South India. Cochin, Day 1. Arrival.

The nearest international airport to Udupi (my destination) when flying budget, is Cochin. A mere 500kms from Udupi, it should take me a less than a week of easy pedalling to get there. And since I’m hugging the coast throughout, I don’t expect granny (as in gearing) will be given much of  a workout. Just as well, February is blisteringly hot in south India.

As with anything cheap, you don’t get to choose your arrival time at a more sensible hour. In this case, it’s late at night, which puts paid my usual ride-out-of-the-airport routine. A 40-km ride to an unknown city in the dark is not on my things-to-do-before-I-die list so the only other option is to hire an ‘auto’, a Tata-powered 3-wheeled taxi you can find all over India.

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Nothing less than the venerable Taj Mahal will do for this cycle-tourer. When we arrived, the Taj, and the whole streeet, was asleep. The auto driver had to bang on the door to wake the owner up. He finally answered the door in a daze, and clad only in a sarong.

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The friendly owner of Taj Mahal and his family, posing here in the grand lobby of the hotel, just next to the suite I was put up in.

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My princely quarters.

I’m checking out of the Taj, maybe something a little less royal. But first, breakfast.

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