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India

DAY 40 : November 10th: The Last few Days on the Backwaters

Birdwatching and mosquitos.

rain 28 °C

Based at the Kottayam Club at Kumarakom for my last couple of days, a very nice old colonial style building right on the Backwaters, but no one else is there, how odd ? Anyway its a good location for bird watching at the Kumarakum Bird Sanctuary. So up early at the crack of dawn (Again), into the Bird Sanctuary and around it by boat. Almost immediatly kingfishers, cormorants, darters or snake birds, egrets, pond herons, purple heron and a rare night heron out during the day. So a great morning.

Then an autorickshaw ride down the road to the Driftwood Museum, the brain child of teacher Raji Punnose, from the andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. She has collected driftwood for many years, and prunes them into "wildlife sculptures". Some are very good, others are very abstract, and you have to look hard, but her descriptions and poetry for each piece is excellent, and she fund raises for charity. A very nice lady.

Walked back into Kumarakom, and stopped for some lunch when an almighty monsoon downfall dropped from the heavens for the next couple of hours.

An autorickshaw back to the Club, a kingfisher beer and some reading. A pleasant restful day after all the travelling and adventures of my trip.
That night I was targeted by every mosquito in the Backwaters, I was eaten alive.

Posted by Mike Casey 07:26 Archived in India Comments (0)

Overland through India in 42 Days

From the Himalaya's to Cape Comolin by train, on foot, by car, autorickshaw, bamboo raft and on a Royal Enfield - What an Adventure !

sunny 38 °C

Its the end of my Great Adventure from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin. I Landed in Dubia a couple of hours ago, staying overnight, then a 7.30 flight back to Newcastle tomorrow, landing at 11.30am.

After seeing the sunset and and sunrise at Cape Comolin I dipped my feet in the three oceans, the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. This marked a significant end point to my trip. I returned to Thiruvilla and spent two nights in the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. At dawn I went on a two hour boat journey on Lake Verbrandrum, in the Kerala Backwaters, spotting all sorts of birds. I got savaged by mosquitoes, worse than the Scottish midgie !!!!!!

I left my base at Thiruvilla yesterday tea time for Cochin, overnight there, then up at 6am this morning to the airport. I am staying in Dubai overnight, up at 4.30am for my flight back to Newcastle.

I am a bit behind with my Blog and photos, but that will be completed when I get home. I have used up all my brownie points now, so Jane will have a list for me. But I have a serious condition now, its called the "Travel Bug". I have proved that I am safe to be let loose on the planet, with no great mishaps or misadventures, only that bad day on the Rohtang Pass. My travel kit will be reduced by over 50% next time. I have made many new friends on this trip from India, Sweden, Germany, France, Spain and Cornwall.


Highlights, there have been many, the trekking in the Western Himalayas, the Royal Enfield motorbike trip over the Rohtang and up to Zingzingbar, my five days exploring Periyar Tiger Reserve, reaching Cape Comolin (the very southern most point of India, and my meeting with the King of Kerala, the Maharajah of Tranvancore, the Taj Mahal, the Amber Fort of Jaipur. I have met so many interesting people on this trip.

Looking forward to seeing everyone back home with my traveller tales, blog , photos and video clips. There is much to do when I get back, to complete this travel blog, make the documentary "A Passage through India", contact all my travel companions, and to thank Peter and Travellerspoint.com for their support and use of what has been an excellent Travel Blog website.


My thanks to all the emails during my trip from family and friends, they were a real tonic and well received.

My thanks to Gordon May for sowing the seed, especially the Royal Enfield. To Naresh and Subrah for all the planning, help and support in India, and making it a great trip.

My thanks to all the really nice people I met on my great adventure in India from the Western Himalayas through India to Cape Comerin. I enjoyed your company and friendship on my journey in so many unexpected places. People are genuinely friendly and helpful, and want you to be there, they want to know where you are from, and what you think of this amazing continent. I found throughout this journey that people want to help other people, particularly those who have little, but share their richness in so many ways, “How much do I owe you for fixing my Motorbike”...”Nothing, you are my brother and a guest in my country “ (Ajay, motor mechanic, Keylong, Lahaul, Himachel Pradesh, on the Manali-Leh road NH21, 3082m)

Everyday day gave me new experiences, encounters, views, people, places and landscapes, often having a spectacular place or view to myself, if only for a while, especially those places that were so remote and beautiful...I found nirvana, that place of perfect peace and happiness many times in India, that state of enlightenment which you find when you have no suffering or worries, a total feeling of peace and contentment.

Finally my grateful thanks to my wife for giving me the freedom to follow this adventure, and to my sons for their sound advice to their Dad.

Posted by Mike Casey 04:14 Archived in India Tagged india overland journey an through Comments (0)

DAY 37: November 7th: A meeting with the Maha Raja

An audience with His Royal Highness, the Maha Raja of Travancore, the King of Kerala.

sunny 38 °C

There are not many people who can say that they have had a private audience with an Indian King, Well I have today at 10am in the Royal Palace of Travancore, in the city of Trivandrum, the state capital of Kerala, in the Maha Raja's private room, with Her Royal Highness the Princess Lakshmi, and a former Indian Ambassador and High Commissioner. Forget Obama's visit to India !

It was a beautiful morning as I left the Mascot Hotel at 9.30, picked up by my driver to go to the house of T.P. Sreenivasan, Former Indian Ambassador to the UN, for a briefing. He was a tall and very comanding man, but extremely pleasant. He has served in the Indian diplomatic service for forty years, all over the world. It was then on to the Royal Palace of Travancore. I was driven to the gates of the Palace, with guards saluting me, then up the long drive to the main entrance of the Palace, the car door was opened, another salute, then up the steps of the Palace, guards to attention and more salutes ! I was walking into another world.

Her Royal Highness, Princess Lakshmi greeted me (I was expected), along with her twin grandaughters, she then escorted me into a beautiful room, and there in a corner was His Royal Highness, the Maha Raja of Travancore, sat in his chair, an old man of 87 years, dressed in simple white clothes, he had sparkling eyes, and a warm and welcoming smile. He stood up to greet me, as I greated him with joined hands and "Namaskar"!

I respectfully greeted him, introduced myself, and thanked His Royal Highness for his kind invitation to meet him. I am blown away by his presence, but he immediatly put me at ease, and I told him why I was in India, and my journey through India from the Himalayas to Cape Comolin.

We talked about Kerala and the UK, the great Keralan Community in Newcastle, Indian and British Colonial history, the famous 'Magnificant Ivory Throne''at Buckingham Palace, and he wanted to know my impressions of Kerala and India. He is a wonderful old gentleman, highly educated, and razor sharp, a very keen sense of humour, and a great story teller. He was clearly a very educated man, in fact he studied at Oxford. He was widely read and extremely knowledgable about many things, including history and literature. While we were talking he told me of all the great political leaders, statesmen and royality that had met him at the Royal Palace. It read like a 'Who's Who, and that they had all sat in the chair I was sat in, how amazing is that !

Our planned 15 minutes became an hour. I told His Highness that I was very grateful for his time and for our wonderful conversation.
I asked his permission to take photographs of him, which he was delighted to allow. He then asked me to sit next to him, to have our photograph taken. He then stood up, followed by everyone else in the room, he joined his hands and thanked me for my visit, said "Namaskar", I replied in the same way with a deep, respectful bow, and His Highness left the room.

Princess Lakshmi then came up to me, and we talked for another ten minutes, she also was very gracious, warm and welcoming.
She thanked me for my visit, and told me about India's great history, culture and civilisation, of which she has written many books on this subject. She asked me about my impressions and thoughts of India, and especially, Kerala. I thanked her, joined my hands, bowed and said "Namaskar", and left the Palace on a magic carpet, which Palace guards saluting me and standing to attention at every corner.

I then went off to kovalem Beach for the afternoon to relect on my special morning with His Royal Highness, the Maha Raja of Tranvancore.

Posted by Mike Casey 03:18 Archived in India Comments (0)

Day 20: October 21st: Last Day in Manali

Last day in the Himalyas before moving on to Shimla.

sunny 30 °C

Feeling better this morning, but things to do. Phone Jane and Naresh, go to the police station to collect my “incident report”, phone Naresh and check my onward coach journey to Shimla. The Enfield was being picked up at 11am, from the hire place in Dharmshala, they were also picking up my other bags from Jogindar Nagar.

The guy saw the damage, no problem; I paid him 40 pounds, no grumble with that. The insurance is an odd thing, I was legal, but it must be third party, anyway I haggled a bit, but when you look at UK prices, the parts were not much.

I was sad to see the Enfield go, it had been a good partnership, it never let me down over the 600km, it took me through some spectacular landscapes in the Kanga and Kullu Valley’s, It took me into the remote Bhaga Valley and that high arid plateau area of Zingzingbar, my high point at 4270 m. It had given me a real introduction to adventure biking, solo, and in a high remote area of the Western Himalayas. The Royal Enfield adventure was great, and it brought me back to Manali, safe and sound, even after my “off” on the Rohtang.

As the Enfield tank logo says, “50 years in India, and the Legend Rides On”.

Posted by Mike Casey 07:49 Archived in India Tagged the in end of trip royal manali enfield Comments (0)

Day 19: October 20th: The Rohtang Pass and back to Manali.

“A bit of a bad day” - A lost bag and an incident on the Rohtang Pass !

sunny 36 °C

I was up early at 7am, kit all packed up, breakfast, Enfield loaded up, and I am off back over the Rohtang, to Manali. I was at Tandi Petrol Station topping up with fuel by 8.30am, and away up the Chandra Valley. The road was good, very little traffic, a dry sunny morning, and all was good. After an hour I was at Khoksar Bridge, and then started the climb up the Rohtang.

You know sometimes when things are not quite right? The Enfield had not missed a beat over the 600km so far, I stopped on the other side of the bridge, and so my shock and dismay, my Lowe Rucksack had fallen off the side luggage carrier, despite been strapped on. It had my wallet and cards, IPod, power cables and some spare clothes in it. I had in my rack bag, the rest of my kit, including travel tickets and documents, and around my neck, passport and some cash.

Only one thing for it, return to Tandi (35km) to see if I could spot it! No such luck, so at Tandi a slower ride back to Khoksar Bridge, nothing! There was nothing I could do, so I decided that I must crack on over the Rohtang Pass, back to Manali, then phone Jane to cancel cards etc...

As I rode up to the Rohtang Pass, which was over an unsealed rough road of gravel and stones, it was another blue. I was still sick as a pig about loosing the bag. I have done over 600km on the Enfield from Dharamshala to the Zingzingbar, my high point at 4270m, along tarmac and rough roads, through villages and towns, I had coped with the crazy Indian traffic, but mostly it had been along mountain roads and high passes on this amazing route through the Himalaya. I was approaching a right hand bend, and a truck came bouncing down, I had no where to go, except take avoidance action. I missed the truck at slow speed, but the next second I am on the road, a little shocked, but uninjured. The Belstaff kit, gloves and the helmet took all the impact! The bike is on its side, a few feet from the edge of the mountain road !

I looked at the Enfield fearing the worst. I picked it up, put it on its stand and checked it for damage. Front headlight cracked, right foot peg bent, right crash bar bent – but it did its job keeping the bike off my right leg. Next check, will it start? I kicked it over, nothing, kicked it over again, nothing, bugger! Now at home how many times have I tried to start the bike, and I’ve accidently knock the “kill switch” off. I checked the Enfield ‘kill switch’, it was off. Clicked it on, kicked it over, and the bike started as sweetly as ever, “thank God for that”.

So steadily up over the Rohtang, but I decided I must crack on down to the Kullu Valley to Manali. Now most Indian tourists are driven up the Rohtang from Manali by tourist taxi drivers who thing they are rally drivers. On the descent from the Rohtang there was new tarmac (God Bless the road gang workers), so the ride was smooth, but single track.

The inevitable hooting from behind “Let me through”, well I was not going to move over my safe line, they could try an over take, but it would end up as the quick way down to the Kullu Valley. More road works, a long line of vehicles and a very smart filter move, and I am clear away down to the valley, and back to Manali.

I arrived at the Kunzam Hotel very dusty, tired and and a little battered. I was greeted warmly by the staff, “Mr Mike, how are you?” I told them the story.........After a shower and a cold beer, down to the police station to report the day’s events, which was recorded in a typically efficient Indian way. Back to the Hotel, phoned Jane to tell her my events of the day, and to block my bank cards. Then Naresh phoned, told him the story, “What do you need Mike”, “Well some cash”. No problem, I will send a friend to you with cash. Naresh seems to know everyone in the North of India; he was so helpful, as always.

So by the evening, the day was getting better. Jane, God Bless her, had sorted things out in the UK, Naresh was on my case, further checking my needs, and then I decided I needed food and my bed. A nice big bruise on my right thigh I noticed, but the day could have been worse?

Posted by Mike Casey 07:43 Archived in India Tagged the on pass rohtang an incident Comments (0)

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