Varkala may be magical during the day, but the howling dogs ruled at night. We felt as if we were kept awake as they howled long into the night, just outside our bedroom window. However we were both fast asleep when the alarm went off at 6.30am.
Then quick pack up and off to Coffee Temple for un-Indian omelettes and coffee for breakfast, which was stunningly good. On the road by 7.45am – after we went back to the homestay room to collect our helmets.
The first couple of hours was bliss as we ambled along quiet roads beside the beach in the cool of the morning. The sea was to our West and there were a series of inland lakes (or back waters as they are known) to our East. There were motorbikes going frantically in the other direction with crates perilously stacked on the back. We had noticed lights from hundreds of small fishing boats the previous evening, and here was the catch going to market.
After a while we turned inland and went through the outskirts of Kollam. Suddenly we had to cross a main road which was jam-packed with buses, motorbikes, lorries and the occasional car. With all the traffic, the vehicles were moving slowly but it took some nerve to inch across. However the traffic expected this and avoided us – so scary but not dangerous. However, I suspect the most dangerous thing at this point was the air quality.
On the other side of the chaos of the main road, it was a quiet road again – such a contrast. We carried on going north and then got to the edge of a lake. The road came to an abrupt halt but there was a “ferry” across to Munroe Island. It was 2 long boats strapped together with a metal platform for cars and motorbikes – and cycles on this occasion. We just missed one ferry but it crossed the lake without sinking, and was back within 30 minutes, so we decided it must be OK.
Then we got the bikes on and enjoyed the ride for the princely sum of 5 rupees each (about 6p). After that it was just 4.6km to go, and we arrived at our “Homestay”, Munroe Nest, run by the marvellous Vishnu. He welcomed us, and we had a lovely lunch of vegetable curry and rice.
Munroe Island is named in honour of Resident Colonel John Munro of the former Princely State of Travancore. The island measures 13.4 square kilometres (5.2 sq mi) in area. In 1795 the British established their supremacy in South India and the princely state of Travancore came under their governance. From 1800 onwards, a Resident was appointed by East India Company as administrative head of Travancore. The first Resident was Colonel Colin Macaulay, followed by Colonel John Munro. During his tenure Munro oversaw the land reclamation efforts in the delta where Kallada River joins Ashtamudi Lake and the reclaimed island was named after him as Munroe Island. It has left an island with waterways that criss-cross it at all points, with few roads and little traffic. There is tourism and a bit of fish (or tiger prawn) farming but mostly coconut trees and birdlife.
After lunch we slept off the after effects of the dogs, did some planning for the next few days and then Vishnu took us out for a ride in his canoe/punt to watch the sun setting on the lake. The photos do not do justice to this wonderful place.
Bernie: The almost 3 hour trip was one of peace and tranquillity, gently punting through the backwaters. David even renewed his punting skills without falling in! Watching the sunset while bobbing about on the lake surrounded by silence apart from the birdlife was special, as was the return trip through the darkening sky as the day closed in the stars came out.
In many parts of Kerala it had been reported that the number of tourist boats on the backwaters was causing significant pollution and at peak times the canals were gridlocked. Here we hardly saw another person. Highly recommended for a quieter backwater experience.