Exploring India on a Royal Enfield motorcycle:
Well having decided to take a bit of a busmans holiday and explore the south western part of India we’ve been asked to give several presentations of our experience. Writing this blog will give us some reference points when we come to make our presentations and also give those that have travelled with us over the years a flavour of the journey that we are undertaking.
Paying the twenty pound per person for the Aspire lounge at Birmingham airport was well worth it with our seven hour flight to Dubai delayed by an hour. That meant we were able to enjoy breakfast and lunch all for the same price. We made sure that lunch was washed down with a few gins accompanied by what else other than some Indian tonic water.
The delay in the U.K. meant a quick hop off and on to the next plane at Dubai to continue our journey south east to Kochi on the south west coast of India, our intended destination for the start our excursion.
After a three and a half hour flight we arrive at Kochi or Cochin or however you spell it and welcome to the confusion and chaos of India. Despite our tour leader requesting a taxi big enough to cater for four adults and their luggage, trying to fit a quart into a pint pot, or in this instance four adults and their luggage in to a small saloon car, just didn’t work, despite how much effort you put in to the task. Common sense prevailed eventually and we were transferred to a people carrier type vehicle and off we went into the chaos and mayhem of the traffic. After only about 200 yards of joining the main highway our taxi driver decided that he did not have the correct paperwork as the destination on the ‘chitty’ was not the same as our intended destination. A pull up at the side of the road to make a phone call was ok until he decided to reverse along the highway back to the roundabout. There’s plenty beeping of horns but there’s no road rage in India and everyone just puts up with whatever you’re doing. We did go the correct way around the roundabout and that was a bonus in order to return to the taxi dispatchers desk at the airport. It would have been easier to change the paperwork but despite the bureaucracy ( a legacy of the British Empire) it was deemed far easier to change four people and their luggage from one car to exactly the same type and make of car that we were travelling in to another one, but this one did have better air conditioning.
Weaving our way through the city traffic it was obvious that anything goes. Beep your horn if you need to make others aware of your presence and then pass them on either side, depending where there is the most space. If you can buy an Indian Highway Code then you’re a better person than me because there isn’t one - I don’t think anyway. If you can make four lanes when there are only two well do it. It all seems to work.
Arriving at the well appointed Gateway Hotel we were allowed entry after a quick search underneath the vehicle was made for any bombs that we may have been carrying. Perhaps it was something to do with those planes shot down last week on the Indian Pakistan border but that’s thousands of miles away. Nothing was found so we arrived at the reception of the Gateway at about 1000hrs. The rest of the day was spent lazing around the pool and generally having a quiet day in the 30 degrees heat.
After a good nights sleep we were awoken by the 0800hrs alarm after sleeping like a log. Even the call to prayers at 0530hrs didn’t stir us but we had missed a day’s sleep somewhere along the journey. Today was a day of boats rather than bikes but our machines were going to be delivered today so that we can start our journey south tomorrow. Catching the public ferry across the inland waterway nearly broke the bank at the equivalent of 40 pence per person for the twenty minute crossing to Fort Cochi. Arriving at the island there was the usual chaos with tuc tucs fighting for whatever roadspace that was available with pedestrians, anything on two wheels, buses, lorries, taxis, goats, etc. Fishing was taking place using the ancient Chinese cantilever fishing nets and coracle type fishing boats.
Returning to our hotel the Royal Enfields have been delivered. A quick check over makes sure that they are all good to go. Another cruise around the bay courtesy of the hotel to watch the sinking sunset ends our day of boats.
Looking at the picture above and the picture below India still has a long way to go as far as dumping their rubbish. Adjacent to the jetty you can see the rubbish collecting. I think that they need Mr Attenborough to give them a few tips about saving the planet.
Bags packed and it’s out on to those Indian roads to head south to Allepey and in to the backwaters. Let’s hope that the waters will be cleaner than this!!
Our steed for the trip is a 350cc Royal Enfield Thunderbird. It may not seem a big bike but for India and the roads it has more than enough power for two. Speeds are generally quite low and despite the chaos there’s no rushing about as such. Our first venture out into the Cochin traffic wasn’t too bad and anything goes. If you’re not too sure then put your feet down and come to a stop because everyone else will go around you. Great fun but you have to keep your wits about you. You won’t find many or any 'lifesavers’ but before you do anything just give a little toot on the horn to let others know you are there.
Today’s journey was a relatively short bimble of about ninety kilometres down the Kerala coastline. The traffic thinned out the further south we travelled until we came to a railway crossing. Both sides just fill up either side of the crossing with vehicles so when we set of no one can go anywhere as both sides of the road are blocked, but in true Indian style and with a lot of beeping of horns it all sorts itself out.
With the sea on one side we passed paddy fields on the other side in places. We also passed an inlet with plenty of boats and some more of those Chinese fishing nets. A nice little spot to drop off for a welcome drink in the heat of the day.
An early afternoon finish at our eighteenth century hotel, a legacy of the British Empire, gave us time to relax by the pool and do whatever. With an evening temperature of twenty three degrees it was good to see plenty of people on the sandy beach alongside the Arabian Sea enjoying themselves with their families - it wasn’t quite like Barry Island. A few beers and dinner was enjoyed amongst the continual break in power. Power restored and we continued to eat until the next break in power. This is India!!
The grand entrance to our room in Alleppey and some beautiful vegetation around the hotel.
To be continued.