At the Lakes & Lagoons office we were advised to purchase any soft drinks we might wish to consume, as these were not provided on the boats, and having been forewarned, we also had purchased some gin and tonic waters on the way!
We were taken on a small launch along the river to where our houseboat was moored. The boats' appearance with their jackwood hulls and superstructures, thatched with coconut fibre held together with sisal, have been compared to "knitted armadilloes", which I found to be descriptive and amusing.
We had a one-bedroomed (the bedroom was air-conditioned) premium class houseboat for two nights. It was beautifully maintained, with rich wooden panelling, pictures on the walls, comfortable beds and a shower room, with a little staircase to a rooftop viewing balcony (a feature not many of the houseboats had), a dining area with table for four, where we were able to entertain guests to lunch on the full day, a sitting area with armchairs and a chaise longue behind the prow. Here the captain sat (under an umbrella when the sun was strong) and gently steered us through an ever-changing panorama of waterways, where we could view the local human, animal and bird life at our leisure. Outside the bedroom, the sides of the boat were largely open to the air, and we enjoyed this natural air conditioning as we moved. There was also an electric fan, but we didn't need that.On board we also had an engineer and man-of-all-work, and a chef/steward. The staff were totally charming, hard-working and very helpful. We were consulted on the types of food and cooking that we favoured, and the Keralan cuisine was superb, not too hotly spiced, but rich with spicy flavours blended together, just as we like it.
We were holidaying with another couple, who had their own houseboat, and were also enchanted with the whole enterprise.
Our first night we moored by the bank, and were able to take a walk through the houses and talk to some of the people we encountered there. Many of them speak some English. On our full day we saw a variety of waterways, some wide, some narrow, one being deepened and the banks reinforced for the passage of large ships, and for our second night we put down anchor on the huge and busy Lake Vembanad. We had stopped at a village with a beautiful Roman Catholic church and some shops with souvenir items. On the shore of Lake Vembanad we visited a seafood shop where we bought giant prawns (about 8 inches long), but they were very expensive - it is taking advantage of the captive customer / rich tourist situation there, and other tourists should be warned - although they were certainly delicious.
We left our boat at our next destination, quite sad to part with our lovely crew and luxurious boat.
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