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A ride to remember

Every bend in the road throws up a fresh perspective in Kerala.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2010 01:26 IST
Nitin Chaudhary

At a random moment somewhere between Munnar and Thekkady, I took my helmet off and let the cool mountain wind run through my hair. The bike pulsated on the inviting road ahead. I responded giving the throttle a mild twist.

Day 1: Fort Cochin — where it all started We arrived at Fort Cochin to find a bike on rent. We found a bike and a comfortable home stay to pass the night. That evening, we ate at one of the beachside shacks.

Day 2: Fort Cochin to Munnar Our first destination was the mountain town of Munnar, home to tea gardens. Unfortunately, an unwelcomed cold shower followed us too. Riding away from the rain, we made it to the tea museum just in time to catch up with the guide. Here, we learnt that our morning tea was an oxidised form of green tea and is empty of antioxidants.

As we stood amidst the tea gardens overlooking the Munnar River, we realised that the Neelakurinji flower, known to bloom once in 12 years, was quietly sleeping around us in these very hills. Unfortunately, this was not the chosen year.

Day 3: Munnar to Thekkady Driving through the Western Ghats, we headed to Thekkady, a small town leading to the Periyar wildlife sanctuary. We were tempted to stop at a spice garden to sample some authentic local food, but we were short on time. We rode into the town of Thekkady just as the sun was beginning to set, and headed to a famous tourist stay.

We walked into a dimly lit restaurant that led to an open spice garden overlooking the Periyar wildlife sanctuary. Tree houses flank the two corners of the restaurant with more rooms inside the building. Later, we rode to the lake inside the wildlife sanctuary.

Next morning, we readied ourselves to say goodbye to the Ghats and proceed on the next leg of the journey. Kerala was turning out to be a biker’s paradise. With its varied topography, each bend in the road was giving us a fresh, unanticipated perspective.

Day 4: Thekkady to Varkala Varkala was a good 200 km from Thekkady. The tree cover shrank and the sun was unkind.

At first, you may not notice the lively party scene on the cliff. It is only when you enter from either ends of the kilometre-long cliff that you’d come face to face with the small hippie village that rests on this cliff and overlooks the Arabian Sea. When you turn around and face the inky darkness — which is the sea — you’ll notice thousands of lights twinkling in the horizon. These are the fishing boats looking for the next day’s catch. Some exotic varieties of fish are displayed outside the many restaurants that line the sidewalks of the street.

Day 5, 6 and 7: Varkala Our stay in Varkala lasted three days. We relaxed over long breakfasts; had leisurely Ayurvedic oil massages; tried out the local dishes and eventually, ran out of money.

Day 8: Varkala to Alleppey On our last day, we were back on our bikes early in the morning for Fort Cochin. But we decided to stop over at Alleppey for a short tour of the backwaters.

Day 8: End of journey at Fort Cochin Fort Cochin looked like a combat zone — zombies stalked the roads and coloured flags covered the sky. No, it wasn’t any disaster — we were witnessing the remnants of the carnival. There were funny, painted faces, mostly drunk, still clinging to the carnival spirit. We returned the bike and walked back to the road to catch the last of the scenes.

Getting There
All major national carriers fly to Trivandrum and Cochin airports. Kerala also has an excellent road network. Three national highways pass through the state, and the roads are exceptionally good.

Biking in Kerala
You can rent a bike from all major tourist destinations. Most hotels also arrange for bikes or at least direct you to the right dealer.

The roads in Kerala are well-laid and potholes are uncommon. Traffic is very minimal so you can actually enjoy riding your bike.

Distance Calculator
Biking can be exhausting if you pack in too much into a single day. We planned our trip carefully, so that we didn’t have to cover more than 200 km in a single day, except on one occassion.

Cochin to Munnar: 135 km
Munnar to Thekkady: 106 km
Thekkady to Varkala: 210 km
Varkala to Alleppey: 137 km
Alleppey to Cochin: 85 km