A Kochi, India Runaround


Welcome to India, the land of a billion people, nearly as many bikes, and countless interesting places to run.  Despite having flown over India more times than I can remember in the past two years, it’s been almost exactly two years since I’ve had my feet on the ground in the country.  You may remember my previous (and ironically the first) runaround I posted – from just outside of Delhi, India.

This weekend though, our boat stopped by the southern most tip of India though to take in the city of Kochi (formerly called Cochin).

We split up the two days in this port city by spending the first day wandering around with a tuk-tuk driver, and the second day we mixed a run into the whole scene.  A very.hot.run.

Here’s a quick look at our self-made tour.  After departing the boat, we picked up a driver for the day.  It cost about $15US and we were with him about 6 hours.  The open air tuk-tuk is a staple in India (as well as many other 3rd world countries).  Below, a typical scene – note the large bus driving directly towards us.


As I noted, bikes are everywhere here – though they weren’t as prevalent as in Delhi and other more rural areas of India I’ve been to.


It also seemed that the creativity factor with bikes in Kochi was slightly less.  Remember my ‘Bikes of India’ post?  All the craziness we saw on two pedal powered wheels there?  Yeah, not as much here.  But, the kids were still out there both solo and in groups biking to and from school.


Of course, the reality is that no matter how flashy your bike is (complete with fuzzy wheel hub doohickeys and neon green handlebar tracers), it’s hard for many to argue with a Vespa look-a-like.


And while the most creative use of a bike we saw this time probably went to the guy at the top of the post (he has both a shovel and axe on there), the below bike ice cream truck is certainly worth a look.


Beyond the bikes, the smell of food and street stalls was everywhere.  We stopped by a small spice market to check out the goods.  Here, we ended up tasting a bit of raw cinnamon bark, as well as a few types of salts.  Ultimately, we settled on the lemon salt.




Meanwhile, the elephants ignored the peppers hanging in the stall above, and focused on guarding the coconuts.  I understand, I always guard my coconuts too.


We saw lots of other cool stuff, but it’s time to get onto the run portion.

Our run plan was to run right from the ship.  While we probably could have taken a tuk-tuk somewhere else in the city, the port itself was a bit of a haul from the city portion – so we likely would have lost an hour each way in doing so.  Plus, sometimes it’s more interesting to just explore the area you’re in.

So, we set out and left our boat, taxis and tuk-tuks behind.


The boat itself was a few hundred yards away from the port entrance, which was fairly well secured.  So inside the port it was a bit of an oasis of calm.  Definitely not the case at the main gate to the port.  But, by India standards – this too was actually pretty tranquil.


Our run started off in a mostly residential area.  Despite only being a few hundred yards from the port entrance and an aircraft carrier – it was immediately quiet and tree-dense.  Many of the homes in this area though belonged to port officials or other naval officers.  Had we frequented the area more often, I suspect the little outdoor stand seen below would have made for a perfect interval loop water stop.


Our run was roughly an hour, with the first half at a set Z2 pace, and the second half kicked up a few notches.  Though, no matter which gear we were in, it was hot.  About 94*F and with humidity to match.  Winter this was not.

Below, we ran along the waters edge (where no breeze was present).  The left side of the street had homes of various naval folks, mostly captains.  Each house had the captains name on a small plaque in front of it, along with his specific job function.


Once at the end of the street, we found the head-honcho’s place.


As we looped around the end of the peninsula, we got towards more of the non-big-ship working side of the port area, housing numerous tug boats.  One even offered us a ride – though, it wasn’t clear where we’d be going.


Once we hit the gates to a large cement and oil factory, we turned back around and ping-ponged off in a different direction.



Despite looking deserted (because it mostly was) the various little eateries were open here, below, a canteen we passed.


We continued down the street for a while, eventually passing a still functioning cement plant.  The place was massive – going on for many blocks.



Oh, here’s us:


And a car.  Because you can never have enough old looking yet stylish cars still driving around:


One unique item we took with us on the run was a small rock.  We each had one.  I learned on previous India runs (and in many rural area runs on other countries), to always have a rock in hand.  The rock serves the purpose of a threat when non-tied up guard dogs decide to chase you.  I’ve never had to throw a rock (save, Jordan), as the mere act of pretending to throw usually stops all but the most determined guard dogs in their tracks.


Soon, we found ourselves heading back into the port area, though, our run wasn’t done yet.



After passing through the security checkpoint (and attempting to explain why we were running in the hot sun), we started our large higher intensity loops around the vast area in front of the ship.



We did this for two reasons.

1) Water
2) Ice cold towels.

That’s it.


See, in front of the boat the crew members had ice towels and ice-cold water they would be handing out to returning guests.  But for the most part, they were just standing outside in the sun waiting for someone to come by.  That someone, would be us.


Just like in a real race at an aide station.  They were happy to give us them, though I think more for entertainment value than anything else.

Each of our loops took about 8 minutes to complete, about a mile.  And we only covered about half the port area nearest the boat.  While the India military folks were fine with us running (and even taking photos) near their aircraft carriers, we decided to stay nearer the cruise ship.  Less people with big guns and all.


After we were both shot in the sun (no, not with a gun, just tired), we wrapped up our run and spent some quality time with the ice water and ice towels before heading aboard.



A couple short hours later our boat headed out to sea, leaving behind the city of Kochi.  I thought it was interesting though just how much the arrival of the ship must have meant to the area.  Upon departure, the coast was lined for literally miles with people.  It put even the deepest crowds at both the Boston Marathon and London 2012 Olympic marathon to shame.  It was really astounding.  Below, a few photos taken a couple miles from the port area, as we sailed out.  Note the crowds of people.



Anywhere there was a spot someone could stand and watch, people were watch.  Many waving.

The next time we’ll see people on land is still 1,700 nautical miles away…


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  1. Santhosh K

    Btw,some trivia.That *tuk-tuk* is locally or across India referred to as autorickshaw and the Vespa look-alike is a Honda aviator. You should get one of these next time you visit one of our coastal regions. Cheerio

  2. Kate

    Nothing like exploring new territory on foot! I have found the rock holding useful as well. I do still pretend to bend down and pick up a rock even if I’m already holding one. Sometimes this backs dogs off without even a fake throw. If I’m alone I’ll often run with 2. Nice post!

  3. Mark

    Good idea about the rock! That would have helped when I went for a run in Cambodia last year. A local was kind enough to throw a few at the dog that was in the process of attacking me.

  4. glurple

    I think those green “handlebar tracers” on the bicycle are actually brake levers.

    This is an old-fashioned system called rod brakes. A series of hinged rods causes a brake block to be raised into the inside of the rim. This is why there are no braking surfaces on the edges of the rims (as they’re not needed by this type of brake).

  5. The “old stylish car” is of course the Hindustan Ambassador. Smooth bouncy ride guaranteed. Well bouncy more than smooth, really.

    Kochi is a fairly nice southern Indian city – though there are better places along the Kerala coast. Too bad you didn’t have time for a backwater tour.

    • Mark

      And the Ambassador has been in production since 1957. It’s a copy of a Morris Oxford 3, which was only made in the UK from 56 to 59.

      Most Americans know of Morris as they were the original manufacturer of the Mini (although by that point, Morris and Austin had already become BMC, and the Mini was sold both as a Morris Mini and an Austin Mini)

  6. Emil

    In 2010 I almosy lost my life in Tuk Tuk and that is why I will never use it again!

  7. damn, u guys were here in Kochi…. I live in kochi, well just 3 kms from the beach. To be more precise, 2 kms from the place seen in the 2nd pic from the last pic above.

    Hope you enjoyed your stay, if not then next time let me know. I will show you guys around, you would love it.

    Thoroughly enjoy reading all your posts.