July 28, 2010

Lepakshi...!!



A bike ride was on the cards for a long time and I asked my travel buddy if she wanted to join. She was more than willing and we headed to this little known place called Lepakshi on a sunday early morning . I was on my pulsar and she on her activa and we left by 6 am. Lepakshi is off the NH-7 and we reached this place taking a detour immediately after crossing the Andhra pradesh border at Kodikonda.    

I had never travelled on NH-7 beyond the Bengaluru International airport at Devanahalli and that was the main reason for selecting this small temple village. The tarmac after the turning towards the airport was absolutely butter smooth and we had a splendid ride. I did push up the needle of the speedometer on my steed a couple of times to check whether it could still achieve the bradmanseque figures. However it wasn't surprising that the steed responded by cruising at my intended numbers.

We had a small break for breakfast after Chikballarpur and then headed towards the Andhra border. The well laid out roads made us stop and take photos of the same. However the disadvantages of such roads is that you end up enjoying the ride and forget about the destination. Infact this is what happened to me too. I was enjoying my ride and completely forgot about the detour that had to be taken after the toll gate at Kodikonda. After about 5-6 kms from where we were supposed to take the deviation, I had this feeling that we had missed the point. I stopped and asked the next person whom I met on the road for directions to Lepakshi. However my broken Kannada couldn't help the situation and his Telugu was making things worse. However when I said Lepakshi, he muttered something in Telugu and showed me the direction with a wave of his hand. Sign language does help even in the 21st century...!! After turning back and reaching the junction, we took the turn and entered the village roads. This road leads to Lepakshi  and on the way if your lucky enough you could spot painted storks. However i didnt see any.

History says that Lepakshi is the location where Ravana fought with Jadayu after he had abducted Sita. Before you reach the Veerabhadra temple there is a huge stone structure of Nandi which is supposed to be one of the tallest in India. The Lepakshi temple has a lot of carvings, mural paintings and architecture which is a delight for both historians and photographers alike. This is a 16th century temple which was built during the Vijayanagara empire and the carvings on the pillars depict a lot of history.

After a couple of photoshoots around the temple we entered the inner sanctum. The priest who was performing the pujas also acted as a stand-in guide as he explained to the devotees the history behind the temple and its formation. To my amusement he asked each devotee whether he was a Kannadiga or Tamilian or a Teluguite so that he could explain to them in their respective languages. Malayalam is a tongue twister language is what most people say and I am sure the priest would agree to it.

It was time for us to leave and we headed back the same route. This time there was no missing turns and we hit the NH-7 through the semi-tarred village roads. Once back on NH-7 we were back to the zenith of smooth riding. Even though the sun was out we didnt feel the heat and we rode on and on till we touched the traffic-filled Bengaluru by afternoon.

Lepakshi is a nice getaway from Bengaluru if you like architecture, history and beautiful roads. Though there isnt much to see other than the temple, the ride to the place will surely make anyone relaxed.


Route: Bengaluru- Chikballarpur- Kodikonda- take left after toll gate- Lepakshi
Distance: 126 kms

Signing Note: Lovely tarmac doesnt always help the traveller, but it surely does bring immense joy to the rider.     



July 1, 2010

Pondicherry- The French Rendezvous...!!


My friends and I got a 2 day break and we wanted to get out of Bengaluru. After a lot of discussion we zeroed in on Pondicherry. Even though I had been to pondicherry 2 years back, I didn't mind going to that coastal town again. We took the overnight bus from Bengaluru and reached Pondicherry the next day morning.
Pondicherry which is also known as Pondy and Puducherry is one place that is filled with a lot French flavour despite being in India. The people, the food, the streets, the language - everything has something to do with its old colonial rulers. I could feel their presence everywhere. Pondicherry has a very relaxed and leisurely approach to life and this is exactly the reason why people come here. Pondicherry is divided into the tamil quarter and french quarter by a canal which separates them. The french side has french names to its roads and buildings. The beach and the hotels also come in this part of the town. However all the shopping areas are in the tamil quarter.
Even though there isn't much to see around Pondicherry, a visit to the Aurobindo ashram/ Auroville is a must. We hired a couple of bikes and left for Auroville. It is situated in the outskirts of the town and we passed through serene localities before reaching there. We did a study tour of the place and then moved on to the lovely restaurant which served delicious french food. After some finger licking business we checked out the shops which sold curios, souvenirs, candles and different kind of hand made goods.
From the ashram we headed straight to the beach road, which is one of the most frequently visited roads in Pondicherry. There is a huge statue of Mahatma Gandhi on one side and a statue of Joan of Arc towards another end. With a lot of coffee shops and vendors around, this is a favourite spot with both the residents and the tourists. The road was also filled with evening walkers as this is a vehicle free road. We had some hot coffee and listened to the waves thrashing itself against the rocks. The icing on the cake was however the sea breeze blowing across our face taking us to the zenith of serenity. We didn't leave the place until it got really dark. Pondicherry lost this lovely beach to the Tsunami in 2004 when it swept across the east coast of India. The beach is now covered up with rocks and boulders to make sure that the waves dont start eating up the remaining piece of land. However people still sit on the rocks and enjoy their evenings. After the evening stroll it was time to gobble down some french food. We went to a french restaurant which was completely lit up in the night and helped ourselves to some lovely cocktails and a tasty french dinner.
The next day morning we visited a couple of churches of the 17th and 18th centuries. The churches have some lovely glass paintings and beautiful architecture which makes them a must visit for all tourists. Pondicherry also has a lovely museum and a french war memorial which are worth a visit.
Our next destination was Chunambur which was away from the town. We had to take a small boat ride across a big creek to reach the Paradise island beach. It is a lovely beach with absolutely no commercialisation except for one shop which provides refreshments for the visitors. It began drizzling while we were at the island and there was no place where we could get a cover. We returned back after an hour of fun at the beach. Pondicherry is known to be a shopper's paradise and we didn't want to miss out on it. After a small round shopping and lazying around, it was time for us to wind up our short trip to the lovely beach town, Pondy.
Whether you call it the French Riviera of the East or the Goa of the East Coast, Pondicherry has its own charm which makes people go back to her again and again.

Signing Note: French names, french culinary, french culture...Oops!! I missed out on a french madame.

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