Today we got up for an early breakfast and pic-up by Matthew, for what turned out to be a fairly long drive to our houseboat in Allepey. Since we had requested non-Indian food (and today was a critical day in Tom's recovery), there were apparently some unexplained changes in plans. We drove around Allepey, for an eternity, before arriving at another resort, Kayaluram Lake Resort. (It's listed in Frommer's, who gives it one star and rates it as a "Value" - we did like it better than the bigger resorts with more stars!)
Matthew dropped us and our luggage off and left without a word. This was quite disconcerting, and after sitting around their outdoor dining room "Waiting for Godot" (remember that play?), Tom finally went to the reception area and spoke to the manager, James Joseph. James came back to the dining room with Tom and was extremely welcoming and filled us in on the new plans. He even called Mr. Kumar, our main Kerala contact, who drove over later. It turns out that everything was well-planned, except for telling us about it. We pre-ordered chicken sandwiches for lunch from the a la carte menu to take aboard the houseboat which did arrive, at the resort now, about noon. Mr. Kumar arrived and his English is excellent. James' English is very good too, and his resort is great - quite low-keyed, no buffets - everything cooked to order. (He and Kumar are friends, of course.) The resort has only 12 units, is quiet, with a great view on a very large backwater lake. The service and hospitality are great. There is also a swimming pool, then populated by bikini-clad French women who were deeply into "Glamour Magazine."
Mr. Kumar explained that we would board the houseboat when it arrived, come back to the resort for dinner, go off again and spend the night on the houseboat, and be dropped off there again at 8:30AM for breakfast, after which Matthew would pick us up in the car. Now that we have been told all this, we were feeling well-cared for!
The houseboat arrived on schedule, with a crew of three, just for us. It had one-bedroom with a real bathroom, and the bedroom had AC which could only run at night when we were moored with the generator running (a 16 kWh, kerosene-powered Honda). Take a good look at the pictures of the houseboats - they are traditional and very beautiful with a gorgeous pointed prow and stern.
The afternoon was magical. We had read that it would be a highlight of our trip, and it was! We cruised through many canals in the backwater, watching life there happen - people bathing in the canal, doing dishes, and traveling by boat (in lieu of a bus - no roads out there), with "boat-bus stops" every so often. The water was bordered by rice paddies and homes (quite small by our standards). We anchored for lunch and then continued on through the maze of waterways. The crew was friendly and delightful! There was an upper deck with chairs and a lounge chair for better viewing. Wow! You will just have to look at the pictures - words cannot adequately describe it. We did not want it to end, nor did we want to nap, read, or do anything but watch everything. When the sun set, we went back to the resort for a very nice dinner, and then got back on board for a 45 minute cruise in the dark to a place the crew knew to moor for the night. It was a little weird - there were people sitting around on shore talking - they pretty much live outdoors here - and there were other houseboats nearby. Our crew assured us as they moored that it was safe there, and it was. Of course, they know everybody too.
We went to our room and turned on the AC. It was a bit more primitive than at a hotel, The bathroom was not air-conditioned, and there was a mosquito net for the bed which looked claustrophobic, so we did not use it. We had put on our DEET, but a few mosquitos found Anne anyways (they do not seem to like Tom). (I guess we just have do our what we can to avoid them, and trust in our malaria pills). Anne found it difficult to sleep, and the bed was small - no top sheet, just a fleece blanket, and small pillows which Anne propped up with a couple of shirts underneath. Besides, the boat rocked and the floor had a list to it. We got up just after dawn when the generator ran out of fuel. We packed up and got dressed and went out on deck for coffee.
The morning was beautiful with a special character all its own. We cruised around for an hour (we did not want to stop), and finally arrived back at the resort where we unloaded our gear and had a real "American" breakfast.