I guess a trip to the tropics wouldn’t be complete without a stay at a beach. The original plan was to stop at Agonda Beach in Goa but just south of the Goa border in Karnataka we got waylaid at, wait for this, Om Beach where we stayed at the Nirvana Cafe. The thing that set this and probably many other Indian beaches apart was that a significant part of the scene were the cattle, mostly very docile bulls. They were no trouble and often seemed to just want to soak up some sun themselves.
Kerala is better set up for the traveller than Tamil Nadu is. There are more hotels, mainly, but there are even beach scenes where people flock to lie in the sun. Even at these beaches, though, there are still many signs of “the old ways” with fishermen mending their nets, others returning from a day at sea and manhandling their boats up the beach above the high tide line. Of course, in these tourist places there are also the westerners who have come to India to achieve enlightenment and walk around in a bit of a daze in the process.
On the bikes, though, we get away from this and pass through the villages where few white faces have been scene. We always, without exception, get a warm-hearted welcome that often includes in invitation home for tea. We don’t accept every time but haven’t regretted the times we have accepted.
We’ve managed to find mostly backroads, sometimes right along the sea, interspersed with spells on the dusty, horn-blaring main highways. At first glance it would seem quite perilous but it isn’t so bad. I mean, yes the noise gets to you but it doesn’t seem life threatening. Vehicles really aren’t going that fast and they’re used to passing banana carts, pedestrians, and sleeping cows. Pulling out to pass a bicycle is nothing new to them. All I have left to do is figure out what it means when someone honks their horn, which they do all the time. It’s not an angry, “Get out of my way.” In fact when someone deserves that, when they stop in the middle of the road to discharge passengers for instance, it doesn’t happen. People just patiently wait. It might mean, I’m coming through, or simply, I’m here even if I’m not coming through. I see Indian driving school offices but I have no idea what they teach them. I haven’t been everywhere in the world but so far the Indians take the cake as the worst drivers anywhere.
Getting away from the roads, we had a canoe trip in Kerala’s famous backwaters and then an all-day boat ride from Kollam to Alleppey. From Cochin we took a car to Munnar, high in the mountains among the tea plantations.
Tonight, after most of the day on the busy Highway 17, we are in an isolated paradise of Thottada Beach listening to the surf and there is not a car horn in earshot.