Last Modified: 20 Mar 2013
Cycling Kerala & Tropical India
Trip code: HZXK
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Mar 2013
Southern India is a magical place: beautiful landscapes, fascinating towns and villages, long white beaches and superb food, an excellent place to explore by bike. In the cool heights of the Western Ghats the sanctuaries at Bandipur and Mudumalai hide wild elephants, tigers and leopards in jungle and bamboo forests.
We cycle round old forts and up to religious rock shrines as well as through colourful villages where rural life has remained little-changed for centuries. Further south, in Kerala, Hinduism has produced some of India's most elaborately decorated temples. A relaxing boat trip on the quiet backwaters here offers a change of pace from the bicycles, before the final coastal ride to Varkala and a chance to laze on the beach and reflect on an unforgettable experience of rural India.
This trip is operated by our trusted local partners, Exodus.
Table of Contents
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Days 1-2 Mysore
Namaste! Welcome to India.
After checking into our hotel (rooms are generally ready around noon) perhaps take a wander around the magnificent Maharaja Palace and the main street bazaar. This palace was rebuilt to its present glorious state in 1912 after a huge fire in 1897. The décor is simply stunning, if a little bit over the top and the former maharaja is still in residence in his private quarters.
Mysore is one of India's most attractive towns. Unlike some of India's biggest cities it feels quite manageable in size, and it's beautiful buildings are packed full of history. The Maharajah’s Palace, the Lalitha Mahal (Summer Palace) and Shri Chamarajendra art gallery are all definitely worth a visit.
Historically the town was the capital of the mighty Maharaja kingdom of Mysore, ruled by the same family from 1399 until 1947. There was a brief period where the throne was usurped by one of the most colourful of Indian rulers, Hyder Ali and then by his famous son Tipu Sultan. Today the city is the state capital and one of the centres of the silk trade. It's well laid out with wide streets and many gardens, making it a pleasant place to wander around. It is also one of the major incense manufacturers in India - some call it "The Sandalwood City" and you will find yourself enveloped by the aromas of sandalwood, jasmine, rose and musk.
The next morning we take a leisurely ride to Srirangapatnan, the ruins of Tipu Sultan's capital, destroyed by the British in 1799 during their final battle to secure control of southern India. The ruins stand on an island in the middle of the Cauvery River, and once over the bridge we cycle around the old ramparts, enter Colonel Bailey's Dungeon and the Ranganatha Swamy Temple before riding back to Mysore for an early lunch (38 km). In the afternoon we cycle up Chaumundi Hill to view the huge five metre rock carving of Nandi, Shiva's celestial Bull, before returning to the hotel for a roof-top dinner.
- Mysore - Maharaja's Palace
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Bandipur National Park
Riding from the hotel, we share the quiet back roads with herds of white oxen and women in colourful saris carrying water pots on their heads, as we head to the important pilgrim centre of Nanjangud, with its beautiful temple. Another 36 km along is lunch and your first taste of Thali - the southern Indian meal of rice and vegetable curries. After lunch we leave the plains for the forested foothills of the Western Ghats (hills), once the hunting preserve of Mysore's Maharajas, today a tiger reserve and part of Bandipur National Park. In the late afternoon we have a jeep safari in the park.
Ride approx. 90km.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 4 Mudumalai National Park
There's the chance of another safari, maybe on foot, in the early morning, one of the best times to spot some of the larger game; gaur (Indian bison), wild elephants and sambur. If you missed the early morning safari you still get the chance to see monkeys, deer and peacock as we ride through the park and cross into the adjacent, Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu. It's a fantastic ride on well surfaced roads with jungle either side. The afternoon is free to wander the grounds of 'Wild Haven' a rustic planters bungalow with superb views of the Nilgiri mountains one side and Mudumalai Jungles on the other. There is also the chance to visit an orphanage nearby where some 80 children now reside. It's a short walk from the bungalow and is run by a committed team of local women and a Swiss lady. Most of the kids attend the local school and are always really excited to see travellers.
Ride approx. 33km.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 5 Ooty Hill Station
For some today's ride is the highlight of the trip, ascending 1600 m to Ooty Hill Station, the former summer capital of the Raj. The 36 hairpin bends give stunning vistas at every turn, and there's an immense sense of achievement at the summit. Although steep there are plenty of photographic opportunities and places to stop and enjoy the view. Some members of the group may prefer to walk or enjoy a relaxed morning and take the hill in the support vehicle! The cool climate of the Nilgiri hills gives us a break from the hotter plains below. Arriving late morning, we take lunch on the lawn of our comfortable hotel. Again the afternoon is free to explore the town, and sample some of their famous cardamom tea.
Ride approx. 27 km.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 6-7 Guruvayoor
After breakfast we have a stunning ride across the rolling Nilgiris before starting the dramatic descent, dropping 2200 m through the hills and tea-covered slopes of the Western Ghats. The ride offers excellent views over the hills below and there are some viewpoints that should not be missed. Fifty-four km later we reach Gadalur, a typical Indian town with one long high street selling everything, its shop-fronts covered with colourful adverts and cheap children's toys. Here we stock up on fresh fruits and head towards Kerala and the final 18 km descent, freewheel through tropical rain forest and bamboo covered slopes to our end point at a typical Kerala road side restaurant. We rack up the bikes whilst you enjoy lunch and then transfer to Guruvayoor to avoid busy roads.
Ride approx. 87 km.
The following day we have two easy circular rides. First we head to the beach, to see hundreds of colourful fishing boats hauled up on the sands beneath groves of palm trees. Then we pedal along country roads in the Thrissur district. The countryside, with its traditional ways and colourful people, provides many photographic opportunities. The highlight of the ride is the 40-plus temple elephants attached to the Sree Krishna Temple; on festival days they are decorated with fine gilt head-dresses and bells, but are more often seen strolling with their mahout on the road to the temple 2 km away. Guruvayoor comes alive for the night pooja, with burning josh-sticks and fragrant flowers stalls adding to the atmosphere. People dressed in their best longi and saris light up the huge 7m-high pillar of oil lamps in front of the heavy temple doors, a truly gorgeous spectacle.
Ride approx. 56 km.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 8-9 Kochi
We set off towards the coast. Mango and coconut trees line the roads and life becomes that little bit slower. There's time for a swim in the ocean at midday. This area is renowned for its prawn curries, and en route we pass shrimp farms with huge tiger prawns for sale (Jhinga Kachcia Aam Kari is a speciality dish of Kerala State, and is made with green mangoes and prawns simmered in coconut milk and spices). In the afternoon we board local ferries to island-hop to Fort Kochi. This town has a unique place in Indian history, and to soak up the atmosphere we spend the next two nights at a former residency of the Raj. The house, now a hotel, dates from the British period and the home cooking adds spicy flavour to our stay.
Ride approx. 86 km.
The following day is free to explore the town of Kochi, its bazaars and old harbour area. Warehouses filled with the smell of tea and spices are limewashed bright green, yellow and blue; rickety old bikes and handpainted trucks, piled high with goods, fill the narrow streets and food stalls stand on every corner. Further along the road you come to Mattancherry and the Dutch Palace. Next to the Palace is the synagogue, built in 1568 for the Jewish members of Kochi's trading communities, adorned with hand-painted tiles from China and elegant Belgian chandeliers, all donations from wealthy merchants. The area around the synagogue is excellent for shopping. For eats you should try the fish market near the Chinese fishing nets, where you can buy the day's catch and have it cooked to your own taste. There are also plenty of shopping opportunities here.
- Kochi - Jewish Synagogue, Kochi - INR5.00
- Kochi - Dutch Palace, Kochi - INR5.00
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 10-11 Kerala Backwaters/Houseboat
Riding out from Fort Kochi we pass 500-year-old Portuguese villas, a striking contrast to the tiny fisherman's huts dotted along the beach road with their long wooden boats pulled up under the palm trees and nets hung out to dry. Many of these fishing villages are Christian; at Chertala the old stone church dominates its surroundings and is best viewed from the shade of a coconut tree whilst we eat lunch. From here we leave the coast road, heading inland to Vambanad Lake and Alleppey, famous as the start point for backwater trips. We spend the night in a traditional Kerala house: its backwater frontage and tranquil gardens are as relaxing as the Ayurvedic massage and treatments on offer to its guests. In the afternoon and early evening we can relax on the veranda as backwater life unfurls before us.
Ride approx. 60 km.
The following day, have a lie-in and then you can enjoy a short bike ride to explore Alleppey town 5 km away, and stock up on gin and limes. Around midday we board a fabulous backwater houseboat for an unforgettable trip to Kollam (Quilon). These converted rice barges have 2 berth cabins with en suite bathrooms and come with their own cook. With our bikes stacked on the roofs you won't see the saddle for another 19 hours, just chill out and watch the world go by. Craft of all sizes use the lakes and canals that make up this fascinating network of waterways. The smaller boats ferry passengers and goods between tiny hamlets perched on narrow spits of land. On one side of the canal vast paddy fields of iridescent green stretch as far as the eye can see; on the other are fishing nets and coconut trees. As the sun begins to set, the boats are moored together, and we gather for sundowners - a moment that is difficult to surpass.
Hotel (1 nt), Houseboat (1 nt)
Days 12-14 Varkala
We have breakfast on the houseboats as they move from their overnight mooring point to our disembarkation point. Here we meet the support vehicle and set off along a quiet coastal road to the Valaazhikal ferry crossing. We load the bikes on a local fishing boat to cross the river estuary to Amrithanadamayi Ashram, better known as the Hugging Mama Ashram, a spiritual retreat overlooking the backwaters. We then join the main road to Quillon and have lunch at a sea side guest house: the fish is brought fresh from the market and cooked in mild spice and served with Poratta, a favourite Keralan bread. After lunch we are back on quiet roads for the last 30 km to Varkala, a small hippie community with coffee bars and yoga schools perched along its cliff-top. We spend the next two nights here.
Ride approx. 88 km.
The following day is totally free to do whatever you want, strolling along the two beaches or just wandering around the shops, with a wide choice of beach shack restaurants for lunch, which serve excellent seafood. Try some of the Tandoori dishes - the clay ovens give a more authentic taste to breads and curries. The last night's meal is generally at the hotel with a fusion of all your favourite Keralan dishes.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
Hotel (2 nts)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
For any ride at this level, fitness is important. This trip require confidence in your own ability and physical condition. They are equivalent to an extended period of cycling at home. Previous mountain biking experience is preferable, but not essential.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
The official currency of India is the Indian Rupee (INR).
The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency in is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), which are readily available in most towns.
Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, so please bring clean bills, and small denominations are most useful.
While traveller's cheques have security advantages exchanging them can be a lengthy process, commissions can be high and they can be difficult to change in rural areas, on weekends and public holidays. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels/establishments.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest INR20. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest INR100 per day for local guides.
Porters: Throughout your trip you may at times have a porter in addition to your leader. We suggest INR50 per day for porters.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of INR100 per day is generally appropriate.
Local transport: For a city tour we suggest INR50 per day.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline $US 2-4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
If you need to hire a bike please let us know at time of booking. Your sales consultant will be able to provide you with the cost for bike hire.
Average daily distance: 80 km (50 miles)
No.of days cycling: 9 - 11
Vehicle Support: 100%
Terrain and route: mostly surfaced roads. One of our more demanding road trips, but with an overall downhill bias. Routes follow mainly quiet backroads with low levels of traffic, but this does increase when approaching towns. We aim to cycle almost the entire route door to door, with only one transfer on Day 6.
This trip is operated by our trusted local partners, Exodus.
The minimum age of clients on this trip is 16 years. Please note that teenagers aged 16 or 17 must be accompanied by (and share accommodation with) a parent or legal guardian.
Maximum of 14 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
A single supplement is available on this trip (not on the houseboat, and possibly not on day 4), please refer to your booking agent for further information.
Hotel (12 nts), Houseboat (1 nt)
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Most of the hotels are comfortable tourist-class and all have en suite rooms. The bungalows at Wild Haven are clean but more basic. Houseboats are comfortable and all cabins have toilet facilities, the majority of cabins on board are on a twin share basis. The houseboat also has a separate dining area.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
13 Breakfasts, 10 Lunches, 1 Dinner
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
Generally you can eat out very cheaply in India. There is a good choice of restaurants and sometimes there is a choice between Indian and Western style food. If you are a vegetarian, India is an ideal destination. Included lunches on riding days are usually taken in local roadside cafes. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow.
Ferry, Bicycle, 4x4, Support vehicle
All your luggage and personal belongings will be carried by the support vehicle, which is a midibus. Transfer sections are done in the minicoach, which is sometimes air-conditioned. The support vehicle will follow the riders most of the time, allowing you to cycle as much or as little as you like. However, please note that there is only limited seating capacity in the vehicle, and it is not possible to accommodate the whole group at the same time. On occasions it is not possible for the support vehicle to follow the group, but we will still meet the vehicle at regular intervals to replenish water supplies etc.
There will be a local leader and drivers and local guides where needed.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
There is NO visa on arrival in India. Indian visas can NOT be obtained in Nepal. Tourist visas are available in Single and Multiple Entry. Be sure to check the date you require a visa from and the length of time you will need to cover, especially if you change countries during your trip.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
LOCAL BIKE HIRE:
Trek 4500 with front suspension £115, paid on booking.'In-country' bike hire should be arranged at the time of booking, and the cost will be added to your invoice. Please note that in a few locations, there may be a limited number of bikes available
locally. On the rare occasion there is not a bike available, we will inform you of this prior to departure. You would then be required to either bring your own, or hire one in the UK, see below for details.
BRINGING YOUR OWN BIKE:
Many people choose to bring their own bikes on our trips. If you wish to bring your own bike, please note that we cannot guarantee against small scratches and paintwork damage involved in the loading and unloading from support vehicles.
For more detailed information on bringing a bike from the UK (hired from Exodus, or your own), Information Sheet MBX will be sent to you on booking. This can also be found on our website at: www.exodus.co.uk/assets/pdf/MBX.pdf
EXTRA BIKE BITS:
You may like to bring your own pedals and saddle (excluding the seat post) or gel saddle cover to fit to the hire bikes.
"We encourage this, if it is your preference. However, please note that you are responsible for your own equipment, and removing your saddle/pedals at the end of the trip. We cannot guarantee the return of any bike parts left behind.
HELMETS AND SAFETY:
Exodus believes that all cyclists should wear helmets in the interests of personal safety, and our leaders are required to do so at all times on all trips. Customers must wear helmets at all times on any 'off-road' cycling holiday and certain 'road'
cycling trip (where this is applicable it is clearly stated in these Trip Notes).
On most road cycling holidays, wearing a helmet is strongly recommended, but we accept that some customers will want to exercise their own choice in this matter. Those who decide not to wear a helmet do so entirely at their own risk, and in the knowledge that some 'road' trips may include some 'off-road' sections. If wishing to use a helmet you must bring your own with you as they are not available for hire. Cycling of all kinds has its dangers and accidents can happen from
time to time. Please ensure that you are properly prepared for the riding you are going to undertake.
CLIMATE, CLOTHING & EQUIPMENT:
The most important feature of the Indian climate is the monsoon. The main monsoon strikes the coast of Kerala in late May and sweeps its way northward over the next month or so. The ideal time to visit is during the dry season from October to March. Days will be hot and the nights warm, the average range of maximum daytime temperatures being between 21ºC and 30ºC and from 6ºC to 20ºC at night. However, in the hills temperatures can be considerably cooler and you can expect temperatures to drop to a few degrees above zero at night. We ask you to note that frequent rainstorms can be expected throughout the tour on November departures. However, the storms are usually of quite short duration and the sun normally comes out fairly quickly afterwards.
You are required to bring the following personal items, which we view as crucial for the health and safety of our clients:
- a helmet
- eye-protection (sunglasses)
- cycling gloves
- waterbottles or hydration system (e.g. camelbak).
Recommended Cycling Clothing include:
Padded cycling shorts (with loose 'over-shorts' where recommended), breathable clothing, and a lightweight waterproof/windproof top. Shoes with relatively stiff soles are better for biking, but are not essential unless you are cycling long distances Most people want to carry certain items with them during the day while cycling, for this we recommend a large bum-bag or small closefitting daysack. High factor sun-cream, warmer layers for the evenings in the hills, cotton trousers and even your favourite energy snacks may be useful.
Please be aware that you will be passing through some remote villages where the locals are unaccustomed to seeing people in tight lycra - we recommend you wear baggy shorts or loose 'over shorts' so as not to cause offence.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
FESTIVALS - HOLI & DIWALI:
Travelling in India and Nepal whilst the Holi festival (a lunar festival but generally held in March every year) can at times be dangerous - a lot of locals participate in consumption of intoxicating substances. The day has been associated with physical violence and danger. Your leader/guide will be advising you and your group on what places to avoid on this day and it may even be necessary for us to alter your itinerary for the day to avoid putting you or our group leader/guide in high risk situation.
Travelling during the Hindu festival Diwali (a lunar festival but generally held from mid October to mid November every year) can also be dangerous. During this time there are many displays of fireworks in the streets. It can be very noisy for several days and there is also a lot of pollution caused by the fireworks. As there are no restrictions on buying fireworks in India there are often injuries caused by people exploding them inappropriately. During this festival your leader/guide may be required to alter your itinerary to avoid any dangerous areas to avoid putting the group at risk.
Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate. In many rural areas in Asia women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in India include:
* Asha Ka Jharna (AKJ) provides services to disabled children and adults. They run three special schools, currently assisting around 160 children, and an old-age home for the short-stay of elderly people. AJK also provides vocational training, participates in diagnostic camps and distributes aids and appliances to physically disabled persons.
* Deepalaya is focused on building a better future for India's street children. They have assisted more than 44,000 underprivileged children through the provision of food and board, health care, meaningful education and vocational training, counselling and career guidance, understanding, friendship, and warmth and solace.
* GOONJ channels vital resources to rural India through the distribution of used items such as clothes and household goods. Their school-to-school program of channelling resources like uniforms, shoes, stationery, lunch boxes etc from urban schools to rural schools will benefit more than 35,000 children in its first phase.
Any donations you'd like to make can be given to your group leader in Delhi ONLY, they can then arrange for it to be passed on to GOONJ who will distribute these items to rural villages and people in need. You might like to consider taking over some clothes or other things you no longer require: woollens, footwear, bed sheets, blankets, utensils, first aid items, books, toys and school items - notebooks, pencils, pens, old uniforms or school bags - are all useful.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.