Saturday, June 13, 2009
tada to pulicat
joined/mating? bugs at theosophical society chennai
birds at pulicat lake
mines at yerraguntla
ananya at the 'banyan tree' at belum caves
sri sailam siva and co
coracle at nagararjuna sagar reservoir just below the dam
one of 1000s of anthill/snake pit at nagararjuna wildlike sanctuary
pulicat lake from sriharikota side
Day 43 jun 5 Friday
Velankanni – Nagapatinam – Thanjavur – Papanaasam – Kumbakonam – Chidambaram
SH9, NH67, NH45A, SH64
Leave velankanni and do long stretch to Thanjavur. Check out the ‘big temple’, Sivan temple, which is terracotta coloured and so a little different from the ones we’ve been seeing, brightly coloured murals inside but not well preserved at all. Outer parikrama? Full of series of lingams and murals. All along the diff temples there is stuff written in ancient tamil – architectural and visual change from the temples of the nellai-ramnad region - this temple was thrown open to ‘harijans’ in the 50’s by the raja and was lauded by Gandhiji, feet burn on the hot paving – post lunch 2.5 hrs long internet updating session –
Thanjavur palace, built by the maratha rulers – the 17th century they ruled maharastra, and bits of Karnataka and thanjavur, before the empire grew to cover the whole of India. Palace is also ill preserved but has surprisingly bright interiors in places, scattered with ‘royal junk’ mainly, has bat pee smelling entrances to underground passage - Serfoji II’s (1798-1832), their best ruler, student of German missionary Swartz, built this very impressive library, now called Saraswati Mahal Library, finely illustrated books on anatomy, botany, Chinese punishment, elephant breeding, etc., palm leaf and paper manuscripts of ancient texts, early printed docs, illustrated Ramayana and Mahabharata, Tanjore paintings. Also has the original Agastya and Sivan nadi volais. he had first printing press in South India - Joins jedi’s list of kickass places list. Climb up precarious narrow and dark bell tower stairs, ananya is scared to but finally does with terse reassurance from Jedi.–
back on the road, witness accident at Papanasam cool stop, 2 bikes collide and go flying, older rider comes to fight with younger one, both hurt on legs – Pass through Kumbakonam – the place of 1000 temples – supposedly a super holy place – southern equivalent of Kasi/Benaras. Don’t stop – kinda tired of seeing temples, except for little mental prayer stop. little adventure of dirt road detour around the Cauvery as highway to Chidambaram is being fixed. Close to mouth of Cauvery – Jedi’s yoga mat falls off on the way, we only discover when we check in. Signs of weather changing – the rains should be here soon. Jedi unsure whether to be happy or sad. Jedi manages a decent moun vrath. Still needs absolute shutupness.
Day 44 jun 6 Sat
Chidambaram – Vaitheeswaran Koil - Chidambaram
Visit the Nataraja temple – no photography allowed, though sneak a few. Impressive huge temple – though most temples we have seen so far have been huge – again that subtle change in architecture and idols on the gopurams – glad to see the energy generator patterns here too on the ceilings – lots of priests in the temple, they look different from the ones we’ve seen so far, with wide shaved foreheads and hair tied on one side – eat brunch at secret hotel – lots of Brahmin boys roaming around, probably bunking shastra class.
Go back and jedi goes into his now usual morning nap – wake up and head to Vaitheeswaran koil after finding out that there is no nadi in Chidambaram – ananya wonders why jedi wants to do again – but jedi feels the need – does the Siva nadi – better match this time, also gets history checked before he selects the leaf and pays – heady stuff written – head back to Chidambaram and find hall to watch film – 40 min early so head back to hotel and then don’t go. Jedi settles to watch cricket while ananya goes to cybercafe – for dinner, look around and luckily find meals place.
Jedi again passes out before India Bangladesh match.
Day 45 jun 7 sun
Chidambaram – Pichavaram - Puducherry (Pondicherry) – Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram)
Leave after breakfast and visit Pichavaram; climb the tower and see but don’t go on the boats – jedi learns what mangroves are – reach pondy and do dvd shopping – skin is burning from the heat. Have a big meal at surguru and then hide in a cybercafe to wait till the sleep haze and sun fade – finally leave at 4! And then reach mahabs and ride past the sights – check in to Rs.700 place very easily haggled down to Rs.500 – for dinner go to sea side place and eat veg korma rice in a place reeking of seafood.
45 days on the road – feels surreal. Also the heat is getting to us – possible signs of travel/road/heat weariness. Also tired of seeing temples. Andhra Pradesh seems to be bleak in terms of spots (non temple i.e.) even lonely planet discards it after a few pages. But still decide on a cross AP route – Chennai to hyd to vizag. Post msg on FB asking for locals to pitch in aka wheninrome!
Day 46 jun 8 mon
Mamallapuram – Kovalam – Chennai - Tada
ECR, Mount Road, SH1, NH5
Do calculation of kms done so far to know whether service is due – the speedometer cable had broken again some 1000 kms ago – find out that from cochin (prev service) we have done some 2600 kms! And in total 4700ish kms. Jedi decides to service in Hyd only.
Skip the sights of Mahabs – been there seen those done that – head to Kovalam (Cove Long) – see the cove! Now seen Kovalam beaches on both coasts – West coast is party place and east coast is hmm buttermilk drinking place –
look for the snake park despite getting notice that its closed on Mondays, but LPlanet says Wed-Mon. find it closed – well, some other time or some other park – defn. not real time (sic) snakes – head to Chennai to do 3 things – a. fix bike speedometer cable b. eat at Adyar Anand Bhavan in Adyar c. visit big banyan tree at theosophical society.
Reach elliots beach for Cool Stop and call RE to find that service center is at Tiruviyanmur (which we had already crossed) – so jedi says fuck it- lets do it in one go at hyd. Also remember that we should visit Pranic Healing center – jedi wants to get chi generators if possible. Get address by phone and gprs.
We ask ppl for big banyan tree and no one knows till finally big tree? Oh big alla maram (banyan tree) ya ya there there (tamizh). We reach to find that visiting hours are 8-10 and 2-4. There are visiting hours!
We head to pranic healing center in nungambakam and find place. Check it out and get one more book! And some other material. Ananya says haven’t read the books we have so far and one more book! Jedi is sheep.
We ask directions back to Adyar and gentleman offers to ride ahead and show the way and we accept. 4th person on trip who has done this so far (coimbatore, cochin, Virudhnagar, and Chennai) – reach besant nagar and go to Subway – jedi and ananya need a food change! Eat sub and watch Pakistan get ass kicked by England. Jedi thinks about all the friends he had in Chennai who are no longer in Chennai!
Head to theosophical society and walk around the place and see the different religious structures – parsi temple, synagogue, liberal catholic church, gurudwara etc. – all from the outside. Finally see the world’s largest banyan tree. 250x235 feet. Second big banyan tree of the trip (machinabelle lake side is first - day 3 I think). Ananya says world’s oldest is in Calcutta. Guard asks jedi if he is driver for madam and then whole story about trip and recent marriage and why no signs of marriage etc. again chai pani money!
Unsure about which route to take to Pulicat lake (Pazhaverukadu) as white roads lead to Pulicat where there is no place to stay. As we leave Chennai, it starts darkening and then raining. This time defn acid rain. Speed past marina beach, Chennai university, fort st. george etc. jedi makes mental reminder for the 100th time to call Barry – whenever he remembers its either too early or too late in the day!
At ennore, jedi skips the minjur ponneri white road and hits the NH5 highway – the white roads must have got mothered in the rain with all the trucks – see the refinery spouting flame from those refinery flame burning things. But when he shows it to ananya, there is no flame. Did the rains put it off or did they just turn it off? Can these things be put off by rain?
Anyway again the watching the rain clouds from far only to finally end right in the middle of it happens. Reach Tada while seeing spectacular sunset. Finally out of Tamil Nadu – Kerala circuit and in Andhra Pradesh. And is it hot or what! Check into AP Tourism GH – rotating fans and the room is HOT! Water in the tap is HOT. This is at 6.30 p.m. jedi calls his mom for usual weekly call. eat fiery meals for dinner, watch films and sleep late. Ananya is looking like bronze idol. Tomorrow pulicat, sri kalahasti and then towards hyd. Happy birthday itisha.
Day 47 jun 9 tues
Tada – Navapetu (Pulicat Bird Sanctuary) – Sri Harikota – Pulicat/Sulurupet – Sri Kalahasti - Rajampet
NH5, G.N.T. Road, MDR65, SH61, SH31
wake up late. Pack and head out to find the bird sanctuary – don’t expect to see any birds – its blazing, but .. find a board pointing down one dirt track, which we take and are soon riding in a village and then onto walk tracks – ananya gets off and does recce, some turns and twists later around the outer pools of the million year old lake, we reach one watch tower. There we spot a couple of birds and a map of the lake, where we see that there is a road to sri harikota – no such line in the mapbook. So we decide to check it out and head towards sulurupet and then right to sri harikota. Soon we are on a long straight road bisecting the lake – more like pools of water amidst large dry salty lakebeds with the main lake in the distance. We reach sri harikota and circle the front entrance of the space project and head back.
Take another road and ride into the lake. Walk along the edge of the lake and see bird tracks, some small some big. Quiet exciting. A must do during season. Could be a great place to camp if any dry sandy stretches are still available.
We head back starving and try to find a place to eat in sulurupet. Finally find one and have our second spicy Andhra meal. Two meals for 20 rs!
We then head for sri kalahasti – should be our last temple till konark I hope. Another large complex with lots of deities. Ananya gets held back coz of camera and then doesn’t want to go in. jedi goes in and gets trapped in the free darshana line – has to go thru the entire circuit before he can come out.
Jedi runs through 2 bottles of water quickly heading across the dry hot hills around tirupati. Gets into reserve but doesn’t fuel up, wanting to fuel only at HP as he has done all trip/5000 kms – gets to 3 HPs but either diesel or no fuel. Finally with probably 10 kms left, he goes to Indian Oil and puts little. Ananya feels upset stomach so jedi finds her a lovely potty spot under a bridge. Finally stop at rajampet instead of cudapa and check into lodge where they are unsure whether to let us stay and ask a million questions.
Day 48 jun 10 wed
Rajampet – Cudapah – Tadpatri – Belum Caves – Nandyal - Atmakur
SH31, MDRx, NH14, SH27
pack and head out – meticulous lodgekeeper erases our names from his room chart - confirm belum with mangal – eat breakfast at cudapa; udipi sambhar tastes the same everywhere – pass 7 cement factories, 1 steel factory, countless limestone and cudapa stone quarries – hills being mined and quarried – refuse/rejects? Being dumped high into artificial hills – surreal. Kilometers of the same.
Reach belum caves and find out its underground – awesome place – esp. the banyan tree and water spigot. Millions of years old and formed by river movement – probably chitravati river?
Lots of cool stops today – jedi feels his head is baking in the hot helmet – wets the helmet – white roads are bumpy in AP, back feels broken, stomach churned, ass mashed – aim for srisailam – end up at atmakur – check out two lodges before settling for second – jedi shoos beautiful blue and red frog from the loo for ananya, she is reptile phobic – jedi rests in shavasan
Day 49 jun 11 thu
Atmakur – Srisailam - Hyderabad
day starts with karmic rain in return for ananya’s complaints about the heat the day before – ride through the forest in the rain, looking for tigers – Andhra food has been disappointing so far – rain stops, the Nagararjuna Srisailam Tiger Sanctuary forest is lovely but no tigers, flying insects try to eat Jedi and die a pathetic death – spot the great Krishna river. – a peahen and wild cocks
Srisailam looks like a typical religious town but Jedi explores on and happens upon ropeway down to Nagarjuna Sagar reservoir – Jedi’s first ropeway ride – boatrides are available from the bottom of the ropeway to million year old caves but we don’t take it as it will take more than a couple of hours - Nagarjuna Sagar is huuuge, the dam is the tallest masonry dam in India/the world (?) – more forest, spot different kinds of birds but aren’t quick enough to shoot them - walk into ant/snake stronghold of forest to see the ‘octopus’ (a part of the Krishna river) - a huge salamander barely saves itself from our front wheel – after 200 kms of dramatic forest and hills, almost forgotten how the plains look –
There are nature walks and treks on the Hyderabad side of the sanctuary but give it a skip – want to reach hyd today.
finally reach outskirts of Hyderabad, takes ages to creep in with the traffic, then it takes ages to find a hotel we like near Nampally station – cities are always so expensive