The First Leg
Luckily, it all went as planned and I met my friend and travel partner Mark at the Frankfurt airport for our connecting flight to Chennai. We landed a little after midnight and got a taxi to our accommodation. We had arranged to stay with a very nice couple that we had found on warmshowers.com, like couch surfing but for people cycling. We finally got to their house at about 2.30 and quietly set our tents up in their garden as arranged.
In the morning their driver found us and showed us to the room we would be staying in for the 3 nights we were here. They had a bike stand and all the tools I needed to put my bike back together after the flight.
We spent the next 2 days finding Mark a bike, sampling the local cuisine, wandering the beach, and getting everything sorted.
We left the safety and cool of our air con at 6.30 Saturday morning in the hope the East coast road (ECR) out of the city would be a little quieter than the insanity we had witnessed in our time there. This paid off and we had an easy, cool 43km first ride down the coast to Mamallapuram. We got in at 10:30am just as it was getting hot and found a room for the night.
A quick word about the heat, it starts our day at 6.30 am, glasses fogged, sweat forming on our brows, the heat here is intense. The sun is out and in full force by 7am, we are covered in thin light layers, but to no avail! The inescapable sun drains us of all our energy. We are drink about 8 liters of water a day and still always feel on the verge of dehydration. Thankfully most villages have communal taps and we find it enjoyable to see how many locals we attract when refilling our bottles!
The city of Mamallapuram is a world heritage listed site because of its ancient rock carvings. There are small temples and rock carving dotted around the main hill in the center of town.
The beach here is also interesting with colourful boats and fishermen sorting their nets. We were surprised to find a flourishing tourist industry here in complete contrast to what we saw in chennai.
After only one night we were off heading south on the ECR. This time the road was a bit busier with busses, motorbikes, and even Sportscars flying past. So in an attempt to get on to quieter roads and see the real India we left the ECR and turned inland to follow smaller quiet “roads” that were still taking us south.
Almost immediately we knew this was a wise decision. People were waving and shouting hello as we passed and other then the odd motorbike or cart we had the roads to ourselves. The quality of these road vary dramatically with some freshly sealed with smooth tarmac but other just being sandy, rocky tracks. We cycled most of the day, enjoying riding through small villages and open rice fields.
We racked up 84 km before finding somewhere for the night. The only problem with being off the main road and away from big towns is that you have no were to stay. So that night after trying to find a hotel in a small town with no luck we resorted to a hidden spot off the road to camp.
Today we took a wrong turn and ended up back on the ECR. So decided to see just how bad the traffic here in India really is by heading into the center of Pondicherry (One of the few French influenced cities in India).
The ride in was mayhem with thousands of motorbikes, busses, bicycles, and cars, all weaving in and out in an almost indiscriminate manner! This certainly made for an exciting ride. The city is meant to be nice so we plan to explore it and have a little time off the bikes.