There’s something mysterious and vaguely dangerous about Alleppey, India, that recalls the movie, Apocalypse Now. To reach our guest house, we are instructed to take the local postal boat, essentially an outrigger canoe with a mailman, up river into the wilds of Kerala. As Cenzo and I depart town and head into the Kerala Backwaters region, civilization recedes from view in the distance. We’re out in the country now: a wide, lazy river, tall palm trees, the occasional isolated boat landing. Anything could happen here (and probably has)! Eventually our captain points to our “stop,” a lonely platform in the middle of nowhere. What now? All we can do is walk a small path into the rice paddies, hoping there’s a guest house out here. If not, we’re sleeping with the fishies. Or at least, the mosquitos.
Luckily, we’re in the right place. After a few wrong turns, we eventually reach our hostel, a welcoming place right on the river. Over the next few days, time slows down to a dead stop for us. Electricity, yes. Internet, not so much. During the evening, our proprietor, Mukesh, takes us on an evening canoe ride in the river, he and the rower singing lilting, traditional songs into the hazy twilight. Magical. After a bit, we stop at a local drinking establishment to sample coconut leaf wine, a bitter/sweet, milky concoction with a real kick.
Near the end of our time in the Backwaters, we decide to spring for the ultimate experience: renting a houseboat. No, we don’t have to steer the thing. For $100, our houseboat comes with a driver and a cook. For two blissful days, we drift idly down the waterway, lazily observing fish, birds and rice paddies while our cook brings us fresh, sweet coconuts (with straws) for refreshment and delicious breads and curries for our meals. We read a lot of books, write a lot of postcards, play a lot of scrabble. What we don’t do is meet a mad, reclusive general (played by Marlon Brando in the movie). There are no cannibals or explosions. Just the serene Alleppey Backwaters, lulling us to sleep.
(Our live are entirely too busy, and a houseboat in Alleppey isn’t always an option. We need to carve out moments of tranquility, even if it means putting them on our calendar. Stash your cell phone in a drawer. Create your Alleppey Backwaters!)