Tuesday 15th December. Kumarakom Lake resort.
We awoke to the houseboat gently rocking in the water hyacinths at the canalside. A gentle breeze helped reduce the trauma of emerging from our air-conditioned boudoir to the wall of heat outside, despite it being early morning.
Our attentive crew served breakfast under the woven palm canopy while we got under way on the return leg to base. We gently motored past men fishing with nets from punts, others pushing nets along the lake bottom on long poles. The ferries were already crowded and there was even a barge filled with children in school uniform off to their classes with satchels of books .
The skipper negotiated his way from the lake back to the canal system, passing four men in canoes herding several hundred ducks to an uncertain future along the way. Alongside this were family groups living in tents on the narrow canal walls that separated the water from the paddy fields. They seemed quite at ease washing and even cleaning their teeth in the canal! One can easily see how disease epidemics spread so quickly.
We arrived safely back at the dock having completed the obligatory customer satisfaction questionnaire. Here our driver was waiting to whisk us off to our next destination - another heritage hotel -The Kumarakom Lake Resort. As we were a little early for check in our mind reading driver took us via yet another Kashmiri run antiques / carpet / jewellery / souvenir emporium. We took our time surveying the stock and ignoring the hard sell before making a small purchase.
The lake resort was created entirely from reconstructed mansion buildings which formed a series of individual villas with their own private pool / spa baths. The hotel sits right on the lake shore intersected by small canals with numerous wooden bridges. We were slightly apprehensive when shown the ‘open air’ shower that the local mosquito population might be ready for a 'meat feast’.
However there was no evidence of those pesky things as the sun filled our courtyard and we relaxed in the spa pool with a cup of tea!
After a frustrating time attempting to do some internet shopping, we headed off for tea and snacks served on the nearby neatly clipped lawn. The chef was busy polishing and prodding the chai urn, whilst also frying up some delicious savoury snacks similar to pakora, and some sticky sweet puds served in a banana leaf wrap. After the friendly waiter had served us our third cup of masala chai, we headed out on an open top barge for the 'sunset cruise’ accompanied by music from a local trio sitting cross-legged on the front deck of the boat.
We returned at dusk and decided to try out the main infinity pool by the lake rather than the array of tired looking machinery in the health club. As we approached our villa clouds of smoke suddenly filled the air from all sides- to our relief it transpired to be a nicely perfumed method of keeping the mosquitos away!
After a brief visit to the no hard sell curio shop, we ate in the fish restaurant. Coriander prawns to start, which were some of the best we have ever tasted, followed by pearl spot fish with a spicy sauce for Kathryn while I opted for the Zebra fish fillet - stuffed with cheese and cabbage - which was in fact delicious. We were seated at the waters edge and the sky was repeatedly illuminated by sheet lightning every few seconds with the distant rumble of thunder. The midges danced over the water below us tantalising small fish who rose rapidly to consume any that came into contact with the water surface. We headed back to our room just as the rain started - good timing!