Cycling India - "In the Garden of the Gods"
From the steamy Southern coast to the cool hill stations of the interior, South India is a confounding place which is always yielding up the unexpected.
This tour takes in a little bit of everything. We start in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala on the Malabar coast of South India. We catch a late afternoon train inland to Madurai to visit the impressive temples, before ascending the Western Ghats, the bony spine of mountains that snake 1200k thru the center of South India. The climbs are not steep, but they are long. We reach as high as 2300 meters at the hill station of Kodaikanal.
We continue north and take in parts of Indira Ghandi National Park before heading on thru tea and spice plantations, which, from a distance, make the hills look like they are covered with marble.
Leaving the mountains, we visit Alleppey, the backwater headquarters of Kerala. The backwaters consist of over 900 km of interconnected waterways, rivers, lakes and inlets that parallel the Malabar Coast of the Arabian Sea. We bike and boat through the backwaters to Kochi. Kochi is an eclectic town with a lot of history. It has a large port, an old Jewish quarter, and a centuries old Portuquese church that is now a Basilica. The tour ends in Kochi.
Traffic in India can be chaotic. Driving is nominally on the left, but Indian drivers use the whole road and almost everything imaginable shares the road. We stick to quieter, less traveled routes. We are accompanied by air conditioned vans the entire way so riding is always optional for everyone. We stay in comfortable hotels.
Please visit the India Posts in the F&A Blog.
Day 1 Trivandrum
We meet up just north of Trivandrum at a place where we can walk onto the beach and into the Arabian Sea for a swim.
Day 2 Trivandrum
We have an out and back shake down ride of about 60k to Varkala Beach, where we have a leisurely lunch. Varkala is kind of funky, counter culture place where tattoos, corn-rolled hair and baggy pants are the uniform of the day. There are lots of open air restaurants on the breezy beach.
Day 3 Trivandrum to Madurai
After checking out the temple in Trivandrum, we catch the late afternoon train for Madurai.
Day 4 - Madurai to Vathalagundu
We seek out a quiet backroad for today's relatively flat ride.
Day 5 - Vathalagundu to Kodaikanal
We start out flat, but the road soon starts up the slopes of the Western Ghats, the long chain of mountains that snakes down the middle of the continent. Kodaikanal is a hill station, was founded as a hill station, a cool retreat from the very steamy Indian summers. There are great views, a lake, and usually, a cricket game. The cosmopolitan feel of Kodaikanal is partly due the to the Kodaikanal International School, formed over 100 years ago as an American Missionary school. It now has students and faculty from over 30 different countries. We spend two nights in Kodaikanal.
Day 6 - Rest Day in Kodaikanal
There is an opportunity for a loop to the local sights, a trek, or just relax and soak up the cool of being in a town 2200 meters high.
Day 7 - Kodaikanal to Marayoor
We back track to the turn off for Palani, ride the ridge road and then have a big descent. There is an option of a van lift or taking a back road towards the turn off for Indira Ghandi National Park. We ride through Indira Ghandi park to Marayoor. It is a small town, but situated in a dramatic setting under the brooding hulk of the 2,700 meter high Mt. Anamudi.
Day 8 - Marayoor to Chinnakanal
From Marayoor on we encounter tea plantations. From a distance, the hills look marbled. Tea plants are grouped together so they can be harvested by hand, often on very steep slopes and the paths between them look like veins. There is a big climb and then a big descent to Munnar, the tea plantation hub of the area. From Munnar, we climb again on a narrow road to Chinnakanal. Chinnakanal is surrounded by mountains with a valley below. Morning clouds and low lying fog often ooze over the mountains and into the valley like some sort of liquid plasma.
Day 9 - Chinnakanal to Kumily
We head through the heart of Tea Country. We ride on the side of deep valleys with tea estates on either side. During our tea estate tour you will learn more about the fine art of making great tea.
Day 10 - Kumily
Rest day in Kumily. We take time to explore nearby Periyer National Park, tour nearby spice plantations and take in a Thalakali Show.
Day 11 - Kumily to Vagamon Village
It's rolling hills and not that long today but still no piece of cake.
Day 12 - Vagamon Village to Alleppey
We leave plantation country and enter the backwaters. The backwaters parallel the coast and include some 900 kilometers of canals and waterways. It's the "Venice of India" and full of wildlife. Houseboats ply the waters and we take full advantage by cruising and spending the night on houseboats. They come in comfortable one, two and sometimes three bedroom versions with full crews.
Day 13 - Alleppey to Island Retreat to Kochi
We bike to our own hideaway in the backwaters. It's a unique place that will give you a sense of what life is like here.
Day 14 - Free day in Kochi
Kochi is a colorful port city and was the first city of India to be occupied by a European party, the Portuguese in 1503. It is a melting pot. There is a jewish quarter and a dutch cemetery as well as the Portuguese Catholic Church, now a Basilica. There is great shopping, great food and great accomodation in Kochi. It is a nice place to end the riding.
Depart from Kochi for home.
14 nites accommodations - hotels/houseboats
All meals, except L and D on rest days and L on first day in Trivandrum when we ride to Varkala Beach.
Stocked support van(s) with local driver
Multi-lingual local guide
Train from from Trivandrum to Madurai
Kathakali Show in Kumily
Plantation Tour in Kumily
Beer, wine booze
Entrance fees to other museums, attractions
Airport transfers (we send detailed instructions on what to do)