Travelling never turns out as planned. You take off expecting something and you return with a sack full of experiences that are so varied and so different from what you may have anticipated. We headed off to the Pulicat lake with hopes of catching the dance of the flamingos.About the lake:
This is the only place in South India the flamingos flock to during the winters (November to February). It is said that some flamingos come from as far as the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. Being the second largest brackish water lake in India, it sprawls across the borders of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The smaller portion of the lake is about 60 kilometers from Chennai and its larger counterpart, 97% of the lake according to some sources is about a 100 kilometers from Chennai, in the state of Andhra.
Do flamingos dance?
Of course, they do :D. It is a form of courtship dance the males and the females perform to attract a mate. Flamingos are serially monogamous. They mate with one partner during a breeding season after which they go their separate ways. There are lots of interesting theories/discoveries about their dances. One source claims flamingos have 136 dance moves up their wing to attract a suitable mate. You can find a number of videos and articles about this and much more online.
Which side of the lake to visit?
We visited both. And each side has its own allure.
A smooth road runs across the lake in Andhra with trees dotting the road on either side. The lake here appears to be shallow and you can see it frothing near the banks. An occasional bird or two can be found hunting for its fish. No boating services seem to be offered here. At the end of the road is the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
It is a tranquil place, hardly populated. There are several viewing points along the road you can climb up to. There are no shops along this stretch. It would be a fun place to pack a picnic to and just chill out with friends and family. Do stay for sunset. The place gets transformed. The lake stops looking like one as the blue waters turn red and orange and pink and violet and every other shade in between dancing to the moods and tunes of the setting sun.
The lake in Chennai was in complete contrast to the one in Andhra. As we neared the lake, men in two wheelers stopped us offering boating services. Small shops lined the roads selling flowers, fish, banana leaves, sharbat , vegetables, fruits and many other curiosities. Every third minute we were approached by strangers asking if we would like to go boating. It seemed to be quite a tourist-y spot.
How did we travel?
There are a number of options.
You could take an MTC bus.
You could take a train.
You could take your car which is what we did while visiting the Pulicat lake 60 kilometers from Chennai.
You could take a scooter. Which is what we did to visit the lake in Andhra 😀
To cover 200 kilometers to and fro on a scooter in the sweltering heat on national highways in India? Crazy! I know!
You know what’s crazier? To exchange a good vehicle we rented with a second hand vehicle of our friend’s.
Why did we do it?
Simple, we were being penny wise pound foolish. Both of us don’t own a two wheeler. We have done road trips on a scooter before and they were crazy fun! So we decided to rent one in Chennai. The problem here is you are charged ₹ 650 a day for 70 kilometers. ₹ 7 will be charged for every extra kilometer. After renting scooters from Pondicherry and Bangalore at costs ranging between ₹ 250-₹ 350 a day with no limits on distance covered, this seemed super expensive for us. So we exchanged it with our friend’s scooty to save up on costs.
And before we left the outskirts of even Chennai, we were sitting on a flat rear tyre.
To our luck we found a repair shop on the opposite side of the road. It was like finding a chicken piece in a plain biryani we ordered. It did not last long though.
“Your bike punctured itself”, the guy said showing us the inner metal rim of the wheel. It was rusted completely and had cut through the rubber of the tube. After replacing the tube, he repeatedly insisted we turn back home.
The lake was about 70 kilometers away and we had to drive back another 100 kilometers. That was 170 kilometers on a masochistic bike which liked puncturing itself.
So what did we do?
We decided to proceed to the lake. Do not ask why because I do not have an answer to that. We had started and we did not want to turn back.
We offered the puncture man some extra money for his help but he refused it saying “You guys will probably need it much more than I do”. He waved us good bye with the piteous look of someone watching two lambs happily trotting towards a butcher shop unaware of the glint in the knife’s eye as it sat soaking up the afternoon sun.
We started driving towards the lake. At a slow pace. 40km/hour and sometimes lower than that. Neither of us wanted to antagonize the scooter. We counted puncture shops on the way. We reached the lake.
No punctures yet.
We clicked pictures. We saw lots of birds that weren’t flamingos. Watched them hunt for their fish. Watched the sun set. Drove to the space center.
No punctures yet.
We started driving back home. 40km/hour and not more. Counted puncture shops again. We stopped for dinner.
No punctures yet.
Resumed driving after dinner. Counted puncture shops. Reached home, safe and sound, at around 11 in the night.
I don’t remember how many shops we spotted. All I know is I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a flat tyre fixed the next time I take that route. There was at least one shop every 800 meters or so and the best part was they were open at nights on weekends too.
It is funny how something I have never noticed before became the only thing I saw everywhere then. I was waist deep in Baader-Meinhoff.
And although I never got to see flamingos that day, the trip turned out to be much more than what I could have asked for. And besides, there was the other portion of the lake in Chennai. Not all hope was lost.