23rd December 2004 - Near Kannur

We are now taking it very easy and not hesitating to stop for two or more days whenever we feel like it. Along the coast are many resorts, which cater for Indians and are mainly centred on temples and religious sites.

One such resort at Murdeshwar has a gigantic statue of Shiva, which can be seen for miles and they are building a 200ft high temple next to it. With all the poverty around we wonder where the money comes from but we suspect it is from hotel developers hoping to expand the appeal of the resort.

Most of the beaches around here are definitely not suitable for swimming as they are used as toilets by most of the locals. If not, all the sewage goes in anyway. When the tide goes out many Indian women collect green-lipped mussels and cockles, which looked very good to eat, but in the circumstances we decided it was not a good idea.

Next stop after a very scenic ride was a small resort at Maravanthe where we paid an exorbitant nine pounds for a beachside room with private beach. David went out fishing in a small boat and caught a few reef fish and some small ones. Also staying there was an English family living in Bangalore who had set up a small business here.

Although the price of the room was steep, the food was very cheap and tasty. Both of us are now feeling good and are able to enjoy even cycling uphill. The temperature is not too high and cycling is quite comfortable until about one o'clock when we have normally stopped for the day. Air-conditioned rooms are not needed and even if they were we would prefer a fan as it is usually much quieter.

A man with a group of Indians approached us with a camera and asked if he could take a photo of us with them. This has happened quite a few times and it is strange for us tourists to be the subject of photos. The roads are generally quieter now except when going through towns when buses and taxis cut us up all the time. Buses always overtake us and slam on their brakes immediately to pick up passengers. As soon as we go round them to pass, they invariably move off as we are halfway long and leave us in the middle of the road. All the buses seem to be driven by madmen intent on removing everything else in their path. Still, it is comforting to see a sign on the back of the bus as it overtakes a lorry on a blind bend "I put my trust in Jesus".

The travel book talked of a nice beach resort at Malpe, but when we got there it was a large empty character-less building which looked very expensive so we stayed in town right near the very smelly fishing docks.

As we get near to a fishing area, the smell of fish is quite pronounced, but after a while the nose becomes used to it or numb to it and it doesn't bother us. We had never seen a fishing port so busy. Boats piled high were coming in all day and offloading their catch in huge piles on the concrete jetties. Small fish, large fish, crabs, prawns and even sea snakes were shovelled into 3 wheeled pick-ups and carted away. Hundreds of black kites and Brahminy kites circled around and gorged on the fish. By each pile of fish was a man auctioning off the catch while many women scurried around collecting the leftovers and selling them from small baskets.

Mangalore was the next stop, but it proved very difficult to find the way in to the centre. We probably cycled around most of the back streets before eventually finding the busy centre. It may sound strange, but several of the large towns seem to have town centres, which are difficult to find. This also gives us problems getting out again, but David's trusty compass normally works.

In a bookshop, we spotted a good Indian bird-guide selling for seven pounds, which normally sells for 18 pounds in the UK. Careful reading of the inside cover revealed that although it was Oxford University Press, it was printed in Singapore and had printed inside 'not to be sold outside India" This way, he publishers can keep the prices high in the west. Many other western books are printed and sold in the same way.

We spotted a lovely looking hotel/motel on the banks of a river and decided to stay there at a phenomenal cost of 10 pounds. The room was luxurious and surrounded by grass and trees. There were many well off Indians staying there and it was obvious that there had been a wedding the night before as they were dismantling the tents. The doorman looked at us with some disdain and told us to park our bikes away from the posh cars but we had our own back when the staff wheeled our bikes through reception and into our rooms. We were introduced to the groom who worked for Rolls Royce in the USA and we were invited to watch the evening's entertainment, which was traditional storytelling with song and dance in elaborate costume.

Just past Kannur we found just the place we were looking for to spend a peaceful Christmas - a lovely beach with a few beach huts reachable only by walking along the beach. The accommodation was basic but clean and we could reach the nearest village a mile away easily by bike. A local told David that it was a waste of time fishing from the beach as there were no fish but four fish later that evening proved them wrong.


Dave and Joan Wooldridge