The cruise itself was serene. Apparently during high-season the backwaters can become quite busy with houseboats of all kinds and fishing boats. Luckily, our ride was less busy, making it easy for us to enjoy the land-meets-water landscape instead of houseboat decors.
Midway along the ride the drivers stopped the boat at a little restaurant where they would allow all of us the opportunity to grab some grub. Funny saying this, cuz it was the first time for Mike to surrender to the Indian ways (no fork or spoon in site) and eat the meal with his fingers! A great moment!
An hour and a bit later, after lunch, we were finally pulling our bags of the boat to saunter over to the Ashram; Mike, me, and four other women. The ashram was much larger than I had ever imagined it, with a few 16 story apartments, a main eating hall and main office. This ashram was a large space, and it made sense because there were people sprawling everywhere!View from the 16th floor in one of the apartments in the Ashram. Ocean to the left, backwaters to the right
Mike - There`s not much to say about Ernakulm as we made it into a much-needed rest day. It was also a Sunday, which in India means that nothing is open. We dread Sundays.
The backwaters were great. The boat-ride was very long, and painstakingly slow, but you really got an idea of how people live in this region and the inner workings of the Keralan fishing industry. The coolest part was the latter half of the trip where we passed countless fishing nets, surrounding our ferry on both sides, forming a corridor for us to pass through. It seems like the most laissez-faire way of fishing, but it produces a large yield with minimal effort. From what I gathered, the fishermen lower the net, bait it, and wait for the swarm of fish to arrive, then when the school of fish is at its maximum, they pull the net up and sell the spoils. Simple.
We decided to stop halfway to check out the world-famous Amma Ashram. Yes. It was featured in the movie (you know which one I`m talking about). And, yes. There are over 2,000 permanent residents living here who claim spiritual enlightenment. Let me repeat. `Spiritual Enlightenment`. Lest one judge for themselves:
-Avoid contact with the village.
-Don't eat or seek medical attention outside of the Ashram.
-No smoking or drinking (that includes any “black liquid”)
-Don't swim at the beach.
-We suggest fasting once a week.
-Observe silence and minimize speech.
-No public affection.
-One lady was telling me that she went and saw the movie, in English and Hindi (just for fun), while trying to follow along page-by-page-by-page-by-page in the book. She was going on Month Three.
-One guy had been here a year and a half. Once a month, he takes a vow of silence that lasts a week.
-At 4:30am, I was woken to people chanting below my window.
-I saw a guy eat one slice of un-buttered toast for dinner last night.
-The lady at the information desk wanted to hug the guru in all the continents of the world. She was still trying for Australia and Africa.
-The Internet room is only open two hours a day, and not on Tuesday. Today happens to be Tuesday. The Flames played Washington two nights ago.
All-in-all, there were curious tourists, spiritual nut-bags, recovering addicts, and the plain ol’ mentally insane. That pretty much sums it up for me. I’ll be glad when I am back on the boat, and off Mars, until our next adventure anyways.