Chennai to Rameshwaram – Post experience – Part II of IV

The East Cost Road (ECR) that runs from Chennai to the southern tip of Tamil Nadu is absolutely the perfect route for a bicycle ride.. it is smooth and well maintained (no pot-holes), has a clearly marked track for 2-wheelers, is not heavy on truck traffic and since it is along the coast, it does not vary in altitude by much. Also, there are good places of tourist interest along with the way and numerous beaches and light-houses. This ECR was the setting for numerous memorable experiences for us between 25th and 29th Dec 2011. We started very early on a cold Sunday morning –at 2 AM so that we could reach Pondicherry before dusk. The idea was to get to Mahabalipuram for sun-rise and then continue riding from there. But our energy levels were very high and we got to Mahaballipuram too early to witness dawn. In fact, we reached Kalpakkam by the time sun rose and settled for breakfast in a nice road-side restaurant. As soon as daylight set in, we became objects of curiosity and everyone on the road gave us a second look. Some commented ‘hey.. look.. foreigners’ or ‘look.. cycle race’ or something like that. Children waved at us and adults wanted to talk to us.. and we enjoyed all the attention we were getting. We stopped only for food or if our muscles were too tired. Else, we kept riding – drinking water and snacking while on the bike. Our progress was really fast on day 1 and we rode past our planned destination Pondicherry. We took a long break in the afternoon in front of a closed shop by the road-side and Ragavendra took a nap. A local heavy-machine (JCB) driver picked up a conversation with me and started recounting how wonderful his childhood experience with his bicycle was.. he said ‘my bicycle was like Benz.. I could fly on it.. I would reach 25 KMs within 1 hr..’. I have not known a Benz to fly.. but could relate to what he said! Day 2 involved riding from Cuddalore to Chidambaram.. here again, the roads were lovely and KMs disappeared into thin air as we zipped along. We had to make a small fix to the front wheel of my bike and found an excellent mechanic in Chidambram to get this done quickly. We then drove past the Sirgazhii temple and took a deviation to reach the historic city of Poompuhar. The ride was by a narrow winding road through paddy fields and ponds.. words or photos cannot do justice to the beauty of the place.. also, I learnt a bit about Poompuhar while riding there. Poompuhar is a city that has now been swallowed by the sea.. it was a major trading city in the olden times where ships from Rome and other parts of Europe would set anchor.. the city forms the setting for the Kovalan-Kanagi-Madhavi starrer epic Silapathikaram.
There is nothing special in today’s Poompuhar other than an attempt by the government to attract tourists with a museum. But, the history of the place has an unmistakable pull towards it.. From Poompuhar, we reconnected with the ECR and it took us to the ancient town of Tranquebar or Tarangambadi. It is an ancient Danish settlement – from about 400 years ago when the English, French, Dutch and Danish were trying to assert their superiority in India.. (we all know that the British won.. and that is why we are doing this update in English today!). Tranquebar has a lovely beach and a small Danish fort that is being built up into a tourist destination now. From there, another ride took us past the port-town of Karaikal. Just as we crossed Karaikal, the work shifts in the harbor were coming to a close and people were pouring out from the port to the road in their thousands.. it almost felt like walking out of a cricket stadium after a game. We snaked thru the crowd and reached the Naagore Dargah (mosque). It was clear that this mosque had something special in it.. I tried to sit in meditation in the inner chambers of the mosque.. but the need to reach Nagapattinam before it was too late made me come out in a hurry. We then found a decent enough hotel in Nagapattinam and slept for the night.



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Palaniselvan, Sababathy

Sriram, Vasudevan

Sankarasivan, Natarajan

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