Run, Run and run again it’s been like this for the past nearly four months, covering a distance of 4008 km, in 93 days. No matter if I have been sick sore or even discharged from hospital, I had to keep moving. This run has been the most pressure that I have ever been through during an event. I still don’t know why it’s been like this, but the main factor I feel was the terrain, basically flat road running. There has been no assistance from the terrain from a physical (up and down hill) or mental perspective (the natural beauty of the surroundings in limited bursts). On top of this there has been the constant human element. With India having such a massive population and such limited space, one can never escape into the quietness on nature and just unwind and focus.
The province of Kerola has not turned out to be our favourite, although from a distance it looks great, massive palm groves, long beaches and massive river estuaries, there is potential. The only problem once you walk into the plantation is that there is no space, for the entire province there are wall to wall villages. Nearly every piece of land has some structure on it. We have met some really brilliant people in this province, but as a whole we all have found it very unfriendly and not at all geared for tourists, mainly because of attitude of the locals, who on top of this believe and constantly tell us that ‘Kerola is God’s country”, they could not be further from the truth, we have found it to be a bit of hell.
In the past I have had numerous encounters with swamps, I usually come off second best, somehow they manage to always get the upper hand. In Madagascar it was fine because I knew that the creatures that lived in the swamps were not life-threatening. In India it’s a whole other story. The creatures are as abundant and they are all poisonous. The further South I have travelled, the more I have encountered the swamps, but these are massive and deep due to the size of the rivers. The worst is that there are often really strong flowing currents in them, especially when trying to cross on the turn of the tide, if it’s coming in or going out, the currents are dangerous, you can see the rate at which they are flowing by watching the floating debris swirling past.
The run now over, we have taken a few days to unwind, just relax and slowly sort out our gear, repack what needs to go back and give the rest to the needy around us. It’s been lazy times after what we have been through. The best has been that there has been time to cook, find fresh fish and enjoy creating a meal.
Every time we ended up camping along the coastal belt, it was usually in a coconut plantation or natural grove along the beach. The southern coast of India must have some of the biggest plantations that I have ever seen. These trees are also massive producers and one can see big clusters of coconuts hanging high up in the fronds. As with every camp there is the gathering of local villagers. Attracted to us out of curiosity, normally they stand around and just stare for about an hour then eventually move off. One thing that I have always noticed is that they will sit, look at where we sit or place our table or tent, then look up at one of the palm trees. They never comment, sometimes the glance will be longer with a few extra ones at the tree and then at us again, followed by a little smile. I have on occasions thought about this, followed by my own upwards glance at the trees fruit, but felt no need to take the “let’s say quiet” caution seriously.
Another day in the manic Indian traffic. Initially we thought that the last 600km would be the wild coast of India and that the population would thin out. It’s exactly the opposite, it’s village upon village that have fused together. Here is hardly an open space amongst the massive palm groves that cover every inch of soil. The road situation has become worse; there is no longer a shoulder to run on. In order to try and cope with the mass of traffic, the shoulder has been used as road. This has made running a real danger as every minute you feel the swoosh of air as a truck or bus passes by and each step one just hopes that you are not going to get hit. I have had about 20 brushes with vehicles so far, but have managed to stay on my feet as they just speed off into the distance and leave you stumbling along and just praying that you don’t fall and get swatted by the next car right behind you.
This is a small village just to the west of Kanyakumari. It’s vibrant and colourful and reminds me of the little village up the west coast of South Africa called Patternoster. Chatting to a local school teacher here, he said that the history of this area goes back to 400BC, a deeply Catholic community with Mother Mary as their patron. The coastal belt is dotted with massive churches and a huge cathedral in the centre of Kanyakumari.
The crew had set up camp on a stretch of beach, this was one of our first opportunities to sleep in such a beautiful surrounding. The ocean lapping in front of us and behind us we were shaded by dense palm groves. The best about the camp was that it was a desolate piece of coastline, just a little village a few kilometers away, for the rest it was just us and nature.
The dusk was drawing closer, the evening on shore breeze had picked up, providing the fishermen with their natural power to sail home with their day’s catch. We were just settling down for our evening meal. Our tents were up and we ready to bid the day farewell. I stretched back and just absorbed the beauty around me. Twisting my tired sore feet into the cold sand, stretching my body back releasing the stiffness and pain in my mussels as I slowly wound down after the days run and my body began let the tiredness slowly switch off my mind and invite in the sleep.