Allepey, “The Venice of East” is a mandate in any itinerary of a Kerela tour. We too, jumped on the bandwagon and took a conventional trip of Allepey. We floated lazily in the backwaters and basked in the sun at the Allepey beach. It was the next day though, in the same district of Allepey and at a distance of a little over 20 kilometers that we serendipitously discovered a place that was truly sublime. A representative of how placid and vivacious God’s own country can be at the same time. This little abode of nature is called Cherthala.
There were four of us and one was a Malyali. We spent the night at a friend’s place in Cherthala after our visit to Allepey. Our plan was to board the evening bus to Ernakulum. So, that morning, our friend, who was a local, insisted on us to explore Cherthala. It was a pleasant co-incidence that that day was also the Good Friday. Therefore, we first went to the St.Antony’s Church. Despite being modest in its construction and grandeur, it had an aura of pious serenity about it. Even though most of us were not Christians, and had never been to a church, attending the mass was really a memorable experience. We then had a succulent breakfast of appam, coconut-potato stew and of course, the famed green tea of Kerela, which was a must on Good Fridays.
Then, our friend led us through narrow lanes and streets behind the church, flanked by trees and little houses till we reached a wider clearing. The scene there was straight out of a fairy tale: there was a channel of water flowing in front of us and there was a very pretty little wooden bridge in the shape of an arc which led to the other side of the channel. We crossed that bridge and it was then, we were greeted with a panoramic view of what lay ahead. Most of the landscape in front of us was covered with emerald green water and it was divided into pools and channels by narrow strips of land laced with tall coconut trees. Amidst these coconut trees, there were mud huts constructed by the locals. Right next to these huts, in the water, there were small and flat country boats anchored to a pole. This place was actually a place for local Aquaculture. Unlike the backwaters in most other parts of Kerala, which are in narrow channels, the backwaters here also formed ponds in which cultivation of fish was practiced.
The most striking features about the place were its solitude and silence. It possessed a state of tranquility that instantly allayed us. Since Cherthala is an offbeat location, there were no tourists over there. This had protected Cherthala from being economized like other tourist destinations and was thus devoid of the usual hassle and crowd. It made me wonder that did the people living over there take some time to appreciate the beauty around them, or was it just a normal routine for them?
We then spoke with some locals over there, which, to our surprise were extremely amicable. They spoke only in Malayalam and we were lucky to have a Malayali companion with us. The best part was that they even agreed to lend us their boat and ores all to ourselves without any charges! We were ecstatic and very excited as we were about to everything the boatman did the day before in Allepey, ourselves. It gave us a tingling feeling of adventure as we rowed the boat for the first time and it swayed a little as we lost and regained our balance. We were floating away into unknown waters without anyone instructing or guiding us. We spent hours just cruising in the placid waters with no restriction of time or direction. It was a truly mesmerizing experience.
After this little adventure of ours, we spent some more time with the locals. The children there, gleaming with enthusiasm, showed us turtles and rabbits. We then reluctantly bid them farewell to them and took a last glance at the place hoping to imprint it in our memories forever.