A bicycle ride on a true monsoon day with plenty of rain and wind (August 12th, 2021)
The riding route can be re-lived by visiting
With my bums on the saddle, I started towards Poovar from Trivandrum at five in the morning on an overcast day after munching two slices of toast with tea and a banana. The clouds hid the scant light from the waxing crescent moon and also the stars. The visibility on the road was from the street lights in the city and the front lights of my bicycle. I reached the Thiruvananthapuram bypass road (Salem-Kochi-Kanyakumari highway; route 66) at the Chaka junction from where I headed south towards Kovalam. The early morning air without the fumes from vehicular exhaust, the negligible traffic, the absence of noises resulting from human activity, and the coolness before daybreak makes this my favorite time to ride. That day the slight night breeze from the cooling of the land and the sea made the ride even more enjoyable. There are two ascends before reaching the beginning of construction work on the highway just before reaching Kovalam. After the two small hills, there is a diversion that leads to narrower roads to Kanyakumari via Vizhinjam. At this point, there is a road going perpendicular to the right that ends up at Kovalam beach. It started drizzling when I was at the base of the first climb and poured down heavily as I started to ride downhill. I was already about 16 Km from home so I took this opportunity to hydrate myself. I also donned my two-piece rain suit and snuggly tucked the rain-cover over the bicycle pannier bags in the patch of dryness under the aluminum sheet roof extension of a shopfront.
I resumed my pedaling after the rain had subsided to a drizzle to climb up the second incline. At the top, I rode a few meters on the Kovalam beach road to a viewpoint where I captured the image of the landscape on that cloudy dawn with streaks of orange from the rising sun over the hills at the far end and reflections of trees that lined a pond (it was probably from an old abandoned quarry) in the foreground.
I turned back from the Kovalam beach road to the old highway (from this point on route 66 was under construction) that ends up in Kanyakumari. I crossed the town of Vizhinjam and rode away from the sea on hilly country roads for about 7 Km passing through Thennoorkonam and Mukkala to reach the signboard pointing right towards the Aazhimala Shiva temple. I took the deviation and descended on the steep road to reach the temple that was by the water and had a spectacular view of the beach from the adjoining cliff. It was my first view of the Arabian Sea so far during this trip. It rained intermittently and I managed to take pictures during the short spells when it had stopped raining. It was around 6.45 am when I reached the temple.
I had a cup of coffee and some biscuits at the convenience store opposite the main entrance of the temple before I got back on the saddle at 7.15 am. The climb up to the main road to Poovar was an effort but I did it without having to stop – the coolness at that time of the day helped. From that point on it rained on and off with varying intensity. I stopped at 7.45 am for breakfast that I carried with me (as most roadside restaurants were not open due to CoVid restrictions) in front of a tire repair shop that had not yet opened.
My next stop after breakfast was Poovar, a tourist town that attracts many visitors to its beaches and backwaters. It was given its name by Raja Marthanda Varma (1706-58), the ruler of the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore. Before that, it was called Pokkumoosapuram. The king, Marthanda Varma was given shelter many times in Poovar. During the internal riots of Travancore, he escaped to Pokkumoosapuram. It was springtime and the river was carpeted with red Kovala flowers from trees that flourished in the mangrove backwaters. This picturesque scenery inspired the Raja to name the place Poovar (in Malayalam, ‘Poo’ means flower and ‘ar’ means river). Although I did not see the flowers as it was the monsoon season, I did stop at the bridge where the Neyyar river (that originates 56 Km at the Neyyar reservoir) passes through Poovar before merging with the Arabian Sea.
Instead of visiting Poovar beach, I decided to visit the Southernmost fishing village on the Kerala side – Pozhiyoor.
After visiting the border village I retraced my way back to Trivandrum but first I stopped at one of my favorite backwater mangrove boating starting points located along the Poovar Mangrove Trail. In the past I have been on backwater cruises from here - I had seen a large number of different species of birds in the mangrove and witnessed a spectacular sunset. It was disheartening to observe that most places (hotels, resorts, backwater cruises, and restaurants) in Poovar had been closed for a long time due to the pandemic restrictions. I believe that some of them will soon be operational.
On reaching the open bypass road, I encountered strong headwinds, and pedaling became hard but at least it had stopped raining. I kept myself hydrated throughout and took a coffee and stretching break as soon as I entered the city. I reached home at noon to the aroma of lunch that was being prepared.