Kerala Bike Trip: Day 5: Munnar, Kochi and to Alappuzha

Dec 12, 2012

I have managed to learn only following in Malayali

१ = उन्न
२ = रण्ड
३ = मून
४ = नाल
५ = Damn! I’ve already forgotten !

OK = शेरी
Water = वलयम्

I’m in the land of the Mallus or the middle-east? and this is all that I’ve got to hold my self in this terrain.

Today’s plan is the Tea museum, and then off to Alappuzha (Alleppy) via Kochi. We head out early after having another round of Idi, vadas to the Kannan Devan Tea Museum. Its the first time JK and Manas are going to resent the way the tea is made in their respective homes. First the video of the Munnar’s history and then the tea manufacturing process. In the process there is this realization of the fact, that all of us who are used to the टपरी चाय are not having the right tea. The right way to make it is add tea powder to boiling water, stir it a little and then leave it for its flavour and colour to blend into the water. But our tapari chai is more of all ingredients at once and BOIL ! BOIL ! BOIL ! Its poison according to few… but hell with it ! I like my chai the boiling-hot style.

After the museum trip, we decide to head off for Kochi, that would be close to 3-3.5 hour ride. After another effort of mounting, hosting our bags on the bikes adding more to the kerb-weight, we head downhill towards the more popular aspect of Kerala, beaches, backwaters, tropical climate with fields of spices like pepper, cardamom, cinnamon etc.

The roads cast magic on us. About 5km from Munnar, where the potholed roads get converted to the smooth, sweet, silky tarred potion. Nothing short of magic! Downhill roads with extremely good grip of tar unlike concrete passing through the tea gardens, then the hills with a perfectly crisp temparature. What else could we ask for? This was our second such road after Ooty-Coonoor-Mettupalayam. We swayed along with the roads as a mesmerized cobra dances along with the snake-charmer’s बीन.

We stopped for a refreshment break, had some coconut water, tender coconut. There were some pineapples on display as well. At ₹ 5 a plate for the pickled pineapple, it could knock off Starbucks, McDonald’s, KFC all at once for its food, taste, value for price, etc. And… can’t forget the shack location, made with bamboos right inside a tropical forest. It was one of juiciest pineapples we ever had. JK had been blabbering about it for sometime.

Once down hill, the road continued to wind around the local villages. We decided to stop at a local hotel. It was more of a traditional eatery, with more of city-restaurants like décor. We ordered for roasted chicken, daal, fried rice. Chicken was the pick of the meal. It had started to get hotter, Ooty, Munnar was cold, but downhill tropical Kerala was inviting. JK suggested we order for संभारम् (sounds like sambhar that is enjoyed with idli, but its spiced-buttermilk). The buttermilk’s property was what we were more interested in, however, the strong ginger, coriander, green-chilly spiced buttermilk was so HOT that I actually only managed to gulp half a glass. Eyes watering, nose dripping… I ordered for plain Vanilla ice cream by the popular local brand “Papai”. It was so soothing in the 1.30pm noon, that others couldn’t resist order their own dollop. We headed out into the verandah, where the huge entrance had seats etched into the walls of the building, and a nice mattress over it.

Get lost, मैं तोह इधर सो रहा हूं !

was my response when I threw myself on the mattress. JK too found it too relaxing to let go. All of us relaxed there for a minute or so and then revved towards Kochi.

Kochi is a nice warm city, not too big not too small, perfect. We go through the traffic towards the west, our first point of interest is Fort Kochi. We get to an area that almost resembles Goa, foreigners roaming, bright coloured cottages, lime yellow, sky blue, bright white borders. Small shacks overflowing with विदेशी जंता while we are aimlessly roaming finding Fort Kochi

Where is Fort Kochi ? – JK asked

This is Fort Kochi – a guy replied

Apparently the whole area is called Fort Kochi. We saw a board – Beach – and we rushed towards it. We stopped by, got on the sand. Manas felt blissed! He feels comfortable around the sandy beaches, coconut trees, the saline smell with humidity reaching uncomfortable heights instead of cold, dry, skin piercing weather of the hills. We headed towards the north side, where I saw what I’d listed on my TODOs for Kochi – Chinese fishing nets !

Chinese fishing nets
Chinese fishing nets

I don’t what is so special about them, its nothing but a huge fishing net hoisted on bamboos, in a manner such that it can be lowered or raised by using the contraption as a fulcrum (simple machine). The rushed with my camera on one of the jig, when the fisherman shouted back –

private property

waved his hand suggesting I shouldn’t go ahead further, I managed to take some snaps from the place where I was bolted by that fisherman’s shout. I came down from it to see Manas talking with a guy in his 40s, wearing a sleeveless jacket, half-sleeved checked-shirt on a pair of denims, big locks coming down from his shades of gray hair. Seemed like a rockstar or something from the gone days.

Manas in his riding jacket, exo-skeleton making him stand in an awkward posture was engrossed in the talk, as I tried to join the conversation hesitantly, the topic was clear – Biking. Manas introduced me to him and said

He was roaming here where we watched me in my biking gear

Praveen Sathe, was a guy from Royal Enfield. He had watched Manas in his riding gear and just asked where had been riding from. Mumbai – as the answer was a catalyst for more conversation. He was amazed when he got the details of the bikes on the tour

R-15 v 2 and FZ-S is fine, but Unicorn ! All this way !?

He asked us to check the Art bikes that Enfield had put on a display just ahead of the Fort, ya the fort – Fort Kochi. He laughed back…

Fort Kochi is another fort like we have many in Mumbai, Mahim Fort, Fort Fort ! God knows where is the Fort fort?

the Egg

There were 2 bikes, the egg and another the black widow. Black widow had its handles below the tank, almost touching the engine. Ofcourse it was art, and had everything extra accentuated.

The talks continued … Honda to come up with 3 more exciting bikes by 2013, which according to him will kill the competition. All of them, half-litre class bikes all placed around 3.5 lacs. The R, the F and our favourite the X. To the readers unaware of the letters.

We mounted back on our bikes, while Manas bid final ‘bye’ to him and came back.

He asked were you guys in I.T. ? and then said – I too was for 10 years, then one fine day had enough of it!

Alappuzha or Alleppey. Alleppey much easier to pronounce, while Alappuzha is ala+pu+ra+ळ. According to JK there is no syllable in Hindi that can describe the ‘zha’. JK imparts…

the ‘zha’ sound is made by adding र and ळ. But while doing it, there are 3 ways where you can place your tongue below the inner dome – Front, middle and back. This sound is made by using the inner most cavity

This intriguingly difficult to pronounce town of Kerala was our last destination of the day. There were 2 routes as suggested by Google Maps, first the extended Panvel-Kanyakumar – NH-17, or the coast-riding state highway SH-66. After some discussions, question rounds for the localites, the coast route was selected and headlights pointed south.

Initially the road was मक्खन, but soon turned sore, road-construction and its pebbles, sand made 5 km of journey a hell to ride, reminding us of our Sira – Mysore fork. Somewhere on the bad patch, my indicator stopped working (a blessing in disguise). But later the route came back to its rider-buttering best. It was almost sun down when we left the outskirts of Kochi. The coastal route as expected was dotted with small back waters giving us a hint of whats to come, coconut trees, dry-fish-stinking air. But it was worth the ride, carving its way through small villages of Kerala, where mosques, temples and churches mingling along.

We reached the town around 7.30 and with JK’s fast-talk with the locals, we ended up renting a room in a cottage next to the beach. The owner, Kamruddin another fast-talking Mallu which I wouldn’t have comprehended if he never broke his language into nouns, verbs, basic adjectives of English. Speaking here if I had to ask for a good restaurant, this would be my question with obvious gestures

Good – restaurant (with eating gesture) – on beach ?

I’m sure the english laureates would find its much easier this way as well. We had a bath and then headed for tea, it was late enough that we actually tried to search for a restaurant. We walked over 10 mins. along the beach-side road to find a restaurant flooded with foreigners, neat ambiance and hopefully good food.

With some luck, we got into it, however the food was OK to be lenient at best. Back on our way we lost our way and went ahead, but with some help, we got into our cottage. JK adding, that foreigners are living in the other two rooms adjoining to ours.

It was hot just like Mumbai, actually hotter. With a blast of a ceiling fan, we slept into the next day.

Series Navigation« Kerala Bike Trip: Day 4: to MunnarKerala Bike Trip: Day 6: Alappuzha »

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