Backwaters and Hill Stations of Kerala
After a relaxing 2 nights in Varkala we headed up the coast to Kollam. The town itself is just another busy, noisy Indian town. But it’s also the southern starting point for the backwaters of Kerala. The backwaters are a network of over 900km of stunning palm fringed rivers and lakes. It’s a popular tourist destination and there are hundreds of house boats that take people out for overnight trips, canoe rides, and village stays.
We decided on a cheaper option than a house boat and took an 8 hr scenic cruise up to Alappuzha and our bikes came with us! This also meant we didn’t have to ride the 90km to get there. It was a fantastic ride past countless villages, resorts, and all manner of religious edifices. The backwaters were once used to transport goods from inland to the coast and this can still be seen in the villages running along the banks and colourful fishing boats going about their daily business.
We had planned to leave Alappuzha in the morning but the town looked nice so we decided to spend the day exploring instead. There’s a channel that runs into town with fancy tourist boats trying to get your business and a local ferry boat stop where tatty government boats run locals around to the towns and villages out in the waterways. We took our bikes on a ride along these waterways to check out the beach and the rest of town too.
The next day we decided to get one of the run down local boats to Kottayam and start our 3 day ride into the western Ghats. The roads started off with just easy rolling hills but the closer we got to the Ghats the bigger and steeper the hills got. It was very demoralizing to work so hard to gain 100m and then find a steep downhill just around the corner and end up at the same altitude you started at!
Despite the hard work the scenery on the ride was phenomenal. We passed rubber tree plantations at first and almost rode into an elephant that was being lead down the road. The landscape then changed to jungle and we saw monkeys in the trees and found a spot to bush camp for the first time since entering Kerala. We spent the night in the dense jungle listening to the cacophony of sounds around us and wondering what was making them! Finally on our last day we entered the manicured tea plantations of the Ghats.
We finally made it to Munnar after 180km and a combined 9000m of climbing even though Munnar only sits at about 1500m. The best part about the Ghats has to be the cooler temperatures, 30°c in the day and dropping down to 17°c at night this time of year.
We spent 4 full days in Munnar enjoying the cooler climate and exploring the picturesque tea plantations that surrounds the town by foot and bicycle.