About turn…

Posted by on 7, Mar 2024 in 2024 - An Indian Winter, Asia, India, Tilly the Tandem

About turn…

After an excellent 4 night stop in Madurai we left at 6.20am to get through the city before the madness begins and try to avoid the heat of the day which begins around 11am.

It’s not so much the heat that drains you but the sun. Once that is on full power then you’re basically f@#!*d. Hence the dawn starts. 

We weren’t looking forward to the next few days cycling. It’s very flat and a bit dull and being inland extremely hot. We also had to zig zag from hotel to hotel as there was very little accommodation.

But once clear of Madurai and off the main road we had a wonderful cycle through the countryside actually  helping with the harvest! – no, literally we helped the locals with their harvest!  They harvest a crop, place it all over the road and then allow everyone to drive over it. 

This then separated the seeds from the stalks and they collect up the stems and bundle them up and sweep up the seeds.

Crop harvest

This went on for miles and the cars and trucks passing frequently had stems sticking out from underneath them or dragging behind.  We managed to derail the chain on one stem and then developed a pattern of building up speed for each section of crop and trying to roll through it.

The work is naturally mainly done by women with some older guys thrown in.  They all wave and laugh at us as we cycle by and we really loved the day.  The fields are much more tropical now, bananas palms and even cotton, along with sunflowers and corn.  It’s very agricultural and away from the towns it looks fabulous.

Our day after this was a big ride -82km  so we left 30 minutes before first light and pedalled out of the hotel car park with our healdight on, unlike half of the other traffic!

Early morning start..

We’ve been pretty lucky with the cloud cover – it usually hangs about for long enough not to have us encountering too much direct sun, but the length of the cycle, the at times poor road and the few stops for selfies that we did made for a slow old day (there are hundreds of people asking you each day for a selfie, but we only stop when we need a rest and do a quick photo shoot at the same time!)

We’d also been been quite thrown by the river in Sivaski, or Shitaski as we called it.  The rubbish covered the entire river from the top of each bank and was easily 2 feet deep. Animals grazed it, it absolutely stank and houses backed on to it as the vehicles all motored past presumably hardly noticing it.

We’ve grown used to the rubbish and the rivers are often rubbish tips, but this took it to a new level. It left us both quite upset and also down.

But, within a few Kms you’ve had so many smiling waving joyous people you can usually almost forget it. But not today, it was just that bad. Linda couldn’t get her camera out to snap it she was so horrified.

We pootled on, had a lovely cooling walk across a ford and cycled through a swamp area that was noticeably cooler than the rest of the cycle.  We had dozens of invitations for breakfast and lunch but did stop with an Army man and his friend for a drink with his family and a chat at his house . We’d earlier seen him in the road having just picked up his water from the local standpipe supply).  He asked me what I thought of their water as it was so pure having handed me a traditional welcome glass.  What do you say?  He asked if our water at home was as good as his pure water? Again, what do you say?  These are lovely people who open their homes to you and are so excited you are there that it seems like punching a teddy bear to say anything bad, so we don’t. Wimps!

Water stop..

Later we stopped for lunch in the shade and by now we were passed 11am and despite having covered 40km by 9am were in the ‘oh shit it’s hot’ zone.

It’s then a case of stopping lots, drenching yourself with water and pushing on. We found it very hard going from then on and I had to stop for a long rest as I was just overheating and feeling very faint, which wasn’t helped by the immediate arrival of hordes of motorbikes and people wanting selfies. Stiff upper lip and all that, keep calm and carry on!

We rolled into the bedlam of Sankarenkovil to head for a bakery where it was hotter inside than out, just what we needed, and we both looked like we had climbed out of a pool!  Dripping on their floor a customer came to sit with us and then told the staff to put the fans on!  He was our hero after that!  We cooled down with our warm drink – the fridges here invariably don’t work, even in the more western cafes and refreshed worked up the courage to tackle the high street again to head to our hotel.

Traffic here is gridlocked and the culprit, as it often is world wide, is the car. With 300 billion motorbikes and tuck tucks on the road there is simply no room left for cars. They take up so much space, can’t get past all the stalls, cows and people and the whole town is gridlocked everytime two meet head on.

To alleviate this somewhat many towns have made streets one way – just for cars.  This helps, but they still hold the place up. They’re also usually driven by rich people who think the road belongs to them and when they hoot they mean get out of the way. They’ll just barge through on open road with everyone having to get out of their way, but in towns they don’t have the momentum for that, and Tilly is not your average bike either, so I make us big – make sure I’ve got a good space on the inside and they can see they will scrape their shiny paintwork on our nice pointy flag if they don’t move over and they do.  I wouldn’t try this on the open road though!

We plan our rides with a very close eye on the forecast so leaving Sankarenkovil on a day forecast to be cloudless and 36C we again left early and took the main road. We arent speed merchants as you know, go slowly or you’ll miss the next cake shop is our motto but the very gentle decline out of Sankarenkovil meant we arrived at our next destination way too early! We’d done 50km by 9am so stopped for a rest in a bus shelter where, naturally enough a government journalist rolled up in his car for another photo shoot and interview. 

Tirunelveli, our destination,  had another grand temple which Linda wandered around whilst I stayed with Tilly. The town had some of the most hair raising junctions we’ve encountered for dual carriageway intersections with a main roundabout /come slip road affair with cars tuk tuks, mopeds and busses were whizzing all around us and skillfully managing to leave suitable gaps for us to stay alive in. Its quite impressive how they do this whilst at the same time not slowing down, managing to wave, hoot and be on the phone or taking photos of us at the same time. 

Another early start..

We set off at just before 6am then next day and wound our way through the countryside for the first half of the cycle passing villagers who told us we couldnt get to our destination this way. Sometimes this means the roads out or blocked but on this occasion it was (we think) because the road was a rock and gravel affair.  But it was quiet, full of birds singing and quite lovely first thing in the morning so we thanked them kindly and carried on.

Many of the villagers we passed looked at us as if we were aliens.  They obviously don’t get many tourists (but possibly aliens)  this way – which you can understand as the road wasn’t on the maps.

When we reached the main road again the cafes have now gone from a falling down shack with earthen floor, a brazier with wood heating the water  and a couple of benches outside, to proper cafes, with chiller cabinets and tiled floors.  The change is quite drastic. And in some cases the chiller cabinets actually worked.

A proper cafe !!!

The days here work completely differently to the UK. Towns are lovely when it’s cool, so late into the evening people are out eating and socialising and again well before 6am people are up and about but for once, with only a 40km ride to do to the coast we had a lay in and set off at 8am.

We had a gorgeous cycle through the wind farm that has surrounded us as far as the eye can see for 2 days on back lanes surrounded by palms. Gorgeous.  We reached the sea – a deserted beach with only us on it and Linda breathed a sigh of relief. She loves being by the sea – Yarmouth girl!

Back at the sea…😊

We rolled into Kanyakumari – the most southerly point in India – around lunch and the numerous visitors looked on as we passed,  more interested in us than the dozens of roadside stalls selling the usual mix of souvenirs.  The southern point is pedestrianised, so we made like the locals and cycled over the chain in the road blocking it off and to the end point to be greeted by the tourist police.

They wanted photos, us to write how wonderful they were and then looked after Tilly whilst we went for a paddle and wander around the end of India with the Bay of Bengal on our left, the Indian Ocean in front of us and the Arabian Sea on our right.

The most southern tip of India.

Now for the journey home…


  1. Think you should get that motto: “Ride slowly or you’ll miss the next cake shop” printed on Tilly t-shirts!!! Another excellent installment. 👌

    • Haha ..you should copyright that slogan and make a fortune on it !!🤣

  2. You are having a much more “integrated “ trip than we did, but I’m happy with our experiences. Not sure that I would want to spend as long there as you are, just very happy that we did actually go.

    • It’s certainly a experience being here and we’re really loving it now we’re settled and not ready to come back just yet….though we are having lots of nice stops which are making it feel more of a lazy holiday than a cycle tour!! 🏝️😁🌞

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