Monday, March 21, 2011

4000 kilometers - finished

I don’t particularly want to go home.

With apologies to friends, family and the dog, it’s going to be a hard landing back in the states this time after such an intense, alive, challenging experience.  I understand how travel can be addictive… I’m already pretty far along that path … and it’s safe to say this trip has moved me further towards being a professional nomad.
But tomorrow I start the long trip back after an incredible two months in India. I arrive back in Seattle late night March 23.

We rolled into Kanyakumari yesterday afternoon. Indian sparkling wine was liberally sprayed. Congratulatory hugs.  The end of ride posing and shooting.  And we were done.  Pretty anticlimactic after the daily unpredictable stimulation of this journey.  And yes - it was as hot as I look in this photo.

As we were lined up for our group shot (40ish cameras take a while), the Indian tourists took photos of us … and then started putting their kids and families posed in front of us. Pretty funny – they have never been shy about photos, often hanging out car windows or staked out on the side of the road with cell phone cameras. Sometimes even lining up the family for a photo with us or individually asking if they can take a photo with me.  We will be in scrapbooks all over the country as those crazy Western cyclists.  So this was an appropriate ending.

The last two riding days were relatively uneventful.  A trafficky, not so interesting route from Kollam to Kovalem resulted in frantic re-scouting (thank you TDA) and a much nicer coastal route for our last 90k ride into Kanyakumari.
Processing coconut hulls

The ride into Kanyakumari was full of coconut plantations, and the industry that collects and breaks down the used husks into grass.  I stopped and watched 6 people make rope from the coconut fuzz.  One man cranked a three headed spindle, while three other people simultaneously placed a mound of coconut “hair” on the spindle and slowly walked backwards 30 feet, forming a twisted rope. Then they joined the three strands to another hand crank and twisted the three strands together into a rope.  Very simple, very labor intensive, very person intensive. But I’ve noticed a lot of the work in India –weaving, building roads, etc. – is done using low-tech, human intensive methods. Which I guess is one way to keep folks employed.

We passed beaches, and many villages –the south in Kerala seems much more heavily populated than the more northern coastal areas. It felt pretty developed, a real contrast from the coast between Mumbai and Goa which was more pristine.  Most of this area seems relatively prosperous.

Kanyukamari is the most southern point in India where three oceans meet.  You can see the sun rise and the moon set at the same time.  It’s a very real town – few if any other westerners are here. It’s mostly Indian tourists on pilgrimage to the temple off the point and people going about their lives.  When I arrived I broke down and repacked my bike, did some laundry and other chores so I could spend my day free doing a little shopping for things I wanted … particularly fulfilling my obsession with silks and textiles.  The fabrics here are so lovely – I went a little nuts on the silk saris (no, I’m not going to parade around Seattle in a sari but they each have 6 meters of gorgeous fabric that is too beautiful to pass up).

 I also had a good time eating today.  Though sadly I have to dial that back given I won’t be burning thousands of extra calories a day anymore. Local towns serve food local style. For lunch I sat down at a restaurant, they put a banana leave on table in front of me and filled it with rice, a fried fish- head, tail and all, and various sauces, veggies and chutneys.  Everybody got the same lunch, we ate with our right hand, and it was delicious. And had a banana dosi for breakfast this morning – bananas in a huge flat pancake/crêpe thing with sugar and sides of sammar, yogurt buttermilk and some sort fabulous vegetable puree that surprisingly tasted wonderful with those bananas. I’ll really miss this food.

Tomorrow I go back to Kovalem for a night, and fly out from there the next day for a very tortuous trip back to Seattle: Trivandrum to Mumbai, 11 hour layover, Mumbai to London, London to Dallas (6 hour layover), Dallas to Seattle. But it was free on miles … I keep telling myself that.

I will post at least once more as I wrap my thoughts around the end of the trip and my experience here and add some more photos. I can tell you now this experience was unbelievably positive, despite some of the intense challenges and events. I’m overwhelmed with the generosity and kindness of most everyone I met here, truly admire and appreciate those who I journeyed with, and I know I will miss the vivacity and aliveness and color and chaos of India when I’m back.

Namaste.

5 comments:

  1. Well done, Leigh! Thanks so much for keeping this public record, for the rest of us to be able to follow along.

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  2. WONDERFUL! thank you so much for your most interesting blogging! i have been with you the whole way! safe travels back to seattle. i am in vancouver, bc - viktor berg's mom. THANK YOU!!

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  3. (Also from Vancouver) COngratulations Leigh, it's a fantastic achievement! And you're a terrific writer! I have also followed your trip every day, initially to see what our pals the Crosses were doing but increasingly to see how you were doing as well, even though we've never met. All the best for your readjustment in Seattle... let us know when you take off again! Thanks for making it all so vivid and alive.

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  4. Leigh, great job chronicling your adventures as well as the occasional mis-adventures. I really enjoyed following along to get your impressions, descriptions and as well as some editorializing. I find it interesting that this has only served to heighten your wanderlust further. Hoping these interludes continue to provide the enjoyment and satisfaction you are seeking in them.

    Chris

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  5. Leigh, thank you again and again for taking us along on another of your amazing journeys. I love living vicariously through your travel reports! Safe travels on what is now the last leg of your long journey home. Can't wait to hear more of your reflections in May...

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