All of us Kerala dreamers have seen our share of cliché Kerala itineraries. Kochi.. Munnar.. Periyar.. Alleppey.. Kovalam.. Kumarakom..!!
Need a break? Good news is, there is a Kerala beyond this!
North Kerala, the region of Malabar which Lonely planet ranked amongst the top 10 places in Asia in 2017. The place is a paradise really – lush green, friendliest people, amazing and diverse cuisine, gleaming coastline, and the not so touristy pockets of Malabar hills.
How to prepare for a motorcycle Trip
First things first. Basic awareness and preparation for a long Motorcycle trip.
You should know that even though motorcycle trips are much cheaper as compared to a chauffeur driven holiday or even a four wheeled self-drive, you need to make some initial investment. And it doesn’t hurt, because as all investments, it is going to pay you in the long term.
Must haves for a basic motorcycle trip – – Saddlebag with raincover
– Basic Protection gear
– Knee and Elbow guard (recommended for first timers and longer trips)
Standard size saddlebags are anywhere between 30-45 litres per compartment. If riding alone, that’s plenty of space, but in case with a pillion, as in our case, you should learn the art of packing light. Go to a good motorcycle gear shop to buy your saddle bag, because you need to check the fit. Yes, clearance from the pipes is of utmost importance.
The Tank-bag is to keep any of the small stuff that you want to be handy during your ride.
Ground rule for everything else in the list – Do not compromise in quality/ protection when safety is concerned.
I never thought I would put Knee and elbow guards on this list. What convinced me for it, was an unfortunate fall caused because of highly sped truck on the windy roads of Kerala. Yes, it can happen to anyone, so why not prepare for it – highly recommended for first timers and longer trips – pillions can give it a pass. It pays not to be over-confident when on a road trip in India.
How to plan the best route for your Motorcycle Trip – step by step guide
Now there is a LOT to be seen in North Kerala, and you need to whit your list down. Let us see how.
Our Road Trip Map
After following the abovementioned guidelines, this is how our road trip looked like –
We stayed for long durations at each place and made day trips from the place of stay.
Upon arrival, we hit the road straight to Guruvayoor – a destination that has been on my mind since my days in the Inbound Travel Industry. The culture lover inside me, could not say no to Guruvayoor. It is a small little town, much crowded though because of the most famous Krishna temple in the whole of Kerala. We visited the temple complex early morning but standing in the line for 5-6 hours to see the lord didn’t sound very appealing.
The market although was buzzing with all things local – the most intriguing between all of them being the ‘Kozhikode Halwa’. During the colonial times, they called it the ‘sweet meat’ – literally, because of its texture. The origin of this sweet dish is Middle Eastern but it is very much a part of Kerala’s traditional culture because of the trade route.
Comes in any flavor that you can imagine! Mixed nuts, Cashew, Banana, Coconut, even Jackfruit! and much more… The sweet is more of a passion here in North Kerala, so much so that there is a whole street named after it in Kozhikode!
Guruvayoor is part of the Thrissur District, much known for its grand full moon festival ‘Thrissurpooram’. The highlight of the Pooram is its ornately decked up temple Elephants. When not showing off in a temple festival, you can find these majestic creatures in ‘Anakkotta’ – literally the Elephant fort. Sadly, all the Elephants are chained so it was a rather painful experience.
I have to mention it here though, so others don’t go for it – we plan to get back for Thrissurpooram – would rather see them showing off!
Your ‘rear’ takes some time to get used to the long sitting on the bike. This will be a good time to invest in a gel pad seat cushion to carry along – specially for the pillion rider. Useful even after the first ride, take my word. Also, choose a hotel walking distance to the temple, so its easy for you to jump into the middle of action anytime you want – midnight and early mornings preferred.
Our second stop was Wayanad, but between point A and B – this was quite an enjoyable ride. Not just for the pleasure of rollercoasting on the winding green lanes of Kerala, but also because of the interesting pit stops. Days can be warm in Kerala and so you shall find things like fresh sugarcane juice, cut fruits dipped in vinegar and of course coconut water at every few minutes. We had our filing of each, and my personal favorite were the cut fruits – oh so tangy and delicious. From a variety of raw Mangoes to vegetables like carrots, jackfruit and even the flower of Banana!!
It is very important to choose the place of stay in Wayanad carefully as the choice is immense and luring, and the place is spread far and wide. Given that we were riding more than 6 hours straight from Guruvayoor, we chose a resort very close after entering Wayanad. This also saved us from driving uphill in the dark.
We had a wooden cottage, overlooking the stream and built on the stilts. Waking up to the chirping of birds amongst lush green is all I have ever wanted for each morning of my life!
Rather than going for the laundry list places available on the internet, which are hence crowded – choose a well-organized full day activity by a local tour operator. We chose ‘Adventure Zone Pozuthana’ by Muddy Boots. A locally owned company, Muddy Boots organizes a number of local expeditions at reasonable prices. Do your own research on other tour operators as well and pick one that suits your interests and budget.
Even if you want to explore the place on your own later, it is always good to familiarize yourself with a well-organized activity by an expert. Even the most revered travelers/ explorers/ travel bloggers take help from local experts – more than you can imagine.
Our day was a great mix of hiking, cycling and rafting – through the blissful scenery of plantations – of cardamom, tea, coffee and pineapple; coconut groves, grassy meadows and Vythri River.
The best spice plantations to visit are in Sulthan Bathery and you can even stay at some of the farmhouses. Other than knowing about spices, you can take part in the cooking classes or give a hand at farming. We just drove from our resort and found ‘Spice Garden Farm House’ to be a good place. We stayed there with friendly owners and co-travelers.
Waterfalls are worth visiting only around Monsoon season, so plan your visit accordingly. If visiting at the right time, don’t miss Soochipara Waterfalls.
Driving through Malabar Hills (Wayanad to Kannur) – Yes, I have dedicated a whole section to this ride that took us from Wayanad to Kannur. Why? Well because it totally blew me off! The ride was a surprise element in the trip – basically we took the longer route by mistake rather than the conventional one (thanks to Google, literally) and boy what a mistake! I shall never be sorry for this one.
This may be one of the least touristy and most scenic rides in Kerala that you can take. Precisely the reason you won’t find enough information about it on the internet. However, you shall be crossing plantations and wilderness resorts offering night stays. We stopped and decided to spend a night before moving forward (I often give in to my whims while travelling), however the desired resort was not operating during the time.
After a more than fulfilling drive through Malabar Hills, we hit the coast for yet another exhilarating driving experience through North Kerala.
When we reached Kannur that looked like a normal sleepy small town, we weren’t appreciating it that much, coming from the Malabar Hills. Little did we know that we were in for more than a surprise. Expect nothing and you shall be awarded a treasure!
Kannur is the real deal – and the house we were staying in was a traditional Malabar residence. It stood on a cliff, and a nearly private beach waited down a small flight of stairs. The back of our room opened to a little sit out area directly looking to the ocean and fresh food was served from the kitchen, it was just perfect.
Our host Mr. Kurien came to greet us on his moped and invited us for a coffee to another one of his three homestays. Having heard of his brilliant local knowledge and connections, we couldn’t say no. True to what we have heard, Mr. Kurien, apart from other interesting stories, gave us the insider information of a Theyyam happening next morning itself. What else could one ask for, Theyyam is why I was here at this time of the year.
What we saw the next morning while it was still dark, in the courtyard of one of the village families is beyond words. Theyyam is a ‘Cult Possession’ ceremony that has survived the tides of time and can only be witnessed in few villages around this part of Kerala. Read more about it here.
It was a totally private affair with only the village people invited but open to all, and hence the tourists would come in. But post the first chapter, all tourists had vanished, leaving us with the villagers. Lucky us, we chose to be there the entire day, looking at various kinds of Theyyams performed throughout.
Having seen Theyyam and a nearly private beach to ourselves, we decided mostly to sit around, swim in the ocean and make friends, while in Kannur.
Few mornings, Mr. Kurien would himself make fresh juices for us – and while we were having breakfast, serve them as a sweet surprise like the father of the house. More often than not, at such moments, all of us at the house wanted him to sit and chat with us, in an attempt to soak it all.
Point is, these are the kind of treasures that unfold themselves in front of your eyes and soul when you decide to go on a North Kerala Motorcycle trip. This is when you understand the meaning of serendipity.
Because they don’t offer you any less of an experience than a 5-star hotel, do not expect homestays to be the cheapest always. They are not just cheaper stay alternates but places born out of love and passion of the locals wanting to welcome visitors. They also need to sustain themselves in the best possible way to give you a great experience.
Kozhikode – We wrapped up our trip in Kozhikode by watching a Hindi movie in a local theatre and spending some quality time with local kids on the beach. Sipping on a chilly drink in one of the local cafes with a French décor and having yet another dose of the Kerala street food.
Why choose North Kerala for your Motorcycle trip –
– Smiling faces, friendly people
– Stunning scenic beauty
– Well maintained, clean roads
– Winding roads bound with green or amazing coastal drives
– Easy on pocket as compared to the South.
– Cheaper in the long run
– Makes it easier to explore the hilly terrain of North Kerala, you can manipulate your bike way much better.
– Exposure to the destination is maximum – weather, people etc.
– That incomparable feeling of riding in the open!
In one line, ‘Just do it!’