Go Solo: A trip for the post-Covid times

The first thing that will surely floor any visitor to SyZyGy Ecosports is its location. Nestled between the Ranipuram Beach and the Paravur backwaters in Kollam district of Kerala, one couldn’t wish for a better base for a paddling centre. Plans to visit SyZyGy and experience the joy of navigating a backwater on a canoe or kayak had been on my mind from the time I met the founder of this establishment Dani Gorgon early this year at a sports expo held at Thiruvananthapuram. It wasn’t just the lure of adventure, but the man’s passion for environmental conservation, primarily the well-being of the world’s water bodies. More on that later, let’s get into action mode.

All Aboard

I took this trip before the pandemic-related lockdown. Since it’s perfect for the post-covid period I hope to revisit. The destination was the point where Ithikkara river flowed into the Paravur Lake, approximately 6 km from SyZyGy, making it a 12 km expedition in all. I was raring to go at it solo, but Gorgon wisely suggested that I join him and his brother-in-law and the facility manager Alan Neto on a C3 (a three-person canoe). And I understood why just 10 minutes later. My shoulders started feeling sore and my breath grew heavy. Forget 6 km, I wouldn’t have made it to 600 metres if I had gone solo. Though one needn’t have prior experience or have good upper-body strength to canoe or kayak short distances, a long expedition calls for both.

It  was just past 7 am and we could feel the heat, but as we ventured into the saline expanse, the breeze comforted us. Paddling the backwater is an entirely different experience than the passive enjoyment onboard a houseboat. The physical strain and close proximity to the water gives a rush that is unlike anything else.

Gorgon peppered the journey with interesting anecdotes as well as valuable information about the backwater ecosystem and the rustic life in that part of the state. We passed by a few men, young and old, busy fishing in the backwaters. Most of them were on traditional canoes. I spotted a couple of teenagers perched on one of the pillars of the railway bridge that acts like a gateway to the wider part of the Paravur backwaters.

Faiths and Forests

One of the most attractive views during this expedition was a small temple on an islet in the middle of the water. The deity here is called Chiththan Thampuran. Neto told me that people from the adjacent villages visit the shrine to offer prayers. At a distance, one can spot a shrine dedicated to Mother Mary, which is part of a famous church at Pullichira built by the Portuguese centuries ago.

As we paddled ahead, I started feeling the strain on my shoulders, but my pride didn’t let me stop. The sight of a huge mangrove forest filled me with intrigue. According to Neto, this was made by an NRI businessman who wanted to build a resort on the plot which was spread across a few acres in the middle of the water. We paddled through the narrow passages canopied by mangroves. Felt like I was in the Amazons. Getting to experience the way of life is an added bonus of this expedition.

We had been on the water for over two hours and by this time my body seemed to get adjusted to the rigours. We reached the point where the river met the lake. The stopped over at one of the islets and snacked on few biscuits, bananas and dates. A heavy meal is not advisable during longer trips.

By the time we came back to the centre, we had covered 15km in six hours. We found new routes and locales on the go. After having lunch, Gorgon and I kayaked to a sandbar approximately 1.5 km from the centre. Though it’s a tourist attraction, Dani said that sandbars posed serious threats to the backwater ecosystem. He also expressed hopes that the state’s tourism department would do more to promote Kollam district’s potential.

After spending a few minutes on there, we returned to centre as the sun began to set. My body was sore, my mind ecstatic. Reluctantly, I returned to Thiruvananthapuram, but with a resolve to return again.

The Eco Warrior

Born and raised in Shakthikulangara, Kollam, Dani Gorgon has a deep-rooted love for water systems, and it is not confined to those in his homeland. He works for a marine engineering company in Dubai but kayaking his one and only passion. Having paddled in the Gulf region and Europe, Gorgon has also been part of three expeditions through the West Coast Canal or National Waterway No 3, a 168-km stretch of inland navigaional route located in Kerala that runs from Thriuvananthapuram to Kasargod. Seeing the pollution in the waters, he has made it a mission to spread awareness about plastic waste in the seas. Gorgon along with two of his paddling buddies and fellow eco warriors Murugan and Vipin Raveendranath has launched a campaign called Plastic Samudra. The trio has built a custom-made kayak and will embark on two expeditions, one from Kochi to Lakshadweep and the other from Chennai to Andaman in the next two years (Visit https://plasticsamudra.org/).

Dani says, “Unlike many other outdoor activities like cycling, riding, or hiking, kayaking or canoeing is best enjoyed solo or as a couple. The shape of the vessels are such that there is a distance of over 2mt in a multi-person kayaks and canoes. That makes paddling the best option during this pandemic.”

About SyZyGy

The centre is named after the concept of syzygy which is defined a conjunction or opposition, especially of the moon with the sun and the earth. This is reflected in the location of SyZyGy where the sea, land and backwater are in alignment. Plus the fact that alignment of celestial bodies causes tidal forces which is essential for paddling activities. Having started on a trial basis in 2013, Gorgon turned his dream project into the entity that it is today in 2017, with the full support of hi wife Jennifer and her brother Neto. The centre is equipped high quality imported fibre canoes and kayaks (one, two, three and four seaters).

The centre offers professional kayaking and canoeing training for school-college students and adults. Visit www.syzy.gy for details. Though an ideal group is the one with 12 people, the centre can handle a maximum of 30 at one time.

SyZyGy is open throughout the year and activities are only shut down during harsh weathers.

Packages: Short trips INR 1,500 per head. Long trips INR 2,500 per head. Kayaks and canoes can be rented for INR500 per hour. Additional hours will cost INR150 for an hour.

Directions: It is around 60 km from Trivandrum. The best way to the centre is to take the scenic coastal road that starts from the capital. You can also take the highway and take a detour from Varkala, Pallimukku, Kottiyam or Kollam.

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