Cruising the Backwaters

Monroe Island and Alleppey


We’re moving away from the beach and into the Indian backwaters. The state of Kerala is famous for the many channels and waterways that meander through the area.

The backwaters are home to some gorgeous scenery and are a major draw for tourists. We’re in a small village on Monroe Island. The night of our arrival is the conclusion of a 40-odd day festival at the local temple. Starting at 3:00 p.m. a procession has been working its way through the village and we’ve heard the sounds of drums approaching.

The sun has set when the procession reaches us. It’s dark and the light from the thousands of candles and oil lamps is stunning. The procession makes a stop at every household that has set up an altar. We follow the procession until it heads into the temple at about midnight. We head back to the guesthouse for a few hours sleep.

It’s never silent in India, even in the backwaters. The local temple is playing music when we head to the canoe at 5:30 a.m. the next morning. The canoe meanders through the arteries of water. We have to duck low and the canoe barely fits under the cement bridges.

After a quick couple of days on Monroe Island, we’re heading North again to Alleppey. Alleppey is home to thousands of houseboats. The transit from Monroe Island to Alleppey is on a government ferry that cruises main arteries of the backwaters. It’s a cheaper way to see what many people will see from the comfort of their houseboat.

We’ve opted to kayak portions of the backwaters in Alleppey instead of staying on a houseboat. Our choice is for economic reasons, but the environmental impact of the houseboats is significant.

Our kayak trip is a gentle tour through the waterways. Women wash their clothes on the banks and children brush their teeth. Kingfisher’s sit all over the power lines. It’s a beautiful look into the day-to-day of India’s residents of the Alleppey area.