BOOKED AND ARRANGED in the U.K. by H.C. TRAVEL
Our Kerala bike tour is offering a dramatic contrast to our other Indian tours, and a great winter touring option. As this is southern India, there are a few changes to our tour set-up, but as with the rest of our programme, there are no compromises on quality. Daniel, our tour guide, has lived in the area for many years, and has been running motorcycle tours since 1999. We have ten 350cc Bullets (so no large unwieldy tour groups!), but these come with higher bars and improved grips for comfort, reinforced rear struts to improve handling, chrome mirrors, crash bars, and short silencers. Electric mosquito machines are provided throughout the tour, and nets are provided in the main areas, the backwaters and Cochin. As with our other Indian tours, we travel with a mechanic, the excellent Ranesh, a jeep driver with unbelievable driving and negotiating skills, the incomparable Niyaz (and space for non-riding passengers), and carry bottled mineral water for when you just can’t face another cup of chai. Our hotels range from the very good through to the truly exotic, and we are sure that each one will be an enjoyable and unique experience. For 2008 we have again tweaked the itinerary to give you more time to enjoy the fantastic scenery and wildlife.
DAY 1 DEPART UK.
For our flight inclusive guests your holiday starts here. Board your morning flight to Cochin.
DAY 2 ARRIVE COCHIN.
We will greet you personally upon your arrival in Cochin this morning, and transfer you to our beach hotel, nestled amongst acres of palm trees with uninterrupted views across the Indian ocean into the sunset., Here you can unwind after the long flight and enjoy some R&R by the pool. Then we have an introductory meeting to get to know each other and our bikes, hopefully with time for a short ride We finish off the day with our Welcome Dinner. Marari Beach Resort or The Beach at Pollethai.
DAY 3 ALEPPEY.
A leisurely breakfast sets the scene for a relaxing day. You can go for an exploratory ride along the coast, past mission churches, unspoilt fishing villages, backwaters, lighthouses and beaches shrouded by endless palm trees. After this you should be starting to adjust to the pace of life here. And if you haven’t quite chilled out enough, book a massage, go to a yoga or cookery class or just order abeer, grab a hammock and relax!
DAY 4 ALLEPPEY – KUMILY (205 km).
Now you are ready for your adventure! An early start today for a long day's ride through some truly spectacular scenery. We traverse the backwaters and rice paddies before starting the ascent through the rubber and tea plantations of the Cardoman Hills and Southern Ghats. Stopping for tea and small snacks every hour or so we climb on largely empty, well-surfaced roads until we reach the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Here the views become more sensational as the road gets worse! This route is largely untrodden - whereas tourists usually see the area by taking the boat on Lake Periyar, we pass through 100 km of the 770 sq. km sanctuary on our bikes. There is an abundance of wildlife, from flora, birds and insects up to bears, leopards, elephants and even tigers, although they keep themselves well hidden usually. And no traffic. The riding is slow, and we will often switch off engines to freewheel down narrow lanes and take in the full sounds of the forest. (There is an easier route available too). After riding to over 2000 m, we finally meet up with the good road again and rejoin the highway for the final short run into Kumily. The temperature here is much cooler than by the beach and you can reward yourself with a nice hot shower. Spice Village or Greenwoods.
DAY 5 KUMILY (free day).
We stay in Kumily today, so you can decide what you want to do. If you would like, there is an early 6 am start to take the Periyar Lake boat trip to see the wild elephants, or you can get up a little later and take an elephant ride, or just take a walk around the town, take in the sights, do some shopping and enjoy the atmosphere.
DAY 6 KUMILY – KODAIKANAL 150 km).
We drop down to the plains again on some very good roads and stop for a traditional Tamil lunch at the foot of the Palani Hills. We head off in the heat of the day, but temperatures soon drop as we ride up to the hill station of Kodaikanal at 2000 m in just 30 miles. If there’s time, you can take the bike around the paths of the summit, explore on foot or horseback, hire a boat on the lake in town, or just enjoy the local dairy products - cheeses and ice creams - and mushrooms. Carlton Hotel or Zest.
DAY 7 KODAIKANAL – MUNNAR (165 km).
A mid-morning start gives us time to cruise back down the hill, to stop for lunch at the restaurant at the foot of the Palani Hills. We then ride across the plains for about an hour, before climbing again through 17 hairpin bends and the start of a road of never-ending tea plantations. After stopping for tea on the edge of the Tata tea estate, the world's largest, with a splendid view over Devikulam Lake we carry on to the enchanting hill station of Munnar, and our hotel. Tea County or Club Mahindra.
DAY 8 MUNNAR (free day).
A chance to explore the delights of Munnar and the surrounding area. We can also go in search of the Nilgiri Tahr, a rare mountain goat, in the cool of the morning. About half of the total world population of about 2000 animals live in the ranges below the Anamudi Peak (2695 m), the highest in southern India. Alternatively we can ride up to the Top Station, or take a dirt-road scramble up to one of the highest tea estates in the world.
DAY 9 MUNNAR - OOTY (OOTACAMUND) (245 km).
Leaving Munnar, we ride through Eravikulam Park, with its abundant monkeys and scattering of elephants, leopards and tigers. We then pass through Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, stopping for tea at Marayoor, famous for its local sandalwood. We then descend to the plains of Tamil Nadu as the temperature rises, and stop for a late lunch at a roadside restaurant near Coimbatore. Then we head back up into the Nilgiri Hills, hairpin bends aplenty, to a height of 2000 m and our overnight stop in Ooty, 'Queen of the Hill Stations'. Taj Savoy or Zest.
DAY 10 OOTY – MASINAGUDI (50 km).
See Ooty by motorcycle or on foot. Ride up to the Dodabetta Peak for fantastic views of the surrounding plains, or Avalanche Point, where there was snow and an avalanche many years ago! Visit the botanical gardens, English-style public schools and churches, tea gardens and shops. We then take our final mountain ride down a steep ghat road with over 40 hairpins to Masinagudi. Jungle Retreat Taj Savoy or Zest.
DAY 11 MASINAGUDI – CALICUT (175 km).
An early start to go looking for elephants and tiger. Then it’s back on the motorcycles and across the plains of Tamil Nadu, the huge Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, via Masinagudi and into Karnataka. We stop for a pleasant lunch at the Bandipur Sanctuary and then head west into Wayanad Sanctuary. We traverse the Western Ghats for the last time, with a stop at a chai shop in the bamboo forest. Our final descent brings us to the coastal town of Calicut. Taj Residency.
DAY 12 CALICUT - CHERAI BEACH (180 km).
Heading south, we arrive by mid-morning at Guravayoor, one of the most famous temples and pilgrimage sites in southern India. We stop at the Sanctuary for Temple Elephants, where the elephants are trained for processions and elephant races. A handler will show us around and explain the personalities of the elephants and you have the opportunity to be with the elephants, without any barriers or cages. Then it's back on the bikes for a quiet section of the coastal road to our lunch stop - excellent food, slow service! Another hour's riding this afternoon sees us reach Cherai Island, an undeveloped beach resort north of Cochin. This beach is unique in India in that it faces the Arabian Sea to the West, and is separated from the mainland to the east by backwater lakes and canals with hundreds of traditional Chinese fishing nets hugging the banks. The people here are incredibly friendly and make great efforts to wave and shout at you as you pass, they want to make you feel most welcome and have not yet become blasé towards strangers. Cherai Beach Resort.
DAY 13 CHERAI BEACH – THATTEKAD (125 km).
You can spend the morning on the beach, or go for a short ride. After lunch we head off for Thattekad. The road is generally good here until the ferry. Here we get reacquainted with the Periyar River system as we take a local ferry across to a rubber plantation – nice and shady and a wildlife reserve – and then on past the shrine of St Francis to o ur hotel. This is close to paradise and we spend the evening watching the birds nesting for the night,and the villagers playing and working in the lagoon, with the croak of bullfrogs to complement our conversation. Birds Lagoon.
DAY 14 THATTEKAD
As our tour draws to a close, we change our mode of transport today. There’s an early morning breakfast cruise across the Periyar River, with it’s sand boats and into the Periyar Nature Reserve. We switch the engine off and just absorb the sounds and smells and the changing light. If we’re lucky we can take a houseboat ride on the river later in the day.
DAY 15 THATTEKAD – COCHIN (50 km).
Our final ride takes us back to Cochin and a last chance to cement those memories. In the afternoon there’s time for sightseeing in the old town. Famous churches, cathedrals, synagogues and palaces are all within walking distance, and the sights and smells of the famous Chinese fishing nets and the market, with its teas, spices, nuts, fabrics, rosewood, Kathakali masks, cigars - make this an enjoyable wander. Our hotel has the most amazing location on the waterfront in the old town, with spectacular views across the harbour entrance. Early in the evening there’s a cruise around Cochin harbour, with the sun setting against the Chinese fishing nets and giant container ships, a definitive image of Cochin. We bring the tour to a close with our Farewell Dinner. Brunton’s Boatyard.
DAY 16 DEPART COCHIN.
We take you back to the airport for your morning flight home, and say our goodbyes - until the next time! Your flight arrives in the UK later today.