Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A solo ride to Pondicherry

For the last 2 years, we were planning and postponing the road trip from Chennai to Pondicherry on the famous East Coast Road which runs parallel to the sea coast. This year, we had finalized but I cancelled in August. Suddenly one day an idea struck me to go alone and it struck me too hard to resist. I didn't tell anyone and booked the flight to Chennai and rented an avenger. Sorry Vivek, Gaurav and Rahul for leaving you out on this trip. One day, I told Gaurav by mistake and I had to literally beg him to let me go alone this time.

So on 3rd September 2016, I left from office, parked my bike at the airport and flew off to say Vanakkam Chennai. I received a setback when I got to know that the avenger I had booked met with an accident and was not available and had to settle with the next best alternative, Yamaha FZ. The best thing about this bike was the colour, my favorite, Red. Finally, I was taking a bike on a long ride after one looooong year after Leh. Hello ECR, here I come!

I installed the newly bought mobile mount on my wrist and started recording my journey. The climate was a little on the hot side that day but only after 10-15 minutes on the ECR, I felt a cool breeze on my face lifting my spirit. Beach was in the vicinity and could catch its glimpses from the road in regular intervals. At one place, I saw that little off-roading could lead the bike to the shore. I made a mental note to do this while returning as I wanted to reach Pondicherry first. Finally, after 3 hours of riding in the sun and getting all tanned before even reaching Pondicherry, I took a stop at Serenity beach on the way. It was calm and beautiful as the name suggests. 20 minutes of more riding and I was at my hotel, thanks to Bing maps.

I had my lunch and took a much needed short nap of 2 hours. After waking up, I went straight to the rocky beach near my hotel. The french architecture could be seen all over the place. The beach was too crowded but still the air was quiet and soothing. I walked across the whole beach seeing all the monuments on the way - French war memorial, Gandhi statue, old light house and Kargil war memorial. The only cafe on the beach, Le Cafe, was bustling with customers where I could not get a seat even after waiting 15 minutes. As the evening progressed, I started roaming towards the city to have some food and some music pulled me towards it. There was a live performance going on at a restaurant and I immediately went inside. Although the singer was singing mostly regional songs which I didn't understand a bit, the ambience and mushrooms were delightful. After my stomach was full, I spent few more hours on the beach, listening to the waves colliding on the rocks before calling it a day.

Next morning, I had a long list of places to visit. Being on the east coast, I had planned to see sunrise on the beach but the sun played spoil sport and even after waiting from 6-8am, I only got disappointment. After an awesome complementary breakfast at my hotel, I started my journey to cover the city. My first stop was Basilica of Sacred Heart of Jesus near to my hotel. Next, I just rode where roads led me (while keeping the count of lefts and right I was turning) and reached Uppalam Harbour beach. It was beautiful but the sight at the other end was even better. Right across the ocean, there was a beautiful harbor but no way to reach there. I started the maps and saw an alternate route of 20km to reach there. 

While finding the Veerampattinam harbor, I reached the most beautiful Paradise beach. This had very few people and a long coastline as far as I could see. People love to become photographers these days. You give them your phone to click one photo and they will click 3-4 in different poses. I finally found my Veerampattinam beach after a lot of struggle with Bing maps and help of a few local residents. The harbor I was finding was near by. It was simply amazing and had a better view as seen from the other end of the ocean, worth all the trouble I went through to find this. It was a pretty secluded beach with only a couple of kids playing in some distance. There were big tetrapod stones( just like on the marine drive) kept over one another to form a long stretch of harbor. I tried climbing over these to get a glimpse of the ocean from its top. "Khudi Ko kar buland itna, chadha main jaise taise, aur fir khud se hi bola, bhaisaab ab uturunga kaise?" On reaching the top, the view was marvelous but now it seemed like big gaps between these rocks and a slight fear ran of how I would get down. Now, even the kids I had seen earlier were not present there that I could call for help. I called Souvik and we laughed together - "Ye idhar udhar chadhne ki aadat nahi jaegi". After sitting and relaxing there for some time, I somehow managed to get down without falling in between those rocks.

It had been a tiring long day and on reaching my hotel, I took a shower and slept the whole evening. On waking up, I strolled along the near by market but could not find anything interesting to buy when I accidently bumped into Akshay Kanoria. We had lived in the same house in Kota, had kept in touch after that but it was a nice surprise catching up there in Pondicherry. On riding back to the rocky beach, I saw a long line at cafe Xtasi and found they specialized in wood fried pizza. I stopped there to try it and had to wait an hour in queue before ordering a medium size exotic pizza. The minute my pizza made an entry, the smell made me forget the wait. The pizza really looked exotic (full of mushrooms) and it was deliciously mindblowing. Then I spent a couple of hours at the rocky beach. Traveling the whole day, I didn't miss anyone but sitting alone on the beach made me feel lonely and yes, as you had warned, I did miss you Gaurav. As the night progressed, there were fewer people on the beach and a couple sitting next to me started kissing. Soon, they were center of attraction of everyone passing by. Couple of minutes later, few policemen came and took them away. I started back towards my hotel when a light shower started to fall.

Next morning, I checked out from my hotel and started my journey back to Chennai. On my way back, I remembered the place where I had to drift down from the road to the beach. It was risky but there was no one to change my mind. So, I did it and am glad I did that. Riding the bike alongside the waves is certainly a good memory. I stopped at Mahabalipuram in between and visited the light house and Mahishamardini mandapa, a large cave and temple carved out of a single stone. Mahabalipuram had a very crowded beach where I rode a horse and tried my hands at balloon shooting after a very long time. Finally, I reached Chennai but it was already late for my flight. I took an auto which got stuck on traffic. Then, on his suggestion, I took the local train and reached airport just in time for my flight. Mission accomplished - riding on the East Coast road and a solo trip. Let me sleep over this new feat in my flight back to Pune. 

Sleeping me : Everest, you are still a distant dream!