Naman’s corner: The cycle diaries -Through west coast!

A penchant for truly living and not just existing is the soul ingredient of happiness, they say and this guy totally justifies those words. He picked up his cycle valiantly and set forward to taste the authentic. Being the nomad that he is, we couldn’t get a better haul, could we? He also recommends drinking coffee with dosa and he loves a good man’s beer! 

So, every once in a while some crazy idea comes to our mind. We talk about the execution with people around us and most of the times we don’t end up doing it because the people around are either not a sport or some other lousy excuse. Well, this one was not the craziest, atleast for me!

The plan was to cycle, a couple of hundred kilometers along the West coast of India starting from Kanyakumari. Here is what the original route was:

Bangalore-Nagercoil-Kanyakumari-Kovalam-Varkala-Kollam-Bangalore

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But here was what I actually did:

Bangalore-Nagercoil-Kanyakumari-Kovalam-Trivandum-Bangalore

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Why I wanted to do it:

  • My love for cycling
  • Been wanting to do some adventure alone
  • When I proposed this idea, some people called me crazy saying I can’t do it. Had to prove them wrong.
  • Last year on 1st October I underwent a knee surgery, wanted to complete one small fitness task to check my endurance.

Dates selected: September 26th till 30th September, 2013

Short summary of the four days on saddle!!!

Day 1: Nagercoil-Kanyakumari

I reached Nagercoil early morning around 6.00AM by a Volvo bus. Since it was first day, my plan was to go easy and not strain myself. To my bad luck, my phone conked off, leaving me without GPS to which I was relying big time. Asked locals for directions and started cycling towards Kanyakumari. After riding for just few kms, I had a flat tyre, had to walk a few more kms before I finally found a person to help me fix the puncture. Reached Kanyakumari by noon and spent rest of the exploring the city.

Place of stay: Vivekanand Kendra- very affordable, clean rooms, big campus and a decent restaurant.

Places of interest: Vivekanand rock memorial, Sunset point, Baywatch wax museum, Lady Ransom Church and Kanyakumari temple.

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Manmohan Singh wax statue at the BayWatch Wax museum, Kanyakumari

Eye catching stuff: There were many bakeries with names like The Western Bakery, French Bakery, London Bakery etc but in real they were totally as desi as possible!!!

[Tip: If you are one of the persons who trust Lonely Planet blindly, then don’t for this city atleast. The places listed were not at all great, rather give a try to other small local stalls but you will like them only if you have a taste for authentic Tamil Nadu food.]

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Sunset point, Kanyakumari

Day 2: Kanyakumari-Kovalam

My plan was to get up as early as 5.30AM and start my journey forward by 6AM, but considering the lazy person I am, I managed to get off from the bed only past 8:00AM and started pedaling not earlier than 8.45AM. I had a long way to cover that day, a little less than 100km. By 11:00AM the sun was right on my head and the heat was taking a toll on me. It was just getting more and more hard to pedal with every minute but somehow with frequent breaks I kept going. The key was to just keep myself hydrated, so I stopped for coconut water, sugarcane juice very often.

The longest break I took was for an hour and half when I stopped for lunch at a place named ‘Oasis’. The food was very average. By that time I had completed 50 odd kms and was on the verge of giving up. The heat, bad road condition and riding against the gradient were not what I expected. I thought of giving hitch-hiking a try but people were not very supportive. After trying for close to 40min, I said to myself “F*** this man, I will do it on my own” and I continued.

After 4:00PM, it was very pleasant but my hamstrings, quadriceps and calves were starting to give up. A few times, I had to get down and walk.

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En route Kovalam, 55km down-35 more to go

Close to 6:00PM, I reached Kovalam and what a relief!

Place to crash: Vedanta- an awesome place for travelers. Recommend it to all, very affordable, awesome rooms (even have luxury dorms) and true hospitality.

Also, Kovalam beach is the place to be late in the night. Less people, mostly travelers, no city-hussle, silent, sound of water hitting the shore, few amazing eateries and of course beer!!! A quick bite with a few beers and I was back at Vedanta dozing off, man I was exhausted!

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Skin tan at the end of Day 2, and it burned

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A good relaxing meal at the German Café, Kovalam beach

Day 3: Kovalam and around

As usual, I got up pretty late and the lazy Naman decided to scrap his plan of hitting Varkala by EOD. Kovalam was such a nice place that being there for such a less time was just not justified. A walk by the beach, exploring the extremes, feeling the water and an awesome English breakfast.

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selfie moment: : Sometimes you just gotta click yourself, at Kovalam beach

Skipping the lunch, I decided to ride for rest of the day. Hit the Kovalam bypass and started riding. Around 15km and I neared Trivandum city, instead of getting into the city I went the other way towards the sea and rode along the beach. Some of the beaches were totally deserted, only fishermen’s boat and a few kids playing football. Those kids were somehow very fascinated with my bike, we spoke for sometime, played football and some of them took a small ride on my bike. Stopping, enjoying I reached Veli beach. I wanted to reach Kovalam beach before sunset, so I decided to return from Veli.

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Kids I played football with, don’t remember their names but they were fun and helpful

Best thing about cycle, you reach few off beat places which you won’t otherwise if on a motor bike/car/any other tourist vehicle.

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One of the off-beat places, hardly any people around. Unnamed beach!

Reached Kovalam beach before sunset and was surprised to see so many people on the beach, mostly locals. But it was still calm and relaxed. As soon as the sun set, the beach was empty with only travelers hanging around.

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Sunset at Kovalam beach

I spent the evening gulping down beer, mingling with random travelers along the beach and some nice food.

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time for some rock, maybe?

For Kovalam and around, Lonely Planet is certainly not a miss. They hit you with the right places but again, there are a few more places which you can explore and will surely enjoy it.

Day 4: Kovalam-Trivandum

The last day, I decided to get up early on this day atleast and I did!!! And what a pleasure it was to be out on the beach at the break of dawn. I had nothing planned for this day, so I did nothing, atleast for the first half of the day. Spend quite some time in my room watching tv and enjoying the comforts I dint get a real chance to enjoy. The hotel guys cooked a nice, homely, authentic Kerala cuisine lunch for me and what a treat it was! I got to catch up with the Vedanta’s GM also on that day and had a nice conversation with him over lunch.

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En route Trivandum city

Post lunch I set off for Trivandum. The city is like any other city, with few places to visit. There is the famous Padmana Swamy temple, a zoo and a museum. But the real catch was the Maveli Café, a extension of the Indian Coffee house. This chain never disappoints you, a very old four storey building with round and inclined path till top and tables next to the inclined path. All the stewards were dressed up neatly in a very catchy attire. Had an amazing coffee with dosa.

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Something called Biryani Tea, according to the restaurant Kerala special but none of my Malayali friends know about it

With a sad heart, I reached the bus boarding place, loaded my cycle onto the bus, hopped on and started my return journey to Bangalore.

Notes for the traveler from the seasoned one:

  • If you intend to take your cycle in a Volvo bus, avoid Sharma Travels. KPN turned out to be better, very co-operative.
  • Always carry enough liquids when on road, prefer drinks like ice tea and electrol over plain water. Key is to keep yourself hydrated and you need sugar(glucose).
  • Also, carry some quick energy food like cereal bars. I also had some dates, provides good nutrition and has water content also,
  • Apply enough sunscreen on your skin or wear a facemask / gloves to prevent skin burn.
  • Be firm on your daily targets, what time to start and where to reach by what time. Stick to it but also have a Plan B.
  • Carry enough cash, because sometimes an ATM is hard to find and very few places accept cards.
  • Language can be a problem when travelling in interiors of South India, so knowledge of a few basic words will help you to a big extent.

So much so, I had an amazing time. The pics I clicked and the above write-up may not be exquisitely presented as the literati might demand but, I came back with some amazing memories and an awesome experience that probably words can never sum up and only living it may suffice.

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Total distance cycled over 4 days: approx 170kms.

If any of you ever want to do something similar, or anything stupid/crazy, invite me and count me in!!!

Naman Batra

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