Unfortunately frequent relocation is not concurrent with frequent internet use.
Therefore it's rather belatedly that I can tell you about the backwaters and Alleppey.
We took the train from Varakala. The main event of the journey was a large Indian woman arriving with her son/nephew and masses of boxes and bags. She happily settled herself down next to us, all but shooing us out of her way. Comfortably seated she started bossing the unlucky young man about. She clearly had some very fixed ideas about how luggage should be arranged on trains. These ideas were obviously at their best when carried out by others.
Off the train we shared a cab with a couple from near Manchester called Rowan and Paddy, they were also on their gap years. After an absolute merrigoround of looking at hotels (in which the cab driver and his friends did there best to rip us off) we both ended up in a beautiful old heritage house called Sona. The owner was called Joseph and was probably one of the most eccentric Indians I've met. We got a long lecture about why we got four pieces of toast with breakfast, somewhere in the narrative the ship's captain of the 1930 collonial fleet featured, how or why, I know not. He was very nice though (after half an hour stubbornly refusing to haggle about the price of the rooms he found out we were students and instantly dropped it from 800Rs to 700Rs) and helpful, once he got to the point. The rooms shared a flower surrounded porch and had the original four poster beds.
After a night of very happy drinking together on the porch me and Sandro got up bleary eyed at 1130 and had a lovely breakfast of eggs and toast in the sun. Our table was the warm black marble of the porch. Rowan and Paddy (Rowan is a girl by the way) got up at 1200 and when they asked Joseph for breakfast he laughed, "that time is finished now!". He continued to tease Paddy about the tardiness of his rising for the rest of the day. Me and Sandro just kept quiet and made a note to always be up before noon.
The next day we went out on the backwaters. We had a little boat which we sat on the roof of. The waters were stunning. They are a huge system of lakes, rivers, canals and little islands. It also happened to be a bank holiday in India. All along the larger waterways we could hear and see houseboats full of Indians dancing and celebrating. We got very warm waves and hellos from all who saw us. For me, the nicest thing was just seeing everyone living along the waters just going about their bankholiday jobs; washing, re-building a wall, shopping. They wash everything in the river, everything. Plates, pans, pots, children, grandparents, daughters and even a spade were seen being dunked into the river and scrubbed.
The main income of the people who live on the backwaters is through fishing, growing rice, or selling the mussles that grow in the lakes. They fish the mussles with their hands at 2 or 3 in the morning. We saw them hand shelling them. The shells are as profitable as the meat as they are sold for their high calcium content to make whitewash, chalk, and vitamin tablets. The rice fields are kept several feet below the water level and flooded and drained according to the harvest. All through the day I kept catching a glimpse of a huge emerald field through the palms. Each time, I couldn't take my eyes off it, it was so vibrant and paradisiacal.
Of all the waters I think the most beautiful was the lake. It's the largest natural lake in south India and it was so big it looked like the sea, a perfectly still sea stretching out for all the horizon. Me and Paddy swam, it was deliciously warm and diving off the boat into the water was like falling into softer warmer air. Diving off the boat was a lot of fun and Rowan's fears about us making the sitting area all wet was unfounded. The water evaporated in seconds.
We stopped to drink a coconut and see an island without electricity (almost all are fully powered up and supplied with cable TV). Although I don't massively like the taste of coconut milk I'm always suprised by how refreshing they are.
Lunch was fish backwaters style, small spotted fish caught that hour and 'curry fried'. I think it was the best fish I've ever had. We ate with rice and various mixers: vegetable curry, coconut and finely sliced raw cabbage (my favourite, delicious when mixed into the rice), a beetroot paste, and curd, which is sour and disgusting.
Halfway through the day my orange silk trousers ripped *sob*. I had to spend the rest of the day walking with my large brimmed hat held nonchalantly over my bum. Sandro twigged though, and found it very funny.
The afternoon was passed in the smaller canals where we saw kingfishers, watersnakes and palm trees at ridiculous angles. We also had to lie flat on our backs at a moments notice because some of the bridges were a lot lower than they looked. The afternoon lazed by in the lowering light and we made our way home. On the way home the boat driver told me about how sometimes a group of rich Indians pay for a bamboo platform to be built in the middle of the lake, park their houseboats around it and have a huge party. 21st?