CYCLING THROUGH SOUTH INDIA, Part 4: Cruising the Backwaters in Kerala, Guest Post by Gretchen Woelfle



A 60km morning ride from Kochi was interrupted by another sumptuous lunch served by the sea, at the home of a chef who owned a restaurant in a nearby town. When we finally arrived at our resort on a lake, we spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool. I really appreciated the  hours we had to relax or explore each afternoon (after daily washing our cycling clothes in the bathroom sink). 
The following morning one friend and I walked to the local village temple where a ten-day festival was in progress. There were just a few people making offerings at temples, and a group of women were chanting non-stop. A man offered to show us around the complex. He was a local, but now lived in Mumbai and worked as a Bollywood cinematographer. Like many of us, he returned home for the holidays. 
At midday we boarded our three houseboats (converted rice barges). All afternoon we cruised, at first along a wide waterway passing many sorts of boats, then along a narrow canal, passing rice paddies and small homes hugging the shore. 
A brief tropical rainstorm blew over us, then was gone. At sunset we moored the boats together and went for a walk on the canal side path.  We watched a fisherman take off for night fishing, casting his net from a small boat. We chatted with a family living by the water. 
We returned to the boats for happy hour and another sumptuous dinner as night fell on this beautiful tropical landscape.

In the morning we set off on our last and longest cycling day – 90 km (55 miles). It was flat and mostly shady and never far from the ocean breeze. 
Final destination: Varkala a popular tourist destination with a sweeping beach, vast silk emporium, a tailor who made us some tunics overnight, many small shops to spend our last rupees, and cliff-top restaurants to reminisce over the last two weeks. Varkala is full of yoga schools and Ayurveda clinics for the tourists. And so we had an Ayurvedic massage which involved generous amounts of oil and delectable body work. A just reward for all those miles on the bike. 
Cycling distances varied from 12-55 miles/day, averaging about 30 miles/day. Road conditions good, most rides on quiet back roads. Van support was always available for those who chose not to cycle. See www.exodustravels.com for more information on this and other tours.

Selected bibliography:
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. This 1997 Booker-prizewinning novel takes place in Kerala.
The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India’s Young by Somini Sengupta. A New York Times reporter, born in India and raised in the U.S., spent several years researching this 2016 book about India today.
Kim by Rudyard Kipling. Story of a street orphan and Tibetan lama in 1890s India: a spy thriller, social commentary, and poignant coming of age story. 

Note: Go to Gretchen's posts on this blog on 4/17/2017 and 4/24/2017 for parts 1 and 2 of her South India cycling trip and 5/15/2017 for part 3.



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