Saturday, November 14, 2009

India Day 9 Kattapana to Thekkady

Today we were heading to Thekkay, more of a tourist city. Last year they cycled on through Kattapana but it made for a long day. We had only 30Km to cycle along rolling hills – but we were assured that this time they really were rolling and that our destination was about the same height as our current location. So it could not be that bad – could it? Although there is a theme of being told more what they think we want to hear than the reality. Mind you I do not think any of our support team are really cyclists and so one hill is the same as any other eh? We would then go to visit a Spice “Garden” in Thekkady after lunch

So we started with a late breakfast.but it started with the donning of damp cycling gear – I really must either carry more cycling clothes or find a better way to dry them.

As promised we had freshly scrambled eggs and toast and jam for breakfast – which made a change – the restaurant in this Hotel was the high spot. Ben optimised his schedule for sleep rather than breakfast – but the bedbugs had bitten him – not the best of our hotels.

It had been raining that morning but was warming up – although much colder than I had expected India to be. I put on some sunscreen – just in case. Here is the front of the hotel with a bit of bike preparation taking place.


Graham bright and early sorting his bike out, My bike has my red helmet hanging on it. You can see an Indian chap wearing a rain coat so it did not look very promising.


The route out of the hotel gates. With a river of mud to cross first – in my clean (but damp) clothes – oh well.


The front of the hotel – with glorious balcony views – if it had not been raining I could have hung my clothes out to dry.


The immediate view from the Hotel gates.


My bike looks pretty clean though – although we get very dirty the rain seems to wash the bikes clean.


Once we were all ready it was time for a quick run to our next destination. The trip through the town was unpleasant – it was a fairly hilly town and so I get the feeling that bicycles were not so popular.

Of the group Barry and Mary are the best prepared when it comes to knowing what there might be to see on the trip. They often arrive at the end with quite a few tales of things they have seen and explored on the route that the rest of us seem to have missed.

On the way out of town I took a few pictures and so got passed by most people. I am not sure quite what Mary had spotted – but it was obviously worth getting off her bike for.


When leaving towns it is not uncommon to pass some quite opulent houses. Here Ben can’t quite believe that someone has a model of Concorde for a garden gate. So that’s what happened to them when they sold them off.


This route was quite rural but did take us through a couple of towns. For some reason the road surface often deteriorates around the towns. You also have to be even more watchful for for traffic and people and especially Autos. (Motor-bike taxis). Did you notice that one behind the lady walking up the street. They can and do pull out without any warning whatsoever.


Once we were into the countryside it became very pleasant – it was not raining – mind you it was not sunny either. The hills were not too long, although they were quite steep. At this point Ben was quite far behind me which was unusual – he normally cycles ahead or immediately behind me.


The hills really were steep – most of us had to use our granny gears (lowest gear) to plod up the hills. We reckon that they were about 16-17% (1 in 6). The longest was around just over 1 Km, or just under a mile in length - it got steeper towards the top though. The other challenge was that the dips of the downhills were generally very muddy because of all the rain so you had to slow and could not carry your speed up the other side,

Once again Graham comes up to pass me as I stop to take pictures.


The last steep hill hill was around 1150m (250m higher than our start height) but it was down hill all the way from here. Of course it also started raining as we entered the town of Thekkady – the support team were posted at various places. I was cycling with Graham at the front of a strung out group. He dived past a lorry – after I was held up by a learner. I also got thoroughly soaked by an Auto speeding past me as I sat behind a learner driver.

It must be awful having to learn to drive in India – just imagine the test - “I’m sorry miss you failed the last manoeuvre – you should not look in your mirror before pulling out into the road.” I overtook the learner and started speeding after Graham. I was expecting to go to 30Km before the hotel – when I saw Graham at the roadside, my first thought was that he had a problem when I realised that he was pointing out the hotel to me. A good job I saw him otherwise I would have carried on down the road.

We were greeted with a drink and then had the customary wait for our bags to turn up. They use the van that carries the bags as part of the on-road support – it is a large mini-bus. As we waited everyone but Ben and Bob arrived. Barry told me that Ben had gear problems – and had been having to get up the really steep hills without his lowest set of gears. Barry had tried to help but not been able to do much on the road.

Just as I started to get a little worried a slightly disgruntled Ben turned up in the mini-van with Bob. He had swapped to Bob’ bike – but felt unsafe on the last big hairpin a few km before town.

I do carry a copy of the hotel telephone numbers along with some tools and a spare inner tube and some patches. But Ben does not have anything so would be a bit lost if he missed the route or had a problem.

The hotel was a nice hotel – they had a warm shower.and for lunch we went a la carte in the restaurant. I had an egg masala and rice which was delicious. After a rest and trying to catch up my blog posts we went to a Kathkali performance.

It is a highly stylised drama with its roots in Sanskrit drama. It has lavish makeup and costumes and is a form of mime where the practioners learn a complex set of hand gestures, movements and facial expressions to convey their story.

We went early to watch the artists put on their makeup and costumes. The chap on the left will play a devil/woman.


Different colours represent different character types; green-good, red-evil and white-deity. They are all natural colours – yellow is for a woman.


The application of the makeup and costumes is not the most enthralling activity – like watching paint dry – here Alan, Jay, Christine and Denise attend to other things whilst “watching”.


Once the makeup is on then they put their costumes on. Jim thought that the bits that make up this guys “skirt” were stage drapes. He (the performer not Jim) took a while to wrap them around his waist.


Before the show one of the performers gave a demonstration of the various facial expressions, hand gestures and movements so that we might be able to understand..Accompanying the two performers were three musicians – one on a drum, one singing and banging cymbals and a third with a lower pitch drum that he hit and rubbed with his hands.

The show then started. – the company have a website at: Mudra Kathkali


This is the good guy – a prince, Who the Devil appearing as a woman attempts to seduce.


The devil (dressed as a woman) demonstrating various movements and facial movements. The challenge for me was that this was all being performed in a small “theatre” and they were banging away on their drums and cymbals like there was no tomorrow. I had to cover my ear and still I found it too loud – the noise me me feel sick. As the finale approached I had to leave the theatre or suffer hearing damage – a shame as Ben says the finale was quite bloodthirsty with the Prince cutting up the devil woman.


The hotel we were staying in was a dry hotel with no license. The solution to the problem is for us to have a private party in another room. We were then able to drink our own beer, The buffet can be seen in the background.

Left to right

Ben, Mary, Barry, Christine, Denise, Our waiter, Graham, Jay, Alan and Bob (aka Squadron Leader SpongeBob)


Jim and Mary were sorting flights and finding out how Abby was doing. It turned out that Abby had broken her jaw in two places and will need to have it wired for the next 6 weeks, If she had waited until returning to the US then they would have had to re-break it. So it was definitely the right call. Hang in there Abby.

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