January 20, 2017
I didn’t have a chance to do very much this past summer. There was a little bit of upheaval and then I went off to Germany for a conference on American Jewish history. Afterwards I had thoughts of doing a bike trip in Italy but I decided to come straight back to Mobile, Alabama. I told myself that this was just a delay, not a cancellation.
But when I looked for bike trips in Europe in December, I didn’t find very much. Actually I didn’t find anything. I thought southern Italy would be perfectly warm but apparently it’s still pretty cold there and nobody wants to go biking at that time of year. Very specific dates had to be adhered to. It didn’t look good but then I found Kalypso Adventure Tours. I think they spell their name with a K. In any case, they were wonderful.
I corresponded extensively with Thomas Zacharias, the owner of the company headquartered in Cochin. He was unbelievably patient and answered all of my questions. I had no idea what to expect and so I had a lot of questions. The bike guide Francis was likewise warm, helpful, and made the biking a pleasure.
I do have to confess that I did not do any training for this bike trip. I just showed up. I was a cross country runner in high school and I guess I still have strong legs. The trip was about 14 days and took us from Cochin east through the West Ghat mountains and then south through the Cardamom Hills and then west again to the Backwaters.
We were at a different hotel almost every night. There were a few nights at the same hotel in Cochin at the beginning of the tour and two other opportunities to spend 2 nights in specific hotels, the first of which was really luxurious and the second of which was really simple but had the nicest nicest staff. Other than that, we moved every day. And we moved by bicycle.
There was a biking guide and a driver. The driver was driving a large van so if you got tired you could climb aboard. No, I would never have done that under ordinary circumstances but I did had to take into consideration that at my rather glacial pace they might not arrive at our destination until 3 in the morning so I think there were two days in the first five or six where I had to do a little bit of riding.
I am happy to report that as the trip went on I got better and I was able to complete the 88 kilometers of the longest day without any riding in the car at all. I did get off the bike twice to walk up hills but that was it. It took me about 6 hours.
The shortest day was 22 kilometers but it was raining and very windy in the mountains and so that they felt like really extreme sports. I loved it. I got wet and I was sure I would get sick but I was healthy as a horse the next morning.
This was my second bicycle tour. I went with Grasshopper Tours a few years ago to Vietnam. That was so much biking that I don’t remember anything about the country. In Mobile, we frequently go out for dinner after service this Friday night when we first went to the Vietnamese restaurant I was sure I would recognize most of the food. No such luck. It was like I’d never been in the country.
In contrast, this trip was more interesting culturally in that it was a very well-constructed blend biking with a bit of musical, artistic and historical activities and of course a lot of cuisinary experiences. I can’t rave enough about the Indian food.