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Playing in the surf

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March 2008

Fifteen days cycling in the beautiful Kerala and Tamil Nadu.  Another Red Spokes cycling adventure ;-) The trip started in  Trivandrum a mad scramble at the airport's immigration checks at an un earthly hour. After finally gaining entry after being scrutinised by the immigration staff we made our way to find bags and bikes to be faced with only what I can describe as a rugby scrum! It seems the way to do baggage reclaim in   Trivandrum  airport is to dump it in a pile and let everyone dive in to find their belongings. At this point we were scared our bikes may be damaged under the weight of a ton of bags, or the people walking over the luggage once they get a glimpse of their belongings. Alas the only way to deal with the situation was to wade in sleeves rolled up and head down! At last the bags retrieved it was a dash for the exit only to be stopped again by a very official looking fellow wanting to know what we had in the bags and where we were going.

fishing boat
After a very snappy rundown of what and why we were there, he seemed happy enough to let us on our way...thank goodness as by this time the tiredness the heat were taking their toll. Although it was a complete mad shambolic affair in the airport the thing that struck me was not a cross word or look was exchanged even though people were bumping into each other and bags flying, this was my first taste of tolerance and acceptance of the "Indian kind" and a big lesson could be learnt by us all. Anyway it was far too hot to get all stressed out.  

Outside it was another world, it seemed like there were thousands of people waiting for friends and  family. The airport does not allow anyone into the terminal unless they are travelling, so the meeters and greeters and the people saying goodbye to their loved ones have to do so outside! there were people selling hot food being prepared on all types of cooking apparatus  
with all sorts creations being turned out, things the like I have never seen, seemed to me like a little industry all of its own was thriving on the terminal front.

Fishermen
Taxi after taxi and of course tuc tuc by the dozen. Finally we were on our way to our accommodation as dawn broke we arrived at Kovalam and a welcome rest.

We were right on Kovalam beach and once rested we had to explore, it was very beautiful and not too comercialised. We watched the fishermen draw in the nets and devide their catch after the owner of the boats got his  lot the rest was shared amoung the fishermen, it was a spectacular sight seeing so many men working in a fairly rough sea and how colourful they were, this was the first taste of the "colourfulness of the Indian people" This was going to be "seafood heaven"

Our group were gathering, arriving from different places meeting each other putting bikes together surveying damage sustained on the journeys and making repairs.

Fish market
We were all set for our first cycle to get used to the heat and the roads. We took a gentle cycle to visit a traditional fishing village and see the fish market as it has been for generations. The thing that excited me most about this trip was it would take us to the remote and unspoilt areas the back roads of Kerala where the tourist do not venture and the chance to experience Indian rural life as we rolled by on our bike's. Kerala is more affluent than most other parts of India as it is rich in so many things like spices, herbs, tea coffee coconuts and the sea of course plus education!  Most children who have access to school go, and when  you meet them they all  can speak a little  English, the government gives every child attending school a meal so great incentive to parents who have many mouths to feed  and great for the children of Kerala for their education.
Garland
   We took an overnight train  to Madurai, the train was air-conditioned with very comfortable sleeping compartments. There were people traveling to visit  famiy,  friends and  for business. It was wonderful to be part of it all and chat to people and watch people come and go it was impossible to sleep in case you missed a thing.  It was time to hit the road for real.... but first a visit to the magnificent Meenakshi temple, what a sight it fills the skyline as you make your way through busy streets, there's alot of renovation work taking place with wooden scaffolding and men hanging precariously from the far from secure construction, The closer you get the colours of the figures start to show, sky blue and golds mixed with pinks etc make it a striking vision.
cyclist rest
Inside is quiet "WOW" you could truly spend hours of peaceful bliss in this  Incredibly spiritual place. Alas we had to leave but the smell of sented garlend jasmin and rose still lingers  I wrap the one I was given round the handlebars of my bike.

As we get ready to roll the skys open and torrential rain falls it makes for crazy cycling out of the city rain is bouncing off the dirt roads and its easy to miss a pothole in large puddle, it was quiet exciting and exhilarating flying through the traffic but couldn't wait for the open countryside.

Kovalam Beach
......

I rained most of the day with little respite, it was hard to see the lovely countryside with the rain in your face. With late afternoon out came the sun even though it was low in the sky we all arrived at our accommodation in Vathalagundu none the worst of wear just soggy round the edges. The temprature had dropped and a distinct chill in the air we found hot water to be a premium and cold showers were better than nothing!!

Well guess it had to happen started to feel quiet ill overnight so thought I would be one step ahead and start taking Pepto bismol. This was going to be a long ride today and a tough one too lots of climbing and guess what.....more rain although this started when we were in the hills of Tamil Nadu and by the time our lunch stop came we were once again soaked and at 2,133meters it was quiet cold too.

pit stop
The afternoon was wet and as we climbed the mist came down, we stopped to watch the monkeys sitting and displaying their curosity at  the strange sight of cyclists passing by. Late afternoon arrived at our destination of the hill station of Kodaikanal. By now I was feeling very very unwell the weather had deteriorated, low cloud fog and rain!! We had a rest day here and I was to spend it in bed armed with a bunch of pills from the "chemist" which actually was a shack on the side of the road I had antibiotics pain killer etc and the whole lot came to around 70 rupees, this was dirt cheap by our standards but for local people it was more than a days pay! By now other people were coming down with sickness too so it was lucky it was a rest day also as the weather was so bad it was difficult to do or see anything anyway. It was time to hit the road again and some of the group were still feeling unwell so decided not to cycle the next leg of the trip so the day was spent being transferred by mini bus to our next stop to be honest when you feel that bad you really don't mind at all.
washing
 

We arrived at the beautiful village of Marayoor. There were Easter processions in the street outside it was beautiful to watch there were views out to the hills in the distance also anayurvedic
massage  hospital on site which was a must have experience traditional and very therapeutic. The next days ride (feeling well and back in the saddle) was exploring the area and heading for the afore mentioned hills.......yes a long steep climb to the heart to visit a tribal village and an ancient temple cave where the holey man was praying it was pretty amazing! The only thing was after all the rain the climb to the temple was wet and covered in leaches....yuck.........as you have to take shoes off out of respect it was pretty stomach churning trying to avoid the little blood sucking evil things!! It was worth it though.

me with the elephants

At least it was all down hill on the way back, we passed ladies carrying large bundles of "trees" my goodness it really is a tough life, people have to work very hard just to survive I have so much respect for their resourcefulness and spirit. We took a trip to the national park and had a guide take us around (he spoke no english actually he did not speak at all) funny though you kind of knew what he might say if he had by the places and things he showed us. It was so peaceful and very beautiful we were on the look out for elephants but by all accounts there had been so much rain they had no need to come out of the deep forest. We saw evidence they were near by by the enormous piles of dung they left behind!  We were treated to a feast that evening all traditional food served on a palm leaf and the people from the tribal village treated us to a spectacular dance.

Chinoor national park
We also local brewed spirit which was not my cup of tea!!! 

Oh I forgot to mention it had stopped raining too! 

Alas early next morning it was time to hit the road again it was sunny and warm, we were heading for the tea plantations, for as long as I can remember  I have wanted to see the place  shown on the tea packet depicting the vast gree tea plantions and the tea pickers at their work well I wasn't disappointed at all. It was incredible to see the  layred terraces rich and green this was a beautiful ride all too soon we arrive at out stop for the night  Chinnakanal.  

Leaving the tea plantations, cycle down through the Cardamom Hills taking in the wonderful scenery and fresh air it was once again on and off the bike snapping pictures and enjoying the warm sunshine the rain a distant memory! Our accommodation was in a very rural area just us staying it was very pretty and had its own fishing area which you could aim to catch your dinner if you feelt the urge.

Vagamon elephants
It was a chance to catch up with a little washing and there was time to sit outside and take in the atmosphere with a cold beer....this is th life!

A crack of dawn start to head for Kumily we were having a rest day here too. The ride was down hill and heading out of the mountains the morning mist sitting on the hill tops it was difficult to see where the earth ended and the sky began, it was hard to drag yourself away as the temptation to just sit and look was overwhelming. This was a fab day's ride and we arrived late afternoon leaving the cool air and freshness of the hills behind us. There was a marked increase in the temperature it was now 30+. This was a buzzing town and we were to spend time visiting the spice gardens and an elephant sanctuary eating and drinking! Some of us found a small bar, it was a unique experience to say the least.

Marayoor.tea plantations
 It was a large room with a big bar, tables and chairs tucked away allong the walls were small booths with swing type doors where I guess you could drink in private!!!! We were ushered to a table where a tablecloth was placed for us, it seemed to be the "better" lounge end of the bar, there were lots of men no women and spirits were high we enjoyed a few drinks and embraced the experience!

It was a dawn trip to Periyer Lake in Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve http://www.indianwildlifeportal.com/wildlife-sanctuaries/periyar-wildlife-sanctuary.html it was very beautiful we watched the water buffalo graze by the shore line, we kept our eyes peeled for birds and  animals making their morning pilgrimage to the waters edge.

tea plantation worker
Sadly we didn't see a tiger!  The lake was formed by the building of Mullaperiyar Dam in 1895 its an absolute must to visit

 

 

After the boat trip around the lake it was back for breakfast and then time to get on the bikes and head for the inland waterways to spend the night on a houseboat by now the temperature was creeping up and it was a very hot cycle indeed it is always hard to keep hydrated when its over 35 degrees. We cycled past rice paddy fields and drank chi at little tea houses while putting on more sunscreen to stop sizzling  We made excellent time and arrived at the waterways mid afternoon and it was even better than I expected.

Vagamon
These amazing boats were used to move rice along the inland waterways. Small fishing boats were to be seen everywhere, we ate fresh water prawns caught in the waterways and delicious they were too! As we sailed along it was amazing to see the communities thriving along the waters we were now seeing brick buildings rather than huts it was easy to see it was a better off community here than we had seen in the countryside. We relaxed and enjoyed the trip taking in the sights and sounds.

We moored after dark and at dawn set of again to start our next day on the bikes. Today we were to spend the afternoon and night by the Arabian sea in a holiday resort it was strange to stay somewhere with other tourists although it was only a few. It was very nice as the accommodation was little huts built among the palm trees.

sea food
We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon swimming and exploring, again the heat was just too much to be outside so it was into the shade till afternoon. We were back in the populated areas again and our next cycle would take us through the villages as we hugged the coast. It was wonderful to experience the activities, men climbing to the top of  coconut trees, fishermen mending nets shaded from the sun, children laughing and calling to us as we cycle by and stopping for a cold soda at little shops to shade from the sun and eat bannans and the delicious carmel nut crunch bar which I swear gave us energy,           

The trip was coming to an end and our final destination was Cochin, but first we got to visit a small traditional resort/retreat on the waterways where we were to enjoy a traditional lunch and relaxation in the afternoon sun, it was a real treat.

fishing boats
 It consisted of two rooms built from traditional materials with a view over the  waterways it was managed and looked after by the people of the village it gave work and an income direct to the people, wonderful to see. Late afternoon we were to make our final journey to Cochin pack the bikes away ready for the flight home and do some last moment shopping, we didn,t have much time to see the sights of Cochin http://www.cochin.org/  a very diverse city it would have been nice but maybe.................on the next trip!

 

Fact there are 130 types of bananas and we only got to taste around 6 of them!

India re-cycles and re-uses almost everything

For a county with 1billion people there are quiet places too!

If you get to go may the experience touch your spirit as it did mine

 

 

 

 

sylviandavid says:
What a great exterience and writeup! Wonderful trip and well told tale.... sylvia
Posted on: Jan 24, 2009
oldschoolbill says:
Very interesting & inforative.
Posted on: Nov 20, 2008
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Playing in the surf
Playing in the surf
fishing boat
fishing boat
Fishermen
Fishermen
Fish market
Fish market
Garland
Garland
cyclist rest
cyclist rest
Kovalam Beach
Kovalam Beach
pit stop
pit stop
washing
washing
me with the elephants
me with the elephants
Chinoor national park
Chinoor national park
Vagamon elephants
Vagamon elephants
Marayoor.tea plantations
Marayoor.tea plantations
tea plantation worker
tea plantation worker
Vagamon
Vagamon
sea food
sea food
fishing boats
fishing boats
near Kovalam
near Kovalam
Meenakshi temple
Meenakshi temple
garland
garland
Meenakshi temple
Meenakshi temple
traditional coffee house
traditional coffee house
Vagamon
Vagamon
long road
long road
fishing nets
fishing nets
fresh water prawn
fresh water prawn
backwaters
backwaters
fishing boats
fishing boats
Periyer Lake
Periyer Lake
Periyer Lake
Periyer Lake
Cardamom Hills
Cardamom Hills
river washing
river washing
chi
chi
Houseboat backwaters
Houseboat backwaters
on a houseboat
on a houseboat
Backwaters community
Backwaters community
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