Day 7 : Kumily (all day – hence 0km and 0m of climbing)

Today was a welcome day off the bikes. It began with a bit of legal work for me (but not too much) and some future route planning for Bernie. We were then off to catch the bus to Periyar Wildlife Park for a nature walk. We were joined by Sophie, whose boyfriend had gone on an all day walk which, tragically, we found we fully booked so we had to console ourselves with just a 3 hour trek (I am not sure irony works well on a blog). However we soon realised we had opted for a better choice.

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The method of crossing the lake to start the nature walk

Our guide was Ram Khrisnan, a hugely knowledgeable local young man, who spoke excellent English, was a mine of information about the park and pointed out things that we would never have seen. Over the next 3 hours we saw hornbill, egrits, herons, elephants, a red mongoose, tree squirrels, monkeys and an owl. We saw a tiger’s paw mark, but no tiger! I will let the photos speak from themselves to express the sheer beauty of this place.

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A hornbill in full flight
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The Hornbill in the tree

It was peaceful and, in the shade, not too hot. The park was at 900m height, and constructed around a reservoir which was build by a Mr Peabody in the 1880s. That created a 26 square km lake, which was a haven for all types of animals. It is good to know that the British did some good in India, even if it was by accident.

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In the bus on the way back we met a family from Rhode Island and a couple from Delhi, chatting on friendly terms to all. Bernie even had a nice gentleman give up his seat for her – but I thought she looked far too healthy for that!

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A woodpecker – beating out a message to the jungle
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A red mongoose, searching for ants
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Blue bird – any offers on what species?

An afternoon of reading and relaxation followed, only punctuated by an attempt to go out to buy Duck Tape, as we ran out on the last set of repairs. My grasp of Indian languages and etiquette is pretty limited, and so trying to explain what we meant by “Duck Tape” to a series of shopkeepers produced hilarity all round. No – it was not parcel tape but a bit like that but stronger. A larger roll of parcel tape was great but not quite what we needed. Electrical tape was getting there, but not quite right … but it may be the best we could secure.   All this was done with huge apologies on all sides (especially ours) as we tried to explain what we needed.

In the evening we had booked seats at 2 cultural events, one after another. The first was a Kalaripayattu demonstration. This was an ancient form of marshall arts dating back 3000 years, from which many of the other more common marshall arts developed. It involved some pretty impressive acrobatics, terrifying sword and stick fighting where one false move could end up with an urgent need for Bernie’s medical skills (at best) or an undertaker at worst, and eventually jumping and tumbling through burning hoops. Pretty impressive all in all, even if the performers may not have great longevity.

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We then walked next door to the Kathakali Centre for a classical Indian dance show, with stories acted out in mime and drum, traditional singing (of the “wailing” variety) music, with emphasis on hand and face movements. It was an experience to be there, and was well done.

 

Both performances were put on for visitors, but 19 out of 20 million visitors to Kerala are from within India. That was reflected in the audiences for both these events, which were very predominantly people who knew far more about what they were watching than we did. Thus watching the audience was almost as fascinating as watching the performances.

 

To bed early, knowing we are back on our bikes and have another big climbing day tomorrow.

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Day 5: Kumarakom to Wagamon (or Vagamon): 87km and 1,450m of climbing

The clue to today is in the climbing numbers – our first big climb of the trip. Tough, tough, tough!!

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A week ago today we left Birmingham, not knowing quite how this trip would work out. Now we are a week in, although we have still not turned over the map to the next pane (but it is a very large scale map). Continue reading Day 5: Kumarakom to Wagamon (or Vagamon): 87km and 1,450m of climbing

Day 4. Munroe Island to Kumarakom 95km.

After a blissfully quiet night we were up early and on the road by 7 to try and beat the heat. We fiddled about a bit trying to get off the island but found the little ferry to take us to the road heading north and we were on our way. The first 15 or so km were on fairly quiet roads and the road surface not bad – we saw workmen mending the road – Boys from the Black Stuff Indian style. It looked a hot and tough job with the only mechanical aid the final roller. The rest was done by hand. Those bits that were completed delivered us a stretch of road relatively free from pot holes. The road criss-crossed the railway and we learnt to negotiate the masses when we were stopped at crossings, and then had to go with the flow of humanity as the gates opened up.

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We then turned on to the main highway – the main artery up the coast – and hit traffic in a big way. However the road was wide, the surface very good and there was a shoulder to cycle on. True, there were often pedestrians, motorcycles and tuktuks coming the other way on the shoulder; but we could usually negotiate our way and we made good pace. We were learning the rules of the road and the pecking order (bicycles give way to everything) and it did not feel (that) unsafe.

We stopped at a roadside restaurant and met a multigenerational Irish family and chatted for a while. They were going south the backwaters, but then returning to Goa so the 7 year old could attend a Steiner school there.

We passed on our website address and later they were kind enough to comment on the blog. Perhaps we will meet them again in Goa. We then chatted to the restaurant owner while we ate delicious masala omelettes. He had worked with his company in Finland and the UK and was now retired back to the family home, which he had converted into the restaurant/hotel.

P1020343The day was heating up and time to move on. Our next stop was the Krishnapuram Palace museum. An old Keralan palace built by a maharaja and now a museum of Keralan artifacts. The wooden building was built for coolness with a large pond in the garden (looking a bit green and slimy) and there was the largest mural painting in Kerala on one of the walls. A pleasant stop.

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On again, as we knew we had a lot if distance to cover. Soon we turned onto a less busy road but still a good road surface passing through towns and villages. We stopped for lunch under some trees by a Hindu temple. Having asked whether it was ok, their main concern was that we were not going to eat any meat. We could assure them we were only boiling water for our brew. A woman from the house next to the temple brought out a rice/milk drink and something that looked like a curry paste on a banana leaf. So kind and hospitable, it felt bad to decline. We managed, I hope, to decline the curry gracefully by miming stomach problems and sipped at the milky drink until we could tip it away without being seen. Stomachs holding out so far but we did not want to tempt fate.

 

We revived somewhat after our coffee and snacks but don’t feel we have really found a good system of cycling food yet.

During the afternoon we were mainly on busy roads but managed a couple of stretches on side roads (thanks to the Garmin and Googlemaps) where within a minute of leaving the main road it felt as if we were on another planet peddling past peaceful paddy fields. An ice cream stop cooled us down but we were managing the heat a bit better.

 

The last stretch bypassed the city of Kottayam, then down to the shores of Vembanad Lake, Kerala’s largest lake and home to Kumakarom bird sanctuary which we plan to visit at dawn tomorrow. Our bed for the night is at Tharavadu Heritage Home in a beautifully restored 1870s teak mansion. We had a not very satisfactory search for a meal. Googlemaps marked a seafood restaurant but it turned out to be part of a very swanky 5 star hotel which was firmly hidden away behind enormous wooden gates. We were told the restaurant was full but suspect it was just closed. We found a pleasant family restaurant and ordered fish. A rather small single fish cooked in a banana leaf was very tasty but was rather meagre in size but not in price!

Overall an A to B day where we covered a good amount of distance, saw some interesting sites, got more confident in the traffic and look forward to turning inland to the mountains tomorrowP1020338

David: I think we are now getting acclimatised to travelling, the heat, the distances and the general ambiance of India. It always amazes me how people can get used to something new so quickly. Maybe the same thing happens to conscript soldiers in a war, children shipped off to boarding schools or prisoners when they are first incarcerated. The difference is that we are volunteers, but there is still a vast difference from the way the rest of our lives run to get used to. No one calls Bernie “doctor” and I am trying to ignore law (as much as I can). We are no longer tough professionals but would-be tough cyclists. Our problems are not those of our clients or patients, but getting enough of the right food, avoiding tuktuks and trying to plan and book accommodation for the next few days.

 

I sometimes wonder if we are being selfish – leaving those who depend on us behind for 2 months whilst we cycle off into the Orient. Maybe we are a bit, but I also see these trips as a time for personal battery re-charging. It’s a time for reflection, rebalancing priorities and having new experiences. In India – there is no shortage of experiences.

 

One of the things that strikes me from my first few days in rural India is that it is a land where people are defined by the deity they inherited from their parents. Kerala has a massive Catholic population, with full churches and overt signs of religion on buses. It is not quite as “in your face” as in Ghana but Christianity as a religion is alive and growing. But I suspect that, despite all the modernisation of a fast developing country, a census which had a box for “No Religion” would have very few subscribers.

 

A child of Muslim parents is defined by his or her inherited religion; a child of Hindu parents not only inherited a religion of mystifying complexity but a caste system which is almost as complex. There was a push to marginalise the importance of the caste system after Independence, but it has endured and under the BJP government may even have revived. Is it that different to the English system of “class”? It may be slightly more structured and inflexible here but it has distinct (and uncomfortable) similarities. So, awkward as the caste system may feel to us, an English QC and a doctor not in the best position to express progressive views – so we hold our thoughts to ourselves.

Day 2. Chowara Beach to Varkala. 65km.

(Bernie) We had a rather odd night in which we either had the fan on, and it sounded as if we were in a helicopter, or fan off and were too hot. Having fallen asleep at 8pm David woke up at 2am and was up for 2 hours writing the blog and reading and then came back to bed – but still managed about 9 hours sleep. We were slightly out of practice packing up our stuff but got everything packed and breakfasted and were on the road by 9am.

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Hot, dusty roads

The first part took us over a peninsular with some hills but down the other side and on the way to Trivandrum was then flat. We found ourselves on a brand new dual carriageway for a short while but it had a shoulder and good surface and not too much traffic and, after a short while, we were able to move onto the now empty old road running parallel.

Trivandrum is a city of a million people so we were a bit nervous at how we would traverse it but David’s skilful navigation with the Garmin took us on small roads around the airport perimeter and then directly by the coast. Busy in parts it was all fine mostly with buses and tuktuks to negotiate, as well as thousands of motorbikes. The Garmin has been invaluable. The free street maps David downloaded were incredibly accurate, and in the absence of any detailed maps, completely essential in allowing us to find a network of small side roads which has mostly meant we can avoid the busiest roads. Google maps is also very useful in plotting the route and those critical last few km finding our accommodation. Technology is wonderful!

As we were coming out of the Trivandrum conurbation we saw a cyclist on the other side of the road. He was a completely bonkers German man (about our age, or possibly older) who was cycling on a bike he had brought in India for 200 Euros (and he was ripped off) and carrying a heavy rucksack on his back. He seemed rather starved of conversation but mainly wanted to discuss how cheap our accommodation had been and the price of various guest houses he had been in. He also gave us a detailed guide to cycle route in Germany – useful for us on our way to Australia. He was irritating but armless, and no doubt he thought we were bonkers too!

There had been a distinct lack of tea/coffee houses and shortly after Trivandrum we were able to perch under a tree by the sea and brew up our first decent cup of coffee since we arrived. It was next to an enormous church. These churches, like huge ornate wedding cakes, were dotted all along the way. Christianity/Catholicism is the predominant religion in Kerala so I am sure they are all full. Like all large, ornate religious buildings they seem incongruous when cheek by jowl with poor shacks; but all religions seem to have the need to build these symbols of power and prosperity wherever we have been in the world. Maybe they are a symbol to followers that they too will have prosperity by adopting a religion with affluent symbols.

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The Christian Palace

We then met 5 English people on a tour on mountain bikes going the other way, with their Indian guide. He was not in the least phased when we shyly admitted we had plans to cycle to Delhi. “I have cycled from Kashmir” he explained, with clients. His advice was invaluable about how to plan our days in the Western Ghats to ensure we had accommodation. His group were 2 parents from Stafford and their 3 adult children who all lived in London. The father looked as if he was doing this as a family bonding exercise but was feeling the heat a bit much. We chatted for a few minutes and then wished them well. All their gear followed in a TukTuk – that seems a pretty good model!

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Herding ducks along the road

We next took a route of small roads hugging the coast through small villages and towns. Sometimes the road disintegrating in small patches we became expert at weaving a path through bumpy pot holes but mostly even the small roads were pretty good. It gradually became hotter but there was lots of shade from palm trees so it was reasonably bearable and we knew we would acclimatise over time. At one point we were encouraged by locals to follow a road that appeared to be a dead-end at an estuary, but the presence of buses let us to suspect it was not. Sure enough, a new bridge appeared. However much money had been spent on the bridge, nothing was spent on the road either side which was pretty degraded.

The road ran for miles between the sea and an inland lake, and was pretty built up. We looked for miles for somewhere to stop for lunch and eventually found a church. We ended up in the shade of the porch where there were convenient chairs and shade.

By 3pm we had reached Varkala and found ‘Rita’s Homestay’. A comfortable room, even hot water for the shower (a first this trip!) and a few minutes walk to the beach. Varkala is described in the guidebook as ‘one of the 10 best beaches in the world’. A crescent of white sand is enclosed by red cliffs dotted with palm trees. It is also described as a ‘backpackers’ resort with a ‘cool vibe’ (just right for us then!) and along the cliff top was a series of cafes and restaurants catering for all taste in the world.

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Playing on the beach in the setting sun

Earlier in the day I was commenting that I was already feeling like a ‘tourist snob’ congratulating ourselves on finding small roads and villages that the usual tourist would never see. However, I almost literally ate my words as I tucked into a delicious omelette and wonderful cappuccino. I’m quite happy to indulge in the tourist benefits when it suits! We then strolled along the beach and back as the sun began to set (a theme so far of each evening of the holiday) feeling relaxed and more awake than the previous day. In part, I suspect because we were getting over the jet lag (or maybe we kid ourselves and are just not fit enough yet but are getting used to the heat and building up the fitness).

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Later after dark we strolled out again for cake from a German Bakery and Mint tea to take in a few more tourist treats while we had the opportunity and to mull over another fantastic day. So far everything exceeding expectations and rapidly falling in love with this part of India.

Day 1: Getting going and getting “the experience” of Indian roads

So the day finally arrived. Le petit depart no2 of this trip (see 2014 for the first). A small crowd assembled around the bikes as we loaded on our panniers. The Garmins seemed to generate the most interest. And then we were off, ambling up the first hill of the day, avoiding the Tuktuks and pedestrians and heading westwards. The road surfaces were good almost all day. The main roads are busy but there are plenty of side roads, but it is often hard from the map to tell which is a main road and which is a side road.

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P1020223Cycling in India is an assault on the senses. There is noise at times, constantly varying smells, and colourful sights around every corner. The convention here is that a driver sounds his (and they are mostly but not exclusively male drivers) horn before overtaking. That includes overtaking bikes, so we have cars, motorbikes and buses hooting all the time. It is not a message to “get over” but just “I am about to overtake you”, often followed by a friendly wave.

P1020226The smells vary constantly – some good and some bad. We cycled past a still waterway full of weeds and rubbish, and with a constant bad smell at one point today. But India has made a concerted attempt to clean up the rubbish in recent years and it is far less prevalent than reported. Plastic is burned rather than discarded in most places.

There is evidence that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) or Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) campaign (or Clean India Mission in English) is working. This is a campaign that aims to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India’s cities, smaller towns, and rural areas. The objectives of Swachh Bharat include eliminating open defecation through the construction of household-owned and community-owned toilets and establishing an accountable mechanism of monitoring toilet use. Run by the Indian Government, the mission aims to achieve an Open-Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2 October 2019, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi by constructing 12 million toilets in rural India.

P1020228India is constantly colourful. Houses are brightly painted, saris are wonderfully bright and the symbols of religion have splashes of colour. It was a Hindu holiday (or possibly holy day) yesterday and so the temples were full, and there were roadside loudspeakers blasting out devotional music. The speakers were attached to lampposts or in stacks of speakers at the roadside.

We cycled for about 40km in the early morning light and then stopped at a roadside café for tea. Could we have it without milk? No was the answer. It came with milk and sugar pre-added, which was hard for a western palate to accept. But we persevered and it was worth it. And at 16 rupees (i.e. about 20p), it was cheaper than Starbucks.

After our tea stop, the heat built up. It was hot but not unbearably so. But we felt it each time there was a slope. Bottled water is available everywhere and we gulped down many litres each, but the worst of the heat of the day was bearable. And we are going North so maybe it will not get much hotter.

P1020230For large parts of the day we ambled along quiet roads, often by the sea amongst coconut groves. This is a fishing area and we saw men working on brightly painted boats. Little hamlets seemed to be around every bend, and there are children everywhere. This is a young country.

Often, if we stopped, someone would come up shyly to wish us Happy New Year and to chat. Not in an invasive way, but gently and welcoming. A local teacher and his 2 young daughters was strolling along the beachside road, and chatted for a while. The children were shy and wary of strangers, but he was proud of his profession and pleased we had chosen to spend time in his country. There is something about cycling which breaks down barriers instantly, and is so different to the response when one get’s out of a car. But then there is a hill and we miss having an engine.

At one point the road narrowed and 2 large buses were trying to pass each other outside a temple, with blazing music and thousands of devotees milling around. The skill of the drivers was astonishing as, inch by inch, they managed to pass each other. They had lots of “help” from those surrounding the buses and horns blasted to warn pedestrians that the bus was inching up against a wall – so please get out of the road. It was organised chaos that took 10 minutes to resolve, and everyone went on their way.

The day was a blaze of heat, dust and noise. We did 89km before we got to our destination which, as a taster for the trip, was a bit much. We finally arrived at the Aydurva Resort where we booked in for the night. It was a strange contrast. We were suddenly back amongst westerners who had all come here for the medicinal effects of massage, herbal treatments and relaxation (apart from one overweight man from Essex who seemed to be here for a detox, imposed by an unsmiling wife, as a punishment for too much good living).

We swam in the pool and then walked down to the beach. It was fantastic – miles of wide open sand. But there were thousands of families here for New Year’s day. We think there must have been a beach football competition, judging by the groups of young men in identical kit. But there is something common the world over about the joy of sand and waves. Children and adults frolicking in the surf; only mostly they were fully dressed. Loads of fun, laughter and sheer joy as young men carried their friends into the sea and small children jumped up as the waves hit them.

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We watched a beautiful sunset and then walked back up the steep slope to the hotel. Dinner and bed – and I was sound asleep by 8.30pm.

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Bernie: The first day of a New Year and it could not have felt newer. An amazing day which we really enjoyed and left my head buzzing. The fear that the roads would be unmanageable was unfounded. In the towns, there is organised chaos but between towns the roads were quiet – even on the main roads. Certainly no worse an experience than cycling in London and much prettier cycling along shady palm fringed roads! We even got used to using our Bicycle Horns that Santa gave us – it really does work as we tooted at Tuktuks and pedestrians wandering into the road to say we were coming past. We arrived elated and exhausted but ready for more.

Day Minus 1. Kanyakumari. Will it arrive?

Having missed a night’s sleep we slept solidly for 10 hours. But even after that when the alarm went off at 8am we felt groggy – our body clocks still thinking it was 1am and time to go to bed and not get up. Then our first experience of curry for breakfast. There was some soggy white sliced toast and jam that were a token gesture to the very few western foreigners we have seen here, but meant we could be cautious on our stomachs while we adjust to the local milieu.

As David described in yesterday’s blog – our late departure from Birmingham left us sprinting across Dubai airport to catch our connection and unfortunately only 5 out of our 6 baggage items sprinted quickly enough – the item dragging behind was rather appropriately my bicycle and was left lurking somewhere in the far reaches of Dubai airport. Today was therefore punctuated by phone calls at regular interval trying to track its whereabouts. The first phone calls after breakfast established that none of the numbers given to me at Trivandrum airport were functional but fortunately the main Emirates baggage phone line in Mumbai confidently told me my bike had arrived in Trivandrum and the airport had been trying to ring me to arrange delivery but could not get through (they had been given the hotel number). So I gave them my UK number to pass on but heard nothing on that.

Our next job of the day was to get ourselves connected to the Indian telecommunication system – i.e. get a mobile! We braced ourselves for what the blogs had said would be a long and bureaucratic process, armed with passports and photos, but in fact none were needed and in 10 minutes we had a functioning Indian SIM card. As our UK phones were stubbornly not connecting to any networks we even went back and brought a very cheap phone and another SIM card so we are both contactable should we get separated.

Back to ringing the baggage line and I gave them my new phone number and I was confidently told my bike was definitely in Trivandrum and they were definitely still trying to ring me and I would definitely be phoned on my Indian number. So confident were we, we went out for a cup of coffee in the 7th floor restaurant of the posh hotel restaurant with great views but there was still radio silence. Back to the baggage line and I called again and was confidently told my bike had now been picked up by the delivery company and they were on their way. Hooray.

David put his bike back together and took it out for a spin. He came back looking happy that he had not been mown down by any lorries or buses and that everything was working. Generally the cycling was fine apart from dodgy junctions but I am sure we will work out the best tactics as we progress. I went out to buy fruit and snacks and also returned without damage!

Still no sign of the delivery driver but we waited hopefully and eventually at 5pm the hotel got a phone call from the delivery driver saying he would be 2 hours. The bike seemed to be inching closer. We went at 5.45 to stroll down to ‘sunset point’ where at the southernmost tip of India you can see the sun set and the moon rise at the same time (more or less), supposedly at the junction of 3 oceans (and you don’t get that in Bognor).

 

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So my biggest impression so far is that there are just so many people in India – and most of them were walking down to ‘sunset point’. We joined the hubbub passing stall after stall of tea shirts, saris, snacks, sugar cane juicers and coconut drinks and a whole host of other things and reached the point to see the red globe of the sun dropping down. The experience was slightly marred but the fact that that part of the beach was clearly also used as a public toilet so one had to tread carefully (!)..…..but the people watching was great. The sunset not so great as the sun dropped into low lying cloud and disappeared before the final denouement but I am sure we will see many a sunset in the next few weeks, but I doubt with so many people.

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Back at the hotel, no sign of my bike but another phone call…he would be there 7.30-8. 8 o’clock came and went but hunger drove us out and we went back to the posh restaurant opposite for their ‘New Year Buffet’. A tasty selection of South Indian curries, tandoori, chapatis, rice, dhal (500 rupees each – about £6). Amazing views of the local church lit up in multi-coloured lights like a beleisha beacon. Half way through the phone went…….the hotel……my bike had arrived!!!!! David dashed over to sign the paperwork. When he got back we finally relaxed. We will have a holiday after all. South India is dry so a very abstemious New Year’s Eve and we toasted each other with tea – not at midnight – we are now back at the hotel and David is putting my boke back together. I am sure we will be in bed before midnight but as we don’t really know what time zone we are in yet I don’t think it will matter too much and we will need some shut eye to start our great adventure of 2018 tomorrow.

Day minus 2: Saturday 30 December: Bewdley to Kanyakumari

This is really a blog about 2 days, because Friday yesterday started at 5am. After a couple of hours of clearing up and ticking final things off the “to do” list (including the last piece of legal work) we were ready to say our goodbyes and head for the airport. Many thanks go to the brilliant John Iles who gave up his morning to come with us to Birmingham Airport and drove the van home.

We unloaded 2 bike boxes, 4 rear panniers and 2 front panniers and then froze with cold as we pushed the trollies to the terminal. Not a sensation I expect to experience again over the next 8 weeks.

 

Check-in was painless and then it was off to find coffee whilst we waited for the 1.30 flight. It was always going to be tight because we only had 2 hours changeover in Dubai, so our anxiety grew as we waiting on the tarmac at Birmingham for nearly 2 hours.

We made up a little time in the air but had to run through Dubai airport to the inter-terminal train, then ran again through endless shopping malls that somehow have an airport attached and finally got to the gate for the Trivandrum flight just as it was closing. Wearing cycling shoes, our cleats echoed around the halls as we ran, wondering what the chances were that our luggage would be moved as quickly.

Then, of course, the plane sat on the runway for an hour before leaving. More films and a full night’s sleep more or less lost, we landed at Trvinadrum (or Thiruvananthepuram to give it its full name) at about 8.30am. Then we had our first taste of Indian bureaucracy as we lined up at immigration. But it was polite, thorough and organised. We then learned that one of our pieces of luggage was missing – Bernie’s bike – had not made the second plane. We were assured it would follow “tomorrow”. Tomorrow’s jobs include gentle persuasion to make sure it arrives as soon as possible.

Then out into the heat which hit us like a hot hair dryer; and this was only 9.30am! The organised chaos at any airport the world over is only understood to those who work there. This was no different. But we met up with our driver and got the luggage loaded. Then, we had just had 80km to the southern tip city of Kanyakumari. However, there are no motorways here, lots of traffic and it took 4 hours along single roads.

At first it seemed that the urban areas appear to extend continuously, but there was deep forested areas just beyond the road, and nearly continuous urban development alongside the road.

First impressions? India is colourful, busy – very busy – and there are loads of motorbikes (maybe 5 for every car). There is poverty but lots of people are doing OK. The cars and motorbikes are newer than 15 years ago and the housing looks a lot more robust. There seem to be fertility clinics every few miles but there are children everywhere and this is not an ageing population.

The driving etiquette is “different” to the UK or the USA, but there is a system of sorts and it works. Junctions don’t have a clear priority system – you arrive at an intersection, sound your horn and then inch your way across the junction with others doing the same at right-angles. Motorbikes are generally slower than cars, and tuktuks are slowest of all. Mirrors are optional but a horn is essential.

We arrived in Kanyakumari and checked in to our hotel. This is a tourist destination and so there are loads of hotels of all varieties. 99% of the tourists seem from within India – coming in family groups to view the southernmost tip of their own country.   There were stalls everywhere selling the usual stuff – but more colourful than at home. We ambled down to the sea and took some pictures as we paddled in the water at the meeting of 3 oceans.

Then, having effectively missed a night’s sleep, we dosed, went for an evening walk and came back to rest. Lots of “preparation” tomorrow – day minus 1 – for the second “petit depart” of this trip on Monday morning.

 

Enjoy New Year’s even everyone.

 

 

The next Leg: India

On 29 December we will leave the winter of the UK in order to resume our ride – but this time are travelling in India.  The first day we plan to ride is 1 January 2018 and the rough proposed journey is shown on the map below – and we are certain to have a few “interesting” times in the time we have over the next 2 months.

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India Map