“If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.”
I love to bike, I love to be on two wheels, I love the feel of air on my body, it makes me more comfortable , more lively ,more relaxed, more close to nature, more aware, more in sync with myself, in fact more of everything that matters. I don’t know how many kilometres I have ridden till date, in fact I am not at all interested in it for it defeats the purpose; after all how does kilometre matter if you don’t end up having some fond memories of the road?
I remember once stopping my bike in haste to warm my freezing hands at a tea shop on a cold winter morning in the Jaisalmer Jaipur highway, riding in knee deep water in one of the many streams on the Manali-Leh highway, the unexpected rendezvous with the leopard just a few kilometres from Chopta, being chased by unwanted elements on the Bareli road at 2 in the night, coming out safe from the Uttrakhand floods, giving a lift to a blind woman in the mountains, a fleeting glimpse of a beautiful face, riding on snow to Kalpa, crying on Rohtang pass while returning from Leh, a sip of old monk at 11 in the night few kilometres away from Rishikesh while returning from Uttarkashi,kids waving hands, a rainy ride in Goa, taking a slip on the roads to Menchuka in the north east, bowing to a passing elephant family in South India and many more. Someday when I grow old, I wish to narrate a few of these stories in detail. So many destinations, different roads with one thing was common, the experience, the freedom, the romance, the pleasantness of being on the road.
ECR is one such road which would definitely appear on my list of the best roads to bike in India. I have been on this road umpteen times owing to college, work and leisure and I felt I should do a post on it. I am putting in a mix of things to be done on the ECR along with a few recommendations for Pondicherry. This stretch of about 160 km from Chennai Central to Pondicherry has so much to offer that you may require a good number of days to do justice to it. With much ado, do experience the following next time around you are in the ECR.
1) Sunrise: Remember the sun rises in the East, so just start early morning on this road; the sea is by your side all along till Pondicherry. Just exit towards the sea at any place you feel like, there you are a secluded beach, an amazing sunrise.
2) Cafes: When I talk of cafes it is more of the ones in Pondicherry for you get awesome French food, colourful décor and a good vantage point to gaze at the sea and beyond. Le Café on the Rock Beach is my favourite at Pondicherry, find a place on the top and soak in all the sea along with coffee. The CCD at Mammalapuram is also a good place which plays Hindi numbers and has a cosy setting. There is a new café called Biker’s café, few kilometres from Pondicherry and can be tried as well. Apart from these there are a lot of cafes in the city and lot has been written about them.
3)Kovalam: Kovalam is probably the first break you should take on the ECR. It has a lot to offer but the two most famous activities I would recommend are mid sea diving and surfing. For just 300 bucks per person you will be taken a few kilometres into the sea and with life jackets and rope support anyone can jump into the sea. Do try this and get some adrenaline flow. Kovalam lately has become a hub for surfing and a lot of weekend classes are at offer.
4) Photography: I like this road for photography, be it the sea, the road or the birds, there are a lot of subjects at your disposal,all you need is an eye for it. I specially love to click birds on this road, in fact just leave themain road a bit and go in and you can find a plenty of them.
5) Mammalapuram or the heritage walk paradise: This place is so rich in history that I cannot recommend how much time you should spend here. The shore temple, the Arjuna Rathas and many more, welcome to the heritage city, walk around and be mesmerized.
6) Resorts: Are you the resorts kind of person looking out to relax and rejuvenate, are you looking for some ayurvdic treatment or looking for the perfect place to conduct a company outing? Your search ends on the ECR with its so many resorts to fit all pockets. Ayur resort, MGM beach resort, Blue lagoon beach resort, Golden sun beach resort are among the best ones.
7)Alamparai Fort: I recommend this fort for you will be passing the light house and a secluded beach. About 5km from Kadapakkam, a small vilage on the ECR,lies the ruins of Alamparai Fort.This whole region is a favourite spot of film makers . Built in the 17th century, it was a trading post during the Mughal period and changed hands many times between various powers till India got independence. I recommend this place more for the light house and the beach.
8) Auroville: I think any piece written about Pondicherry mentions Auroville. Try and get a prior appointment for meditation at the Matri Mandir and get a place to stay near to it and you are sorted.
9) Beaches: The most popular tourist destinations are the beaches in ECR and Pondicherry. On the ECR you can take any exit to the sea, the best part will be that these beaches will be completely secluded. At Pondicherry the best beaches are the Promenade Beach (also known locally as the Rocky Beach), , The Auroville Beach and Serenity Beach.
10)Experience France: The city has many colonial buildings, churches, temples, and statues which, combined with the systematic town planning and planned French style avenues, still preserve much of the colonial ambiance.
Parting thoughts: Just go on this road, experience it and let the road take care of you, for roads not only connects cities but also connects hearts.