20130111

Travelogue #9 - Chennai to Puducherry (ECR)

There is an adage that we always endorse which goes like "The journey is as important as the destination". For us, it's not always only about how the destination ends up being. Passionate drivers that we are, the road that leads us there and the driving experience are as important, if not more.

Based out of Chennai, we aren't fortunate enough to have roads where we take our rides for a spin and come back grinning ear to ear. But the East Coast Road, or 'ECR' as it is fondly called, is an exception. Here is a road that's smooth, scenic, curvy, regularly patrolled and yet not far off from the bustling city. Here is a stretch of tarmac that, on most weekends, sees Porsches, Ferraris and rest of the exotic automotive clan jostling for space with the staple MTC buses and share auto-rickshaws. Here is a road that's dotted with popular tourist spots one after the other. And, of course, there are folks who neither realize their limits nor their vehicle's and end up crashing, making ECR one of the most dangerous roads in this part of the country.

By now, you would have realized that this isn't a regular travelogue that reserves just a line or two for the road that leads to the destination. This post is as much about the ECR as it is about Puducherry, our destination. Erstwhile called Pondicherry before it was officially renamed, Puducherry is quite popular. With it's unique combination of traditional Indian and colonial French architecture, sun-kissed beaches and a tax structure that favours shopping, Puducherry attracts visitors by hordes, especially on weekends. Above all, Puducherry gives us an opportunity to drive on the ECR, something that we wouldn't miss no matter what, even if it's at the middle of a night.

Since this was just a day's trip, we started early, which meant ECR was all ours as the rest of Chennai was busy snoozing off their alarms. As the day breaks cover, ECR tempts you to stop every now and then, with splendid views of the coastline and the numerous tourist spots all along the road luring you. Don't let those temptations spoil your plan though. Once past Mamallapuram, which is 60 km from Chennai, ECR transforms into a totally different stretch of tarmac. The surroundings are more scenic than ever, traffic is sparse and the blind spots and curves welcome us in more frequent intervals. All we need to do is to maintain focus without getting carried away and the road rewards us back with a fantastic driving experience.

With the photo breaks at Mudaliyarkuppam and a couple of other random spots on the ECR excluded, our first stop was at Auroville. This international township located in a sprawling campus, an initiative by "The Mother", has been developed for men and women of all countries to live peacefully, above all religion, politics, caste and creed. The 'Matrimandir', a golden globe like structure located in the center of Auroville township is an architectural marvel. Unfortunately, we didn't get to go inside as advance booking is required to enter the structure. Being a self-sustained township, Auroville shows that there is more to life than the hustle and bustle of a city that we all are used to, day in and day out.

Any visit to Puducherry is incomplete until you get wet in one of those many beaches all around and meditate at the incredibly serene and peaceful Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Round it off with a mandatory stroll on The Promenade facing the sea and, of course, some shopping. We did all those and more. The Promenade gets super-crowded on weekends and it's quite a sight to see so many people taking a stroll with no tearing hurry, as the waves gently crash over the rocks with an occasional big splash. The high-walled buildings, the grid-shaped roads and even the names of roads and buildings still bear a strong French influence, reminding us that this was a French colony not so many decades back.

ROUTEMAP:


FACTFILE: 

* Total No of Days: 1 (13.10.2012)
* Vehicle Make & Model: Honda Civic

* Odometer Start Reading: 43612 km
* Odometer End Reading: 43940 km
* Total Distance traveled: 328 km
* No of Toll Booths: 2
* Money spent on Toll & Parking: Rs. 162

* Total Quantity of Fuel filled: 24.65 l
* Average Fuel Consumption: 13.31 km/l
* Money spent on Fuel: Rs. 1762.34

* Destinations Covered: Puducherry (Pondicherry)
* Route Followed: Chennai-Mamallapuram-Kalpakkam-Puducherry (ECR)

THE ROAD TAKEN:


THE LANDSCAPE:


THE AUTOMOBILE:


The Honda Civic, our ride for the journey was perfectly at home in the tight and twisty ECR, hugging the lane and turning in and out of corners with utmost ease. Though the car had a big smile plastered onto our faces every time we negotiated those twisties, the soft rear suspension was making its presence felt over any irregularity on the road surface. At the end, it was a day well-spent, with both the destination and the journey proving to be a cherishable experience. If you belong to Chennai, there are not many better places around to spend a day or a weekend.

Though we had driven down to Mamallapuram on the ECR quite a few times before, not once had we traversed the entire distance upto Puducherry. Living in Chennai and not doing that is considered a sin by many, which means we are fit to be certified as bonafide sinners. Not any more! Now that we have did it and have come back happy, would we like to do that again? Oh yes, we will. The charm of ECR is, and will continue to be, too good to ignore.

8 comments:

  1. At least one good Indian Road...

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, but sad that the Government is taking steps to convert it into a mundane four-laned highway..

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  2. photography is excellent. next time when u visit arroville, please do get permission to step inside. there are no words to describe.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a ton Sri. We never knew that advance intimation is required to step into the Matrimandir, or else we wouldn't have missed it.

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  3. Nicely written article. Great pictures.There are a few good roads which I loved when I took the ride. One is the newly built Delhi - Agra high way. The other one is the Trichy - Madurai ( 120 kms or pure bliss) - Madrasi7777

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    1. Thanks for your words of appreciation Madrasi. Being a frequent traveler in NH 45 (Chennai-Trichy), we can vouch for the roads in and around Trichy. They are fabulous but a bit monotonous.

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