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Trivandrum-Varkala-Kollam-Murinjapuzha-Vagamon-Thekkady-Cochin

Total no. Of days : 09
Best Season : October to March
 
 
Day 1: Arrive Trivandrum
Group Flight arrives Trivandrum; afternoon cycle ride The group flight arrives in Trivandrum this morning and we transfer the short distance to our hotel in Kovalam. Although in recent years Kovalam has had an influx of tourists, it still retains much of its original charm, being made up of a series of sandy bays and rocky promontories. After our briefing there will be the opportunity to take a relaxing ride through this landscape, visiting some of the villages to the south of Kovalam. (Approximately 15 km cycling). Overnight at hotel with breakfast.
 
 
Day 2: Cycling in Veli Lagoon (20kms)
Drive to Veli Lagoon; visit Anjengo fort and Cycle to Varkala After breakfast this morning we transfer by bus to Veli, from where we cycle the 20 kms to the estuary. The lagoon is a large lake separated from the ocean by the narrowest of sandbar spits, where fisherman can be seen working on their boats and nets, or poling across the lake with sand-filled barges. Transfering by boat we visit the fishing village of Anjuthengu, where we stop to visit Anjengo fort, built by the British East India Company in the 17th Century and the first British trading post on the Malabar coast. After our visit we carry on towards Varkala, a temple town renowned throughout the region as a pilgrimage centre for the millions of Hindus who come here to worship at the ancient Janardhana Swamy Temple. On arrival in Varkala there should be time to relax andenjoy the beaches of the Arabian coast,wander amongst the palms and paddy fields and perhaps enjoy a stunning sunset before enjoying a well-earned dinner in one of the local restaurants. (Approximately 35 km cycling). Overnight at the hotel.

 
 
Day 3: Cycle to Kollam
This morning’s ride gives us the chance for some interaction with the local people of the area. Travelling through villages we see some traditional coir-making skills (the fibres from the outer husk of the cocunut, which is used to make rope and mats), as well as fishing.Stopping south of Paravoor for lunch we then continue on and hope to visit an elephant trader’s camp, where there may be the option of joining in with an elephant safari and feeding. Continuing, we pass through the fishing harbour at Thankaessery, before finally arriving in Kollam. Situated on the edge of the Ashtamundi Lake, Kollam is surrounded by coconut palms and cashew tree plantations, indeed the town is the centre of the cashew industry here. Its old wooden houses are typical of the Keralan style and its situation at the southern end of the backwaters makes it an ideal spot from which to explore this fascinating network of canals and lagoons. (Approximately 40 km cycling). Overnight at the hotel.

 
 
Day 4: Backawaters of Kayamkulam
Boat trip along Backwaters; cycle through villages to Mancombu Transferring to Kollam jetty we catch a motor launch to travel through the backwaters to Kayamkulam. This is the ideal way to explore these waterways, which cover an area of some 1900km. The boats – their bows often carved in the shape of a dragon – are the lifeline for the villages, acting as taxis, mail delivery, even the harvest is carried in boats. You may see great pyramids of coconuts or even the odd buffalo being carried along in this time honoured fashion. Stopping at Ayiramthengu village for lunch en route, we eventually reach our destination of Kayamkulam, from where we cycle once more, along tranquil backroads and through fishing villages, to the Manarasala snake temple, close to the settlement of Thottapally. After visiting the temple we transfer to our accommodation, a couple of typical Keralan village houses, in the district of the ancient trading town of Alleppey. (Approximately 20 km cycling). 2 nights Village homestay with breakfast and dinner.

 
 
Day 5: Vagamon Hill station 
Drive and cycle to Vagamon Hill Station Leaving the beautiful backwaters behind we use a combination of engine and pedal power to reach today’s destination; the Hill Station of Vagamon. Travelling via the town of Chengancherry, we quickly see the landscape and its flora change as we gain elevation to arrive at the town of Kanjirapalli,from where we cycle up to the hill station. Situated at an elevation of 1100m, Vagamon is an enchanting setting, surrounded by the lush greenery of tea gardens and spice plantations, overlooking the valleys and meadows of the surrounding countryside. In the evening we can visit Ayyampara, an area of startling rock formations covering some 30 acres. On clear days it affords views down to Alleppey’s lighthouse, and is a favourite haunt for those wishing to see spectacular sunsets. (Approximately 40 km cycling).

 
 
Day 6: Vagamon full day cycling (20 kms)
Full day cycling around Vagamon A morning stroll among the seemingly numerous fruits and medicinal plants of a local plantation brings us to the Meenachil river, the enigmatic source of life and death in Arundhati Roy’s Booker prize-winning novel ‘The God of Small Things’. Depending on the season, we may bathe in its rock pools before cycling to Poonjar Palace, a 900 year old residency still occupied by the Maharajah and his family. After lunch, we may have a chance to track elephants at work among the surrounding forests of teak and sandalwood. For the keen trekker, there may be, conditions allowing, an option to walk to the top of Illikal Peak (2000m), the origin of the Meenachil and, as legend would have it, a mythological site in its own right. (Approximately 20 km cycling).
 
 
Day 7 : Thekkady-Pariyar national Park
Drive and cycle to Thekkady; afternoon boat trip in Periyar National Park Taking the meandering roads through the high ranges today we will drive some of the steeper sections of road, before transferring to two wheels to continue our journey to Thekkady, situated close to the border with Tamil Nadu. Our route to the Periyar wildlife sanctuary takes us past many rubber plantations, and through the varied spice gardens of this part of India. Periyar is one of the 16 Project Tiger Reserves in India, with about 40 tigers living in the 777 sq km park, but as they are solitary creatures, the chances of seeing them are very slim. The park is actually probably better known for its elephants and this afternoon we take a boat cruise on Periyar reservoir, where we hope to catch sight these magnificent beasts drinking at the waters edge. This is reputedly one of the most picturesque reservoirs in the area and home to myriad wildlife. As well as  elephant, we may see sambar and barking and mouse deer, as well as wild pigs, bisons, monkeys and langurs. Also look out for some of the many birds which live here, such as cormorants, darters, ospreys, kingfishers, hornbills and kites. The nearby fruit trees  attract hill mynas, orioles and racket-tailed drongos and there are an amazing variety of butterflies, with up to 112 species being recorded. (Approximately 20 km cycling).
 
 
Day 8 : In and around Thekkady
In and around Thekkady; visit villages and plantations This morning we go for a walk in the forest in search of other wildlife such as the star tortoise, porcupine and the flying squirrel. The park itself is made up of a variety of habitats,open grasslands, deciduous, semi-evergreen and tropical forest – all of which have different animal species. The ecosystem of the tropical evergreen jungle is very interesting – the trees grow up to 40m, and the dense canopy above only allows in limited sunlight. Therefore at ground level, there are abundant ferns, orchids and airplants – plants that need little light to survive. Later we’ll set out by bike to explore the surrounding valleys clothed in the richest green that rise toward the majestic heights of the Western Ghats. After a brief excursion into Tamil Nadu for a view down to the plains stretching away to the Bay of Bengal in the east, we visit a spice garden with a local botanist. Further on, we may have the opportunity to meet local tea pickers at a factory and get something of a feel for how people live in this beautiful region before returning to our hotel.

 
 
Day 9 : Cochin
Bus and cycle to Cochin via Kodanadu Today we make our way back to the coast, as we head for the bustling port of Cochin, with a beautiful natural harbour that earned it the title of Queen of the Arabian Sea. We first drive to Kodanadu, where elephants have been raised and trained to work with local foresters for over a century, and from here we cycle across the Periyar river surrounded by silent forested peaks to reach a mahogany plantation. On the way we’ll pass through Malayattoos, an important devotional centre for Kerala’s substantial Christian community. Finally, we’ll rejoin our bus for the drive down to Cochin. As well as being the oldest European settlement in India, with its mix of English, Dutch and Portuguese influences, Cochin is also home to the famous Kathakali dancers. Its origins came from traditional temple rituals and from an art form known as Koodiyattam. The dancers can take up to three hours painting their faces – the features are heavily emphasized as it is the facial expressions and coordinated eye movements which are important in the dance. The dances usually portray events from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, great Indian epics. (Approximately 15km cycling).

 
 
Day 10: Cochin cycling
Bus and cycle to Cochin via Kodanadu Today we make our way back to the coast, as we head for the bustling port of Cochin, with a beautiful natural harbour that earned it the title of Queen of the Arabian Sea. We first drive to Kodanadu, where elephants have been raised and trained to work with local foresters for over a century, and from here we cycle across the Periyar river surrounded by silent forested peaks to reach a mahogany plantation. On the way we’ll pass through Malayattoos, an important devotional centre for Kerala’s substantial Christian community. Finally, we’ll rejoin our bus for the drive down to Cochin. As well as being the oldest European settlement in India, with its mix of English, Dutch and Portuguese influences, Cochin is also home to the famous Kathakali dancers. Its origins came from traditional temple rituals and from an art form known as Koodiyattam. The dancers can take up to three hours painting their faces – the features are heavily emphasized as it is the facial expressions and coordinated eye movements which are important in the dance. The dances usually portray events from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, great Indian epics. (Approximately 15km cycling).
 
 
Day 11 : Cochin -Trivandrum
We catch an early morning train back to Trivandrum, from where we cycle via quiet backroads to Kovalam. Once a  quiet hippy haven, Kovalam is today a thriving tourist resort, but its palm-fringed beaches and turquoise waters still offer the weary traveller a relaxing place to unwind. What better place to end our trip. (Approximately 20km cycling).
 
 
 
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