Achamthuruthi-Kottappuram-Valiyaparamba backwater circuit of Kasargod is the rising star on the map of inland water tourism destinations in Kerala.
The familiar strains of an old Malayalam song fills the air as a houseboat gets ready to come alive on the backwaters of Kottappuram in rural Kasargod.
The leviathan warms up to the hustle and bustle aboard as the family takes their time settling into their home for the next 24 hours. One group has wandered off to check out the neatly done up interiors while the teen gang has occupied the sunlit deck which is obviously the picture-perfect selfie spot. The little ones have broken into an impromptu dance with a group of parents clapping and cheering on; with the peppy old number on Kerala style fish preparations literally giving out a graphic description of what's cooking in the houseboat's kitchen! Laid back on the comfy easy chair and the sofa, grandpa and grandma are watching the entire hullabaloo around them, thoroughly enjoying the scenic beauty that frames these precious family moments.
Kottappuram is to Malabar what the Punnamada lake is to Kuttanad. With over 20 houseboats plying on the backwaters, the Achamthuruthy-Kottappuram-Valiyaparamba circuit is the rising star on Kerala's map of inland water tourism destinations. Awaiting visitors is a fleet comprising small boats modelled on the shikaras of Kashmir as well as grand and elaborate houseboats with air-conditioned rooms.
The water tourism facility in Malabar is relatively lesser known compared to the backwaters of Alappuzha and Kollam. This offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy the classic backwater experience of Kerala at much cheaper rates. Add to that the pristine nature around the lake and the opportunity to get a taste of rural tourism – Kottappuram is the best bargain for tourists and nature lovers.
Visitors can board the boats from the two terminals of Kottappuram and Achamthuruthi. The boats will ply across the Valiyaparamba lake, circling the island that dots the water, all the while serving delectable local cuisine freshly cooked aboard. Day-outings on houseboats are the most in-demand package while there are a lot of takers for overnight stays too. The houseboats are parked on the lake for the night, giving its occupants the unmatched experience of spending the night under a star-lit sky while being lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the boat.
Those looking for day outings are spoilt for choice with a variety of activities other than houseboat trips. Fishing, water zorbing, peddle boats and speed boats, and other fun-filled activities await visitors.
Much water flows under the footbridge
The Kottappuram-Achamthuruthi footbridge fills you with a longing for the quieter, slower, less busy world of yore. The bridge connects the Neeleswaram municipality and the Cheruvathur panchayat and holds the record for being the state's longest footbridge over a river at 400m.
A road over bridge has come up close to the old bridge, but the footbridge continues to hold its sway on the hearts of the local population. Regulars among the younger generations cannot think of a better place to hang out in the evenings; the tourists find in it the right blend of the quaint, the nostalgic and the romantic.
Local flavours abound
Some of those who walk all the way over to Kottappuram come back with fish bought fresh from the local fishermen. The thatched shacks on the coast sell freshwater fish caught every morning. The fish gets sold out before noon on weekends and holidays, say the people who have lined up before the shops. ''Fish tourism is also looking up in Kottappuram since the fish sold here is fresh and free of adulteration; the fish you buy from outside these days are so full of formality,'' says the young chap trying his luck with a fishing rod, smiling broadly at the nickname 'formality' that they have given to formalin-treated fish.
One cannot help thinking that this air of long-time acquaintance, the absolute lack of 'formality' that takes you by surprise, this unadulterated flavour of warm hospitality is the reason why a getaway to a quaint old countryside never loses its charm. No wonder then that the backwater-studded Kottappuram takes every bit of the city dweller's formality off you, leaving you free to indulge in the soothing luxury of the houseboat, good food, and long strolls in the countryside.