Back at the coast

Posted by on 3, Apr 2024 in 2024 - An Indian Winter, Asia, India, Tilly the Tandem

Back at the coast

Our final ride to the coast was a short hop from our riverside hotel to our beach hotel – it’s a hard life this cycle touring!  The hotel was very basic. Room, window, door, balcony and air con. But the balcony was above the sea defences and the waves would surely splash it when the sea was rough. But we’d picked a calm day and enjoyed the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks below our window from inside the air con room. It was too hot to sit on the balcony!

We’d had a very pleasant ride to that hotel and got stopped by a group of Hindi women all laughing and giggling for a contribution to the local temple.  They are just so happy and joyful you can’t help but laugh with them and we donated to the temple and got our hand written receipt. 

The river we had cycled alongside was gorgeous with Chinese finishing nets lining it’s banks. The road was more of a track and we bumped along enjoying the view.

We try to avoid the main roads and meander around lanes and tracks zig zagging over the main roads in a very peaceful and slow progress.  Our routes are never fast, but always full of so many sights, sounds and smells. The final few hundred meters to the sea wound across a series of dykes and as we cycled along we smelled BBQ.  You don’t get that here much we thought. Then we passed the smoking public crem and suddenly didn’t fancy lunch.

Still, we managed to forget about that when we found the chill out cafe, right on the beach and had a passable pizza and a scrummy lime and ginger soda, with an amazing view.  The cafe could have been transported from the likes in Portugal and seemed out of place here in India.  This is a touristy stretch of coast, but no western tourists so was a real surprise.

The following morning we were up and away before sunrise which actually is always very enjoyable. We love the towns being so busy at that time of day with tea stalls and cafes being full of people and the street cleaners sweeping up in the dark. There’s not much traffic and we whiz along on the main roads without having to constantly dodge busses, scooters and tuk tuks.

We hadn’t eaten properly the night before and paid the price that day.  It was a gorgeous quiet cycle through the back lanes with hardly any cars and loads and loads of kids waving and cheering at us on the preschool run. Tuk tuks generally seat 3 people, but for the school run you’ll see maybe 10 kids squeezed in one and they’ll all cheer wave and lean out of the side. The driver joins in hooting and slowing down for the children to yell at us and they’ll high five Linda and one even gave her a flower and blew her a kiss! Cheeky beggar.

As we moved north in Kerala the scenery remains the same, palms, bananas and rice, but the people changed.  The churches and temples virtually vanish and are replaced with mosques, often every few hundred meters. The groups of girls waiting for buses unescorted who cheered, waved and beamed at us are replaced by girls waiting with parents , much more reticent to wave and smile.

Women alone on the street or with other women start to thin out and the Sarees vanish completely to be replaced by black head to toe outfits, which must be torture in the blistering sun. God really thought that one out! I wonder how long ‘traditional’ wear like this would have lasted had men had to wear it….The men and boys remain the same though, not constrained by religious dictact.

Some of the Muslim areas are clearly much poorer than their neighbouring areas, then you go through a wealthy Muslim area, where the houses are all designer jobs, and if you could transport them to England they’d be worth millions.  Some resemble the American style houses from Florida, but there’s much more variety in design here. It’s as if Architects get a free hand and really go to town, with various levels, curves, terraces and turrets.  Some are fabulous, others perhaps won’t age so well.

But you’re still welcomed, just not always as enthusiastically.  We still have to do selfies and people still look surprised and delighted to see us, but are often little more reserved. Some of the women look frightened by us and we’ve seen them drop everything and head for their house when they see us. That is usually the exception though.

I still maintain my ‘say hello to everyone’ everywhere attitude which one day Linda says will get me thumped, and generally I get at least a smile.

There are far more boys in groups hanging around together in what we think are school times.  We’ve no idea why and did ask one lot about their school and they clearly do go, but whislt we did see some boys out of school in the south, we didn’t see anywhere near as many as here. But this could be just due to a holiday or different school times, we’ve no idea, but it is noticeable.

And then there’s the Police. There’s lots more patrols and police at junctions. You even see them doing things like checking papers of drivers. 

The rides along the coast though are still just  fabulous, the fishermen are all sewing nets, or sitting around in groups talking, and the fish markets are in full swing when we cycle through with auctions going on for buckets of fish. Auctioneers are the same globally. They all seem to do that non stop single word OneOneOneTwoTowAndWhollGiveMeThreeGoingOnceGoneToTheVegeOnTheTandem voice. But theyre great to see. Unless you’re a fish.

And occasionally you go though a small  Hindi hamlet, with a group of homes on the beach around a temple. The temple is often playing music, people are thronging around it and everyone generally looks happier, brighter and more friendly. It’s not that the Muslim areas are at all unfriendly, they’re very friendly, it’s just that the Hindi areas are so happy and friendly no on else can keep up!

Burocracy here is an art form, from the man who has to sign your receipt as you leave a supermarket door without actually looking at your goods, through to the 2 forms each we have to fill in at every hotel.  Form B is our favourite, it comes in a huge tomb book which should really be in Harry Potter, and we put varying answers in each time. It’s not us being difficult it’s just we rarely know where we were or where we are going or even when we arrived. Our address has gone from the 5 lines we use at home (plus the postcode) to 1 line (plus the postcode) and I’m seriously tempted to put in the reason for visit box “To fill in Form B”

But as we’ve headed north we’ve met a number of western cycle tourers who’ve all warned us about the roadworks on the main road here.  They’re dualing it and roadworks with the physco bus drivers, and millions of tuk tuks, scooters and a few cars makes for an unhappy experience.  But we generally don’t do main roads. We hug the coastal lanes and tracks and often end up being turned round by a dead end or roadworks.  There’s always someone to ask when things go wrong and they love helping you.

We plan our route using Locus maps, which uses open street maps, and a Google maps layer inside Locus which allows us to see roads that Google has and OSM doesn’t.  We also have an overlay that shows where people who use the cycling app Strava ride.  It colours the map on with a red line for each cyclist that goes gradually white hot as more people cycle it.  It’s very useful and by and large we managed to stay off big roads and pass through sleepy Hamlets and along by the sea.  It’s also very slow going at times with some dreadful surfaces, but there’s rarely a car in sight and we often have the entire road to ourselves to wiggle about avoiding the worst of the holes.

There’s also always a shop nearby, often more of a shack, that sells drinks and snacks so we never get thirsty or too hungry. The shops look almost like a Alright Open All Hours conrer shop or a tarpaulin draped over a couple of poles with some water bottles and sweets in jars underneath. It seems that if you don’t have any other occupation you open your own shop and there are literally dozens lining the street all selling similar things in small villages.  The Indians are one of only 4 countries to have landed on the moon and it wouldn’t surprise me if they landed a tuktuk and the driver now has a little shop there selling refreshments.

2 Comments

  1. The changes that you are riding through are fascinating.

  2. Superbly descriptive again!
    Think you really need to answer “to fill in form B” before you finish your grand tour!

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