Island in the backyard

Island in the  backyard

My friend Prashanth calls from Trivandrum. “Ready for adventure? Come and stay at Poovar Island. Be marooned like Robinson Crusoe,” he suggests. The predilection for exploring new avenues propels me to set off on an expedition.

We board Ananthapuri Express and alight at Neyyattinkara (again a new location), the station before Trivandrum.

The sedan, after passing through a bazaar and a temple, zips past Kerala-styled houses and finally reaches a well-paved boat jetty. It’s a sunny day and the place is swarming with passengers. Our out-of-the-world experience has started here itself.

After a wait of 20 minutes, a motor boat from the resort arrives to pick us up. The boat ride is gripping. As it cruises through the Neyyar river — in the days of yore, ghee (ney) was flowing in this river  — flanked by vegetation on both sides, we watch the nature in full glory. The cormorants skim over the lakes. The egrets swoop and soar out of the creepers and vines. A kingfisher dives for its prey. The ambience is so serene that even a whisper would be an infringement.

Approaching the island
As the boat negotiates a curve, the river widens and suddenly, the spuming sea, separated from the backwaters by an aureate sand bar, looms before us. The sight is so bewitching that we fail to notice that we have reached Poovar.

The launch is berthed on the edge of the island near the jetty. Adjacent to it are thatched cottages positioned on placid waters creating an illusion of floating on it. The ethereal surroundings beckon us. Unmindful of the usual formalities — pangs of hunger — we hop into the boat and sail to the beach just across the island. The sky is grey though it is just half an hour past noon. The heavens may open up anytime. The beach seems to be a tranquil and no-litter zone.

Nobody except us is present on the golden sands. We turn back to have a glimpse of the islet and its environs. All the beauties of nature can be found in this place.

Poovar lies at the cusp of backwaters and a sea, and a river which empties into that sea at close proximity.

It is also blessed with a stretch of beach  that separates it from the backwaters. We walk up to the mouth of the estuary. But the beach does not end here. The busier beach at Chowara peters out 12 km south at Poovar, where River Neyyar joins the sea. Thus, the extraordinary confluence of the river, lake, beach and sea is Poovar’s unique offering.

Turning to history, Raja Marthanda Ravi Verma was given asylum here by a powerful local merchant, Moosa Marikkar. Flowers that had fallen from kovala trees covered the Neyyar river with a carpet of red, a picturesque scene described by the king as ‘poo aar’ (stream of flowers). An apt description that even today succinctly defines the island of Poovar.

We return to our ‘floating’ cottage, only to be rocked by the rippling waves. Next day at cockcrow, we rush back to the beach. We see some fishermen spreading their nets and readying themselves to enter the sea. We enjoy a catamaran ride.

Poovar is basically a fishermen’s village. Our expedition continues to a nearby village. The chat with the locals is interesting. Once back in the resort, we move along the water meadows, village green and landscaped gardens with no intruders. Coconut and palm trees sway to greet us. Throughout the island, coconut trees and invigorating sea breeze thread their way through the beautiful landscape.

We disregard breakfast and tea. At times, we are at the fringes of the island and birds flap their wings and fly for their daily chores. The chirping and warbling of the avian population provide food to our ears and souls.

Now we wish to explore the places around Poovar. The first place is Vizhinjam,  a fishing village that has one of the ancient rock-cut temples in Kerala. Located in a beautiful garden some 13 km from Poovar, it has a niche cave on a boulder that encloses a one-celled shrine with a sculpture of Vinamdhara Dakshinamoorthy.

Our chauffeur now drives us to the Vizhinjam harbour. As this site is close to an international sea route, a state-of-the art port is being developed here. But what we see are boats bobbing at a distance, a beautiful view of the bay, the minars of a mosque, and a poorly maintained beach.

Along the river
Our jaunt now is along the banks of Neyyar. The miss-not-to-see spot here is a beautiful shrine dedicated to Lord Krishna. The door to the Sri kovil is painted in gold.

The post-lunch session includes a spectacular canoe ride around the island. The flapping of the birds and the plop of the paddle are the only sounds to be heard.

Suddenly it starts drizzling. With only Mother Nature to give us shelter, we take refuge under a coconut grove. Rains are unpredictable in Kerala, not to speak of an island like Poovar. If you are much concerned about your clothes and skin, then carry an umbrella or wear a raincoat, advises our boatman. But the showers are intermittent. It stops within a short time. But we are not in a mood to return to the dinghy, so we walk amidst the groves. The scene has become entirely different! The pastures, completely washed, look fresh.

On the final day in the morning, we once again go to the beach. Children collect  shells and oyster. The lads and ladies attempt to play some  game. Like a solitary reaper, I saunter on the white sands to devour nature’s munificence. I wish I could walk straight into the surging waves, or become one with the rippling brook. But mundane thoughts pulls me back. With tears brimming my eyes, I salute the sun with Gayatri Mantra and proceed towards the boat.

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