Saturday, February 4, 2012

How NOT to end up in Cuddalore?

Cuddalore is a little port town 25 Km south of Pondicherry. Ask a local about the best way to get to the coastal town of Cuddalore, and snap comes the reply, "take one of the many buses plying between the New Bus Stand and Cuddalore NT". This is the best option for the budget conscious traveller, i.e. the first kind.

Of course for those with considerably hefty pockets, an air conditioned cab would do the trick. Plush interiors, fragrant ambience and choice music in the background. This rich class is the second kind.

Then there is the third kind which constitutes the student community and the free spirited who hate travelling in a crowded bus but lack the means to indulge in a little luxury. Well for such folk, there is the option to rent a two wheeler for under 500 a day depending on the choice of vehicle.

There is also a fourth kind. Which includes idiots like the one who is blogging here on "Randomadventurez", who end up in Cuddalore despite injuries or should I say because of them. I've been running really long (along the rock beach) these last few weeks to stay in shape for a skiing adventure and the climbing season which is soon to follow. Running between 18 & 25 Km a day followed by 20 plus Km of cycling had to take its toll. So I end up with half a dozen foot injuries. I say to myself - no running for a week perhaps. I now took on a cycling regimen. So I mount my rickety gear less bicyle and head out towards Mudaliarpet via Rue Dumas and South Boulevard; took a left at the Mudaliarpet junction - still not sure about how long or how far to ride. I rode for about 2 may be 3 Km when I reached a major crossroad (I think the place is called Velrampet). The board on top read "Cuddalore 22Km" and I grinned.

There are few people who know me well. And those who do know me are often bewildered and sometimes bemused by my idiosyncrasies. Not intending to depart from the norm, I did the only thing I would expect of me. In a little less than four hours I was able to probe 2 Km into Cuddalore and return to my room in Pondicherry. Not bad considering I made a couple of stops for drinks, chatted with a cop at a busy traffic signal and took time to wink or smile at little school kids every time they gave me an inquisitive look.

The route is nice and inviting. The tarmac is alright without being exceptional. About 10 min out of Pondicherry and just short of Thavalakuppam is the Chunnabar river which had a lot of water in it, thanks to the retreating monsoons. There are hamlets and small towns along the way with linguistically intimidating names like Periyakattupalayam, Reddychavadi, Kirumampakkam and Kanniakovil. Between 0700 and 0900 you will find kids on the highway waiting for their school and college buses, office goers and other sorts of commuters too. You are also likely to come across suicidal pedestrians and retarded bus and lorry drivers with little or no sense of traffic regulations. I have lost count of the number of times I almost got squished by reckless drivers.

Anyhow!! I made it to the Penniar bridge on Thenpennai river which is the entrance to Manjukuppam (A suburb of Cuddalore) in less than 90 minutes. Since this was my first time here, I decided to head into the town a bit. So I passed through the Police Station (apparently, it was built in 1930 - at least thats what it says on the building) to enter the Old Town via the bridge on Gedilam River. The Gedilam river divides the Cuddalore New and Old Town. One has to cross this river to get to towns like Chidambaram and Nagapattinam. There was a Big Market, lots of shops, temples, churches etcetera. The town even has Pazhamudhir, Nilgiris, Megamart and other such places. Well! since this is not a travel blog, one would do well to visit wikipedia or wikitravel for more information on places of interest.

I was about 3Km into the town and I thought it was time to get back to my regimen. On my way back I had a chat with a cop about directions and stuff. He was more than willing to help. In no time I was on my way back to Pondy, Need I mention the hamlets in reverse order? I think not.

On the way back, about 10 minutes after Thenpennai river, I stopped over for a drink. Tender Coconuts are always refreshing. In about 70 minutes from there I had made it back to Pondicherry. I had sugarcane juice at my favorite spot on MG Road. I picked up some oranges and grapes from the market and had filling Beef Biriyani for lunch. Pondicherry to Cuddalore and back in under 4 hours was not bad.

I repeated the route on the following day as well, since the morrow to follow was my self appointed rest day. 58 Km (to Cuddalore and back) in under three hours this time with a couple of breaks for juice and sundry. The juice stall was opposite MGMCHRI (Thats short for Mahatma Gandhi Medical College Hospital and Research Institute). Not bad I would like to believe. I think I will do this route a few more times before I leave for Kashmir in two weeks.

If anyone is wondering about the title - "How not to ..". Well! if you have injuries like corns, sprains, cramps and painful toenails from the pounding that ones feet endure during extra long runs, AND you have something of an excuse for a bicycle; AND you happen to be in a place called Pondicherry; AND you happen to think the way I do; there is a good chance that you might end up in Cuddalore. Now what are the odds? :)