|Ourland is your land!|
We wanted to stay in the Keralan backwaters and had booked rather randomly into the Ourland Island Resort hotel, which sounded rather jolly. As the little red dirt road ran through the vivid green paddy fields, and then just simply ran out altogether at the edge of the glittering lake, we wondered what next? An old man in a canoe (who turned out to be called Bhanu) came around the corner with a big smile and proceeded to pile our rather large cases in a precarious manner onto his rather narrow little wooden canoe. He then paddled us out to the Ourland hotel nestled on its own little verdant island in the middle of the gleaming expanse of water.
|Welcome to waterworld|
The Ourland Island Resort is quite a special destination. It has won many awards for responsible tourism, and the accommodation is chic and pristine in small white bungalows, or in the tree house as an aerial alternative -the light switch is in the tree trunk! Meals are taken together with the other guests and are simple and nutritious local food from fresh ingredients. Afternoon tea is served promptly at 4pm in the English tradition. Masala tea of course.
|Sunset canoe cruise|
We were just in time to join the sunset canoe cruise and we got to see the hundreds of nestling egrets descend upon their one special tree on the Ourland Island and the huge fruit bats swooping across the sky as the evening drew in. We got to stop at one of the duck farms to see a huge flock of 5,000 young Indian Runner ducks – doing a bit of Indian running but only around their pen. They are kept for their meat and for eggs. We could see the tourist houseboats returning to base after their daily outings but being so close to everything from canoe level is hard to beat.
|Duck farm frenzy|
Also on offer here are specialist Aryuvedic treatments and I had a very oily and surprisingly firm massage from a tiny beautiful 18 year old Indian girl. This was followed by a steaming session in a Dr Kellog type wooden steam box and a shower with a strange black liquid soap which left my hair gorgeously soft and shiny. It was supposed to be totally rejuvenating and I certainly felt quite relaxed afterwards. In the morning before breakfast we had an early walk around the waterways to bird watch and to see how the local people live along the banks of these expansive natural waterways. Ratheesh was a mine of information as he showed us around sporting his binoculars and his birds of the Indian Sub continent book.
We saw children going to school by foot and on bicycle, people fishing, and washing and working. Animals relaxed about the small dwellings. Cats and goats and chickens all seem to get on famously and always in the background the intense green of the lush paddy fields known as Kerala’s rice bowl.
We saw kingfishers and kites and orioles and herons – there are actually over 106 species of birds to be identified from around the Ourland estate. The backwaters waterways are beautiful tranquil places and well worth exploring if you get the chance – they are quite unique to Kerala.
The Ourland estate is an intelligent tourism destination. There are only a small number of rooms, everything is organically sourced and there is no Wifi – yes you heard it – no Wifi!! You can swing in a hammock and enjoy the peace and quiet of somewhere that is a very much an away from it all destination. All too soon it was time for us to repackage ourselves and our cases into the small canoe and paddle off to take a taxi to Cochin the next destination on our adventure..
|The rice bowl of India|