National Geographic nailed it on the head when they ran this line in one of their ads some years ago. The problem is, there are just too many roads but too little time and money to send the body to. The next best thing? Just ride as many roads as I can … while I still can.
If you’re here for the first time, welcome to my humble blog. It is as much a personal journal of my cycle-touring adventures as it is resource for others who may want to ride the same routes as I did. There are no epic year-long adventures within these pages (one day, one day … I keep telling myself), only short 2- to 4-week tours, and mostly solo.
To easily navigate your way through the blog, simply click on ‘The Rides’, on the top menu-bar and all my adventures will be shown. Pick one and the entire contents of that ride will be presented, each blog post opening in a new tab as you click on it.
By the way, the post immediately below is the latest one, which gives you an idea of my latest adventure.
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Ponnani is made up of 2 very distinct districts — the old and the new. The old Ponnani is what you’ll see first if you come in to town using the coastal route 17. The new Ponnani greets you first if you stay on the busier route 62, which then meets route 17 just at the edge of town.
I wasn’t impressed at all by the newer side of Ponnani when I arrived yesterday. It’s chaotic, nosiy, busy and without much character. So, this morning, I decide to ride around the old part of town and see if it’s worth my time. As I head towards the port, the houses and buildings seem to age backward in time.
It’s old, very old, but colourful and full of old-world charm and character. Some of the shops are shuttered and locked, abandoned for the glitzier side of town, but many are still in operation. They’re mostly small businesses; selling anything from bananas to ropes to bamboo. Even the residents seem very much in character. They’re very friendly; even more so when I get up close and personal with my camera. If there’s one thing that lets you make friends instantly, it’s the camera. Must be their innate sense of Bollywood in their DNA.
At the end of the sealed road, I find myself riding on a dirt road leading towards the sea. Continuing on, I come upon some huts next to the water, busy with fishing boats and groups of people gathered around some of the boats. The smell of salty air permeated with that of rotting fish, punctuated by the sound of seagulls, crows and egrets cawing and flapping their wings, , completes the whole scene.
I stop to absorb it all. I feel a little overwhelmed, heady even, but I think that is likely from the thousands of rotting fish being dried in the sun.
Some of the fishermen behind the huts are loafing around on the beach, looking at me uninterested. The action seems to be happening around the boats so I ride straight into the thick of it.
Instantly, I become the star attraction.
Next….. I continue towards Calicut aka Kozhikode. A big city, I expect it to be crazier than Ponnani.
Breakfast is a simple affair at a little stall across the road from Dreamland. 2 pieces of apom, and a cup of Bru coffee, for only 38R. It’s a good enough start for my day. Anyway, I won’t hesitate to stop for a quick snack, and a cup of chai, when I see a tea-shop next. On the road, food is a constant. And it’s cheap.
Scenes along the coast ……….
Tomorrow, I’ll check out the old part of Ponnani before heading to the big city of Calicut aka Kozhikode.
The ferry to Vypin Island is just one of the many ferries connecting the many backwaters that dot the state of Kerala. Like most of the backwater ferries, it’s just a short ride across the water from Fort Cochin. The fare for cyclists is just 3 Rupees. The ticket seller, lodged inside his tiny box with a tiny window, is not a very nice man. Twice, he pushes back the Rupee note that I hand him, saying something which I obviously do not comprehend but my guess is he wants exact change. Seeing this hapless foreigner not getting anywhere, a young man behind me tells me he’ll pay for me instead; “no problem”. Saved yet again by a kind soul.
Once on Vypin Island, I point by bike west and soon, I’m pedalling along a sandy, coconut-tree-lined country road running parallel to the sea. It’s a bright, beautiful blue-skies kind of day. And scorchingly hot, too. Well, better than riding in freezing temperatures, I always say. But at least it’s not as humid as I thought it would be.
Throughout the day, I wind in and out, alternating between sandy paths and dirt roads; sometimes roads with water on both sides. These are the backwater roads connecting the many houses and villages along the way. Sometimes I hit a dead end while riding along the beach, then I simply head inwards and try to find another entrance to the beach again.
By mid-afternoon, I’m find myself on Cherai Beach, a sliver of land with the sea on both sides of it. A single sealed road runs the entire length of it. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful place, and popular with backpackers who come to Cochin although it’s not crowded with them. I regret not bringing my tent. This is a great camping spot.
At the end of Cherai beach is Munambam, from where I will take another ferry across Periyar River to Azhikode. Again, I quickly head west after disembarking and find myself riding along quiet village roads. The roads here are surprisingly of very decent quality, and it’s such a joy to ride slowly along and absorb the local colour, smells and sounds that permeate the air.
My stop for the day is the town of Triprayar. Leaving the quiet village roads, I head for route 17, the main thoroughfare that’s typical of a busy Indian road. Honk, honk, honk … cars, trucks, busses, motos … whatever, they never stop honking. Well, at least you know when something’s coming up behind you.
Tripayar seems to be a bustling little town. The main street is busy, noisy and very colourful. I zero in on a hotel I’d read about — Dreamland. Newish looking, it’s located on the main road. The room is 700R, no aircon but it’s big and comfortable. No free wifi — Internet is 50R an hr.