We took a ‘Country Craft cruise’ of Munroe Island, a taster of the Keralan backwaters in November 2018. We organised the trip through the official District Tourism Promotion Council in Kollam (although there were plenty of people offering to take us unofficially) at a cost of 600 rupees (£6.11) each. The tour ran twice a day at 9am and 2pm.
Munroe Island is located 27km north of Kollam, on the banks of Ashtamudi lake and Kallada river. A tuk-tuk drove us to the island which took around 40 minutes and involved crossing the river on a makeshift car ferry which comprised two boats strung together with a platform on top that carried several motorbikes, two tuk-tuks, two cars and quite a few passengers.
Cruising around the backwaters is a very peaceful experience. There was hardly any noise, apart from the birds, and the canoe travelled very slowly through the canals filled with olive green waters. We saw a lot of bird life, including Brahminy kites, kingfishers and cormorants.
At one point it looked like there was a cow’s head floating in the water which was quite alarming until we saw it blink and realised that it was just cooling off in the river!
We stopped to watch a couple making rope out of coconut fibres (coir making). It was really clever, and it made me realise how little I appreciate where things come from. I don’t think I had ever really thought about rope before! Life in the backwaters is pretty basic, but most of the houses looked like they were constructed out of hardy materials, had outdoor toilets and running water. We also visited a fish farm – where they bred prawns, oysters and shrimps.
Some of the canals were tiny with narrow bridges, which meant you had to duck down onto the floor of the boat to get through or attempt to go through limbo-style!
We returned by tuk-tuk to see a lovely sunset over the lake in Kollam.