● For full details on our route, transport info, hotel details, etc, look at our Google Maps page

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The End of the Road! - UPDATED!

We made it! After 5853 kilometers, we have arrived to Varkala, Kerela, the end of our motorbike leg of the journey. We've now sold 'Harry' (our bike) and can now relax on the beach.

You can see our route on the bike to the left, we covered a huge part of the country.

Scroll down for loads of updates on the last part of our motorbike journey! We finally got up to date on our posts!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


2nd – 6th May

Leg 23 – Alleppey to Varkala
Distance – 126kms
Time – 3.5 hours

Average Speed – 36km/h
Road – 2 lane highway, lots of traffic.

Our last leg was a short ride even further south from Alleppey. Lots of traffic made the going slow, but there highway was in good condition. We rode carefully – very conscious that this could be our last leg of the journey if we sold the bike in Varkala. We reached the turn off for Varkala and headed towards the coast and our finish line.

Varkala lies on the Keralan coast and is split from the sea by spectacular cliffs, towering high about the beach. The strip of golden sand is surrounded by bounded by the cliff, with all the bars, restaurants and hotels precariously perched along the edge. It was nice to arrive by the sea again, and we checked into a cliffside hotel and set out to explore the sands.

The popularity of Varkala with Indian tourists has lead the council to place tourist police on the beach in order to control the steady stream o
f Indian men walking along the beach with the sole purpose of standing and staring at bikini clad westerners. In practice, this segregation meant that around a fifth of the beaches length was out of bounds to the locals, with whistles blown and sticks waved if any group of men decided to try and stroll too close to the westerners. It was a strange arrangement, but we are embarrassed to say it was a welcome one, as the constant attention that Sam was getting from Indian men was becoming a little tiring.

We had arranged to meet a South African traveller, Jim, in Varkala, with a view to him buying our motorbike. He arrived the day after us and after a test ride and a visit to the mechanic, a deal was done. It was a very sad day for us, saying goodbye to our wheels – from now on we would be at the mercy of the tuk tuk mafia, and other public transport! We did get to have one last short ride on the bike when we went to dinner with Jim and another Enfield rider – on the way home Ady was extra careful as this was surely going to be our last time on the bike!

From Varkala, we took the train north back to Goa, where we would spend the last few weeks of our epic adventure. You can probably guess that it would involve relaxing on the beach, and mentally preparing for the step back to reality that the UK will bring!

Saturday, 2 May 2009


1st – 2nd May
Leg 22 – Kochi to Alleppey
Distance – 69kms
Time – 3 hours
Average Speed – 23km/h
Road – Highway and then back roads through the backwaters following the coast

With only 70kms to cover, we planned to take the quiet road that followed the beach south, avoiding the highway. After trying to follow the beach, we found ourselves back on the highway and the directions we were given kept leading us back to it! We took another right turn off the highway, and finally found the road we had been looking for, and it was worth it! Winding along the coast, we saw local people going about their daily lives, in many ways untouched by tourism and the modern world. People fishing using traditional Chinese fishing nets, boats being built from wood and rope by hand, rope being spun by the women in the villages, and water being pumped by hand and carried to their homes. Everyone smiled and waved as we passed by, and when we stopped they came to say hello.

Arriving in Alleppey, we found a place to stay and jumped back on the bike to explore the area. The beach in Alleppey is very popular with Indian tourists. There is a derelict pier in the centre of the beach, and as is the case with many public places in India, litter was predominant everywhere. It is a continual source of dismay that we see such beautiful natural wonders covered with rubbish – the local people not understanding how big a problem is caused by their carelessness. The main attraction of Alleppey is the backwaters in the surrounding area. We decided that we wouldn’t take a boat trip on the backwaters as we had already ridden through the backwaters, off the normal tourist trail. We saw everything that the trip would show us from our bike, and it was a lot cheaper than the Rs4000 for a two day one night trip on a houseboat.

With little else to hang around for, we set off on our last leg. Our final beach was in sight, and a potential buyer for the bike lined up.

Friday, 1 May 2009


28th April – 1st May

Leg 21 – Ooty to Kochi
Distance – 263kms
Time – 7 hours
Average Speed – 37.6km/h
Road – Ooty to Coimbatore – twisty, lots of bends and hairpins, good surface but lots of traffic. Coimbatore to Kochi – two lane highway, lots of traffic – not dual carriageway as shown on map.

Kerala has some of the busiest roads in the country and we have no doubt that this leg featured one of these roads. On the map it looked like plain sailing… descending down a nice mountain pass for 50 km, then a 4 lane highway all the way to Kochi. The mountain pass was spectacular in more ways that one. The views were certainly jaw dropping, but the quality of the driving skills of the locals left a lot to be desired. Our video below gives an example… watch it and try figuring out what is going on. We are still puzzled! After winding our way down the mountain, the map showed a nice dual carriageway all the way to Kochi. But why would the map be correct!? The busiest single carriageway road awaited us, and we battled the chaos for 4 long hours!

Ajay, one of Ady’s colleagues from Amdocs has a flat in Kochi and kindly offered it to us while we were in the city. His in-laws and their family live next door to his place, and were on hand to welcome us to Kerela. We found the place without too much trouble, a combination of luck and helpful tuk tuk drivers got us there in the end. Ajay’s sister in law, Anu made sure that we had everything we needed in the flat, and made us feel at home. It was a shock to our systems to drop our bags in a clean, spacious, air conditioned apartment, with amazing views of Kochi. This was by a long stretch the nicest place we had stayed in, and probably would stay in, through our whole Indian adventure. Once again, thanks so much to Ajay and Ranjina for letting us use their place, and to Anu and her family for everything they did for us there.

It just so happened that on the day we arrived in Kochi, a number of other people who we had met on our travels were in town too. Firstly, Grace and Flo, who we had met earlier in the month in Goa. Second, and more extraordinarily, Nathan and Aki, who we had a chance encounter with 6 months ago in Penang, Malaysia. We met them in Penang when Ady spotted Nat on his motorbike, and struck up a conversation – leading us to discover that they had ridden from Australia, overland as far as Malaysia. We were at the time very jealous and met up the same evening to talk about how they were getting on with their bike trip. Now 6 months, and 5 countries later, they are still riding and just happened to be in Kochi the same day as us!

We spent the evening recounting our adventures to date, sharing stories and giving advice on the road ahead. Nat and Aki are heading north, following a similar route to that we have just ridden. Check out their blog at http://faster-than-walking.com for an alternative perspective on travel on a motorbike – note that some of the blog is in Japanese, but if you look through it you will find many of Nat’s wonderful ramblings in English. Grace, Flo, and Sam spent more time talking about non bike related gossip, a relief for Sam in any case!

The next day, we were treated to a traditional Keralan breakfast by Anu and her family – it was delicious – Appams, rice flour pancakes with coconut milk together with chicken curry and a chickpea dish. Unfortunately we let the side down by eating only half of what was offered – we aren’t used to having such a lot of food for breakfast! The idea of having curry for breakfast is something that most non Indian people would turn their nose up at, but it wasn’t strange at all. Ady had been eating traditional Indian breakfast dishes for some time – Masala Dosa, Aloo Paratha, Chapatti and Dal is a great way to start the day (if you don’t like fruit!)

Kochi is one of the most cosmopolitan places we have been in India – we liked it a lot! After shopping for glasses, suits and more jeans, we headed back to the flat to relax – it was a luxury to have a lounge to lounge in and a kitchen where we could make ourselves a snack for lunch and enjoy cold drinks from our own fr
idge. In the evening, Anu had a treat in store as she took us our for Dosa, one of Ady’s favourite delicacies. Our driver dropped us at the restaurant and while he waited outside we tucked into some authentic food. It was great to eat our with a local, who could explain more about the food we were eating and how we should be eating it! After stopping off on the way home for cake and ice cream, we treated Anu to one of infamous slide shows of our trip. For all of you back in the UK, don’t worry – you’ve got all that to look forward to when we return!

More sightseeing the next day, we checked out pretty Fort Kochin during daylight hours before catching the ferry over to Vypeen Island. The sky was starting to look dark in the distance, but we weren’t too concerned as we rode up the coast down the narrow back streets where the poorer settlements were. After going round in circles for a while, followed by some off road dirt bike action, we eventually popped out at the beach we were looking for. Billed in the Lonely Planet as Kochi’s best kept secret, we were a little disappointed to see large amounts of rubbish strewn along the beach. It wasn’t a place we would want to spend any time. We rode back through the villages down alleyways, over footbridges, before finding the main road again. The black cloud was now looking more threatening, as we crossed the main bridge back to the city, we felt some spots of rain. The spots turned into a torrential downpour and we turned into a petrol station. It was like a motorcycle rally as all the bikes in the vicinity pulled under the canopy for shelter. Flashes of lightening and cracks of thunder signalled that this wasn’t going to be over quickly. We were distracted by the crowd around our bike however – someone had spotted our ‘For Sale’ sign earlier in the day and they called their brother, who came in his tuk tuk in order to view the bike. A lull in the rain, and phone numbers exchanged, we made a dash for home. But the heavens opened again. Water in the streets a foot deep, and huge raindrops ensured we were soaked to the skin… at least it wasn’t cold! Our new glasses were ready for collection at the opticians, and we had to call in to collect them. Sam took one step into the air conditioned store, in her clinging wet t-shirt, and decided it would be best if she waited outside. We didn’t want to be responsible for a number of Indian men having coronaries – the reaction to a conservatively dressed blonde is usually too much for them to handle let alone Sam’s current state of attire.

The next day, dried and ready to hit the road further south, we were fed again by our hosts and set off on the penultimate leg of our bike journey.

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