We arrived in Pondicherry and had unknowingly stumbled into possibly one of the busiest times of year. It was Republic day on the Thursday and a four day holiday/celebration over the weekend. Our blasé attitude towards organising accommodation proved to be a right pain as we spent the first 3 hours going from hostel to hostel with everyone seemingly booked up. We did eventually find an overpriced damp room with a horrendous ceiling and a freezing cold shower.....that'll teach us for not booking early hey!! We put our accommodation woes behind us though and headed out to explore the city of Pondicherry.
Pondicherry is an old French Colonial fishing port with around a million inhabitants, roughly 7000 being French. The old part of the city is broken into quarters with the French quarter consisting of picture postcard cobbled streets, beautiful old French houses and a rather decent bakery (we did eat too many lovely croissants, yum!!). There is a nice promenade along the surprisingly clean sea front where every evening local families and couples stroll up and down admiring the view with a customary ice cream.
We decided to get up early on our second day in 'Pondy' and take part in a cycle tour of the old part of the city. It was a great introduction to the city and interesting to see our surroundings before it awakens fully. The city has very distinct quarters of Muslim and French and it was fascinating to see the architecture differ so suddenly between them. Post cycle tour we thought what better way to spend the day then with a massage, a look round the city and some yoga in the evening. My massage was great and with a guy who talked to me about his life, his beliefs and his hatred of cricket (first guy I met in India who didn't like cricket). Susie came back from her massage and mentioned the word 'torture chamber' and said she was in a room which wouldn't look out of place in a Jack Bauer 24 episode. Luckily we both survived and spent the rest of the day wandering around the city looking at the BFG sized Ghandi statue and various churches and temples dotted about. In the evening we partook in a yoga session which was an opportunity to prove how unfit and inflexible I am panting and struggling along whilst the seasoned yogis effortlessly contorted their bodies into weird and wonderful shapes. Our dinners in Pondicherry were expensive compared to the rest of India (£12+ for two) whilst being pretty average and we never really got a 'decent' meal despite our best efforts.
The one big difference we noticed between Pondy and other Indian cities was the lack of rubbish. Yes there are the other 'typical' Indian city life stuff; lots of street dogs, plenty of hungry cows, hassling tuk tuk drivers etc, but for some reason very little rubbish. I can only assume that the infrastructure is there to deal with it more efficiently owed potentially to the French, Vive la France!! The quantity of rubbish has been one of our biggest frustrations whilst travelling as beautiful landscapes have often been tainted by the piles of rubbish left. Anyway more about rubbish coming up in another blog post, bet you can't wait hey!!
We left Pondy and headed to our last destination before flying out to Sri Lanka. This stop was to be Mahaballapuram, a very small costal ultra touristy resort. I tried a bit of surfing as the waves looked very small and perfect for the beginner surfer. I had never tried surfing before and realised that it's really tough and I'm not very good at it. I just (literally just) managed to stand up after an hour of failing miserably so was quite chuffed on my walk back despite the sunburnt back and bruised ribs. Mahaballapuram was the perfect way to spend the last few days and we were both sad our time in incredible India was up. It was now time to look forward to a new country which awaits. Sri Lanka here we come!
Love Rob and Sus.