Most people only think of temples when they come here, but this is a wonderfully authentic way to see another side of the area…
I created this experience to help travellers understand all about daily life in a typical village in this part of South India, and in a way that supports the local economy. It’s a very gentle cycle; the ground is absolutely flat, and we only cover about seven to 10 kilometres in three hours because of all the stops.
We visit two or three villages, and in between, we cycle along quiet tracks lined by paddy fields. I’ll explain a bit about the way the different crops are grown, and about cattle herding, and take people for a short walk through the fields where they can see peanuts, radishes, okra, brinjal and so on growing, and maybe do a bit of birdwatching. If people want to ask the farmers any questions, I’m happy to translate and help with the interaction.
In the villages themselves, we go to a typical small temple dedicated to Shiva or his wife Parvati, where we take part in a ceremony called aarti. I’ll point out some typical houses with coconut-thatch roofs that are a very rare sight nowadays and demonstrate how the rangoli decorations in front of the houses are created. The guests also get to see how the villagers make cow-dung ‘cake’ with their bare hands, which as a local myself I still find fascinating, and maybe see the women milking the cows. We even visit a small school to teach the children and teachers a song in English, which is a nice way to interact. And, because we’re so close to Mahabalipuram, we also see stone carvers at work.
If you’re wondering about refreshments, we have one break for chai or coffee in a family house and another in a coconut grove which is great for photos – the farmers climb the trees with no ropes, nothing, to pluck fresh coconuts for us so we can drink the water. And before our banana-leaf lunch, which is more or less the end of the tour, we have a cooking demonstration of some authentic desserts and the rice pancakes known as dosas.
Most people only think of temples when they come to Mahabalipuram, but this cycle ride through the lush countryside is a wonderfully authentic way to get off the beaten track and see another side of the area.