Backwaters of Kerala: Kumarakom

Image courtesy: ©Sudipto De

The magnificent glowing orange sun is planning to conclude its activities for the day and set in the horizon when suddenly, I notice a heron spearing the water and flying away with its last meal of the day. I am in God’s own country on the magnificent Kumarakom Lake unwinding far away from the stresses of everyday city life.

An hour-long drive away from Kochi, a canopy of lush green trees is what welcomes you as you approach Kumarakom. These narrow winding roads of Kerala are bordered by quite a few instances of slow life. Small road side shops where the early morning coffee has already started steaming while the shopkeeper drops a fresh batch of sliced bananas into the boiling oil. These local shops, pretty much a part of the daily Malayali life, are the perfect place to start your day. I decide to dig into some of the banana chips on offer and fall in love with its crunch and the way it dissolves on the palate. But banana is not the only fruit made into fritters in this part of the world, there’s quite a range actually, including jackfruit, yam and sago. Down it all with some of the flavourful rich local coffee for a perfect breakfast.

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Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

 

Image courtesy: ©Sudipto De

Head over to the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary to reconnect with nature. Spread over 14 acres, the sanctuary has an hour-long walking trail which takes you around it, noticing the chirping of different birds along the way. Be sure to bring along a pair of binoculars or a zoom lensed camera to capture the parrots and owls high up on the trees. The sanctuary also has many others including waterfowl, Brahminy Kite and even the Siberian Crane in its season. The best location to find these birds is to climb one of the watchtowers which gives you a view of the canopy from top as the birds flit from one tree to another.

Experience the classic Sadhya

In the afternoon, I decide to have the Sadhya meal at Niramaaya Retreats Backwaters and Beyond resort. Sadhya in itself is a totally vegetarian meal usually served to celebrate important occasions, for example marriages and birthdays. It includes a plethora of dishes including Aviyal (mix vegetables with coconut), served with the traditional steamed rice (Kerala red rice) and rasam (Tomato-tamarind broth) for company along with jiggery-coated banana fritters and Payasam (rice pudding) for dessert.

Boating around in Kumarakom

Image courtesy: ©Sudipto De

After a hearty meal, I decide to set out on a boat ride on the gigantic Kumarakom lake. The lake is so huge; it is almost like a sea stretching out on the horizon as far as the eyes can see. As I glide along the waters, there are quite a few narrow estuaries which branch of deep inside the land. Decide to jump down and explore more. Just a bit distance away, a Kathakali and Kalaripayattu Academy were tooting their horns and I decided to go. What I saw inside surprised me!

Cultural experiences in Kerala

Image courtesy: ©Sudipto De

Kathakali is one of the best ethnic dances in India. With make-up and costumes that take over an hour to do, Kathakali utilises all the muscles of the face in an intricate manner. Kalaripayattu, on the other hand, is one of India’s earliest martial arts and is characterised by a display of performance that involves a whirlwind movement of limbs and weapons.

The shirodhara treatment is quite relaxing
The shirodhara treatment is quite relaxing
Image courtesy: ©Dmytro Gilitukha/Shutterstock

Leaving all these experiences aside, no trip to Kerala can be complete without a relaxing Ayurvedic massage. A combination of Abhyangam (whole body massage with oil) and Shirodhara (oil poured from a container onto forehead) are perfect to work out all the knots and stresses away.

Kumarakom is one of the rare destinations in India where you can head to unwind, relax and get away from the fast paced life.

The views expressed are the author’s own and not those of Lonely Planet India.