Elderly couple

Posted by on 14, Apr 2024 in 2024 - An Indian Winter, Asia, India, Tilly the Tandem

Elderly couple

It’s not always fun being in the news – The journo who interviewed us recently kindly referred to us as an Elderly Couple. Bloomin cheek!

Though his article did highlight just how hard it is cycling here by saying that just walking 10 paces here at this time of year and you’re soaked, so this elderly couple are quite mad, or something like that. But he has a point. You start sweating the moment you’re outside and after a few kms we are soaked. ..I’ve taken to wearing my swimming shorts as my other shorts just look like I’ve pee’d myself, but then I am elderly….!

As these OAP’s continued up the coast we came down a hill a wee bit too fast and hit one of the ubiquitous speed bumps.  They are everywhere , especially at the bottom of any hill, they’re usually easy to spot but this one was camouflaged (or my ageing eyes missed it more like) and despite managing a last minute screech of the brakes we banged over it and the rear wheel locked on the other side as we skidded. We managed to stay on but this was probably where one of our 10 year old front panniers broke.

We didn’t notice until we were dutifully standing at a level crossing gate whist everyone else walked around the barrier and stood right next to the slowly passing train and so had to pull in to attempt a fix.

The pannier is screwed to the mounting bracket with a plastic screw on the outside and a plastic plate on the inside.  The screw was missing and though I bring spare plates, for some reason (and I’m putting this down to being elderly) I didn’t bring a screw. Bother.

I do however bring lots of other bits and peices so eventually found a bolt that would go through the bracket and a Quick Release skewer end that it would screw into and we were back on the road. It took about 15 minutes to fix and we had an audience by the end as, in the heat, I dripped and dripped onto the floor. 

All mended we continued on another lovely route arriving at our next temple town of Udupi where we found a cafe that did Chilly Cheese Sandwiches. Yummy but soooooo spicy!

The town itself had many gridlocked roads due to a seemingly much higher percentage of cars on the road than other places we’ve been. Quite how India will function as more people get cars I’ve no idea.  You can get about 625 mopeds into the space of one car, but there again you can get 24 people in a Nissan Micra. But we managed to duck and weave our way, just like the two wheelers (as they are called here) , through the chaos to our hotel.

There aren’t many westerners around here and much less English too. So we had no idea how to visit the temple but eventually were guided by a lady who spoke excellent English and joined the Darshan queue.

Udupi Outer Temple

We don’t like doing the Darshan as in other temples you end up having the powder paint on your forehead and we feel a bit hypocritical doing this. But here the Darshan is to see the baby statue that’s 1000 years old.

Disney obviously was a Hindu as every Darshan queue weaves around the building going upstairs, downstairs back on itself, until you finally reach the metal detector that shows 51,000 people have set it off and 62,000 havent and absolutely no one has been stopped going in regardless.  This is true for every metal detector in India. The guards just ignore it, but there is a whole industry dedicated to supplying them to hotels, temples shopping centres and another one for supplying security guards who make you walk through them and then ignore the beeps.

The temple was really ornate inside (no photos allowed) with wood and silver carvings everywhere and we were fortunate enough to have a group of lads infront of us who shoved one of their band forward and said he spoke English and knew about the temple so would explain it all to us. Which was really interesting and the people behind us in the queue clapped him when he’d finished.

That’s the thing about the Indians, they are so happy and full of joy.  The queue laughed at him being shoved forward and all beamed and laughed when he’d finished.

We reached the statue which is inside an inner sanctum and you can only see it though a thick silver grate. It was impressive but if you spent more than a few seconds looking a security guard tapped you on the back to move along, though I think they gave us longer than most as we didn’t get the tap.

We had a wander around and were accosted by a family who had been stealing looks at us in the queue and temple. The teenage children wanted to talk to practice their English and chatted to us, with passers by stopping and watching.. Naturally taking pics and smiling at it all. We parted and then they came back later and asked for the selfies they’d forgotten earlier..

After our hectic day we headed to Dominos for a pizza! And very nice it was too.  I know, I know, the food here is fab, we love Indian but it’s hard to eat it every day for lunch and dinner, so when in cities we have something western if we can. And then ventured to a roof top cafe for a beer as that’s also hard to come by. We don’t drink when have a long cycle (which for us is 60+km).  But as our next day was only a short 40km we had a couple and then set the alarm for 6am instead of 4.45am as we figured that we didn’t need to leave early as it was a short ride.  You really don’t want to be cycling after noon.

So we had a lovely ride up the coast to the ferry to be told it had broken down. We tried to persuade some fishermen to take us but had no luck and had to retrace our steps and head inland to the nearest bridge… 22km later we were on the other side of the river opposite our broken ferry and got stopped by a physiotherapist I had chatted to online about my knee! What’s the chances of that?He gave me some advice, which I’m sure I will follow religiously…🤥

The weather had been kind to us and there was a fair bit of cloud around so by the time we rolled into our evening stop, later than we’d planned,  we hadn’t been fried to a cinder by the blazing sun. And we then found a great Chinese street food cafe, a security guard who looked after Tilly, and on the way to our hotel a beer and wine store that looked Western. So stopped and bought a couple of Kingfishers, only to find out the hotel actually had a licenced bar!

The main NH66 that runs along the coast was largely roadworks in Kerala but here it’s finished and we actually preferred the roadworks.  The busses manage to get up to some scary speeds along the finished road and they just hoot and plough on regardless of anything infront of them.  They have incredibly loud multi tone horns, which at least means you know it’s a bus behind you, but that and the trucks and cars racing along makes it much less fun.  Fortunately theres usually shoulder to hide in, but busses and cars will happily use that to undertake someone undertaking a vehicle in the outside lane as Indian roads, as we keep being told, have no rules. You also have to contend with the tanker crawling along in the outside lane with a guy watering the plants, the cows, dogs and occasionally monkeys.

The buses though are always different, they never have side windows and they always have a conductor.  They stop for the least amount of time possible, which often means they touch and go – they pull up to the bus stop with the door open, someone puts one foot on the step and the moment their other foot leaves the ground they’re off, with the door being pulled shut by a rope and the passenger sometimes hauled aboard by other passengers as the bus accelerates.

In contrast the lorries aren’t too bad. They don’t seem to have the power for the loads they carry and they crawl along by comparison with the busses.

Our journey in Kerala ended as we passed into Karnataka. They obviously sell booze more here as the road was lined with bars immediately you crossed the border.  Each state is like a country, 35 Million people live in Kerala, one of the most densely populated areas in India and 60 million live in Karnataka.

As we progressed up through Karnataka we managed to zig zag all over the place to avoid the NH66 and often to hug the coast. We’ve gradually left the almost non stop Mosques and are back in a majority Hindu area with the odd church and its definitely markedly different.  There are so many more women walking together laughing and waving In their bright Sarees and couples going to temple at dawn, young couples on two wheelers and on what look to us like their on a proper date, which may seem odd to say, but arranged marriages are still the thing here..

The temples also feel alive, from predawn people slowly start to wander to them, candles flicker as we pass and bells tinkle. Some have music playing and it feels like the Gods are just waking up after a nights slumber. It’s a beautiful experience to see this daily and we love it.  In contrast the mosques seem castle like, often walled in. We haven’t seen any couples going to them, though I assume they must, its always men.  The men get the big prayer hall and often there’s a smaller room set aside for the women. We much prefer the colour, smells , joy and life of the Hindu temples.

Karnataka though is more messy and there’s some lovely coastline but it felt less welcoming than Kerala.  It probably gets less tourists so maybe they’re not used to us and they do still wave and smile, but not as much as the Keralans. Miles more than the in the UK though!

My knee has been playing up more and more, which is entirely my own fault as unless Linda tells me to do my exercises I always forget.  In my defence, each night I have routes to plan, which surprisingly takes a fair while. We don’t go on the NH66 unless we have no choice, so finding lanes and tracks to bypass it whilst not ending up at a dead end or mountain means lots of pouring over Google street view and satellite.  But it is worth it, we get some fabulously quiet roads, often right adjacent ot the beach.

But as we approached Murdeshwa on the remains of the coast road which would have been hard going for a 4 x 4 my knee decided to give up.  I had some serious pain and wasn’t able to put any weight on it, so Linda had to peddle hard for once. 😉

We were only 8kms away from the hotel, so managed to plod on and after a quick stop for lunch, had a walk around the 2nd largest Shiva statue in the world.

It’s a popular tourist attraction and the beach has a small market with street food stalls and tonnes of rubbish, cars and buses driving on the beach and the general chaos but fun of an Indian beach.

We couldn’t find anything we fancied – it’s mostly fish here so returned to our lunchtime restaurant which had a fab view of the Shiva. At lunch it hadn’t had much food on offer, presumably as we are now at the end of the season, but they said if you come back after 4pm we will. So we did. And they didn’t.  They then told us to come back after 7pm, but we weren’t falling for that again and settled for some snacks and an early to bed. As we get up at 4.45am we really don’t want to eat at late but most restaurants don’t open until 7.30, for dinner or breakfast. 

Linda’s not keen on heights or edges and our ride the following day took us over an Indian Jones type rope bridge, compete with planks missing and ropes as hand rails.  I’d seen that people went over on motorcycles, but when we arrived, presumably as the bridge was falling to bits, the council had welded bars across the entrance so you couldn’t get a bike on the bridge.

After a bit of a chat, Linda, who doesn’t like heights or wobbly bridges, said she’d go over so some local guys helped lift Tilly over and we were on our way…walking…as you had to lean out over the edge with Tilly everytime you passed someone.  Even I thought it was a bit hairy but Linda completed it then was in a state of shock for the rest of the morning.  Which was probably just as well as we then ran out of road and got a 10 year old boy on a bike to lead us across fields and ditches to get us back on to the coast road…It was a beautiful, but very very quiet road, but as she was still a bit shaky, Linda doesn’t remember any of that bit!..

So, to make up for the terrifying morning, we checked into a 5 star hotel where they actually x rayed all our luggage before allowing us in.  We got chauffeured to our room in a golf buggy after a tour of the grounds and then had the entire enormous pool to ourselves as only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

They even had beer!

2 Comments

  1. Another fabulous episode!
    Headline should have said: “Youthful couple cycle 1500 miles around India”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.