Day 02, 9:00 PM:
The power goes off !!...... I reluctantly got off the bed to get food for myself as there was no room service. The corridor in the Hotel was dark and stinky. I was on the 2nd floor; I managed to pull the torch out of my cluttered bag. I got out of the room and called for the guy at the reception to come and help me get some food, but I couldn't find anyone to help. After waiting for a while, I lock my room and go down the stairs. I see no one at the reception and frustratingly go out of the Hotel in search of some food. The Hotel was in the middle of nowhere, and the only thing close to it was a small tea shop which was shut because it was a Sunday. I decide to go back to the Hotel and check the bar on the top floor of the Hotel for some food. All this while, I had negative vibes about this place, the location, and the room I checked into; everything about the place was repulsive. When I reached the top floor of the Hotel, I found the waiter and ordered some food.
After having some food, I felt a little better, but I continue to get these negative vibes inside my room. I don't believe in the occult, but what followed that night kind of made me a believer in the existence of something paranormal.
Day 02, 11:30 PM:
I felt uneasy inside the room, So I went out to walk on the beach. The beach in Eravipuram is ignored and destroyed, and the sand on the beach is replaced with broken glass pieces and garbage.
The sea looks angry tonight; I sit on the beach, just a few meters away from the Hotel and spend some time looking at the roaring waves.
Day 02, 11:50 PM:
I go back to my room and try to catch up on some sleep; I have decided to move the next day to Alappuzha, known as Allepy. In my original itinerary, Day 03 was supposed to be a rest day, but now I didn't have a good feeling about this place. So I decided to make a move the next day. I clean my clothes, pack my bag, set the panniers back on the rack of the cycle, check the air pressure in my bike, arrange the clothes I need for the next day, set the alarm to 5:00 AM and call it a day.
I wake up hurriedly !!! In a moment, my pupils dilate in the dark, and I can see the door is open. I get off the bed and try to switch on the lights; failing to do so, I remember keeping the torch handy in case of a power cut. I found the torch and pointed it towards the door; It's Open !! I looked for the switches again, a few steps away from the bed. I switch on the lights, and to my horror, I notice the door's latch uprooted and lying down. I remember locking the door safely before I went to bed. A series of thoughts start haunting my mind, Is it the wind? Did someone try to break open the door? I go out to check on the latter, but there is no sign of any living soul in the dark corridor. I returned and tried locking the door again, but the door had only one latch, which is gone now. I got worried and wondered how to close the door for the rest of the night. I was hypnagogic when all this was happening around me; I noticed the key the boy had handed me when I checked into the Hotel. I lock the door with it and go back to bed. Getting sleep was becoming difficult now, as the fear of someone breaking open the door again was now in my mind. My mind wanted to stay alert and awake, but my body fell asleep because I was drained.
Day 03, 1:30 AM
I felt as if something was very close to my face staring at me; I woke up horridly and realized there was nothing; this kept happening all night. Whenever I tried closing my eyes, I felt like something was constantly moving, falling or staring at me. I cannot explain that feeling, but it was as If something wanted to be heard or noticed. I had never had such an experience before; in my solo travels for years, I had never felt this way. I have stayed in the remotest of places, abandoned buildings, and camped inside jungles, but this room was different. The room felt unusually cold for summer and repulsive. I remember a moment when I murmured while still in slumber. "Let me sleep peacefully.. please". My body felt weak all night, and I gave up on the whole situation before I fell asleep again. I will never forget this night, as what I felt was something I could never explain to anyone. But when I look back, nothing harmed me anyway, and perhaps I was too tired, or the mysterious way the latch of my door broke that night might have planted a seed of fear inside me to stay alert. I managed to sleep for a few hours.
Day 03, 5:00 AM,
The alarm rings loudly at 5:00 AM. I hurry up, get ready to check out of that place, and start my journey. I made all the payments for the Hotel last evening, So all I have to do is lock the room and get out of that place.
The road from the beach connects to NH 47 in some 5 km. I kept riding in the dark till I reached the junction with the first signs of directions to Alleppey. The last night incident kept haunting me all day, but I realized quickly that whatever it was.. didn't harm me, and I should be glad about it and move on.
I made a quick pit stop for breakfast; Luckily, I found a place with many vegetarian food options. Now I have realized why I felt so weak last night. I wasn't eating enough. When you ride 90 + km every day, you tend to burn roughly 6000 + calories which is very close to a kilo of your body weight, and if someone doesn't stay hydrated or refuelled enough, it will leave your body drained and weak. In the long run, this could impact the whole journey. It's a good idea to drink at least 6 litres of water daily when you take up such a feat in humid weather. It's vital to replenish the salt your body tends to lose every day, So remember to add salt supplements to the water. I generally carry salt sticks that are easy to drop inside the water bottle, slowly dissolve in water, and help replenish all the salt you lose. Avoid drinking the popular energy drinks available in the market. It does more harm than good to your body. So stick to simple and basic things, water-based fruits and food that is easy to digest.
A crucial thing to remember while touring is the pre-diet and your diet and hydration during the ride. It's essential to load lots of carbs and protein into your diet. Make sure to add lots of quick-energy food to your everyday diet when you are touring. One should aim to eat every hour. I generally carry lots of chocolates while touring, although I don't have a sweet tooth. And do keep it handy inside the front handle bags or any other preferred place. Keeping all these handy saves unnecessary breaks and helps you from not losing the precious pedalling momentum.
The opportunities touring on a cycle brings me to explore a new culture, food, and language is a reason irresistible enough for me to travel, apart from the challenges it gets me into. I won't say I don't fear being stranded in a bad situation or facing an inhospitable environment. Still, I like it when I come out of such situations and feel invincible.
I believe the very reason for human existence is to explore not only the planet we walk on but also ourselves and constantly question and appreciate your existence; go out there and face what challenges this cosmos throws at you, but instead, we get trained and get comfortable to live a very sedentary life. In this life, insecurities have become the driving force of our existence, not an intense passion for seeing, feeling and experiencing.
"If staying in your comfort zone is why you exist, then why does nature push you out of your mother's womb when it thinks you are ready ?"
Only because the reason behind our mere presence on this planet is not only to exist but to explore, experience and enrich ourselves with all the experiences that this opportunity called life has to offer us.
Day 03, 11:00 AM,
It was a humid day; I had to make lots of pit stops for food and water. As the day progressed, riding under the sun was getting difficult. But Alleppey's greenery and gorgeous backwaters were a welcome distraction from all the pain. Before one enters the city of Alleppey, there is a small fishing port called Thottappally; the beach is very clean, considering it a fishing port. The fishing boat fleets make the whole place look surreal. I see a few local fishermen sitting and having tea and smoking bidi (a local form of tobacco). When I looked at them, they probably guessed that I would ask them to take a picture of mine. And they were right; I politely asked them to take a picture, but only one of them reluctantly agreed to try it. He said he couldn't promise me a good shot as he isn't that good with gadgets. I assured him it was not as difficult as he thought it to be and tried teaching him some basics about taking a picture. He looked a little confident and asked me to smile.
I wanted a photo of mine with the sea and the boats at the backdrop, but he could only manage a glimpse of the water and the boats. After repeated attempts, he could take one decent picture. I thanked him for the picture, but instead, he thanked me for stopping by and asking him to take a picture. I waved back at his friends, who looked at us curiously, wondering what took us so long as I probably interrupted their exciting gossip.
Day 03, 12:30 PM
I finally enter the city of Alleppey, built on the backwaters' banks. You can always see the narrow canals passing inside the city's heart, opening up at the mouth of the sea. This town is considered to be the oldest planned town in this region. A city with picturesque canals, backwaters, beaches, and lagoons, it's known as "Venice of the East.
I checked into the first Hotel I came across after entering the city. I was running a little low on energy because it was yet another hot day in Allepey, and I had hardly slept the night before. I just wanted to find a place and rest for a bit. I wasn't even feeling hungry; I was a little dehydrated. But the guy at the Hotel had different plans.
This is a common problem for anyone touring in India on a bicycle. First of all, you can't leave an expensive cycle weighing just 5 kilos outside the Hotel unattended because that won't guarantee the safety of the cycle. So I prefer to keep my bike inside the hotel room. This man at the reception looked at me suspiciously and was too adamant about letting me keep my cycle with me. I didn't give up; I kept persuading him hard, offered more money, and assured him that it wouldn't be a problem, but the guy was adamant and didn't budge. He said other guests in the Hotel might complain. Though his reason made no sense to me, I kept calm and persuaded him until he agreed to let me keep the cycle inside the room. He asked me for some extra security deposit and to give him a photocopy of my driving license or any other identity card. I could have just walked away, but I had no energy to find another hotel.
Finally !! After an hour of melodrama and anguish, I could check into that room, shower and hit the bed.
I get up in the evening, quickly have something to eat, and explore the city. I have decided to take the next day off. I now plan to meet a friend Ashish, who has promised me a tour around Allepey. And being a native Malayali, his knowledge about the city will help me explore the city better. I was excited about getting a small tour of the famous town, which boasts of being a slice of Venice of the south. Ashish is a 24-year-old boy born in Kerala, he completed all his education in the UK but decided to come back and work in India, so he is the right balance between the modern and traditional native. It will be interesting to tag along with him to tour the city and understand his point of view about the city, which is on the verge of expanding to the modern world with a risk of losing its old-world charm.
I woke up a little late today as I decided to make it a rest day, and I didn't have to ride my cycle today. Someone who knows me well enough will know how difficult it is for me to rest when I take up a task and put my heart into it. I would not stop until I finished it and I was done. But one thing you don't want to do when you tour on a bike is let fatigue jeopardize the trip. So I constantly remind myself that this is not a race and to keep it slow. I lazily finish my breakfast and wait for Ashish to come and pick me up for the tour. Today I am going to sit in a car and enjoy the ride. :)
Alleppey is a beautiful city with crowded lanes set around a bunch of canals spilling into the vast watery highways of the region. Charming backwater destination, Alleppey provides a picturesque realm of beautiful backwaters, thatched houseboats and swaying palm trees. It's a land of smiling sun washed by the silvery waves of emerald blue Arabian sea. This is the most popular place to experience a foray into the backwaters, the hub for most houseboat action in Kerala, and home to the famous Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race.
A delightful experience while in Alleppey is a houseboat cruise. We hired a boat and went into the backwaters for a half-day tour. The houseboats in the backwaters of Alleppey are, in fact, a reworked version of Kettuvallams of olden times. The original Kettuvallams used to carry tons of rice and spices. The Kettuvallam, known as the 'boat with knots', was called so because the entire boat was only held together with coir knots.
Of late, houseboats have come up with all kinds of comforts of a good hotel, including furnished bedrooms, modern toilets, cosy living rooms, a kitchen and even a balcony.
Halfway through the tour, we stopped at a local water boat restaurant to try some local delicacies and Todi (a fermented drink) and trust me, it was so potent that it knocked me out for a few hours; I was glad I didn't try this when I was cycling.
After a brief 2-hour tour of the backwaters, we head towards Alleppey beach. The beach has a small park nearby. Remains of Allepey Sea Bridge, which is in ruins, are still there as a memory of the good old days when Allepey port was one of the most famous and essential ports in Kerala. The Sea Bridge enabled the passage of goods which came via ships. The bridge was destroyed because of the Tsunami which hit the Indian coast in 2004.
After spending a few hours on the beach, I bid goodbye to Ashish and left for my Hotel. The next day, I had to start my journey to the commercial capital of Kerala, the mainland region of Kochi.
To be continued ...