Kadamakkudy, an agrarian hamlet in the backwaters close to Kochi city, is a familiar name among travel lovers. However, some other villages like Cheppanam and Chathamma which are also located near the city are yet to attract the attention of tourists.
After the fishing season is over around the time of Vishu, the paddy fields in Kadamakkudy are drained to prepare the land for 'pokkali' farming. The paddy produced in the fields attracts several migratory birds and the natural beauty of the area during this period has been well-documented. Similar is the situation in Cheppanam and Chathamma also.
Situated in Panangad Panchayat in Ernakulam district, Cheppanam and Chathamma are 'twin' villages. To reach these scenic rural hamlets, take the Bypass Road from Ernakulam to Aroor and turn to the left at the junction near Fisheries University. This road leads to Panangad. Travel one kilometre along Panangad Road and deviate to the left at N M Junction. You would soon arrive at Cheppanam.
Cheppanam and Chathamma were once islets in the Vembanad Lake, covered by thick forests. In fact, all the roads in both villages end in backwaters. Later, after a bridge and the Ernakulam Bypass Road were built, the islets were referred to as islands to give them more recognition. But the entire area has retained its old rustic charm. Life in the villages revolves around the backwaters, canals, Chinese fishing nets, coconut groves, prawn ponds, and pedestrian paths. There are toddy shops, tea shops, and bakeries.
When resorts offering facilities such as kayaking and sailing were opened in the villages, the area came to the limelight.
Fish and 'pokkali rice'
In the past, Kadamakkudy was a backwater area at the mercy of the Arabian Sea. Residents of the islets in the region had to depend on canoes or jankars to reach their homes from places such as Moolampally. However, regular boat services now connect Kadamakkudy to Bolgatty, Vallarpadam, Mulavukad, and Ramanthuruthu.
The land route to Kadamakkudy is along the Edappally-Paravur Road. Take a deviation to the left after the Varapuzha bridge and you can reach the islands. In fact, it is a mere five-minute drive from Varapuzha town.
Backwaters extend over the entire area, except for the land where houses, roads and ridges of paddy fields stand. Water covers the place, whether it is summer or rainy season. Bunds have been built for the protection of Kadamakkudy residents and they block the waves when the sea turns rough. Attractions include a toddy shop offering fish delicacies made with local varieties such as prawns, clams, squid, kari and pallathi. A teashop in the island also sells traditional items like pickled mango and gooseberry, boiled eggs of duck, omelet, tapioca and fish curry.
Pizhala and Chathanathu Kadavu are the two inhabited areas in Kadamakkudy and the beauty of islands can also be enjoyed from the Container Road beyond the Goshree Bridge.
Incidentally, there are almost no settlers in Kadamakkudy and all the local residents are related or know each other very well. This presents a striking contrast with the nearby cosmopolitan area of Kochi.
Most of the residents in Kadamakkudy earn a living from fishing. While people like Cleetus use a net, others like Sarojini search the shallow waters for their catch; mostly crabs, each costing around Rs 2,000. The crabs are exported and are of the finest quality, say the local people.
During the months from December to May, Kadamakkudy witnesses fish farming and then the water is drained to sow ‘pokkali paddy’ during the monsoon. A rice with heritage status, pokkali also is exported and is priced at around Rs 80 a kg. When the pokkali fields are ready for harvest, the area attracts migratory birds as well as avid photographers.
Suggestions have been submitted to the Tourism Department of Kerala to implement an island tourism project in Kadamakkudy. It is pointed out that a traveller could reach Paravur within 20 minutes from High Court Junction in Ernakulam if the bridge connecting Moolampally and Paravur is opened. Moreover, tourists can easily visit nearby attractions such as Kuzhupilly Beach, Muziris, Cheraman Perumal Mosque and St Thomas Church.