Sakura – Cherry Blossom Festival (Narita to Hirake)1st – 19th April


Sunday 1st April (Easter Sunday)

Narita International Airport to Matsuko

Distance: 9.61km

Total Distance: 20681.57

Despite a landing time of midday the cabin crew intent on torturing their economy passengers put the cabin lights on around 5am and start offering a drink of juice and then serve breakfast. 

 I noticed the business section was still kept in darkness. We land and at immigration we’re given a fingerprint scan and are issued a 3 month tourist visa – no charge.

At the luggage carousel we’re watching for our bags and wondering how to find our trikes when Daz suddenly notices them behind us.  We were so busy with our bags we didn’t even see how they got there. But most importantly they look absolutely fine although we need to do a more thorough check.

We wheel our trikes and bags out through customs and outside the airport we park up to sort everything out. Our bags need some repacking and mirrors, lights, head-rest, equipment mounts and Daz’s dynamo battery all need reattaching.  All is fine – only one casualty – our shower gel has exploded everywhere. We withdraw some cash £1: 150yen. And we purchase a SIM card and a couple of Japanese USB plugs. We cycle forth from the airport, so far all we’ve attracted are a few curious glances and tentative hellos, not the huge staring crowds of India.

Our plan is to cycle to Kairakuen, one of the top 3 gardens of Japan, then Fukushima, Sendai and Hirosaki Castle for the spring blossom and then on to Hokkaido.  A few kilometers from the airport and we spot a 7/11 – OMG how American.

These convenience stores sell a decent selection of groceries, hot snacks, alcohol, coffee and even have toilets, photo printers, photocopiers, ATMs and WIFI. There’s even a seating area where we consider our snacks – what are they and drink our coffee.  And somewhere to get water!

Another couple of kilometers and we admit defeat and put up our tent in, what looks like, a gravelled carpark with a porta-loo. It’s a bit noisy because of the overhead planes – we’re still very close to the airport (we’ve only cycled 5km), and it’s only 3pm.  

Within minutes we’re both asleep. Of course we’ve missed 3 nights of decent sleep. After a couple of hours suddenly we’re both awake. It’s very, very windy so it was probably the tent flapping. Daz is planning a quick trip back to the last convenience store we passed but notices that there’s an airport security van opposite and a police car has just joined it. And as we feared within minutes we have some visitors, 3 airport security and 3 police. Conversation is difficult but they’re really not happy with our proximity to the airport.

There are numerous radio conversations with higher command but eventually they ask us to move on.  They’re all very apologetic and seem a bit despondent as we pack up. It’s taken nearly an hour for this decision to be reached and now it’s dark. We cycle off. It’s only 7pm, it’s dark, it’s quite chilly and we hardly see any people. We stop at another 7/11 for dinner – home made cheese, ham and crisp sandwich washed down with coffee.

A couple of kilometers later we see a bit of waste ground with another porta loo. That’ll do nicely.


Monday 2nd April

Matsuko to Karori

Distance: 19.19km

Total Distance: 20700.76 km

It’s 10.45am.  We’ve been asleep for hours and slept like the dead.  From 8pm last night until 9.45am with just one wee break at 6am.  And I’m not getting up until I’m hungry. The only problem is we don’t have any cooker fuel, nor do we know where we can buy it in Japan, or if today is a bank holiday.

I was wrong.  Apparently I’m not getting up until Daz is hungry which comes around all too soon –  around midday but with the agreement to go just far enough to find food and a drugstore.  It’s not a bank holiday here so when we reach the town of Kozaki we find a restaurant, a supermarket,  a drugstore and a 7/11 and they’re all open. We eat in the restaurant and pick our food based on the menu pictures – one noodle dish and one portion of fried dumplings.

 Then a spot of shopping including the cooking fuel. We’re equipped now for brews and porridge (something that’ll be essential to keep the costs down here).

We keep remarking on how different it is here from India. There’s no rubbish along the gorgeous smooth roads, no packs of dogs, there’s plenty of clean water there’s an abundance of decent shops and it’s so much cooler so we’re not dripping in sweat constantly.  But it’s much more expensive, our restaurant meal cost £7.67, 1 litre of cooking alcohol £8.64, 2 coffees from the 7/11 £2; we will need to cook our breakfasts and dinners here.

Already we’re seeing blossom everywhere and there are daffodils in flower. Gardens are well cared for with beautiful topiary.

After our shopping frenzy it’s just a question of finding a camping spot which turns out to be a park near the river.


Tuesday 3rd April

Karori to Godai

Distance: 70.07 km

Total Distance: 20771.59 km

Another good sleep last night so we’re probably slipping into sleep credit and we certainly feel better for it and with the cooler temperatures we’re getting a decent night’s sleep.  This morning we’re awake early, it’s only 5.45am and there’s commuter traffic already. After about 20 minutes we decide we might as well get up and make an early start.

By 8am we’re on the road and Daz finds us a beautiful, quiet, cycletrack beside Lake Kasumigaura.  


We’re on it for about 25km and enjoy watching for birds and saying Hi, (konnichiwa in Japanese) to the occasional fisherman. After the lake there’s more backroads and great views of houses and their beautiful gardens.  Then it’s through our largest town yet, Mito. I, for one, am very happy that I can cycle through a town and recognise restaurants,  supermarkets, launderettes, pharmacies, burger joints etc. I feel as if I’ve returned to civilisation! After town we see Kairakuen park. The name ‘Kairakuen’ comes from a saying in the Book of Mensius which states, “The ancients would share the pleasures with people so their pleasures would be hearty and deep.”  

And our pleasure is hearty and deep. Sadly we’ve missed the plum blossom but the park is still awash with other blooms and there’s a cedar forest, a bamboo forest, a shrine, a spring and a lake. The cherry blossom is gorgeous. This is one of the top 3 gardens in Japan.

We cycle around the outer area but in the inner ‘garden’ cycles are prohibited.   Daz wanted to camp in the park but I thought it was too public so instead we pushed on into the rural areas and found a camping spot on the edge of a field.

Unfortunately it’s not long before the police find us and ask us to move to a nearby park. It’s the packing up and then setting up again in the dark that’s so time-consuming.

That’s twice we’ve been moved in 3 nights – not a good record but at least the police are very sweet and rather apologetic each time!


Wednesday 4th April

Godai to Konakacho

Distance: 40.20 km

Total Distance: 20813.79 km

This morning we spot a huge supermarket, Maruto, and apparently the bigger the shop, the lower the prices so we pop in.  Peanut butter, jam, bread, coffee, milk powder and porridge. And at the till the cashier won’t touch our money, there’s an automated paying machine.  Today we continue north and we can see hills in the distance. So far it’s been incredibly flat with plenty of arable land, polythene tunnels and fields of solar panels.

 Now as we cycle into the hills there’s acres of forestry and the contrast of the cherry blossom against the coniferous woods is beautiful. For lunch it’s a picnic outside a 7/11.  Why are we picnicing outside a 7/11? 3 reasons – we thought we could tap into their WiFi, we can make our tea using their boiling water dispensers and lastly we can use the toilets and Daz has just discovered not only is the toilet seat heated but there’s a jet of water (warm I hasten to add) that’ll spray your nether regions.  I’m surprised he’s not in there for longer testing all the buttons. I’d seen all the buttons but was too worried they were some form of panic alarm and hitting one would result in someone bashing down the door to save me!

After our lunch we continue on our way but take a detour to check out an onsen – a Japanese bath.  I’m really tempted and they even agree that Daz can go (Daz has numerous tattoos and as a result may well be banned from most Onsens) but it’s 500yen each and it’s segregated so we’ll be bored in no time and I’m on a strict spending (well no spending) regime!  We see a picnic / parking / rest area and that’s our spot for the night. Hopefully we won’t be moved on.


An older Japanese woman walks through the garden with her grand daughter.  We say hello and Daz asks for if there is water nearby (water – mizu). She takes him under her wing, takes him back to her house. When they return he is loaded down with water and food, cooked rice and greens, cakes, sweets and chocolate!  Wow! Thank you kind Japanese lady!! And we get a lovely photo of them.


Thursday 5th April

Konakacho to Kagamiishi

Distance: 63.44 km

Total Distance: 20877.23 km

There’s a real temperature drop today and we even had rain last night.  But despite the chill (only 9 deg C), the head wind and the hills, it’s still a lovely day.  So much to look at and enjoy, it’s so different from anything we’ve cycled.

And after the noise, smells,  fumes and rubbish in India we can’t get over how relaxing it is here. We haven’t heard a single car horn in 5 days and at red traffic lights even engines turn off.  If we’re causing a bit of a bottleneck we just skip onto the pavement so the lorries can pass safely. And there’s always a pavement or a cycle path, even in the 2 tunnels we’ve used.  It’s just stress-free, peaceful cycling – such a delight.

And towards the end of the day we even see snow capped mountains in the distance. Finding a camping spot was a wee bit harder but finally we snurgled into a timber yard.  We’re hoping no one notices us hiding behind some timber transporters.


Friday 6th April

Kagamiishi to Fukushima

Distance: 63.42 km

Total Distance: 20940.65 km

Today was pretty unremarkable, probably down to a bad route choice sticking to the Route 4,  which bisected endless urban areas but at least we didn’t have any trouble finding a 7/11 for our picnic lunch.

 The end of the day was the highlight, Hanamiyama Park on the outskirts of Fukushima.  The park and the surrounding area was a tapestry of colourful blossom, beautiful streams and countryside landscapes that have been crafted by the local farming community in the Watari area.  There’s a parking area at the bottom and then a walk up the hillside through the blossom to look down over the area. It is the most amazing sight, we’ve never seen so much blossom in one place.

The only negative is that the rain clouds closed in and we couldn’t see the snow capped mountains in the distance.   As we walk back to our trikes the rain starts to fall. We take shelter in the corner of the tourist welcoming area, under some sort of shelter. We prepare our snack and start cooking dinner, we’re hoping we can camp here. Rain is forecast tonight but tomorrow should be dry.


Fortunately all the staff leave around 7pm and don’t seem bothered by our presence and once they’ve gone home and darkness starts to fall we put up our tent.  We have a lovely undisturbed night but there’s quite a lot of rain so it’s great we’re under cover.


Saturday 7th April

Fukushima to Funaoka

Distance: 59.86 km

Total Distance: 21000.51 km

We’re awake at 0630hrs and we don’t hang around.  By the time the staff arrive at 7am everything is packed away and we’re innocently eating our porridge.   

The skies are a bit clearer this morning so we take a walk up the hillside again so we can see the snow capped mountains in the distance.   Again it’s an unremarkable ride but we stop at Shiroishi Castle but we don’t have enough time to actually go inside.

We push on to the highlight of the day Hitome Senbon Zakura.   Senbonzakura literally means “a thousand cherry trees” and along the Shiroishi Riverside there are over 1,000 cherry trees along its banks stretching for almost 8 kilometers.

Against the backdrop of the snow-capped Zaosan, the cherry trees come into full bloom in early April, forming a beautiful painting of bright, pastel colors.  We’ve already been cycling along the river for about 10km waiting for this vision to appear but worryingly there aren’t any cherry trees but instead a fierce and extremely cold wind, almost gale force, blowing down the river. Fortunately it is at our backs. Then when we reach Ogawara and there’s traffic police and visitors everywhere and we spot stalls set up along the river – food and beer stands to celebrate the blossom.

The sakura flower, or Japanese cherry blossom, is considered Japan’s unofficial national flower and has been admired by people all across the globe for it undeniable beauty. They are so popular among tourists that thousands travel to Japan every year during the spring season to get a glimpse of the spectacle of the trees blooming with these pink or white flowers. It’s during this time that many Japanese gather with their family and friends to enjoy hanami, the tradition of admiring the beauty of the cherry blossoms, usually by making picnics under the blooming trees.

After admiring the views of blossoming trees stretching along the river bank from an elevated walkway we head off and finally find a camping spot on some waste ground between 2 railway tracks – quiet night – NOT!


Sunday 8th April

Funaoka to Sendai

Distance: 35.79 km

Total Distance: 21036.3 km


Today we have a lie in because it keeps raining and I refuse to get up.  Then we cycle into Sendai which isn’t much fun because it’s very windy and bloody cold but eventually we arrive at Sendai (Aoba)  castle after a great lunch stop at a fab bakery.   It’s supposed to be a place to view cherry trees but there aren’t any of note but there are great views over the city.

Aoba Castle was built in 1602 by Date Masamune, the legendary “One Eyed Dragon” whose equestrian statue in the castle grounds is an iconic symbol of the city.   Date was a powerful ally of Ieyasu Tokugawa and it is Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun, who is thought to have renamed Mt. Aoba as Sendai. The castle is located on a 100m-high wooded plateau that offers great views of Sendai city below. The virgin fir forest on the western slope was protected from felling during the Edo era and now forms part of the Tohoku University Botanical Garden.  

Up at the Castle there’s a cycling club and we have a photo session before heading downhill, through town to Tsutsujigaoka Park.  The park is full of blossom, more food stalls, people sitting and enjoying the spectacle. We stop and watch a large group of kids skipping – at the last count there were 12 kids skipping on one rope – pretty impressive.  We’re near our warmshower host Ryouta, and we’re expecting him to finish work at 5pm so we grab a coffee at a convenience store and try and warm up.

Then he says he’s not finishing until 8pm so we head to a bar near his house but it’s super weird – like someone’s front room, a very crowded front room at that, with a mad ‘bag lady’ serving alcohol.   Funnily enough we’re the only patrons.

We share one very expensive beer and escape to a nearby supermarket cafe. At 8pm Ryouta comes to pick us up and takes us to his apartment. Wow it’s definitely bijou, just one long room with sliding doors to separate the hall, kitchen and lounge / bedroom. 

And there’s even carpet on the toilet seat.  At last a hot shower – what a pleasure. We chat to Ryouta about our plans and seek his advice – he says Okinawa is an absolute must but more immediate he suggests cycling the north east coast.  


Monday 9th April


Ryouta heads off to work at 0830hrs and we head to the Immigration Office.  We want to extend our 3 month visa to 6 months. We fill in the forms and then we need to visit the Post Office to buy Revenue stamps – 4000 yen each (£27) and then we return to the Immigration Office and the stamps go on our application.   Ten minutes later we’re called forward. They’ve realised we’ve only been in Japan one week of our 3 month visa. We’re not allowed to extend until we’ve been in Japan over 1.5 months. But we can keep the forms with stamps and reapply later on.  We decide to head into town and check out a Japanese Mall. We visit a Noodle Restaurant.

Outside there are pictures of various dishes and its name (in Japanese). Once we’ve chosen our dish we must buy a meal ticket for the appropriate dish from the wall mounted machine outside.  Inside we’re asked what type of noodle we want, fat or thin. Then we’re served our meal. Actually the staff saw us and a lady came and helped us buy our tickets etc. We don’t understand what’s being said but we manage to get a lovely, cheap meal. The Japanese are really, really helpful and also very generous.   Already in one week we’ve been given food for dinner, a load of drinks on the Highway and yesterday a soup dish in a bakery. I decide I must visit Zara and try on some jeans. OMG a Zara size 10 – don’t think I’ve been this size since I was 9!

We get our laundry done and then meet Ryouta after work at a nearby supermarket.   He’s got 2 French travellers with him, Tiffany and Tibo. It’s going to be really cosy tonight. Ryouta cooks us all dinner and we chat about our travels. The French, brother and sister, are in Japan for 3 weeks and their plans to hike have been kiboshed because it’s so cold.

They planned to camp but they think they’d probably die of hypothermia.   At bed time there’s 5 of us in a row, tucked into our sleeping bags – aren’t I too old for this?


Tuesday 10th April

Sendai to Nobiru

Distance: 40.69 km

Total Distance: 21076.99 km

Daz and I see Ryouta off to work, so we can take some photos of us all and the trikes.  Then after another coffee we hit the road.

We visit Matsushima, a pretty bay on the Pacific Coast.  For hundreds of years, Matsushima Bay has been celebrated as one of Japan’s three most scenic views alongside Miyajima and Amanohashidate.


Sadly this coastline was decimated on 11th March 2011 by an earthquake.   The magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck at 2:46 PM. The epicentre was located some 80 miles (130 km) east of the city of Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, and the focus occurred at a depth of 18.6 miles (about 30 km) below the floor of the western Pacific Ocean.

The earthquake was caused by the rupture of a stretch of the subduction zone associated with the Japan Trench, which separates the Eurasian Plate from the subducting Pacific Plate. The earthquake under the sea caused the huge tsunamis that hit the coast.  The first Tsunami was travelling at over 100kmph, but the waves continued throughout the night. Many, many lives were lost in this disaster – in the region of 20,000, Japan’s worst natural disaster. There’s still evidence of the damage caused and a huge amount of construction is underway to repair the damage but also to ensure there are sufficient sea defences. We visit the Disaster Recovery Memorial Museum and watch some footage from the disaster and several very moving interviews of those involved.

Wednesday 11th April

Nobiru to Misato

Distance: 46.82 km

Total Distance: 21123.81 km

This morning’s breakfast is accompanied by a practice display from Blue Impulse, a local air display team from Yamoto, like our Red Arrows.

 Today we decide to backtrack a little to see Miyoto Island and the incredible views from the top of Otakamori Hill. We have views back over Matsushima Bay and the 260 islands that litter this part of the coastline.  

We had hoped to see Sagakei Gorge by foot but our walk along the cliff edge didn’t give us the views we wanted but we did see a beautiful beach, Otomegahama, at the end of the peninsula. Then we considered taking the boat trip to see it but the boat tour wasn’t running today.  Once we’d explored the peninsula we returned to Nobiru Beach. There’s a continuous stream of trucks delivering soil for the new sea defences and yet despite the construction work the roads are still pristine because the trucks, before returning to the Highway, use a wheel cleaning roller rig.  And where work is ongoing and trucks need to turn onto the Highway there’s a traffic controller with a red flag and a green flag to direct the trucks. This probably sounds inconsequential but we’re talking numerous construction sites – we’ve probably seen 20 traffic controllers in 2 days.

After our sightseeing diversion we cycle up the River Naruse for about 20km before finding a camping spot for the night.

Thursday 12th April

Misato to Genbikei Gorge

Distance: 57.72 km

Total Distance: 21181.53 km

Today we start the day with beautifully clear blue skies and for the first time we get fantastic views of snow capped mountains – the Zao Mountain Range.   We also see the incredible bullet train. Hopefully we’ll take at least one journey in one or at least get up close and personal.

We head north with a short detour to visit Genbikei Gorge.   It’s quite pretty and the water is really blue but we really came for the flying dumplings.  At a special picnic table you place your money in a basket and wallop the board with a mallet.   

The basket is pulled over the gorge and sent back with green tea, dumplings and for us they attach Union flags  and play our national anthem. It’s really fun but the dumplings – well they’re like no dumpling I’ve ever had and hopefully I never have again.  They are pretty disgusting – even Daz, the human disposal unit, is unimpressed.

Friday 13th April

Genbikei Gorge to Kitakami

Distance: 44.90 km

Total Distance: 21226.43 km

We’re struggling against the elements.  Most evenings we go to bed with freezing feet and they take hours to thaw.   There’s also the head wind that usually picks up during the day and turns bitterly cold towards late afternoon and this morning are planned early start is delayed by rain.  Our first stop today is Hiraizumi where we visit Motsuji Temple, a World Heritage Site. The temple was founded in 850 by Ennin and its size and splendor rivaled that of Chúson-ji Temple.  We also visit Chúson-ji which was also founded in 850 by Ennin, a high ranking priest of Mount Hiei Enryaku-ji Temple.

Our camping spot tonight is in Tenshochi Park on the Kitakamigawa River.  The cherry blossom festival has started, with stalls and flags flying, but nobody has told the blossom, which hasn’t bloomed yet! In fact the festival has been open since 10th April and will continue until early May and yet the blossom isn’t expected until 18th April, another 5 days.  We can’t believe 100km south in Sendai the blossom is finishing now. Kitakami must have its own special, extra cold, microclimate and we can definitely vouch for the cold.

We cycle into the park and at the far end find a lovely clean toilet block with hand towels and warm water, only in Japan. To hide from the freezing wind we camp around the back of the block.


Saturday 14th April

Kitakami to Yahaba

Distance: 50.77 km

Total Distance: 21277.2 km

We cycle along the river for 14 km this morning and initially have crystal clear views of the mountains before the cloud rolls in, the sun is obscured and the chill sets in and its not even 10am.

We stop for some early morning entertainment, the old folk are gathered to play a game similar to crazy golf or normal golf but with a very short fairway but they’re using croquet mallets and balls.  Very unusual but it looks fun. Today we head to Hanamaki Hot springs, one of the top hot spring resorts in northern Tohoku and renowned throughout Japan. They were created in 1923 by drawing hot water from the Dai Hot Springs.

Unfortunately the only onsen we can find are in über posh hotels and very expensive so once again we decide to give it a miss.  However we do find the local waterfall and rose garden. We’re really disappointed by the onsen situation, we would have loved a really, long hot soak. Instead we continue towards Morioka and find a free camping site marked near our route. It’s actually incredibly well equipped for a free camp site, there are toilets, a shelter with picnic tables and benches and another shed with wash basins and barbecue pits but sadly no hot showers.  There are already 2 tents set up – both are absolutely massive. We’re curious to see what the inhabitants get up to.

We get to discover first hand what’s going on in the nearest tent – it’s party central and we’re invited! There’s heaters everywhere so it’s really warm and there’s 2 small gas barbecues inset into tables and the food just keeps coming along with beer and sake. There’s liver pate with soy sauce, Japanese sausage on the bone and shitake left right and centre!  Our hosts, one lady and 3 men don’t speak much English, hardly any infact but we have a great time playing music and using Google translate to converse. They are really fun company and by the time we wobble over to our much smaller tent we are good friends. It rains all evening and into the night so we’re glad we got to enjoy some real warmth and comfort before retiring to our little ice box.


Monday 16th April

Yahaba to Mishine Service Station

Distance: 36.49 km

Total Distance: 21313.69 km

Yesterday was cancelled due to rain. We just hid in our tent all day.  Our friends from the night before leave about lunchtime and then it’s just us on our own in the damp dismal campsite.  Today we cycle the short distance into Morioka and visit the castle. Again we’re ahead of the cherry blossom, but only just.  

We need to slow down so that we can enjoy the blossom in Hirosaki, which is supposed to be very special. Then we visit the Ishiwari Zakura, The Rock Splitting Cherry tree, designated as a national natural monument this magnificent tree grows out of a granite boulder in front of the Morioka District Court.

We also find 2 geocaches, probably our first in over a year. As we cycle north out of the city we have stunning views of Mount Iwate on our left, its flanks covered in snow.  It stands alone at 2038 metres and dominates our view for the rest of the day.

It’s actually a stratovolcano, which last erupted in 1919. By the time we pull into a roadside rest area we are only 9 kilometers from the solitary peak. As the sun goes down the last bit of cloud clears from its peak and gives us a great view. Amazing!


Tuesday 17th April

Mishine Service Station to Kaniwashibashi Onsen

Distance: 25.22 km

Total Distance: 21338.91 km

This morning we wake to an icy tent.  Gee it obviously dropped below freezing but we’re happy no-one moved us on.  

These boxy Postman Pat cars are incredibly popular in Japan

We have a stunning day today with clear blue skies, sun shining so we’re too warm in our thermals,  that’s the first time we’ve said that in over a week. We cycle over Appi Pass and we can see ski runs over to our left but whether the resort is still open is questionable.   

Down from the pass and its a detour to an onsen. We’re definitely going today – we’re both in desperate need of a good wash. We’ve swatted up on the onsen etiquette so hopefully they’ll be no faux pas.  Japan has been volcanically active since ancient times and it appears that people have been using hot springs made possible by this activity for just as long. The earliest mention of hot springs appear in the latter half of the 7th century. The Hot Spring Law defines an onsen as “water, water vapour or other gas (excluding natural gas) that gushes out of the earth with a water temperature of 25 deg C or more.  Apparently there are numerous benefits to using an onsen including health maintenance and fatigue relief. I’m really looking forward to the experience but I hate being the ‘new girl’ and being unable to ask. But basically I undress and walk into the room where there are several pools and a group of women having a good gossip. They completely unnerve me and I feel naked under their stares – oh no, that’s right, I am naked, as are all traditional onsen in Japan.  First stop is to use one of the many washing points around the edge of the room. No-one should enter the onsen until they’re clean. Then it’s time to relax in the hot, very hot, pools. Daz discovered that he had a sauna and a cold plunge pool but I was too on edge under the scrutiny of the gossiping women to investigate. An hour later, squeaky clean, it’s time to leave – plus the heat makes me feel a bit light headed. We spend an hour or so in the relaxation area and then set up camp just round the corner behind a Nissan hut.

 We can see pisteing machines running up and down the ski runs so the resort must be open although it doesn’t look that extensive.


Wednesday 18th April

Kaniwashibashi Onsen to Kawakami

Distance: 70.48 km

Total Distance: 21409.39 km

A pretty uneventful day although we did summit Tayama Pass, not particularly high but noteworthy because it is part of a dividing range of mountains.

It is at this point the Kitakami River, the fourth largest river in Japan (249 kilometres long), has its source.  In Mount Nanashiruge in northern Iwate, the river flows south between the Kitakami Mountains and the Ou Mountains. The river is unusual in that it has two mouths, one flowing south into Ishinomaki Bay and the other flowing east into the Pacific Ocean, both in Ishinomaki City.  It’s quite rare in Japan. We also see Yuze Gorge. The day ends in rain so, after many months, my poncho comes out for its Maiden Voyage.

Fortunately it’s only a drizzle and at about 5pm we pull over onto some waste ground and set up tent during a lull. A quick brew and some cheese and crisp sandwiches (we know how to dine!) and that’s us for the day.


Thursday 19th April

Kawakami to Hirake

Distance: 33.57 km

Total Distance: 21442.96 km

Only a short distance today but there’s another long climb and we’re overtaken by another cycle tourist – Daniel from Germany.   We stop and chat for ages and then meet further on for coffee. He’s been in Japan for 6 weeks and on the road for a year. He’s come from the Philippines so he’s feeling the cold too.  


He’s quite funny because he hasn’t enjoyed SE Asia or the Philippines because he doesn’t like the heat. Eventually we push on and cycle to Hirake where we’re staying with Tama, a couchsurfing host, for 2 nights.  The first thing we notice when we arrive is a ‘Welcome Home, Heulwen and Darren’ sign in the window. How lovely! The accommodation is absolutely fantastic, a lovely break after all our camping.

Tama is also an Airbnb Superhost and we’re expecting many guests over the next few days.  

Friday 20th April


Last night we cooked dinner with Tama – an Italian pasta dish from us and some Japanese dishes from Tama.  His were definitely tastier and more delicious than our meagre offerings. This morning he prepares our breakfast.

Then we work in the garden with Tama and his friend Nishi.  Tama wants to sieve all his garden soil but fortunately he’s made a home-made drum filter.

After a few hours work we take the train into Hirosaki to meet Daniel, the German cyclist, and see the blossom.   We’re still a few days early to see the blossom in all its glory so we plan to return in a few days.

Unfortunately Daniel is busy trying to arrange delivery of a replacement bike frame since he developed a large hole in his chainstay.


Incredible India – a footnote

Incredible India – we DID IT!!! There were many who thought we wouldn’t live to tell this tale but fortunately they were wrong.  We were warned about the dangers of cycling, with the crazy Indian drivers, and the dangers of wild camping but not once in 3.5 months did we feel threatened or our lives to be in danger.  Perhaps it was their endless fascination with our trikes that kept us safe because we were often surrounded by an entourage of tuk-tuks, mopeds and cars with their drivers photographing our every move. We know many cyclists / travellers have had unpleasant experiences in India but we were fortunate, and didn’t.   We met some fantastic people, saw some beautiful, awe inspiring sights and had some incredible experiences. However India was definitely our most challenging country to date. To those that cheered us, photographed us, waved, hosted us, interviewed us or just stopped to say ‘Hi’, thank you for your endless support.  

India statistics…

2915km cycled

1000km (approx) hitched in trucks

112 days done

46 nights wildcamping

3 warmshower hosts

1 very special host – Sonny Singh

1 workaway in Madikeri, thank you Rajen

Major Cities cycled Delhi, Jaipur,  Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Mumbai, Goa, Ooty, Kochi

Temperatures endured 40degC+

Tours without trikes: Delhi – Amritsar – Chandigarh – Shimla – Delhi (5 nights), 1000km approx

Delhi – Varanasi – Chitrakoot – Camp Panna – Khajuraho – Orchha – Gwalior – Agra – Jaipur – Delhi (16 nights)  2500km

Incredible people met – numerous

Incredibly annoying people met – too numerous to count!

Selfie requests/photo requests – 1000s – direct correlation with ‘annoying people’ comment.



Vannalli to Kochi to Trivandrum – 1st to 31st March

Thursday 1st March
Vannalli to Bailuru
Distance: 42.78 km
Total Distance: 20019.98 km
From our little rocky camp spot we can enjoy watching the sea, sun and fishing fleet.

We actually find a road to Kumla without needing to backtrack which is a treat especially as we cycle through more fishing villages and see a lively fish market.

Back on the Highway 66 and we see 2 cycle tourers approaching. It’s Sarah and Mike. We met this Irish couple last September in Osh when they had abandoned their backpacking after a year to see some of the World from a bike.

Since Osh they’ve done the Pamir Highway, Iran, Oman, the UAE and then flew into southern India. OMG it’s so good to see them again and hear their stories! After several hours (well about 5 actually) we finally head off in our opposite directions.


I soon find a back road away from the Highway but it’s recently been relaid with large, loose stones so it’s quite hard going but we finally find a little spot of waste land to set up camp.

Friday 2nd March
Bailuru to Maravanthe Beach
Distance: 58.09 km
Total Distance: 20078.07 km

Today there’s a highlight at the beginning of the day – a beautiful Temple.


Murudeshwara Temple in Bhatkal Taluk is famous for the world’s second tallest Shiva statue. Built on Kanduka hill, this temple is truly remarkable for certain extraordinary features not seen in any temple in the world. Located between Honnavar and Bhatkal, the temple is surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Arabian Sea, and from the hilltop the scenic landscape that unfolds in front of our eyes is breathtaking.

Murudeshwara Temple is world renowned for the 123-feet Lord Shiva statue and a modern Rajagopuram or tower at the entrance of this ancient temple. This Rajagopuram is the world’s tallest, standing at 249 feet. Inaugurated in May 2008, this mammoth structure is the latest addition to Murudeshwara Temple. The gopuram has 22 floors and is the only gopuram to be fitted with elevators. Visitors can go to the topmost floor and have an aerial view of the Arabian Sea and the statue of Lord Shiva. Another exclusive feature of this temple is the life- sized statues of two elephants at the base of the gopuram. Murudeshwar Beach, which is near this temple, is a popular tourist destination and is among the most beautiful beaches of Karnataka.

And the beautiful Maravanthe beach to end. Between is the hellishly dull NH66. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll find some smaller coast roads to follow.

Saturday 3rd March
Maravanthe Beach to Padukere Beach
Distance: 56.25 km
Total Distance: 20134.32 km
Our camping spot last night was a bit of a delight. A beautiful beach for a lovely refreshing evening dip.

Plenty of clean water from a pump to rinse ourselves and our clothes and even oodles of fast food shacks so we had tasty chicken with fried rice. Delicious. Today the Highway 66 was not only dull but a bit taxing with a lot of heavy traffic trying to squuze passed us. So just after Kundapura we returned to a back road on the coast and then discovered after questioning loads of locals that we could avoid the inland detour around 2 estuaries north and south of Haradi by taking the Hangarkatta – Bengre ferry.

This meant we cycled down the spit of land to Hude. All very pleasant and then we found a very basic fish restaurant but the food was very tasty.

Onward and another possible inland detour was avoided when we spotted the Malpe – Padukere Bridge which isn’t on Maps Me but was on Google. Malpe beach was absolutely jammed with people – it’s full of stalls, attractions, camel rides, jet skiiing etc.

There must’ve been 6 coaches parked there in addition to all the cars. Further south there’s a pier out to Fishing Point, another draw for the visitors. There’s a pretty statue at the end. Before crossing Malpe Bridge we cycled passed the fishing harbour which was absolutely rammed with boats.

We have no idea how they all got their catch ashore nor how they manage to extricate themselves in the early hours when they go fishing! We find a camp spot near a temple and have a late evening dip.

There are hundreds of crabs on the beach, many quite large so we go crab chasing. They’re quite comical with their sideways crabbing motion and eyes on stalks.

Sunday 4th March
Pudukere Beach to Mukka
Distance: 39.03 km
Total Distance: 20173.35 km

Today we follow the spit of land from Pudukere to Maluru with miles of beautiful beaches and so many temples.

We stop at Kapu Lighthouse and find ourselves surrounded by a group wanting photos. Why, oh why, do they want photos of random strangers. It’s soon time to return to the Highway and we stop in Mulki for lunch and find ourselves unable to resist the allure of the Kingfisher.

Ten bottles later, and definitely the worse for wear, we head off looking for a camp spot. Clearly our mental faculties were non-existent and we didn’t take our intended route back to the beach and ended up by the roadside setting up our tent.

It was a spot populated by numerous mosquitoes and totally sheltered from any breeze so we were swelteringly hot.

Monday 5th March
Mukka to Made near Madikeri
Distance: 48.88 km
Total Distance: 20222.23 km
Last night was possibly our worst camping night for awhile. It was so unbearably hot that we were drenched in sweat and in desperation we opened the tent doors but then Daz couldn’t sleep because of being bitten numerous times by mosquitoes. Ahhh so little sleep plus a hangover from our ‘Kingfisher’ session.

Today we headed towards Mangalore but didn’t bother to check out the town but instead took the bypass heading inland. After 30km we stopped to hitch. We’d tried earlier but weren’t successful and a helpful chap suggested we cycle to the Madikeri toll. So we did that and Daz simply asked truckers as they came through the toll booth and within minutes we had a lift. We stopped to eat but about 3 hours and 114km later our very kind truck driver dropped us in Madikeri. Excellent.

Then we cycled off to the Bus station to meet Rajen, our workaway host. He had told us his ‘off the grid’ farm was impossible to find and that it was far easier to meet him in Madikeri and he’d give us a lift. Oh how we laughed when we realised that his pickup truck wasn’t big enough – he thought we had conventional bikes. So we dumped our kit in his truck and cycled back 9km to the village of Made which we’d driven through with our truck driver an hour earlier. Then at Made we turned left and into the ‘outback’. Initially it wasn’t too bad – a narrow, uphill lane with potholes. But then Rajen, who’d been waiting for us at key points, directed us down a dirt, rocky track. The downhills were just about manageable but probably the toughest to date but we struggled hugely on some of the ascents, having to push our trikes with our cleats skidding on the rocks.

Thankfully we didn’t have the panniers on too so at least our trikes were at their lightest! Finally we arrived at the ‘homestead’, met by Saskia (from the Netherlands) another work-awayer and 2 huge Mudhounds (they’re like very tall greyhounds). We’re also with Amy, a Brit work-awayer, who Rajen picked up in Madikeri today. She had to wait ages for us to arrive and then escort us into the ‘outback’. This workaway was recommended by Lottie and Ryan, a British motorcycling couple we met on the Pamir Highway. So we’re looking forward to great things but I know one thing for sure – I’m not cycling out of here!

Tuesday 6th March – Darren’s birthday
Made Village workaway

Today we start with millet porridge for breakfast, I thought only budgies ate millet!

Rajen’s farm is 16 acres of which 2.5 are set aside as an organic coffee plantation. This morning we’re all off into the coffee plantation to clear undergrowth that has sprung up since the last monsoon. Fortunately Rajen kits us all out in spare work clothes, wellingtons, gloves and the compulsory machete. Off we go carrying water, packed lunch, fuel, strimmers and tool bag.

The undergrowth actually towers over the coffee trees and is densely packed. It’s difficult to see which are coffee trees, and should remain, and which are ‘weeds’. Rajen and Saskia are working the weedwackers (strimmers) and Daz has a chainsaw.

Mine and Amy’s job is to clear out and pile all the cut undergrowth so Rajen and Saskia have a clear area to work in. The heat and humidity make it hard going. The sloping ground, stubs of cut brush and exposed root masses make it especially treacherous!

We spend about 3 hours in the plantation with a small picnic break then finish off with a refreshing dunk in a nearby stream with rockpools. There’s even a small waterfall to cool off under… bliss!

Back at the house it’s siesta time then in the late afternoon we walk with Rajen to inspect a stream which has a pipe to take water to his vegetable garden. Unfortunately the flow is inadequate due to the lack of rain. It’s been unseasonably hot for several weeks and there’s been no rain. In fact the temperatures now are those expected at the end of the summer, just before the monsoon but it seems summer has come early, too early, and the coffee plants and vegetable plot is suffering. We are going to build a small dam so that a pond is created, the water hose submerged and an increase in water pressure results. That’s the theory anyway. We dig up soil and fill some sacks to build the dam. We manage to get the water level up, but only a little bit, there’s too much water escaping still. It’s getting late so we retire back to the house for Daz’s birthday celebrations.

Rajen has planned a ‘cook-out’ barbeque tandoori chicken, baked potatoes and tomato salad. All washed down with a couple of beers… happy birthday Daz. Delicious!

Wednesday 7th March
Made Village workaway

More weedwacker adventures but just for Daz and me. Amy is feeling ill after yesterday’s exertions in the heat and Rajen and Saskia are painting a floor. With no-one to clear away the undergrowth we are cutting it’s slow going.

After struggling to clear and cut our way through the undergrowth I realise my strimmer isn’t working properly. So we decide to check it later and I clear for Daz – a much more productive arrangement. In the afternoon Rajen and Saskia head off to Madikeri to shop and to meet up with another volunteer who is arriving by motorbike.
Whilst they are away me, Daz and Amy have another go with the dam. We reposition it slightly downstream, at a narrower point, and use some bin liners and mud to block the side flow. We soon have a nice pool of water backed up. So there’s a healthy inflow and pressure but the out-flow, some 100 metres, away is a sporadic dribble.

Daz thinks there may be an airblock but also wants to increase the dam height but Amy and I finally convince him to leave the dam alone and hope any ‘blockage’ clears overnight. Then we head back and cook our dinner and try and work out how to prepare the dogs’ dinner. By 9pm we’re all desperate to go to bed but apparently Rajen’s only 20 minutes away, so we feel we should wait up. By the time they get back it’s almost 10pm. Francesco, ‘Fran’, the Spanish motorcyclist has had to abandon his bike back down the lane as it was too tough for him to ride! What follows is madness – an unpacking frenzy, tutorial on how to prepare the dogs’ dinner, and how to run the place in the absence of Rajen and Saskia because they’ve decided they’re definitely off to Mysore tomorrow and will probably be away for 2 days. So everything we haven’t been shown (most things!) we’re told now when we’re all too tired to ask questions.

Thursday 8th March
Made Village workaway

Rajen and Saskia are off early today to go to Mysore, about 130km away. Unfortunately the truck has a flat so Rajen’s not in the best of moods and neither is Daz, who is tasked with changing it, when he finds that the spare is flat too and he has to inflate it with a foot pump. Once Rajen and Saskia have left we plan our day. Amy is still housebound so we take Fran to the plantation for more weedwacking. Daz strimming, Fran and me clearing. In the afternoon we plant some soy beans and haricot beans but the soil is in terrible condition even with crumbled elephant dung in it. Daz and Fran inspect the dam and pipe. Fran suggests moving the hose pipe from the garden back into the stream because there’s several drops in the stream bed. Amazingly now the outflow is considerably lower than the dam a better pressure results and after a few spurts the airblock is cleared and there is constant water. They move the hose back to the garden and now there’s water for the growing vegetables. Then Daz and I prepare dinner – not easy because there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of ingredients but we manage to produce something edible. Fran and Amy appear to have an aversion to ‘the kitchen’ or at least meal preparation. Fran has been travelling for 2 years and has done numerous workaways, whilst Amy, a sustainability consultant from London, is just taking a 3 month break and this is her first workaway. Amy is a self-confessed hippy – apparently there’s a modern genre of hippy who differs from the stereotypical hippy of the 60s. They are into climbing, vegetarianism or veganism, sustainability, yoga, meditation and knitting……..Fran and Amy return from the simple daily tasks of nwatering the plants and washing down the solar panels ‘declaring them excellent ‘meditative’ chores.

What hippy bollocks – we would describe them us ‘mindless’ chores – perhaps it’s their meditative state that accounts for the inordinate length of time it takes them! BTW what’s the difference between mindless and meditative???? Still this workaway is proving informative. We learn about polyamorous relationships (a couple of lovers on the go) and non-binary (those who don’t associate themselves with women or men and are referred to as ‘they’ (although as a singular I insist ‘it’ would be more accurate).

Friday 9th to Monday 12th March
Made Village workaway

Friday, Rajen is still away so we all go into the plantation, more weedwacking. But today we teach Amy and Fran how to use the strimmers, not a light undertaking when handling a bladed strimmer is tough enough in normal conditions but strimming in the plantation is the toughest job we’ve ever done. Once we’ve taught them the basics on level, scrubland we let them loose in the plantation.  Well I clear and try and give Amy more instruction whilst Daz does the same for Fran. They are slow and hesitant initially but their confidence soon grows and they do about 3 hours which is no mean feat. We all take a dip after to cool down.

In the evening it’s Amy and Fran’s turn to produce their first meal. It’s really tasty but the kitchen resembles a bomb site with no pan unused. Rajen and Saskia finally return at about 9 pm. They are tired so we don’t berate them over the fact they didn’t bring any of the supplies we asked for.

Saturday we spend all morning in the blazing sun digging holes for the planned arrival of 4 banana trees and 12 papaya trees. Well Fran, Daz and I dig holes whilst Amy strims and clears the area. Twelve holes 24”x24” by 18” deep… on a slope! Bloody hard work. So hard that me and Daz take the rest of the day off.

Sunday. Saskia leaves today. Rajen is taking her to Madikeri and Fran joins them so he can get some Internet connectivity in town – oh did I mention there’s no Internet connectivity at the farm?. For us and Amy it’s more weedwacking. Daz strims whilst me and Amy clear. During our cooling down dip we spot a watersnake swimming about. We are quite relaxed as it decides to hide under some rocks on the otherside of the pool. After about 10 minutes it suddenly darts out towards us. Needless to say we all shoot out of the waterhole like rockets!

Monday – another day in the plantation. This is our 7th day and 6 of them have been in the plantation. It’s a bit demoralising because it’s a really tough job and hard to make any significant progress. Today Daz strims again; he’s really confident on the strimmer and works quickly but manages not to cut down the important trees. I’m pretty good and quite quick and confident but I hate trying to spot the ‘good trees’ so if I clear for Daz we get more done. Fran runs the other strimmer whilst Amy clears. Tomorrow we’re expecting the banana and papaya trees to arrive as well as another volunteer. We’ve checked distances, days available and places we want to see and we’ve decided tomorrow is an opportune time to hit the road. Probably after work though.

Tuesday 13th March
Workaway, Made to Mysore
Distance: 17.54km
Total Distance: 20239.77km
We had various ideas about how today would play out. We had actually worked out that we ‘NEEDED’ to leave by the 14th but had decided to tell Rajen we’d leave on 13th after work because we felt we could happily lose all of Tuesday afternoon and evening to ‘faffing’. However Rajen had some chores already planned for Tuesday so our exit strategy went more smoothly than expected. Rajen was expecting the fridge engineer in the morning and he needed to be picked up at the top of the lane. So on the trip to fetch him we took my trike.

We unloaded at the top of the rough track and then I was supposed to cycle the remaining 12km to Madekeri but I managed to get a lift after only 5km – a major result since the remaining 7km were all uphill. But without panniers it was easy cycling and a doddle flagging a lift whilst cycling. So by 11,30am I was already in Madikeri. Meanwhile back at the farm Daz was loading his trike and the panniers ready for a lift into Madikeri once the fridge engineer had completed his work. Before all that we said farewell to Fran and Amy as they set off to the plantation for more bushwacking.

It’s actually been a rather odd workaway where neither Rajen or Saskia felt the ‘need’ to share information about running the place and then both disappeared for extended periods. In a ‘normal’ home this wouldn’t be a problem because power, water, rubbish etc are all fairly straightforward. But ‘off grid’ with power from solar panels with an electricity system with some peculiarities, water from local wells, a generator to run grinders and the washing machine, 2 Mudhounds to look after and a cat in heat it was kind of fraught.
By lunchtime Daz was in Madikeri with his trike and our panniers and after a quick lunch we started hitching.

Within 5 minutes we had a lift that took us to Hunsur (50km) and after a 5km cycle to the other side of town we quickly had a lift to the outskirts of Mysore. Our truck driver loved us and wanted a ‘million’ selfies and even wanted to pay for our çay.

By this time it was getting late and we attempted to hitch the ring road of Mysore. We weren’t particularly successful. Hitching in India has often turned into a ‘committee’ activity. Initially we might start by ourselves but we’re soon surrounded by ‘helpful’ observers who initially want a close study of the ‘white foreigners with weird….. bicycles / tricycles but then can’t resist interfering when they realise that we’re trying to get a lift. Often they tell us we won’t get a lift or suggest a better place to stand. But if we persist they soon try and help get us a lift by whistling/shouting/haranguing potential lift givers and soon find us a lift.

Anyway we’d already had several ‘committee’ meetings and had moved along the ring road accordingly (yup poor positioning) and finally a young guy said the ring road was a really tough place to get a decent lift and we really needed to be on the Mysore to Gundlupet Highway and immediately flagged down a truck to take us 10km around the ring road to the Highway. This sounds simple but remember every lift requires a large, mostly empty truck and a driver prepared to waste his time in the loading (and subsequent unloading) of 2 trikes and baggage – so not a quick undertaking. Once on the Gundlupet Highway we try to hitch but it’s already getting dark. We try for a couple of hours but it’s soon too dark to spot the right vehicles and for them to see us and even though we have the assistance of another committee from the wholesale market next door we finally give up. One of the main problems is that the road from Gundlupet to Gudalur, through 2 wildlife sanctuaries, closes to all traffic at 9pm (so that the wildlife remains undisturbed on their night prowls) and so the truck drivers are loathe to waste their valuable time with us and our kit. Fortunately we know there’s covered hardstanding and water available in the wholesale market so when we decide hitching isn’t going to work that’s where we go to set up camp.

Oh, the reason we are hitching is we want to get to Ooty, a hill station further south. If we cycle we’ll run out of time and not make it to Trivandrum for our flight. After Ooty the plan is to cycle back to the coast 300 km away and continue south.

Wednesday 14th March
Mysore to Ooty
Distance: 1.5km
This morning we’re up at 6.30am and stop for a quick cup of tea and biscuit at a stall, still within the wholesale complex, and by 7am we’re standing on the Highway by the exit to the wholesalers hoping to catch a truck coming from either the Highway or wholesalers.

By 7.05am we have a lift to Gundlupet. At 8am we’re on the Gundlupet / Ooty junction hitching but there’s barely any traffic heading to Ooty, or the nearer town of Gudalur, and the handful of trucks we see are fully loaded. After about 45 minutes we go to a cafe for breakfast, watching the road for potential lifts – nothing. Oh dear this could be a problem. We return to hitching mode having not seen a single empty truck for 1.5 hours. Then a truck stops but he appears to be fully loaded but the driver seems determined to take us. I’m usually the one that’ll override Daz’s pessimism but I’m really not keen. But the driver is practically trying to move our trikes single-handed and we haven’t even unloaded them yet. DOH! There is some available space at tbe front of the truck but it means lifting the trikes and kit up and over the sides of the truck. It’s a nightmare.

Men have appeared from nowhere desperate to move everything on to the truck with no regard to where they grab and yank our trikes. On top Daz and the driver are trying to move the tarp and the network of ropes, that crisscross the load on top. Finally everything is up top and secured in some way and having tipped our helpers (the driver insisted) we hit the road. We hope we’re going to Ooty but who knows? This truck is probably only marginally faster than our cycling speed but at least at this pace we get to enjoy the views through Bandipur National Park and into Mudumalai National Park. We see deer and a mongoose but no tigers or elepants but I have a close up and personal experience with a monkey as it climbs into the cab through my open window to steal some sweets. Definitely a girlie scream moment – much to the driver’s amusement!
In the centre of Mudumalai National Park our driver stops and decides we’re getting off. We want to continue to Gudalur but he’s adamant we unload.

Admittedly there is a road through the park to Ooty which is only 36km whilst continuing to Gudalur and then Ooty is 67km. Perhaps he thinks he’s doing us a favour. But regardless we’re left standing on the side of the road having tipped more people who allegedly helped unload but actually left Daz hanging onto his trike by himself trying to lower it to the ground crew. The driver also wanted money! So Daz is furious but we resign ourselves to the 36km ride and then find ourselves chased down by Park Wardens. They won’t let us cycle – apparently it’s the elephant corridor. We argue our case saying we’ll cycle at our own risk. As we argue a huge amount of traffic passes us, including mopeds, that we find it difficult to believe the elephants will single us out. They tell us to get a Tour Jeep but we explain about our limited funds and they’re infuriated that we’re in India without money. We explain that’s why we’re cycling but the staff are incensed.


We’ve been ordered not to move and we wait for Park Officials and their minions!

They then decide we can’t cycle in any direction and since we arrived by truck we must leave by truck. We’re absolutely furious but when they mention the police and detention we decide we best shut up.

And so we wait and flag down another fully loaded truck and put our trikes on top of his slate blocks and 17km later we’re in Gudalur. In Gudalur we stop for lunch and its served on a banana leaf.

Then our newly recruited ‘committee’ soon find us a lift the Ooty. We have to sit in the back of the truck with our trikes and we soon find ourselves in need of our jackets – wow we haven’t worn our jackets since early January.

There’s even some rain – another rare phenomenon. We climb 1500m through beautiful Eucalyptus and pine forests and extensive tea plantations. It’s a really beautiful drive.

Finally we arrive in a rainy and cold Ooty and after considerable deliberation decide on somewhere to stay. We want to go out to dinner but Daz discovers most restaurants shut at 9pm and the hotel receptionist tells us Ooty shuts at 10pm – clearly a wild party town – NOT. But we find a Chinese that’s open so it’s crispy beef and sweet and sour pork for dinner.

Thursday 15th March
A day off and we’re off to visit the Botanical Garden (very nice).


The Rose Garden (magnificent in May, I’m sure, when all the roses are in bloom).

and then a walk around town, lunch and then a delightful find – a really bar! Full of locals. It’s almost too dark to see our hand infront of our face, great for hiding the token woman.

I’m sure they don’t approve of women in bars and yet they’re delightfully stoic probably happy to consider it proof that ‘Whitey Man’ can’t control his woman! Reminds me of the Fast Show sketch “Women – know your limits!!”.


Friday 16th March
Ooty to Madukkarai
Distance:  100.24 km

Total Distance: 20339.91 km

It’s a late start this morning but after about 3km climbing out of Ooty it’s a 40km descent through acres of beautiful tea plantations. It’s a fantastic ride with numerous hairpin bends but Daz does have a near miss when a bus pushes him off the road – well evasive action takes him off the road. We lose about 1800m in height but gain approximately 1 deg C per 100m.

We cycle through Keeti and Coonoor, stopping frequently to admire the fantastic views over the valleys of tea. In Mettuppalayam we stop for lunch and then we push on. We’ve already done 60km and we’re debating whether to stop but we’re in a built up area with no decent camping spots and there’s a huge black cloud over to our right with thunder and rain in the distance. So we try and out cycle the storm front and before we know it we’re in Coimbatore.

Cycling through Coimbatore is a bit manic, it’s rush hour chaos but finally we’re out the other side. A few more kilometers so we hit the 100km marker and then fortuitously we spot a petrol station with loads of parked trucks.

Initially we just plan to get water but there’s a dark corner hidden by trucks so we set up camp. There’s toilets and water for a decent wash so actually a bloody good find.

Saturday 17th March
Madukkarai to Ollur
Distance: 96.70 km
Total Distance: 20436.61 km
Well we might have had plenty of water and toilet facilities but the sleep element was sadly lacking. It was soooooo hot and a bit noisy. When I got up I discovered someone had lifted one of my crocs, which we leave outside the tent door at night. I looked all over for it but no joy. Bloody gutting – why didn’t they take the pair – at least then someone could benefit!

Not much to say about today except we received an awful lot of attention – cameras everywhere we looked and then about 3pm the extreme heat (low 40s we think) finally broke with a huge rainstorm. We were soaked but it was so refreshing – about an hour earlier the sun had driven us into a shaded underpass to get a break from the relentless heat. In fact the residual heat from the road turned the rainwater warm as we spashed through puddles.

During a dinner break we miss another torrential downpour.

Late afternoon we spotted a building with grounds – ‘ The Samaritan Sisters’ – it was a hospital run by sisters treating those with skin disease. We thought they’d let us put up our tent in their grounds – after 20 minutes, answering various questions, the Mother Superior said “ No, find a hotel” – clearly they haven’t heard the one about the Good Samaritan. Off we went and spotted a Roman Catholic Church with extensive grounds. Unfortunately the Father was holding the service but we waited and it was another “No” – unless we could get the police to vouch for us!!!!

So eventually we ended up in a cement factory – so much for the Christian spirit and looking after your neighbour!!

Sunday 18th March
Ollur to Cherai
Distance: 51.85 km
Total Distance: 20488.46 km
The guys at the cement works come with breakfast, a bag of donut balls. And here they all are!

We left the Highway yesterday evening so we’re slower today following the country roads. Plus we’re stopped twice by journalists asking about our journey. I think we should have rehearsed this after our interview in Miramar because when Daz is asked his impressions of India he says “large and hot”! Not very inspiring but he is feeling out of sorts today, a bit poorly/sicky,  is it the heat, the 2 long days or the donut balls???

We head to the ferry at Azhikode and cross to Munambam. We’re now on a long split of land with the sea to our right. The wind has really picked up, a very stiff onshore wind.

We spot a bar and stop for a beer. Initially relatively quiet it soon fills with groups of men – I, as usual, am the only woman in the bar and possibly a 20 mile radius. It turns out to be a fortuitous stop because whilst we’re indoors a storm blows in and the wind makes a 180 degree turn. The coconut trees in the car park are a blur of motion causing concern amongst the coach drivers, worried about falling coconuts. When we arrived the car park was mostly empty except for a line of mopeds, now it’s full of coaches. The storm blows over, the wind drops and we cycle on. Then we realise we’re actually in a very popular venue for local Indians – Cherai Beach. There are more coaches, tuk-tuks and cars and when we stop to look at the beach it’s incredibly crowded – it’s such a short beach that there’s not much space for all these people but I think the Indians prefer large groups – there’s safety in numbers.

A few more kilometers and we’ve left the chaotic mob behind and we see a camping spot just off the main road under some palm trees – camping under coconut trees is forbidden. We quickly set up camp, already raindrops are starting to fall, and we’re worried it’ll turn into a deluge. But there was no need for concern, the light rain continues as we head into the sea for a dip! It’s the temperature of a warm bath – almost impossible to believe that this volume of water can be heated to such high temperatures.

It’s dark now and as the light rain continues to fall we watch the incredible lightning displays both to the north and south of us. Stunning forks of lightning,streaking across the sky for great distances, unable to ground due to the sea.

Monday 19th March
Cherai to Kochi
Distance: 10.71 km
Total Distance: 20488.46 km
This morning we have an audience of 2, sat on a nearby upturned boat, watching our breakfast/pack-up regime. But actually I think they’re just waiting to go out fishing because they’re soon seen launching their boat.

We follow the coast road but the sea is obscured by a sea wall which must be almost 20km long.  We turn inland and cross several causeways over large areas of water.  Our first sightings of the Kerala backwaters.

We’re on the outskirts of Kochi when we’re stopped by another newspaper journalist/photographer – I think that’s the 5th in as many days!  We head for Kochi centre and the home of our warmshower hosts, Katrin and Roland. They live in a fabulous apartment with views out over the bay. Time for a lovely shower and some relaxation.   Roland works for a top end construction company, Sobha, currently involved in the initial stages of what will be the largest water front development in Kerala. When he returns from work we go out to dinner.  Katrin and Roland have done several cycle tours one lasting 10 months from Alaska to Ushuaia – we love hearing about this particular trip because we hope to do this sometime in the future.


Kochi – Tuesday 20th to Thursday 22nd.

Tuesday – We have a list of chores to complete here in India because we think it’ll be considerably cheaper than Japan.  First breakfast – OMG Katrin has bought us bacon because we mentioned we miss bacon. Bacon and eggs and toast for breakfast – very western but so very, very good after months of porridge or curry.  Then it’s the dentist for a check-up and clean. Then a notary to renew our proof of ID. Next finding a decent bike shop so we can re-thread the hole for a bolt that secures my rear mudguard. We find a bike shop and they assure us they can definitely ‘fix’ our problem so tomorrow we will return with our trikes.  Then it’s a Decathlon visit; socks, bike lock, pants and gloves all need replacing .

Bus trip back from  Decathlon .

That’s 4 chores which sound relatively simple but have taken nearly 4 hours and we’re pooped and drenched in sweat. Back at the flat there are 2 new cyclists from Iran, Nima and Habibi. Every year they take a 2 month break to cycle, this year’s trip is India, Indonesia and SE Asia.  They’re flying out of Kochi to Medan (Indonesia) tomorrow so they’re busy getting boxes and packing their gear. Meanwhile we get a ferry to Kochi Fort to meet Ryan and Lottie.

We first met these guys on the Pamir Highway, just shy of Murghab when we shared a wild camping spot by the river. The last time we saw them was in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan just before our flight to Kathmandu, so early September.   We’ve kept in contact and shared travelling ideas because they stored their motorbikes in Kazakhstan and then flew to India. They’ve been in India nearly 5 months and are desperate to be reunited with their motorbikes. Their future travelling plan is in disarray after they were refused a full visa for Russia. Originally the plan was to return to Kazakhstan and their motorbikes to explore Russia and Mongolia before wending their way home.  Now any forward exploitation of Russia is reliant on getting a transit visa and in addition the adventurous couple aren’t ready to go home and are considering Vladivostock to Japan/South Korea by ferry and then shipping their motorbikes to Australia and then working in Australia. Over several beers we discuss travel options and talk about our experiences in India and our workaway in Madikeri. It’s great to see them and the afternoon passes quickly but the last ferry leaves at 9pm so we head home.


And just time to celebrate Iranian New Year before bed.



Cooked breakfast and not a curry or porridge in sight.

Our visit to the bike shop to rethread the hole is a frustratingly long and fruitless endeavour.   Initially they refuse to accept the only solution is to rethread the hole and when eventually they accept this solution they take us to a nearby engineering workshop with a drill press.  

However I’m convinced the drill piece isn’t long enough to fit down between the rear swingarm to the offending hole. Eventually they mention another engineering shop where the guys are more helpful.  I want to visit it but apparently it’s closed. But I insist. We’re incredibly fortunate that a passing local cyclist, Ashwin, has stopped by to offer his assistance and remains to act as interpreter.  The 2nd engineering workshop isn’t closed and when we bring the trike he uses a handheld rethreading bit and 5 minutes later the job is done. Then there’s a wild goose chase to another bike shop who, according to Ashwin, has mirrors.  It doesn’t and nor can they fix an arm onto my existing mirror but at least a visit to the next door car wash means our trikes are clean.

Finally a visit to a tailors to repair my shirt, our pannier straps and make a Japanese flag. We need to get back to the flat, the Iranians are leaving at 4.30pm.  We’ve done 3 tasks and it’s taken over 6 hours. We’re hot, tired and our patience has been sorely tested. We see off Nima and Habibi. I’m so happy as they believe they can help us travel across Iran. So many cyclists have said that Iran is fabulous but being British we’re not allowed to tour Iran without a guide – a very expensive proposition.  


We spend a quiet evening with Katrin and Roland. Roland’s been away for 2 days visiting other sites and he looks pretty tired, I’m sure working in India with the Indians is not for the faint-hearted. It must be super stressful because even with strict process guidelines and supervision, it only takes a moment of inattention, and the Indians revert to their former slack processes.  


Thursday.   This morning we visit Roland on site.  We see the mock-up of the finished site, 12 towers up to 30 floors high, built in a ‘U’ shape with all the services required by a community; parking, doctor, dentist, school, swimming pool, shops and beautifully landscaped communal grounds.  Sobhan is the premier construction company in India and also has numerous projects across Asia.

The show flat, €400-600k for a 3 Bed apartment with sea views, is absolutely stunning. Then we visit the site where the workforce are preparing the concrete piles (over 600 piles, 52 meters deep) which will support this build of over three million tonnes.  There’s only mud here, no underlying rock at the lower depths, and once the holes are drilled, the hole is reinforced with steel shuttering and then concrete is poured in.

Once all the piles are complete a concrete pad will be laid on top, forming the base of the build. Roland thinks it’ll be 3 years until the first 3 towers are complete and yet their apartments are already sold out.  After our site visit it’s back to the Bazaar to find replacement buckles for our Ortlieb bags. Unfortunately the extreme weather is making the plastic buckles brittle and we’ve had a number of breakages. Last job of the day – a waxing session (for me, not Daz). I’ve been a proponent of waxing for – well nearly 30 years – but being waxed in the UK is a very different experience to that given in other countries and I’ve been waxed in Cyprus, France, Spain, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and now India.  Of course the main hurdle is language whereby it’s impossible to determine their interpretation of a bikini wax until the dirty deed is underway. So in preparation for a wax my dignity is left at the salon door and I prepare mentally for a degree of pain and acute embarrassment. Sadly even this was insufficient preparation for this waxing session. It took 2 beauticians to attend to me, not because I’m closely related to a yeti, but because that’s what the salon deems appropriate. One beautician initially seemed to be simply there in an advisory / supervisory capacity but she soon bored of this role and decided her time would be better spent waxing.  So each had a leg and applied wax and ripped off the hair at their own rhythm, whilst I was in my own personal hell little realising I was still in the honeymoon phase. Already questioning my decision and wondering whether an emergency exit was required, they moved on to the bikini wax. In the UK a bikini wax refers to the removal of hair around the edges of a bikini. The briefer the bikini, the more hair removed but it definitely relies on the premise that a bikini is an article of clothing aka panties, knickers, G-string etc. I’m sure you all get my drift. In India clearly the ‘bikini’ is code for nudity and a ‘bikini wax’, especially with a tandem team, is more invasive, painful and longer than a cervical smear.  Enough said – it was horrendous and I don’t think either was particularly skilled in the ‘art of waxing’, I’ve certainly had better. So perhaps it’s time to invest in laser treatment!

All chores complete, we were incredibly chuffed.  A very busy but constructive stay in Kochi. For dinner Katrin had prepared a whole chicken cooked whilst sitting on a steamer full of beer and herbs, (the chicken, not Katrin!) a more upmarket version of chicken cooked on a budweiser can! It’s served with pickled salad and German potato salad. Absolutely delicious.  

Friday 23rd March

Kochi to Alleppey

Distance: 67.91 km

Total Distance: 20591.16 km

It’s a very sad day today – we must leave Kochi and our incredibly warm and generous hosts Katrin and Roland.  Our last breakfast of crispy bacon and eggs, a frenzy of activity, hugs goodbye and we’re off.

It’s actually an easy ride to Alleppey, almost completely flat with no wind and there’s water lagoons everywhere – the backwaters of Kerala.  

In Alleppey we find the ferry terminal, we want the Alleppey to Kollam ferry but we need to check departure times and whether they’ll take our trikes. The ferry is at 10.30am. They will take our trikes and it’s 400 Rupees each and 200 for each trike.  An opportunity to experience and enjoy the backwaters. Eight hours of enjoyment we hope ; it’s 80km. After checking the ferry for tomorrow we have a very late lunch and then head to the beach to camp.

We soon find a nice spot but we’re a little concerned by the wind.   It usually drops in the evening but today it seems to be getting stronger – we hope there’s not a storm blowing in.


Saturday 24th March

Alleppey to Kollam to Eravipuram

Distance: 10.3 km

Total Distance: 20601.46 km

Wow, last night was our most horrendous todate. We were worried about the wind and had decided to put the fly up to reinforce the tent. Unfortunately this cut the draft in the tent and the heat soon built up to unbearable levels.

We open the doors and still it’s too hot. So we take the fly off and for a while we relish the cooling breeze. But then an hour or so later I am awoken by Daz slapping at the large number of mosquitoes in the tent. Time to shut the doors. Then as we start hunting down the mossies it starts to rain. We dash outside and put the fly back on. We are now back in a baking oven. We sweat all night long and even when we wake in the morning we are still drenched.  To top it all off at the start of the night we had the police visit us to say it’s not safe and we needed to move up the beach.

Too tired and too late we manage to explain we will be okay., they leave a phone number just incase! Later, in the dark, as we prepare for a dip in the cooling sea Daz notices a man walkng up to him. I’ve just gone ahead across the beach. Daz says Hi and the man responds then reaches across and gropes Daz’s tackle! Daz swears at him and pushes him away and he saunters off. Daz joins me on the beach, but the wind has whipped up the waves and it’s a steep drop so we don’t even get to cool of! Back at the tent we occasionally see some odd men moving about in the tree line. Obviously a meeting point for the local deviants!

So we are up early due to the heat and feeling tired we brew up and have some porridge, no bacon for us today!  We cycle back into town and then shortly after we load our trikes onto the ferry. There’s no ramp, it’s only a small passenger ferry so we have to take all the bags off and manhandle the trikes through the narrow doors.

But we are soon settled and at 1030am we set off. It’s a pleasant journey, except maybe for the noise of the engines. A breeze occasionally cools us off.  The ferry should take 8 hours to cover the 80 km distance. We see lots of birds and locals swimming in the waters along the shoreline. Sometimes we are going fast, but when it’s narrow the speed is cut.

Rural houses and boat houses slide by. Fishermen in small canoes and tourists on day boats. We stop twice, once for lunch then once for chai. Then with about 7 km to go the ferry lurches to a halt with a high pitched whine from the engines. We are adrift in the middle of a lagoon. It seems there’s some fouling of the propellers.   We limp to the nearest shore then two of the crew strip off and get in the water.

Numerous dives later they have cut away the rope, cloth and plastic that has become entangled. Daz starts a round of applause but none of the Indian passengers join in, they’re obviously not impressed.

We reach our destination just as the sun is setting and after disembarking with the bikes and luggage we stop at a local restaurant to get some food. The plan had been to do some backwater canoeing tomorrow but we both decide it’s going to be too much trouble to head back up the coast to Munroe island, especially as the last ferry will have sailed and we would need to camp and get the first one in the morning.  So we decide to head towards the coast again and a little ways south. We finally pitch our camp on some waste ground in a small village after an off duty policeman flags us down.

He knows the guy that has the house next door and we get water. It’s a bit public, and we get quite a few visitors to start, but hopefully we’ll have a quiet night!


Sunday 25th March

Eravipuram to Varkala

Distance: 21.05 km

Total Distance: 20622.51 km

A nice easy ride to Varkala this morning, well it would have been if we’d stayed on real roads, instead we choose a MapsMe dashed black into a dashed white.  Initially it’s fine, a bit narrow, but it’s fun and we’re practically cycling along the cliff edge.

Then we have a few sections where we need to carry or push the trikes.  The worst being a short but very steep concrete ramp, I’m supposed to pull but I can barely walk up the ramp without skidding back on my cleats. And we’re there, the very beautiful Mint Inside Hotel, only to discover that there’s no hot water and no air conditioning in our room and our 5th night is only available in a deluxe room which will cost as much again as 4 nights.  So we eventually decide to push on and find something more suitable. We settle on Basuri beach resort which sounds much more plush than it actually is but there’s aircon, hot water and the essential WIFI (although it’s a weak signal, exacerbated by frequent power cuts. They’re short but so disruptive).

We shower and relax go out to dinner and then have a WhatsApp session calling anyone that’s available – it’s lovely to hear from friends we haven’t seen in months and catch up on the new gossip.


Monday 26th March


OMG why is there always so much to do and why does it all take so much fecking time.  We were well behind on the blog and then there’s prepping for our flight (cleaning all our gear and bags and trikes) and trying to pin down an initial Japan plan.  It seems that we booked a flight months ago so we could see Tokyo in blossom but by the time we land it’ll have been and gone and we suddenly discover Tokyo International Airport is 70km north of Tokyo.  Gosh what 2 fantastic discoveries! So a new plan is required. Arghhhhhhhh.

But at least after ‘choring’ (just made up a new verb) until 6pm we do actually leave our room for a sunset dip and dinner.

Tea with dinner?  No, definitely NOT!   It’s beer but served in a teapot because none of the restaurants have a licence to serve alcohol.  Several years ago the death rate through drunk drowning went through the roof for the Indian tourists, so now, in theory none of the restaurants serve alcohol.  The reality is that they all do!


Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday


May the chores continue – and yes they do!   We even make ourselves a new flag.

We do have time to enjoy the beach, swimming (surviving!) in the huge surf and savour a  number of nice restaurants along the front.


Friday 30th March

Varkala to Trivandrum

Distance: 45.20km

Total Distance: 20667.71km

The imminent flight to Japan is already starting to worry Daz, he was awake at 4.20am and three hours later he’s imagined any number of scenarios, none of them good, and his hands are shaking and he feels like crap.  Today we cycle to Trivandrum. It’s only 45km and for some, me for example, it’s relatively painless, but Daz can’t seem to rid himself of thoughts of tomorrow’s flight. Just before our Trivandrum hotel we find a carwash and our trikes get a good clean and at the hotel there are some final trike adjustments to be made, then it’s time to relax – if only!!!!

The room is super hot, and even with the windows open and the fan on full it’s too uncomfortable to sleep much. On top of that the bloody mosquitoes are having a feast! Thank God/Shiva/Ganeesh (him with the elephant face)/Budda and any other deity that gets worshipped here this is our last night in India.


Saturday 31st March

To Trivandrum Airport

Distance:  4.25km

We were awake super early and after a quick shower, we cycled to the airport in the dark.

We’ve only got one headtorch between us as all our lights (and mirrors!) have been detached and packed. Daz uses it in red light mode and puts it on the back of his head. We’ve never tried this ‘cycle direct to airport’ approach so fingers crossed it works.  Our flight isn’t until 9.55am and it’s only 5.45am so we’re pretty sure there’s plenty of time to get everything sorted. How wrong could we be! We speak to the assistants and explain we’re flying with Sri Lankan air to Japan and customer services have accepted the trikes as mobility devices (and we have emails to prove it). Last December we started researching flights to Japan and how other cyclists and trike users approach the problem.  Initially it seemed Sri Lankan air had a reasonable sporting equipment policy but after weeks of trying to pin them down for specific details they then decided our trikes had to go by cargo flight. Then another trike rider said she’d been on numerous flights and simply cycled to the airport and said the trike was a mobility device. We researched Sri Lankan air mobility device policy (mobility devices are free of charge) and the definition of mobility device.  We then wrote to Sri Lankan air and requested carriage for our mobility devices. We told them trikes were used by people unable to ride conventional bikes because of multiple sclerosis, parkinsons, back problems, balance problems, walking difficulties and a plethora of other conditions. They agreed to take them.

After waiting over an hour they want all our bags and the trikes scanned. Pushing the trikes through the xray scanner was fun, at first they said they wouldn’t fit, and as they haven’t been scanned check-in won’t accept them. But Daz gets them through.

Then we actually get as far as the check-in desk – looks like they’re going to take them but they need a copy of our emails to discuss with the sender.  More time passes and they tell us they’ll take the trikes but only as excess baggage. 30 kilos at whatever rate equals 61,515 rupees – £684. Yup a fortune.

We try everything but they won’t accept anything written in the emails and we’re running out of time. It’s 0845am and check – in is due to close. Finally resigned we offer up our credit card only to discover they won’t take payment by credit card only cash.  OMG we can’t even withdraw that amount of cash in one day. The minutes tick by as we wait for head office in Sri Lanka to accept a credit card payment. It’s gone 9am now and word comes back that it’s cash or nothing. By now we are very stressed, I shed a tear, Daz pulls his hair and still they refuse us. At this rate we’re going to lose our flight, in fact we’re convinced we are going to miss our flight because we can’t produce 61,515 Rupees.  We walk dejectedly over to the ATM and bizarrely our Halifax Credit card decides to be the card that just keeps giving (maximum withdrawal is 10,000 per transaction) and in conjunction with another card we have the cash, 7 ATM transactions in total.

Then it’s a panic to check the cash (they count it twice! Slowly!), finish our check-in, wave goodbye to our trikes and then get to the gate. At immigration there’s another problem – it’s 09.20am and customers need to clear Immigration 45 minutes before their flight.  The staff are so busy complaining and arguing with each other about check-in not informing immigration that there’s a further delay. And finally the security checks – when I empty my pockets into a tray the security man examines my bike computer and hands it back. I go to be scanned and the woman scanning finds the computer and says it must go through the Xray machine. I go back to x-ray machine, shove my way to the front, put my computer in a tray and return to the body scan / frisk. Another queue to push passed.  And then off to find my bike computer, whilst Daz, desperate to move on, keeps telling me it’s in my pocket, where I put it when the security man rejected it! Arghhhhhhhhhhh!

We board our plane with about 10 minutes to spare.  Fifty minutes later we’re in Colombo and realise our 7pm flight to Japan has been delayed until midnight.   So we spend over 12 hours in the departure lounge probably managing only 20 minutes of sleep.

We seek solace in a bottle or 3 of duty free red wine.  After an endless day we’re called forward to the gate but it’s another long wait until we board. We’re absolutely shattered but sleep is hard to come by.