We left Chennai at 3 pm, my family and Johny’s, four adults and three kids crammed into a car. From Chennai till we turned right for Pondy, the ride was uneventful – just another day on ECR. From then on the landscape was beautiful, Tamil Nadu like I never seen before, and if it had not been for my Mallu pride, I would have stopped the car and shot pics all along the way…

By about 5:30 we were in Pondy. We filled our car with cheap petrol; did not give in to the temptation of cheap booze – but still managed to swipe a big motta with my left mirror. It was Aadi Velli, some Amman festival was on, and just as we picked up speed, swarms of makkal in yellow mundu diverted us off the highway into Humpistan.

Every few metres, there was a hump, most of them L and XL. I guess they didn’t have enough bitumen to surface the roads, so they concentrated on the humps (At least they’ve got their priorities right). We crawled single-file through villages right out of The Hindu Archives, ran into two old friends…but escaped without injury. Finally, after about an hour, we got back to the highway and started serious clipping. The road was good, Johny was pushing the limits of the car and suddenly we flew.

Culverts. All along the stretch culverts were being rebuilt and the guys who build approach roads weren’t informed. Once we successfully traversed this stretch we thought we had seen everything…We stopped for coffee at Chidambaram, whizzed through Sirkazhi, got lost in Karaikal, reached Nagapatnam – and found that all Innovas we were tailing had disappeared.

The road to Velankanni was scary. It was not surfaced, unlit (it was a new moon night) and in between there were sections missing (Remember Speed? Imagine Sandra and Keanu doing it over and over again).

We left Velankanni after lunch the following day, by an alternate route, through a landscape that resembles South Parur (‘Mystery of the Missing Innovas’ – solved). Rode through Nagapatnam enjoying the fragrance of its world-famous onakka meen and reached Tranquebar.

The Tamil name is pure poetry – Tarangampadi – where the waves sing to you. (If you are planning to visit Tranquebar, keep your eyes peeled for a small Hotel Tamilnadu board – we almost didn’t see it). Tranquebar is basically one road – half a kilometre from the entrance arch to the Bay of Bengal. But that road perhaps has the highest history per square metre in South India – a Danish Fort constructed in 1620, the site where the first Lutheran missionaries landed in 1706, the old Governor’s bungalow (now a Neemrana Hotel) and three churches, of which the so called new church is 289 years old.

We reached Pondy by night. French cuisine at Le Club, pushti poth at New Guest House.

Coming soon – ‘Pondy-Chennai’

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