Travel Diaries: Surreal Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari was just a few hours away from Kovalam, the venue of 2015’s hackbeach, that I() decided to plan a day trip to visit the Southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent. We toyed with the idea of taking a cab like a friend of ours did but in the end we opted to take the Island City Express to travel the roughly 3-hour journey.  This was turning out to be quite a low cost trip thanks to the company I had. One of the concerns I have with solo tripping is that it does burn a hole in your pocket if done for short periods of time.

Tip: To get to the station from Kovalam, you have to choose between a rick (tuk-tuk), cab or the bus.

So we caught the train around 12:30 and reach Kanyakumari by 15:00. We were staying at Vedanta – Wake up and since it seemed closeby we decided to walk there. As we walked to our Inn, we got our first taste of  the multi-ethnical, multi-cultural town of Kanyakumari.

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After a brief break, we decided to head to the tip, where the action seemed to be; the sea shore. The Triveni Sangam is one of those rare places where you get to see the “meeting” of 3 bodies of water. This incidentally also means that at Kanyakumari you can see the sun rise from the sea and set into the sea as well. However the weather was gloomy and we did not get to see the sunset.

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There is a Gandhi Mandapam where his ashes were kept before immersion. This is really a huge empty building populated in some parts by lovers.

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As it grew darker we decided to explore the shops around and man! were we in for a surprise. The busy market was full of LED lit shops selling wares for Rs. 30, Rs. 20, etc. Entire shops dedicated to a single pricepoint.

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We headed back to Vedanta to sleep early so that we could wake up to see a sunrise.

IMG_20151114_061148933.jpgUnfortunately, the morning was just as gloomy and the crowds that had woken up with the hope of seeing a sunrise had nothing to do. Some of us walked down the stone jetty to the far end and sat down to take in the calmness of the morning but there were people selling watery tea and trying to con people into buying ‘pearl’ necklaces. There was this one guy who haggled with a family and brought down the price from 200 to 20. Later on in the market, I overheard another seller trying to sell similar necklaces to foreigners for $100. I wonder if anyone falls for their tricks.

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When we got back we could see that the line to visit the Vivekanand Memorial snaked through the bylanes of the town and the memorial had not even opened yet. So we decided to skip it since we wouldn’t be able to make it back to Trivandrum in time. But we had plenty of time to kill, so I decided to go for a stroll along the coast.

Being from a coastal town, I felt surprised to see the amount of construction and development done to commercialize the shoreline and provide people a place to sit and see the ocean. The roads too were well maintained and the streetlights bright.

Finally it was time to go. We headed back to the train station and waited for the island city express to start.

Back we headed to Trivandrum.

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Pondy Polama!

My Visit to Pondicherry!

We left around 1pm but it was only around 150 that we caught a bus for Pondy. We gave up waiting for the AC volvo and boarded the deluxe one. The cost for the one way trip varies from Rs. 55-150 from Thiruvanmiyur. This trip was planned last minute i.e., in 2-3 days hence we had trouble getting accomodation and had to settle with Anandham Residency instead of a guesthouse which we had wanted. We chose Anandham because it was priced at Rs 1250 for a double AC room and charged Rs 300 for an extra bed. They also provided complimentary breakfast.

We reached Pondicherry around 5pm and were at the hotel easily. We dumped out bags and were set to explore. We found our way to Mission Street which was deceptively named as Cathedral Street on our map. Lucky our hotel was about 4 blocks away. Next we rented our two wheelers. We got 1 Star City, 1 Activa, 1 Access 125 and 1 Scooty Pep Teen2.

And we were off to our first destination eventhough along the way people got lost on the way to re-fuel. I got to ride the Access 125 after the re-fuel as i was one of those eligible riders around. So Chunnambar Backwaters it was as scheduled by our tour planner Nievu, although i had already said it was too late for that. So we headed out of Pondy as this is a good 8 kms away on Cuddalore Highway. Finding the place is not easy and you might just overshoot this place like we did. Naturally, it was closed. A bystander told us to come back the next day after 8:30am.

We headed back to Pondy. Interesting events that occured during this were, the unlicensed riders taking a fall and after half a kilometre being stopped by policemen. The Promenade was next on the list. The Promenade is a 1.5km stretch of beachfront. Vehicles are not allowed here and its a Walker’s paradise. we parked our vehicles on the side roads and went walking. It was past 8pm by then and it was a lot crowded. Not surprising, it being a Sunday and all. We hung around a bit, clicking pictures and soon it was 9pm after we had a small snack.

We had read online that this place called ‘That’s Y Food’ is supposed to be one of the best places to eat at, so we hunted for it. After a lot of hunting on Mission Street we found that the restaurant was no more and the one that had replaced it had closed its kitchen. Now Pondy is a small town that means restaurants and other eating out places are closed by 10:30pm and we were running out of places to eat at. In the end, we decided to choose ‘CKS’ as it was open. Ordered a veg. burger combo for myself. Satisfying. We headed back to our Hotel.

After a good night’s sleep, it was morning again and after waking people up and having that yummy complimentary breakfast and a quick re-fuel, we were off to Auroville. Auroville is a good 10kms away our info told us but those long straight roads make you wonder if its really 10kms. We just kept going on and on. Finally we were there. We parked at the Vistor’s Centre and strolled around. Visited the boutiques. I bought a Rope Bag and Apple Butter Cookies. Next we headed to the Matrimandir but we came to know that we needed the entry passes to enter the compound. So as the pass distribution would resume after lunch break at 2pm, we decided to skip it. We headed back to the Cheese factory. Midway, the girls took a detour to shop and i waited at The Bakery with Girish. I had a Quiche and a Pizza, that was to be my lunch. Most of us had a snack at that point except our Vegetarian(@nievu) and the Cheese Intolerant(Faris) 😉

Back we went to hunt for the Cheese factory, and after many wrong turns and double backs, me, shwetha and girish were the last to arrive. Sadly we came to know that they wont show us around. We need to inform prior to coming. So that was sad. So after our bad luck that day, we hit the road but stopped at the first open restaurant. It was GoodMan’s, and i say the food was Good. The Seafood was more affordable than in Chennai and quite tasty. Late afternoon we headed back to Checkout from the Hotel.

The journey back went well except two vehicles overshot the hotel and finally ended up back at the hotel after quite a ride. With our luggage now on our bags, we headed out to Chunnambar. We knew the way by heart by now. Actually we knew quite a lot of Pondy by heart. This time it was my turn to overshoot the destination. The rest were worried as i didnt pick their calls either. But i made it back and somehow hopped into the last boat ride of the day. It was a relaxing sunset boat ride on the river and it made us realise that our trip was coming to an end. These barely two days were a lot of fun. We headed back to Pondicherry hunting for a place to eat dinner. After much searching, we found La Terrasse. The food was awesome! Thanks to @anahgem for the recommend. Somehow we made it to the vehicle shop minutes before 9pm. There we had a minor disagreement about the damage to the Scooty Pep+. We ended up coughing up Rs700 as a fine. With that out of the way, we headed to the Express Bus Stop to perhaps catch the last Volvo out of Pondicherry that night.

At 10pm, the bus arrived and we settled into our seats for the ride home. It was a memorable trip. Wish i could do it all over again.

What we didnt do right: Find out about hiring two wheelers. Check if Tourist sites are open during your visits. Many of the museums seem to be closed on Mondays. Call and book visits for places like the ‘Le Ferme’ Cheese Factory.

What you should do: Find out details about places of visit, their timings, charges, etc. Know that restaurants close early. Keep a map handy. Rent a vehicle.

What we would want to do next time: Visit the museums and roam the city. Visit Matrimandir. Visit the beaches. Scuba diving, Surfing also on the list, Have french food.

Refer this list for more details about Pondy!