India 5: Houseboat  Stay

India 5: Houseboat Stay

I am on the beach  in Varkala in very southern Kerala. This was one of the places that was affected by the Xmas tsunami.
I have just posted on FB, “Varkala isn’t a complete success so far. The sand is black, the beach is very narrow, the waves are wild, there are plentiful flies and too many noisy argumentative dogs. And someone gave the local Iman a HUGE loudspeaker!  BUT, the black sand twinkles with a billion minute diamonds, the sea is warm, the dogs are more interested in each other than us (although when they scrap it is somewhat disconcerting) and the flies are just being flies, even flies want to be happy a Buddhist nun once told me ….. And here I am wearing a bikini and flip-flops not a coat and Ugg boots. And I just ate a very yellow pancake with lemon and sugar accompanied by a very large cold beer”  So that is me! Noticing everything that is wonderful and extracting every ounce of pleasure and joy there is to be had.


I left you in my last post at the home stay with its leafy bathroom and loo. Ah, you see everything in life is a matter of perspective!  Last night we were on a house boat which was converted from an old rice barge. It was kind of romantic and kind of not all that interesting and the indoor bathroom was kind of hot (think sauna) and kind of stinky. Very stinky and not my doing! So then I wished to be on my bucolic throne again instead, it did not take long to learn to appreciate those facilities!
 I think I’m starting to be obsessed with all things lavatorial! On our longish car journey here  I needed a little comfort break as our US friends say. So we pulled into a petrol station where one never expects much comfort.” That way” said the man,  and so it was.  Except  the door to the loo was  6 feet along on the side of the building and the shale path to it was no more than 18 inches wide   and on the other side of the path was ….. Nothing!  Fresh air and a 12 feet sheer  drop into a concrete pit.  So I inched and edged  my way gingerly along the wall, and went. Intrepid that’s me! When you gotta go you gotta go. But Adam got a better deal than Eve, pit stops tend to be easier for the boys!
View from our houseboat

View from our houseboat

So first things first.  Spending a night and day cruising the backwaters is a must do in Kerala. And it was so beautiful. But dare I say this, a tad less interesting than I imagined. And there folks is another lesson, manage ones expectations or better yet, have none. You have to make your own fun once you get over the novelty of playing Maharajah for the day and so Nina and I both  sat on the prow and drove  the boat (it could pretty much drive itself really) and we all enjoyed a siesta lying on the sofas around the deck and we took lots of gorgeous photos and  saw an amazing chestnut coloured eagle and waved every time there was someone to wave to and we read (I’m reading another India travelogue book, my second so far after two days reading very beautiful but terribly sad poetry).
After a while James stopped playing watery floaty music where every song contained the word drifting  (plus Bob Dylan with no watery allusions) and he cranked up the volume and we rocked our barge into an Ibiza party boat! We were in the middle of a very large lake at the time, literally the middle of nowhere and only fishes to hear us so we danced and grooved and moved and shook it all around and just had SO much fun :) I’m not sure what our crew thought but Dominic the driver, nonplussed at first, seemed to enjoy it hugely!
As we collapsed into a hot and sweaty heap Charles remarked  that what we needed now was fig and cinnamon ice cream. My sophisticated boy! I said “a big fat chocolate Magnum” for me and we pondered the chances of getting ice cream on a boat in the middle  of nowhere. Whereupon, not even 5 minutes later, a small rowing boat pulled alongside and Nina noticed that the very enterprising young man had a polystyrene box and she cried out ICE CREAM! We actually MANIFESTED chocolate Cornettos in the middle of a big Indian river!
Oh they tasted so good! And we were so pleased with our dancing selves!  I was slightly less thrilled with dinner later. I had asked for fried fish and rice, we are in the middle of endless water for goodness sake so it’s going to be fresh and white and succulent, right? Wrong!  It was a goldfish. Or goldfish sized. Really. Less than 3 inches long including its poor little head and  tail, which were intact on my plate! Safe to say that this was one night we didn’t have a yummy gourmet experience.  But nonetheless it was a wonderful and loving and very happy day with my little family around me.
As it was James and Nina’s last night we played end of holiday “best moments, funniest moments”  lounging on deck after dinner and Charles read out a card James had pushed under his door for a joke at Chera Rocks, purporting to be from one of the  three ladies who were our companions on the yoga retreat. I wish I could transcribe it here but bits of it were very rude indeed and all of it SO funny that I literally had hysterics and rolled around with stomach ache laughter! Which on its own might not be that interesting for you the reader but there is also something here to learn…
We all know about the healing power of laughter, but did you know that it’s impossible to think and laugh at the same time?  It’s a factoid!  And so, there is such a thing as ‘Laughing Yoga’ which I looked at on YouTube and which looked considerably easier than Doctor Pathmanavan’s  asanas! I think I had a very mild three day crush on the Doc despite his thick moustache. A man with a passion and a sense of humour  is a winner every time ! But I digress. How much fun would it be to join a class to learn to genuinely laugh at will so that one’s mind empties of all  stress and rubbish, in other words laughing yoga is another form of meditation. How cool is that! So that was my funniest moment so far this trip and the  most moving for me  was a beautiful comment from one of the yoga assistants which made tears well up in my eyes. As I thanked him and said good-bye he answered” I like you very much because I see you are a most wonderful mother.” Isn’t that a beautiful thing to hear and until this moment I have not told a soul! But I want to remember it always so now it is here.
Another houseboat view!

Another houseboat view!

There were too many “best” moments to count, but  I loved canoeing into the green narrow  backwaters, utterly magical  and so was being quite alone as far as the eye could see on a beautiful beach with Kites soaring overhead, walking on the flat wet sand in the early morning. My idea of heaven.
So that was the houseboat experience and time to bid a tearful (me!) goodbye to James and Nina as we got into separate taxis at the dock, us to head further south and them north and then home. 
I had one more little insightful moment on the houseboat. Late at night I was wondering around looking for somewhere to charge my Kindle and I crept quietly along the deck in bare feet and came to the tiny and steaming hot galley kitchen and there  saw all of the three men crew fast asleep, just lying on the hard floor. Not even a pillow. I crept back to my air-conditioned cabin and bed with a new appreciation.
It has been a huge privilege for me to spend two precious weeks with both my sons and gorgeous daughter in law. And they all volunteered to be my companions!  Now it’s just me and the Yogi  son for another nine days.  I wonder what I will see and do next? It’s fun to have no plan. Everything will be a surprise! Wishing all of you pleasant surprises and lots of cleansing belly laughter:-)
PS Bites are now under control and bearable unlike my afro hair so I’m wondering if it’s too late for me to be a hippy wandering peacefully around India, sitting at the feet of gurus and meditating under Banyan trees? Could be a plan..
Om shanti x