14 11 2010

Cycling Kerala – route info

Trivandrum – Mangalore – 625km + boat

(we are averaging a mini 60-65km a day due to the heat.. but we are getting there…:-)

This route starts on the main road (NH17), we then cut down onto the coastal road (though you could do so sooner) after about 15km’s. The coast road is beautiful, quiet, and well tarmaced. We stopped for the night in Varkala – which has the universal feel common to traveller haunts across South east Asia and offers home comforts such as muesli for breakfast. From here we stayed on the coast road most of the way to the Amatipuri Ashram – with a section around Kollam on the main road.  We stopped for a cheap night at the ashram – and the next day picked up a boat to Allepey – very relaxing, easy peasy to get the bikes on! (and a much cheaper way to see backwater life – men diving for sand etc – than paying for a houseboat)

From Allepey  we stayed on quiet roads; first on the east and then on the west (coastal) side of the main road to Fort Cochi.  Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India, this was reflected in the number of children on (in an unfathomably constant stream thoughout the day) their way to and from school, on foot, in autorickshaws, and on school busses – in all cases, waving, hollering and shouting hellos at us.

Leaving Fort Cohin we took a diversion inland to visit the a Camillian Brothers HIV/AIDS project (Snehadaan)  – we hopped on a ferry and crossed 3 bridges to take us from the peninsula onto the mainland.  We cycled along a horrendous main road through the town of Ernakulum.  But from the Camillian centre we were on quiet country lanes all the way back to Vypeen Island – where we stopped and rested at the lovely Cherai beach – even getting a swim in the Arabian Sea in!

From Cherai we cycled and ferry hopped north, ferries, never costing more than 6 rupees (about 10 pence), replace bridges to cross the river mouths along the ‘beach road’ all the way north.  The ferries run non-stop from one river bank to the other.  On one occasion I was asked where I wanted to go… to which I replied ‘the other side’ – there really was nowhere else that this ferry was going… perhaps they were after something more from me!  The main road snakes inland with its bridges and traffic.  But on the beach road, we were joined by plenty of motorcyclists and bicycles with only the very occasional car.  We stopped for the night in the pilgrim centre of Guruvayoor and enjoyed listening to Bajans (holy songs) outside the temple. From Guruvayoor we continued along the beach roads (quality becoming more and more patchy) to Vallikunu where we stayed in an aging beach resort, with its faded pavilions and incomprehensibly bumbling staff (who each appeared to be wearing the others suit – one small chap could hardly be seen in his whereas the gangly porter was practically wearing shorts!) it was a far cry from those aimed at westerners.

From Vallikunu we took the beach road to Khozikode where the beach road ended, the coastline no longer flat but starting to become hilly so we were pushed back on to the main road.  Which stunk – a pervasive and pervading stench that stuck heavily in the backs of our throats. An absolutely horrendously indescribable smell akin to rotting fish, human excrement, and death – boiled. We have vowed to purchase incense at the first opportunity. The sticks can be stuck to our handle bars  to waft patchoolie (or some such delight) back into us as we cycle.

We stayed the night in Costa Malabri south of Kannur (bumpy, hilly ride but worth it)– where we ate the best home cooked Keralan


food from banana leaves and witnessed the annual Theyyam blessing of a local temple.

Kannur to Khanagad was rolling, uneventful, main roads. Khanagad is a basic Indian town; dirty, busy and polluted.  We stayed in a cheap hotel with a bed full of creatures, many of whom seemed to hurtle themselves at sporadic intervals from the fan (Catherine was happy! :-*) – fortunately none of which seemed to be bed bugs. We set off the next day tired and hungry and cycled out of Kerala (jumpy jumpy jumpy) – from here we stayed on the main road to Mangalore in Karnataka!



2 responses

3 01 2012

Hello there.
Sounds like you had a lovely time. Thanks for sharing.
I had a couple of questions for you:
– Do you recommend doing the cycling from north to south or south to north?
– Is it safe enough for a girl to do it alone?
– What time of year did you do it?

3 01 2012

Hi Nina,

We much preferred cycling in southern india generally, everything was more relaxed, less hassle from people when we were on the road. We found people in the north of india on the roads to be more interested in us and so we felt more hassle.

We went ‘up’ – which seemed psychologically like a good thing, but then we were trying to get to Khatmandu – but i suppose equally the same could be said for going ‘down’. The terrain along the coast of Kerala was flat so it wouldn’t matter which direction and there was little impact from wind in November. Mahrashtra was incredibly, steeply hilly – really tough riding there.

We set off from southern Kerala in late Oct and arrived in Mumbai in late Nov – which was an amazing time of year to be there, it was the tail end of the rainy season – we witnessed a couple of big rainy moments, but mostly it was clear, not too hot and generally plesant (although we had come from the desert in Iran – so our heat tolerance was relevant to our situation!)

Doing it alone – I don’t see why not. We enjoyed having the company of eachother, but we also met other cyclists on the roads occasionally and it was easy to find food, shelter, water and a friendly face in India – there’s accommodation everywhere – personally we wouldn’t camp there as there are so many people, it’s hard to get away to somewhere where it might feel safe.

Hope that helps – anymore q’s just ask!

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