Sunday, 21 February 2016

Bobbing along

No big ride today, just a 7 km pedal into Alleppey.

The morning mist lingered over the Backwaters first thing, but that didn't dampen the birds song.

The school run for these two is a bit more entertaining than the usual one, it certainly beats taking the school bus for sure! Indian children mostly wear the most immaculate school uniforms, with no seemingly individualism ( bit tricky to roll  up the hem of a long tunic ...). Can you imagine sending your son to school dressed all in white??!

In Alleppey I was on a mission to buy some spices, but first of all I was sidetracked by the wonderful array of fresh vegetables, 

and a row of bright orange and yellow plastic jugs which caught my eye,

Then it was these two chaps sporting beautifully folded crisp white dhotis.

But then I spot the spices sellers.  Spices, the essential ingredient of Indian culinary life.  Armed with a small pair of pliers they crack and crush the whole spices to demonstrate the freshness and aroma.  So what did I buy?

Warm cinnamon and star anise, cloves and nutmeg too.  A handful of cumin seeds, a pinch of mace and a root or two of dried tumeric and ginger.  Can you already smell them?

Round the corner was the banana chip sellers.  Not a fish in sight!  As quick as lightening he sliced the bananas into the hot oil with a super sharp mandolin, it's a wonder he still has any fingers left!  'You try?, madam, you try?' Is the constant refrain as they ply you with samples till you give in and buy a bag or two!

The spiced ginger variety were my favourite.

These pretty waffles were tempting too.

Further along the street near a temple are the flower sellers.  Fingers busily stringing the jasmine buds to make garlands to be used as temple offerings.

Marigolds, roses, large and small.

Before long it was time to return and get ready for our next adventure...

As I was leaving the cabin our neighbours wished us well, and we ended up having a little chat.  They were from Delhi and their daughter was studying in London - at Goldsmiths. 'Oh' I said my son lives just behind there, to which they replied, so does our daughter.....turns out that they live on the same road a few houses apart.  Just goes to show that isn't really is a very small world!

So where are we heading off to now?

On here - a traditional Keralan houseboat, and the bikes come along too!  

Constructed from wood in the traditional manner

with thatched palm walls and roof 

this is our home for the next night.

The cabin is small and, well, cabin like, but I like the special touch with the toilet paper.  After pedalling all these miles it's nice to see they are thinking of our comfort...

As we board the boat we are each presented with a fragrant jasmine garland

and a refreshing fresh coconut to drink.  The flesh of which made a reappearance later on in the evening in various tastey dishes for dinner.

But before then we make our way through the Backwaters and watch life float by.

These three are busy with their nets seeing what they can catch,

whilst these two have a delivery to make

and these chaps have a boat to repair.

We float past paddy fields of rice, they can have three or four rice harvests a year in this part of India where, interestingly, the paddy fields are actually one metre below sea level.

These ducks were having a lovely time dipping and diving, little do they know they live on a duck farm and not a duck spa!

After a fish lunch on board 

it's time to relax

and Debs decides the pilot needs a rest too!

These children have finished school for the day and are heading off home on the other side of the river!

After all the frantic peddling in the heat it's delightful just to chill out, catch a light breeze and drift off whilst looking at the reflections.

Soon the sun starts to dip, the waters still and it's time to tie up for the night.

Dinner is a buffet of local dishes freshly prepared by the chef.  Ever had pineapple curry? It's delicious, here's the recipe:

First make the usual curry paste of finely chopped onions, garlic and ginger.  In the pan first of all dry roast some white mustard seeds and cumin to release the aroma then add some oil and fry off the curry paste for 10 minutes until it starts to caramelise.  You'll need to stir it though so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add some coconut milk, a whole crushed pineapple and one or two mashed bananas, depending on the size.  Simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, check seasoning and serve.  Delicious.

Have you noticed that men where a dhoti in this part of India? Well I was curious to know more, so with a little gentle persuasion Joseph showed us the technique, including how to make a handy phone and keys pocket.  Here's Mike learning how to put one on

and here's Debs determined the ladies are not left out either!

Next to where we were moored was a seamstress, so she came on board and demonstrated how to wear a sari.  It can take a 'professional' sar wearer just a few minutes to wind the 6 m of fabric and tuck it all neatly into place.  I doubt, even with the help of YouTube, I'd be able to recreate the look!
Underneath is worn a sari blouse and as I don't have one Maryjoan offered to make me one.  So off I trooped - down the gang plank sari clad - to be measured for one.  It will be ready to collect tomorrow morning before we leave at 6.30 am!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

A day out with the boys

What bliss, we are staying put for another day, so the chance for a much needed lie in!  How relaxing to get up and wander down to breakfast, don't get me wrong, I love the cycling, but it's just as nice to have a day off.

Breakfast was eaten on the veranda 

Then the 'boys'  ( Rintu and Manish) came to collect us, which was very kind because as it was a non cycling day then they should have had the day off too.  But instead the chose to show us their home town.

Our first stop was at the quay to see the fishermen and the Chinese fishing nets.

These are fixed nets which are lowered and raised when the conditions are right.  Needless to say it's an attractive feeding ground for the local birds!

Isn't the colour combination wonderful?

This painted wall would make a great starting point for some creative work, paint and paper, dye and fabric, thread, cotton or silk.

We strolled around the old Jewish quarter and looked at the touristy shops, no hassle they promised. Yeh, right!  

We had hoped that the spice market would be just that but it wasn't, which was disappointing. Still smelled lovely though.

Through the back there was a lady working on a hand loom, to make a silk sari.  It will take her about 7 days to weaver the required 6 metres.

It was enjoyable just to wander the backstreets, but there are many more tourists around, so I just tried  to avoid photographing them!

A few doors, just in case you were missing them!

 And these cuties fast asleep in the shade.

Making sure everyone has good luck.