. We stopped for our first rest, enjoying a slice of marble cake (all of the shops serve a huge variety of excellent cakes, in fact, along with all the spiciness that you expect from India, it is a country with a very sweet tooth). We paused to catch some good sights along the way today, a school sports day which we both agreed, we could have stopped to watch all day. The kids ran in bare feet, in the baking sun, do the ridiculous health and safety regulations in UK allow such things? We saw a pen of ducklings, but curiously they were dyed bright pink and green (see photo). I tried to ask the guy what he had been up to, but as you can imagine from someone who dips ducklings into buckets of dye, he didn’t make much sense. I did manage to avoid buying any which was a close shave. Again we were sandwiched between the ocean and Kerala’s Northern backwaters. The bridges allowed a glimpse into the logging and sand yards on the banks of rivers. Some old dude had so much sand in his canoe that the water was spilling in over the sides. He looked pretty relaxed about the whole thing, waving to us as he puffed away on something. At midday we passed the state border, this time from Kerala into Karnatika. The roads were on and off, sometimes we could hammer along on good tarmac, at other times we were restricted to a snail’s pace, weaving in and out of chasms in the road. Two guys went past on a motorbike shouting “India, very good roads”. They were of course having a laugh but it was good to have a joke with someone passing buy rather than having to put up with some pathetic testosterone fueled remark
. 12km before Mangalore we stopped at Summer Sands Beach Resort on Ullal Beach and had a swim in the sea on a gorgeous beach. The waves and current were still very dangerous so it was more of a run in and run out, but so lovely after sweating it up in the bike for 3 hours. We enjoyed our free sandwich and coke included in the resort entrance fee and then topped lunch up with crisps and samosas in the beach. We had a hilarious time watching a group of 50 work colleagues have some kind of award ceremony punctuated with them all getting up and dancing (appallingly) to different songs. It was obviously some kind of motivational team building exercise – very hard to imagine English companies persuading their staff to dance together at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon with no alcohol involved and many holiday makers watching! As we cycled out of the resort we spotted a gorgeous swimming pool which was probably what the entrance fee was for! Oops – would have been nice, but never mind. Entering Mangalore required full concentration. It was a big place and even the Saturday traffic was enough to keep us on our toes. We cycled to the hotel we hoped to stay in (it had a swimming pool) but it was closed down for renovations. This required us to navigate around the hilly streets of Mangalore to find choice number two. It was a grand building and we took a great room on the 6th floor which looked out over the city and port. Later that evening we had delicious Indian soups and bread in the rooftop restaurant and went back to the room to enjoy endless fireworks being let off over the city. Again, the British health and safety council would have had a field day. Fireworks went off in all directions, from where we were watching it looked as if people were being blown up all over the place. It was good to watch from a distance. Our renewed approach to cycling in India has seemed to pay off. A much more enjoyable day. This hotel even sent someone out to buy me lovely cold Kingfishers.
After the last few days, I think we needed a freshening up of how we play out this challenge. Things had certainly got to us. The unbearable heat (after a week of cold rain in the mountains), the non- stop horn blowing, the unwanted attention, the pollution, terrible smells, potholed roads, inexplicable rules of the road, India almost sent us over the edge. But today we had agreed was going to be different. We started as we meant to go on, breakfast ordered to the very pleasant beach bungalow and no rushing around to get out on the road. Just as well, as overnight puncture number 10 had done its worst and left Polly’s back tyre flat. Puncture repaired (I am getting very good at it now)we left Bekel Fort with smiles on our faces. A herd of goats followed us down the road and day trippers to the fort were excited to see a couple of white people on bikes (we still haven’t got back on the tourist route – an English couple in Calicut, but that’s it). The first 10 miles were really slow, again potholes making it impossible to get up any speed. But not a problem, today was about slowing down and remembering to enjoy the ride