Day 0 – 25th Dec 2010: Bangalore to Chidambaram (412 Km)
Day 1 – 26th Dec 2010: Chidambaram to Point Calimere (208 Km)
Day 2 – 27th Dec 2010: Point Calimere to Ramanathapuram (370 Km)
Day 3 – 28th Dec 2010: Ramanathapuram to Kanyakumari (291 Km)
Day 4 – 29th Dec 2010: Kanyakumari to Vathalagundu (413 Km)
Day 5 – 30th Dec 2010: Vathalagundu to Bangalore (508 Km)
Route Map (Interactive)
ODO Start – 30536
ODO End – 32736
Distance covered: 2200Km
Start Time: 0500 – Dec 25th, 2010
End Time: 1930 – Dec 30th, 2010
Total Cost:(including accommodation and petrol): Rs5811.30/-
Petrol Cost: Rs2310/-
Day 0 – Dec 25th, 2010
Km 0 (0)
A sense of ascetic pleasure overcome me as I plunge into the white abyss of Bangalore morning fog. It is cold and miserable outside at around 5am in the morning. The road is empty for it is too cold for most in Bangalore. It is not fun leaving a warm cosy house and head out on such a morning.
Yet there was lots to look forward to. 7 days, no itinerary, no plan but for a fixed time duration, a road map and my trusted bike for company.
My last year’s trip (Bike Trip – Kerala ) has given me more confidence that I am less prepared. The only preparation I have done is to get the bike serviced and buy a booklet of Tamil Nadu road map. The packing list is same as last year minus a few things like a jacket which doesn’t seem necessary.
And in my overconfidence I leave behind my language cheat-sheet. However, I did not miss it as most people I found were kind and patient enough to accommodate my language handicap. In addition I did not mind going down the wrong road or eat the wrong food based on the my wrong interpretation of the local language.
Odometer reads 30536Km. I wonder what it’ll be when I get back.
Riding through the fog is no fun. It is specially dangerous on a bike when most Bangalore drivers would not mind giving you a nudge off the road on pretext of the low visibility.
Km 20 (20)
I inch forward slowly heading past Varthur and take a break at Sarjapur. It is time to clean the glasses and the visor, for the mist accumulation has made the visibility even worse.
I am afraid I would hit people walking on the road. Here, quite unlike Bangalore there are people hurrying to their morning chores walking along the road.
There is more traffic on the highway as the truckers have a destination to reach and they can’t afford the luxury of staying in bed under a blanket.
I spy two yellow globes of light heading down the road. Finding a large truck, I hurry to fall behind him. It works out great as I use his rear light as the point guide and it saves me from the glares of oncoming traffic.
After a while the truck driver realizes that I am following him and often slows down for me to catch up when I fall behind. Nice guy.
I wave to thank him when we reach Attibele and head towards Hosur.
At the toll plaza, I stop again to clear my visor and glasses.
Though the fog shows no sign of abating, the ride is much easier on the divided road.
Km 59 (59)
The cold tempts me to stop for coffee at Krishna Cafe just before Shoolagiri. Coffee quickly turns into a breakfast of Masala Dosa and Pongal. Good grub. Expensive at 90 bucks for the three, but I ain’t complaining. The timing was correct.
The fog is gone when I come out. But for a few clouds, it probably will be a clear day.
Km 85 (85)
Krishnagiri toll plaza comes in no time. The sun is playing hide-n-seek with the clouds keeping the temperatures down.
Soon I’ll need to make my first route decision of the trip. After Krishnagiri NH46 goes to Chennai while NH66 goes to Pondicherry. Not the two places I want to go. Yet I do want to hit the coast somewhere near.
Km 92 (92)
The right to Pondicherry looms ahead even as I am contemplating. Straight ahead is well laid, multi-lane, divided but boring toll highway to Chennai. Towards the right is the undivided and probably pothole filled Pondicherry road. However on that lies the fort city of Gingee.
Knowing my inclination for the smaller roads I turn right.
There is an inherent quality about small undivided roads which make me partial towards them. To put in other words smaller country roads have a character which is attractive. The innumerable villages and small towns that they fathom makes riding on them interesting. Such roads may not be tempting for the traveller who arrives at a destination, but they are surely good for a rider who is there for the journey.
The road condition deteriorates immediately. Negotiating potholes and bad patches I head on.
Km 142 (142)
The road is still bad while the scenery improves. Unlike the recently built divided toll highways, trees line the road and make for good stopping point.
Stopping under one such tree, I stretch out and have a closer look at the map. It is time to form an idea on the route I would take for the day. After some pondering, turning south from Gingee looks interesting.
Km 190 (190)
My growling stomach forces a stop. I polish off an orange I have kept in my bags. It is getting hot, so I remove the sweater and jacket. Wanting to relax a little more, I lie down and stretch out on a parapet. There is a small stream of dirty water flowing on the other side. The sound of flowing water makes me drowsy and before I know it I am asleep.
I wake up cold. The sun is gone, covered under a thick layer of clouds. Overcoming the urge to laze around more I mount and head on.
Km 208 (208)
Thiruvannaamalai is the biggest city on the route so far.
From the outskirts I can see a city with important temples.
Lots of yogis and tourists are walking to the road. Surprisingly there are a lot of foreigners roaming around the city. Signs of some famous ashram in the vicinity.
For me, it is no different from the innumerable small village in India which have grown haphazardly into medium-sized towns.
There are branded stores along the main road indicating adequate economic potential in the city.
Nothing much to interest me in a place like this.
Km 248 (248)
Gingee. I have been looking forward to see this place since I came down this road in early 2006.
The road goes through the fort. You can take a right (coming from Bangalore) and drive inside to get to various temples other parts of the Rajagiri fort. On the left there is a small parking space. After parking you can walk up to additional structure which are located further inside.
I first turned right and spent some time looking at the structures on the left.
Deciding against walking up to the fort on the other side, I clicked a picture from the parking lot.
Turning south from Gingee, the roads instantly improve.
Km 273 (273)
Driving on well laid road with green fields and distance hills is probably the best it gets for my kind of riding. Opening up the visor to take in the wind, I break into a song.
Enjoying myself, I contemplate on why I like this kind of solo riding. I don’t think I know enough to put into words. It is something you just feel and enjoy.
A board points to rock-cut temples down a narrow road. It takes me a minute to decide to go down that path. Having hurtled past the turn, I turn around and head towards the unknown.
After the first board on the main road, the signs abandon me and I end up in the village with surprised eyes look at me as an alien.
Here’s the fun of communicating without knowing the local language. I ask for temple, mandir and even make a temple shape with my hands. No success. One person who seemed to understand, points me back to the main road. Heading back, I spy a roadside board with nothing on it. Apparently the weather had washed away the wordings.
On one side is a water filled ditch. On other is a goat track, barely wide enough to take the bike. I head down that path and discover the rock-cut temple with its priest.
It is a small temple cut into a very large boulder. There is a small courtyard with a large lake on the other end. A woman is washing clothes off a large rock jutting out into the lake.
Nice serene atmosphere. I fish out some food from my saddle bags and picnic along with the priest.
Not knowing each other language, we communicate in an attempt to converse. I think he understood the Bangalore part and deduced that I am travelling from there on the bike. His attempts to lure me into the garbha griha were a failure.
After a much-needed rest I move on.
Km 300 (300)
After roaming around and getting lost a few times I manage to get out of Villupuram. It is funny how people in medium to large towns often misdirect you while in smaller cities and villages the directions are pretty much spot on.
The roads deteriorate after Villupuram and the entire day of riding has my ass hurting.
On reaching Panruti, I decide to head towards Chidambaram. The target is to get to Pichavaram. Night stay is being planned at the guest house there.
Km 357 (357)
Realizing that I haven’t had my lunch, I stop at a junction to eat.
After a modest lunch of two tea, a cream puff and left over bread from my bags, I turn east towards Chidambaram.
Km 384 (384)
Taking the Chidambaram bypass I head to Pichavaram.
Pichavaram can be reaching by heading east from the NH 45A around 5 Km in the direction of Cuddalore from Chidambaram. The village is about 12 Km after you get off NH 45A.
Pichavaram is the second largest Mangrove forest in the world. These mangrove trees have their roots a few feet of water.
Though I saw lots of boards touting eco-tourism, the only thing of interest was the boat ride. The amount of plastic garbage strewn around the boat house area did not indicate any eco friendliness.
There was no lodge at the place and I was to find out the next day that the forest department lodge had been closed down.
The queue for boating was long with several student groups queued up.
Deciding against a boating attempt, I turn back to Chidambaram to hunt for accommodation for the night.
On way back, the sunset was pretty over the flooded paddy fields.
Km 406 (406)
In Chidambaram, I first went to the bus stand area as most of the smaller cheaper lodges are located there. To my surprise, non of them was willing to give a room. Most had excuses that either there was no vacant room or that the only rooms available was for 4-6 people. One hotel asked for Rs6000/- for a dingy room, clearly wanting to dissuade me from taking the room.
After trying around 10 places, I head back towards the outskirts where I had seen a lodge on my way in to the city.
It is here that I found a room for Rs315/-. It cost me Rs320/- as the guy did not return the change and I did not insist.
After a bath and some rest, I washed my t-shirt. GIven that I was travelling extremely light, I wanted to have fresh clothes around.
I then went down and talked with the guard. The old man’s name was Ramubu. He may have adopted it from Rambo or perhaps I mis-heard his Tamil accent.
He had been a guard at that place for 20yrs. After marrying off his daughter he was taking it easy. Aaram as he explained to me.
Ramubu knew a smattering of hindi as he had spent 6 months in Delhi long ago. Surprising he did remember places like Munirka, Hauz Khas and AIIMS (which he referred to only as hospital).
We talked a little, Some about his Delhi stay and his fondness for Delhi alu parantha and some about my bike ride, why I was riding and where I was going.
After asking him referrals for dinner, I head out.
After searching for the places Ramubu recommended and not finding anything interesting, I found a place called Kareem with fresh parontha being made in a large tawa at the entrance. I went in wanting to eat some non-veg.
I ask for parontha and fish. The waiter seemed surprised and went to call the owner who explained to me that it was a pure veg place.
Being extremely hungry I asked him to bring whatever he had. In the end I had a feast of 6 paronthas, 1 omelet, 1 tea and lots of sambhar like curry and coconut chutney.
Stuffed I went back to the room and dozed off going over the maps. Sometimes later I woke up to switch off the lights.
Km 412 (412)