Thomas, Navilil, and Canoes
Alleppey Travel Blog› entry 18 of 37 › view all entries
How do I begin to describe Navilil? Taking the small ferry 10 km from Alleppey, the diesel sounding engine rumbling us in zigzag fashion between ferry stops, slowly dragging us far from city lights, along the black waterways, into silhouetted coconut trees, the occasional wood canoe drifting past as the light danced golden on the face and arms of its pilot.
The locals, in surprisingly well spoken English, helped us find our stop and seemed truly happy to watch us make our way into their homeland. At we hopped onto the
We talked casually with Thomas, Simon, and Erin and shoveled the tastiest Indian Food I had eaten in a long time down my throat. Thomas served up rice and dhal and bananas, mostly which were grown in his own garden. Reflecting back on the last 6 days here, I am most impacted by this nest of relaxation, the sweet smiles we receive as we pass local residents. Breakfast is prepared at , unless we are on a walk or bike, then its serve when we return around . Breakfast includes coffee and tea, rice-noodles and coconut, pancakes of banana flour and coconut, boiled eggs. Lunch is the big meal, with rice, dhal, coconut and beans, potato masala, chicken in the most amazing sauce!, onion and tomato salad, chapatti. Dinner is lighter, but still amazing. The meal varies daily, and is among the best I had in
I feel like I have become very close to Simon and Erin. This couple of 8 1/2 years is traveling the world for a year. I was fortunate to meet them in the beginning.
With Simon and Erin, I explored the backwaters by foot, bike, and canoe. Despite many photos, the backwaters are virtually indescribable in their idyllic peace, timelessness, and grace. December finds the waters calm and imperceptibly flowing. Mirrored 100 ft coconut trees slant precariously from mud dykes while banana plants shadow brown water with giant leaves. Lean men in heavy wood canoes silently paddle through canals carrying fish, mussels, sand, tapioca, and coconuts. Uniformed school children run along the bangs giggling and waiving to us. They yell, "Hello, where from, what's your name, school pen?" The girls giggle shyly while the boys practice English and stare.
There are simply too many magic moments to recount during my 6 night stay.
1. Dan left to see Prem Joshua in
2. Yesterday was Dan and my last day traveling together. Melanie, Dan, and I did not want to sleep after dinner, so we chilled out front of the house talking, listening to ipods, and attempting to journal. It was nearly , and I was tired. We revisited an idea we had earlier that day, taking a canoe ride at night. Earlier in the afternoon, the 3 of us paddled around the island. It took almost 2 1/2 hours, and we had zigzagged across the canals, unable to keep it straight.
Dan and Melanie listened to ipods in the front. I listened to the backwater, then, lying back, dozed for a time. I thought a lot about our parting, the blur of time that Dan and I spent together, from McLeod to Amritsar to Jaipur, then Rajasthan, to Goa, and finally to Kerala. 7 weeks of a journey wrapping up in silence, but perfectly. Two individuals sharing lives, together, independent, appreciating life in the same way, but on opposite sides of the canoe. I was like a small child, not wanting to let the night end, but too overcome by sleep to stay awake. Clinging desperately to consciousness and the wonder of pleasant memories.
I paddled in, we settled on the porch where I broke a beer bottle opening it, straining it through a napkin, we shared a beer before bed. And so ended my last night of
(One thing that I have noticed here in India ~more than anywhere else, in good times, bad times, frustrating times ~ is that things seem that they "should be" just as they "are". Like everything is in its proper place and order.)
I took several hikes in the backwaters; through rice fields, over wood bridges, past doorless one room village homes. I saw families eating, washing clothes, and children playing. I sampled Pan (red beetle-nut and tobacco chewing thing). I ate pungent pepper from its vine.
Sitting on the veranda listening to Simon play "House of the Rising Sun" while Erin, Dan, and I watched on. Then there was the night Dan, Melanie, Simon,
Through it all, Thomas and his family have been gracious hosts, welcoming all their guests like family.
Meanwhile, not far from the village home, a big lodge was accommodating visitors from around the world. Swedish visitors were regulars. One night, over 20 years ago, through a mix-up on the dates, a group of approximately 20 Swedish tourists were denied rooms because the lodge was full. No other guesthome was around and Alleppey, which was only a village itself, was far away with few places to stay. The tour guides, desperately looking for a solution, sought out the 4 four largest homes. Thomas's home was one. In the night, the tour guides asked if they could take some visitors. It was late, and his family said, "No". But after hearing the story and the desperation, they opened their doors and their hearts to them. Their only request was that they accept only 2 guests, and the others take shelter with the other families.
The following year, the Swedish tour guide called and asked Thomas's family if they would again host another family, 1 before x-mas and one after New Years. They agreed. But again, the house was a typical Indian home, with a squat toilet outside, and part of the house was in disrepair. Swedish families stayed with Thomas over the years, but Thomas was always distraught because the children always cried at having to use the toilet, eating with their hands, and sleeping on the floor. Thomas thought they had come to enjoy themselves, but they were suffering.
After 3 year of this, Thomas approached his mother and said they must stop housing visitors because they are miserable. His mother replied, "Thomas, please to not say this. God has given us a way to make money and save us from losing everything. We must be thankful." She was right, and, in time, Thomas learned that visitors came for the Indian experience, not necessarily pleasure. With perseverance, Thomas obtained a loan from the bank, fixed up the home, and was later featured in a German travel journal. This year in Lonely Planet.
My point for relaying this story is to remind myself that things come to us when we need them most, but not always in the way we expect or want them. Staying open to the universe and accepting the world as it is, not as we would like it to be is essential.