So, how was Kerala?

RadiatorWorks (29K)
Sacred radiator works!
The people are friendly, sometimes overwhelmingly so. They are also nearly all religious with about half in the area were we were being Hindu and the other half Christian, but there were sizeable minority groups of Muslims, Parsees, Zoroastrans, Jains etc, and even Jews. The Christians all seemed to have English names such as Anthony, Joseph, Thomas, and there were Roman Catholics, Latin Catholics, Syrian Catholics as well as an assortment of protestants and fundamentalists - though the various Catholics had the biggest churches. The Syrian Catholics claimed to be founded in 47AD, so went back a long way. The Jewish community claimed to go back to about 100AD when the Romans threw the Jews out of Palestine and they lived very happily in Kerala until the 1600s when the Portuguese arrived. They all seem to live and have lived together in harmony, even when the rest of India is or was fighting about religion.

Nearly everyone seems very honest. You have to check your change because they are lousy at arithmetic and give you too much. The 2 exceptions were the guys who nicked my camera and Ann's glasses from our bikes when we weren't paying attention. Unfortunately, as a result I lost the pictures from the later part of our trip.

Jeep (32K) FishingCoracle (23K)
Jeep we push-started Coracle on the Backwaters
I thought the meals were mostly dire, with no taste apart from the excessive spices, though Ann was more positive. The fresh fruit and vegetables were excellent. I got bad diarrhoea, and stupidly spent over a week taking nothing but Pepto-Bismol until I went to the chemist and got a pile of medicine, including a course of antibiotics, for R96 - almost instant cure. Alcohol is expensive and hard to get away from the main tourist places. The good news for me was losing about 4Kg!

Everywhere was cleaner than we expected, with hardly any bad smells. But the noise and litter were hard to take. The noise results from all vehicles hooting more or less continuously during the day, all the places of worship belting out calls to prayer from about 5:30 in the morning, and vans with loudspeakers wandering around blasting out propaganda - probably political. The litter that matters is plastic bottles and bags, which Indians discard with no concern whatever. Even otherwise idyllic places like the Backwaters have their carpets of Hyacinths spotted with numerous plastic bottles.

I rather enjoyed the traffic. The basic rule appears to be: if there's a gap, go for it regardless, but if someone else gets there first, just shrug. So, although everyone is assertive to the point of lunacy, there's no road rage. And we found that as pedestrians and cyclists we could be assertive too, and bigger vehicles conceded gracefully. Mind you, you only have to get this wrong once!

RoadToIdukki8 (19K)
At any rate, we thought cycling and using homestays was an excellent way to enjoy Kerala. We met many local people, and saw the countryside, the villages, the wildlife and the scenery far better than could be achieved in a car or bus. The only alternative I'd consider would be buying a motorbike.

In the end, we were very glad we'd been; Ann wants to go again, but I'm not so sure.