There is an Indian gesture we see a lot when we’re on the bikes – the hand is upraised, the fingers spread out and wrist twisted from side to side, as if changing a imaginary light bulb. What this seems to mean is “what’s going on?” or “please explain?” or most likely “what are you crazy people doing cycling at midday with all that stuff when its 33 o c and 92 per cent humidity?”
The short answer is we’ve got a train to catch. The long answer, our ultimate purpose, we discovered a couple of days ago but we’ll get onto that later. But first to fill you in on our adventures since the last post.
Having been completely knackered and a bit aimless we found a paradise beach on private land where we managed to plug ourselves in for recharge via our achey toes and a socket somewhere in the soothing sands and sea. The beach hut had a palm tree growing through the middle and there was no one else around but the fishermen and a very attentive guy who seemed to pop up at every moment to offer Chai tea and Kingfisher beer, just as your arm flopped out of the hammock. We had to get our own water out of a well but it all added to the shipwrecked appeal.
All charged up we began peddling again, realising we had to cover another 1300 km in about 3 weeks to get to the train we’d booked two weeks before, not thinking then we’d get lost in beach world.
The road was beautiful to begin with until we got funnelled onto the coastal national highway and truck madness. The Indians build their vehicles around a big fat horn. They get the loudest, blastiest horn they can find and then build the rest of the machine around it, leaving the brakes till last.
Following the advice of our friends Freddie and Guy (www.abikejourney.com) we took a sharp left turn and wheeled through the interior plains, coming across a performing elephant on the way, and up, up , up into the lush hilltop tea plantations of the Western Ghats.
Right when we started this blog we came up with a page called “Top of Teas” where we promised our best tea stops. Lack of time and the infinite nature to tea stops put an end to further updates. But we can inform you that, here in the Western Ghats, at a hill town called “Munnar”, we found our Top of the Teas. We negotiated our way over a 1800m pass and up one last hill to the house of Mr Iype, a local character who has been hosting tourists in his place in the middle of the tea shrub hills for the past 20 years. Mr Iype beckoned us to sit us down in his cozy front room, with sofas much like Jet’s nan used to have, and widescreen windows overlooking the plunging valleys and made us a cup of Tetley tea with a dash of milk and a shortbread biscuit. “This,” said Mr Iype, gesturing at the endless rolling green crop, “is where your tea comes from.”
Ah- Top of the Teas. We discovered the point of our journey, nearly 10000km from the UK to India to get a good cuppa. We had a cup of cha just before we pottered onto the bike path in Bristol, and here in India, we had come again to the grail, the circle complete, the simple but ultimately very complicated cup of tea. All those tea stops, the “stepping stones of life”, by which we negotiated all those kms over so many countries.
Jen was entranced by the Spice Gardens we found further down the hill, cardammon and vanilla and cinnamon and all that stuff that sits at the back of our food cupboards and don’t end up using enough. We saw what it really looks like in the shady groves of hilltop Kerala.
Right now we need to cover another 300km to the Southern tip of India, catch the train back to Bombay and thence, fingers crossed, get a boat to Malta to trainfrog with our bikes back to the UK.
For now we toast you with our cups of tea from afar.
j n j