Continuing with my past travelogues, this is the second post (this was the first) on my road trips to the Union Territory of Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu (Wikipedia link, do read if not familiar with Pondicherry). As I mentioned earlier, I may not be able recount every name or for that matter, everything since, well…. it’s been a while!
Date: 8-9th December, 2007
Four of us, one car. One weekend, two destinations.
We left Bangalore around 6am on the same route as before. Soon after the Tamil Nadu border, we stopped at the A1 restaurant adjoining the Reliance Petrol station for breakfast (not sure if it’s still there now).
The food was good, prices were economical, facilities were good (toilet, snack store etc.) and it was clean. By 8am, we were back on the good roads. Then we took the diversion on to the bad.
It was pretty much a non-stop straight drive to Pondicherry but we did take a break once we reached Gingee. I first noticed the hill on the way back from my first trip to Pondicherry.
This time, I made sure I checked it out. Only problem is, you have to climb quite a lot of steps to get to Gingee Fort. And it was hot.
It took us nearly 20 minutes to climb to the top (we did stop at intervals for a breather and to drink lots of water). But once we got to the top, I didn’t regret the climb.
According to Wikipedia, Gingee Fort was called the “Troy of the East” by the British and was well-fortified.
By 1:30pm, we were in Pondicherry and we drove straight to Beach Road — for two reasons. One, we were going to hang around Beach Road anyway and second, Loi was going to see an ocean/sea/bay for the first time in his life! For someone from a North East Indian state, the longing to hit the beach is one big aspiration. Though there really wasn’t much of a “beach” in Pondicherry city, the waters of the Bay of Bengal were good enough now.
After letting Loi enjoy his time (for a few minutes), we had lunch — decent, nothing worth recommending.
At lunch, we discussed our plans for the rest of the evening. The plan was to leave for Mahabalipuram that same day but we decided to take it easy and set off the next morning. Problem is, we hadn’t booked rooms. So after lunch and strolling around a bit, we tried all the hotels/lodges/guesthouses in and around Beach Road. Unfortunately, most of them were full or too expensive.
So we drove a bit away from town and found a resort where we got a hut for the four of us for around Rs. 1000 (sorry, don’t remember the name of the place). It was pretty basic but we took it as we only needed a place to crash for the night. After filling in the necessary paperwork, we checked in and then headed back to Beach Road. We hung around Beach Road until the sun set.
We decided on the Hotel de Pondicherry — ‘cos it looked all classy.
After dinner, we walked a bit more to soak in as much as we could of Beach Road as this was our last night in Pondicherry.
The next morning, we checked out of the resort at the break of dawn and got on to the famed East Coast Road to head for Mahabalipuram. We wanted to get on to this road early to avoid the traffic and it was a good move. It was a beautiful drive!
The drive from Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram took us nearly 2 hours. En route, we saw the many projects that were taken up along this stretch to rehabilitate those affected by the 2004 Tsunami.
Once we reached the coastal town, our first stop was the Shore Temple.
And then, hit the beach.
After a while, we got a bit of drizzle from the skies, so we headed back to our car. We drove off to our next stop, the Paanch Rathas of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is a part of Mahabalipuram that can be best described as a “mini-Goa” with its funky-named restaurants and stores selling the hobo-wares. And if you haven’t experienced Goa (or didn’t get what I wrote)… here is where you’ll find a lot of restaurants serving sea food and where you can do your shopping.
It was close to the beach as well which made it a good place to hang out. I bought some stuff for a friend and then decided to lunch.
The reason we sat all the way up is because they asked us to. You see, a lot of restaurants here don’t have the license to serve beer. But they still stock it and serve… but in steel glasses and only upstairs. So the officials don’t catch them.
Since it was quite hot, we really couldn’t do without a glass of chilled beer. The sea food at Moonrakers was obviously very fresh with the fishermen being so close.
The food at Moonrakers was really good for the price (which was very reasonable).
After a satisfying lunch, it was back on to the ECR for Chennai.
We reached Chennai and then asked around as to how to essentially get out of the city and on to the Chennai-Bangalore highway.
After an hour or so in Chennai traffic, we finally made it to the outskirts.
And if you thought the ECR was the last of the good rides you’d get in Tamil Nadu…
The Chennai to Bangalore highway is one of the best roads in India and even though you have to pass through 4 to 5 toll gates, it’s worth the money.
Seven hours later, we were in Bangalore city.
It was quite a packed weekend. Left on a early Saturday morning and returned on a Sunday night. Saw quite a bit and yet, we never really felt rushed or tired. Probably because it was my second time to Pondicherry so we really didn’t go around there much.
Safe to say, if you want a good road trip in South India — this is definitely it!
Camera used: Canon Powershot A95; post processing done in Photoshop CS3, especially the blues which were cyan heavy
P.S: I know, twice I’ve been to Pondicherry and I still didn’t go to Auroville. Well, there’s always a third time!