Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Pirates of Pulicat

What do three guys do on a hot chennai afternoon when the wanderlust bug bites them ?… they land up at Pulicat. Or so we thought, at the start.

Pulicat (or Pazhaverkadu, as it is called in Tamil) is India's second largest lagoon. Situated about 55 kms to the north of Chennai, near the Andhra-TamilNadu border, the lagoon is a bird sanctuary. We started our journey at around 2 pm and took the road from the Marina up north through Parry's till we reached the Ennore port.

I've never been to Ennore before and it was a pleasant surprise to find a pristine waterfront so close to the city. The place is really photogenic with bobbing catamaran and frolicking kids in the water forming a picturesque addition to the panoramic sea-face. The road from Ennore turns left to bypass the harbor. 40 kms further up north comes Ponneri, a small town with crowded, bustling markets. The road splits into four, and we continue left to Pulicat.

There were few cars on the road we took, and fewer tourists - most of them foreigners. The car caught the attention of quite a few in every village we passed, making us feel very foreign too (wish we had a few swadesh songs ;D).

Now Pulicat is an interesting village/town/whatever they call it. You need to pay a panchayat tax to enter it. The only indication to a visiting tourist that the place is of any significance is a TTDC hoarding that shows a few flying birds and has some rubbed off lettering. People walk about on roads as if they've never seen a moving vehicle and blowing the horn has hardly any effect. The area itself is so dirty I wonder why any bird would land there, but to scavenge. I wish the TTDC had not left this place to rot.

However, the lagoon is a decent find. Particularly at dusk, as the sun sets, its a impressive sight. That is, if you can forget the extortionist boatmen who charge hundreds to take you around in a circle with a radius of a few hundred meters.

We could only sight a lone heron stalking about and a flock of birds flying in the horizon, but the boatman assured us that we could see a lot more if we came early in the morning. The lagoon is pretty shallow - so, it was interesting to see a couple of bullock carts crossing it alongside the boats.

For people who plan to follow our trail: Leave early in the morning. It takes around 2 hours to reach Pulicat from Chennai. Following the NH5 up from Koyambedu is an easier (and smoother) way than going via Ennore. The road conditions are terrible, to say the least - if it were not for the awesome suspension of the car, we'd have returned with a bruised back. So either travel by motorcycle, or take an SUV ;D. Recommended for the adventure seeking (or/and the absolutely vela). Finally, if you want to feel like a foreigner in India, just land there in a car … do carry a couple of Swadesh songs for true effect.

Photos: On flickr
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