca, fried fish chips and of course toddy. We ended up settling down in one corner of the restaurant and out host helped us order a bit of everything which we saw in the kitchen. Me and Deepak didn’t have the Toddy, but samiksha managed to gulp down the whole Toddy bottle to herself. Our host sheepishly had a look at both me and Deepak as smiled at samiksha when both our glasses were empty and she was drinking straight out of the jar.

The road adjacent to the shop was also having a small canal running beside it, which gradually merged into Kollam-Kottapuram waterway and wasn’t it a sight to just look at the fresh green fields and the cocunut trees, we could see people occasionally drive(row) past us as we washed our hands after our fulfilling meal.

Alleppey Light house

We ended up taking a rick back to our hostel as our legs had given up after all the running around since morning. As we zoomed past the roads, we also crossed the Alleppey beach light house, which has been since the time of erstwhile Travancore, before India’s independence. Alleppey light house catered to one of the busiest ports and trade centers in the southern coast, after the arrival of the dutch, portuguese and english traders.

Looking at this beauty, we got off at the light house as our hostel was not too far off, to look at the sun set from right next to the beach.

The beach was not very crowded and we ended up taking a small place right next to the pillars. Pillars? Yes, pillars. Or what was left off them. If you’re wondering what these pillars were doing here, my best guess would be that these were the remnants of the port where ships used to dock and load/unload the cargo. While the watchful lighthouse, gazed over all of us spraying light over the horizon as it moved it’s shower in circles.

We didn’t waste time in removing our shoes, keeping our socks aside and feeling the sand on our toes, the waves gushing in seaweed into our feet and us trying to keep up with not tumbling over into the sea by the shear strenght of the water gushing towards to us.

The pillars had rust from all the years of standing still, getting beat down by the waves and all saline water treating it all day long. Wild moss growing along it’s body, it almost felt like it was at this point part of the sea and an extension to it and not something mankind had put there.

We stayed around till the the sun set and all we that would guide us back were the shining stars above us, the hostel was barely a few hundred meters and off we went trodding down the beach with the occaional dog running around us.

Dog tired as we went back to our rooms, crashing back into our beds after taking a shower and quickly falling asleep. This marked the end of the first day for me and Deepak in Alleppey.

Me and Deepak had planned on visiting the beach early in the morning and that’s what we did after we woke up, we wore our sandals and off we went to just walk on the beach as the waves splashed onto the shore, taking back a bit of it with each visit it made.

The boats were parked in at the shores for the fisherman after they had come back from their hunt into the sea and the boats awaiter their masters as they stood there, their nose facing the sea, getting ready for their next shift.

While walking around, we encoutered bunch of puppies cuddled together to keep themselves warm with the perennial breeze of the sea. On coming closer, they all ran towards their mother who was probably in search of some food.

Which also reminded that we need to get some breakfast too! I didn’t order myself much, a sandwich and an omletter along with a serving of watermelon was all I had for breakfast as I was too occupied with planning on what we were going to do during the course of the day and as usual of me, we always made the plans on wwhich place to visit and what to do on the go. But not to digress, it has always been alright whenever I did so, which is why I wasn’t too worried, as long as we didn’t sit inside our rooms and not do anything.

Bugging our host on things to do, we managed to land ourselves a scooter for hire for the whole day. The catch was that Samiksha was to also accompany us along for the day, which would mean that either we had to land another scooter for rent from our host. Unluckily, the last scooter had been taken, but even if we got another scooter for ourselves, only Deepak amongst all three of us had an actual license for a 2 wheeler, hence even getting that extra scooter was not something which we could have had made much use. I know, I know. But I do have a license now. But not to digress, this meant that we had to do a tripple seater pillion ride wherever we were going.

Alleppey Coir Musueum

And that’s what we did, not very proud of it. But Deepak driving and both me and Samiksha, huddling together in the back with our raincoats, holding an umbrella, cutting through the wind, trying to save us all from getting more wet, off we went into towards the Coir museum, which was good ~8kms from our hostel. Luckily, it was a straight road and we covered the distance after a bit zooming around, trying to maintain our balance and not let the wind take away the umbrella.

The proctor of the hall was also kind enough to answer our questions about who used to work here and how many people would be working here on average on such machines. She also mentioned that the govt had incentivised studying coir courses and setup hostels for folks to come and learn the art while earning a small stipiend too which I felt was really helpful to attract more people to take this up while also sustaining themselves from the stipend money.

I had only heard about coir beds until that point, but I had no clue that one could do so many things using coir. We saw, actual beds, boats, houses, umbrellas, wall art, carpets, eco-friendly plant beds and what not. All of this being made from cocunut being the raw material.

Traditionaly coir was spun by bare hands, by simply twisting fibres between the palms of the hands, the introduction of ratts(spinning wheels) in the 19th century, significantly increased the productivity.

During the mid 18th century, a few europians with experience with jute products in Bengal, arrived in Alappuzha with two Bengali technicians to explore the prospects of the Coir yarn, on seeing their success, a lot of other industrialists set up their shops there. The establishment of such organised coir production facilities helped Alleppey become the unchallenged Coir Capital of the world.

Marari beach

The next stop was Marari beach, which was an odd ~7-8kms from the place which we were at. We could have gone with the usual way, which is the highway, but since we were doing a tripsy, we didn’t wanna take the risk of getting a ticket for this. Plus, what’s the fun on taking the highway when we had the alternative of going via the country side.

And this was probably one of the best decisions of the whole day. The roads were certainly very narrow at places, but the plus side of the whole thing was the fact that we could see everyone doing about their daily lives and us being the witness for it. Coir as we saw, was a huge industry, we saw a bunch of godowns which were operating out of small/mid-sized houses which from where they would probably process the fibre obtained from coconuts. The houses were built in a distinct style, where one could see the porch and the borders of the roof having a certain angle, which is very common to places where there is heavy rainfall, the columns were made of wooden, shaped like a cylinder, with the midriff being a bit broader from both the ends. And the verandah would usually be huge.

There came a point in the middle of all this, where we had to cross a huge puddle of water. Imagine 3 people holding to each other, trying to cross this puddle and not fall into it at the same time. Poor Deepak had to balance the scooter as well as both me and Samiksha, while we both were laughing it out while the poor chap took us across.

After circling around the beach for a bit (thanks to us for putting the wrong landmark), we finally reached the beach and it was serene. It has been the only beach, where I have actually noticed the sea cutting through land and delving inside the mainland. As the waves crashed on the shore, gnawing away at the shore, and taking parts and bits of whatever it could scavenge, inwards towards the mainland.

It was quite the sight.

The beach was luckily not that crowded when I reached there, plus also due to the fact that it was lunch time which added to the small number of people who were there.

After leaving Marari beach and it’s sand on our toes with us, we ended up in a restaurant which was on the side of the road, which we found out out of the blue. The food was amazing, although it was also the case that we had not eaten anything properly since the morning plus us being famished by the time we had left Marari. But not to take away from the restaurants food, it was quite good. On that note, we also managed to clean our feet and remove all the sand which we had gathered on our toes in the washroom of the restaurant after we ate.

Kumarakoram

As usual, we did not have a clue on what to do next. We were sort of split between going for a boat house in the backwaters or going to the bird sanctuary which Samiksha was mentioning. At the end we decided to do whatever was open by the time we would have reached the place.

We took off on our scooty, to find someone who would be able to give us a quick boat ride. Yes, it was that random. We were literally scourging our way Aryakara, trying to find for a party which would take us in their shelter, as it had also started drizzling quite hard. Imagine 3 people in an old beat down scooty, trying to just move around coast. This is when we stumbled upon a small narrow alley which was leading to the backwaters, we could also hazily see that there was a boat achored on the side and there were a few people standing there.

It started raining heavily and we had to park the scooter and hastily make a run for the shed. What we had stumbled upon was a govt outpost for jetty’s which would be used to transport people from one side to the other side of the backwater. We all looked at each other and decided, sure we can try this out, as it was not very far from the time when it would get dark, plus our search effort for a house boat was not leading us to anything special in particular, we decided to hop in into the next boat which was coming in, the fun part of it? We could also take our scooter inside with us as the trawler had provisions for it and so did the other few people who got in with us.

The tickets were subsidised and if I recall correctly, they costed less than 50INR individually, along with our scooter, which is pretty cheap if you ask me relatively. The next stop was Kumarakoram. As the trawler drifted past the sea plants, the view was breathtaking!

It must have been an odd 15-20mins by the time which we reached the coast of kumarakoram, the trawler took it’s own sweet time to reach the last end spot where we were supposed to get down. We could see the distance we had traversed, it was only trees only the swamp on our sides which gave way to the backwaters, at the horizon where we could see the fine line of trees of Aryakara which we had left behind.

On getting down from the boat and collecting our scooter, we headed straight to the small shops where we could see the owners of the houseboats, but sadly, the coversations were unweildy. We had already crossed the time until which they ply their services and they rightfully didn’t budge on that. Dejected, we decided to head back to our parked scooter and decided that we would take the scooter back all the way to our hostel.

Now we are talking about a good ~40kms give or take! In a scooter! While doing a trippsy!

But we had already made up our minds and off we went. It was certainly not comfortable before. Add on top of the fact that we were literally doing this from the time the day had started and we had embarked on our little adventure.

We crossed numerous boathouses, resorts, empty houses, fishermen coming back with their catch while on our way back our hostel. And when we finally reached, I just wanted to crash at my bed and even the hard cushion felt like an expensive high end mattress at the end of the day.

Just when the grasp of slumber was closing in, hearing my own grumbling tummy woke me back up from what little sleep that I was about to get. After freshening up, I pulled Deepak too outside of his room to sit in the common room.

It just so happened that a few folks ended up jamming together while we lazed away at the sidelines, our host and a few of his friends and some of the fellow hostelers

I ended up singing while Samiksha did the strings, while Sakshi took was vlogging her trip video. Thanks Sakshi for capturing this. Do give a watch to her original video which I used to trim this part out.

After all this, we went in search for a restaurant, at a time which I would easily consider quite late for given everything was more or less closed. On our way, we crossed a wedding ceremony, where we could see people dancing and being jolly. Now I have never done this before, but everyone more or less chimed in to agree upon us asking the folks inside if they had any food left! We literally ended up gatecrashing the thing and a few of us ended up dancing with the folks inside(Sakshi captures the same in her vlog)

There was a lot of banter and tomfollery which followed when the younger folks saw us with cameras or maybe they were just really having fun in the absense of the elders there to control what they were doing, either way, we let them all be and went ahead in search of a restaurant which we did find at the end of the whole thing(Sakshi has captured this too in her blog, alright, I will not repeat this again.)

We headed straight back to our hostel rooms and crashing for the night after the long day.

I ended up waking early in the morning and waking Deepak along with me too, to just run around the beach and spend sometime there, which we both had been planning to do. The best early morning beach view that I have ever had. We got to see small crabs, trying to dig through the sand, make a run for the sea as soon as they saw us. And just about that time, it also started raining quite heavily, we did not have any gear to protect us from the rain, which made us run towards the shelter to get some respite from the rain, as we watched the fishermen come back with their days catch. It was just beautiful, seeing the clouds pour their hearts out, flooding the sidelines of the porch of where we were standing. One thing which really stood out was a pair of swimmers, in full gear, cutting past the sea, further away from the shore, swimming against the waves, with each wave hitting them, their skill and practice clearly showing up as they moved away farther and farther away from the shore and we lost sight of them the moment they crossed the iron columns of the poles which used to be the erstwhile dock.

Did I forget to mention that, there was a local dog which had been accompanying us all the time since we had almost started from the hostel towards the light house?

This dog also managed to take away my flip-flops and make me run after itself for a good distance before he gave them up back to me. While the intension was clear for the dog that it wanted to play early in the morning for this, not so hostile human being which it found strolling around in the beach, it also managed to playfully bite (mouthing if you may) as we walked along the shore (more on this later.) much to our amusement.

Heading back to our hostel, we quickly took a shower and picked up our packed backpacks, heading for the train station before which we baded goodbye to Samiksha and whoever was awake when we were leaving.

We hadn’t eaten anything, which made us look for a decent place to fill our tummies, we did find a small eatery, which was being run by the railways. On settling down, we ordered a few dosas and cup of tea for each of us, while we waited for the train to arrive. The train did arrive, but little did we know that the train was to halt for only about 2 minutes. And here we were hastingly stuffing food into our mouths, trying to also eat and clear the bill, much to the amusement of everybody around us.

Kochi

The next leg in this trip was our visit to kochi, train tickets were pretty cheap, we got it for about less than 50INR each. The train itself was a passenger one, which meant it was a bit slower and halted at quite a few places, but that also gave us a chance to admire the countryside. The lush green meadows, the swamps and the local livestock grazing onto grass.

We reached in about an hour or two after we started to Ernakulam, from there we had to either take a ride back to the fort kochi or take a bus, we chose the latter. The only problem being, that we had a tough time finding a ride which would take us to fort kochi, with the clock ticking past 2pm and our heavy rucksacks behinds our backs, was making us rethink the whole idea of taking a bus ride to fort kochi but to rather just take a cab and just be done with it. But to our good luck, we did get a bus. which was also not very crowded.

The ride back to fort kochi was rougly around more than 10kms, which took us about another half an hour to reach. We saddled down our bags in a corner.

As luck would have it, our hostel where we were going to stay was hardly a few meters away from the bus stop which we got down off. And you might have guessed it right, it was a zostel again! We had to dump our backs in the common area, as the host was out for lunch, we quickly freshened up in one of the spare washrooms around the common area and off we went in search of some food.

We settled for this restaurant, right next to the fishing nets, which was a bit pricy? But well, we were really famished and we didn’t really mind paying premium for some decent food. For someone visiting, they should definitely try out the prawns and the likes when they visit.

It was a no brainer to decide on going for a walk alongside fort kochi and the fishing nets, once we were done with finishing up our meal.

If you haven’t seen the chinese fishing nets before, they are quite something to watch being operated by the fishermen, which is exactly what we did. They are huge, made with bamboo shoots and just about are the most complicated fishing nets I have ever seen, I am sure they are efficient than a lot more of the nets which we have around in Assam, where they use simple nets which you would imagine a fishermen to have, but this was entirely different which I hadn’t personally seen before. A couple of fishermen would be required to operate it.

Moving on, the boulevard which leads up to the edge of the fort, is bordered by a very old mansion. I say mansion, because you will have to actually see this once to gauge the sprawling lawn and experience the architecture of the house which is definitely back from the time Kochi was inhabited by the Portuguese and the Dutch. And there are a bunch of houses like this along the road and this not being a singular event.

We headed back straight to our hostel rooms after we had finished this small walk around the fishing nets, Deepak decided that he would sleep the afternoon out.

There was a Kathakali which was about to start nearby the place where we were staying, called Kerala Kathakali centre, this was probably the first time I was going to watch this live with the performers doing their preparation live in front of the audience, this was definitely something which I didn’t want to miss out.

As we all settled down the small but cozy auditorium, the crowd was tring to find a seat as close as possible to the stage which would allow them to be closer to the whole spectacle.

The whole thing was just breathtaking, right from the expressions, to the preparation, to the dexterity and experience of the performers which made it look so fflawless. All in all, this is a great way in which they are preserving their culture and also showcasing it to the people of other cultures.

After this ended, I headed back to the hostel room, to finally give some rest to my feet, which was much required. Crashing on my bunk bed with the fan on top of my head, made me fall asleep for a good few hours, before being waken up by Deepak to head out for some dinner.

The next day, after waking up, we hired a scooter for rent for the whole day, which we planned to make full use of before we left from kochi, and off we went to get some breakfast. Next stop was Pepper house, which is one of the few old spice houses back from the time when these buildings were used for actually storing spices, no surprises here on what pepper house used to store.

The view was lovely and the service was exemplery, although a bit pricey compared to other the eateries around, but would say definitely worth it.

After checking out the local art gallery and library inside pepper house, we headed out for the narrow streets of Mattencherry, which was also very close to Jew Town. The roads are filled with a lot of antique shops which sell everything right from really old antiques, paintings and souvenirs to collectibles which have been created by the localites.

The 16th century, Jewish Synagogue had a lot of rich culture and history associated with it, which was definitely fascinating. The best part of all this was the fact that, there were still a few local Jewish folks living around near the Synagogue.

We visited the naval museum after this, which had a bunch of historical writings around the naval history of Kochi, we also stumbled upon an officer back from Bangalore who asked us to tell more about the Ulsoor lake and the ASC center not from from it, such a small world. The funny part is, we got so lost in all the readings that somehow we did not notice that the musuem was closing down(the host at the gate, did tell us that it was supposed to close down at 5pm, but well we didn’t really keep track of time), and we almost got locked out inside the museum and had to literally rush back towards the entrance of the museum bunker (yes they have converted actual bunkers into musuems, how cool is that!)

After this, we went decided to head back to our hostel rooms, but before that, we headed to get some early dinner in one of the restaurants around the art galleries, around near the fishing nets, we didn’t fuss around too much and ate quickly, before heading back to drop off our scooter back to the garage from where we picked it up.

Reaching our hostel, we packed our stuff, and bade goodbye to the host, after hopping onto our taxi to head back to ernakulam Junction from where our train back to Bangalore was supposed to leave, trivia about this ticket was that, both of our tickets got confirmed a day before our departure.

Reaching bangalore early next morning, made us come back to our reality and realize that our trip was about to get/finally over.

I have very fond memories of Kerala. It was a lovely trip and I had a lot of fun writing this.

Until next time!