CTC developed a specific international Bike Tour Leader qualification over 2012 due a request from Exodus Travels and interest from other providers within the adventure travel sector. The aim of the course and qualification is to upskill and extend the knowledge and abilities of local and/or international guides.
Fully tested and delivered to 14 Cuban guides in September 2012, this trip was developed as a result of the additional positive feedback from bike tour customers, the tour guides themselves, and Exodus.
Also delivering the course alongside me was Olly Townsend of Exodus. Part of the process of course development for Exodus is verifying their training through a national organisation. To this end, Olly has been through various leader and trainer qualifications with CTC, enabling him to deliver this course.
Stepping off the plane at exotic locations is always special. Even though you know it's going to be hot and humid, three months of living above the snow line in Sheffield hadn't really prepared me for 35 degrees and high humidity.
Mumbai airport procedures are pretty interesting too, interflight baggage collection meant rescanning all the bags twice before then taking them on to check in and taking a bus transfer to the domestic airport at the other end of the same airfield. Still, the airport staff were most helpful and friendly. A welcome change from most European airports, I guess (or maybe from the budget shorthaul carrier staff I've had to use over recent years).
Though a seasoned independent traveller myself, there can't be quite so many people in the world as well-travelled as Olly, so the journey and changes were easy in comparison to travelling alone!
Of course, the hour transfer to the course base from Cochin airport is a great starting experience, mostly influenced by the number of hoardings for Bollywood releases: almost the size of a block of flats, with familiar faces on the occasional one, such as the guy who played the question master in Slumdog Millionaire.
Our jet lag hadn't yet kicked in though Olly and I were both intrigued as to why the the change included a half hour (4.5 hours from BST). We concluded that India had, at some time, simply wanted to induce a level of separation from its neighbours, but of course this was just our idle speculation.
What I learned today:
Driving round the perimeter of the airport gave us plenty of opportunity to see some of the arrangements of those living on the doorstep; corrugated tin roofs and washed clothes drying on the barbed wire fence of the airport boundary were clearly evident. The lack of space between shacks (i.e. none whatsoever) is indicative of both the population density and the need for shade.
- The next days' encounters and thoughts
- The CTC Bike Tour Leader course in action
- More on the Bike Tour Leader course
Fancy travelling? Exodus tours run by the guides on this course include:
- Colours of Rajistan 
- Cycle the backroads of Sri Lanka 
- Mountains, Temples and Hills Stations 
- Coast to Coast across India 
All photos © Dan Cook and Olly Townsend