This outstanding tour covers some of the most scenic, exotic and diverse areas of southern India, from steamy coastal waterworlds to the cool air and uplifting vistas of Kerala’s mountains. You will be riding through the pristine forests and jungle gorges of Kerala’s many national parks and have the opportunity to spot many of the region’s wild animals along the way. Highlights of this trip also include a night on the backwaters in a luxury houseboat and time to explore the historical trading port of Cochin. The riding on this trip is superb – twisty and generally well surfaced – and the accommodation is of a high standard, while retaining a genuine Keralan feel. If you want to experience the best motorcycling destinations that South India has to offer, with the level of back-up that only Blazing Trails delivers, then this is the trip for you.
As a participant in this tour you will fly to Cochin’s international airport to be met by Blazing Trails staff and escorted to your hotel in the Fort area of the old city. Here you will be briefed on the adventure ahead and introduced to ‘your’ Enfield Bullet and its eccentricities.
The following morning we will leave the heat of the coast and head up into the relative cool of the mountains. Whenever riding there will be a leader and ‘outrider’ guiding and trouble-spotting. A ‘sweeper’ rider and a support vehicle with spares at the rear.
The trip includes few longer days in the saddle and takes in some challenging mountain chicanery. These twisty rides will require skill and concentration, so we ask that you have a minimum of two year’s riding experience before joining this tour. Once away from the coast, there should be little traffic, but that which we do encounter is likely to be behaving ‘erratically’ compared to vehicles in The West. The general condition of the roads is, however, good for this part of the world and the riding experience extremely rewarding.
Weather ranges from very warm/hot on the coast, to a cool UK autumn’s evening in the hill stations, where we will venture as high as 6500ft above sea level. We would not expect it to rain at the times of year that we run tours in Kerala, but precipitation is possible in the higher reaches of the mountains.
The two-night stops on this tour offer the opportunity to have clothes laundered while you get out and explore. So try not to over-pack, as you will want to leave some space for mementos, spices and gifts.
This trip is generally characterised by the quality of the riding, the accommodation and the stunning natural settings in which you can enjoy them. We love riding on this tour and are sure you will too.
Kerala comprises a narrow strip of land to the west of South India, wedged between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats mountains. It is geographically diverse and rich in colourful cultures, natural resources and wildlife. Periyar, India’s largest sanctuary, is one of many interesting wilderness areas to be found within the state.
Equally impressive are the ‘Backwaters’ – a network of brackish canals and lakes covering hundreds of square miles. Kerala’s close relationship with the sea often manifests itself at dinner, with fresh seafood high on the extensive list of Keralan delicacies.
For over 3000 years Kerala has been attracting visitors – although not until recently for motorcycle tours… Phoenicians, Arabs, Romans and Chinese have all been trading with this region of India for millennia and it was via the ‘Malabar’ coastline that oriental spices and technologies first travelled west from India and China.
Over the centuries, the value of Keralan trade has encouraged many explorers, traders and invaders. Vasco De Gama arrived here from Portugal in 1498, blazing a trail for future colonialism (and Christianity) by the Dutch and British. The evidence of these immigrants remains on display in coastal cities such as Cochin, still a hub of spice, textile and hand craft export.
It wasn’t until 1956, nine years after Indian independence, that Kerala was formed from the states of Cochin, Travancore and Malabar. In elections the following year, the Communist Party took power (the world’s first freely-elected communist government) and have enjoyed control for the majority of the time since.
Kerala’s socialist leanings can sometimes manifest themselves as militant trades unionism, with occasional general strikes, but on the whole Keralan politics (in terms of education and healthcare) tend to be more progressive than the rest of India. The state’s claim of 91 per cent literacy among its 32 million-strong population is certainly impressive for a developing country and the provision of healthcare is also well above the national average, with Keralans’ life expectancy being ten years above the average Indian. In general, the state’s inhabitants appear very healthy, open and friendly. Perhaps this is due to their history of maritime commerce with foreign seafarers, or maybe it’s just a result of living in such a beautiful place.
In ten wordsSteamy southern culture/cuisine/wildlife, plus scenic, twisty mountain rides.
Riding LevelEasy going for most of the way. Straighter rides near the coast; the best of the riding is in the Western Ghat mountains, where some mega-twisty days await your attention. Potholes are possible and traffic can be manic in the few built-up areas. Tarmac: 100%; dirt 0%.
Pillion RatingTour designed with pillions and couples in mind. Mainly smooth roads; shortish days and romantic destinations.
Accommodation & MealsThe tourism industry in Kerala is developed and mature compared to most of India. All accommodation is clean and often luxurious. Hand-picked venues chosen to heighten the experience, from plantation stay, to empty beach, luxury houseboat and Cochin's Fort area. Included meals: all breakfasts; 1 lunch; 1 dinner.
Day 1: Fly from UK
Leave the British winter behind as you leap merrily onto the flight to Cochin.
Day 2: Arrive Cochin
Arrive in the morning (flight time permitting) for a transfer to your hotel in Cochin for lunch. Here you’ll receive a briefing on the trip ahead and be introduced to your Enfield 500 Bullet and its eccentricities.
Day 3: Cochin to Munnar
We head inland and up into the cool of the hills, covering some 150km in about five or six hours. The ride is fantastic, with long straights passing through shady tropical forest and sweeping bends dipping into verdant valleys. Lofty hairpins then climb ever upwards to reach the stunning emerald tea plantations that tortoise-shell the high Western Ghats around our destination, Munnar. At nearly 1500m above sea-level, anyone who isn’t a walrus may choose to don a fleece.
Day 4: In Munnar
A day for both rest and exploration. Possible activities include a ride out through the tea plantations and up to Kerala’s highest point. There will still be lots of time to get out and explore town, or just kick back and relax.
Day 5: Munnar to Kodaikanal
Heading down and out of the Nilgiri range, we cross the plains before heading up spectacular switchbacks to the Palani Hills and the religious fervour in the temple-town of Palani itself. This is an all-day ride and among the best in the world. The views will redefine your understanding of the word ‘beauty.’ Kodaikanal, at 2100m above Southend, is the geographical high point of the trip. Unless you happen to be half penguin, a fleece is a good idea while taking in the evening views from the heights of our hotel garden.
Day 6: In Kodaikanal
A chance to explore this historically interesting hill station and its surroundings – we’d recommend simply walking around and taking in the vertiginous mountain views and colonial architecture. More ‘serious’ trekking into virgin forest can also be arranged. The less energetic may prefer a stroll in the botanical gardens, to bob around on the boating lake, or even swing a club on the town’s golf course.
Day 7: Kodaikanal to Vandanmedu
A day covering about 175km in some six hours. Yet more sinuous twisties carry us back to the plains, then up over the Keralan border to descend through lush cardamom plantation and forest to our destination, the tiny village of Vandanmedu. Here, deep in a forested plantation, our luxurious hotel features a swimming pool, so don’t forget the cossie.
Day 8: Vandanmedu to Thekkady
A short but twisty, twisty little minx of a road delivers us to the edge of India’s largest national park, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Our hotel, set in the village of Thekkady, is near the sanactuary entrance and has great views over the forest. Take advantage of the sanctuary’s proximity and an evening boat trip out onto the lake, where it’s possible to see a huge variety of Indian wildlife.
Day 9: In Thekkady
A whole day to get stuck into Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, or a bottle of wine. For the former option, there are a huge range of wildlife-based activities; for the latter a number of hotels and eateries. Should one remain self-supporting come dusk, then even night treks can be arranged in the park.
Day 10: Thekkady to Alleppey
Heading down out of the mountains and back to the coast, we wind up at a lovely coastal backwater resort near Alleppey.
Day 11: Alleppey to Kumarakom
A short hop takes us to Kumarakom, where we will be boarding one of the famous Keralan barges, our accommodation for the night. Our mobile floating luxury hotels will chug out into the backwaters before mooring for the night. Utter peace and relaxation.
Day 12: Kumarakom to Marari Beach
Heading north, a short ride takes us to the Marari Fisherman’s Village beach resort. The beach here is one of the cleanest, quietest and least spoiled on the whole coast and swimming in the warm waters, with the golden beach stretching the the horizon is a very special experience.
Day 13: Marari Beach to Cochin
Another chance for a quick dip in the morning, before a short afternoon ride takes us back to Cochin, where the remainder of the day can be spent wandering the hundreds of bars and restaurants, serving both traditional Keralan fare and international cuisine.
DAY 14: in cochin
From your hotel in Fort Cochin, venture out on a full day of exploration this fascinating city, home to the famous Kathakali dance. You won’t be short of things to do, especially if you like to shop for antiques, spices, or textiles. There are also museums and marketplaces through which to stroll, plus an impressive fort and the oldest church in India to visit. In ‘Jew Town’, a bustling trading enclave is a 16th Century synagogue and the Portuguese-built palace, containing beautiful murals, is another fabulous sight worth taking in. Boat cruises around the harbour, decorated with the famous Chinese cantilever fishing nets, may even afford the opportunity to see dolphins close by.
Day 15: Departure from Cochin
A transfer to the airport for your flight home. Cheerio.
WHAT THE TOUR PRICE INCLUDES
- Bike with Mechanical Back-up, Spares & Repairs
- Luggage-carrying Support
- All Internal Transfers
- First Tank of Fuel
- Accommodation on a Bed & Breakfast Basis
- Most Lunches & Evening Meals
- Entry Fees
- Fuel Subsequent to First Tankful
You will need a passport, a valid visa, appropriate travel insurance and an international driving permit.
You should be able to get by on around £550 spending money if you don’t do a lot of shopping/drinking. You may want to change a little money (about £50) at the airport, but check the rate before changing a large amount. Cash and travellers’ cheques are easily changed in Cochin (where there are also cashpoints).
While you’ll be riding in the depths of winter, Kerala is close to the equator and very warm. Outside the monsoon season (June-August) rain is rare, but possible high on the mountains, where the climate is generally perfect for motorcycling. The maximum temperature that might be encountered at the coast is around 37ºC; the minimum 6ºC (at altitude, at night).
We advise riders to consider their kit in terms of layers. Good quality gear can also prevent a minor spill causing a trip-ruining injury, so we require that you ride with no exposed skin (except your face).
Protective textile clothing is generally more comfortable than leather, especially in hot weather. You will definitely appreciate any venting. Rather than using a padded liner, bringing a fleece is a more flexible option. If your jacket isn’t waterproof bring a lightweight waterproof over-layer. Textile bike trousers (with knee protection) are best. A snood boosts warmth and can be pulled over the face to keep dust out.
While your main luggage will be carried in a support vehicle, you may wish to bring a small rucksack in which to carry articles you need on the road. Your main bag must be ‘soft’ and not a suitcase.
This is a fairly relaxed tour, with no very demanding rides and plenty of two-day stops on which to recover. However, if you have any existing medical condition, please consult Blazing Trails and your doctor before booking.
While we insist those joining us have a full motorcycle licence, and recommend a minimum of two year’s riding experience, time in the saddle and miles ridden are of more relevance to an adventure like this. Riding in India is very different from Europe and although the speeds at which we travel are relatively low, demands on planning and observation are high.
HEALTH & HYGIENE
Although there is always the chance of getting a ‘holiday tummy’, following a few simple guidelines keeps the chances of this to a minimum. If you have any pre-existing medical condition, it is essential that you consult both Blazing Trails and your physician before booking. Bring a DEET based repellent, the mozzies in Cochin are legendary.
To check out our suggested packing list.
How To Make A Booking
CAN I BOOK FROM OUTSIDE THE UK?
Yes. We enjoy hosting riders from all countries.
How do I book?
The tours can be booked online, by email, or over the phone on: +44 (0) 7494 050404. To secure a place you will be asked to put down a deposit of £500 and payment can be made by card, cheque, or bank transfer.
ARE FLIGHTS INCLUDED?
Flights are not included in the price of your tour, but we can provide details of where to book an appropriate flight.
DO I NEED INSURANCE?
Yes, you need travel insurance to cover you for the period of the tour. This insurance must cover you to ride a bike of the capacity offered on your tour.
How & Where do I get a visa?
To visit India you will need a passport (valid for six months from date of entry) and a valid tourist visa. For visits of up to a month’s duration it is possible for British citizens (and those of many other countries) to obtain an ‘E Tourist Visa’ online, HERE. You will need to provide a PDF scan of your passport’s first page with a file size between 10 and 300kb. You will also need to provide a scan of a passport picture (as a J-Peg, 10kb-1mb). This picture must be square, on a plain, light-coloured background and without borders. Applicants must submit online between 30 and four days before travelling and the visa will be issued on arrival – on production of an emailed confirmation document. The visa will be valid for 30 days from entry. The fee for an E Tourist visa is currently USD [currency amount=”80″ from=”USD” to=”GBP” iso=false between=” (which is ” append=”” round_append=””]).
Visas for entry to Nepal are available at borders, at a cost of USD [currency amount=”30″ from=”USD” to=”GBP” iso=false between=” (which is ” append=”” round_append=””]), or at the Nepali Consulate in London prior to travelling.
The visa application asks for two Indian addresses, what should I put?
1. Overland Escape, 251,252, Vardaman Crown Mall, Sector 19, Dwarka, New Delhi -110075 2. Hotel Iceland, Solang Valley Village, Solang, PO Palchan Manali, Himachal Pradesh – 175103
What other paperwork do I need?
You will need a valid certificate of travel insurance and an International Driving Permit.
Where do I get an International Driving Permit?
Obtain one through the Post Office service, at major branches. All you need is your UK Driving Licence and some six of Her Imperial Majesty’s Pounds.
Where should I change money?
We would advise that you have some idea of the Rupee exchange rate before you leave, to avoid getting ripped-off at airports. Sites like this should help. In many major towns, there are cash-points that will accept major credit and debit cards. Arrivals in Cochin for the Kerala Tour will be able to change money in town if the airport rate is not competitive. Goa Airport is rapidly getting a reputation as a den of rip-off merchants and we would advise you not to change money there at present. Money can easily be changed at banks, agencies and be withdrawn from cash-points close to your hotel before we set off. Further advice to this will be given in the tour briefing. Generally if arriving at Delhi, for Himalayan and Rajasthani tours, airport rates should be reasonable and we would advise you to change at least £50. Money can be easily changed in Manali and Leh on the Himalayan tours.
Can a lady with a wooden leg change a pound note?
No, she’s only got half a knicker.
How much spending money will I need?
About £500 should cover food, drink, petrol and sundries.
Will I have to share a room?
Yes, unless you pay a supplement. Even then, single rooms may not be available at some stops as the hotels we use are popular, or in some cases small, and we have to book our accommodation some time in advance.
What standard is the accommodation?
It varies widely, but is always clean and the best we can find in the area for a reasonable price. In some places you may be staying in comfortable tented camps, in others luxury huts or hotel rooms. In Kerala and Rajasthan the accommodation is of a higher standard. There may be nights on the beach or under the desert stars in more remote areas – it’s all part of the adventure experience.
Will we have electricity?
It can’t be guaranteed. In some places there’s no power; in all power cuts are possible. Thus, if it’s vital you need electrical power every night, please speak to us before booking. Don’t forget a travel adaptor if you need to recharge your electricals.
what is the difference between tarka dhal and regular dhal?
They are very similar, but Tarka dhal is a bit ‘otter.
How much riding experience do I need?
We would recommend only booking a tour with us if you have a licence that covers the tour bike (compulsory) and have at least two years’ recent riding experience. The main criterion, however, is confidence. If you’re happy to zip through a London rush hour, then you’ll be capable of dealing with road life in India.
Is riding in India dangerous?
Riding anywhere carries with it a degree of risk, as does Indian riding. For more information on the riding side of things see ‘Riding’ in the ‘About India ‘ section of this site. If any rider joining us rides in a manner we suspect will endanger themselves, or others, or indeed displays antisocial behaviour, they will receive one warning. If they continue to display a threat to the safety or enjoyment of others on the tour, they will be excluded from the remainder (with no refund given, see terms and conditions).
How fast will we be riding?
Due to road conditions and other traffic, vehicles tend to move a lot slower in India than they do in the West. We will do likewise. There are also constraints on speed enforced by the bikes. These are not high-revving sports bikes and so we will lead the tour at a maximum speed of around 80kph.
Can I use the bike in the evenings?
No, you can’t ride independently of the tour group, sorry.
How fit do I need to be?
Reasonably so, especially for the Himalayas, where roads can be very rough and there is also the matter of altitude to deal with. What’s ‘reasonably fit’? If you can’t jog up stairs without panting, then Indian bike tours probably aren’t for you.
Can I take a pillion?
Yes , but please be sure they know what they’re letting themselves in for: some long days in the saddle, bumpy roads and, in the mountains, some pretty shocking drop-offs. We have limited space in our support vehicles, so pillions may not always be able to hop off on a whim. Likewise, if riders have any doubt over handling the extra weight, then we’d advise they ride solo. It is possible to book a place in a support vehicle for those who want to join the tour, but not to ride or travel as a pillion passenger.
How much luggage can I bring?
You are limited to 20-ish kg by most airlines. However, we suggest you pack as lightly and in as compact a form as possible. As support vehicle space is tight, we insist you bring soft luggage. If you turn up with a suitcase we will ask you to buy a soft bag and repack.
How much luggage should I bring?
Keep it as minimal as you can, please.
Isn’t India full of snakes?
Yes, it’s full of snakes. Don’t bring any snakes. It’s full.
Do I need a towel?
If you’re wet, yes. One small travel towel for Goa, Nepal and the Himalayas only. Although our hotels provide towels, there may be the occasional night you need your own.
Is food included in the price?
Only breakfast. You will pay for lunch and dinner, because we prefer that you make your own choices on where you eat and you will find Indian food substantially cheaper than meals at home.
I don’t like curry, what can I eat?
We would firstly suggest that you avoid too much curry, purely on the grounds that you don’t like it. Indian cuisine has much more to offer than that which we in the West are offered in most ‘Indian’ restaurants. In many destinations, Western-style food is available and where it is not, less spicy food can be arranged. As an alternative, it is possible to bring your own pre-packed camping meals and add hot water.
Is it possible to milk shrews in order to make shrew’s cheese?
Yes, but it’s a very tricky procedure requiring specialist equipment and best left to the experts.
Are laundry facilities available on-tour?
They are, but not every night. Check the itineraries of Tours. You should be able to get clothes cleaned at two-night stops, so consider this when packing.
Do I require a pollution mask?
Not specifically. Pollution is not a problem except in the major cities, but some roads are dusty so a facemask, snood, or scarf can be useful.
Do I need waterproofs?
Yes. If your riding kit isn’t waterproof, then bring some light waterproofs.
Do I need to bring a sleeping bag?
For the Himalayan tours a light, compact bag will add to your comfort.
What medication should I bring & what inoculations are required?
Consult your GP/travel clinic for immunisation and malaria advice. Bring enough of any prescribed medication you take regularly. A basic first aid kit is useful (plasters, antiseptic cream, bite/sting relief, plus insect repellent). Any serious medical problems will be dealt with by the tour medic, or first-aider.
Should I bring a seat pad?
Gel or air pads add comfort on long days in the saddle, but are not necessary.
Should I bring a sports bra?
If you like. We don’t really know you that well yet and so consider your underwear requirements to be your own business.
Should I bring a water carrier?
As air-fares are so high these days, better to hire one locally, or carry your own water. Packaged drinking water is readily available throughout our routes, which you may wish to transfer into a CamelBak, or similar device.
Do I need gloves?
Proper bike gloves are essential. Check this site’s information on Clothing Advice for a comprehensive guide to what you’ll need.
I’ve read that on your southern tours there will be the opportunity to spot wild ‘bison’. Surely the only bison sub-species reside in European and North American populations. Are we being taken for fools?
Yes, unfortunately guidebooks and indeed most guides themselves can be short on taxonomical understanding. The ‘Indian bison’ is properly known as a ‘gaur’ and is the largest bovine (cow) species.
How do I tell the difference between a buffalo and a bison?
You can’t wash your hands in a buffalo.