Someones notes on the tour

Monday 18th February 2013-03-06

Collected from home by Gordon at 5.45am then taken by coach
to Gatwick arriving at 10.30am (ish) Plane should have left at 1.35pm but
delayed until 2.125pm this gave us a chance to have a nice leisurely meal in
airside Garfunkel’s. Emirates were a bit more concerned about hand luggage and
for the first time that I have known weighed the hand luggage to make sure that
it was not over 7 Kg.

Stopped over in Dubai for less
than an hour this year so it was a quick leg stretch and comfort break for the
flight to Cochin. We arrived to find it was raining, yet we had been assured we
didn’t need waterproofs as rain was not expected until June!

Leisurely day but I fought
against going to bed as some did. The hotel which did have a swimming pool was
about 5 minutes from airport and about 35 miles from Cochin City it was a nice
quiet introduction to India.

Zxzxzxz Had sent a couple of
books for Shafi’s children; He suggested that we visited his home in the
afternoon so I could deliver them personally. Didn’t happen as we were waiting
for bikes to be delivered and then the all important keys. By the time they did
arrive  it was too late as it had been
arranged that two Indian girls would present some traditional dance for us. The
girls must had taken ages to get prepared and their dance was very expressive
at one stage they performed standing a large bowl whilst balancing a bowl of
water on their head.  That evening we had
a fantastic buffet meal which most of us eat outside as it was still hot (32-34

Sharing with Gordon so it’s
obviously like a tip. Early night

Wednesday 20th  February

We were originally leaving at 10.00am
but this being India it rapidly changed to 10.30am and we eventually left at
11.00am to the tradition of riding over lemons and cracking a coconut before we
left. Apparently the tradition dates back to the days of Elephants and if the
amount of effort that the guard put into breaking the coconut is anything to go
by still very important, it must have bounced 6 feet in the air. Riding in
India is a challenge so it’s not a tradition we want to break.

The was a regional strike on for
the day so no chai stops even though they are self employed they run the risk
of being beaten up for breaking the strike.

Unusually we didn’t start from a
city but were very quickly into picturesque country we only covered about 50
miles on the first day so we arrived at the hotel early.  And after dropping off much of our kit headed
the short distance to Athirapally falls the highest water falls in India.

Typical for India we arrived at
the entrance for the waterfalls only to be told that tickets had to be
purchased from the office 200 metres back down the road, that transpired to be
more like ½ mile. Everyone we asked seem to add another 100 metres to the

After purchasing the tickets
Gordon W who was with me decided along with me that we would forgo the visit
and take a 300 metre photo from the road as we were both knackered walking up
the hill to collect the bikes hot and humid. We decided to leave the rest of
them to the visit and returned to the hotel.

We tend to judge the hotels that
we use on the state of the showers, and despite this hotel being miles from
civilisation the showers were great. In India there tends to be a bucket to add
the water flow and normal practice is to draw off water as you shower into a
jug and use this to clean off

However unknown to me having
drawn off the first jug of tepid water and soaped my hair the second jug I
threw over my head was close to boiling, a lot of expletives followed.  This shower was going to get high points for

Sat outside and was able to get a
beer within 5 minutes and then an omelette within 10 minutes (In Indian) the
hotel was in fact a dry hotel but Gordon had done his research and ordered in
enough beer for the evening, all we had to was get it chilled.

The location was idyllic beside
the river with Kingfishers and cranes flying about and surprising very few
flying insects. A couple of the group went for a swim in the clear warm water
Gordon who had gone swimming started to complain of cramp and if anyone has
been on any of Gordon’s trip he thinks he suffers the worse cramp in the world.
Sympathy didn’t come from me

We had arranged for a walk and
talk around the grounds of the hotel with the manager who pointed out the Jack
fruit, banana mango and cashew trees as well as several birds. There were a
large number of cashew trees in the area and the staff at the hotel collected
the fruit and were drying them on large sheets in the car park.

Now I don’t know if you know
about cashews but clearly some of our group didn’t the cashew has a large
edible fruit surrounding a case very similar to a horse chestnut which contains
the actual “nut”. The nut is protected from being eaten because the case
contains bitter milk. Well according to Gordon more like a poison he went from
his normal buoyant self into a spluttering idiot. So if you go to India or
anywhere else they grow cashews don’t chew the cases they burn like hell!

Started my bottle of scotch with
a few of the more hardy from the group and as usual was last to bed, woke
Gordon to write this journal. He keeps moaning and interrupting me –
consequently its now 1 am.

Thursday 21 February

Left hotel at 10.00 am rode
through nice countryside and quickly entered large game reserve.

Evidence of elephants from the
dung and branches all over the road for several miles, as an expert (the author
had recently been to South Africa and been on a game safari), I was able to
inform the group that the dung was 4 ½ days old – some seems quite impressed
with my knowledge on the subject. Came across some fresher dung which i was
able to pinpoint as having been deposited at 11am yesterday. Comment was made
that it was brilliant to have someone as knowledgeable as David Attenborough
with them!

Climbed mountain to about 3,000ft
lots of hairpin bends, if fact so many that they are actually numbered 16/40
and so on so you have a reference. The bends are so tight that the normal rules
of the road changes and buses and lorries always take the outside wider lines
whilst cars and motorcycles use the inside of the bend. In some places the
inside of the hairpin dropped steeper than any hill imaginable probably almost 1:1
or which made for real interesting riding, although you could always wimp out
and take the wider line  if necessary.

The front brake on my bike
started to seize up, so in true Indian style the mechanics backed it off so it
was almost useless. They told me I still had the rear brake! I wore out the
right hand footpeg rubber on the bends and kept grounding the side stand on the
left bends apart from that the bike was performing well unlike the rider.

Lovely ride through tea
plantations but there were no workers due to the strike (yesterday and today) so
consequently no Lorries or buses. Arrived at destination (Cotsvilla) 4pm to a
very welcome beer and cold shower.

The reserve that we stayed was
bit like Daktari meets Butlins meets boy scout camp, we each had our own little
stone built cottage which would not have looked out the way on Heartbeat,
spread over a several acre site which was surrounded by elephant trenches and
electric fences , it was, or could have been idilic bar the wedding that was a
couple of miles away and went on all night. It was just loud enough to disturb
your sleep, hey ho this is India and they don’t have any laws about noise pollution
and interestingly the noise was only a bit louder than the indigenous animals.

We had a lovely evening sitting
around the camp fire ruminating on the logic of the India. For example, the showers
were heated by an ancient solid fuel boiler which burned the coconut fronds a
laborious way of heating water, Gordon had asked the owner why he had not considered
solar heating the answer even stumped Gordon “and what would we do with all the
coconut fronds”  

Gordon had decided to sleep
elsewhere as I had kept him awake last night with my snoring laughing and
talking in my sleep. I was forced to listen to his phone apt this morning so couldn’t
deny it. Still that makes us both happy I suppose India?  11.30 turn in as early start tomorrow.

Friday 22nd February

Awake at about 7.30am due to
Mitch screaming in the room below that there was a rat in the bathroom, from my
natural fear or rats obviously  I was not
going to get involved, just concerned that there might be one in my bathroom. Eventually
Becky took charge of the situation and came to the rescue and caught it, it had
now become something like a chipmunk and much less threatening than a rat and as
a result she released it a little worse for its adventure.

I had to ride the bike over for
breakfast as the dining area was more than 500 metres but set in a beautiful location
with massive outcrops of rocks in the background which were changing as the sun
rose . Breakfast was 8.00am as Gordon wanted an early start but as we were in
India it was much nearer 9.00am before we could actually eat. I found I was not
the only kept awake by the wedding but there was also a massive bang about
every hour which we discovered was an Indian version of a rook scarcer this was
bigger and louder as it was intended to scare off the elephants.

There was a mixture of curry
boiled eggs or omelettes on the menu and I was quite amused to see the
chef/waiter/engine room fitter. Pick the omelettes by hand place them in the
tings and then serve them on the plate.

Eventually left at 10.00 am
instead of Gordon’s 8.30am  apparently we
had 130 miles to do to our next hotel  some
of which was dual carriageway but as the other lane was closed most if not all
used our lanes instead.

While we had stopped at one of
our many stops; Gordon has a system that he thinks works and in reality it does
to a degree if he keeps his helmet on we are not stopping and if he takes it
off, we can get off the bike, however if he takes his coat off well that means
we have at least 20 minutes before we move off again although I am sure the
bugger watches for me to light my pipe and then gets ready to move off, on this
occasion we were stopping for a few minutes, Gordon still had his coat on!  I
decided to hand out some pens to about 10 schoolboys. While i was trying to
open the packet, it increased to about 20 all surrounding me, shouting PEN PEN
PEN! Despite my best efforts i couldn’t get to form an orderly  queue as soon as i stepped back they all came
forward and engulfed me again! Steve suggested throwing the pens along the road
side and let them help themselves. What a good idea a “punch up erupted and
about 6 of them legged it with handful of pens. The remaining had now grown to
about 25 schoolboys all surrounding me and the bikes as they had realised i had
more pens in the tank bag. Despite trying to tell them i didn’t have enough for
all of them, they kept pleading individually “please sir just give me  one. I decided the best option was just to
tell them to bugger off, start the bike and move off ½ mile or so and park up
and wait for the rest of the group. Amazingly they did move once I started the
bike. I had visions of them running after me and hanging onto the bike.

Arrived at the hotel in the
centre of Madurai  the hotel Germanus
which was rather plush and mush different to the previous two night, we were
greeted in the posh reception with a cold face towel and soft drink, I think
all of us wiped our faces in the cold white towel only to find that it
completely changed colour as it scrapped the 6 hours of road dirt off our
faces. We stood amongst the rest of the guests, businessmen and women as well
as tourist in our dust covered biking clothes as if it was perfectly normal.

I was really pleased that i had a
large double room for the two nights, Gordon was elsewhere. There was a bar in
the basement and the food was really good, a large buffet of both vegetarian
and non vegetarian. I did become a bit worried when a chap (Indian) asked what
floor and room number I  was on and then
suggested that we meet up later for both Indian and England. This confused me
rather so I decided this wasn’t a good idea. It might have been completely  innocent but we would never know! He was young
and handsome.

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