When one is in an island, distances become not just two points to be traversed but rather a melody one can hum on as you walk, trot or pedal around. Valiyaparamba Island is no different and Vretreat becomes the perfect setting to gear up and start giving those muscles a work out.
I knew Vinod is a keen cyclist. Having known him for many years I know that just as he is an ace cameraman he is also a nature lover, trekking and cycling enthusiast. He is however a perfectionist and nothing but the best works out for him. We had pedaled around a bit since the days we reached Vretreat, Valiyaparamba Island. Those journeys were just a roundabout and it was more like a leisurely 10 or 20 mins ride along the backwaters of the majestic River Tejaswini. You pedal slowly to one of the jetties on either side of the property and park your cycle by one of the the tall coconut trees and watch for birds or just spot houseboats. Time is ample and the languid pace makes it seem even slower.
That day on our usual morning beach walk Vinod seemed a bit restless. As we were having our sumptuous Kerela breakfast in the beautiful dining area at Vretreat that gave you a spectacular view of the river and the sea I popped the question to Vinod…’You don’t seem to be in your elements today…?’ Anything particular. ‘Well, its been a while I did a 50 km on the bike but when I check on the maps around its shows that so many directions I am confused.” I do own a geared cycle but it has been sometime since I pedaled around. ‘I will be dead in 50 kms man.’ He laughed and gave his usual rebuttal. ‘You are almost a decade younger than me. You should be thinking of 100 kms and 50 kms is nothing. But you have to give up smoking.’
Usually we plan the day early so by sundown we are back at the retreat enjoying the beautiful sunsets. So by noon we were kind of settling on the idea to cycle till Pulimooth point; the point 12 kms away from Vretreat where the Rver Tejaswini meets the Arabian Sea.
Vijayan, the friendly manager and yoga teacher of Vretreat overheard us and was willing to take us there in his car. ‘Well ‘Vijayan’ of we drive the whole point is defeated. Cycling has the best pace to observe and discover a place. Remember what Einstein said…there is much more to life than increasing its speed.’ We all had a hearty laugh. Post our lunch and and like 20 mins of power nap we started gearing up for the 24 kms challenge. I packed light, carried 2 bottles of water and my camera gear and we started off by 3 pm. We passed by the 1st jetty, Ration Kada and went further north going past the fork that connects Valiyaparamba Island to the mainland, the new bridge as they say. It must have not even been a Kilometer and I was struggling to keep pace with Vinod. Not only was he a better cyclist he also maintained a steady speed and soon he was no where to be seen. I carried on struggling to keep my pace and tried observing the neighbourhood I passed by. The sea was playing peekaboo on the left and to my right the river Tejaswini seemed anchored to the backyard of houses. Many had fishing trawlers moored to trees. Children ran around in the small lanes that led from the single road to pukka houses, some mansions. Even on a week day there was unhurried pace to every activity that I saw around. Every 500 metres there were small intersections with roads leading to both sides. Small shops lined these points and I realized that in every sense the people living around are self contained with whatever they need from this shops for their daily needs.
I had crossed mid point to Pulimooth by then. Even at mean sea level I found cycling to be quite a task. I reaslised what I lacked was endurance. The phone rang and it was Vinod. He was waiting for me 2 kms ahead in a small shop. It took me few minutes to reach there and I felt drained of energy when I parked the bike there. Vinod asked me if I was fine. I was panting and after splashing some water on my face I sat on a bench to catch my breathe. ‘You must not try to be fast while cycling on such roads. The heat and humidity can wear you off. Just pedal at the speed you are comfortable at and then maintain the pace.’ Vinod told me. ‘Lets head for the point or else it will get dark by the time we come back.’ He reiterated. We were back on the cycles and this time I followed his advice. I controlled my breathing and tried to be consistent in my pedaling maintaining an average speed all through. W passed few grand mosques, a temple and soon I realized that the sea and the river was converging. We came to a point from where we had to take a left to reach Pulimooth point. Ahead was the old bridge that connected Valiyaparamba Island to the mainland. But with two bridges now the place is more assessable and with Kannur International Airport coming up this year, North Kerala and this part is sure going to see a bit more tourist influx sans the rush of the North.
We were now almost few metres away from where the River Tejaswini meets the Arabian Sea. The sun had begun to descend. We got down from the cycles and pushed it along the rock embankment built to withstand the waves. Every few seconds the waves crashed into the rocks and sent a spray of salty water which was soothing experience. We stood there for few minutes watching the sea and river creating this magic orchestra. Nature in all its wonders and this beautiful land almost made us forget all our temporary worries. From the distance the Azan of the distant Mosque and Temple bells rang in unison. After a while what remained was the waves crashing in recurring motion. Vinod looked at his watch and gestured that we should leave as we still have to catch the sunset back in Vretreat. We pushed the cycles onto the sandy beach left of the embankment and soon found the tar road from where we had veered off. Vretreat was 12 kms away but I was confident that I will complete the 24 kms challenge. As we cycled back on the road we had taken I felt that North Kerela seemed to be left out from the mad rush of modernity that we find in many Indian cities and metropolis. I remembered what Vinod told us about Einstein that morning. There is indeed much more to life than increasing its pace.