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Old 12th April 2011, 14:51   #1
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Default Vesta Motorcycle Tours and Travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal



Trip log to follow...slow and steady!
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Old 12th May 2011, 20:55   #2
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Default Re: Vesta tours and travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal Couple t

Mimicking the phoenix – Rebooting hanged life

“What the …?”

It was January 2011, and hardly a day went without me exclaiming these words with varying adverbs. It was about a year from Rajasthan ride, and seemed it was the last best thing that could happen to me. Every damn thing, every little question, had its own laugh afterwards when it headed my way.

Returning from Rajasthan, I was on cloud nine. Our first interstate tour on bike! And to top it all, came the xbhp.com’s best travelogue prize. Nothing could get me down. Or so I thought. The next stop was a no brainer guess. A Leh Ladakh trip, the Mecca, the Kashi of bikers. We planned so meticulously for it; it was unbelievable even for us. For trip in August, the flight tickets were booked in March. We had worked out every little detail, where would we stay, what places to see, what to shop, what to do in emergency… it seemed we covered everything that was there about the Leh ride. Then fate thought otherwise.

In June - July started the Srinagar riots. As the days passed, the news got worse and worse, and with more bloodshed and increasing ‘situation’, the plan seemed bleak. Still we kept our heart, and planned another way to Leh. It required a lot of tinkering and rescheduling of bookings, but hey, anything for the trip. Instead of directly landing in Srinagar and taking our bikes from cargo, we would now land in Jammu, and continue to our destination. It gave us a little chance of dodging the risky areas.

On 6 August, 2010, news hit us: Flash floods in Leh. There was a massive flash flood in Leh, when a cloud was burst right near the town, and washed up everything. It seemed to decide the fate of the trip. Our departure was on 28th August. We waited till 25th, to see whether the situation improves, whether there was still hope. It was terribly insensitive to hope for the roads cleared up before the lives were settled, but we hoped anyways. It was lost. And on 26th August, with extremely heavy heart, I cancelled every flight, train ticket that was for this journey. Leh was not happening anytime soon for us.

As if on cue, everything started getting down the drain from that moment on. Be it at work or at life, the road blocks jumped on track to halt us. Everything that was so damn easy, was suddenly so difficult, that each of those events was sucking us dry. And there was no time for a breather as well. We stole a few weekends over the months for a short run away trip, but a long solitude was nowhere to be made possible, seeing the mountain-loads of work approaching us. Both of us got busy in chase of our careers, and pursuing our passion was a forgotten dream.

Then came our republic day, 26th Jan 2011. We hurriedly planned a trip for 4-5 days taking the benefit of the leave, just to get away from it all, anywhere really. But at the last moment, again Nandinee’s work pressure popped its lid, and it had to be cancelled. That was the tipping point. I couldn’t take it anymore. Work pressure doesn’t bother me, but I require a little success - a little assurance that things are in control - once a while to make way to final goal. Here it seemed every planned thing went to smithereens. Once bitten by the biking bug, one can’t hold the itch much longer. Something had to give. This tireless running had to be paused somewhere for letting us water our passion, lest it die.

And suddenly came the thought of Kerala tour, out of the blue. It was definitely not on the radar of either of us; neither had we known the road conditions there. But sheer frustration of getting tied down by work lead us to book tickets for Kerala trip, without even knowing how many days it required, or the places to see once we were there. Just out of the blue, I booked to and fro tickets from Pune to Ernakulam, having return tickets of 2 different days.

After booking the tickets, we started searching for Kerala itineraries! This is a classic case of ‘pahle naal - baadme ghoda’! Here, a special thanks to Aargee of xbhp.com, as he almost single handedly and untiringly plotted the itinerary as per our requirement. Without his help, an itinerary taking biker’s point of view couldn’t be possible.

After months’ of discussion, this was the itinerary we finalized upon:

Day 1 - Ernakulam – Vembanattu Kayal and backwaters - Alapuzha
Day 2 -Alapuzha - Kollam - Kanyakumari
Day 3 - Kanyakumari - Trivendrum - Veli - Shangumugham beach
Day 4 - Pazhavangadi Ganapathy - Padmabhaswamy temple - Varkala - Trivendrum - Kumarakom
Day 5 - Kumarakom house boat
Day 6 - Kumarakom - Vagamon - Thekkady
Day 7 - Thekkady Sight seeing
Day 8 - Thekkady - Kodaikanal
Day 9 - Kodaikanal Sight seeing
Day 10 - Kodaikanal - Munnar
Day 11 - Munnar Sight seeing
Day 12 - Munnar - Thodupuzha - Emmanuvel silks - Muvattupuzha - Kalady - Chalakudy
Day 13 - Chalakudi - Athirapalli falls - Nelliampathi
Day 14 - Nelliampathi - Ernakulam
Day 15 - Ernakulam sight seeing
Day 16 - Catch morning train to Pune

The phoenix bird flies grandly, and finally burns down to ashes. Then from the ashes, it glides again. Here we were being pushed around and feeling burnt down by unrelenting responsibilities. When we open too many softwares on our PC, it gets slow and dumb. We were facing the similar condition in life, and hoped that the same solution that we use for our PC would work for us: Reboot!

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Old 14th May 2011, 22:44   #3
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Escaping chaos

While on Rajasthan tour, I had played it safe and booked hotels for each and every stop beforehand. While this greatly helped in avoiding anxiety of finding hotels after a long ride, it put pressure on us to reach the destination no matter what. We once road 470kms a day to reach Udaipur because our hotel was already booked and paid for. Had it not been the case, we would have definitely stayed much earlier, and continued the journey on next day. Learning from this lesson, we didn’t book any hotels on this trip. Not only because this was off season, as all parents were busy preparing for their kids’ final exams, but also we had own transport and could hunt for hotels easily, should the need arise. And this strategy greatly helped us maintain flexibility on the itinerary. Thus booking the hotels was not on the list. But the other things that needed attention were not getting either.

There was no free weekend for us to tidy up things, or to dedicatedly work towards the planning of trip. We had to steal little time each day towards the trip. The days turned into minutes, and went by at full speed. Each night we would say to each other:

‘We should pack soon…’

‘We should be packed by this weekend.’

‘Let’s start at least putting stuff together.’

‘Hell, can we just buy clothes there and throw them away after use?’
‘No.’

While our petty packing was taking its own sweet time, another drama was setting up nicely, and popped up bang in front of us, knocking us cold. On this trip, the big things were playing nicely, and never troubled us. But the small tiny things were in full swing, and each fought nicely and gave us black eye. For example, license, RC book and PUC. Three extremely small things in terms size, and at the same time the most important documents for an interstate motorcycle ride. (Insurance document is another, but it was found easily.)

Just a week prior to the ride, we both cleared our car driving test. The RTO took both of our licenses for appending them for car driving. A day before our train would leave, suddenly a question hit us: I don’t have any identity card anymore. Pan card was missing, License was with RTO. What if a policeman stops and asks for ID? What if the bike is picked up from some No Parking zone in Kerala, and we need at least one of our licenses?! Damn it!

Now, my residential address in Mumbai, and currently we are in Pune. The license was at RTO Mumbai. To add twist to the tale, mine being an old license, it was taking time to prepare and only Nandinee’s license was ready. But something was better that bilkul nothing. After a huge deal of arranging and indefinite number of calls, the license was delivered to Pune by our very own state transport driver, and we rode using Nandinee’s license only!

Next came the RC book. For transporting your bike using Railways, RC book is utmost important. As expected, it chose to hide from us right till the last day. And it being so tiny, finding it in a house full of random stuff is a job perfect for someone testing the limits of their patience. I severely failed in my patience test, and ended up in upending (hey… nice rhyme!) the house. After bearing enough of my drama, Nandinee finally couldn’t take it anymore, and threw me out to search in my office drawers. There it was, that tiny white *******, hidden deep in some random envelop. That was a major bummer of that day.

Lastly, the PUC certificate. I could bet my tiny savings so far, that I made one hardly a week ago. But that yellow chit refused to come out of its hiding spot. But unlike RC book, it could have alternatives, and I had to make a new one just before submitting the bike to Railways, to avoid any trouble in Kerala. After returning, of course, the old one popped itself out on the desk. Damn these little things bugged us to death.

Our train was on Saturday, leaving at 11.10 PM. We submitted our bike to Pune station luggage office at about 8.30 PM. In Mumbai, there is an unbelievable & unbearable nexus of agents that you have to fight through. Here the job is done by Railway Babus themselves! Rs.300 over and above the bike’s ticket covers the packing and booking of the bike without any hassles. What about loading it in train? – hey, that costs extra!

At 11.00 PM, we were in a Rickshaw cheering up the driver to ride faster, keeping an eye on the watch that suddenly seemed running twice at fast, carrying a number of bags that seemed unearthly for only two persons. The jackets and knee-guards and helmets, while necessary on bike, took a great amount of space when not worn. Until we actually put everything on the bike to start the tour, I couldn’t believe we could carry all this stuff and ride too!

At 11.10 PM, luggage thrown on our seats in the train, my heart beating in its upper range - having to run the length of the platform and back to check the proper loading of bike, and wide smiles on our faces, we left Pune. Riding or no riding, it was the longest tour we have ever taken. Next 15 days were ours. No calls to take, no assignments to complete, no deadlines to meet, just me, Nandinee and Vesta.

Last edited by ani_meher : 14th May 2011 at 22:49.
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Old 16th May 2011, 12:34   #4
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Default Re: Vesta tours and travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal Couple t

Vanakkam



The train journey was uneventful, as most of my memories consist of sleeping only. The train was kept very clean, with periodic cleaning and spraying of air freshener. After many days, we were left to ourselves, as most of the times the mobile was out of range. I can definitely recommend this train for Pune persons going to Kerala as a good way to travel.

We arrived at Ernakulam Junction at 4.20 AM. Here I faced our main problem that would trouble us for our entire stay in Kerala – language barrier. Kerala is the state with highest literacy rate, however Malyalam language rules here. Especially among the lower service class, communicating in any other language is quite difficult. One has to resort to dumb charades and at sometimes even to paper and pen to draw up objects.

The porters at the station rolled my bike towards the exit and parked it there. I waited a while, and seeing that no further action was being taken, merrily rolled the bike outside of the station by myself. Suddenly a mob of porters came running after me and started hurling some unrecognizable sentences. Finally someone remembered some common words, and communicated that I need to take a signature of police there before taking out the bike, otherwise it would be as if I stole it! Again I rolled the 150 KG Vesta back to station, and huffing and puffing, started looking for that police constable. He proved to be more elusive than God almighty himself. The language barrier was not helping either. Nothing to do there except to sit and wait for the police maharaj. A wild idea popped up, that maybe I should throw a stone at some window, that will get some attention and attendance of the police, but fortunately, sanity prevailed. Later, we found out that one of the senior policemen was leaving by an early morning train, and most of the police force at the station was gone to see him off! I hoped it was a teary good bye, because sure as hell it took its own sweet time. Finally, at 6.30 AM, that police arrived and signed the sacred receipt, and blessed me towards my journey!



The stop of the day was Alapuzha, AKA Aleppy. It is about 55-60 kms from Ernakulam, hardly a 1-1.5 hours ride. That too, we rode at early morning, and thus the roads were empty. The first impression of Kerala was ‘green’. For Rajasthan, that impression was ‘yellow’, yellow golden sands, yellowish white clothes, stone structures, Rajasthan was draped in shades of grand Yellow. Here, green colour was sneaking in every scene, everywhere you look. And this observation was repeated many times in the journey.



At least in the early morning ride, I liked Ernakulam. Beautiful lake face buildings, nice marked roads, a proper city that is not yet as out of its natural touch as Pune – Mumbai. We reached Aleppy soon, and after a brief search, found a reasonable hotel to park ourselves.

Aleppy is a town that is mainly built around two canals. It is very famous for backwater boating. Aleppy is a major port for tourist backwater rides as well as local ferries. When they say Kerala is a tourist state, they actually mean that the state government will milk the tourist to the last drop. Almost for every ride, we found that private operators offered same services at much better prices than government rides, and local shops sold the same stuff as the government shops at 50% discount, if not more. However, the tourist information centers everywhere are quite helpful. We found the hotel by ourselves, but later felt that consulting the Tourist Information Center first before finalizing our hotel would have helped us.

After checking in a ‘Om Shanti Lodge’, we started out to roam the town. Aleppy is a small town really, and with a bike, one can cover it very quickly. There was a saw mill – a wood cutting company operating nearby. The woods sure made some interesting photo sights. I would have loved to understand the process a little better, but language barrier made sure this didn’t happen.



We headed to the tourist center after having a not so good breakfast. We wanted to book some boat ride, and also get some information about the town’s tourist points. There are various back water rides of boats that one can take. There are mainly two types, short ones covering a quick visit to Vembenad lake, and long full day ones taking you from Aleppy to somewhere else. But here too, ‘tourist’ is a losing word. Consider this: Aleppy to Kottayam tourist boat takes full day, includes a meal on board, and costs Rs.800 per person. Same route, local boat takes 2 hours, apparently goes through more beautiful way and costs Rs.24.

We booked a short duration boat, called ‘sunset ride’. It cost us some Rs.300 p.p. A 4 hour boat ride that would ride through scenic backwater, giving you glimpse of the life of people living in nearby villages. Or so they say. But more on that later.

A note for groups: Private boats ferry the same route for 300rs per hour for maximum 5 people. If it is a machine boat, then prefer that option over the government boat one, as it is more compact, perhaps faster, and you will have privacy of your group. Select a boat with a cover for your head; otherwise you will turn up all roasted up in the sun at the end of the ride.

We got ourselves a nice map of Aleppy, and headed to Beach View point. It was unbelievably hot already, and only a nut head can go to beach at that time, that too on motorcycle. We being the ones complied. The small roads twist and turn sharply around canals, and sooner than you know, you are riding besides the sea. Even though it is hot, it sure made a good spot for a quick photo shoot.





There was this View point specially developed by the local authority. It looks outstanding, especially from the point where you get down the gate of the location.



But all is not well, and this is the same canal shot while standing on a bridge on opposite side of the view point.



While roaming around, we noticed there are many coir shops around. We ventured into one really shabby looking one. Turned out it was a front end to a much posh factory. Unluckily, they didn’t have the shipping option to Mumbai or Pune. There could be other companies that may ship to other cities, but we didn’t check. This is one thing that we pushed on to later, and much to our chagrin didn’t find similar shops anywhere else. The prices were good, and anyone going to Aleppy/Ernakulam can have coir product shopping on their list. Only be wary of government shops, they are there to fleece you.

We searched for a good hotel for a while, and settled for an appearance wise acceptable one. When you travel with a lady, meals break as well as nature breaks need to be planned well. There is this level of acceptance which is way above yours, and anything below that level is flatly rejected. When I used to roam alone before marriage, I never remember scouting for hotels for meals was part of any agenda. If the hotel had a stove, it would be good enough for me. Sigh, not anymore! Here we noted that in lunch time, good amount of ladies-only groups would come. Also, many women too were happily having lunch alone. Such sight is rare in the cities I hail from, and it felt good to see the self reliance of Kerala women.

After the lunch constituted by mainly rice and rice products, we dashed to the area ahead of our hotel, to see this side of the Aleppy town. Turned out that there were many hotels just ahead, and are uniformly spread till the area where land meets the lake. There are many Massage clinics, and some looked definitely dicey.





We rushed back to the boat jetty, in order to arrive in time for the ‘Sunset ride’. There were about 10 people already booked for the ride, few being foreigners. When we were told to enter the boat and be seated, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Without having anyone to tell so, the Indians sat on one side, and foreigners on the other. As if by natural selection, the birds flocked to their respective places!



About the boat ride, well don’t have too high hopes for it. The boat runs at the lowest rpm possible. So a constant dug-dug-dug-dug of diesel engines filled our ears. It was my third visit to Kerala, and this one was after a gap of 6 years. This year, I felt that the back water ride is somehow losing its charm. There are so many boats prodding the backwaters around Aleppy, it is difficult to frame a shot without one creeping in the scene! Add to that a huge infestation of water hyacinth. It was there previously as well, but somehow I felt this time they were more omnipresent than ever. All the diesel boats constantly riding in the water, it’s hard to believe that the waters would be non-polluted. Sure we rode through all the bullet points on the brochure, and sure it was different from our normal life, the magic touch that I used to feel was not felt. Maybe beause I was used to it, or maybe because something was overseen in pursuit of money.

A few pics of the boat ride:






Farming below sea level























We reached back at around 6.30, and rode fast to the beach in hope to catch last rays of sun. Sun was gone before we could point our camera towards it, but the light was wonderful. In photography terms, the time of half hour before sunrise and half hour after sunset is called magic time, because of the quality of light present naturally. Being a Sunny man myself, I haven’t had gotten around first experience many times. But the later is experienced many times, and this day too was no exception.



It was a soothing experience to sit at the beach and chat our hearts out. Mobiles switched off, no deadlines to adhere to, no reporting to anywhere, it was a great cooling down that we looked forward so much towards. We left after it was half dark, in order to be at the right side of safe Vs sorry.

We had dinner at Lonely planet suggested hotel – Hot Kitchen. It’s name is changed now, and they display both the names on the hoarding, understandably to lure the people like us who come looking for old name. It’s a good hotel; one can definitely visit for a meal or two in Aleppy.

Back at hotel, while lying on the bed, reflecting on the events of the day, the day started rolling like a fast forwarded movie on old VHS tape. As for the riding, buses and autos are licenced to kill, just as Pune. One can never be too safe to be alert. The highway is really too crowded, and being a two lane rushed road with no dividers in between, it was no surprise that bikers were among the least priorities of the bigger vehicles’ drivers. The persons we interacted with were nice but came across as aggressive. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what made me feel so, but more caution while riding on highway, and more flexibility while interacting with people, were the two lessons for pondering. The night was filled with dreams of riding on motorcycle through the water hyacinth filled canals!

Last edited by ani_meher : 16th May 2011 at 12:42.
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Old 16th May 2011, 21:10   #5
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Default Re: Vesta tours and travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal Couple t

Thanks for sharing, Ani! Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues forum.
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Old 16th May 2011, 21:22   #6
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Default Re: Vesta tours and travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal Couple t

Ani,
A wonderful travelogue, great photo's, especially the solo coconut tree's reflection, just the twisted trunk made me realize it.
The colours and composition of the 'View Point is too good.

Awesome location and house boats.

Awaiting more.
Regards,

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Old 17th May 2011, 08:56   #7
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Good write up, Ani. I liked your itinerary and I think there are more places that could be covered between trivandrum and kanyakumari. The one that comes to my mind is thirparappu falls and the rubber estates enroute.
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Old 17th May 2011, 12:22   #8
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An unplanned halt – Day 2

The next day, we started out for Kanyakumari at around 9.00 A.M. The day’s plan was to reach Kanyakumari by evening, but the moment we joined the every busy highway, the difficulties in the plan started popping up. It was hard to keep up speed on the road, with the constant company of towns across the highway, and people jumping in the road for crossing, and buses stopping in between the roads for passengers, and a constant addition of temperature by the rising hour, by the time we halted for breakfast, we were pretty exhausted. Besides, searching for ‘acceptable’ breakfast places inevitably shifted our breakfast time further, which didn’t help in improving my mood.

Having our fill of Appam and Atriappam, we consulted our itinerary, map of our route and Lonely Planet. It was quite clear to us that stretch was not possible for us to complete in a day, and a quick reshuffling of the itinerary in order. Our itinerary consisted of visiting Athirapally falls in the end. An alternative was deduced, by removing this part from the itinerary. The month was April, and even though the Athirapally falls are grand when in their prime after the rains, the probability of them partially or even completely dried out by now was high. Removing this location would give us extra days at other locations too, where we were going to only touch and go. So off with Athirapally, and welcome the new itinerary!

We found we were around 50 kms from Kollam – Quillon. The guide books said there were boat rides here too, but different than Aleppy. Here we would have a boat ride through Mattencherry, an island with a cris cross network of small canals where only manual boats operate.

Hmm, seems interesting, we thought. Other option was Kovalam beach or Varkala beach. But both of us were in favor of boat ride as against a beach visit. So it was decided for today’s halt, Kollam it would be.

I observed an interesting phenomenon. In Kerala or South India, wearing Lungis is a socially accepted norm. When you are riding/driving down the highway, you will spot many groups of men walking on the road, all wearing Lungis. You can count from 5 to 1, and 9 times out of 10, one by one they will reshuffle their lungis by opening the view towards you! Like yawning, the lungi opening and closing too seemed infectious, with all the persons doing so one by one. Luckily I was spared of the view every time, as I took extra precautions of not looking at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We reached Kollam at around 11.30. Learnt from our experience at Aleppy, we first headed to Tourist Information Center, which is located just opposite the town jetty. There are two jetties, first one is fisherman’s jetty which doesn’t have any ferry. Second is a nicer cleaner one, with regular ferries for locals as well as tourists.

No sooner than we switched off the ignition of the bike in the parking space at the jetty, we were gathered around by agents. Hasty conversations filled with big promises at good prices started flowing. We gave this and that reason, and freed ourselves from them. The Tourist Information Center itself is very helpful. They guided us about the government boat rides, and also to a very nice beach facing property at a budget rate. We booked ourselves for the boat ride at 3.00, and started towards the hotel, which was about 5 kms away.

Here onwards began some strange enmity between myself and Kerala traffic system. I couldn’t understand the signals at all! Firstly all were placed at angles more than 30 degrees, so one could never be sure whether it was for him or the opposite street! There would be a traffic police - man or woman - controlling the traffic by signals. Good in theory, but in practice, 3 systems prevailed. One was what the signal was showing. Other was what the traffic police was signaling, which was not always in accordance to the signal. And then there was public logic. If the public at the red light thought they had waited enough, they would ride right past the nose of the traffic police having his hand up signaling to stop. More than once I rode right into that traffic police, misreading either the signal or his actions. But luckily, we managed to get away just by a disgusted look, an incomprehensible scolding, and in one scenario, a long sermon which I did not understand a word from.

Tackling these traffic issues, we reached the hotel – Summer house. The location is bang on the beach. Just when the hotel ends, there is a wall like as on Nariman point, with similar stones afterwards, and the sea starts. It was as if having a personal beach, at unbelievable price.





The service consisted of a one man army named Rama. The English wasn’t particularly good, but the service made up for it. In fact, this was the only person who called me later in my ride asking how everything was going! Our conversations would never have any verbs.

‘Rama, water?’
‘Here sir. Fridge…cold water.’

‘Bedsheet…one more’.
‘Later bring.’

The English grammar was getting screwed around, but we made our points clear to each other. My observation would be wrong, but I felt speaking in full proper sentences was adding to confusion, if not unnecessary.

We reached in time for the boat ride batch, after having a quick lunch. This boat ride begins with a 18 kms bus ride to this island named Mandroe island. It is well connected with the outer world now, with TV and DTH and telephone and bridges and even a train station, but yet, it is an island. Here too, I would advise similar to Aleppy. The private ferry costs some 450-500rs per person, but they can take only two persons as well. It is a better option than the government one – 400 per person with 10-12 persons.

Our tour bus was filled by foreigners alone, and we two were the only tourists representative of India, besides the driver. They were a happy lot, and besides having come from separate countries, their willingness to mingle around and help with any query was commendable. I was made to share the seat with a US elderly gentleman named David. Just two days ago he had cycled his way from Trivendrum to Kanyakumari on a one speed cycle! And here I was thinking highly of my motorcycle ride. I hope I will have the same enthusiasm as him when I (if I) reach his age.

In a seemingly unending bus ride of 45 mins, where for half the time the driver was sticking his hand on the bus horn, we finally arrived at the island. We were placed on this tiny boat that needed to be pushed around by a big bamboo in order to move.





The main business of Mandroe island is sand farming. We reached late, and sand farming would take place only in morning. Apparently the sand farmers made a lot of money, something which was informed in bitter tone by the guide. But their lives would be shorter too. A sand farmer plunges into the river, and brings out the sand at the bottom. There is no guard or safety instrument used in this. Only a boat to ferry the sand, and a vessel to bring the sand out of the river bottom. This sand is used for construction of houses and properties. Sure the money is good, but the farmers develop health problems fairly early in life, and death arrives in different forms, like bleeding from the ears. Constantly working under water messes up with the body, thus inviting death much earlier than anyone else.





The other business consisted of coconut tree. In childhood, all have learnt a coconut tree is called a Kalpataru, a tree that satisfies any wish. We realize its meaning in Munroe Island. From the coconut fruit itself, water and the tender coconut is used for consumption. Sometimes the tender coconut is dried in sun to get dried coconut, which is further processed either for kitchen, or for getting coconut oil. The shell of the fruit is either used to create decorative items, or is kept in water for 3 months, and then thoroughly beaten. This gives the fibrous coir, further used for rope and other products. Before the coconut, the tree has flowers that effectively turn into fruits. Here on Munroe island, toddy is created by giving a cut to the flowers and keeping a vessel under it to collect the dripping toddy. It is further processed to add ‘kicks’ in terms of alcohol, and after having addition such as spirit, it ends up in toddy shops. Few months ago, there was some contamination in the toddy creation, and several people died. Then on, government has made toddy making rules stricter.


Fish farming





The ground , constantly surrounded by water, is rich in its content. So people have plants of fruits as well as spices in their compound. The houses too are beautiful. They are not huts or small adjustments, but proper bungalows that IT guys in Pune-Banglore can only dream of. I guess having a sand farmer at hand reduces the construction costs significantly!





There are some big canals that are naturally formed, and then the small ones are created by people, to have easy access to big ones. The man made canals are hardly waist deep, and they go under the foot bridges where the occupants of the boat have to either bend down or even sit ducked in the boat in order to avoid hitting his head to the foot bridge. The rides are unbelievably peaceful. No diesel dug dug like in Aleppy, no infestation of water hyacinth, the boat ride offers a perfect recluse from busy city life. When we were short listing photos for this write-up, it was very difficult to select one photo from another, because all were beautiful and peaceful in their own senses.



We stopped enroute to visit a house with rope making machine. Rope making is done by rotating a big wheel by hand by one person, and other person releasing a bunch of coir smoothly. It is very fast, and in no time you end up with a long rope. If done properly, these ropes are so strong that they are used to construct the boats. Here we saw a lot of spices and common vegetables plants, which amused our guests a lot. Being Indians, we didn’t take too much fancy in looking for these common plants like lady fingers, tomatoes, and spices like tamarind, lime grass etc. But seeing the vegetables hanging on plants seemed a great experience to foreigners.

After a tea break, the boat ride continued ahead. We passed through fish farms. Here the farmers harvest fishes such as lobsters by some complicated way I never got to understand. The nets on top of the farms are to prevent free loaders such as birds, who feed upon others harvest. For scaring the birds, some clever inventions were seen, like a rope with empty bottles tied across the farms. When the birds would check in, a quick tug at the rope would make the bottles dance, and the small stones inside them created a racket enough to scare away the birds.

After the farms, our boat entered in small canals yet again. There was a temple at distance, and perhaps a marriage was going on, listening to the tone of mantras that were being sung on the loud speaker. With only sounds of nature around, and the chants, the slow pace of the boat calmly riding through the steady green water, coconut trees on either sides covering your path from the sun, it was a beautiful experience. Birds such as Brahmani Duck accompanied us till our departure. The boat ride lasts for 2.5 hours, but is surely magical, and a must add on the itinerary on any Kerala headed tourist.





Couldn’t resist to try my hands on the boat. The occupants started praying to their respective Gods!

We returned at around 6.00 to the tourist information center, where the bus ride started from. Evening was spent in leisure strolling and sundry shopping. In the night, it was unbearably hot with no wind. I took this photo on a 15 seconds exposure:



Not one leaf on the coconut tree moved for 15 seconds! You can imagine the hot weather, with the humidity soaring high because of the sea in front. Tomorrow we would go to Kanyakumari, where we were supposed to be today, but were thankful we took this diversion. Kollam is totally worth it.
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Old 17th May 2011, 12:31   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ani_meher View Post
a special thanks to Aargee of xbhp.com, as he almost single handedly and untiringly plotted the itinerary as per our requirement. Without his help, an itinerary taking biker’s point of view couldn’t be possible.
Aargee is a member here as well
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Old 17th May 2011, 13:17   #10
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Ani_Meher : I just realised that you have used an external picture host for all your pictures. Please note that it is Mandatory to upload pictures via the Team-BHP Attachment system. For now, your pics have been imported to our server; however, in the future, please use the attachment system ONLY.

Thanks
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Old 17th May 2011, 14:06   #11
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Entertaining narrative, candid observations, nice photos, and most importantly introduced a boat ride through backwaters that's worth the money - I was never a fan of these fancy house boat ride through Alleppey backwaters.

Rated 5 stars
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Old 17th May 2011, 14:09   #12
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Quote:
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Aargee is a member here as well
I didn't spot him Good to know that. I am sure many members are common across forums, but some use different names and hence are unrecognizable!

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in the future, please use the attachment system ONLY.
Will do GTO. I thought the pics were getting automatically uploaded to teambhp server!

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Rated 5 stars
Thank you. A better alternative to Aleppy house boat was found later, we will come to that in future narratives. Glad you are enjoying the read.
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Old 17th May 2011, 15:12   #13
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Great TL and nice choice of transport I must say! I obviously look forward to the rest of your trip which I am sure you will take us through with the much awaited pictures.

A quick question for you - in all this heat/ humidity were you wearing those biker jackets throughout? If so, did you not get baked in them?
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Old 17th May 2011, 15:34   #14
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@selfdrive: Thanks for your comments. We wore the gear - jacket, knee guards, helmets and gloves - for inter city travel. Both of our jackets are mesh ones, they circulate air when in motion, so you can wear them easily in hot season. They come with liners which can be inserted when the season is cold/rainy. These jackets are mesh touring jackets, which are boon to countries like us.

When we were traveling in cities for sight seeing, we only wore helmets and kept the rest of the gear at hotel.
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Old 18th May 2011, 12:20   #15
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To Southern End

We left our hotel around 10.00 A.M., and started towards our day’s destination – Kanya Kumari. We would cross the Kerala State border and enter Tamil Nadu state today. NH was crowded as hell as expected. We reached Thiruanantpuram – old name Trivendrum – in time for lunch. Here a bright idea crossed my mind. We were coming back to Trivendrum 2 days later. If we booked the hotel for that stay now, it may keep our luggage for some charge, and thus I wouldn’t have to ride with the entire luggage. When on a bike trip, luggage needs planning too.

Out came the guide book, and a quick review showed us the ‘Manjalikulam road’ was well connected as well as housing good hotels. We found our way to Manjalikulam road, and started scouting for hotels. Some hotels were too low key, some were too high for our budget, and those in our budget were having tremendous attitude. Few of the hotels flatly rejected any rooms, sighting non availability. Who the hell was filling these hotels on Thursday in an off season would be anyone’s guess. I have noted that some hotel owners are too much of culture police and they feel the very fabric of society is protected solely by them. Seeing us two turning up in biking attire confirmed their beliefs that we are runaway couple who shouldn’t be allowed on the hotel campus. The other hotels that did have rooms, didn’t have any luggage keeping room, nor the will to do so. We wasted around 1 hour in this futile exercise. After 5th or 6th such encounter, we had had enough. Took our lunch in a nearby hotel, and headed straight for Kanyakumari.

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When you enter Tamilnadu, the road quality improves significantly. But the width of the road remained same, so we were still struggling in big vehicles, only on smoother roads this time. Sun was in full form, and thus draining us out every now and then. While en route, we found a ice cream chain shop named ‘Arun’. Later we found that this was a famous ice cream chain like Dinshaw etc, and had a very reasonable priced menu. The ice cream parlour’s menu was simple, take any combination of ice cream, topping and sauces, it would be charged on weight for Rs.35 for 100 grams. I couldn’t have believed Nandinee could eat ice cream so much if someone would have told me. Girls, they always have a hidden pouch in the stomach for this sort of stuff, it seems.

We reached Kanyakumari at around 3.30-4.00 P.M. There is a place called Vivekanandapuram, where a small village-like establishment is erected. They have hotels too, but unfortunately they didn’t have two days’ availability. So we moved inside Kanyakumari in search of hotels.

Kanyakumari is a proper tourist-focused town. So you will not have any trouble finding food or lodging for any budget. We went straight to Hotel Tamil Nadu, located at a great location in front of sea. After going through the room list, which started from a see facing room, we finally settled for a 3 bed non AC family room. The room was located bit away from main hotels, and didn’t have any sea view. As we would he hardly in the hotel at day time to enjoy the view, it didn’t matter us. The room is big, and for 3-4 people it would be comfortable. For 2 persons, it was very big. I will definitely recommend Hotel Tamil Nadu for good rooms at logical prices.

In evening, we went to Kanyakumari temple on the beach. There was hardly any crowd, this being the mid of the week. Darshan was done quickly, and afterwards we rushed towards the better location for seeing sun set. There is a sunset point erected on the beach, but it was crowded, and having a personal vehicle gives you good access to points where general tourists can’t come. We rushed towards the end of the road where we would get a good view without anyone popping up in the frame of photo.

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The sunset was frankly as normal as can be. In fact, April period is not for scenic sunsets at all. For grand beautiful sunsets/sunrises, Oct-December months are preferred.

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We went to the beach for shopping of the Conches. The prices are wonderful, and you get lost in the beauty of conches and the sound they produce when blown. We bought a few conches, and planned to check on post office rules for feasibility of sending a bunch of conches by post. In distance, we could see the Rock temple standing proudly in the sea.

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We could even see some lights in the opposite direction of the rock, and some said it was the Shri-lankan lights! My P&S camera refused to click any photo of the far away foreign country though, so no photos of those lands.

In night, when we returned to hotel after dinner, I was trying hard to learn to blow a conch, and suddenly I could do it! It is like a light bulb turning on. You try and try, and pop! Suddenly you get it. The happiness that I could do so was great, and I was blowing the conches to my heart’s contents. Even called family back at Mumbai and had them hear the conch through the phone! At 10.30 P.M., only after getting a warning from home minister of getting thrown out of room along with the conches, did I put it to rest.
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Last edited by GTO : 20th May 2011 at 13:22. Reason: Changing to "Manjalikulam" as requested by Ani_Meher
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