After wrapping up with some commitments in the morning we rode to Kovalam for some surfing and stand up paddling (SUP). It had been a while since I had done either so I knew I was up to no good. The guys at Bay of Life Surf School are good at what they do and very friendly too. I decided to use the SUP board for surfing too which is bigger than the regular board hence giving me more stability. First was the SUP which was on an abandoned stone quarry that had filled up with rain water. They say that those quarries go as far deep as 100m. How true that is, I don’t know. Nevertheless I was always on the cautious side reminding myself that it’s a bottomless pit. Even though I knew how to swim…. Stilll… common man they say its 100m deep. That’s like looking down from a 30 storied building. I was taking no chances. You’ve watched Lake Placid. What if a crocodile suddenly appears! I could barely see my toes in the water. A perfect place for crocodiles! Even when I dismounted from the board and got down onto the water I made sure not to stray too far from the board. After regaining the hang of it, it was fun and very peaceful. The still water while you glide through it, the birds chirping, Ratty sitting on the banks and enjoying the silence. It comes very close to meditating. Except for the fact that I had to be aware I don’t go and hit the jagged walls!
After an hour or so of SUP, it was time to ride some waves, or rather ‘Try’ to ride some waves. In the past most of my experiences have been falling of the board, missing the waves, being caught on the wrong side of the wave and being spun around like I was inside a washing machine or scraping myself on the sea bed. This time too I knew it would be no different. So I went prepared with a comprehensive medical kit but no sunscreen. Being sun burnt was least of my worries. But this time, to my utter surprise, the ocean had shown me some mercy. With some help from an instructor, I managed to ride some really good waves and crashed only a few times. The first time riding a wave feels like riding a magic carpet. You are on the water gliding smoothly but when you look down, it looks like you are a few feet above the water and flying in the air. It’s such an amazing feeling that I almost used to ride it till the shore and the instructors used to shout ‘Wipe out, Wipe out’ (disembark from the board in a particular fashion so as not to injure yourself), and I used to think ‘WHY? I’m having so much fun’. Only to realize, ‘Shit, I might end up damaging the fins’.
After some time in the water, it was time to move on. Kovalam being south of Chennai, we continued our journey towards Pondicherry. The ECR (East Coast Road) is a fine piece of road. Smooth, some wonderful curves and a beautiful view of the Bay of Bengal on the left. It was a very pleasant ride to Pondicherry, the small waves hitting the beach on the left and the sun setting on the right. The beauty accentuated when we entered an array of trees and the setting sun peered through them making everything look orange. By the time we reached Pondy it was already dark and we had decided, “Bro, it’s a long trip and we are on a tight budget, soooo we are going to stay in youth hostels” And yes we did….. Stay in a youth hostel…… in Pondy…… that one destination…. and nowhere else. In our defense, most other places didn’t have youth hostels, except Goa, but hey, you’re in Goa and it was the last leg of the journey. You need some basic luxury. After some hunting we found the youth hostel and booked ourselves in the dormitory for two night. 175 bucks a night per person. Pretty cheap eh. But what was most surprising for us was the cleanliness. It was really clean. I mean really really clean. The only problem was that there were no individual cupboards to keep ones valuables. But luckily for us, the dorm was empty hence we captured that one lone wooden cupboard in the dorm. Went out, got some food and drinks and called it a night.
Next morning we went to this scuba diving service provider called Temple Adventures. Did our necessary paperwork followed by some theory and an indoor training session. The training session was in a 5ft*5ft*5ft tank. WE were taught hand signal and what to do and what not to do inside the water. After our training session we went to Auroville where we spent a quaint evening just chilling and doing nothing much.
Bright and early next morning, wait it wasn’t bright at all. The whole night there were torrential rain and thundering. Lodging right beside the beach didn’t help at all. What if a tsunami hit? Like it hadn’t happened before! However the rains subsided but the weather still presented an overcast sky. I was just hoping that it wouldn’t get cancelled. Luckily that didn’t happen. We were provided with breakfast (which I ate too much and regretted later) and were off to the beach to head into the sea. Now… from all the guys who were scuba diving I was the only one who had done it before. So yea they were asking me about my experiences and what it feels. Felt good in the beginning to be the ‘experienced’ one. Until I made an utter fool and embarrassed myself.
The waves were pretty choppy so the boat was rocking quiet a lot. Everything was cool until…. BANG. Nausea hit me. I kept calm and decided to enter the water first. Geared up and back flipped into the water. Below the surface the water was calm so I stabilized myself. Going deeper I could feel the pressure building in my ears and had to decompress every once in a while. Also, due to the pressure on the chest, breathing got a little difficult and had to take deeper breaths. The dry air we breathe also gets you pretty thirsty. We got to see a lot of different underwater flora and fauna but the visibility was very low because of the murky water. The maximum depth we were allowed to go during DSD (Discover Scuba Diving) was 10meters and even at that depth the pressure was pretty high. I don’t know how people go deep sea diving.
I hoped the nausea had left me but no, as soon as I resurfaced I felt nauseous again. Climbed on the boat and after a while…. Wait for it…… puked my guts out. And puked and puked and puked till the end. It had been a while since I felt that embarrassed. I mean, I was the only guy who had scuba dived earlier and there I was at it in all my glory while the other guys were just chilling on the boat and enjoying the ride back. I hope I never have to show my face to them ever again. Never ever… never ever ever.
We returned back to the diving school and got ready to leave. The nausea had taken quiet a toll on me and I didn’t think I could ride and wanted to chill the rest of the afternoon. But then again I thought let’s give it some time and let’s see. An hour later I was fit as a fiddle. Kick started the bike and thumped along to our next destination Velankanni, ~160km away.