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.

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Soon, his neighbour comes out and join us.

 

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Neighbour’s simple hut.

 

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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 ……….

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Man plucking coconuts

 

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

 

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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…

 

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

 

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

 

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A village grocer..

 

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

 

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The road has been taken over by a colourful procession

 

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The sharp rapping of their drums is very mesmerising.

 

 

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

 

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“You’d better take my picture, dude”

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Lots of sweet tooth devotees in Guruvayur.

 

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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.

 

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Ponnani coming up…

 

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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.

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Triprayar to Ponnani : 70kms

 

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South India, Day 3. Cochin to Triprayar.

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.

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On board the ferry to Vypin Island

 

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My ferry-fare saviour

 

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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.

 

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The stone wall, about 5-6 ft high, runs along almost the entire coastline, protection against the massive waves that hit during monsoon season.

 

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Could have easily camped in the garden

 

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Off the beaten track, and into someone’s front yard….

 

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where I meet a resident with his home-made bow and arrow shooting small fish

 

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Along Cherai Beach

 

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Joseph and Mary ice factories… How cool!

 

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Wedding, Kerala style, complete with banana trees.

 

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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.

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Ferry ticket seller was nicer here

 

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Munambam ferry

 

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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.

 

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Main street, Triprayar.

 

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Bakery in Triprayar. Entrance is at the back, I think.

 

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Peanut seller, Tripayar. I couldn’t pass up on this cheap treat , of course. His pushcart is parked at a very strategic corner.

 

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A good day’s ride, followed by a great dinner, and I’m off to dreamland…

 

Cochi to Triprayar: 70 kms.