Cycling India: Kerala

Continued from: Cycling India: Tamil Nadu

Day 8: How high can Munnar be?!

After the madness of yesterdays intense climbing, I passed out early and slept until 8 am – about 10 hours straight!  Then I had a proper big sit down breakfast for once involving some kind of Indian curry and rice rolled into a tube shape that cost about £1, which is a bit over my budget but I felt like spoiling myself.


The hotel owner explained that the “closed road” I took yesterday IS actually closed, but only just before Munnar! Guess I should have listened to it after all, as now I had to backtrack quite far. With this new information and after examining the incredibly complex route out of Munnar to the coast I decided I would get a bus from there to Kochi, otherwise, it’s going to take days and I was already behind schedule.

Bison Valley

Along the way, I realised that I had accidentally taken the key to my hotel room with me, but by that point, I was way down in the valley and there was no way I was cycling back up. Fortunately, they had my number so after about an hour they called asking about it. I offered to post it back but they told me just to leave it at a local shop and they will collect it – they were very nice and understanding about it.

I continued along some really beautiful roads flanking a river for a few kilometres and then the uphills started again. For some reason, the elevation lines on Google Maps are not accurate because it indicated a lot of downhill to Munnar but it was basically uphill all the way.  I stopped about five times for tea or coffee and about twenty times to take photos of the endless beautiful tea plantations, so by the time I got to Munnar it was already 3 pm.

Bus to Kochi

I briefly considered staying the night but it looked pretty dead except for rich French tourists, so I found a local bus that was willing to strap my bike on the roof and take me to Kochi for Rs200 (about £1.20).  The bus trip was quite nice and comfortable – they don’t have closed windows just holes you can lean out of and get a nice cooling breeze. Unfortunately, it did take about 5 hours so I only got to Kochi at 8 pm.  It also dropped me in the ass-end of nowhere miles from Kochi beach so I had to cycle 12km’s on the dark busy roads to a hostel on the beach.

I was hoping to grab a cold beer since it’s been a week since I’ve drunk anything and I’m taking the day off tomorrow, but the only places still open were super expensive hotel bars (Rs250), so I just had a coffee and called it a night. I’ll get a Rs100 beer from the wine shop tomorrow… and then, starting Wednesday, a mad race to Goa to make it for the weekend!

Cycled: 36km

Capture

 

Day 9 – Kochi Killed my Laptop

I didn’t do any cycling today just relaxed around Maritime Hostel with some of the other guests and rested my legs. Kochi has an area called Fort Kochi which is popular with tourists for some reason but in reality, there isn’t much to it. It has a quaint village feel to it which is nice but at the same time expensive compared with the rest of India. I briefly walked around exploring with an English guy looking for somewhere with decent wifi but we couldn’t find anything faster than the hostel, which was very slow.

Maritime Hostel

Strangely, on the return to the hostel, my laptop stopped working. No matter what I tried to do it wouldn’t switch on! Eventually, I decided to let it rest for a few days and went out to look for a bottle store to buy beer. Unfortunately, everything was closed due to some or other holiday, so I got some fried chicken instead to drown my sorrows and then headed back to the hostel. I was planning to meet up that evening with an Indian guy I had met on the road the previous day but he must have been busy as he didn’t end up coming, so I just wandered around the docks and beachfront on my own and bought something called a Mud Coffee, which is like a crazy chocolate ice-cream-milkshake-coffee combination thing. It was pretty awesome, to be honest.

Back at the hostel, I got chatting to an Argentinian girl who was born in Germany but now lives in Isreal. She was travelling to South East Asia, where I had recently been, and had just come from Goa, so we chatted for awhile about various travel related things before I headed off to bed.

 

India Day 10: The Kerala Coastline

I headed off about 8 am after the free hostel breakfast and cycled around the bay because the ferry wouldn’t let me take my bike on it – so that added an unnecessary 20 km’s to my trip. Then I followed some very wet and sandy roads along the beachfront for a while in an area they call the backwaters. At one point the road was literally just a beach!

I stopped for a swim around 11 am as it was already boiling hot and I was covered in sweat – it’s definitely more humid on the coast! The beaches around this area are completely deserted and very beautiful, and I can only guess they aren’t more overrun by hotels and tourists because the area must flood a lot during monsoon season.

I stopped after about 70km for lunch of some samosas and fruit for around Rs30 (33p) and then had to catch a short ferry across a river mouth that cost Rs4 (about 5p). The locals on the ferry were very interested in my bicycle and we chatted about my trip. They all found it very odd that someone would travel by bicycle when motorbikes are so cheap, which certainly feels true after 100 km’s on a loaded bike!

I had another swim about 3 pm at a small beach and then headed inland onto the main motorway so I could cover some ground before sunset. I was planning to stop at a town called Ponanni but it turned out to be really tiny and didn’t have any accommodation, so I had to continue on in the dark for two hours! I was hoping to find a quiet dark spot to camp but there were just buildings and people everywhere!  I kept seeing signs for ‘Hotels’ but when I stopped to ask about rooms it turned out they were just restaurants, not hotels. Apparently, in this part of India, a restaurant is called a ‘hotel’!?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finally, at about 8:30 pm I reached a town called Tirur, which looked a bit more like it might have an actual hotel, possibly even with rooms! After looking around for a bit I finally found a dirty backstreet motel near the train station with a room for Rs650 (£7). It was a bit more than I’d usually spend but I didn’t have much choice – I had already cycled 141km and I was exhausted!


I had a quick, cheap dinner at a nearby restaurant, then got some snacks and watched a bit of Netflix before crashing out for the night.


India Day 11: Kannur

I left my rubbish hotel room early and cycled north towards Goa. I stopped a few times for food and drink and to catch another ferry but mostly just pushed on through all day to a town called Kannur, which turned out to be surprisingly big and even a bit touristy. Upon arrival, I found the train station and a nearby hotel which actually had two other travellers in it – the first I’d seen since Kochi.

That evening I walked around exploring the town and looking for beer but didn’t find any. I also priced some phones because I desperately need a new one, and almost bought a Samsung J7 for 10,000 rupees but didn’t have cash at the time. I eventually ended up just getting some snacks and watching more Netflix in the hotel room before sleeping early.

(That time is obviously for a car, not bicycle)

 

India Day 12: To Goa

For some reason, I was in a hurry to get to Goa and felt that cycling these roads would just be more of the same for days, so I went to the train station and found a train that was going to the main Goa station within the hour. I checked in my bike to the parcel carriage and then bought a ticket and got some snacks for the journey.

I only had a normal ticket so was expecting to be crushed into the carriage like before, but when I got on there were quite a few seats empty. I sat in one but within a few minutes somebody told me it was their seat, so I moved to another only to be told the same. I realised I must be in the pre-booked seating carriage, so I went and sat in the passageway against a door, trying to be as out-of-the-way as possible. However, within a few minutes, a conductor came and told me I had to move. He looked at my ticket and explained I was in the wrong carriage and either had to walk right to the back of the train to the crush area, or I could pay about Rs200 extra (about £2.30) and get a seat.  I was initially annoyed to have to pay extra but on reflection, it was way better than standing again the crush area again for 6 hours, and I was actually really lucky some seats were empty as usually the trains are fully booked.

As a result, my journey was quite comfortable and for most of the journey I had an entire sleeper bed to myself (They book some of the sleeper beds out as seats so sometimes there are four people to a bed and sometimes it’s completely empty).  I put in my headphones, ate snacks and stared out the window for most of the journey.

Upon arrival in Goa, I collected my bike and headed off on the 10km ride to the only nearby hostel called River’s Edge. On the way, I saw a bottle store so stopped and bought two big 650ml beers for an amazing Rs150 (less than £2). The hostel was amazing, more like a fancy hotel – with swimming pool and all –  and not even expensive at only Rs600 a night.  The only problem is that it’s far from the main area of Goa, so the next day I would head to the coast.

I sat by the pool and enjoyed my first beer in about 2 weeks, reminiscing on the trip and looking forward to some relaxing time in Goa…

 

A Wedding in Watamu, Kenya

 

In March 2016, my cousin got married in the beach resort town of Watamu, Kenya.

I only had a week off work, which was enough time to see most of this tiny fishing village, but I could have easily stayed another week!  It is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I’ve ever seen.  Truly heaven!

I was staying with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend, as well as another couple who we didn’t know but were guests of the bride and groom.  We all rented a huge, mansion like house just off the beach, with four double bedrooms, a huge living area, bar, kitchen, massive swimming pool and amazing outdoor lounge and sitting areas.  It even had an outdoor bed next to the pool!  And all this for a very affordable price, being that the exchange rate in Kenya works out very favourably to the British pound.

Most days were spent lounging around the pool, walking along the beach and generally just eating, drinking and relaxing. Proper holiday style!

We did a few activities, like snorkelling, paddleboarding and riding around on the back of incredibly scary motorbike taxis that weave in and out of traffic and ride with wild abandon along rocky dirt roads.

One of the best days was spent out on a small “glass-bottom” boat – the glass-bottom was only one very small, dirty square meter of perspex in the bottom of the wooden boat through which you could see very little.  However we had no need for it as we spent most of the time in the water around the boat, snorkelling with the free snorkelling gear the boatmen provided us with.  The water was a bit murky from all the sand kicked up by the boat motors, but I managed to see quite a few colourful fish and coral gardens.

 

The day before the wedding we visited a lovely, more deserted beach slightly north of the house.  We travelled there precariously on the back of a small rickety motorbike taxi, up some rocky dirt roads that I would struggle to drive a 4×4 up!  Luckily nobody died and we were rewarded with the most incredible white sands and blue seas I have ever seen.

12096117_10156762550835220_3436346047139880738_n

We walked quite far out into the shallow ocean and took some pictures sunbathing on a sand dune.  At one point someone dropped my phone in the ocean but luckily it’s a waterproof Xperia z3 and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the waterproofing actually works!
After getting sufficently sunburnt, we enjoyed an amazing meal of fresh fish and seafood in a tiny little wooden restaurant presumably run by the local fisherman.  Amazing they even had cold beer and wifi!  Although the toilets left much to be desired…

225597_10156762548660220_87430267711748597_n

As you can imagine in a small fishing village the nightlife isn’t expansive, however we managed to find a few bars with a bit of a vibe, the best of which was the infamous Pole Pole Bar (pronounced Poly Poly).10273470_10156752727600220_3041581785144207921_n  It was a bit dead the night we went and they were playing mostly awful radio pop and oldskool tunes, but amongst the eight or so of us we managed to get quite a dancefloor going!

That evening I finished off same as most others, lounging in the pool drinking Auchentoshan whiskey and watching the stars.  It’s so hot the pool water was still warm at 7am every morning!

12832559_10156740097360220_1829164436593995399_n

The day of the wedding went smoothly, with excellent weather, clear blue skies and only a slight breeze.  The ceremony was performed right on the beach under the palm trees and next to the softly lapping waves, in what must surely be the most beautiful wedding venue I’ve ever been to.  A small arch was erected for the bride and groom and the 20 or so guests were provided with sarongs to sit on the sand.  After the many touching speeches and formalities of the ceremony, it was time for the real reason people go to weddings – the reception!

We all piled into tuk-tuk’s and were whisked off a few kilometers to another huge lagoon-side mansion where my cousin and her family were all staying, and where the dinner and wedding party were to take place.  It was a stunning setting, all outdoors with white tableclothes set around a beautiful swimming pool and catered by a huge seafood buffet.  I drank and danced until inevitably ending up in the swimming pool, losing my shoes and yet somehow waking up in bed the next morning, albeit still wet.

 

 

 

A week in Watamu, Kenya

 

In March 2016, my cousin got married in the beach resort town of Watamu, Kenya.

I only had a week off work, which was enough time to see most of this tiny fishing village, but I could have easily stayed another week!  It is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I’ve ever seen.  Truly heaven!

I was staying with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend, as well as another couple who we didn’t know but were guests of the bride and groom.  We all rented a huge, mansion like house just off the beach, with four double bedrooms, a huge living area, bar, kitchen, massive swimming pool and amazing outdoor lounge and sitting areas.  It even had an outdoor bed next to the pool!  And all this for a very affordable price, being that the exchange rate in Kenya works out very favourably to the British pound.

Most days were spent lounging around the pool, walking along the beach and generally just eating, drinking and relaxing. Proper holiday style!

We did a few activities, like snorkelling, paddleboarding and riding around on the back of incredibly scary motorbike taxis that weave in and out of traffic and ride with wild abandon along rocky dirt roads.

One of the best days was spent out on a small “glass-bottom” boat – the glass-bottom was only one very small, dirty square meter of perspex in the bottom of the wooden boat through which you could see very little.  However we had no need for it as we spent most of the time in the water around the boat, snorkelling with the free snorkelling gear the boatmen provided us with.  The water was a bit murky from all the sand kicked up by the boat motors, but I managed to see quite a few colourful fish and coral gardens.

 

The day before the wedding we visited a lovely, more deserted beach slightly north of the house.  We travelled there precariously on the back of a small rickety motorbike taxi, up some rocky dirt roads that I would struggle to drive a 4×4 up!  Luckily nobody died and we were rewarded with the most incredible white sands and blue seas I have ever seen.

12096117_10156762550835220_3436346047139880738_n

We walked quite far out into the shallow ocean and took some pictures sunbathing on a sand dune.  At one point someone dropped my phone in the ocean but luckily it’s a waterproof Xperia z3 and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the waterproofing actually works!
After getting sufficently sunburnt, we enjoyed an amazing meal of fresh fish and seafood in a tiny little wooden restaurant presumably run by the local fisherman.  Amazing they even had cold beer and wifi!  Although the toilets left much to be desired…

225597_10156762548660220_87430267711748597_n

As you can imagine in a small fishing village the nightlife isn’t expansive, however we managed to find a few bars with a bit of a vibe, the best of which was the infamous Pole Pole Bar (pronounced Poly Poly).10273470_10156752727600220_3041581785144207921_n  It was a bit dead the night we went and they were playing mostly awful radio pop and oldskool tunes, but amongst the eight or so of us we managed to get quite a dancefloor going!

That evening I finished off same as most others, lounging in the pool drinking Auchentoshan whiskey and watching the stars.  It’s so hot the pool water was still warm at 7am every morning!

12832559_10156740097360220_1829164436593995399_n

The day of the wedding went smoothly, with excellent weather, clear blue skies and only a slight breeze.  The ceremony was performed right on the beach under the palm trees and next to the softly lapping waves, in what must surely be the most beautiful wedding venue I’ve ever been to.  A small arch was erected for the bride and groom and the 20 or so guests were provided with sarongs to sit on the sand.  After the many touching speeches and formalities of the ceremony, it was time for the real reason people go to weddings – the reception!

We all piled into tuk-tuk’s and were whisked off a few kilometers to another huge lagoon-side mansion where my cousin and her family were all staying, and where the dinner and wedding party were to take place.  It was a stunning setting, all outdoors with white tableclothes set around a beautiful swimming pool and catered by a huge seafood buffet.  I drank and danced until inevitably ending up in the swimming pool, losing my shoes and yet somehow waking up in bed the next morning, albeit still wet.