The ship had docked in Cochin overnight to allow us to depart on our houseboat cruise down the river Vembanattu Kayal. Our guides name was Joyce [after James Joyce -male] and the journey to the river took about one and half hours in a small seven seater van full of what appeared to be quite active mosquitoes.
The houseboats were originally used for transporting rice down river, but had been converted into houseboats complete with two air conditioned bedrooms and 25hp outboard engines. The roof was made of bamboo and the 60ft longboat was steered from the bow through a series of pulleys and long ropes running to the rudder of the stern. The hull was made of teak timbers and the boat was crewed by three people.
The vessel could be hired for 125 pounds per day and were very popular with newlyweds on their honeymoon.
The three hour journey down river revealed India in its most enigmatic, romantic, mysterious and contradictory state.
Women were washing their clothes on the river bank whilst little children resplendent in crisp clean uniforms were walking to school. Water buffaloes were being used to till the soil in the rice fields, whilst small boats were delivering fresh water in black plastic drums.
The absence of roads made the river the only highway and it was fascinating to see old ladies taking their grandchildren to school in small canoes.
Save for the occasional cry of a raven or crow the silence was deafening which added to the very moving experience.
The seven passengers were treated to an exquisite lunch of fried banana fritters and Indian tea followed by chilled pineapple and coconuts. During the journey from the river back to the ship, Joyce agreed to help me purchase a new Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle and have it shipped back to the UK.
Khan [singer in the Queen's room], has offered to send a couple of my river photographs to Time magazine and the National Geographic in the remote hope they might be published. I think I will let him do this. I now understand how Kipling fell in love with this mysterious and enigmatic country. We sail overnight to Goa!