your spanish shop
Supporting appealmobile on his world travels

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The West is Best (apart from Near Death Experiences)

Before continuing with the story. My phone containing all the photos of the West side of India was stolen last night in Hampi.

To all the lovely people who I met along the way, I will always see you in my mind and feel your warmth wherever I go. I may not be able to put a name to the face or place you in one spot, but you will remain with me.

The idea that the west is best has been in my mind for some years. Scenery is usually more dramatic has more beauty than the eastern counterparts. Whether it's the west coast of England Ireland or USA I have always liked the western side. It was backed by a thesis that claimed the western side of a country usually was better economic wise as wealth tends to spread westwards. Whether I am right or wrong remains to be seen, but there was a dramatic change in the scenery once I turned the Southern tip of India.

Outside of my theory I saw my first elephant and then when I was struggling to find a decent sized town, where there may be a guest house I turned down the resort of Kovalam. It has beautiful beaches backed by coconut palms and small headlands, and I thought my search for a cheap room would be fruitless. I stopped on the headland overlooking the bay and was alerted to two snakes dancing/mating/fighting in the grass below. If I had thoughts of sleeping out on the beach they ended there and then.

I decided to ride down to the beach and was set about by the attendants luring visitors to their particular hotel. I spoke to one and said that I could probably not afford their rates. The manager came out and told me they only had doubles at a thousand rupees. I excused myself and told him it was beyond my budget, but he persevered with me and when hearing my budget was a five hundred limit, he immediately gave me a room for that price. The hotel was the Samudra and was the most friendliest and hospitable hotel and considering some I had stayed at already, that was saying something..

The following day I went to the beach and had my first proper swim, as opposed to the baths I had had in the east. The water was warm and once past the breakers was quite clear, although I think heavy in salts and minerals. It was gorgeous and I made a decision to rest up a couple of days, do some washing and relax. I booked another two nights all at the same price and was delighted to find a bar right at the back of the hotel with a beer garden. I went the beach again later and spent a couple of hours on the further beach. The beach is fronted by restaurants sitting below the palms and was a delight to say the least.

The second night provided the first drama of the trip, unless you exclude all those moments just before obliteration by a wagon/bus steaming full speed ahead directly towards me on my side of the road. I had friended a family from the Punjab and was talking with them outside reception. I was facing the reception on one of those plastic terrace chairs when lights and sparks illuminated the sky above. I thought at first it was a firework display, until my friends wife shouted for me to run quick. The sparks were from a city power cable, the type stretched between wooden poles. This one had snapped at the pole behind me and had draped itself about a foot above my head and was shorting out on a live cable in front of me.
 I never saw the gravity of the situation till five minutes had passed, while the sparks were still raining down. The manager thinks that God loves me.

It was sad leaving the following morning as the staff had been really kind and helpful, but there was a long way to go back to Uttar Pradesh. The ride north began on the back road near to the beaches and was a string of towns without breaks, akin to the M62 corridor without the motorway. It was two lane and very busy and crazy. I stopped at a beach that had been sign posted from thirty kilometres away and thought it must be special. I landed at the wrong point but met a lovely Swiss woman named Monica. She guided me to the headland overlooking Varkalla beach where we shared a coffee before she directed me along the beach roads north which would entail ferry crossings. The coastline was now straight with no coves but plenty of inland waterways. The first ferry I came to was nothing more than a long boat with an outboard. No drive on but I was prepared for lifting the bike on board from the quay. I was nervous as the boat tilted to the side as I shifted the bike into a central position. The other side I was helped by the most warmly and genuine person I have met to date. Saju was his name and he sprung to my aid to lift the bike out of the boat, then proceeded to hug me and shake my hand over and over again. He was so lovely and we took pictures before he left with his bike straddling the bench in mid-ship.

The evening was drawing in and I had to find a town before dark for a hotel. I wasn't succeeding and had to tail gate buses in the dark on the highway before I reached a town with a lodge at Paripally. This turned out to be a dump with a really low life type of off licence where you qeued to order then qeued to collect. I returned with my two bottles to share my room with hundreds of flies of all varieties. The mosquitos were buzzing and I reverted to a sleeping bag to escape them. That was hotter and worse than being eaten alive. I had little sleep but was determined to be out of there first thing.

I was back to the beach roads and crossing water ways by a succession of ferries, all costing about 15 rupees. and finished at the end of the day, due to being coaxed into taking an class at a Spoken English class. It was fun and the Sreejan the head, didn't expect me to take the class in such a thorough manner. I taught the condensed versions of that will 'darrel' haven't you 'avenue' etc which left ,me again chasing a town in the dark. This time it was Alappuzha where I found a lovely guest house. I walked in looked at the room and noticed a Barcelona scarfe. Then realise I was standing under a Liverpool FC scarf. The owners brother was a connoiseur of football and talked of the days of Gary Linaker. More importantly they had beer in the fridge and a balcony up stairs where I could enjoy a quiet drink and smoke.

Next day it was a ride along the beaches another ferry and then a ride into fort Kochi. The Dutch quarter and old town was quite nice if it hadn't been so hot. I avoided the new town as much as I could and set off for Kannur, to meet a friend Saju who is a policeman. He is a friend of Anne who works on behalf of the project. Saju was also a person who was helping me receive a spare bank card from England. It was a long slog out of Kochi and I was happy to settle being short of Kannur. However town after town had no vacancies. I arrived in one small place, I believe was Pilakool which had a wine store on every block. It is a tax haven and I pulled in for a beer at 60 pence a pint. Sadly no room at the inn and I was heartbroken having to leave after only one beer.

I met Saju my police friend the fillowing day at the police academy parade. He kept asking me not to smoke and it wasn't till the following day that he explained that smoking was forbidden anywhere except the home in Kerrala. Before that was mentioned we had visited the old Portugese fort in Kannur, and it was only because Imy spare card arrived before my departure that I was able to meet him again. We arranged to meet some 10kms outside of my route and he had set up a road check at the spot to hand over my card. I apologise to all the bike riders who were booked that day for no helmet or caught with a cigarette in their mouth.

I headed up to Kumpta where I would branch off to visit Hampi, but the road that day was in such poor condition that I never reached my destination. It was until Mangalore that I saw one stretch of smooth tarmac and it was a dual carriageway that by-passed the city. I was so relieved, but found that it ended further along and was on and off or in various states of being completed. I reached Bhatkal Shaken to pieces with a bit of whiplash in my kneck and as it was near dusk tried for a hotel. I was totally unsuccessful and was told the next town of any size was 50 kms away. Disheartened I set off only to turn a corner and find a great hotel with a bar and a petrol station next door, as that was my other concern that night.

Up and off very early after a couple of cups of tea and the road was heaven in comparison to the previous day. There was also a lack of traffic and the smooth tarmac wound itself through the peach coloured soil of rolling hills to Kumpta. I was tempted to ride on to the beach resorts of Gokarna but at mid-day the heat was becoming unbearable so found the only hotel on town and was booked in and showered.

I took an excursion to Gokarna the next day as my friend who I was meeting at Hampi was delayed due to mechanical problems. Gokarna and Om beach were not as attractive as the beaches in Kovalam, but the main attraction is the seclusion. The approach road winds over the headland with spectacular views of the estuary, the hill range between there and Hampi and the coast line North. A couple of lovely beach bars are situated bon the beach itself and plenty of shade from the trees at the back of the beach. I enjoyed a pleasant enough swim but the water is not as clear as you would hope. It could of course be silt from the estuary oor possibly more mineral content, but it spoiled the view without that turquoise colour you expect. It was a blistering hot day again but cooled by a strengthening wind.

The following day I overslept and I didn't hit the road till ten thirty. I was alittle annoyed as it was a 260 km ride to Hampi. The wind was fierce and coming in from the east and making headway was hard for the little bike. The road up to Sirsi was well surface and twisted it's way up the hills needing hairpin bends to climb up the hillsides. At Sirsi it became difficult as there were two routes to choose from and neither are sign posted as always, and in an attempt to find my route, I finished up heading South. The road was empty and I was meandering around the many bends waiting for an escape east. It didn't happen for at least 50 kms and when it did it was back to bone jerking ploughed tarmac. I eventually emerged on my route with 120 kms to go and found the first section the worse of the day which slowed me down even further. I had anticipated a 6 pm arrival which was seeming unachievable, especially when I was flagged down by a little Indian man with three little girls and an out of petro motorbike. We drained a litre from mine and I followed him to the next town at a slow pace. They were so appreciative. I raced on and as most of the day had been cloudy and was cooling quickly I made one further stop to put on a jumper. I arrived at Hospet as darkness fell and hit the exit road to Hampi. Unfortunately the road was missing and I finished riding in the dust storm created by the Hampi bus.

But I made it and found my friends at their Hotel, the Golden Garden Guest House. An amazing stop with bamboo constructed huts lined with lattice and palm rooves. Fortunately the beds have mosquito nets. The dining area is a circular open hut with mats and low tables, which are a pain for me and my stiff old legs. It is located next to the river inside the temple area. Alcohol is forbidden but a 10 rupee ride across the river and you can get a dringk or an auto to the next village about two or three kms away does the trick. 

No comments: