Monday, 2 December 2013

24 November 2013

Travelling, the funny thing about travelling is that, although you are physically exhausted, you somehow feel very refreshed…. This was how I felt, after the small bike trip we went on….

Planning a trip has its perks, more so when it is a long trip to unchartered courses. A short ride, I realised, is more fun when not planned. My friend and I, we set out with just one thought.. Ride all the way to mahabalipuram, and have breakfast at some good (read expensive) restaurant..

Thanks to an ominous cloud cover, nothing was sure until we actually set off. Although it was 3 of us who had planned, only two could make. So, on the cloudy Sunday morning, we set out from adyar at about 8, an hour after we hand intended to start, thanks to the rains..

Sunday traffic being rather thin, we were on ecr pretty quickly and rode out. Although am a novice as far as long distance riding is concerned, my friend has done quite a bit of riding around on his KTM DUKE.

Thanks to the cloud cover, the ride was rather pleasant. So, with one brief stop a few miles past kovalam (for a photo op ;) ), we headed straight to Mahabalipuram.

Our plan was to try out “Bob Marley CafĂ©”, close to the beach as recommended by Zomato. We however to our dismay, found that the place dint open until past 11 am.! Although tempted to enter one of the several restaurants with French names (many, I saw were serving idly and vada on a plantain leaf… some French restaurant that! ;) ), we decided to try our luck at Radisson Blu, again to be told the restaurant wasn’t open yet.! DAMN!

So, with some suggestions form the security guy at Radisson, we set out for Chariot Resorts, a quiet place just past the 5 rathas. A very nice ambience with indoor and outdoor breakfast buffet and at a not so expensive tag too (Rs 350+tax). A very leisurely breakfast and rest to the butt later, we set out further on ecr to look for a “Dutch Fort ruins” I saw on my maps.. Turns out the place was Sardras, also called Sadurangapattinam.

Remember to take the left at the junction where a board calls out “ANUPURAM” with an arrow to the right! This place, I presume is very close to the Kalpakkam nuclear plant. A 5 odd km ride into the narrow road ends at a T junction right in front of the sea. The fort, is at a stone’s throw from here. The fort, although close, is easy to miss, since the entrance is on a much narrower lane, and not on the main road abutting the sea.

Not surprisingly, we missed the fort, and thanks to the rather stinging drizzle, we decided to take shelter by a small barber shop.. A kind old man and a couple of kids, were very helpful in guiding us back to the fort. A half hour s break later, we got to the fort.

Sadras fort/Dutch fort.
The place had really nice ramparts from the outside. But I was In for a shock when I go to the main entrance.  Not a soul was to be seen. In fact, we weren’t sure if the structure was even open! Closer inspection revealed an open gate, and on entering, we found a single watchman/guide. Without even being asked, he enthusiastically showed us the Dutch graves, and explained that they had inscriptions about the old city and that the fort was built by Sadurangavalli, and later occupied by the Dutch, although its called as the Dutch fort.

He went on to show us the excavated royal bed chambers, the main living area, the gallows and the prison, the chapel/church, and the grand dining hall cum kitchen. The women’s quarters were very close to the dining/kitchen areas, and the furthest from the main entrance. This probably could explain the social structure in the 17th century in the area. (am saying probably since I have not researched or read up on the ruler as such). A nice fort by the sea now lies in ruins, and in a very pertinent danger of walls crumbling. It is quite sad to hear that the restoration works have been held up as the ASI proposal has yet to be approved, for the budget, I presume.  

Having heard about “alamparai fort” further south, I could not help but ask the guide, about and he said it was 40 km out on the ecr, and that it was a nice place by the beach, with the waves hitting the fort walls, quite some imagination!!!!!!

With that info(??!?!??!?!) we set out further through the township of Kalpakkam, an entire world in itself, towards marakkanam, in search of the Alamparai fort. What a disappointment that was. The place cannot even be called ruins. There are some peripheral walls, a small structure in the middle, and a rusted ASI information plaque, proclaiming that the place was in the hands of the Muslim rulers of the area.

With not much there, we started the ride back home. While quite risky, the ride in the rain was quite fun, interspersed with two stops for shelter. Having started from Alamparai by 2 pm, we reached adyar by 5 pm.

Having been there, I wouldn’t suggest Alamparai fort. But for those who want to visit, go all the way to kadapakkam village, about 40km from kalpakkam and about 8km before marakkanam. At the junction, take a left and go about 4-5 km, until you hit a fork. Take the right, and  the ruins, in their desolate form will greet you at the end of the street.

The ride, both tiring and fun was a much needed break from the monotony of work. However, I feel sorry for my friend who had to stick to rather low speeds, since my Discover was not capable of making more than 80 kph!

It was pure luck that my exhausted bike’s engine decided to die just a street before my house. Lucky indeed.! Thus was the Sunday trip to Mahabalipuram, with Sadras being the surprise destination!