India is cheap. It's dirt cheap. For the first few weeks you marvel at just how cheap it is - a bottle of coca-cola is R30 (55c), a samosa is R10 (18c), a meal at a restaurant is R400 ($7.40), and you can go across town in a rikshaw for R50 (92c) - but then all of a sudden you find yourself scoffing at a street vendor because he's trying to charge you R12 for a somasa, and forgetting that two rupees is only four cents. After a while you become so accustomed to the price that you think of a R50 drink as expensive, take the bus because it only costs a rupee per kilometre, and spend half an hour bargaining in the markets because you want a good price. It was when we rented a houseboat in Kerela that we were reminded exactly how cheap it is to travel in India.
We left Munnar before the crack of dawn in the morning (remember your torch because local dirt roads are dark and you will end up stepping in a puddle!) and jumped onto - the bus was actually moving and the bus driver was yelling at us to hurry up and get one - a bus to Ernakalum. We then caught a bus from Ernakalum to Alappuzha (also known as Alapey) where we spent a night (in the guesthouse where a rat jumped out of my travel buddy's bag!) before boarding a houseboat to spend a day in the backwater canals of Kerela. There isn't much to do in Alappuzha, it's a transit destination for travellers going to and from the backwaters, but if you are ever there you have to go to Thaff, the restaurant with THE best milkshakes in India - if we'd had more time in Alappuzha there, we would have gone back for seconds, thirds and fourths!
Early the next morning we took a rikshaw along the canal to the starting point of our houseboat cruise. We booked the cruise the day before (it was the 'off' season so we could get away with this, but book ahead in peak season) and an overnight cruise for two people, including food and drinks, costs R5000 (AUD 92.50). It does cost slightly more in the peak season as an extra tax is added. The rikshaw wizzed past people's homes, and you can get a really good (cheeky!) glimpse into the way that local people live. Once we were one the houseboat, the chef (it came with a chef and driver) gave us some fresh coconuts and we set off down the canal. We spent the morning lounging around on the couch and taking pictures of life on the backwaters. The chef announced lunch and we rushed down to the dining room, our bellies rumbling, and tucked a feast. My travel buddy and I were sharing one meal, and I don't know if we were eating less, or if Indian portion sizes are bigger, but there is always alot of food. Always. After a lazy afternoon the houseboat docked and we jumped of for a quick look around, before heading back and getting comfortable with our kindles, and read until the sun went down, occasionally peeking up to take in the sunset behind the palms.
The next morning we were up bright and early for breakfast and a quick cruise around the backwaters, before disembarking and heading back to the bus station. Ah, that mad dash to find the bus you need to be on, and having to push along with the crowd of locals who want to get on too - the life of a backpacker in India.