Monday, January 26, 2015

Cycling In India 2015 : Lost In Fort Kochi

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Cycling India Kerala 2015  : Lost In Fort Koci
Fort Kochi, Kerala, India : 12th January 2015
Distance: 11.67 km.
Time : 10:30 am - 12:15 pm.
Time Taken : 1 hr. 45 mins. (Including stops for photos and re-direction).

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic is heavy along the some narrow stretches especially near the docks godown area. The main roads are also busy with traffic. Use the quieter secondary roads when possible and above all do ride with care.
2. Within the heritage area of Fort Kochi are many sites worth visiting such as:
    - The Chinese Finishing Nets,
    - The St.Francis Church,
    - The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica,
    - The Mattancherry Palace, etc.
    Entry fee may be required for some of these places.
4. There are good eats in Fort Kochi, don't miss the seafood which are very fresh here. The food court at Tower Road has many stalls offering good Kerala Food. If not up for spicy food, many shops serve non-Indian European food (generally referred to as Continental Food); amongst them are Kerala Cafe, Oceanos Restaurant & Dal Roti.
5. It will be good to track cycling routes using apps such as Map My Ride. If overseas and without any mobile data line, start tracking from the hotel where there is WiFi. The WiFi will allow maps to be downloaded onto the tracking apps. Without the maps one will only see a red tracking line. If lost, the maps will be useful to get one's direction right again.


We were on a holiday in Kerala, India. The previous day I was desperate to cycle and had borrowed a poor young boy's rusty bicycle to cycle around the backwaters of the Allepey riverside. It was a short cycling stint that gave me an opportunity to view rural life in Kerala and should have soothed my cycling itch for a while.
But it was not to be, one day later the itch came back when we reached Fort Kochi. Unlike the rural backwaqers, Fort Kochi is a vibrant heritage centre and old port busy with acitivities.
My itch came back! I have to ride again, to experience the difference of cycling in a busy metropolitan area.


Distance: 11.67km.     |     Level: Easy
So my son and me rented a couple of bicycles from a nearby bike rental. The rental rate per bicycle per day is 100 rupees. We were going to ride only for a couple of hours and negotiated the rate down to 50 rupees. I must add that if renting bicycles here, check the bicycles first as some of the brakes don't work well.
With only a destination in mind, we will be riding lost, i.e. without any particular route in mind and let the road lead us along. Our destination was the colourful fishing boat boats at the harbour near the old Thoppumpady Bridge.

We took hold of the bikes and bearing in mind that their conditions were not tip-top, cycled slowly in a northwards direction and then hopefully loop down along the eastern coast.
Photo above shows Keve riding by the Princess Street area, where there are may shops selling Indian antiques and souvenirs. Hanging from above silver strip banners were fluttering with the wind, making some natural music tempo, putting us into a festive mood as we cycled along.

Near Vasco Da Gama Square are these huge Chinese Finishing Nets. Each of them were about ten metres wide by twenty metres wide and needing at least ten fishermen to operate one. This net design is reputed to be of Chinese origin, possibly handed down from the time when Admiral Zheng He passed by here during his travels from China.
The fishermen lower the nets into the sea for half an hour before raising them up again, hoping to net as many fish as possible. But these days the catch seems to be paltry, drawing in only a few fishes which are quickly stolen by the sea gulls as the nets come out of the water.
The nets did not draw much fish but did draw these two cyclists to stop for a while to admire their lithe structure and talk to the fishermen.

Happy with the view of the nets, we continued on along KB Jacob Road when suddenly the sound of music and singing attracted us back to River Road.

The music was coming from a yellow truck carrying some locals (perhaps some association members); in tempo to their drum beats they were also singing.
I love India; the people and places are so colourful, some may find the colours loud but I find that it gives India its distinct identity, like these singers above ...

... and this Indian lady in a blue gown and a bright orange shawl selling very colourful necklaces...

... this pinkish shop selling colourful slippers...

... and this wall mural with colourful pants hung out to dry.

We made our way eastwards, away from the touristy area into the old port area. The streets are now much narrower but lively with local life.

Although we could not cycle fast in this busy area, Kev seems to be enjoying himself witnessing the day-today life here.

Of workers busy loading goods...

Of people delivering goods by their unique means.

And of goats resting in the shade.

Stopped by at the Jewish Cemetery for a quick look and said some prayers.

Away from the busy port and warehousing area, the roads are now wider but we had to slow down for the occasional slow traffic...

... and that odd camel that comes along once in a while.

Oops! We were so engrossed and taken in by the sights and sounds of the place that I was disorientated and really got lost. A quick stop to ask for directions should sort out matters.
But the directions given were not very clear, luckily I had switched on the Map My Ride app when we started off at the hotel. We were without any mobile data now but the wifi at the hotel had downloaded the map of the area otherwise I would be just seeing a tracking red line on a screen bare of any map.

With apprehension, we rode back. I was a bit worried but my spirit was lifted by this Friendship mural on the road.
On an off, we stopped to check directions on my phone tracking app and we were fortunate to make it back to the hotel slightly pass noon - just in the nick of time to check out from the hotel.

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker-India 2015 / Cycling India 2015 : Lost In Fort Kochi
If you like this, view my other blogs at Jotaro's Blog
(comments most welcomed below. if you like this pls share via facebook or twitter)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cycling In India 2015 : Kerala Backwaters Riverside Stint

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker-India 2015Cycling India 2015 : Kerala Backwaters Riverside Stint
                                                   AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                                
Cycling India Kerala 2015  : Kerala Backwaters Riverside Stint
Allepey, Kerala, India : 11th January 2015
We cyclists are a crazy lot. Wherever we are, we just have that itch to ride. I was in Kerala for a holiday; after a few days as a tourist, I was itching to cycle. In fact I was desperate to cycle.... cycle anywhere here as long as it was safe.

Solo Ride: Around the Manimala riverside.

Distance: 3.05km     |     Level: Easy
It was morning and I have gone for a walk outside Maria's Heritage Home in Alaphuzha, where we were staying. This is the backwaters district of Kerala.
This place faces the Manimala River (it's called the Pamba River too) and on both sides of the river were narrow roads running parallel to it. The day was hot but not scorching hot, good for a walk, or even better still good for cycling.

The river looks calm and there was interesting activities on the river and beside it; long-boats on its side, floating among
Water Hyacinth plants.

Beautiful bright pink water lily flowers at its banks ...

... and on the opposite bank was a girls' school built along Anglo-Indian-Portuguese lines.
I just have to cycle here, in fact I was desperate to cycle here. How desperate was I?

I was DESPERATE enough to approach a young boy cycling outside to lend me his bicycle.
He took me to his house, a ramshackle a few doors away from our home-stay to see his father.
I asked the father whether I could rent the bicycle from them; he said "Just take it and return it when you are finished." He did not even ask for a deposit! These poor but trusting people are really beautiful people.
And at the moment, the dark red bicycle with its rusty chain and non-working brakes was the most beautiful thing in the world to me.

The road on this side of the river was a non-paved laterite road, shady and almost devoid of vehicular traffic. Despite having no brakes and despite the rusty chain frequently coming out, I was beginning to enjoy the ride as it gave me a chance to observe life here.

Ahead, a woman was washing cloths along the riverside; and some children were thinking about jumping into the river for a swim.

And in the river, a brown snipe was resting on a floating coconut trunk, ready to swoop in on any fishy prey.

Finally I saw some vehicular traffic; a motor-taxi ferrying some tourist....
Hey! That's my wife and her friend, they were coming back from the market on the other side of the river. She waved to me and was surprised to see me on a bicycle... Hah!

Ahead was the Pulinkunnu Bridge spanning across the river. I will have to use the bridge to get over to the other side. Oh... dear... the bridge ramps up and down... and I have no brakes!

The bridge is a narrow bridge just enough for a car to go through; so there are traffic lights on both sides to control traffic. With no brakes, I played it safe and pushed the bicycle up and down the bridge. I was a bit slow, the lights changed and suddenly traffic was approaching form the other side!

Fortunately there was a niche into which I could squeezed into safely for the traffic to pass through. Actually, I squeezed in there for a while, to take in the scenery of the river - it was nice and quiet at this time as many were in church on this Sunday morning.

On the other side, the roads were tarred and there was more activities ongoing; nearby were schools, churches, markets, etc.

On this side too, it can be seen that the river is a common transport route with sampans delivering good...

.. and passengers wait for the Pulinkunnu-Mancompu Ferry that plies a route along the Manimala River.

Yahoo! I have reached the destination that I espied from the other side of the river - the St. Mary's Forane Church.

I rode further into town to look for the market, most of the shops were closed so there were not many I could ask for directions.
Oops.... have to abort the market finding... it's time to go back as we will be checking out of Maria's soon.

Quickly I pedalled back, pushed the bike up and down the bridge before continuing cycling again. Even at this brisk pace I was able to notice things like this rare purple bloom of this hyacinth...

... a cormorant with its wings akimbo, basking in the sun.

And rode pass this family of white goats before returning the bicycle to the little boy's father.
Eventhough they did not want any money from me for using the bicycle, I gave them some, feeling that they would need it to repair their bicycle.

It had been a short stint around the river, one that was over too quickly. But it did satisfy my itchy cycling legs. I hope that the itch will not come back too soon... will it?

You may also like :

Brompton Accessories #14 : Mini-O Bag Packing Light & Tight

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker-India 2015 / Cycling India 2015 : Kerala Backwaters Riverside Stint
If you like this, view my other blogs at Jotaro's Blog
(comments most welcomed below. if you like this pls share via facebook or twitter)