Falls ihr es noch nicht wissen sollted -

For those who don't know yet: We both finished our studies. Mascha got a ingeneering degree and Matteo his PhD in chemistry. But, as we will have work enough in the next years, we decided to postpone (as long as our savings last) this beginning. The FIAT Uno project was not practicable. We will try by bicycle.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Goodbye India

Experiencing the sun at the zenith
Dear readers,
the intervals of our post are getting larger and larger, but nevertheless we would like to write one last post on southern India, even if we have already arrived in Sri Lanka!
We left you in Mysore in the state of Karnataka after that we moved south-west along the coast of Kerala crossing  the high range of Wayanad, Kalpetta, Calicut to Kochi and Aleppey.

Waiting for the ferry to Kochi
A wise man once said: "Whatever you say about India - the opposite is also true." After two months in the subcontinent we can only agree we this quote. Maybe you will as well after reading the following stories...

Typical south Indian lunch -
eating with hand became normal for us
Crossing the border to Kerala we rode through the Nagarhole National Park, where we were surprised from the darkness. We managed to get to a small village (without electricity) at the edge of the park. After looking without success for a place to camp with our tent, we asked some local people if they had any idea. They could not suggest anything, but advised us not to sleep outside because of the wild elephants that come in the night and had already killed several people, the last one two days before our arrival. We explained them that under these circumstances we would need only very little space inside for our mattresses. But instead of giving us shelter, they just confirmed that we should not in any case ride the cycle after down to find a hotel. We were trapped. The same people who warned us not to cycle by night to find a hotel and who said that was too dangerous to sleep outside, did not think to offer us a place inside. At that point we recognized that many Indians are friendly but not hospitable and we wished to be back in Iran. In the end we put up the tent on a small lawn (before India we would have called it a garbage depot) between a shop and a mosque. Since we are writing now it means that no elephants overran our tent that night.

Following the tea plantation's workers to the factory
Another one of the rare times we tried to sleep outside in Kerala, things went wrong as well. Kerala in densely populated and there is hardly spare land. One evening we were trying to find a place to camp after all hotels we checked were either full or too expensive. The most suitable spot we could find was a house under construction in a residential area. We parked the bicycles there and went to have dinner. When we came back the were neighbors with torches looking at the bikes. Nothing unusual, but these people had already called the police as well. We talked to them and explained our dilemma and could at least avoid the police from coming. But even though they were very understanding and confirmed that that the road was very dangerous at night, they made us leave the empty property as soon as possible. We eventually found a hotel after some 15 Km on a pitch-black road.

Wayanad with Shaj
Fortunately things can be different as well. For instance during a break in Wayanad, a car driver stopped to have some conversation with us. Shaj turned out to be an international tour operator who found us and our trip very interesting and offered us his help. Even if made his living with taking care of tourists, he invited us to camp one night at one of his places near a lake and visit the surroundings with his car the next day - all free of cost. We fairly surprised and could not believe it at first, but in the end we spent two very nice days together. Thank you Shaj! So, if you plan a trip to Kerala and need any support, contact him at www.godzone.in; we hope for him that he will charge you more than us.
One of our best campsides
In almost the same way we met Riyas. During our lunch break in a small garden, he came and asked some questions. Unlike the vast majority of Indians, he did not stop after the questions "you from?" and "your good name?". At the end we spend the afternoon together exchanging some insider comments on various aspects of our respective societies. For instance, he was surprised that in Europe it is not usual for couples to have free sex with other people. On our side we discovered how difficult (almost impossible) inter-religious marriages are in India, and that despite of what westerners have heard about Karmasutra and stuff, most Indians never see their partner naked!

Enjoying velocity
Having suffered to climb the mountains of the western Ghats before the Jogfalls some weeks ago, we had the pleasure to drive down hill where the mountains of Wayanad go steeply down to the sea. Every serious cycling tourist in front of a decline like this struggles between enjoying the fascination of landscape or the pleasure of velocity. Matteo usually opts for velocity leaving Mascha far behind, who neither enjoys the landscape nor the velocity to a full extend being concentrated to manage the curves safely. If you are in the area we strongly recommend to drive down the road from Kalpetta to Calicut. Unless you have a motorbike don't try to drive up and especially not around noon and by foot as some hundrets of crazy local Christians did carrying crosses for the "Via Crucis" before easter. - Happy Easter by the way!
Crazy Christians climbing the Western Ghats at 36 degrees

With a public ferry through the backwaters
One of the most interesting features are for sure its backwaters with its endless canals and waterways, paddy fields and lagoons. A couple of millions of people still live on the banks, practicing fishing and agriculture. To have a closer look at this ecosystem we opted for a small hand power driven canoe and a public ferry. The canoe let us into the narrow sidearms, along gardens with spices (cinnamon, muscat nut, pepper, curry leafs, bay leafs, oregano), small factories for the processing of coconut into its many products (oil, ropes from fibers, coconut paste, flour...). We also had close looks at the daily lives of the locals passing their homes only 2 meters away. They were very friendly and we were allowed to take a lot of pictures. Once our boot had to stop because an elephant was having a bath in front of us, blocking the path.
To cover the distance from Allepey to Kottayam we took a local ferry. We had the impressions that in this way we got a far better idea of life in the backwaters, than by hiring one of the thousands overpriced housboats carrying tourists along the canals.  We advise you to do the same - and not only because like this we payed 40 Rupees (plus 40 for the bikes) instead of 5000 Rupees.
Washing cloths - 
One single saree

- washing elephant

Preparing tea for fellow travelers at the airport

At least 2 hours of sleep...

Strangely there is no ferry between India and Sri Lanka. So we were forced to take a plane for our next destination again. As the plane departed early morning we drove to the airport the evening before and spent most of the night cooking hot meals and tea for Indian fellow travelers to empty our gas bottle, which we could not bring on to the plane and which seemed to last forever! The rest of the night we spent dissembling and packing our bikes with some cardboards we found on the street. Because we did not have the luxury of big suitable cardboards as in Oman, it took quite a while and we were happy to find a wrapping station inside the airport, otherwise our "piece of art" would have fallen apart immediately. Sri Lankan Airlines did  not make any problem, so we could check in all our luggage without any further costs. The Indian authorities in contrary did not believe us to have traveled mostly overland to India and wanted some proof of the route we took. We could not provide either our ticket to India (thrown away) nor all the hotel bills (thrown away of course!) nor our flight ticket from Sri Lanka onwards (not purchased yet - "How is that possible?!"). Time was ticking and as the departure was only 15 minutes away Mascha was additionally sent to explain the content of our checked-in luggage. "Well madam, you've got a lots of tools inside. Why?". 5 minutes before departure the luggage problem was solved, but we were still stuck at the immigration office. We were beginning to wonder if we would manage to get on the flight at all and if there would be any more problems with our hand luggage containing various metal, heavy kitchen equipment. The solution came when Matteo suggested to have a look at our blog to check our route. Finally we were allowed to pass and to start our next stage in Sri Lanka.

1 comment:

  1. Best post yet, really enjoyed reading this; a great insight into India.
    Good luck on your next stage.