And now, the end has come

It hardly seems possible but, after an exhausting, enjoyable, emotional trek, crossing hundreds of kilometres of southern India, we are finally on our way home.

Breakfast was early; we had to drive to Varkala to board the flight to Muscat which departed at 08:45 local time. By the time you read this, we’ll be well on our way home, looking forward to greeting you and doing our best cowboy impression. You’d think the airlines would provided extra-padded seats for cyclists!

In spite of the physical pain and the emotional roller-coaster we’ve experienced, we’ve had a lot of fun on this tour. But it was never about us. The reason for coming all this way was to inspire people to give generously towards two very important charities.

Bereaved Parent Support is helping people in the UK that have suffered the loss of a child. Suffering that I can’t even begin to imagine – unfortunately a number of the RideIndia2016 team can imagine it; they’ve been there.
El Shaddai is giving a childhood and a future to many hundreds of Indian children that have had both stolen from them.

If you’d like to contribute to the work of these two charities there’s still time – just go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CandyG and please remember to gift aid it too if you’re a UK taxpayer.

Thank you.
Thank you for your interest in our challenge.
Thank you for your support and your generosity to these causes.

And that’s all for now.
God bless.
Candy.

And it’s back to work…

We’ve done it! The last day of cycling is done and dusted. I almost can’t believe it.

Early yesterday evening we moored alongside a home stay which had beautiful orchids on the trees in the garden. We all climbed out and lots of photos were taken. The two houseboats were tied together and we all had dinner together.

orchids

Deepak with the orchids.

At bedtime we realised that the two single beds in our twin room had been made up with a single “double sheet and double blanket”. Very odd. Fortunately I had my sleeping bag liner, so I just used that.

bedroom

You wouldn’t think you were on a boat!

We had breakfast on the rice boats as we cruised back to where our coach was waiting for us. After a very leisurely ride yesterday we hit the road to cover some serious distance again today.

Some of the team

Ready for the last leg

There was a school of children washing their breakfast plates in the water. As usual, they were happy to see us, and loved posing to have their photos taken.

clean plates

After a half hour coach journey we saddled up for our last 85km. Climbing off the air conditioned coach, we knew we were in for a tough ride; it was only about 10am but it was already hot!

Again we cycled some quieter roads, surrounded by brightly coloured houses, dilapidated shacks, smiling locals and pungent smells. There was a lot of burning piles on their sides of the road today.

A lot of the ride this morning was along the coast, and brightly coloured nets dotted along with people mending them under the shade of the palm trees. We even saw dolphins out at sea!

men mending nets

Another ferry crossing, this time with slightly better condition seats, and then we had about a 10km stretch on the motorway again. One of the ladies commented that it felt a bit like playing a game of space invaders! Deepak took the lead this time. He set off at a much faster pace than we’d been enjoying the rest of the ride. I was determined to keep up with him and Ed, especially as the wind had picked up a bit and I could use them to as a wind breaker 🙂 I was also pleased to get off that road as soon as we could.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant that backed onto the beach. Who would have thought it?

Sea, sand and palm trees

Our Lunch-time view

A couple more kilometres on the motorway and then Vishnu was back in the lead navigating the smaller roads again. The calming view of the sea and sounds of the ocean kept us company for much of the ride. Some of the roads were nicely tarred, some, tar was nowhere to be seen.

The last stretch was undulating hills. Finally we reached “Deshadan” (our accommodation for the last two nights) and cheers of jubilation and high fives all round signified the end of amazing achievement!

Team photo

We made it!

Tomorrow gives us the opportunity to relax at the beach, swim in the pool or even do some last minute shopping!

2 more sleeps till I see my boys again!

Our total cycling distance today was approximately 85 kilometres

Cruising on a traditional houseboat

[Edit: Candy’s update arrived 26 Oct – scroll down to read it]

I’ve not heard from Candy today, presumably they’ve got no WiFi, but below is what was on their original schedule for today.


It’s just a short cycle ride this morning to introduce us to a few of Alleppy’s colonial and cultural charms, before we board our houseboat this afternoon.

houseboat

A houseboat on the Kerala backwaters

Occupying the alluvial plain between the Indian Ocean and the Western Ghats, Alleppy is the ideal spot to enjoy a little something of the area’s famous backwaters. Aboard our traditional ‘Kettuvallom’ we’ll enjoy home-cooked Keralan cuisine as we cruise through the stunning network of canals and channels that make up this remarkable region.

Boats are the villagers’ lifeline, used as taxis, mail delivery, school buses and cargo vessels. It’s possible we’ll see big pyramids of coconuts or even the occasional buffalo being carried along in this time honoured fashion. Along the narrow channels the industrious villagers survive on narrow spits of land, keeping cows, pigs, chickens and even cultivating vegetable gardens.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 20 kilometres

Candy’s update – received on Wednesday evening

After another leisurely start to the day, we boarded our houseboats – our accommodation for tonight. On arrival we were each greeted with a young coconut prepared for us to drink.

the other boat

drinking coconut

Ed, Ian and Sarah enjoying a young coconut

After half an hour or so we moored on the banks and were served a delicious keralan meal – rice (grown in the paddy fields amongst the backwaters), a variety of tasty curries, and sear fish steak. It was finished off with fresh pineapple. Some crows, such impolite and very unwelcome guests, kept making an appearance eager for a share of the meal and had to be chased away.

Lunch is served

We are currently sitting, relaxing whilst we cruise the backwaters of Kerala watching life pass us by (or is life watching us pass by?)

cruising the backwaters

I’s soooo soporific. I nodded off for a short while (probably helped by the fact I was woken at 4:50 by the Muslim call to worship. And that was with windows closed and ear plugs in. My roomie Sarah’s comment was “Oh you have got to be kidding me!” I’d said to her when I heard it the night before that I hoped we wouldn’t be woken at 5am by it – she thought I was kidding!

It really is very peaceful here. A complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the markets and towns we’ve cycled through. I could get used to this. Better not though, tomorrow is our final day of cycling in this challenge. Another long ride.

Here we go again

Days Schedule

Today we had a really nice ride. After breakfast we hit the road at about 07:30. Riding through the centre of Fort Kochi this morning we went towards the beach road and then south. Following the coast we passed through a series of fishing villages and coconut plantations en route to the town of Alleppey, once one of the backwater region’s busiest ports.

A little of Alleppey’s colonial heritage still remains sprinkled amongst the busy streets and, on arrival, we’ll follow the canal that links the Indian Ocean with Vembanad Lake, one of the longest and largest in India.

It’s all very flat so it was easy going – the 60km soon passed. At one point we stopped at a road-side shop for a drink and a… well… break. Unfortunately the facilities were not really to my liking! Thankfully none of our hotels have been kitted out like that!

orchids

We have seen so many beautiful orchids

The facilities

Oh No!

Nearby to where we stopped there was a wedding taking place. These youngsters were happy to pose for a photo.

Children posing

It’s hot and humid, but the last section was a 20+km stretch until we hit a t-junction. Knowing that we couldn’t get lost we could go at our own pace. Nich, Ed and I got into a good fast rhythm – it felt good to stretch our legs a bit.

Mathew and Candy waiting

Matthew and me waiting at the T-junction for the others to catch up.

We arrived at our hotel well before for lunch. Like most of the hotels we’ve stayed in, the entrance lobby seems to give an impression of grandeur. Alas, once you get to your room, it never delivers on the promise made. The electrics often leave much to be desired; near the start of the trip one of the girls even got an electric shock in the bathroom.

pagoda sign

entrance gate

lobby

view

The view from our room

wires hanging out ceiling

Do you like our light fitting?

After lunch we went for a wander around the local shops. This is not a particularly touristy area and I didn’t see anything I was looking for. Whilst walking back from the shops a bloke on a bike stopped next to me and tried to chat me up. He asked if there was anything he could help me with. I was very grateful to see our Explore tour guides sitting across the road, so thanked him and said I was just meeting my friends.

Deepak came over and asked what the guy wanted. He just laughed when I told him. He said I should have showed him my ring and said, “Married with 4 young boys, maybe in the next life!”

There have been a few changes to the itinerary over the time we’ve been here. If all goes according to plan, tomorrow night will be spent on a house boat. Presumably we won’t have wifi there, but I’ll update you as soon as I’m able to.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 60 kilometres

If you’ve not sponsored me yet…

We’re doing this ride to raise money for, El Shaddai and Bereaved Parent Support. Click on them to find out more and then click here to give to these two worthwhile organisations.