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.
Cows, pedestrian, motorcycle and a bus… so who gets right of way? The cows of course. Next in line? Whoever is bigger, louder and faster.
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.
Ponnani’s fishing port
Fish being dried in the sun. Once dried, they are bagged in gunny sacks. I don’t think they’re for human consumption
Fresh off the boat
A cycle-tourer does seem to stand out like a sore thumb here.
My presence incited a heated argument among some of the fisherfolk, with this guy seemingly telling the other off for being ignorant about touring bikes (I think…). I just stand there and watch them go at it, amused by it all.
Except for his flip-flops, he looks very much a seasoned tourer.
One of the joys of cycle-touring…being welcomed by locals.
Next….. I continue towards Calicut aka Kozhikode. A big city, I expect it to be crazier than Ponnani.