Some first picture of our trip through India:
The last few days we took it slowly. We had just a few kilometers to ride, we’re in a beautiful (and touristic) area and Koen got some stomach problems…
This morning we drove the last 5km, like real Indians with 2 boxes on Koen’s bike, to the airport where we packed our bikes under judgement and with help of ‘a few’ Indians. The boxes we’ve bought weren’t big enough for our full bike and they weren’t strong enough either so we wanted to get them sealed in plastic as well. After some negotiation the guys at the sealing desk agreed and had big fun with packing our bikes. Maybe it was because of the price we’ve paid. At the check-in-desk we seemed not the only ones carrying bikes on this flight, the big difference: this bike isn’t packed at all!
Now we’re back at Koen’s parents house enjoying water from the tap, a nice bed… and the cold outside!
The great thing about cycling here is that almost every day brings a new environment and atmosphere.
Last saturday and sunday we drove from Kottayam to Kochi (72km) and further to Allappuzha (60km) through the backwaters (for the dutch: a sort of Giethoorn).
Our route to Allappuzha went again over some minor roads. When Han and Hennie drove this route last year (summer 2011) some parts were muddy and hard to cycle on, they wrote on their website. We found out what they must have experienced when we reached a dirt road with loose stones and many (big) holes. Our speed dropped to 14km/h instead of 22km/h what our normal speed is. We had to laugh when we past a sign ‘road works, road closed’, what should they be doing? Fill up these holes, removing all stones? No, some meters further there was new fresh smooth asphalt!!! 😃
In a small village we stopped to buy some water. Sabine went in a shop and Koen watched over the bikes. After 10 minutes Sabine asks Koen to come in as well. The owner of the shop (also a lawyer) collects coins and banknotes. He showed us his collection which was very impressive. His oldest coin was a Russian from 1371! Two euro-coins (from spain and greece) which we had with us weren’t in his collection yet, so we gave him those. He was really pleased and proud of that! To pay us back he proudly showed us his ‘typical’ house from Kerala, with a painting of jezus in a LED-shrine…
Around noon we reached Alleppuzha. So we could enjoy a nice shower, lunch and the great weather (30+ and very sunny). Tomorrow we’ll take a ferry over the Backwaters to Kollam and there we’ll have another day of rest!
The day after our nice day in the Periyar parc we had the longest and most challenging trip of this holiday.
After breakfast we left Kumily for a trip of 110km with a total ascent of more then 1.000m, towards the west coast of India. While cycling over some mountains (max 1113m) we past beautiful tea plantages, luxury houses and a lot of churches, we definitely reached a different part of the country. It was really funny to see Michael, who we met yesterday, halfway our trip hanging and waving out of the bus! Thanks for the warm greetings!!!
The differences between Kerala and Tamil Nadu became very clear today. The Hindu religion in Tamil Nadu looks maybe a little weird and hard to understand for us, but the christians in Kerela are a little over exaggerating calling Kerala everywhere ‘God’s country’. Also the Hindu temples often look old and can use a little paintwork, the churches and mosques in Kerala all look very new and perfectly captured.
The number of cars outside of the cities is in Kerala much higher then in Tamil Nadu. As we are looking for a hotel and we take the shortest route in the opposite direction of the other traffic (as we’re used to in Tamil Nadu) we find out that there are traffic rules here which they even obey! A man makes clear to us that we’re driving in the wrong direction on a one way street (as we didn’t notice that ourselves) and that we have to turn around, he kept waiting till we did… Probably he was a retired policeman, he looked like it for sure!
Kerala looks like a total different world but the people are as friendly and welcoming to us as they were in Tamil Nadu.
After two days of cycling it should be a resting day. Instead of having a rest we booked a safari tour which means we had to get up at 4.30 to be at 6 o’clock at the gate of the Periyar tiger reserve. The name is a little strange as there are just 44 tigers and 1.300 elephants in a area of 777 square kilometers…
At 5.15 a noisy Mahindra jeep turned up and took us to a tea house first, then we joined the queue in front of the entrance of the parc.
When we were aloud to go in the parc the drivers did their best to be real guides to show us an elephant. When we stopped, all tourists were still waking up and having fun because of the drivers who run around full of energy. They saw some fresh elephant shit on the road and heard an elephant walking through the forest. They were trying so hard to see him. Sadly they didn’t succeed.
We drove further into the jungle to a sort of restaurant, had breakfast and got a real guide for a walking tour to see some more elephants… During this nice hike with Mohini, Andreas, Michael and our guide we saw a squirrel, a snake (very poisoned), an eagle and a wild chicken but no elephant. After a good lunch we had a relaxing boat trip to a probably fantastic waterfall during rain season, which is in october!
On our way back the drivers again turned into ‘guides’. This time they succeeded and so we went hunting for the elephant…
When we came back we had a nice Indian diner with our new friends and bought some home made chocolate and fresh cardemon and clove out of this region, so we can make our own massala tea at home!
We’re halfway and left Tamil Nadu today and are now in the province Kerala. After 55km of slow climbing the last 10km went up steeply. After the hard work we reached Kumily, the touristic spot for visiting the jungle and see some elephants, wild boar and tigers.
Today we first took a minor road which wasn’t on our map or GPS. With some screenshots of google-maps and the help of some locals we found the exact route. The route went through a beautiful area with banana trees, rice fields, grape orchard and palm trees, it looks like paradise.
When we stopped to watch some men climbing in a palm tree to cut some coconuts, they prepared two coconuts for us. Besides the nature also the bus drivers seem to be nicer then on earlier days. As we told earlier the traffic is mad but when cycling it’s ok. Only bus drivers are a nightmare! They seem to be the only ones in this country to be on a tight schedule. They don’t care about traffic rules (if they got them here), other road users or nice tranquil villages. They seem not to have or don’t know how to use their brakes, they just horn as hard and long as they can and blink with their lights if someone is driving in their way. We’ve been pushed of the road by a bus several times!