November 3rd, 2008
Update: My friend Sriram, who accompanied us during the trip has written a very good post. Please check it out here.
East Coast Road is an amazing stretch of road from Chennai to Cuddalore. The road is very smooth and long with plenty of instructions along the way on how to drive (with redundant bright boards). So much that you just can’t miss any of them.
So, on Sunday (02-Nov-2008), Nagarajan, Siddharth, Sriram and yours truly decided to drive to Pondy by bike along the ECR. Its about 150 kms from Chennai. If you drive non-stop, you can reach Pondy in two and half hours. I will blog about the Pondy trip in another post ‘cos I’m waiting for the photos to get ready.
This post is about the driving lessons I learnt when we were driving along the ECR for the first time. This post would be useful to you if you are driving along the ECR.
Day Time Driving – Until Mahabalipuram
Though many consider day time driving to be fairly easy, it is not. Until Mahabalipuram, you will encounter lots of villages where dogs’ favourite playground is the middle of the road (or) one crazy dog would have seen a calf or rat on the other side of the road & they would form small packs to hunt them down. I witnessed a medium sized dog being brutally run over by a bus. But then, nothing can be done. If it were a biker who ran over, he would have surely fallen down and broken his bones.
Please follow the instructions along the road. There are many places where there are sign posts with “speed limits”. That’s an amazing guidance. There are also lots of sign posts which announce “accident zones” and more importantly “cattle zones” where livestock is bound to cross the road and tend to become deadstock. So, drive carefully. Until Mahabalipuram, driving through villages is very risky if you overspeed.
Day Time Driving – After Mahabalipuram
After Mahabalipuram, there are back waters of the sea on both sides of the road for most part. Hence, there are not much villages. So there are no cattle/humans/fighting-dogs waiting to be hit by you. Actually in most places, you have to drive at a minimum of 80 kmph 😀 . That’s a boon for racing freaks. But be careful ‘cos the 100km stretch after Mahabalipuram is full of wild twists, turns and bridges. Most medium and heavy vehicles such as cars and busses turn without even honking. So, the safest bet is to travel at 60kmph on the left side of the road. But if you are a bit adventurous like me, you may want to experiment carefully and do turns at 85 kmph 😉 with a Toyota Innova overtaking you at an even greater speed.
There are quite a few places where there are 4-5 km straight stretches without no villages in between. The road is clearly visible. You can go at full speed your bike allows. I touched 100 kmph along such stretches & its pretty much safe.
Oh! You must bring down your helmet’s visor. Otherwise, your eyes can’t stand direct dragon fly hits.
I loved it. Driving during the nights on highways like ECR is a superb experience.
Nothing can be more wrong if you say night driving is dangerous along ECR. Its actually safe. For all its bend and curves, if a vehicle is turning along from the opposite direction, its headlight gives away that something is coming. That will give you enough time to adjust your speed and balance. All along the curves, the sign boards illuminate beautifully when light is showered on them. Even the road’s medians light up very well along the drive way. So you always know where you are driving.
Always dip-dim-dip your headlights when you see a vehicle coming in the opposite direction. When you are overtaking another vehicle from its right side, switch on your left side indicator before completing the overtake.
Night Driving – Good, Fair and Ugly
On the way to Chennai during night travel, you will encounter lot of insects which will hit you. Putting on the helmet visor is a problem because light from the opposite direction will disperse and will make it tough for you to see. So, follow a big vehicle from a safe distance.
Siddharth did just that. For nearly 30 kilometers, he followed a Chennai bound bus at a safe 10m distance. The bus took all of the glare of the vehicles from the opposite direction, all insects don’t reach you and most importantly, you are shielded from dangerous overtakes. Wherever the bus overtakes, you also do the same. Wherever the bus stops, you also stop and the wherever the bus goes fast, you also go fast. It will be safe, fast and secure.
Second best thing is to follow another medium sized vehicle. I did this. Most cars travel at not less than 90 kmph. So, you can actually wear your helmet visor, shielding yourself from insects and you can also drive very fast. Chill wind kissing your body is a superb feeling
All the villages along the ECR after Mahabalipuram (towards Chennai) sleeps early. So, no cattle/dog torture in nights. This enabled us to cover the 55 km stretch from Mahabalipuram to Chennai in 30 minutes flat
Hope these instructions will be useful when you drive along the ECR. If so, do let me know. Definitely give importance & follow all of the sign boards along the road. That will ensure a very safe dirve. All in all, it was an awesome driving experience. Pics of Pondy coming in the next blog post.