French connections

Day 7 – Thursday, June 9

It’d been a long time since I’d been to the shores of the east coast. Although I’d been staying in Chennai, the last few weekends were spent somewhere or the other, and never on the beach. It was just the right time to get back! I wasn’t on time this morning. By the time I was out of bed, the sky was lit. Thirty minutes to 5 AM, I freshened up and got on the streets. I headed out of Pondy a little so that I could access the sandy beaches. The one in the city is rocky and is a different experience all together.

I drove out for about 10 kms before I could see the sea from the road. I went in search of a passage that could connect me to the sandy area and found one pretty close by. I was a little reluctant initially to get the Ninja inside, but I decided to go for it, since I could always get the help from fishermen if needed.

I made sure I got down from the bike and pushed it in with a little bit of engine power. This way, I could reduce more wheel spins thereby reducing the sand content getting in. It was getting a little difficult when I closed in near the sea, but I got it standing perfectly in a few minutes. Finally, when the bike was in position, I could not make it lean on the stand since the stand was going into the sand. I had to remove one of my shoes to support it and go and find a replacement. Someone someday had given up their footwear to the sea. It was lying on the shore nearby. I used it to prevent my shoe from any further damage.


Enjoing the sunrise on the beach shore


Listening to the sound of the waves

If you have ever sat on a sea shore, you would probably know how connecting the sound of the waves is. If you have never been there, you should go some time. It’s just worth it. I was lying down on the sand near my beautiful bike and spent about an hour, speechless! At some point, I felt the sun right on face, burning the skin. I was walking by the waters feeling the wind to forget the heat.

A few fishermen passed the place and they suddenly started digging the sand. A few minutes later, I could see only one foot of a guy. He was under the sand, right in the hole he’d dug. The rest of them were watching him, standing around him and telling him something. I locked the bike and went closer. The man submerged under the sand suddenly came out. He had a crab in the hand.

They were crab hunting.

I followed them to the next spot where the same guy repeated the act. They were friendly enough to let me tape the footage. Once the guy caught the crab, he broke a part of the crab’s left claw, and used it to pierce the right claw. I was telling that would be extremely painful for the poor thing, but he shot back saying that’s the way to keep them from biting. Well, I wasn’t buying that, but that’s how I guess it is.


Crab caught


The C.S.O. (Crab Special Ops) Lead

I started getting the bike back from the shore. It was harder to push it up the slope than getting it to the shore. I went back the same way to wander a little in the city. I headed to the beach area. On the way, I spotted a couple of Karate girls riding behind their father. I was wondering which part of Pondy they were from. I’d love to avoid it.

The beach area in the city was picking up. People were relaxing, while more cars came in. The stretch had been closed for vehicle traffic, and all vehicles had to be parked on either ends. I found a safe parking space for the Ninja and took a stroll on the beach. I was feeling quite sultry since the sun was already up, penetrating the heat waves pretty well. I went as close to the rocks on the shore as possible to click a couple of pictures on the shore. A couple roughly in their late thirties was watching me while I was shooting the pictures.


Some nice guy statue near the beach


The city beach shore


Pondy’s Marine Drive, if I may call it.

When I stepped back to get on the platform, they came up and picked a conversation. They were appreciating my interest in photography and slowly tried finding more information on what I was doing. When I started asking about them, eventually I came to know they were trying to convince me into following a different religion. One way, I wasn’t really interested in it. Secondly, I wasn’t doing anything significant to what I am I right now. So converting me doesn’t help them in any way either. I had to slowly avoid the conversation and slip out of the place.


The couple who tried coverting me to a different religion


Responsibilty interchange.

I preferred getting back on my bike and roaming around the French colonies rather than getting stuck in the sun on the shore. I wandered around the colonies with no specific sense of direction. The planning of the French was quite obvious in the way the things were built; cube like buildings with perfect lines. Quite a few of the people around were not Indians. I believe they spend quite a lot of time every year here in the Ashram in Pondy.


The French Colony


Sign boards for every street in the French Colony.


Yet another French Colony

I went around in search of food. I was getting towards more French stuff. Most of the good ones opened only by 11 AM and I wasn’t going to be waiting that long. After a search that never paid off, I returned back to the room. I ordered breakfast, packed up the stuff and left for home.

The most famous route to Chennai from Pondy runs very close to the East Coast that can be seen in quite a lot of places all through the way. It is called the East Coast Road. The road is just a two lane, but runs through very small villages and has pine and coconut trees on either side. When there is very less traffic, it’s the best bet for a driver.


The ECR scenic beachway


Trees covering the beachway on either sides

I started when sun’s heat was at its peak. The road was free on a weekday and I had no problems keep up high speeds. I didn’t want to risk dehydration and therefore took quite a lot of breaks to recharge myself. The stretch of trees on either side provided ample shelter, unlike the four lane highways. I managed to take the bike inside with a little bit of patience. The trees being very close to each other, I had to tuck in the rear view mirrors to squeeze the Ninja through the small passage. I settled down there processing the images, for about an hour or so.


Taking shelter from the hot sun. Processing the pictures meanwhile.

When the heat was manageable, I was back on the road passing through salt extraction areas and backwater crossings. I reached the famous place called Mahabalipuram, which is a heritage place similar to Gingee. I was about an hour from home when I crossed it. It was just 4 PM and so I decided to head straight to the service centre instead of home. My bike had taken enough stress in the last few days and I was completely uncomfortable riding it the same way. I’d been using quite a lot of chain lube that I’d run out of it by the time I reached Pondy the previous day.


Salt extraction area.


Now you know why it’s called the beach way.


Enroute Chennai.

Closing in towards the city, the traffic was getting unbearable. Having ridding in peaceful places for the past one week, this was contrasting to me. When I reached the service centre with the riding gear and the saddle completely loaded, everyone around started giving me those strange looks. Obviously people don’t drop by like that all the time. The best man, Jeeva who made this ride possible without any bike incidents came running outside to receive me. He’d helped me get the bike back on the road, when it failed to start right on the first day of the ride. But for him, I wouldn’t have made it this far.


Jeeva, the man!

I explained to him every single thing that needed attention. I had a comfortable feeling after that. He assured me everything would be fixed soon and asked me to let the bike be around to be worked on. He then questioned how I was going to get home with all those stuff.

Auto!

What a way to end the ride. I paid 150 bucks to get everything back home in one piece. I was feeling happy that the bike was getting all the attention it deserved and wouldn’t be taking more stress in the condition it was.


Auto rickshaw ride back home.


Alright, I’m back. But there’s no one home.

Back home, I got out of the house and rang the doorbell. There was no response. I rang it again, but nothing different happened. I had a strange feeling no one was home. I called Mom on her phone and she was happy to hear my voice after days. I asked her to come out and open the door. She responded, “I had no idea you were coming. I’m out and the gate keys are with me.” Well, it was my fault I didn’t keep her updated about my whereabouts. She then suggested, “You should try jumping over the compound wall and using your door keys to at least get in. You must be used to it by now.” That wasn’t the way I was imagining the getting back to home part, but still what she said was a possible solution. So there I was, breaking into my own house.

I locked the doors, dumped the stuff into my room and headed straight for the shower. With the cold water splashing right on my face, I closed my eyes and thought about what had happened in the last few days. I felt a sudden rush of blood. A roller coaster ride, the highways, mountains, mist, slush, jungles, meadows, architecture, people, beaches and most importantly, a strange feeling deep inside that I will never forget.

 

Ride Stats

Route: Pondicherry – Mahabalipuram – Chennai
Distance: 180 kms
Ride Time: 6 hrs

What next?

The ride is done. I need to get to the remaining part of my campaign. The mailers will be sent shortly. New posters based on the ride are ready for print. They will be stuck in quite a lot of places to gather votes.

 

Back to Day 6 | See whether I made it…

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