Words: NADEZNA SIGANPORIA
Photographs: VINOBHA NATHAN
GREAT FROM Bangalore
GREAT FOR Waterfront R&R
With a skip, a twirl and a grunt, he throws his net into the water with the grace of a ballet dancer performing a pirouette. The net unfurls mid-air, glides softly to the surface of the water and then disappears. A few moments later, it is hauled out of the water and you’re looking down at a very snappy crab. Turn around and you’ll see someone scurrying up a coconut tree; a few quick hacks and it’s raining fresh coconuts.
A visit to the little hamlet of Kallanchery is full of interesting experiences. From the moment you step off the wooden boat, you’re thrown into all kinds of fascinating local arts, from the process of coir-making to hand-weaving coconut leaves to make thatched roofs. If it all feels a little rehearsed, it’s because it probably is, but that doesn’t make the experience any less appealing.
Your guide will take you around the crab farm, regale you with titbits of information and introduce you to the locals who are all more than happy to give you a demonstration of this or that.
When you finally sit down to a delicious lunch packed with local favourites like masala prawns à la Kerala and fish moilee, the view is quite spectacular. You’re looking out at rows of gigantic Chinese fishing nets hovering above the glistening backwaters. This excursion is just one of the many things you can do while staying at Gramam Homestay, a tranquil property in the quiet village of Kumbalangi that sits on a three-acre waterfront property overlooking the backwaters. Walk past the main house and the view really opens up; a wonderfully-restored old coconut farm house, which is now the Backwater Cottage, sits pretty surrounded by greenery and a patio perfect for enjoying golden sunsets.
Peek inside the spacious cottage and you’ll find a smattering of classic rich-toned furniture, a few vintage curios and a pebble-floored open-air bathroom. Don’t linger in your cottage too long, though, because a sunset boat ride in a traditional canoe awaits. The hour-long ride, which begins literally a few steps from your room, is a great way to watch the sunset; if you like the views from land, you’ll be enthralled by the sweeping views of the small islands off the Malabar Coast. Later, head to a prawn farm, about 2km away. Large expanses of what used to be paddy fields have now been converted into a working prawn farm, portions of which you can access via very wobbly but quick boat rides.
While you’ll be perfectly content with barely moving out of Kumbalangi, spend the next day strolling the packed alleyways of Jew Town, famous for its spice shops and art galleries. Barely 10km from the homestay, the beautiful heritage areas of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, with their mix of Jewish, Portuguese, Dutch and British influences, ooze that wonderful old-world charm that you won’t want to miss. Linger, but not too long – that golden sunset awaits!