South India, Day 5. Exploring old Ponnani.

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.

P1140681

 

P1140686

 

P1140688

 

P1140679

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.

 

P1140654

 

P1140663

 

P1140662

 

P1140668

 

P1140664

 

P1140695

 

P1140698

 

P1140659

 

P1140675

 

P1140671

 

P1140673

 

P1140676

 

P1140678

 

P1140694

 

P1140700

 

P1140699

 

P1140704

 

P1140702

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.

P1140740

Ponnani’s fishing port

 

P1140706

 

P1140713

Fish being dried in the sun. Once dried, they are bagged in gunny sacks. I don’t think they’re for human consumption

 

P1140722

Fresh off the boat

 

P1140729

A cycle-tourer does seem to stand out like a sore thumb here.

 

P1140726

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.

 

P1140728

Except for his flip-flops, he looks very much a seasoned tourer.

 

P1140725

Me too!

 

P1140721

 

P1140735

 

P1140738

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.

P1140732

 

South India, Day 4. Triprayar to 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.

P1140576

500 metres down the main road, I see a turn-off. I’m hoping it will lead to the coast. It does.

 

P1140554

Off the beaten track that’s off the beaten track… Out of curiosity, I turn off onto a sandy path leading towards the beach meandering between some houses. I decide to follow it. It’s hard going pedalling on fine sand.

 

P1140556

I come across a bare-shirted man in front of his house. Surprised to see a cycle-tourer appear out of nowhere, he stops me for a chat. This is actually the norm in India. They are not an inhibited people; not shy talking to strangers, and definitely not camera-shy. The hand-operated pump in front is his only source of water supply.

 

P1140550

Soon, his neighbour comes out and join us.

 

P1140549

Neighbour’s simple hut.

 

P1140551

My new friends from Triprayar; Sunil (in shorts) is a scriptwriter and speaks fluent English. He invites me for tea in his home, but seeing as it’s getting on in the morning, I decide to continue my ride instead. Well, at least I know this will be a good spot to camp if I should come this way again.

 

Scenes along the coast ……….

P1140569

 

P1140573

 

P1140558

 

P1140565

 

P1140580

Man plucking coconuts

 

P1140581

Coconut Man comes down. Rewards me with one for watching his performance.

 

P1140585

After I finish drinking the water inside, Coconut Man splits the fruit open with a deft chop of his special knife, slices off a piece of the shell which I then proceed to use as a spoon. Nifty…

 

P1140587

Nice Coconut Man. The thing sticking out of the crook of his shoulder is his razor sharp sickle-shaped knife.

 

P1140589

 

P1140592

 

P1140593

 

P1140600

These coastal roads are some of the most beautiful I have ever ridden.

 

P1140602

 

P1140609

 

P1140599

A village grocer..

 

P1140611

Nice beach roads don’t go on forever. Here I’m back on the main road again.

 

P1140612

The road has been taken over by a colourful procession

 

P1140614

The sharp rapping of their drums is very mesmerising.

 

 

P1140617

 

P1140618

In India, it’s hard to find anyone who shies away from a camera.

 

P1140621

 

 

P1140622

“You’d better take my picture, dude”

 

P1140629

 

P1140624

 

P1140634

My destination today is Ponnani, but I think I’ll detour to Guruvayur for a quick look. It’s a famous temple town; we’ll see if there’s anything interesting.

 

P1140640

Guruvayur was disappointing. Nothing much to see. This is one of their biggest temples but I don’t think they’ll allow me to push my bike in.

 

P1140641

Lots of sweet tooth devotees in Guruvayur.

 

P1140647

Just outside Guruvayur, I met Denny Abraham George and Ajith Varma, on quick 5-day-ride from Mangalore back to Cochin where they live. Gave me a few tips on where to go and what to avoid on the way to Udupi.

 

P1140645

Ponnani coming up…

 

P1140650

Ponnani is a chaotic little town. Not exactly a tourist spot, and there isn’t much choice when it comes to accommodation. Dreamland this is not. 400R, take it or leave it. I won’t show you the bathroom…

 

Tomorrow, I’ll check out the old part of Ponnani before heading to the big city of Calicut aka Kozhikode.

===============================================================

P1140575

Triprayar to Ponnani : 70kms