Friday, July 11, 2008
Kerala is an Indian province on the southwest shore of the country, just south of Karnataka (home of Mysore and Bangalore) along the Indian Ocean. It is currently very hot and humid. Evan and Kelly are sweating, even as you read this.
After the briefest of stops in urban Kochi, we're moved onto greener, and soggier, places. Currently that's Alleppey, a nice little place with great access to the famous Keralan backwaters, and a lovely afternoon chat (snack) tradition of banana-fry.
We had begun to think that all of this monsoon talk was a bit like the "Midwestern winter" - more legend than annual occurrence - but we have been corrected here on the coast. The rain comes at any time, for any duration. Usually no more than 15 minutes, but sometimes for hours. Sun, rain, sun, rain, rain, rain, sun. It's a free sauna and we had a bit of "the grouchies" until we (barely) acclimated and accepted that sweating is normal and healthy.
Yoga continues. Sharath really made an impression on us. We've considered other classes or shalas, but each time realized that we would likely be disappointed having jumped straight into the intensity and austerity of Mysore. Instead, we're getting to know just how much space is needed for two mats to fit around a guesthouse bed, and are sure to scope out the room before taking it (always a good idea in India anyway). One exception to this was by chance discovering Sharath's sister in Bangalore, where she heads the Bangalore branch of the Ashtanga empire.
Yesterday being a birthday, we splurged on an overnight house-boat cruise through the backwaters - a network of fresh-waterways and rice paddies interspersed with slivers of just enough land for all things rural Indian: houses, banana trees, and random chickens. The backwaters are just as wonderful as you might expect, which is a surprise for India where the promoted things usually fall short and the unanticipated is the treasure. It is a bit like a tropical Venice (not that we've been there). Each house along the waterway has steps right down to the water, where they do their dishes, laundry, and bathing, and park their canoe after the daily commute. Ferries full of uniformed schoolchildren go by in the morning.
The houseboats are big business - there must be thousands of houseboats lining the shores, or in various states of construction or repair - but the waters are enormous and we didn't feel the least bit crowded. The promotional material promised that "Your time on the backwaters will make all the hard work you do all year long worthwhile." Difficult to argue with that - where do I sign?
It's off to the train station now, time to move a little further south. We've got a few more weeks to circle slowly back toward Bangalore, moving more inland and perhaps again, briefly, experiencing dry clothes between showers.