It’s been slow progress to Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India: we are diverted by beautiful beaches, a friendly family or the luxury of a western style hotel, but also because by lunchtime, it’s too hot to ride (32’). The wealth of central kerela is less evident further south, with the unwelcome return of beggars, disabled beggars and slum housing, especially in fishing communities. And children squatting to poo beside the road! It’s crowded too: the population density of kerela is almost double that of the UK (860 per km²) so some of our minor roads are becoming busy, with one village almost merging into the next.
Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of kerela – temples, traffic, great food and hotel, a beautiful outdoor swimming pool (disappointingly drained of water) and even more traffic! We turn right towards our hotel at a crossroads controlled by lights and face a barrage of tuktuks and motorbikes dashing towards the junction. They plan to quickly turn right as soon as the lights change before the opposite cars delay them, without any regard for the lane’s rightful user, me!! I’m not in any danger and I could pull over but it’s far more fun to ‘ gesticulate my irritation’ and force them to stop. Indian driving is truly, utterly, unbelievably abysmal. Beyond abysmal!! But our greatest hazard in traffic is air pollution we choose the rural roads.
Sadly I couldn’t recommend India as a holiday destination because a tourist would be exposed to traffic and dysfunctional driving in a hire car, taxi or bus. Trains are interesting but too slow, and accident prone. Three major accidents have happened during our visit, the most recent was sabotage. Such a shame because India is incredible, unforgettable.
It took 6 hours to ride the last 68km to India’s southern tip today. We were thwarted by rough roads, sandy roads, coastally eroded roads, and waving down a fisherman to transport us where there was no road at all. But also diverted; first by a flag ceremony to celebrate India’s national day (a forgiving bunch, welcoming 2 Brits to celebrate emancipation from British rule in 1948 with a flag, a shower of glitter, an anthem and sweets for all!), then coir manufacturing, heartbreaking fish markets, food stalls, children racing us on bikes, motorbikes alongside “How are you? What is your country?”. Always something to look at! And of course there’s the sea and farming and forest fringing our route, the kites and kingfishers and too many crows.
For 10 weeks every day has been hot and sunny, calm or a gentle tailwind, but now we have weather!! Still hot, but some clouds and (it had to be…) a strong headwind. But it’s weather!! For too long we have only experienced climate. From now on we head north and North East, with the sun on our backs and the sea on our right!
Our high rise hotel is brand new, we are the first! New bedding, thick soft towels and only £12/night. The balcony has both sunrise and sunset views, looking west at the Arabian sea, and east to the Indian ocean. How splendid! There are swifts (swallows?) everywhere, including one in our bedroom!! Below are higgledy-piggledy Indian homes, two or three storey blocks, narrow streets, washing flapping, children waving, women laughing at me wrapped in my post shower luxury towel.