Thursday, 26 February 2015

24 Feb - Varkala to Allapphuza

Varkala to Allapphuza

Daily Run 132km    Total  182km

Start 05:10
Ride Time 08:11
Height Gain 447m
Average 16.2 kph

The temple chants woke me at 04:00 so I decided to go for an early start. Pitch black, no road signs, scant street lighting, I zoomed in on the GPS screen. What good progress I'm making! How cool is the breeze! I must be good for 100k today! Ouch!.....vicious little speed-bumps in the villages. Overshooting a junction I turned back and somehow ended up back-tracking the way I'd come, only realising my mistake after an hour when the first light of dawn appeared on my right. Very demoralised to find out that after an hour I was practically back in Varkala.

The dawn revealed rural living coming to life, porch sweeping, the milkman doorstep-dispensing from battered churns slung on the back of his bike. Then the school children, hoards of them, all bright-eyed smiley with immaculate uniforms.

This was very nice riding.

Early morning and this is preparation for a village temple festival - this one women only. Festivals are big in Kerala during Feb/Mar . Here they cook up something as an offering. Literally thousands of little cooking fires will be lit later, here in the temple grounds and all along the high street.
Entering Kollam on a busy highway - Eek!

I've adapted to the driving  here and I quite enjoy the 'dicing with death' experience, as actually having to concentrate the mind is quite nice for a change. Once you know the unwritten rules and behave predictably, then you are fine. The most dangerous thing for me is remembering that whatever type of vehicle is coming towards me on the wrong side of the road, even though I am a bicycle, always pull out into the middle of the road and let them pass on the inside. Don't stop, don't even slow down, don't worry about what is coming up behind, they will be expecting you to pull out.... just pull out. This is very counter-intuitive (for me) and once or twice, reflexively, I've headed for the curb.....and that's head-on collision country. Please don't follow this rule in Morocco though.

There are hundred of buses on the route into Kollam, and our average speeds are about the same as the bus stops every few hundred metres. The game is called 'Race the Bus'. It peps up my average speed and heart rate.  I have to decide whether to overtake into the oncoming traffic or take to the dirt and overtake verge-side, being careful not to take out the queue at the bus stop or a dismounting passenger. Stopping and waiting behind the bus is not an option. Remember I'm hauling a bike plus baggage weight of  around 45kg. I don't accelerate very fast and I like to keep my momentum. Anyway, after about 20 minutes of this I've built up a great relationship with everyone on the bus who all hang out of the windows shouting and waving me on. Kids!

Sorting out my pedals

My flat pedals are covered in  steel pegs to stop your feet slipping. The trouble is they are chewing up the soles of my sandals. So I hit on the idea of slipping a bit of old inner tube over them. Bingo!

My new friend Brobal - hope I've spelt it right mate!

Brobal met me on the way out of Kollam. His English is impeccable.
He was on  a  'self-study' day because of exams being held at School that day. Yeah right!

He's clutching a phone charger he's taking to his aunt.We cycled together and chatted, which sounds nice but I am a wobbly rider at the best of times and I could just see us getting mangled by the traffic.

Royal Enfield's are still sold new as a prestige bike in India. Yes, I saw Guy Martins India Tour on the telly.

Now here's a real man's bike!

No, they wouldn't part - ex for a Royal Enfield Bullet.

The Keralans are quite willing to have their photos taken but it doesn't seem to be the done thing to smile. So they all look like something out of a Victorian family photo album

I'm now in the famous Kerala wetlands and looking at the largest lake in India. It's beautiful (flat) and very good for ornithologists and mosquitoes

Director's cut!
Just in case you thought this was a breeze. About 80km done.  I'm not really acclimatised yet and it is about 35 deg and humid. I'm not expecting sympathy guys but I hope you can feel my pain : )

Ah, that's better, the teapot poseur! My first ferry of the trip - 10 rupees for me and 10 more for the bike.

I'm travelling up the narrow man-made spit of land that keeps the sea out of the backwaters. It was a bit disappointing really. Just a boulder barrage.........leaving what sand there was on my least it filled in the potholes. I was grateful for the head-wind or my brain would have boiled.

Any shade will do! I'd decided I would man up today and ride with shorts only -no padding/no undies. At about this time I gave up on that idea and put a nappy on. Thats better!

Dotted with fishing villages along the whole 20 km.....and not a lot else

......and eventually back on tarmac.....and.more village festival shade!

I was completely whacked when I arrived in Allaphusa (Alleppey) and had trouble finding any hostelry. I ended up paying 1000 rupees to stay in a non-wifi'd homestay, collapsed on the bed after a shower and woke up at 2am. Apparently it has a wonderful beach.

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