Today was long and hot - the full sweaty impact of being down on the coast has hit us. Also, I regret to report that although the route went close to the coast the stretches where you could actually see the sea were few and far between.
The best thing about today was the welcome stretch of cycling on the flat. When the road surface was good two of us would go to the front, get behind Rinto and just fly along. It's perhaps a bit late in the day, but I have discovered a new thing I enjoy. Despite being on fairly heavy hybrid bikes I was pleasantly surprised to discover how fast I could go and how easy it was to sustain a good pace. I'll definitely explore this further on a road bike when I get home.
|Zipping along through the coconuts|
What was disappointing about the day was the sameness of the views. I was hoping that once we got away from Guruvayur things would change, but I have come to conclusion that endless coconut trees are what you get along the coastal plain. Traditionally, these trees along with other crops supported a family who watered and looked after them. The small holdings are now being bought, the tiny farmer's cottage demolished and replaced with grand villas, leaving a landscape which to my eyes looks like a suburb.
|St Thomas Statue|
On the way out of Guruvayur we stopped to take pictures of a giant St Thomas statue. This part of Kerala was a key staging post on the spice route which ran via the Middle East into Europe. The route was well established before the birth of Christ and partly explains why the population of Kerala is so cosmopolitan. Not content with St Thomas, local legend has it that one of the lost tribes of Israel ended up in Kerala, that Jesus visited here before starting to preach and absorbed some Hindu thinking into his world view. Others even suggest he survived the cross and remembering how happy he was on his last visit, came back and lived his time out in southern India.
|Back breaking boat carrying|
The first break with the suburbs came after 18 km when we at least we got to see the sea. It was a similar scene to yesterday. Two lots of fishermen beached there heavy canoe-like boats to be met almost instantly by a merchant who gave them cash for their meagre catch. The merchants then set off on bikes, shouting their wares and selling the fish in along the villa-lined local roads. The fish was definitely fresh, but would need to be in this heat.
Back on the bike the views of the sea soon disappeared, and after a tea stop at 27 km the next big event (after some fast riding with Tom the Canadian) was the ferry crossing to Vypen Island. This did feel like classic India. A huge expanse of flat silver water, hot misty views, noisy Indians trying to gain a queuing advantage and chicken feet casually discarded in the river. The river crossing was great fun and, as usual, 13 westerners with bikes caused a mild sensation.
|On the ferry|
We stopped for lunch at the Bay Watch restaurant and went for a swim. It was wonderful, although I for one was disappointed that Pamela Anderson chose not to make an appearance.
Back on the bikes again for some rare after lunch, cycling and it was now really really hot. After 15 km along a very poor road next to sea (although without actually seeing it) we joined a busy main road and blasted our way (my speed partner this time was Roger) to the ferry which took us across the estuary to Fort Cochin.
|On the beach at Fort Cochin|
We're staying in a lovely hotel not far from the beach. Just before an excellent fusion dinner (Portugese/Keralan) we managed to catch the sunset on a beach full of Indians making the best of the last bits of weekend sunshine.