It was a Sunday morning, and the Chennai sky was playing hide-and-seek. Rain on a Sunday morning means no tennis classes for Ammu (my daughter). It also means that no weekend ride for me. Duh! I haven’t become so hardcore as a few other bikers I know to go for a ride whether it rains or shines. On weekdays, I usually wake up at 6:15 to start the day before my wife and daughter get up. On Sundays, I wake up at 4:45 for the weekend ride if I go for the ride in the morning. This Sunday rain played spoilsport, so I curled up on the bed a little longer as the temperature dropped.
At 9, the family finished its morning cuppa, and each of the family members started wondering how to spend the rainy day. By that time the rain had stopped. Ammu reminded us that a second visit to the zoo was long pending. “Insane” I mumbled. But Sri (my wife) also liked the idea. A quick plan was drawn, and we synchronized our respective watches and started performing the tasks per the schedule: I took care of washing, Sri occupied the kitchen, and Ammu ran from pillar to post doing some chores.
At 11, when we were about to move, a drizzle started. We were all dressed up for the animals, sorry, the event, so we contemplated Plan B—hiring a call taxi. We would wait for another 15 minutes; else we would call the taxi. Luckily, the rain receded, and we started immediately.
Riding a bike when the weather is cool is something one has to experience. The greenery and the clean highway invited us. We would reach Vandalur Zoo in about half-hour, we estimated. There were no traffic snarls at Tambaram. That’s fantastic. Once we reach the toll road, we would simply glide. Now wait, “What’s cooking at Perungalathur?” I asked my wife, who obviously had no clue. When we reached Akaash Bhavan, the reason became evident: Because of a new traffic arrangement, the bottleneck at Tambaram has moved forward to Perungalathur, as all the south-bound busses are now plying through the Chennai bypass, leaving Trambaram traffic free. Traffic bottlenecks on weekdays are acceptable, but they are too much for a Sunday. We had to crawl at 20kmph up to Vandalur. There was some over bridge work going on, which also caused the traffic to move at a snail’s pace.
Sweaty we were when we reached the zoo’s parking lot. I searched for a vacant slot under the shelter, which was already brimming over its girth, moved a few vehicles (parked them properly), and made a little bit of land for my machine. Got the tickets and entered the zoo. Just near the entrance, I found a lot of cycles parked. Needless to say, I got excited. There were two tandems in the lot. Wow! What a day it was going to be! The person who was mending a bike told me that those cycles had come for regular maintenance, but assured me that a lot of new bikes were available for rent inside the zoo.
Once in, I searched in vain for the counter that sold bike tickets though a few persons were merrily pedaling through the zoo’s roads. I could not wait more. I should get a tandem. Sri and I would ride a tandem; Ammu would ride a smaller single speed. It would be a fantastic ride in this forest.
Now, wait… Where did this little drop of water in my forearm come from? Oh! How come this drop, another one, and another one… Oh! No! It’s gonna rain again.
It didn’t rain actually; it poured. Little drops did make an ocean. It was raining so much that there was no place to hide the three of us. We thought it would be more enjoyable to ride in the rain. I stopped a few bikers, but they pointed us out to the direction where only more trees were seen. We were drenched to our skins by now, so we decided to visit a few enclosures and the aquarium before calling it a day. An hour and three icecream cups later we left the zoo, the rain chasing us right up to our doorstep. It was one of the rarest days when we enjoyed the rain thoroughly (Sri hates rain, actually). The rain brought us happiness the crouching tiger in the zoo would not have. We will visit the zoo again during winter just for riding those bikes.
Biking in the Zoo:
- TI Cycles has set up shop at the zoo.
- All types of bikes (mostly Hercules) are available: single speed, geared, and tandem. There are no kid bikes, though.
- The bikes that I saw were all shiny and in good condition.
- You have to shell out Rs.200 as deposit per bike.
- The rent is Rs.15/hr for single speed; Rs.30/hr for geared bike; and Rs40/her for tandem.