I’m a mapaholic, (as well as a gadgetaholic) probably one of the reasons I like cycling is that maps and cycling seem inseparable. So when planning a journey as big as this my first question will always be, “What are the maps like?”
In Kerala this is not straightforward. There are maps but the general advice from travellers is that each map has its own unique version of Kerala. It’s not that they are necessarily untrue but other maps will have other versions of the terrain, possibly also true. So one strategy, recommended by several cyclists, is to carry every map available and come up with some kind of average or aggregate idea of what actually exists on the ground.
Unfortunately this may not meet our needs as the printed maps available are all very small scale and only really show the most important roads and towns. In fact Google maps seems to be much more comprehensive, especially for the more popular tourist destinations where it includes both minor roads and the location of various hotels and businesses. However the printed maps are not completely useless (having bought all of them I have to believe this).
These are the maps I found from online sellers in the UK, the samples are each of the same area of Kerala, approx 60km square, displayed at roughly the true size:
International Publications (India): Kerala & Lakshadweep, Tourist Road Guide & Political
This is a combination guidebook and fold-out map. It shows the main roads and indicates quite a lot of small towns along the way and off the main road which is quite useful. It also has a prolific array of waterfall symbols so that might give some focus to our travels. It doesn’t show the State Highway numbers which is a problem for navigating. In fact none of the printed maps show any road numbers except for National Highways, in this sample that’s just one road, NH49.
It provides town maps of a few main centres. No topographical information which is a problem for cyclists but on the whole a useful publication.
TTK Healthcare, Publications Divn (India): A Road Guide to Kerala
Larger scale than the others and a few more roads but not as many towns as the International Publications guide, again no topographical info and generally they have not made good use of the extra space. Includes a basic guide book but the International Publications book is much more useful and interesting. TTK are not so interested in waterfalls but they do mark a number of “hill resorts”, possibly because middle class Indians seem very keen on these luxury hotels for honeymoons and suchlike.
Reise Know-How (Germany): South India
Some topographical information but far fewer roads and towns marked than International Publications. One relevant town map of Trivandrum (others outside Kerala). What is shown is represented clearly and attractively on what feels like waterproof paper
Nelles Map (Germany): India South
Very small scale, minimal detail and not as clear as Reise. Rendered topographical information which is easier to read but maybe less precise. Really not a useful map for travellers
I did find one or two other maps on sale but didn’t bother to buy them as the information online made it clear they were not really any more informative.
So I think we’ll take the International Publications book (most information) and the Reise map (best topographical info) and maybe copy any extra info from the others onto a Google map, or just cut out the relevant sections of all of them as that is the least paper to carry.
However it’s clear we need more information than they give, especially as we will want to cycle relatively short legs (20 miles is good for grey nomads in hilly areas with opportunities to get lost) and would like some confidence about accommodation (grey nomads can’t sleep in bus shelters – arthritic joints need soft mattresses).
Most importantly there is no real mileage information apart from a few global figures for the biggest roads between big towns and grey nomads don’t fancy struggling into the night for 100km because they miscalculated the distance.
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