The overnight bus dropped us on a deserted street of Pondicherry early in the morning. Seats on the sleeper coach from Bangalore had been a good buy. On getting off we could see the Bay of Bengal in the distance but we were not in a mood to walk till the coast. An auto rickshaw pulled over and the three of us hurriedly loaded ourselves in it as we didn’t want to miss the sunrise. I had been to lots of beaches before, but the view of an endless water body never fails to mesmerize. The Promenade Beach (also known as Rock Beach) is laced with rocks on the sea front, followed by a parallel walkway and then a narrow road. There were more people jogging than strolling on the walkway. The colourful houses, foreign street names, churches and European people near the beach reminded us that the French were once the primary inhabitants of Pondicherry. Beach side cafes and restaurants were starting to open up their windows and put the tables and chairs in place. A morning breakfast in one of their balconies would have set the perfect mood for the day. But this being a low budget one day trip, we slipped past them.
We were next headed to Auroville, a settlement about 6 km from the main city, famous for Matrimandir and Auroville Beach. We boarded a local bus that would go in the right direction. The bus was full of women with gajras, men in lungis, vendors carrying their fruits (coconut and bananas) – the city bus reminded us that we were in Tamil Nadu. The bus dropped us at the junction of roads with Matrimandir and the beach in opposite directions. Beaches were the primary thing that had brought us to Pondicherry and without giving a second thought we started off towards Auroville Beach. It’s a sandy beach and the water near the coast is brown in colour. It’s not the cleanest of places, but we were not doing a hygiene inspection of the beach. There were small groups of people who were diving and dipping in the sea. We threw our bags on the sand embankment and embraced the waves. We raced with the waves, let our body drift with them, somersaulted and posed to get that perfect group picture. We just couldn’t get enough of the waves.
After spending almost an hour at the beach we dried ourselves up and readied for our next stop. Matrimandir is a spiritual place where people can indulge in meditation and yoga. The beautiful edifice has a golden hue and appears to be a spherical assembly of concave plates. The greenery all around the building adds to its grandeur. For most of us, it was just another structure with architectural awe, but it evoked spirituality deep within.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram is another spiritual community of the followers of Sri Aurobindo. From a backpacker’s point of view, the place can be skipped if on a tight schedule. After having lunch, strolling in the bazaars of Pondicherry and visiting a church, we again started on the hunt for beaches which took us to Paradise Beach. To our disappointment, the beach had specific visiting hours and had been closed for the day. We had to satisfy with the Veerampattinam Beach which was no better than Auroville Beach. Our towels and shorts were already wet from the morning dive. We were skeptic on again diving in the brown coloured sea water, but considering that it would be months before we again came near a sea coast, we took to the water, again.
It had become dark and we quickly needed to get back to the city. On our way back to the bus stand we had to hitchhike as there was no public transport available at the beach. Three of us on three different motorbikes – the day ended with a fun ride. It had been a day well spent. The fun part was that the trip was completely unplanned. It was the first time that I was not-following-an-itinerary and it was thrilling. I later came to know that Pondicherry is also home to some famous surfing schools. I hope to pay the town another visit someday and take a surfing course.