Touted as God's own country, Kerala is a picturesquely beautiful land on the south-west coast of the country, lavishly endowed with Nature's bounties. Despite a largely urbanized and dense population, it offers plenty of tourist attractions amidst serene settings and fabulously rich greenery, and well away from the madding crowd too. The backwaters of Kumarakom are one such destination which I enjoyed exploring on one brilliantly beautiful day way back in January 2004. The opportunity came my way the day before I was to pay a visit to a well known private college situated close to the city of Kottayam from which Kumarakom is only about 20 km away. Incidentally, Kottayam district has the unique distinction of being the first in the country to achieve one hundred percent literacy. This may not be very surprising in a state which itself has the highest literacy rate in the country.
I reached Kottayam by catching an overnight train at Calicut after reaching there from Mysore by bus. The bus journey was in itself memorable as it passed through much of a mountainous and picturesque Wayanad district and descended down the Western Ghats to join up with the coastal plains. Very recently I had the opportunity to explore many of the sights of this district and they will no doubt form the subject of one of my future photo albums.
At the Kottayam railway station I was met by the head of the host institution and driven the short distance to the Kumarakom area and to a small but excellently provided tourist home where he had arranged for my stay.
Dominated by a wide variety of flora and fauna, Kumarakom is set in the backdrop of the vast Vembanad Lake, the largest fresh water body in the state. Tourist needs are served by a large number of houseboats on the lake, both large and small, as well as a variety of tourist homes, hotels and resorts on the banks.
The following two photographs show the immediate neighborhood of the tourist home where I had stayed, with the building partly visible in the second.
[As in my previous albums, all pictures are in high resolution and can be blown up to their full size by clicking on a picture and opening it in a separate window]
The next picture shows my informally dressed host, who was also my constant companion, posing for me in front of the tourist home.
Attached to the tourist home was an open-air restaurant, shown in the following picture, which was also the boarding point for boats of different types embarking on the lake cruise. Knowing my preference in advance, my host had thoughtfully arranged for exclusively vegetarian food in a place where this must have sounded rather blasphemous.
The next picture shows a wider view of the open-air restaurant, with a small boat waiting for me and three others for the long cruise to follow.
As we boarded the boat and moved out into the vast expanse of the lake, I looked back at the restaurant and snapped this beautiful view of what we were leaving behind:
Our journey took us past two nearby tourist homes pictured below in similar surroundings, both larger than mine:
The next picture shows a large expanse of the lake as well as the coastal line overlooking the front end of our power boat.
We spent a considerable amount of time in the lake well away from land, indulging in small talk, relaxing, basking in the sun and generally lost in the peaceful atmosphere so far from the madding crowd. In one of the more remote places I saw what appeared to be a rather ordinary dwelling with a large boat parked nearby (see picture below).
We found quite a large number of houseboats of varying sizes and shapes plying on the lake, their outer appearance blending well with the serene surroundings. Here is one which passed quite close to us.
Here is one large houseboat with an open viewing platform at the top, standing in splendid isolation against the backdrop of the coastal greenery and the unruffled waters in the foreground. I particularly liked its bulbous shape and the rustic look.
The next picture shows a long boat carrying just a handful of people passing by in front of two houseboats stationed at the coast and ready for launch.
The picture below shows the two boats seen in the previous picture after the moving boat in the foreground had disappeared from our view. I am showing this just to accentuate the contrast between the two views.
The lake had numerous boarding quays all around for tourists to get into their boats and embark on the kind of tour which we were enjoying. Here is one such large boat outward bound and passing us close by.
Kumarakom is also a large sanctuary for migratory birds of different species. We were not lucky enough to see many of these that particular time. Here are two pictures of large flocks of birds out in the lake waters which I could capture.
As sunset time approached after a long time spent on the lake boating mostly aimlessly, we decided to call it a day and returned to our place at the tourist home. As I got down from the boat I saw a spectacular sight of the setting sun and took a series of shots. I sign off with what I thought was the best of them.
I spent the rest of the evening relaxing in the lounge of the tourist home, ate an early dinner, retired to bed rather late in the night after a long conversation with my host and slept off like a log. I bade goodbye to the place after a sumptuous breakfast next morning and travelled with my host to his college where an assignment of a routine kind awaited me. Kumarakom had been a welcome distraction and a refreshingly lazy interlude.