Visit India’s Karela Backwaters for a Look at Rural Life

I was on the Overseas Adventure Travels trip to southern India called Soul of India in January this year. One of the highlights of this newly revised tip was spending two nights on a houseboat on the backwaters of the Southern state of Karela. And to use an Indian parlance that I noticed on my trip, where something can be “like X, but not X,” I noticed the backwaters ware like the Amazon, but not like the Amazon.  We left the spice plantation where we stayed in Thekkady near Perriyar National Park, drove through the verdant tea and rubber plantations, and arrived at our houseboat in Alleppey after first stopping to see the “loo with a view.”

The first thing anyone notices on this part of the trip is all the local life along the backwaters.  It was breathtakingly beautiful  –  tropical, yet local, Although we had the two nights where we could sit by large windows and watch the local scenery and people come drifting by, as we also drifted by and waved to them,  we were also treated to one hour in a dugout canoe, then a half a day on a larger vessel stopping by and visiting local villages and talking to the villagers. In one village we visited while pre-wedding ceremonies were underway, the groom posing for photos.  

Photos: Jann Segal

 Parts of the backwaters look like land due to the overgrowth of plants in the water, the enormous hyacinth overgrowth which prevents passage. So while many parts of the backwaters do not even allow for boats to go through,  we did see  “busses” taking women to work in the fields (huge water taxis) as we cruised to shore. Other fascinating signs of everyday life along the water were just as remarkable, such as women washing their clothes in the water, and then beating them to dry. You could see the attempt to dry them, but it took a few seconds for the sound waves to travel across the water to actually hear the pounding, which sounded much further away.  On our last morning,  I woke up to music from a temple across the water, and that, along with the sunrises and sunsets  we had seen along  the backwater, made for spectacularly unforgettable travel moments.

Trips like this inspire in us so much more than the local color we absorb and breathe in, and the photos we are driven to take.  In “edgy” countries such as India and other Third World countries, it is important, especially at this point in our human history, to gain a more in depth understanding of cultures and people outside the US. We need to reinforce the realization that we are more alike than we are different. We too, have clothes to wash and have needs to get to work. We too, see hyacinths and flowers in our midst and obstructions in our way.  We too, must deal with what nature puts in our path, and learn to live with it, through it, and around it. 

For more information on this trip and others that will put you close to both nature and locals, contact Overseas Adventure Travels.

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