India By Bike

A trip around Kerala by motorbike, followed by a train to Goa.

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The Bikes.

Well there was a choice of Royal Enfield which some people see as the icon of motorcycling.

I am old enough to remember British single bikes, my first bike was an AJS 350. Having a high regard for keeping the fillings in my teeth, I picked a Yamaha 180cc! My friend, Dave, a 220 cruiser style Honda.


We picked Jap bikes much cheaper, more mpg, easier to handle & more comfortable than an Enfield

The iconic Enfield. No we didn’t!

The Route

Driving in India

Not too bad!

In towns traffic moves so slowly that you can’t come to much harm.

On the faster roads be careful!

Motorbikes are expected to pull over on to the grass verge, or whatever's there, to allow oncoming  cars to overtake!

Don’t be a hero! Let them pass - they will anyway even if you’re in the way!

Hilly mountain roads are generally fine but expect to find buses on the wrong side of the road!

Buses behind you will not slow down if you are in their way! Go faster or let them overtake!

We headed south from Kochin following the coast road, mostly free of traffic and very easy. Allappuza was busy but after that, clear road again.

Turning inland from Povaar are twisting hilly roads to Ponmudi and Munaar. Leaving Munnaar is fine until you get nearing Kochin when traffic picks up again.

Vyper Island is a short ferry ride from Kochin.

When buses meet! On the road to Munaar. Buses (and most cars) will be on the wrong side of the road around these hilly bends. Notice the bus takes up the whole road anyway!

Fort Kochin and The Backwaters

Fort Cochin is what most people think of as Kerala, but Kerala (like Goa) is a state and not a place. Cochin is a great place to spend time with excellent food & bars (although normally attached to hotels) and there is an opportunity to see the Keralan national dance & martial arts. It is also on the famous backwaters, has some OK beaches & lots to see.

The hub of the backwater tour is in Allappazza where something like 400 boats ply their trade. However, the trips around here are well worth doing and far less crowded. Most trips are for half a day, or full day & no engines on the boats!

A very easy drive along the coastal road, very little traffic and beaches everywhere! Spend a couple of days at Marari beach

Marari Beach

Leaving here we passed through Allappazza, which is the centre of the backwater cruises. Some 400 boats operate from here. It’s busy & dirty! Got our first bit of traffic here. Spent a few hours here before continuing on the costal road south.

Alappuzha (Alleppey)

Varkala Beach

From Varkala Beach we continued down the coast to Kovallam Beach. The  guide book says it is in the top 10 beaches in the world! Not in my bookls!! From here we drove a few miles to a deserted beach called Povaar which is more or less the end of Kerala state, before heading inland.

Kovalum & Povaar

The journey inland was a change from the clear roads of the coast to narrow winding hilly roads. We reached Ponmudi Hill station which is up 24 hair pin bends, only to find the station was closed for the evening & there was no accommodation! So, back we come down 24 hairpin bends & up again in the morning! (And, of courser, down again to leave!).

Fine views from the top of the station

Leaving Ponmudi we encountered bad rain & wind that really delayed us. We took shelter at a bus stop much to the interest of the locals. We had to drive in the dark not recommended! We managed to reach Kumily late but before the bars closed! Kumily is the town for the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

Ponumdi Hill Station

Kumily (for Periyar)

Munaar

Vyper Ilsand

The sign that tells you there are another 18 more hair pin bends ahead!

The town of Kumily is pleasant and can be very busy with visitors to the National Park. Although a tiger reserve, you would very lucky indeed to see one! It has a huge lake  with hour boat trips at frequent times.

The best time to take the boat trip is in the late afternoon when the animals are more likely to come out of the forest to drink. These trips can  

be booked in advance, so best to book a trip and then  walk around the rest of the reserve.

The Road South

We sorted out the bikes, not easy as there are some very dubious hire places and poorly maintained bikes. Typically, hire bikes can’t be taken out of the state, however, a lot of bikes for hire are really private bikes ‘loaned’ to you!  The crash helmets were beyond a joke & we had to buy our own (which we sold back to the shop at 50% discount). Cavaet emporuim!

The town of Munaar is a tea producing area in the hills. It is a scenic drive through the plantations and the town has it’s good points. There are lots of little tea shops along the road which has many twists and turns. Driving can be interesting as the road are narrow!

The route back from Munaar to Kochin took us to Vyper Island where there are several beaches. We stayed at Cherai Beach. The island is mainly centred on fishing and a large fishing fleet operates from here. It also benefits from a ferry that takes you directly to Fort Kochin which saves  50 or more miles through the main busy main town.

And so Back to Fort Cochin…

Handed back our bikes, and crash helmets but we still had a few days left so we decided to go to Goa. We booked at  a travel agent and got an overnight sleeper train to Goa. Goa is very different - it has bars something missing in Kerala! Miles of beach! We rented push bikes and spent the days cycling along the beach, recommended.

And then Home…

Goa

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