The exciting thing about this whole holiday is that every single day has brought amazing new experiences. I can't think of a holiday that has provided us with a richer sense of a nation's history and culture while all the time being entertaining and adventurous. Hats off to whoever designed this itinerary.
We drove today about an hour and a half south to a small village called Nedumudy. There's not a lot to see there, it's main significance being as a launching pad for our overnight houseboat. These are converted rice barges known as "Kettuvalam". They are quite stylish looking boats, with a large, airy, open space in the bow protected from the sun by a woven bamboo roof. At the rear of this area a dining table had been set up, while further forward was a comfortable sitting area - settees, chairs, and a couple of wonderful mattresses to recline on as we drifted past the rural beauty of Kerala. Our boat had three double cabins on board. They were simple, yet comfortable, with ensuite bathrooms.
By this stage of our journey, our tour has divided naturally into smaller, interest based groups and we shared this part of our adventures with an English couple and an Australian woman. Over the last few weeks we'd fallen into the habit of sharing a drink or two together in the evening, while we discussed how great our day had been. Accordingly, it was a convivial bunch that set sail aboard the NeeduKamal.
On the water a light breeze cooled the heated afternoon to something slightly bearable. When we docked, the heat was intense. Nevertheless, we dutifully disembarked for a walk around the village, and a visit to the local Basilica which had just commenced a service.
Old respect dies hard, and I'm never comfortable about intruding on an active site of worship - but the place was magnificent. When the priest and acolytes emerged from the curtain that hid the holy of holies - well naturally we had to stay until the whole was revealed.
In New Zealand we are so very casual and dismissive about religion, and yet in India it is a natural part of life. While separation of religion and state may be a given in India, it is quite clear that every single person we met was deeply spiritual. Prayer, meditation and worship form a perfectly normal part of their day. Are they more credulous than us, or do they have an understanding we lack?
What we did see was Christian Churches in Kerala with queues outside them waiting for access to the church for matins or mass. We'd seen similar signs of devotion in Varanasi with the long queues for the temple there. It was hard not to wonder whether our skepticism is really enough, and how much richness we miss out on by eliminating spiritual and moral considerations from our day to day philosophy.We watched the sun go down over the backwaters, and photographed the sunset from every possible angle. Later we went to bed, the boat securely moored for the night, knowing we'd be up at sunrise the next day to catch our connection to the next part of our itinerary.
Sunset over the waterway
Sunset over the waterway
On the Kerala backwaters
The basilica beside the waters
Inside the basilica - amazing artwork
Holy of holies - behind the screen