Covering 1,750KM Across Tamil Nadu in 12 Days

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With none of my touring buddies free I take off alone to Chennai. It is late November, the southern Indian “winter” and dry season. I have a coupling-system frame to test but don’t bother to decouple it in either of the flight directions.

With no particular plan and no one to fit in with I just zig-zag my way south, passing through some of the great TN areas. Vellore, Salem, Trichy, Tuticorin, Rameswaram and Kanyakumari before swinging around the south end of the ghat into Kerala and the airport at Trivandrum.

Being alone I ride more than usual and cover 1,750km in 12 days. The cost has been only $250 a week and I’ve stayed in good places every night and eaten very well.

I love the timelessness of the rural parts of South India. This is heartland Tamil Nadu, SE of Vellore. A lot of this coast, and inland for 50km, is a delta having washed down from the western ghats, across the South Deccan.

The sugar workers are having a break from loading the cane onto a truck out in the field. Hanging out with me instead. We mutually admire each other’s things. They my bike; me their ropes and cane-knives.

Again, it is the timelessness and sustainability. On a bike we have commonality and a feeling is there on both sides. There is frequent head nodding. Often a group of workers will pause and we acknowledge each other.

I’m no expert on the temples but I always visit the big ones if I am passing by. Trichy is a major one. This is Rama and he is housed under a massive stone roof. The scale is overwhelming.

Along this coast, peacocks live in the wild like nowhere else I have seen. It is common to pass 6 or 8 sitting up on rock outcrops. Their calls pervade the environment.

Sri Lanka and India are quite close together around Palk Bay. It is protected water, not damaged for example by the Indonesian tsunami. It’s a peaceful calm area.

Kanyakumari, at the very tip of India. Quite a fuss is made about the oceans and seas meeting here and religious significance. There is an unavoidable feeling that, one way or another, this is a very significant place. Dawn is the time to be there and I have ridden the 20km from Nagarcoil in the dark.

The western ghats come to an abrupt halt. The west and east coastal strips meet in the super rich farmland around Nagarcoil. The women in the foreground are making small bundles of rice seedlings for  transplanting.

The big-load shot of the trip. The driver would have zero rear-view mirror access. This is plantation teak. Teak is a major rural industry in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The last day has seen a big change as I’ve turned around to start going up on the west coast in Kerala. The western slopes of the massive mountain range, just inland, (they call them “hills”) has one zone of elevation in which rubber is the exclusive crop.

This is a map marked up with a matchhead at each overnight stop. The Chennai airport is SW of the city so I stayed near the airport and didn’t go into the city rather I headed to Vellore the first day.

It is much easier to (a) ride to the airport, along the way buying coir rope, a few bathmats and 10 newspapers; rather than (b) scrounge for cardboard in the city near the lodging, packing in the confines of the room and arranging and paying for vehicular transport to the airport. In preparation I am already carrying a disc protector, cable ties, tape and a 60m role of cling wrap. In the future I’ll use a locally-bought tarp instead of clingwrap.

I’m only half deflating the tires to protect the rims. I am trying to only use what I am able to buy on the way to the airport, and comfortably carry on the bike to the airport. For when there are no bike cartons at the airport.

A few good carrying loops in the rope at the top invite handlers to keep the bike upright. It would even be possible to make and take some “This Way Up” stickers for each side.

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