Coastal South India Trip - Bangalore to Pondicherry | Horn please, OK?

Coastal South India Trip - Bangalore to Pondicherry

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Day 1 : Bangalore -> Gingee ->Pondicherry
When : May 2013 | How far : 430 kms | How long : 6 hrs

Bonjour Pondicherry!

Disclaimer - The heat has fused our eyelids shut and melted our brains into puddles of fast disappearing grey matter.  We've developed a tendency to ramble. Good luck

And if you're more of a pictures person we still have something for you

Coastal South India Day 1 Photo Blog

The road less traveled

After much snoozing of the alarm clock and hurried last minute packing, we left home (JP Nagar, Bangalore) at 8 am. It took us an hour and a half to get past the electronic city/ Hosur traffic and get onto a clear stretch on NH7 towards Krishnagiri. Now, road signs at Krishnagiri suggest taking NH66 to Pondicherry via Thiruvanamalai (you'll need to take a right about 500 mts after taking a left turn towards Chennai at K'giri - easy enough to miss if you aren't on the look out) but we recommend otherwise. The road is either potholed or under construction and can play havoc with the suspension of your beloved car.

Driving towards Chennai on AH 45 we turned south towards Thiruvanamalai/ Gingee just before Vellore. The advantage of AH 45 (which we maintain, officially stands for Awesome Highway) is that you can zip and the road is kind to your car. It's a scenic drive meandering through hillocks and farmlands with only patches of industrial build ups.

 It was just past 11 am when we turned right from AH 45 onto SH122 about ~10km before Vellore. The idea was to get to Polur and then to Thiruvanamalai, which are on SH9, without running in to the madness of Vellore. The route took us through villages and tight corners but generally remained traffic free. It took 30 mins to reach SH9 and turn south towards Polur but from there on the road was busy and it was only past 1 pm that we finally joined NH66 and reached Gingee

Gingee fun facts

The fort was erected sometime around the 9th century but Gingee's been around since 5th century BC. The history is a bit murky and no one's very sure about the exact dates of rule by different dynasties but the general consensus is that the Jain monks were the first occupants of the area followed by a local Kone warlord. The Cholas and Pallavas followed. 
The circumference of the outer fort is close to 3 miles and if you scale up either the Rajagiri or Krishnagiri fort you'll get a beautiful birds eye view of the area. 
The best way to get around is probably on horseback given the undulating landscape but we had only our tootsies to rely on. 
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) charges an admission fee of five rupees to enter the fort which is open from 930am to 5pm. If you plan to scale the fort, get there before 3pm. 
The climb (and descent) took us 1.5 hours. We'd have lingered a while on top had it not been for the scorching sun.  We recommend that you not choose a hot summers day to visit. 

Home stretch

The 70 km drive from Gingee to Pondicherry was a breeze given the 350 km drive we'd just undertaken and the 1.5 hour vertical climb at the fort (put your money on us at the next endurance test face offs). We left Gingee fort at 3 pm and after combating the last stretches of NH66 reached Tindivanam in about 45 min. Tindivanam to Pondicherry is one of our favourite runs - 35 km of 6 lane highway and no traffic! Top speed 175 Kmph; total time taken 20 min. Need more be said?

Paradise lost 

Our first stop in Pondicherry was at the Chunnambra boat house. Our hopes of catching a ride to paradise beach were dashed (on the rocks nearby) when we found out that the last boat left at 4. We were half hour too late and the ticket booth guy did not look like he could be sweet talked into anything. Deciding to come back the next day(boathouse opens at 930am) we drove ourselves to the Windflower resort to get a snack. It turns out they have their own private access to paradise beach! (Oh, the entitled life) Our stuffed bellies and the general fuzziness of everything post a gluttonous meal convinced us to stick to our plans of returning to the beach the next day.

Le Hibiscus, the B&B that we're staying at is located in the French quarters, a hop, skip and a jump from the promenade. It's a charming old house with high ceilings and spacious rooms littered with antique furniture. Free wifi is the cherry on top!

We strolled around White town (aka the French quarters) looking for good French food and came across Villa Shanti. While the cuisine can't strictly be called French, it has a good mix of Indian, malabar, konkan and European food. Our penne with saffron seafood sauce and flambĂ©ed crepe suzette did not disappoint. 

A post dinner walk on the promenade was the perfect end to the day. The balmy sea breeze tasted better than dessert.

Stories from the entire trip

Day 2 -> Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram
Day 3 -> Pondicherry to Rameswaram
Day 4 -> Rameswaram to Kovalam
Day 5 -> Kovalam to Varkala
Day 6 -> Varkala to Kannur
Day 7 -> Kannur to Bangalore 
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