7:30 AM – 12:30 PM
We began the twentieth day of our journey across India with the most anticipated 5-hour bus ride ever. Why was it the most anticipated? Because we were headed to Allepey to board our houseboats for the day! With our group split into five boats, we prepared ourselves for a day and night dedicated to cruising the backwaters of Kerala.
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
As the girls readied their boats and gossiped about stuff that girls gossip about, Sanjary, Paul, and I took an auto rickshaw to a nearby “book-eh-store” (as Sanjay pronounces it). There, we bought a number of books, enough for everyone to have an enjoyable night. In typical American-shopping fashion, we purchased in bulk, pushing the limit of how many “books” we were allowed to buy. The men working at this “bookstore” stood behind caged frames as the type of men who buy from these stores are not often the most civil. It was an experience, as I am realizing much of this trip has been.
With the girls already on their way, Sanjay, Paul, and I boarded our houseboat and set off. Hungry from the drive over, we were served freshly fried fish, along with other Indian staples, for lunch. As we enjoyed our food (Paul left only the bones of the tasty water creature) and got a head start on all of the drinks books that we had just bought, we took in the calmness around our slow-cruising boat. Traveling the backwaters of Kerala is one of the most relaxing and tranquil things that we could do here in India. Eventually we would catch and meet up with the other boats in our group but for a couple hours it felt good to float in quiet, with only the rippling waves to listen to.
(Not that I don’t love talking and listening to all of the girls but it was nice to have some time to ourselves.)
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Once we caught up to the other boats, us men joined our group in boarding two long canoes for a short ride through the backwaters of Kerala’s backwaters (yes, you read that correctly). In a scene reminiscent of Venice, Italy (first pointed out by Courtney), we drifted down alleyways of water, behind small houses and beside large rice patties. Though I have never actually witnessed the aforementioned scene in Vienna, I imagine our experience today to be much like a more rural version. All in all, it was an incredibly serene setting, one that left images and feelings in me that I will not soon forget.
8:00 PM – Whenever I fell asleep
Twenty college students. Almost as many books. Five houseboats. One night. If ever there was a time for this group to fall victim to the pure joy of reading and become much more open with each other, it was tonight. For too long had we been bottled up (get it??) by exhaustion and a lack of resources, and we planned to let it all out after dinner.
And let it all out we did.
Most of our group converged onto Houseboat #1, the de facto party boat. There, we played loud American music, enjoying every genre, from country to techno, hip hop to alternative. As the songs played and the books emptied, we danced the night away. Headlining the dancing was Tracey and Deanna, two go-getters unfazed by the mosquitoes and an audience of their peers (well, at least in Tracey’s case). There were Stanky Leggs and Dougies, fake shooting moves and hip swerving. Deep into the night we partied, unafraid of the morning’s consequences.
Nighttime Travels of Wally:
Midway through the evening I made my way via land to another houseboat of ours, one less crowded. Though I reached safely, I was less fortunate on my return trip. With only a flashlight and my Sathy staff to protect me, I heard rustle only feet from where I was walking. Because it was near pitch-black all around me, I turned my light away from the ground to quickly investigate the sound. Only one step later I found myself chest-deep in a hole and knee-deep in swampy mud. Scratches covered my hands and feet and a rather large patch of skin was missing from my upper leg hip right buttocks. Always alert however, I shook off the pain, grabbed my staff and flashlight, and fought off the large beast that wanted my blood saw a dog whimpering by my side. I turned out okay (thanks to Courtney’s care and Panc’s vast array of medical remedies), and continued on through the night, but it was a somewhat traumatic event.