Noisy India (February 5th - February 17th)
There have been many times that I wish I could have grabbed my camera and taken a photo but the event happened so quickly that I had no chance to get it out from my front handlebar bag. One day I was riding along and a motorcycle pulled up and kept pace right beside me. It happens all the time with most simply staring and not having much to say other than asking where I am from or what is my good name. In this case I had to laugh as a family of 5 went by, all with big smiles. The man was driving with a young girl behind and his wife at the back. In front of him was his young son with the baby on the mothers lap. The women tend to sit side saddle and are not really hanging on to anything so if they got into an accident there would be nothing stopping her or her baby from hitting the pavement. There is a helmet law here but I have rarely seen anyone wearing one and in the month I have been here have not seen a single traffic police stopping someone for a violation. I see hundreds per day. I always hear how much freedom we have in the West but in terms of personal freedom to do whatever you want, without rules and constraints of government, India has us beat hands down.
Here is one time I was able to grab my camera. I can't remember the last time I saw an elephant on a truck back home.
(Nileswaram - Badagara - Calicut - Chavakad - Fort Kochin - Alleppey - Kollum - Kovalam)
Distance biked so far: 7,882 km
One of the main modes of transport in India is the ever present black and gold auto rickshaw. I haven't ridden in one but they are cheap for the residents and are everywhere. Since it is against the unwritten law to use your mirrors when driving, they tend to cut in front and then quickly brakes to pick up passengers. In India with the explosion of car sales coming, it would be a great investment to buy shares in an auto parts company. However, not one that made side and rear view mirrors or light indicators as those are never used so people wouldn't bother replacing them if they miraculously wear out. I need to find one that only makes horns. I can't imagine an Indian driver without the use of something to honk; he wouldn't know what to do with all that free time while driving.
One day I was biking along and noticed a large white building in the distance. It stood out from the surroundings so I entered the gates and was greeted by a man in a white robe. I have been disturbed many times on this trip with the contradiction between the wealth as exhibited in the various religious monuments, and their poor almost slum like surroundings. It was apparent in the Middle East with magnificent Mosques set in poor neighbourhoods and has also been prevalent here in India. In the slums of Mumbai the ornate Mosques were set right in the middle of the slum. I have also seen beautiful Hindu temples in the villages and now this Presbyterian Church that was incredibly plush on the inside, set amongst some extremely poor areas in the background. I often wonder if the locals around these buildings think it strange that the religions that teach to help the poor spend so much on buildings. I suspect they just accept it as part of life and that the alternative use of funds if not for the building would just have gone elsewhere, or simply stayed in the hands of the wealthy.
I entered the southern state of Kerala on February 7th. Kerala is famous for the backwaters, the 900km network of waterways that fringe the coast and trickle far inland. I was planning to take a boat from Aleppey to Kollum along the backwaters but the canal followed the highway which I was biking on so thought I could get the same experience on my bike. Here is an early morning view along the backwaters.