India

Airport arrival

Yes! After a good flight we arrived in hot, sweaty but wonderful Chennai. We were  happy to notice Couchsurfing seems no problem in India. In Chennai we had two hosts. First we went to Prabu, who was living very close to the airport. But first we had to pick up our bicycles and fix them together. The lock of the bike unfortunately got lost on its way. After installing our bikes we found ourselves in 40 degrees temperatures at 16.00 o’ clock bicycling the big busy roads in India. That is an amazing feeling. We explored Chennai a bit before we went to Prabu. Trying to find a bank that would work with our cards was a challenge, but we succeeded. We were greeted with one of the most spectacular clouds. We exchanged our Sri Lankan rupees and strolled an evening market with our bikes.

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The amazing cloud

We cycled in heavy traffic to Prabu’s meeting point. We soon noticed the Indian traffic, is although chaotic, also very flexible. You just go with the flow, there are not so many rules and that makes it also easy. Although every car uses its horn for communication, we just cycle silently in between. We met Prabu on his motorbike at an overly crowded shopping mall. He was very welcoming and we followed him to his place. We got our own room. Well, we better call it a sauna, because the floor was heated by the sun. During the night it was a challenge to sleep, but fortunately they had aggressive ventilators that somewhat brightened up the sleeping hours.

Wonderful Chennai

For three nights we chilled at Prabu’s place in Chromepet. Getting in touch with Indian food, people, and city life. And we can say no other than: we love it! Chennai, although, a crowded city was so welcoming to us. The chill vibrant atmosphere, the thousand delicious foot stands, the fresh juice bars (we got addicted to Sappota milkshake), the cows blocking the traffic in every street, the smell, the colors of the clothes people wear, the smiles we get. Yes, we are in India!

Ancient temples in Mahabalipuram

Prabu and his roommates recommended historical touristy place Mahabalipuram. We got on the back of their motorbikes and they drove us to the bus station. A two hour bus ride followed and we arrived at the busstation. We immediately got approached by a tuc tuc driver who sold a nice story that he could drive us around 6 kilometers for a cheap price. We bought it. Thinking we don’t have our bikes and let’s hide from the sun. But, in the end the distance was walkable and the price too much, so lesson learned. However we did see beautiful temples. Mahabalipuram has ancient rathas (temples in the form of chariots), cave sanctuaries and giant open air rock reliefs from the 7th, 8th century made by the Pallava dynasty. For some you have to pay, but many are for free.

The sea, a tourist attraction

It was a sunday, so there were many Indian tourists. And what do they like to do? Going to the beach and look how youngsters throw themselves in the waves. It is a real happening. Not many can swimm in India so they carefully stay till their knees in the water, Chris however swimm some meters out and got some admiring looks.

Second host

Our second host was Ankit, who lived in T. Nagar, 15 kilometers direction center. It was a joy to get hosted by him. He has such great vibes and therefore nice company. We could stay in his apartment while he went off working. He was the second host to have a guitar, so we had cosy evenings. Ankit comes from the north of India, thus he speaks Hindu but moved for work to Tamil Nadu. It was very funny to see his interaction with locals, because he also feels like a foreigner because he doesn’t speak Tamil. Asking people on the phone if they can please speak English. He wants to study and move to Germany, and he is learning German. On his free day, we had a stroll on Elliot’s beach and tried some delicious sea food.

First real biking day

After more than a week, we said goodbye after a comfortable, cosy and wonderful week couchsurfing in Chennai. We headed our way to Pondicherry and Auroville where workaway was waiting for us.  We started early morning and drove out of still sleepy Chennai, up to Mahabalipuram for the second time. We found a couchsurfer host at a guesthouse. The Bob Marley cafe reserved one room for couchsurfers which was heaven for us. Instead of staying one night in Mahablipuram, we stayed three. In these three days we discovered another site of the touristy city: a surfy beach one. We could use the surfing board. We chilled at the roof top and we had a cosy little hut with shower.

Pondy and scouted for an Indian movie

We continued our way direction Pondicherry, a former French colonized city. It was pretty hot and Sara was feeling shaky so we decided to hike. We could drive with one car all the 80 kilometers to Pondy. Pondicherry is crowded city, very busy but nice. There is a lot of fusion cuisine that we did not eat because it’s too expensive. Instead we had lots of parotta. The food middle class people don’t eat. We drove our bikes around, visited the famous Sri Aurobindo ashram and visited the temple around the corner.

Afterwards we took a rest in the park where we got scouted for an Indian movie. No Bollywood, but a Tamil variant. A strange guy that did not speak so well English approached Chris and said he needed some extra’s for a movie. We even got some pocket money for it, so why not.. every foreigner once get asked while visiting India. The Indian movie industry is huge.

We contacted our couchsurf host, Santhosh. He was living in a squatted house at the beach. We camped at their beautiful rooftop. He had two roommates, American Maria who was in the middle of an adoption process with her dog ‘Shanti’ she had found on the streets. And a German girl Lisa. They took us out on their motorbikes and we ate a huge family dosa in the city.

Movie time

Next day 5 p.m we got picked up by a car that drove us to the filmset in Chennai/ Maria and Shanti were joining us. In the car we met co-stars, Mate, a guy from Argentina, and Russian guy Vanja, that was born and raised in Auroville. He did an extra job nearly every week. The film set was exciting for a few minutes. Later we discovered it was less glamorous than expected. No make-up, no fancy clothes. Instead we had to improvise fake conversations on the hall way, walk by, or sit in the restaurant and have a cold soup in our own Indian travel clothing. We were being ordered around, and had to wait for hours while the camera was rolling and the director was giving tips to the actual stars.

The next day we did a free yoga course in a hospital in Pondy which was a funny experience with only local hospital staff people in their Indian clothes. After three nights we said goodbye to Santosh and left for our workaway in Auroville. To see what kind of work we did, click Radhika’s organic farm

Auroville, the City of Dawn

Auroville is a very interesting place. It was founded in 1968 by a French guru/traveler Mirra Alfassa which they call “The Mother.” She was cooperating with Sri Aurobindo, an Indian spiritual teacher. They wanted to start a universal community where everybody would be equal, men and women, people from all nationalities, religions and politics. They wanted to achieve a progressive experimental community focused on sustainability and spiritual development. The matrimandir, a big golden ball where spiritual development can be exercised, should be the symbol for this. According to the Mother ” it is a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection. It is a place to find one’s consciousness.” It is not supposed to be a tourist attraction, but of course it is.

What happened after 50 years of Auroville.. 

After almost 50 years the ideals of Auroville are not realized. We met Giacomo, an urban planner that was for 11 years in Auroville and since three years an Aurovillian. He could tell us a lot about the ins and outs. There are a lot of problems with getting land. Auroville wants to have eventually 50.000 inhabitants, now there are a bit more as 2000. Rich people of the surrounding cities Chennai and Pondy have bought land that they now want to sell for ridiculous amounts of money. So getting the land around Auroville is a priority but very difficult to realize.

Also Auroville is complicated. There is no fine definition. There are lots of communities, silent communities in the woods, party communities, elderly communities etc. Some communities are really on their own, some are fighting for a bigger cause: trying to realize the original ideals. People that knew the mother still carry the old ideals. While younger people are mostly more experimental and want to give their own definition.

It is hard to become an Aurovillian. You get a trial period of two years and then the community decides if you can join. Although according to Giacomo it almost never happens that people get refused. But one thing is certain you have to be dedicated. In the end of the ride, everything that you’ve created in Auroville belongs to the community. There is no personal possession.

Auroville got pretty touristy. Travelers all over the world come to volunteer or just follow one of the many workshops that are offered. Also many Indian tourists visit the place. Auroville is known for the best pizza in India started by Italians, now also Indians open up pizza places.. In the weekends it gets crowded by young party people from the surrounding cities. There is also some criminality. There are groups of young boys that commit robberies and girls are advised not to enter the streets alone in the dark. 43 percent of the Aurovillians is local, Tamil. The second largest group is French, German, Italian, Spanish, Israeli, then Dutch, English, American and so on.

The surrounding villages are poor and Auroville has women empowerment projects. However, there is still a large group that does not benefit from Auroville and therefore there is also a lot of criticism. It is even said some members of the older Aurovillian generation still keeps a bit of colonial lifestyle, hiring locals for service jobs as cleaning. But the communities do want to improve life by adopting beneficial lifestyles for humans, animals and nature. You have to fail to succeed.

Projects in the experimental township

We visited several projects in Auroville. Sadhana Forests gives a free tour with dinner and movie, Solitude garden ran by the English Krishna gives a nice tour and we visited Buddhist Garden where they practice organic farming. All these projects where inspiring in their own way. Sadhana forests was started by an Israeli couple that wanted to improve the surroundings by planting trees. In Tamil Nadu over 200 years the British and the French have deforested the area. There was once a tropical dry forest, 1% is left. So the mission of many Aurovillians is to bring this area back to life again. Sadhana did so far a great job, their community is living very sustainable, they are very conscious of water usage especially effective in this dry climate. Tamil Nadu has to deal with a shortage of water. Sadhana forest gets over 1000 volunteers a year.  So they are a well running organisation. We saw a great documentary Racing extinction and had some great vegan meal. We met nice people and got a little insight of an inspiring project.

Solitude garden is ran by Krishna for 25 years. I can imagine his life is a work of art. He is so passionate about what he does. He brings great energy because you see he knows so much and he is so connected with the soil, the plants and the surroundings. What he actually says: get your hands in the earth, don’t talk about mother earth but feel it. Create good soil, care about what you grow, get a feeling for it, and create biodiversity. Let mother earth do her work.  He is also a musician, so there are many music sessions on the farm. In the end, we got free seeds like ladies fingers, rathna’s consciousness, beans and rosella for Radhika’s farm. He also includes the local community in his projects, they work on the farm and help in the kitchen.

Three weeks we explored Auroville by bicycle. We were in low season, so there were a bit less activities. However to really get to know Auroville you need months. Just after three weeks we discovered the list of activities and workshops. So if you can stay longer, there is much more to explore. People who volunteer through the Auroville network probably get a deeper understanding of the environment.

Shiva in Tiruvannamalai

After three nice weeks on Radhika and Enya’s farm we headed our way to Tiruvannamalai where we had our second Vipassana course. Not ten days this time, but for three days. The route to Tiruvannamalai was amazing. So nice parts of nature. On our way we met two Indian cyclists. They had city bicycles and made a tour of 600 kilometers! They planted trees on their way and visited schools to spread awareness and knowledge about the environment, sustainability and the need of planting and having trees. It was great to see these two young, ambitious guys on even more ambitious bicycles. We made a stop in the historical town in Gingee where they have a great fortresses on the top of a few hills. It was already 5 o’clock Sara her legs stopped working and we managed to hitch hike our way to Tiruvannamalai where we last minute could arrange a couchsurfer host, Appu.

 

Guru business and Vipassana

Appu was a nice guy of 30 years old working in tourism. We met him at the famous Ramana ashram. Tiruvannamalai is an attractive place for many spiritual seeking people. The mountain Arunachala is a holy mountain. The legend says Shiva turned himself into this mountain to fool the other gods Vishnu and Brahma. Many feel there is some kind of special magnetic energy due to the mountain. We have been told there are many guru’s and lots of western and Chinese travelers follow some kind of guru.

But with the guru’s you have to watch out, because it has turned in also a business and there have been some cases of abuse. Suddenly you see a Chinese man half naked with two half naked guru’s in a restaurant. Or you meet an American who is totally integrated in a Shiva community. We also met a nice German doctor who studied the Upanishads and who was a bit more down to earth and critical towards these whole movement. Because however it is focused on spiritual enlightenment and self development; it on the other hand also creates dependency. That’s the ambivalence. Many people are dependent on their guru. Or feel shit when they are back home, because they do not experience this high level of energy that they had experienced in India.

 

Appu brought us to the guesthouse of his uncle in the center because his house was too far away. It was awesome, we had a room to ourselves with bathroom. His aunt was super sweet and curious about how we travel. Next day we visited the Ramana ashram in daylight, had a little walk around the block and in the evening we cycled 10 kilometers to the destination of our second Vippassana.

It was nice to experience a short Vipassana session, but we would not do it again. Ten days is eventually better. However, it was again a really nice practice,  every vipassana brings a different experience. Now we had cells where we could individually meditate which was really nice. As now “old” students there was a different scheme. Thereby the food was organic and great although the local ladies afterwards told us they did not like it at all haha. And we met so nice people. Among others, Manuela an Austrian girl that we had met in Auroville. The ladies part had a nice view on the holy mountain.

 

Beautiful cycling

After Tiruvannamalai the roads started to get really beautiful. Farmer land to our sides little roads, not sooo many traffic etc etc. We saw some amazing skies, after a proper day of cycling with heavy headwind we found our first campingspot in India. We just dived into the bushes when nobody saw us, because we heard camping can be a bitch in India, because not many people do it, and the country is so full of people. But here, in the middle of nature with an amazing view, we found our first camping spot with nobody around. It was heaven.

 

Second day the road did not become less beautiful. To Theerthamalai the little road we took, was so awesome. Surrounded by nature, mountain views and little villages. It was very hot though and we made a long break at a restaurant of sweet mother and daughter in busy Harur. We also had to find a bike shop because Chris had a problem with his bike and Sara her bottle holder broke. There were three small bicycles shops, Chris his problem could not get fixed, but a bottle holder we found. It was however super hectic with all the traffic and especially the heat. We bought some veggies at a local market and hid at the restaurant.

 

Rooftop nights and a Sweeeet family

In the evening we could not really find a camping spot, near Harur places are pretty populated. We drove in a little side way to discover that also here many people live. So we stood still on the road, thinking what we should do. A guy came to us to ask what we were doing here. We explained that we were looking for a camping spot, he lived just on 15 meters distance so we asked if we could pitch our tent in his garden. The rooftop was fine for him. This was a wonderful decision. He had a sweet family, with a cheeky little neighbor kid. His house was on one of the most beautiful serene places with cows in the front garden and goats in the back. And he was really good in body language because he spoke very little English. He invited us for a dancing night at the temple but we were soo tired that we fell asleep at 8 o’clock. We slept like babies.

In the morning we got some delicious homemade ciapatti and they gave us coconuts and some kind of oats bag for on the way. It was great to have been welcomed by them. The man of the house advised us to go to hillstation Yercaud nearby. We followed his advise, thinking we could always hitch hike up the mountain. The road to Yercaud was again: amazing. It was a little up between the mountains and then dooooown. And it was butterfly road! Everywhere where butterflies, we had to avoid the tens of butterflies were coming at us, because sometimes they end up between the wheels. But it was a great experience to cycle down greeted by So many butterflies.

First hill station Yercaud

We headed a sideway for Yercaud and did not take the main road. Therefore we were waiting some hours at the hottest point of the day under a tree next to the road. There was almost no traffic and the trucks that did pass did not really stop. Just when we decided after quite a few hours that we would try another road we tried one  last truck and Yesss they could take us! The truck was filled with sand, but our bicycles where just lifted on it. We sat with 7 man in the front of the truck. Hindu music on maximum volume and the son of the truck owner was learning how to drive the mountains with this heavy vehicle. He did a great job. It slowly became cooler and cooler, greener and greener, everywhere pepper and coffee plantations and then suddenly we were there! In the center of Yercaud!

We had a little stroll around and decided to have a look if we could camp nearby the waterfalls. On our way we went into a little road and saw some bungalows that were still in construction. A great place to pitch our tent. We had a wonderful cool night with cows as our neighbors and a mountain view. We had a very easy morning and at around ten o’clock we got greeted by the construction workers. But we had a pretty amazing silent morning.

Next day we warmed ourselves up with some tea and Chris just tried a last minute couchsurf request. It was accepted and two hours later we met Vijay that could host us! Also he had a guesthouse where we could sleep for free in the dormitory. We stayed for three night at this amazing place. We cycled around Yercaud, but also just really enjoyed to have a base, make tea and enjoy the fresh air. Vijay was a great host giving us all kind of tips. Yercaud is a hill station, the British colonizers loved to escape the heat. On the hill stations many Christians are living and there are many Christian schools. But also moslims and Hindu’s peacefully live together. At 5 o’clock in the morning you here the imam. Followed five minutes later by the bells of the church and then half an hour later music from the Hindu temple comes. It’s a nice mix.

Wonderful Vincent and Maria

After three wonderful cool nights we drove our way down to Salem. The road down was wonderful, we saw many monkeys on our way. It slowly became hot again and just when we reached the ground level, we found a bike shop for Chris his bike. For two hours the guy worked on the bike and here we met a super friendly Indian guy that took us out for a most delicious cheap dosa and introduced us to the Art of Living, a spiritual movement started by Sri Ravi in Bengalore and which is now spread throughout the world. They are also active in the UN.

The bike got as usually more messed up than before, so we decided to go to a bike shop that we found on the map. We had to take a busy city ride, we were cranky and tired because of the problem. We arrived at the shop and we were taken to the works area down the streets. Here turned out to be skilful repair guys that were working on thousand bikes. They fixed Chris his bike temporarily, because the frame of the back wheel needed to be changed and the little chain wheel had to be replaced but unfortunately they did not had time for this and they would go back to Bengalore next day. But we were lucky enough they the bike was rideable again. And there was more luck for us in the cards. We met Vincent.

Vincent is a 73 year retired man that lives with his daughter Maria. He lost two wifes in his life. He is a catholic and preaches on schools. He speaks perfect English, is a real gentleman. When we met, he just started to talk about love. Unconditional love, love for everybody. Of course in relationship to Christianity but it was nice to hear such positive messages. He welcomed us in his house, said we could stay a month if we wanted to. We instead stayed two wonderful nights. His daughter Maria works full time in a school, but is the greatest cook. She made such amazing food for us. We could borrow Vincent scooter and drive Indian roads by motorbike! Vincent likes to chat and we had many valuable exchanges. In the end they gave us a thermos flask, a book, lots of tea and food for on our journey. The thermos flask we are so grateful for, using it almost every day for some nice tea on the way 🙂 Thank you amazing Vincent and Maria.

It was hard to leave the warm nest in Salem, but we also wanted to go to the cool mountains of Kodaikanal. After two nights we hit the road again. It was a hit day, we still had more than 100 kilometers to go to Kodaikanal, the surroundings were dry so we decided to hitch hike. We got two hikes and cycled some more in the late afternoon.

It was getting late, we were getting tired and were looking for a campinspot. However there were regularly some houses. In the end we just dived into a coconut plantation. We met a family that was working and living on the farm. They would not stop following us, see how we built the tent, how we red a book etc etc. The man did brought us coconuts. And just when we thought we could relax and have some alone time, the property owner came rushing in with his car. He did not even said hello, but he just demanded we would camp at a different spot in the front under the mango tree. “It’s not safe” was his argument. Chris was really not up for this, because that meant close to the street, close to the family and we now just had a peaceful place in the back. Chris said he was not going to move and that it was safe here. So we stayed and had a wonderful night. In the morning a little shower under the enormous flow of water irrigation and we hit the road. Kodaikanal here we come!

52 kilometers up to Kodaikanal

We cycled two, three morning hours and ended up a the foot of the mountain region. We decided to hitch hike. In order to experience different places in India and not delay too much, hiking up the hill stations is a perfect way to travel. The first lorri stopped. It was totally packed, but it again just lifted our bikes on top and made a good construction with a robe. Sara could sit in the front and Chris sat on the roof. It was really funny to see all the reactions of the people on the streets that saw Chris sitting on the roof. It was 52 kilometers up and in the end he became really cold.

We were dropped at the lake of Kodaikanal, and we were excited to feel the cold fresh air again. We thought couchsurfing would definitely work, because there were so many hosts. But unfortunately they were all not there, so after cycling a bit we found a really nice chill spot at the lake and just a few meters above us there was the perfect camping spot in the center of Kodaikanal with lake view and a cheeky cow that ate our trash bag.

Bodhi Zen

Next day we dropped by the forest department to see if we could take a short cut through the mountains to Munnar. In India you need often permission for certain forest area’s. Unfortunately we were not given support, the once highest road in South India was closed in the 1990s. That meant we had to cycle back and make the double amount of kilometers. On our way back, just 11 kilometers down the road was our next stop, Bodhi Zen, a meditation center. We heard about it from our host Radhika in Auroville and although you had to pay for accommodation we decided to have a look and see if we could volunteer instead of paying. We cycled up a beautiful area with coffee and pepper plantations in quiet hills.

Once up, we were greeted by the administration guy. He tried to ask if we could stay for free, but unfortunately this was not possible. We had a look around and just saw this beautiful oasis of peace and quietness that we decided to stay for two nights, 500 rupees (7 euro) per person for accommodation, meditation facilities and three delicious meals a day. The land once owned by Jesuits gave it to the meditation teacher. Therefore the prices can be so low.

It was the best decision we could have made. We had three amazing days, meeting amazing people and learning about Zen meditation. In the center you had silent and talk hours, communal activities, a library with a wide ranch of books. We met Maggie, George and  three people from Colorado that lived in the woods and now traveled from ashram to ashram in India. The amazing English Andy that spend months with a Thai monk and many more beautiful figures that shared a bit of their life story.

Drunken neighbor

After three beautiful days, our hearts filled with love, we said goodbye and left in the late afternoon for our next state Kerala! We cycled twenty kilometers down, it started to get dark so when we saw a big rock with grass we decided to pitch our tent. There were two houses, the lady of the house looked skeptic but after some minutes she was fine with us camping. When we ate our delicious sandwiches with peanut butter from Bodhi Zen, the drunken neighbor came up walking the hill with a big flash light. He became the challenge of the night.

He kept saying confusing stuff that we could not camp on the perfect spot we found and in the end he wanted us to go in his house, filled with ants. We passed and tried to make him clear that we were fine and were going to sleep. But in his drunken mood he could not leave us alone, shining with the light in our tent. Sara became pissed and tried to make him clear that we just wanted to sleep and not go in his house. He came back with his cute labrador to scare us, but the dog was more scared for us and especially for its boss. He tried to take one of our bags just to make us come. Chris took the bag back and in the end he left us alone. We woke up early and got our way out of there. Although it was one of the most beautiful spots.

Next day, we had a good long cycling day. After 40 kilometers down with monkeys on our way, we were back at the hot ground level again. The road was beautiful though, cycling around a mountain range. We ended up at a coconut plantation, but now nobody was here. It was an amazing spot. We hid a bit in the bushes, a few people saw us but did not bother. In the evening a forest fire broke out. It was like watching the tv, big flames were destroying the forest on the hill in front of us. We heard no helicopters or fire fighters trucks. The next morning the fire was over.

Bye Tamil Nadu, Hello Kerala!

We were waiting at the foot of the hill for a hike with a book. After two hours we still got no ride. But eventually after three hours yes, a jeep loaded us and our bikes and drove the steep hills of Munnar. We looked down on beautiful Tamil Nadu that had hosted us wonderfully the last 1,5 months. It was time for a new state: Kerala!

We got a ride up the first hill, we cycled in between and hiked up the second hill. It became coooold and it was wonderful 🙂 We had arranged couchsurfing in another guesthouse. It was amazing. In late afternoon we arrived in the village Devikulam, just before Munnar at Pavithram guesthouse. We were welcomed by the brother of the couchsurfing host, who could speak little English and he was so nice. The brother’s run the guesthouse. We could stay there three nights. And it was an awesome time. We needed a big warm blanket in contradiction to our camping nights, we had a warm showers, our clothes had difficulties to dry and we drank lots of tea. We hiked a bit around the beautiful tea plantations and chilled at the amazing guesthouse.

After three nights we left this cute little village, had a little break at Munnar and drove our way down to Kochi, a coastal metropolis. The way down was beautiful and hot. We drove our way down out of the mountains and the hot climate was getting to us. In the end of the day we found a nice shelter, an abandoned concrete house next to a river at the end of a village. We set up our tent, had a food break, a little wash in the river. It became dark and suddenly we got company by a guy on a motorbike that told us fifteen man would come in hour to the clubhouse. Of course, we camped at the local clubhouse. So we packed our tent and drove in our pajamas’s into the dark streets. We found a nearby cathedral with lots of ground, but the security guy did not let us camp there. It was a problem to let two tired travelers pitch there tent in a corner of the huge amount of space. Sigh.

So we drove a little further on the busy road with houses everywhere. We saw a huge villa with an even bigger garden. We ranged the bell, explained our situation to wife of the house and the grandpa. With puppy eyes we asked them if we could camp in their garden. The grandpa had to decide, and he gave permission joehoe! We have the webadress of our blog, so they could see who where camping in their garden. Next morning we could have a more proper conversation, the man of the household had also arrived We were invited for a delicious breakfast and continued the beautiful road to Kochi.

Racing with bike problems to Kochi

Next day we had a full cycling day and gave some extra speed to arrive in Kochi. Sara got bicycle problems on her way and could only cycle in one gear. So at 5 o’ clock we arrived in the center of Kochi hopping from bicycle shop to bicycle shop. One could fix here gear, one cassette was just broken into half, so it was a wonder how she could have cycled so far. For just 5 euro she got her brake cables replaced and a new cassette. Unfortunately, some problems remained with switching the gears.

We were tired and via a girl we met at Vipassana in Tiruvannamalai we got a contact of a friend of hers in Kochi. It was still 20 kilometers to cycle and it was getting dark. We saw little of Kochi’s old town, but that was already so charming. Everywhere old colonial French, Dutch, British houses, major Chinese fishing nets. It was one of the major spice trade centers in the 15th century and its cultural heritage is big. It has seven synagogues with one still in use. However it was a quick glance in this special city. We hopped on the ferry, Sara was feeling as if she was in Amsterdam again and we cycled in the early evening hours to our next destination: the house of Manoj.

From friend, to friend, to friend, to friend. Welcome to India

Manoj was very welcoming, we arrived at a house in a beautiful green oasis in busy Kochi. Everywhere palm trees, a big water pool and many plants. The family grows their own organic fruit. They are all very conscious about what they eat and don’t trust the products in the supermarket. According to many people in India, they put all kinds of rubbish in bread, milk, etc. which they do not address on the package. So a lot of people are careful of what they buy in the markets. We had two wonderful days at the family. Manoj brother lived in the States but was now for two weeks back home and he was nice company. We were invited for amazing food and for the first time we had some fresh jack fruit. This was soooo amazing. Manoj followed a mono fruit diet, so he advised us not to mix it with other food.

Camping at Kerala’s coast is a be-ach

After Kochi we cycled more than 100 kilometers up to our next destination, another friend, now of Manoj: Bridju. But not before we had our crazy beach experience. The roads along the coast where nice at the beginning, quiet, and everywhere villa’s. We had some nice beach breaks driving through the back gardens of village people to end up at a beautiful beach spot where we chilled for some hours.

However the beach road became more and more populated. Kerala is the most populated state in India and you notice. We took the “little” coast road, which made us feel we were part of Tour de France. Not because of the presence of other cyclists but because there where just only cheering crowds every second on the way. We drove from village to village and everybody was so surprised to see, you would here screams from groups of boys, giggling girls, people on motorbikes driving next to you. For some time it’s fun. But the fun stops quite soon. Especially at the end of the day when you just want to find a camping spot at the beautiful beach sight, but there is no because Everywhere are yelling people. So we had some challenges here.

The first night was actually pretty great still. We were visited by a little girl that spoke English and her friend that had a lot of questions. The rest of the people kept their distance. We camouflaged our tent on the crowded but beautiful beach with palm leaves, and even though it was raining the hole we placed our tent in, kept us dry. Our tent is not waterproof anymore, which does not come in so handy at the monsoon season.

Second night became way more challenging. We cycled a long day in the heat, we were tired, it was getting dark and an empty space at the beach was impossible. Everywhere people. A group of hysteric ten boys was chasing us down to make a selfie, when we refused they got a bit unfriendly. When we finally after driving our bikes on the beach for a while, thought we had found a quiet spot, a guy came out of the bushes to make some advances on Sara and to ask for dollars. So we moved again. Then we found a place in the bushes, although still surrounded by houses. When Chris wanted to cool off in the sea, Sara got multiple panic attacks, because she still saw some people walking there and she knew they would not leave Chris alone and follow him to the tent. This is one of those critical moments that you totally disagree with each other and its hard to understand each other. Sara even sacrificed her drinking water, that was a sign for Chris to extend his shower to the morning.

Bridju and his amazing family

Next morning we were surrounded by villagers but that doesn’t matter then anymore, because you had a good night of sleep. In the morning we got surrounded by excited village kids and we continued our way to Bridju the crazy populatd coastal road again. We had an amazing break at a resort where we got hide from the madness. Just one kilometer before we arrived at Bridju Sara’s chain broke, what a luck. We were welcomed by one of the sweetest families.

Bridju helped us out a lot. The zipper of our tent got broken and in this mosquito area that was not very welcoming, he found us a skilled guy in the center of Kozhikode that fixed it for a dime. And he brought us to a bicycle shop, where finally Chris his bike got fixed by professionals. We were very welcomed by the family, the wives, the two cute little kids running and jumping around and the older kids. The grandma was special, it was like having a second Indian mother. Stuffing us with the most delicious food and the cosy evening sound when she sang her prayers. We had one music night where Chris played guitar and made the little girls dance. After three nights we said goodbye to this amazing family. They stuffed our bike bags Full with food and Bridju even drove us up to the mountains of Wayanad in his jeep. On our way we got robbed by monkeys. We left the car unattended for a few minutes and they had found the branch of banana’s. One monkeys had two in his mouth, one in his hand and two under his feet. They must love banana’s.

Jungle Wayanad and introduced in Indian news

Our previous host Manoj insisted that we should visit mr. Suneesh at Wayanad. He could show us a NGO Uravu that makes everything with bamboo and creates sustainable employment and income generations in rural areas.  Sumeesh gave us a tour in the many departments and projects. We saw the beautiful bamboo cottages, beds, chairs, tables everything is made out of bamboo. They also have a lot merchandise likes bags, wallets, pens, lamps and so on. Very tempting to buy as a present. Mr. Suneesh is a journalist who wanted to write a story about our travel to spread in the local newspaper. We camped on his roof and he made amazing food. He is a really good chef and his stepmother is really sweet. The environment is amazing. Wayanad is in the mountains, its cool and looks like a jungle. Everywhere there are beautiful flowers, foresty hills, areca nut trees, palm trees, lakes and I could continue forever. Only the big towns in Wayanad are crowded with traffic and better to avoid.

During the days we cycled in the wonderful environment of Wayanad. And were followed by Suneesh who was getting in the middle of nowhere out of a tuc tuc to make pictures of us. We enjoyed the amazing food together and we had the chance to relax and use the internet. Mr. Suneesh wanted to introduce to many people. We met Mohammed the organizer of a bicycle event. They were trying to enthusiast children into cycling. They would get guided by one of the famous trainers. We decided to stay for this event.

We had to cycle twenty kilometers to the bicycle event with some heavy rain here and there. The event was funny. It was mostly standing with the kids and our bicycles in front of the many camera’s. There was a lot of speaking in Meliyalam and after and hours or so we could cycle five minutes down the hill with the children and up again. Some kids got instruction of the trainer. We instead enjoyed the cable slide with Mohammed’s kids. His little one was so light, he needed some help to come to the end station. We got interviewed by some journalists for the local newspapers and we had to ride our bicycles for the local news channel.

Resort times

At the event we were invited by the manager Subramanian of eco-resort Wayanad Life to stay at the resort. Our first reaction was that we already had a host in the capital of Wayanad and had to go there. The resort was also 15 kilometers out of direction, so with the rain we were not too excited. When we called our host he was not prepared for our stay, so our plans changed and we made one of the best decisions in our lives ;p: going to the resort. The moment we cycled up hill Wayanad turned quiet. We were out of the busy hectic traffic and there was just greenery around us. We had just two amazing days. We were welcomed with crowns made of leaves. We were dirty, wet and it felt so funny to be suddenly in such a luxurious environment. We were invited for a late lunch. The restaurant was so fancy, amazing service and the fooood: wauw. Best food ever. We gave our personal compliments to the chef. That was possible, because he came to our table. We went to our room to take a rest have a shower and celebrate our happiness as you see on the pictures below.

The two days were filled with chillness, easyness and luxury. Subramanian told us about the concept of the resort. It is a resort that tries to bother nature as least as possible. They use local materials, hire local people to empower the local community and use organic foods. They have their own farm at Kerala coast. But this resort gets the food at the local people in the town. They do not use plastics and they embrace nature by taking care of it and by being in the middle of the forest. They offer tours where young specialist take the guest for spotting birds or snakes. We did the bird tour which was great, although we got attacked by leeches that even with leech socks managed to croll on our neck, belly, or legs. But no bite 🙂

Our last evening we held a presentation for the guests in the resort about our travels. Which was fun to do. When they heard we play a little guitar they arranged one, so we could entertain.  Here we met Krutti and her husband from Mumbai that gave us an address in Bangalore of Upasna, a girl that cycled 600 kilometer on her own.

After two wonderful nights we left the resort and we were back in traveling life again. We contacted a warmshower host on the way who gave us the address of his parents, in a new state Karnataka! During our lunch the local people recognized us from the reports in the newspapers. We had the article in front of us. We cycled our way from Kerala to Karnataka through the beautiful forest where we got warned by tiger signs. However we only saw lots of beautiful deers, birds, squirrels and so on.

To read our next adventures in the new states Karnataka and Goa click here.

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