Ticket to Pondy

It was a dream trip plan for a special day. I wanted to celebrate my birthday with a unique experience. Pondy + scuba-diving was a perfect combination.

With my experience from Rajasthan trip, the hostel was the best accommodation for a solo trip. I got a good deal at Villa Olivia for my two-day stay. I was also in conversation with Amy who was helping me to plan my itinerary with all the do’s and don’ts. Now the wait was for the day to arrive.

Pondy

Reaching pondy was a smooth journey because of the travel on a sleeper bus and I was at pondy by 7 AM as expected. I had to wait for almost an hour to get into the hostel where I met Samuel (Sam). Our stay was a small house on the second floor where I was sharing my room with two other people. I even got a scooter for myself for just 300/- a day. I met Sue, Adrian and Baz there who were sharing their experience from their stay at Pondicherry which continued till we got our beds allotted.

It was already midday when I was at the Rock Beach for a brunch which is just about a kilometer away from the hostel. I settled for a Burger and went on to explore the French Colony. First on the list was the French Memorial followed by the Gandhi statue which was on the right opposite side. It was already 12 by then and I couldn’t visit Aurobindo Ashram since it was closed. Next was the French Museum which was nothing but a huge collection of books inside a French mansion. It’s not really worth a visit if one is not interested in just the books. But the Pondicherry Historical Museum didn’t disappoint me. It was worth watching all the artifacts recovered from the excavation done at Arikamedu and other areas surrounding Pondicherry.

Without wasting much time, I had to now head to the Temple Adventures to get some lessons for my Dive. The instructor Kailash was friendly and patient enough to help me understand the hand signal to be used and various techniques such as removing and using back the regulator and clearing the eye goggles. Breathing inside water using my mouth was really uncomfortable initially and I was very nervous for the next day since I would be inside water for longer time.

I still had some time on hand and the next destination was Paradise Beach. This is one such beach with fine white sand where one can spend all day. Though there was a ferry that can take me to the beach, I choose to ride by scooter which took me to the same beach at a distant shore. The feel was just amazing sitting on the seashore and admiring the waves that rush towards the sand.

When I reached back to the hostel, Joelle was the new member there and we all had our part of experiences to share from the day. Adrian was leaving to Madhurai that night and he wanted to explore the French colony. I accompanied him on the walk through the French colony where we tasted some local Masala Puri, watched few classical dance performances and explored the market. He was happy like a kid when we saw an elephant in the temple nearby and it blessed him in return for a One rupee coin. The next day was big for me since it was my Birthday. I also met Lensie before I ended the day.

Villa Olivia

Villa Olivia

Gandhi Statue

Gandhi Statue

French war memorial

French war memorial

Rock Beach

Rock Beach

Paradise Beach

Paradise Beach

with Adrian and Baz

with Adrian and Baz

with Sam

with Sam

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The next day I was at Temple Adventures by 6:30 AM. I realized there that it’s not only 2, but there are 6 people to dive from our boat 007. Two siblings from Delhi and a couple from Andhra. One of the dive instructors reiterated the safety signals and also introduced us to the captain and other crew members. We were also shown some pictures of fishes that we might spot. So our boat left to the ocean with all equipment loaded and the journey had a feel of riding the Columbus from the amusement park. One can feel uneasy if they have motion sickness and necessary precautions must be taken. After half an hour of the boat ride, we reached dive spot. Pondicherry doesn’t have a natural reef and Temple Adventures had created one so that we can enjoy the marine life. The water in the dive spot was crystal clear. I was the second in turn to go in the water. When I took the first plunge and went deep into the water with my instructor Danny, my right ear was not getting equalized for the pressure and my confidence was already low. I didn’t give up, and the second dive went smooth. I was a little nervous initially, but then I was surprised by the way I was breathing inside water with proper rhythm. This time I consciously equalized the ear pressure to spend maximum time inside water. The views inside were breathtaking and could spot various groups of fishes such as Lionfish and Banner Fish among the other 8. I was at the depth of 12m for 28 minutes which was the best birthday gift I could give to myself. I had finally checked Scuba Dive from my bucket list. The overall scuba activity took around 3 hours.

My next and the last destination for the day was Auroville. Joelle had agreed to accompany me. I met Milosh at the hostel where we had q quick conversation about his visit to Esha Yoga center. It was noon when we reached Auroville. I was already sure that I will not get a chance to go inside Matri Mandir and I have to be satisfied with the view from the viewpoint. The story of why and how the Auroville was built was very inspiring and I could see the living example of Karma Yoga. After having a sumptuous meal at the Auroville cafe, we started our 1 km walk to the Matri Mandir viewpoint. Joelle was sharing her travel and trek experiences throughout the walk. The view of Matri Mandir was mesmerizing when it shined from the reflected sunlight. With a hope to get in someday, we returned back to the hostel.

As usual, all of us at the hostel had something interesting to share and I was proud while showing my dive certificate. I met Elfie who was back to Pondicherry after a short trek nearby. Sam mentioned about the Himalayan Salted Caramel ice cream that he had tasted at GMT. So Elfie, Joelle and I decided to take a walk towards the Rock Beach to taste the ice cream and have a mini celebration for my Birthday. A chilled cone of ice cream and a walk on the seashore was a perfect end to the day.

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Kanchipuram

This came as a surprise for me. I had an additional day in hand and I was headed towards Chennai. After hearing a lot about the Kanchi Kamakshi temple from few years, I had made up my mind to visit it since it was anyways towards the direction of Chennai.

It was almost the closing time when I reached the temple and felt accomplished when I was able to get the darshan of Kamakshi Amma.  There was no direct bus to Kanchipuram and had to travel first to Tindivanam before catching a Bus to Kanchi. I was already very hungry and at the same time very disappointed since I missed the lunch at the temple.

I had ample amount of time in hand and I decided to explore the town for few more temples. I visited Kachabeshwar, Ekambareshwar and Kailasanathar temples which were all at a distance of 500 meters from each other. The Ekambareshwar temple had a gigantic gopuram but was late to get an entry to have a look inside. Kailasanathar temple was an architectural beauty. Each wall was sculpted and was singing the tales from the mythological stories. I bought a silk saree for my mother before bidding farewell to Kanchipuram.

Kamakshi Temple

Kamakshi Temple

Vasanta Mantapam at Kamakshi Temple

Vasanta Mantapam at Kamakshi Temple

Kachabeshwara Temple

Kachabeshwara Temple

Ekambareshwar Temple

Ekambareshwar Temple

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Kailasanatha Temple

Kailasanatha Temple

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With an amazing 3 days solo trip, I had made many new friends and learned the art of trusting others and self.

P.S: My amazing hostel mates:

  1. Samuel: He was from France. His aim is to work as much as he can save for the travel. Be in a single place for long and learn the culture there. When I asked him for the secret, he showed me helpx.net to explore
  2. Baz: He was from England. He is in search of his truth and observing the Indian culture closely.
  3. Adrian: He was from Germany. He had two weeks in his hand to explore south India. He was an enthusiastic Scuba Diver and was a great company to have long conversations.
  4. Joelle: She was from Switzerland. She had done a professional course on Zen Shiatsu and was in search of inspiration to start a center to provide Zen Shiatsu to people.
  5. Lenzie: She was from Ireland. She was a little short tempered but I was amazed by some of her travel stories.
  6. Milosh: He was from Poland. It was inspiring to see him practice yoga with discipline and interest. He even had good taste in music.
  7. Elfie: She was from France. She was fun to talk to and also had a great amount of patience for people.