Leaving Varkala was like leaving a loved one and starting a new adventure. The serene beach life, the western food and beers at sunset would be behind us as we pushed further north towards Kerala’s famous backwaters.
Being penny pinching backpackers, staying in a luxury houseboat on the emerald backwaters was well beyond our budget, at £100+ a night to cruise in style. Keeping our pauper ears to the ground, we heard a public ferry is available from Kollam to Alleppey further up India’s west coast.
The public ferry departs from the boat jetty in Kollam and slowly cruises up the river. The ride to Alleppey takes 8 hours in total. I highly recommend bringing a book!
The ferry winds through both narrow and wide bodies of water, passing villages and what felt like several million coconut trees.
We’d heard from other travellers en-route about the Matha Amrithanandamayi Ashram, where the ‘Hugging Mother’ resides. Notorious for marathon hugging sessions for those staying in her ashram. Amma (mother) is a living spiritual entity, worshipped by tens of thousands worldwide.
At the ashram, you can live amongst the nutters, erm devotees, and if Amma is around, you can join the queue for a motherly embrace.
We simple HAD to see this place with our own eyes!
The ferry ride is really relaxing and allowed us to see and experience Kerala’s beautiful backwaters. It offered a brief glimpse into the local way of life on the river.
You’ll see fisherman laying out nets from their tiny boats, stunning birds of prey and smaller river dwelling birds darting around. Luxury backwater houseboats and large Chinese drop fishing nets are a common sight too. (Plus I think I was sat behind Wayne Rooney, or was it Shrek?)
The ferry stops half way at the ashram to boot out and collect the future and present hugging devotees.
If you plan on getting your ‘hug on’ at the ashram, the journey takes about 3 hours with a river side lunch break on the way.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Kerela, but as skint as us and can’t afford a proper house boat or tour, then a ferry ride is a great way to see the beautiful backwaters first hand!