The Tropical South of India

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  –  Mark Twain

Before I moved from the “Bay of Bengal” to the west coast of India, I spent a few days in Chennai and shortly after some more time in Bangalore, the Indian Silicon Valley. Almost all major IT companies have settled here and for a change I got the opportunity to explore the city on the back seat of Mohan’s Royal Enfield.

From Bangalore I travelled to Hampi, the former capital of the kingdom of Vijayanagar. At the time of the last great Hindu empire almost the entire South of India was ruled from this ancient and probably most glorious city.

Hampi is situated on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River twelve kilometers northeast of the city of Hospet. Although you will only find remnants of the ancient fortress walls or preserved remains of the foundation of the palace, numerous temples made out of hard granite have survived the time. I got out of my riding suit, took a shower and went on a several-hour hike to the famous Vittala temple. When I was back in the late afternoon I took the bike to explore the wider surroundings and the royal area around Hampi. It was fun riding around the area, watching the stones getting reddish while the sun was slowly going down behind coconut palm trees.

In the evening I had to put up with pure vegetarian food as you will neither find meat nor any alcohol in various strictly religious Hindu places across India.

The following morning I left Hampi and intended to stay the night in Dandeli, a small village located in a wildlife-sanctuary. But when I arrived around lunchtime, I didn’t find the place particularly charming and decided to continue to Goa the same afternoon.

What I might have missed out on exciting jungle safaris in Dandeli, was more than offset by an adventurous motorcycle ride through the jungle. I was initially of the opinion to follow a generally used road through the forest. But the more my current position deviated from the original GPS track, the more “interesting” became the ride through the jungle. Around four o’clock in the afternoon I started wondering whether the track through lushly forests would eventually lead me to Goa. As long as I was heading west everything was all right and I got closer to the sea. But unfortunately the track was winding north and south and sometimes backwards … Muddy water holes and rocky slopes made me stop several times and I questioned my little mission quite a few times. Without a map and no one to ask it’s kind of gripping … In only two hours, the sun would go down. If I would have to turn back, I would hardly leave the forest in daylight. It was not exactly a romantic idea considering the wildlife scene that called the jungle its home …

Nevertheless, I have to admit that I somehow enjoyed this lonely ride through such deserted areas. After so many weeks on Indian roads, where I was almost never alone, where people always gather around me wherever I stop and where I hardly ever had the chance to be for myself, this afternoon was a real pleasure. I followed a lonely trail not really knowing whether it would actually leads me to Goa. But I was able to stop and listen to the sounds of nature wherever I wanted. I was able to take pictures without being observed … I just could be for myself.

For someone who hasn’t experienced India the same way, it may sound strange. But what I really missed in India were moments all for myself when being on the road. In any other country which I crossed on this journey, I found opportunities to be alone if I wished so. It’s different though in India. Often I bought something to eat or to drink in one place and was immediately surrounded by 10-20 Indians. Therefore, I usually packed my stuff and left the village to stop again somewhere on the road for a break in peace. But even there the next passing moped would stop out of curiosity. Then another one … and I was not alone anymore.

I found my way to Goa before sunset and enjoyed an evening with Chicken Tikka Masala, Naan, Tandoori Chicken and a cold beer.

Goa, however, has changed a lot in recent years and at times you could get the impression that some beaches mutated to Russian enclaves. When even restaurants advertise in Cyrillic and menus are displayed in Russian, you might doubt whether you are still in a former Portuguese colony.

I left Goa a few days later heading south and made my way to Gokarna. Originally a Hindu pilgrimage, I found here the most beautiful beach of “Heading East”. The place was so peaceful that I had to come back before I should end my trip in Mumbai …

From Gokarna I went to Mangalore and from there to the so-called “Honey Valley”. Mohan had recommended me this place surrounded by coffee plantations. It was an oasis of calm, away from the hustle and bustle of the cities and the madness on Indian roads. I stayed for three days on this beautiful coffee plantation, did some writing, planned my way to Cape Comorin, the most southern point of India and had good talks with Steve, a British guy who too was travelling the world. Then I went to Mysore, where you will find one of the most famous palaces throughout India: Amba Vilas. It was once the residence of the local Maharaja and his descendants are still supposed to live in parts of this magnificent building.

Further south were a few astonishing mountain sceneries waiting and I intended to pay a visit to South India’s most famous hill station Udhagamandalam, better known as Ooty. It’s a small, colorful village in the state of Tamil Nadu characterized by a relatively cool climate and located between green and lushy mountains 2,250 meters above sea-level. While Ooty itself, however, could only inspire me very little, the surrounding mountain scenery did. Still, I left the place early next morning and made ​​my way to Kerala.

It was time for the backwaters and the tea plantations of Munnar …