Monday, May 17, 2010

Travelogue: Pondycherry and Tirupati

Well, I know this wasn’t the best time of the year for a trip down south but we risked it and were rewarded with empty beaches and sparse crowds in the Tirupati Temple.

Pondycherry is a quaint and charming city with a rustic, old world feel, life is very relaxed here and quite a respite from the slam bang, hurried life of the metros. Being a former French colony, the French influence is quite omnipresent with the names of the streets and some prominent buildings in French. In fact, Pondycherry feels like a town in has narrow cobbled streets, lots of open spaces and buildings with French architecture.

Sunrise on the promenade

There’s not much to see here apart from the regular beaches and the Aurobindo Ashram. Walking along the promenade is quite a pleasant experience, especially at night, when the waves look like giant monsters racing along the waters to thrash the rocks on the coast… with the moon casting an eerie glow over the entire scene.
Another feature of this place is the almost total absence of cars...the entire city travels on two wheelers..a large percentage of them cycles.. the promenade is also out of bounds for any vehicular traffic from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The next leg of my trip was Chennai-Tirupati by bus and then to Tirumala, which is a hill station 20 kms away, in the mountains, where the famous Tirupati temple is situated. Though the main attraction of this place is the Temple, on which the whole economy of Tirupati is based, Tirumala is a wonderful hill station as well during summers, providing some respite from the 40 degree heat of the plains. The road leading from Tirupati to Tirumala is truly a delight with hairpin bends and S- curves, snaking and curving its way to a height of – m. Once you reach the top, you are treated with commanding views of the – mountains and the valley below. N
Tirumala has nice little guest houses atop the hills, which give wonderful views of the verdant forests on the mountains and the town of Tirupati below.. it was quite a sight to watch sunrise and the clouds descending and shrouding the mountains in a blanket of mist.

View from the guest house

Cars going downhill from tirumala to tirupati

Wind Energy’s quite big here, and you can see at least 10 windmills perched upon the mountains, majestically swinging their blades in the direction of the wind.

Windmills atop the hills

So, overall it was a nice trip, covering landscapes of both beaches and mountains. My only complaint is the language barrier, its really difficult to communicate with uneducated people like vendors and shopkeepers who don’t know English in Tamil Nadu. And another strange thing is that people in Tamil Nadu understand English, but as soon as you cross the border into Andhra Pradesh, its Hindi which is the preferred second language after Telugu.. so you have to communicate either in Hindi or English according to the state you are in.