The Great Indian Beach Bike Ride: An Unforgettable Journey from Kanniyakumari to Pune

Fine sands of white… clear saline waters of deep blue… varying abundance of coconut greens… the coastline of western India is blessed with all of this and more! Ever since I have been mesmerized by the journey during the classic coastal biking expedition from Mumbai to Goa last year; I savored a dream of being intimate with the rest of the west coast. The romance of the beaches and the thrill of biking thus gave birth to the ambitious plan of riding from Kanniyakumari to Goa.

Things were absolutely unplanned for all we knew was the source (Kanniyakumari) and the destination (Goa & back to Pune). The beaches, places of historical and tourist importance were what we intended to explore between the two. Varied people… mixed reactions… “Is it really essential to go biking?”… “Wow that’s really ambitious!”… “Hmm! I’m actually feeling jealous.” were some of the responses. And with blessings and good luck from all well-wishers; Vishal and I set out on this exciting journey on Dec 24, 2008.

Day 1 to 3 : Dec 24 to Dec 26, 2008 : Pune to Kanniyakumari
Train journeys have always been mind-numbing especially when it was to be as long as 40 hours! But destiny did not give us options and we traveled over 2000 km to reach Kanniyakumari at 12:15 pm on Dec 26, 2008. Excited as never before; we got off the train and enquired about the parcel office to get the bike. The excitement however turned out to be short-lived as the bike hadn’t reached and was scheduled to get there by the next noon. It meant a waste of a day and a change of plans which disappointed us to the core, but again we didn’t have an option.

We stepped out of the station, checked in at a small hotel, freshened up, and set afoot to explore Kanniyakumari – a diminutive town nestled on the land’s end and surrounded by the sea on three sides. The Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal converge here to form what is called the Triveni Sangam offering spectacular views of the sea. With the sea by our side, we went on to see Gandhi Mandapam. Exhibiting the Orissa style of architecture it is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi it stands tall on the place where Gandhiji’s ashes were kept before immersion in the sea. It is said to have been designed in such a way that on Oct 2nd, the sun rays peep through a roof hole falling exactly on the place where his urn was kept. Besides the Mandapam was the Kamaraj memorial – an accolade to K. Kamaraj the chief minister of Tamilnadu & a great freedom fighter.

Kanniyakumari boasts of the first-ever wax museum in India located a couple of km away from Gandhi mandapam. An artist impressed by London Wax Museum has exhibited his work – a place definitely worth a visit. The museum houses wax statues of Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Swami Vivekananda, Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, and Mahatma Gandhi amongst many others. These seem so realistic that if they could move around and talk one would not have been able to make out the difference.

It was almost time for sunset and hence we turned to the sunset point. Besides this was a small secluded beach stretch surprisingly with not a single soul here! So we played with the sand… the ocean…  and my camera as we watched the sun go off to sleep.

The Lost Identity
Kanniyakumari, the first impression; to me, was that of a town with a lost identity. You walk out of a miniature railway station to be greeted by more or less half a million tourists, a few dozen of hotel signboards, and loads of small eateries serving Gujarati, Marwadi, Rajasthani, Marathi, Punjabi … all except South Indian food. And all of this is nestled in a small stretch of land with a little over a km radius. The beauty and the identity definitely seemed to be lost in the over crowd of tourists.

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