99, Not Out Society

OMR tourism, on a budget

The sea, the wetland and the hill — three aspects of the region crammed into an indigent travel schedule

“Oh drat, why did I agree to do this!” — With that dispiriting thought in my head, I started planning for this assignment last Sunday. My brief was to present the essence of the IT Corridor, but here is the rub: the effort should not overshoot ₹99.

Those who had taken this challenge before me had crammed a food experience into that measly budget, and just barely managed to stay in the black. Gastronomically diffident, I would have to stray light-years from my comfort zone to be able to attempt a food experience of this kind. Let me confess that every time I eat out, I quiz the maître d’hotel about the oil that goes into my food. A dining experience worth only ₹99 has no room for that supercilious question.

So, I settle for the other option, which is about being an indigent traveller the next morning.

The geographical essence of the OMR region becomes obvious further down the thoroughfare, hitting you between the eyes at Sholinganallur, Kelambakkam and Thiruporur, where quick access to areas around the IT Corridor, especially the East Coast, is possible. Its essence consists of three elements: the seashore; wetlands and lakes; and green tracts.

Our ₹99 package deal starts at Akkarai beach. The money counter starts ticking only after you have hit Akkarai junction, around two kilometres from the Sholinganallur junction.

So, close to 6.30 am, on June 24, I parked my car around the Akkarai junction and shifted to shank’s mare. I noted down the odometer reading of my old kei car, a miserly companion on the city commute. The car clocks 14 kilometres for a litre of petrol, which cost ₹72.77 on that day.

Coastal connection

The avenues leading to the Akkarai beach are well-travelled, even during week days, as people head to the beach for their daily dozen. The last time I had connected with them, the running group OMR Dreamers had inked the beach into their weekly running schedule. Akkarai and Uthandi beaches also draw those who seek to freeze life-altering phases in pixels. So, you can certainly expect wedding photographers driving to the beach with their entourage and clients.

OMR tourism, on a budget

The avenues leading to the beach are generously endowed with greenery, and during windy days, the trees would add a nice fissle to the sounds of the coast. Here, tree watchers are likely to find things worth jotting down. For instance, at one avenue, a short stretch is lined with lannea coramandelica trees (Indian ash tree). Going by their girth and height, these trees have been around for a long time. They appear to have been originally planted as hedge trees. In the pre-urbanised past, Indian ash trees were a ready choice for hedges.

At the beach, I come upon a group Namma Beach Namma Chennai that apparently clears the sands of litter every Monday, between 6 am and 7 am.

Wetland in waiting

The Perumbakkam wetland (near the Sholinganallur SEZ) is around five kilometres from the Akkarai jucntion and located on a link road connecting Sholinganallur and Medavakkam.

OMR tourism, on a budget

It’s actually shorter, but the traffic detour around the Sholinganallur junction adds some extra distance to the trip. Showers in the evenings over the last weekend have added water to the wetland, which is entertaining some of the home crowd. The noticeable avian presence on Monday morning included flocks of Greater flamingoes, which enjoy foraging in shallow waters, painted storks and spot-billed pelicans. Remember, this ₹99 package deal is best tried out in October when the migratory birds will start arriving at the Pallikaranai Marsh. The Perumbakkam wetland provides a thumbnail impression of the Marsh, drawing the same birds. In fact, Perumbakkam wetland is officially part of the Marsh.

A point to note, for budgeting reasons: While heading from Akkarai junction to the Perumbakkam wetland, there is zero-ticket to be availed at the toll plaza. So, no added travel cost.

The forest tracts

Hitting the road again, I drive into Nookampalatam Road, and break my journey at Bollineni Hillside, a gated community; it is located face-to-face with the Perumbakkam hill, and hence the name. I check the odometer reading and only 10 kilometres have been added.

OMR tourism, on a budget

And, what is significant, I get to see another facet of the region. On roads not too distant from OMR, which include Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road and Thiruporur-Chengelpet Road, there are forests, and they are dotted with hillocks here and there. And the Perumbakkam hill just gives you an inkling of what lies ahead. Groups of residents from Bollineni Hillside are known to undertake short treks to the summit as part of nature walks, by following a well-trodden trail. Around two years ago, I joined them on such a nature walk. As section of the hill is said to have ancient burial sites, it is an ASI-protected zone.

With just 10-km being added to the reading, I am well within my budget, and have currency left for a bite. But I’d rather carry the money on for my next challenge.

In this column, we explore the city to unearth its most interesting facets for both tourists and locals. There is just one catch. How much can you do with ₹99?

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 10:19:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/omr-budget-tourism-sea-hill-wetlands-under-rs-99/article28125839.ece

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