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

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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