10 Tips for Cycling South India

Over 2.5 months, we cycled 2,400km in South India. Starting from Goa, we made our way south, via the hill stations of Ooty and Munnar, down to the tip of the subcontinent and back up again on the East side, finishing in Chennai. Although we had some trepedation about cycling in India, it’s actually a fantastic country for cycling. Here are our top 10 tips to enjoy your cycle tour in South India. || 1. Get off the main roads. Route choice is critical in India. Luckily India is so heavily populated that there are plenty of small,…

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Goodbye India: An Abrupt Finale

Chidambaram – Pondicherry – Chennai Leaving Chidambaram, we had no option but to stay on the busy coastal road to Pondicherry. As soon as we arrived, we breathed a sigh of relief. It was so nice and quiet, with wide, tree lined streets and a seaside promenade. Pondicherry had been a French colony for centuries and retains a distinctly French feel. There were lots of French tourists, bakeries selling baguettes and croissants, and cafés serving Croque Monsieur. In other words, heaven! We now had only one day’s cycling left in India and still had more than a week before our…

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Templed Out

Madurai – Chidambaram For over two thousand years, the site of Madurai’s central temple has been hosting an annual festival in honour of the fertility Goddess Sri Meenakshi. Most details of the festival have not changed since the Greek ambassador Menasthenes visited Madurai during his travels on the Spice Route in the 3rd century BC. Hundreds of generations of South Indians have asked the Goddess to give them children, walking for days from their villages to witness the holy festival. To this day, the images of the Goddess and her husband, Lord Sundareshvara, are placed in a private bed chamber…

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Rounding the Tip

Kovalam – Madurai Kerala is heavily populated, with house after house and village after village. While we enjoyed the scenery and it was fascinating to see life in the fishing villages, we sometimes got a little tired of all the attention. Shortly after Kovalam we left Kerala and crossed into Tamil Nadu. Suddenly, the landscape became a lot more spacious. There were larger expanses of agricultural land between villages with many banana plantations and rice fields. The roads were quiet and the pace slower as life became much more rural. Also, unlike in touristy Kerala, we were not getting asked…

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10,000km Photo

A short distance out from the very tip of India where the Bay of Bengal meets the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea we rode our 10,000th km. We were hoping for something spectacular to mark the occasion but when we arrived at the tip we were a little surprised to find a Gandhi Memorial disguised as a giant pink marshmallow. We wondered how poor old humble Gandhi would have reacted if he had been alive today to see what was created in his honour. Nonetheless it certainly attracts your attention and hopefully makes people remember the great man.

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A Canoe Ferry, a Temple Feast and an Elephant Trader

Kochi – Kovalam Leaving Kochi, we followed a quiet but bumpy coastal road, passing through small fishing villages dotted with boat building workshops where local hardwood was being skillfully shaped and bound together with coconut rope to form new fishing boats. With Kerala being a touristy area, we were being asked for money, sweets or pens more often than in other parts of India. So when a man ran out of his tiny photography studio to stop us and ask if he could take a photo, then insisted on printing it for us, we were highly suspicious. Surely this…

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Kochi and the Kerala Backwaters

Kochi is a town spread over several islands and peninsulas on the Malabar Coast in the south-west of India. The town had a colourful colonial past involving Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and British merchants and invaders. Cycling over several bridges to reach Fort Cochin, the popular traveller’s hangout at the tip of one of the peninsulas, we were still very much in India, with hectic traffic, horns beeping all around us and rickshaws competing with buses and cows for space on the dusty streets. Turning a corner not far from the Basilica in Fort Cochin it was as if we…

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A Visit to the SOS Children’s Village in Kochi

When Freddie was little, her parents used to support SOS Children’s Villages with a monthly donation. Periodically, letters would arrive with stories about orphaned children who had been placed into a family environment by the charity. This unique concept of a Children’s Village as opposed to an orphanage stayed in Freddie’s mind and played a role when we chose a charity to support with our bike journey. SOS Children’s Villages have been great in their communication with us and were more than happy to allow us to poke our heads in and say hello at one of the children’s…

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The Perfect Climb: Munnar’s Tea Plantations

Mettupalayam – Munnar – Kochi Somewhere around Ooty it felt as though a switch had been flicked. Suddenly people became much friendlier again and we were paying local(ish) prices again. We had more interactions with locals and met many friendly Indian tourists, including one who called his German speaking wife so she could have a chat with Freddie and ended up inviting us to stay with them. Unfortunately their house was in the opposite direction of where we were going, so we had to forego the invitation, but it was a nice gesture we appreciated all the same.

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Enter the Tiger’s Den

Gundlupet – Ooty – Mettupalayam Shortly after leaving Gundlupet we turned off the main road, leaving the pilgrims in their speeding 4WDs and the noisy old buses behind. With the newly found calm we become more in tune with our environment. Monkeys swung from trees as gentle mist rose from the green farm lands around us. Passing through small villages we watched as the locals went about their morning routines. Women dressed in colourful saris skillfully balanced water urns on their heads as men drove ox ploughs churning up the dark red soil. A boy on his way to school…

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