January 15th, 2010
Let me start off with some statistics
No. of days – 3.5 (31-Dec-2009 afternoon to 3-Jan-2010)
No. of bikes – 10
No. of people – Around 20
Total Distance (home to home) – 1004 kms
Top Speed – 110 kmph (I know Wild Kannan wouldn’t agree but this is what my speedo displayed)
Lowest Speed – 35 kmph (lowest speed on top gear)
Best Chunks of Road – Chidambaram to Pichavaram, Vailankanni to Vedaranyam, NH-45
Worst Chunk of Road – Vedaranyam to Mannargudi
Most Challenging Drive – Chidambaram to Karaikal
No. of minor accidents – Ninety eight minus ninety nine plus two (Clue: Its a signed integer).
No. of major accidents – Nine Thousand point five six four seven divided by four hundred and sixty eight point two into zero
Ride to Pondy – 31st Dec 09
Its been a long while since the last drive to Pondy on ECR and today the chance came again. Part of the gang of bikers met at Besant Nagar beach and started off after a quick roll call. Some more joined us on ECR & after filling up petrol, we were good to go. Somewhere after Kalpakkam, we stopped for a snack on an otherwise non-stop drive. Soon, we reached Pondy
The whole of Pondy was in festive mood & it obviously spread to us as well. Else, why would a gang go to Pondy on 31st of December? Our resort of sorts was close to the beach and while stuff was being arranged, few of us went to the beach.
Its Party Time Baby!
Bottles, cups, soda, snacks, dinner and what not were brought in & a noisy toast was raised . Yours truly got enough high on a mocktail of sprite + coke + oorga (pickle) that he decided not to go near anything else. While the party was on in full swing, we came to know that Pondicherry tourism department was organizing some fireworks near the main beach. Many of us went there & we saw the worst ever fireworks that a tourism department could put together. Heck! even the kid next door burst more crackers during Deepavali!
On the way back, we were enthusiastically greeted HAPPY NEW YEAR by gangs of teenagers and we repeated it out to them. Few scoops of delicious ice-cream later, we reached our resort. By this time, the Lunar Eclipse was just starting out. It was a very beautiful sight. I was seeing it unfold above me and was completely dumbstruck!
Back at the resort, the party was on in full-swing and birthday bums session was on … Soon enough, there was enough fun for everyone to see and laugh (though I won’t say what).
Day 1 – The New Year Dawns – 1-Jan-2010
With the dawn of the new year, we started quite late after the party last night. After a heavy breakfast at Pondy it was already 11 AM. We decided that we would proceed to Chidambaram and then halt for the night at Karaikal or Nagapattinam depending on the situation. Until Cuddalore, the road was only “ok” of sorts. After Cuddalore though, the road turned out to be awesome. The gentle growl of my bike’s engine soon became a roar as the rubber blazed the tar … Soon, Nachu raced ahead of us and stopped at a place where trees were arranged beautifully and would do well for a photograph.
From all the ride since morning, we were dirty and dusty & it would be great if we had a waterfall or a pool nearby (recent trek effect you see). Soon enough, there was also a paddy field at the place where we stopped & there was a bore well & pump over there . Water gushed from the pump and was pouring in to the fields because paddy needs stagnant water to grow. We asked the farmers whether we can take bath in that pump. As soon as we got the nod, we ran towards it in all glee.
Fun ensued! water splashing, jumping etc. etc. We were also making so much noise to attract views from the highway . After the much need refreshment and bath, we blazed through to Chidambaram.
Road to Pichavaram
En route to Chidambaram, there is this HUGE Mangrove forests called Pichavaram. Its about 16km from Chidambaram. Its so huge that its bound by the sea in one end and has plenty of small islands inside. All these islands are full of lush Mangrove and they attract plenty of birds every year. Just before Chidambaram, there’s an awesome road that takes you to Pichavaram.
The road to Pichavaram quickly widened into a very wide freshly laid tar road that was damn smooth. There was absolutely no traffic on the opposite side & there weren’t any markings too … meaning, the road had been laid recently. Most importantly, the length of the stretch was visible from the starting point. I was excited to the core and I was also driving single at that time. I twisted the accelerator to the maximum and burst ahead . The road was too tempting to not do it.
And then … at a certain point, time stopped. Everything that had been moving in a dazed blur stopped. I could see miles ahead and miles together on the sides. The sun was giving a glint on every object in front of me. The sight was beautiful & I was “in the moment” … totally absorbed & thinking about nothing except being rooted in the moment. I didn’t realize my bike was slowing down. The moment was just too beautiful to let it slip away. Few seconds later, Nachu overtook me and suddenly the trance was broken by the right indicator from his bike. The direction board read, “Pichavaram –> 10km”. That particular 6km ride was the ride of the day for me. These same moments materialized again when we came back on the same route to proceed to Chidambaram.
Boating at Pichavaram
Boats can be engaged at Pichavaram to tour its vast expanse of Mangroves. If you cajol the oarsman, you can even visit certain inside spots that are usually not taken by the them. We took a motor boat. Until our time slot became available, we were waiting at the watch tower nearby. This watch tower had a telescope using which we could see those distant birds on the Mangroves. I could identify Egrets with their yellow beaks from recent Flora and Fauna workshop (Thanks Gowtham & Hopeland), of course Parakeets and some storks.
The water surrounding the Mangroves are just about 5-6 feet deep at their maximum and only about 3-4 feet deep at their minimum. As our boat left the shore, I couldn’t help being captured by the beauty of the Mangroves. Birds were everywhere & at many spots, we switched off the engine of the motor boat so that we could watch them in absolute silence … tuning ourselves to the sights and sounds of the forest around. After cajoling the oarsman for sometime, he agreed to take us to some places inside, which are even more breathtaking. Initially, it gave an eerie feeling but it soon disappeared as soon as beauty took over.
After a pleasurable boat ride into the Mangrove wilderness, it was time to touch the shore.
Chidambaram – Tharangambadi (Tranquebar) – Karaikal
It looked like Jan 1 was a religious day. The Siva temple and the roads to it were crowded beyond measure & so we pushed ahead. It was almost 6 PM now and the sun was setting in the horizon. Stomach bells were ringing out loud. We made a stop at the tea stall and had hot bajjis with some delicious tea & a few pineapple slices to cool down the hot tongue. The next stop was Tharangambadi or Tranquebar; about 40km away from Chidambaram. Tharangambadi is an old Dutch Colony which is also home to a Fort, now turned in to a museum. Since it was dark by the time we reached there, we couldn’t visit the Fort. Hence, it was decided that we would skip it and proceed to Karaikal.
In those few minutes of the twilight zone, we came across a wonderful patch of road, portions of which were under construction. Those parts where the construction was completed was splendid. We were driving in patterns in that road. It was beautiful and as the sun was just setting, everyone’s spirit rose to the tune of the nature.
It became dark quickly and the road’s width lessened to an extent where only one lorry or bus could go comfortably. Added to it, there were wild twists and turns along the road. It was a very adventurous ride. The only advantage that we had was that the road was decent enough. No huge pot holes and no unannounced speed breakers. So we ‘up’ped the speed a little bit and did all those curves and bends in about 60-70kmph speed. One curve was damn awesome and I loved it. The roads were completely dark and we had to rely on our bike’s headlight only. At one point, the road curved ahead and naturally we also turned and stabilized … only to find out that the turn hadn’t completed yet. So we immediately bent again and took the curve near the edge of the small road. At another point, a stupid tata sumo overtook a lorry without any warning and sent us in a cloud of dust
This ride ensured that all of us would stay awake throughout & I was left wanting for more when the road widened and led us in to Tranquebar. The drive from here to Karaikal was a cake-walk. Roads were good and wide. We reached Karaikal at around 8.30pm, had dinner and headed to the beach to chill off. Part of the gang attempted suicide by watching Vettaikaran (recently released Dr. Vijay’s movie – kkrrrrrrthooooo!). We were shocked at their plight when they came back from the movie he he…
Day 2 – Karaikal to Vedaranyam
Second day started very early. The destination today was Point Calimere or Kodiyakarai (as its known in Tamil). All along the route, its a haven for birds and hence, we had to start early to capture the beautiful sunrise and also the birds chirping and being active. We had chai at a beautiful place after Nagapattinam and started towards Vedaranyam; which is home to a Bird Sanctuary.
After a railway crossing near Nagapattinam, we had to take a left to go towards Vedaranyam. I must tell you that this was the best road next to the Chidambaram-Pichavaram route. This new road from Nagapattinam to Vedaranyam was very wide and had the necessary road signs. However, there’s no traffic on the opposite side and if you were on that road, you would fly.
Just imagine this. We crossed the morning twilight zone and it’s bright. No signs of the sun yet.. but it’s bright & the visibility is good. The mist is still lingering around and literally drenches everything in its vicinity. I shot ahead on this road early in the morning and with no traffic on the opposite side, it was driver’s bliss. I was in one of those moments again and nothing could break it now. This road extended for quite a few kilometres until we came to a fork which pointed Vedaranyam to the left side. We were now surrounded on both sides by lush green fields. Sky was showing tinges of orange now & I felt my mood getting elated automatically. Those dew drops in the grass opened up their presence by shining brightly & within few minutes I was in another of those moments … Man! You should’ve been there to experience what I’m explaining. It was an ecstatic feeling. Words will never do justice. It was in one of those moments that the picture below was clicked by Jason You can see how much joy there was!
We then stopped to click the rising sun. After plenty of photography and torturing the poor Jason, we moved ahead and stopped again 30 minutes later. At this spot, I could recognize the Brain Fever Bird, thanks to its unique calling & thanks to the Fauna workshop a week ago. Some more driving later, we came to a field where a white necked, golden brown bodied eagle was perched. Erect in its stance, it looked majestic and I could see that it was showing the finger to the world . We approached it very carefully & clicked some nice close-ups. Then we moved on non-stop to Point Calimere.
Kodiyakarai, as Point Calimere is known locally, is a combination of three things. It has a Wildlife Sanctuary, a Lagoon and a Holy Shrine of Lord Rama. Since this place is very close to Vedaranyam, its also home to plenty of birds and its shallow Lagoons are a sight in themselves. Srilanka is just about 48km across the sea from this place. The weather was splendid today and there was even some drizzle. We drove towards the lagoon. Roads ended soon and we were wondering what to do because we wanted to go to the center of the lagoon.
The answer was obvious! Time for some serious off-roading. Bumping along the salty bunds, we drove our bikes there; getting down near the sand at times and coming back up again. We drove like this for what looked like 5kms and we stopped at a point where the bunds ended. At this point there was water all around us. What would happen if tsunami struck now was the thought running through my mind and mind you, “Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink” . The locals told us that much of the lagoons are shallow and some people were harvesting prawns from the shallow waters.
Kingfishers were showing off their expertise on nose-diving and picking up fish as one or two neared the surface. Storks were blissfully pecking at their food at a distance and oblivious to the presence of us humans. After spending some time here breathing some nice salty air, we thought it was time to move to the next destination – Tanjore.
Few people had slept through Nachu’s wake up call. So they got up later and visited the Dutch Fort at Tranquebar and joined us in Tanjore directly.
Sri Ramar Padham (or) Lord Rama’s Footprints – Point Calimere
Legend says that it was at this point that Lord Rama evaluated the army of Ravana and that it was from this point that Hanuman made his iconic jump to Lanka in search of Sita. After clicking a few snaps here, we headed back to Vedaranyam.
We had superb brunch at a hotel in Vedaranyam. After filling up our stomach, we realized we were stinking a lot from around 6 hours of driving since today morning. Part of the gang started off to Tanjore. The Siva temple nearby had a huge tank inside and that we could swim in it was enough to make me and Nachu stay back. We could catch up with them pretty easily or so we thought. After a refreshing swim in the temple’s tank, we started on the route to Tanjore via Thiruthuraipoondi and Mannargudi.
Worst Roads Ever – Vedaranyam to Mannargudi
This was the worst ever piece of road we had driven on during the whole of the trip. The road with its twists and turns had plenty of pot holes. Added to it, there was considerable traffic in the opposite direction when we were nearing villages. Certain patches of road were good though and we made the most of it. The twists and bends were continuous and it was like driving in hills except that the altitude wasn’t there.
My bum was blown out when we reached Mannargudi and we had to take a break to cool off our butts. Soon the Mohan couple joined us (they spent extra time at the Sanctuary in Point Calimere) and the four of us proceeded towards the temple town of Tanjore in three bikes. Thanks to the swim at the temple, otherwise we would have been damn frustrated after the ride to Mannargudi.
Tanjore was still 40kms away.
Mannargudi to Tanjore
From Mannargudi, the roads became better. There were fields on both sides of the road and I was already thinking of a second bath in those paddy fields. They were lush green and looked very inviting. However, the need to catch up with the rest of the dudes kept us driving … until we were about 2kms from Tanjore. We called Wild Kannan and they told us that the rest of the gang were enjoying at a small stream off the road. We couldn’t locate them however and also decided we needed a bath to chill off. Near the Tanjore railway line crossing, we noticed a coconut farm and a paddy field beside it.
After getting permission, we jumped in and cooled off for more than 45 minutes; the four of us taking turns to stand under the huge pipe through which water was gushing at tremendous speed.
A quick call to confirm their locations later, we pushed off to Tanjore and met them near the Tanjore’s Siva Temple.
The Tanjore Temple
If you are going to Tanjore, you shouldn’t miss the Siva Temple. Its huge and has amazing architecture. It also has the biggest Siva Lingam in India and was constructed by the great Chola kings. Every time I visit this place, I’m awed by its vibe. It lifts one’s spirit like none other. Day 2 of the trip was turning out to be great. A great “moment” in the morning at sunrise and another great “moment” during sunset. I couldn’t ask for more on this day
As the Sun was just setting, I clicked some silhouettes and some pictures of the main Gopuram. As it became dark, the lighting on the temple tower and on the Nandi was kind of excellent. Thanks to Wild who taught me some long exposure techniques, I did some experiment today. After sometime, this picture came out decently.
After a nice dinner and a Tamil lesson from an American, I crashed and went to sleep in an instant. The day had come to a peaceful end.
Day 3 – Trichy to Chennai
We started at around 8am from Tanjore and proceeded to this place called Kallanai or The Grand Anaicut. Its a huge dam built on Kaveri by the erstwhile Karikala Cholan. Centuries later, this dam is still in use and is maintained by the Government. A few snaps here and there and then it was time to move. Bypassing Trichy, we entered into the awesome NH-45 highway. This highway is a straight stretch between Chennai and among other major destinations, Trichy.
On the way, we stopped somewhere before Dindivanam and had another great bath under a pump set at a paddy field . We blazed through this highway and returned to Chennai by evening after a superb bike trip! The start to this new year was something special that I can never forget.
Chennai – Pondicherry – Cuddalore – Chidambaram – Tharangambadi (Tranquebar) – Karaikal – Nagapattinam – Vailankanni – Vedaranyam – Kodiyakarai (Point Calimere) – Thanjavur – Trichy – Chennai
Home to home, the distance was 1004.03 kms that was recorded on my bike.
What’s a trip without albums? Here are a few. Go through them and check out the fun we had
WISH YOU A VERY HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR . The beginning to this year couldn’t have been better