Religious wars

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

Religious wars

Surprisingly the area around Kanyakumari is Christian and full of churches, big brand new immaculately kept, expensive and very impressive churches.  It’s impossible to get a full night’s sleep here as one or other of the religions, or in an unheard of unifed religious movement, all 3 of the religions will endeavour to wake you up from 4.45am. First the Hindus start with their music, then the Christians start with their service which is more chanting and then the Muslims pipe up with the call to prayer by which time the Hindus are at it again and we go on like this until the atheists finally give in and get up.

All of it naturally through speakers that are turned up full and distort the sound.  We quite like the Hindi music when you hear it on good speakers, but when it sounds like Radio Caroline on 208Mw from my tiny little transistor radio did in the 70’s, then it’s not the same.

Mind you, the hotels never have double glazing, or if they do it doesn’t fit properly so perhaps they’re all in on the get Jonny out of bed campaign .

Breakfast view .

We wanted to leave Kanyakumari early anyway so were at the breakfast table at 6.55 for the 7am open.  The cornflakes and milk were on the counter ready, but we weren’t allowed to fill our bowls until 7am.  The restaurant at our hotel was on the top floor and had a fab view over the southern point so we sat patiently and waited until the mass charge for the buffet when the waiter fired his starting pistol.

Leaving here we set off onto part two of our adventure now heading north and into hillier country.  We’ve had the flattest of flat rides down from Chennai, the rides have made Netherlands look mountainous it’s been that flat. But we now picked up an undulating coastal ride a bit like a mini Devon. Not too bad to ease us into things but boy are hills tougher when it’s hot! I suspect we will be pushing a fair amount this trip!

The ride though was beautiful – the coast here was deserted, pristine sands with palm trees and a crumbling road that eventually fell away into the sea and turning us around to find another route. It was some of the most gorgeous cycling we’ve ever done.

Fisherman pulling in nets by hand ..

Inland the roads were lined with palms and we weaved our way on quiet lanes often in the shade of the swaying palms. What a wonderful days cycling.

Coastal route

Our hotel for the night was excellent and I’m not just saying that because it had a bar.  The rooms were really modern, well decorated and maintained and despite the 4.45am onslaught of the religious hordes we slept well. But, like many hotel rooms here, the bathroom was weirdly laid out.  There’s no shower cubicles here, just a open room and so often the toilet is adjacent to the shower, so close in fact the shower can drip on your knees when you’re on the throne!

But it had a bar, so we had a pint! well you have to don’t you! It’s not water and it’s great to have another taste than water. The bars are few and far between and usually have no windows and are a bit dark and seedy, but this, despite the absence of windows was nice and the staff gave us so many snacks we almost didn’t need dinner.

But half the fun here is the food, so we ventured out for dinner and had yet another freshly cooked great curry in a local restaurant and a super sweet, free diabetes milkshake. We really have to stop having them – they are just soooooooo sugary. 

The hotel breakfast for us was toast & ghee as we still can’t face Indian food  3 times a day. So we waited about 30 minutes for our brekky.  People hear often clear their throats noisily before gobbing it all on the floor. We are in a different culture and you have to accept it’s different, which we do, but when we heard the chef repeatedly doing this in the kitchen it did make us feel a bit “What exactly goes into ghee”. Eventually our toast turned up ready snotted, sorry buttered, and was a single small slice of toast with the crusts cut off that was about 3 bites big!  Our Paddington like stares produced another 4 slices with crusts on in about 60 seconds!

This area seems to be much poorer with large groups of men sitting around playing cards or talking in the shade during the day, but the churches are new, huge, pristine and very impressive usually in white with light blue highlighting. They look oddly out of place in the villages and more befitting of a large town, but cycling past on a Sunday they were heaving and people were sitting outside listening to the service on the tannoys.

Tilly posing with the big boys at the start of their Sunday ride ..
Very ornate Churches

Despite the hills being short, some were very steep, with often very poor unmade surfaces, so we had quite a few pushes.

This combined with another of our roads running out into sand on the beach and us having the option to double back a few Kms or push through the sand for 250m left us running quite late. The beach push with the temperature, according to the local supermarket owner, being 42C was not fun, the sand was so hot you had to shake it off your feet after each step, but we eventually got back on a track, pushed up a hill then squealed down the other very steep side into the haven of our resort hotel in the mangrove swamp where a German tour group rolled up and looked exhausted having been on a mini bus only to see Tilly fully loaded standing outside reception. I thought the Germans were tough!

Coconut seller in backwaters.

The food here has been superb. We are not sure how we will ever have a curry again in England! The breakfast buffet at this hotel had beans, bread and a toaster. Say no more! Beans on toast! Result!

We had a very lazy day off, boat trip round the backwaters getting to see a few Kingfishers that weren’t at all bothered by our boat and a water buffalo looking extremely content in the water. Good choice, because it was super hot. So hot in fact we had to adjourn to our air con room for a couple of hours mid afternoon to escape the heat before spending the rest of the day by the pool and ‘Beer Parlour’

The Beer Parlour..😊

We’ve never abandoned a cycle tour before except through injury, but the weather was so hot and humid we seriously wondered how on earth we would be able to cycle the next day. We checked the weather and found we were in the middle of an extreme weather warning for heat and humidity which would last another couple of days.

So up at 5 and away by 6 making the most of the cool part of the day and with stops, selfies and juices we managed to find ourselves rolling into the capital of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, which we just couldn’t say, at about 1.30pm.

Today’s juice man.

Our hotel reception told us off for being outside after noon! Apparently the govt had advised people to stay indoors between 12 and 3pm. Blimey, if the Indians think it’s hot we are in serious trouble!

No problem getting the daily washing dry in the afternoon heat…

We’d actually not found it too bad. You create your own breeze cycling and the sun was behind us, but we were very relieved to get to the hotel.

We nipped into Thiruvananthapuram to visit the palace – a wonderful wooden structure that was well worth the trip – and then sat by the pool with a long cold Kingfisher beer before dinner. Heaven.

Wooden Palace

Our rides have been very short this side of the country as there’s things we want to stop to see, so another short hop took us on to Varkala, a cliff top collection of hotels and cafes overlooking a golden sandy beach.  We planned to arrive early, bumped into an American daughter and dad bike touring couple and got waylaid for an hour or so drinking cold water and chatting, so arrived at our short but so so steep hills in the heat of the day. Bad timing.

The American tourers.

After a very sweaty push up we found a lovely cafe with an air-conditioned room overlooking the sea for lunch and then spent the afternoon sat in the infinity pool at our hotel and the cave snug below it, dozing and listening to the waves. Heaven part 2. 

Lunch stop

We eventually dragged ourselves away from the pool and wandered along the street to a cafe for dinner.  The cafe overlooked the sea from the cliff top and was open air with a fab atmosphere and we had a very nice meal. We chatted at length to an expat English couple who arranged cycle tours and an Indian Lady who was working here, both of whom we would bump into again later.

Clifftop sunset.


  1. That’s a not too shabby infinity pool and sunset!!! Great stuff again!

  2. I wish that we had gone inside a church or two, obviously missed out there. The Keralan capital is also known as Trivandrum, much easier to say 😂

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