11 riders explore Kerala on bicycle trip

The riders pose for a click at Cherthala. Photo: Special Arrangement

Imagine peddling through the coastal paradise of Fort Kochi, the chilly hills of Munnar, the green paddy fields of Kumarakom or the wilderness of Periyar sanctuary, chatting away with a cool, relaxed group of riders. Interspersed with rejuvenating breaks for hot sips of coffee, the tasting of local delicacies or to enjoy nature, it can be an experience any tourist craves. A group of non-Malayali cyclists, who hail from various North Indian cities recently got a taste of the unique experience. The 11-member group, comprising six men and five women who work in various corporate companies and are entrepreneurs, was marshalled by Philip Kuruvilla of Kottayam-based KEG bikers.

The eight-day trip named 'The Kerala Odessey' covered a distance of 500 km and over 4,200 feet in elevation. Philip says, “The trip was from January 14 to 21 and we embarked on it after a careful planning of six months. The route was planned to give them an experience of the Western Ghats, plantation life, low lands of Kuttanad, backwaters of Kumarakom, the life of the fishing folks in Chellanam, the pristine beaches of Andakaranazhi and Marari on the western coast.” Kerala's pristine mountains at Neriamangalam, Munnar, Thekkady and Kuttikanam also gave a three-day novel climbing experience, according to the team.

The ever-changing landscape
Ashish Kaul, an experiential learning coach from Goa who led the corporate team, says, “All of us wanted to try something outside our comfort zone and that was the reason for us contacting Philip. The journey started with an uphill climb from Kochi to Munnar, which was a herculean task for us. We went through the ecosystems of cardamom, pepper, and coffee to reach the tea country on the first day.”

Ashish says some of the riders were fighting their demons like cramps and more, though they never gave up. “The next day, being a recovery day for us, we visited the Kannan Devan Hills Plantation's (KDHP) tea factory, its NGO Shristi that equips children with disabilities with skills that would help them incorporate into the society and a few other spots.”

On the rest of the days, the riders also traversed through Vandiperiyar, Peermade, Kumarakom and Alappuzha enjoying the sights of rubber-pineapple intercropping, ducks waddling through green fields and enjoying a five-hour houseboat ride in between. “One of the best parts of the trip was cycling to a beach, leaving our cycles and going for a swim in the open waters, for at least one and a half kilometres. I would say so many fears were conquered through this journey,” says Ashish.

A few of the moments from the trip. Photo: Special Arrangement

Team member and marketing professional cum triathlete Neeti Bansal, from Ludhiana, says she was amazed to see Kerala roads. “It was my first ride in the state and it was very smooth except in a few patches,” says Neeti, who also loved the food here. “I really loved the mutton stew of Kerala, and also tried almost every dish I could lay my hands on,” says an excited Neeti.

Ensuring safety
The group had two expert technicians, Prasad Shaligram and Sanjay Shende from a Pune-based cycling store named Pro Sports. Two support vehicles were also part of the ride. “In such trips, it's essential to repeatedly ensure that both the riders and their bicycles are healthy and so, it was important to have technicians and support vehicles,” says Philip, adding, “We rode between 6 am and 5.30 pm every day. We also had our meals mostly from local eateries as the riders were keen to taste local delicacies, and stayed at 3-star hotels.”

Triathlete Neeti Bansal says she was impressed by Kerala roads. Photo: Special Arrangement

The cost of the trip, per rider, was Rs 70,000. “We are keen to conduct more such trips for groups from outside Kerala. The state has tremendous potential for bicycle tourism. Unlike the traditional sightseeing tours, this experience lets tourists smell, feel and get a taste of the places they visit, alongside building new friendships,” says Philip. The cyclists also stayed away from alcohol and smoking during their rides.  

The group poses for a photo near Devikulam Lake in Munnar. Photo: Special Arrangement
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