Day 7: Tiruchendur to Kanyakumari

I’ll keep today’s post short since its already past 11pm. We started early this morning from Rameshwaram taking a bus to Tiruchendur. After discussion last night our plan was try to gain a day so that we can splurge it in Kerala and at the same time make sure we get good biking.

We put all our stuff on the bus at 7am. It was raining pretty hard then and we were glad that we chose to bus out, but by they time bike were on the top of the bus myself and Rahul were totally drenched! Afterwards i left some of my clothes drying in the bus (well, I had laundry from last night too, which i cleaned before we decided to start super early).

Anyway as per the plan we got to Tiruchendur at about 1pm and were impressed by the timings, to make some more room we went an hour ahead and the bus driver dropped us in time for about 60km ride in to Kanyakumari. After a short break and lunch we started our ride at 2:45pm and where in Kanyakumari at about 5:40pm. To be short, this was an awesome ride!! A perfect riding weather with amazing views and a not so busy decent road — what else can we ask!! It was breathtaking!!

After getting in to Kanyakumari (well yet another temple town full of tourists), we got checked in a hotel with a great sea view and got ourself some Thali dinner. Rahul and Tulika headed to rest and i’m still punching keys.

Tomorrow we head to Kovalam and we will be in another state — yay! Kerala!!!!

Day 6: Parampudi to Rameshwaram!

Today was a full day! We did about 110km to go she the holi — Rameshwaram!

I started at about 8:30 from Parampudi so that I can meet Tulika and Rahul in Ramnathpuram at 11:00pm. Well i got there at 10:00am but they already arrived there at 9:00am! So about 45km done was a great start! After a short breakfast we started for Rameshwaram, the Trio together the first time!

We crossed through the Rameshwaram bridge at about 1:00pm. I was just beautiful.

We reach Rameshwaram at about 2:30 pm but by the time we finished checking in to hotel and showering it was 4pm. We couldn’t go to Dhanushkodi as the checkpoint closes early and the jeeps wont take us there — well we always had the alternative of Kanyakumari to see the Ocean’s mingle :). We then went and payed our homeage to the Rameshwaram temple and infact in the true Hindu spirit i even did a holy bath! I guess all my wishes are going to come true :).

As soon as the bhojshala’s opened at 7pm we had dinner and then decided to check out the bus schedule so that we can figure out our next day plan. After a bit of discussion we decided to head to Kanyakumari tomorrow part bus and part bicycle! We will gain a day and also have  a good ride!!

Day 5: Madurai to Parampudi

Early in the morning I took a train from Vidhyachalam to Madurai, this was a bit of shift in plans so that we can be on align schedules and ofcourse finally fulfill my desire to see the Meenakshi temple! After the saga of the missed train and my in general mishandling of pulic transport the trip to Madurai was very pleasant. Infact i got some sleep in the AC2 compartment and the TC didnt haggle about me carrying a bike. I stowed the bike in the electric compartment at the end of the boggie.

I reached Madurai at break of the dawn and checked in Hotel West right across from Meenakshi temple. After a short nap, I got to the temple at about 11:00pm. The temple was super busy and i had to use the green power to upwards of Rs. 150 to get quick darshan of Meenakshi and Shiva. It was very interesting experience reminded me of standing in Sai Baba darshan line for hours (except this time I had a VIP Rs. pass).

The temple is really ornate and as they say it is the “Taj Mahal of the South”. I loved the open spaces (which are characteristic of south Indian temples). I sat in the courtyard of Meenakshi temple for a while and tought about a lot of things! Every once in a while I would see the gopurams gazing all over. The 12 ornate gopurams are really the life of this place!

I was also contemplating about story of Meenakshi. She was very beautiful but has three breasts and the prophecy was that the third breast would go away as soon as she meets her husband. Well the third breast went away when she bowed to Shiva, and guess what Shiva was the lucky husband. Every year there is elaborate ceremony where Meenakshi is made ready to mate Shiva infact they even remove her jewels! There was also a thought in background which i learnt at Aurobindo Ashram that Hinduism or Vedanta’s preach creativity not austerity, which sort of rightfully fits the God behavior here.

Anyways – at about 1pm at started my ride for the day. I had to meet Tulika and Rahul in Tondi but with such a late start there was no way i can go 130kms. So instead i took a different highway which reach Rameshwaram (NH-49) faster than NH-33. I decided the cut short at Parampudi after covering about 80km in 4 and half hours. I passed a lot of villages on the ride and was pumped by cheering and curious kids and teenagers!

Tomorrow i meet Tulika and Rahul for lunch in Ramnathpuram (40kms) and then we head to Rameshwaram (55kms)!!

Looking forward to Sri Lanka!

PS: Do feel free to suggest what you would like to read in my trip reports and tweets. I was considering doing a quotes series and also sticking to thoughts, philosophy or flaura fauna in my ride reports.

Day 4: Pondicherry to Chidambaram

Today I started my ride really early – I was out the door at 7:30am. Condisering I went out last night, I was happy with the start. The road was awesome and scenary so pleasant that I reached chidamrabm at 11:30am clokcing 70km in about 3:15 hours! Wish all days are like that!! I really enjoyed being on the bike and stopped only for a quick breakfast.

After reaching Chidambaram i directly went to the Nataraja temple. This is the largest Shiva temple in the south and believers flock here for homage and ceremonies. Its lives up to the typical south Indian temple standard — awesome Gopuram, wide ornate Madhup and a small diety temple. I got witness lot of ritual and vedic chanting.

Pic 1. Gopuram of Shiva / Nataraja temple – Chidambaram.

I had my train at 2:50 from Chidambaram to Madurai — so i spent the next two hours having a lavish lunch. Well actually my train was at 2:50 am (I know my family will be laughing hysterically now, but i’m just me…). Well that me in to a tough spot, and my Madurai dream where at risk. The ticket guy suggested i go to the nearby Vidyachalam.

I took a bus to Vidyachalam which was 50 km and convinced the conductor to put my bike on top. I was a bit nervous hoping that the bike will stay there. Finally I reached Vidyachalam station at 4:30pm and the ticket guys told me that I can get on the midnight Madurai train, by 5:45 i even got a confirmed reservation. So well a great day didn’t end that bad ;). Infact I met a couple travelling from Israel ahnd had a dinner with then and shared a lotof tit bits about inida. We dicussed how annoying the horns of Indian vheicles are and how people love to honk!! I wish we can curtail the horn noise..

Well i’m currently Madurai bound hopefully I will get there by morning to check out the Mennaski temple and continue the ride to join Tulika and Rahul who are already 55 km from Madurai! Madurai and rendevous time!!

Day 3: Auroville to Pondicherry

Today was a short day. I ended up biking 15km, but had lots of interesting experiences.

It was raining all night until about 7:30am in Auroville, so I decided for a late start instead of 8am start. However that became 9:30 and on the way out of Auroville i ran in to my old room mate — Adrienne. It was such a coincidence we met after 7 years, so i decided to havebreakfast with her. It was almost noon when i heaad out to Pondicherry and then i had lunch with Rishi’s uncle and grandma. Looking at the conditions and given that Pondicherry seemed such an awesome place, I decided to call it a day.  Rishi’s family has been very hosiptable to me, Kalaben has been feeding me day long :). Being a bicycle traveller is such an awesome thing, an easy mode of transport gives you immense flexibility and extemporeness.

Since mid-afternoon I have spent time cycling around pondi, visting aurobindo ashram and hanging out with people! Now I’m looking forward to some dinner, drink and may be a bit of dancing in Asian House!

Joys of travel!!  Wish life was like that everyday :).

Pondi Beach

Pic 1. Pondi beach.

Tomorrow I head to Chidambaram and with a slight twiset of plans I’m able to get to Madurai from there (via Train).  So my wish to see Madurai might fulfill, without losing a cycling day!!

Day 2: Mahabalipuram to Auroville

Today was my first long day clocking about 100km. I started the ride at 8:30am with some bananas and awesome kafi.

IMG_0132

Pic 1.  Breakfast South Indian style with a belly, missing the moustache

It was an amazing day, the ride was scenic and as the locals call it – ECR (East Coast Road) was a great road to ride on. Some pictures to whet your appetite.

IMG_0137IMG_0141IMG_0150

Pic 2.  Scenic Road!

At about 10:30am I had an awesome breakfast #2 at a local street side shop

IMG_0145IMG_0146

Pic 3. Breakfast #2.

I called Rishi’s father (Rod) at about noon to let him know that I’m about 20km from Auroville at Markalam. After making my way in to Pondicherry at about 2:15pm and a short break for some Lemon juice I reached the Auroville visitor center at about 3pm.

IMG_0153IMG_0158

Pic 4. Entering Pondicherry and place (Mango Resort) where I relaxed with Lemon juice.

Now on to the main topic of this post:

Auroville

Auroville is utopian concept very well implemented in my opinion. This ashram intends to create a new way of life inclusive of all nationalities of the world.

Auroville’s make a plethora of things —

IMG_0161IMG_0163IMG_0167

Pic 6. Auroville-an Art

This ashram was setup by the Mother in co-ordination with Aurobindo ashram, with big help from government of India (Imagine visa’s for folks from 50+ countries and permission for them to work and keep the identity of Ashram intact).

IMG_0171IMG_0169

Pic 7.  Founder of Auroville and her deep study of flowers.

Auroville wants to create a place where nation can show their identity through pavilions and invite their citizens to join in the Auroville experiment.

IMG_0172

Pic 8. Unity Pavilion

Last but not the least the they have an amazing meditation hall called the “Matri-Mandir”. This gold plated dome with italian marble is 50m in diameter and create an amazing sense of peace! It’s a feat and a must see primarily because of its serenity!

IMG_0174IMG_0182IMG_0183

Pic 9. Center of Auroville – Matrimandir and the banyan tree.

Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy

Thanks to discussion with Rishi’s father – Rod, I was introduced to works of Sri Aurobindo esp. Savitri and The Life Divine. He infact has written a short book which introduces these two.

IMG_0173

Pic 10. Rod’s book – Mantra, Metrics and Meaning.

The short of the long I learnt from our discussion is – Sri Aurobindo had a very non-traditional take on Hinduism. His point in Life divine is to enrich your life through creativity and not through extreme penance. One should give up low feeling like – pride and ego but a higher level will flow in. Creativity can be expressed in power, love and numerous other forms like Krishna did. This is deemed to be the true vedantic version of Hinduism.

Thanks to my gracious host today (Rod & Kirti Hemsell)

IMG_0187

Pic 11 .Rod and Kirti

I’ll make a brief stop at Pondicherry tommorrow then head onward to Tanjavur from Chidambaram tomorrow (slight change of plans here)

Day 1: Chennai To Mahabalipuram

I landed at 1:30 am at Chennai airport. I decided to start the tour right from the airport except I had to wait at the airport until 7am, when my bike was scheduled to be picked up for delivery to goa. I slept royally (literally) at the baggage pickup area, woke up at 6:30am and then called the baggage guy to make sure his man was coming, well he said he will be there at 8. I took the opportunity to get ready, assemble the bike and saddle up.

IMG_0084

Pic 1. Assembled bike at the Chennai airport departures (my home for the early am)

So my baggage guy, turned out to be flaky and it was 9:30am and he didn’t show up and kept saying “20 minute sir”. So I decided to ditch him and called a new service through amazing JustDial and the guy told me he will be there by 10:00am and eventually showed up at 11:30am. But I sort of liked the guy he was honest.

IMG_0085

Pic 2. Shipping box to Goa from Chennai

Well, turned out that this this guy needs a bigger car to take the box and he offered me a ride until East coast ride so that I can start my tour easily. Well there was another hour of waiting for the car by the time the car showed up it started to rain and I had to take shelter.

IMG_0091IMG_0092

Pic 3. Welcome at the airport with a torrential downpour and subsequent use of a shelter

I had already started to work because it was 12:30am and I hadnt started the 40 km journey to Mahabalipuram. Well another glitch happened when the guy with car showed up, he has no place for by cycle. So I immediately decided to take an auto to East coast road, this auto dude was linger around us when we were standing waiting for the vehicle. Infact a bunch of auto folks came and were checking out my bike and had all sorts of questions for the bike and the tour. Well this auto-walla wanted to take me to Mahabalipuram and was forcing his way, he made me pay Rs. 500 at the gas station and would take rest when I get to Mahabalipuram. I got really upset, I called the Traffic poilce hotline and  had him drop me at the east coast road. Infact we has a cop settle our dispute for Rs. 350.

IMG_0093IMG_0094

Pic 4. Starting at East Coast Road

Well that was a rough start Smile.  But as soon as I got on the road all the hassles seemed worth it. The ride to Mahabalipuram was just amazing, with great views and a good road! I couldn’t ask any better now that the rain had stopped Smile.

IMG_0099IMG_0110

Pic 5. Amazing views on east coast road.

In two hours I reach Mahabalipuram (arbout 35kms), and I checked in my hotel around 3:30pm! Well rest of the day I have been enjoying great food, and the famous Mahabalipuram sculputures.

IMG_0119

Pic 6. South India Meal!

IMG_0123

Pic 7. Five Rathas

IMG_0128

Pic 8. Arjuna’s Penance

Mahabalipuram (Or Mamallapuram as its renamed) is a small tourist town with a lot of western tourist. Folks here indulge in sculpture, with very good sculpting schools.

IMG_0113IMG_0114

Pic 9. Sculpting is big in Mamallapuram

I wish I could get more of the town, it seems a great hang out place with lots of friendly locals and tourist. But hey tomorrow its 100km to to Auroville (correction: Auroville is before Pondicherry), where I stay with Rishi’s parents.

Onward, I must say!

Day 0 : Milind’s Superstar Class

Today I got an opppurtunity to see first hand how Teach for India’s classes work. I went to visit Milind’s Superstar class. It was great to see a group of 40+ 2 grade kids churning their ways from un-fortune towards a bright future through education.

It was interesting to see a Teach for India’s approach to learning work. Milind was doing a great job engaging and teach the kids, at the same time his set of volunteers were making sure that the kids got more 1:1 teacher time. I was also reminded of how important the superstar rules are, and we has grown ups also needs to read and follow them regularly.

IMG_0058IMG_0082

Pic1. Superstar class, Rules of the Class,

IMG_0074IMG_0059

Pic 2. Milind and Volunteers teaching in the class.

I have a very good video of Milind teaching vowels to the 2nd graders. I’ll upload it and put a link here as soon as I get better internet connection.

One interesting twist in this experience was that Milind offered me to try and teach “Action words” to a small group of 5 kids. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was first hand grappled with the problem of keeping 7-8 year olds engaged in the learning process. I was also touched by the fact that the kids offered touching handshakes and wanted Vaibhav-Bhaiyya to come back!

IMG_0077

Pic 3. Group of super stars learning who learn a bit of “action words” from me.

I start my tour (http://www.vitraag.com/tourofsouthindia ) tomorrow to help raise fundraise for Milind’s cause. Infact you can get to the action right from here Smile.

PledgeNow

Pic 4. Pledge for Milind’s superstar class and Teach For India.

Riding The Southern Indian peninsula – #2

Expanding on my previous post.

Cause: Education

  • Teach For India – Raise $10,000 for Milind’s fellowship
  • Asha For Education – Visit projects and fundraise.

Itinerary (more details coming soon):

Date Destination Distance (km) Accommodation Notes
Dec 12 Nasik
Dec 13 Chennai Train from Nashik to Chennai and carry bike.
Dec 14 Mahabalipuram 60 Keeping this as safety, can also do it the day I arrive.
Dec 15 Auroville 105 Rishi’s parents Cross Kaveri!
Dec 16 Cauverippattinam 123
Dec 17 Vedranyam 107
Dec 18 (Sat) Kottaipattinam 115 1 more person joins here.
Dec 19 Rameshwaram 139 Advise from riders seems not to miss this ride, so canning Madurai for now :-(
Dec 20 Holding this as safety, might stay in rameshwaram or ride to next town
Dec 21 Tuticorin 197
Dec 22 Kanyakumari 130 2 more people join here. Checkout the windmill farm.
Dec 23 Trivandrum 102 Other option is also Kovalam (15km before Trivandrum)
Dec 24 Varkala 45 Houseboat Stay in the houseboat and enjoy Christmas eve
Dec 25 (Sat) Alappuzha (Allepey) 121 Some ferry travel involved.
Dec 26 Kodungalloor 100
Dec 27 Kodungalloor – Thanalur (113)- Mahe (112)- Kumble (137) 362 Train Take Kerala Express so that we can get to Goa in time :).
Dec 28 Mangalore 40 See Mangalore
Dec 29 Bhatkal 146
Dec 30 Mashe 150
Dec 31 Panji ! 86 Celebration new year in Panji
Jan 1  (Sat)
Jan 2 Panji – Nashik Train

Biking along the Indian Peninsula

This December 2010 (Dec 14, 2010 – Jan 5, 2011) I’m planning to bike along the Indian peninsula, perhaps from Chennai to Goa. I’m starting this articles to keep track of all the planning required for this trip. The goal is to cover about 60 miles a day and also take a couple of days off for sight-seeing.

image

Fig 1. 1300 miles from Chennai to Goa

Update (Sep 24): So the itinerary is like 2100km in 21 days, which might not leave time for sight seeing. So the current thinking is to reduce the Chennai to Madurai leg. The must dos are —

  • Temples in south India (Madurai)
  • Night on a house boat in Kerala
  • Two days in Goa

Resources