We had to get up early to make are seven o'clock bus. We were fully awakened when we realized there was a huge spider wandering around the room watching us pack! Hiked to the bus station and got there about ten minutes early - no bus. About half an hour later someone came up and told us the bus schedule had changed a month ago and now it leaves at 6:30! We were hoping to get to Kollam in time to catch the morning ferry up through the backwaters to Alappuzha (Aleppy). Since there wasn't another direct bus until the afternoon we hired a rickshaw to the central Trivandrum bus station where we only had to wait a few minutes for another bus to Kollam. The ride was an hour and a half - not too bad, but the aggressive driver made it a little scary.
In Kollam we found that we'd missed the local ferry, but we lucked out and found that the daily tourist ferry was leaving in 45 minutes. We grabbed a quick breakfast of bananas, banana chips, and cokes at a small cafe and boarded the boat. The ferry runs from Kollam to Allapuzha through the backwaters, a long inland waterway consisting of a network of rivers, streams, lagoons, canals and lakes that runs parallel to the ocean through a series of small isolated villages. The waterway is often less than a hundred yards from the beach but only connects to the sea in two spots. The first several hours was fascinating - tons of activity. Village life included men claming, fishing with nets, and fishing from shore. There were also hundreds of the "Chinese" fishing nets - huge structures with big counterweighted dip nets. Some were free standing while others were connected to shore via shaky piers. The crude collection of lights over each net indicates that they must be used mostly at night. Some of the nets platforms were covered with hundreds of birds - one with what seemed to be eagles!
A few hours into the ride the boat stopped for lunch. It stops in the middle of nowhere so the only option is what's being served. Luckily it was a decent thali served on banana leaves - not the best, but not to expensive considering the captive audience. Back on the boat we sat and watched the world go by and indulged in a cold beer (the tourist boat does have a few benefits over the locals ferry). Several people got on and off the boat when we stopped at the ashram of Mata Amrithanandamayi - it's apparent that lots of travelers stop and stay there, though the pink high-rise looked far from spiritual to me. The ride from there on was peaceful and pleasant, but a little slow. The highlights of the later part of the eight hour journey were a small set of locks and a tea break. In the late afternoon the sun was low enough to negate our shade and it got very hot. We finally arrived in Alappuzha just before sunset. While picking my pack up I remarked on it being too heavy. As I spoke one of the shoulder straps broke! An uncomfortable (due to broken pack strap) short hike got us to the suggested guesthouse - it was ok, but I think I've been spoiled by the hotel in Kovalam. After dumping our gear we went out to find information on tomorrow's trains to Kochi, a walk, and an ok dinner. Back in the room I spent a few hours re-stitching my pack strap with dental floss - I broke three needles in the process, but I think it's fixed for a while. I fell into bed exhausted, and was not happy to realize it was going to be another early morning.