With its bicycle tours, Goa-founded BLive now acquaints people with the charming seaside town of Puducherry, its history and culinary delights
It is 5pm and the streets of Puducherry are coming alive after a post lunch slump. The harsh rays of the sun turn soft gold and gentle. Office-goers dash home, perhaps rushing back to their evening café au lait or chai and samosas. A game of Petanque takes place in the distance. Cars and bikes honk angrily as they try to out-race each other to what feels like an invisible finish line.
Meanwhile we hop onto our e-bikes and set out to explore the French Quarter at a languid pace. Titled Picturesque Pondicherry, these cycle tours by BLive aim to introduce travellers and intrepid explorers to the French culture, as well as, the Tamil heritage of this coastal town.
BLive started in Goa in November 2018. “We are the official electric vehicle tourism partner for Goa,” says Samarth Kholkar who started this company along with Sandeep Mukherjee. By 2019, it branched out to Madikeri and Virajpet in Coorg, Mysore, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Udhagamandalam and Cochin, with Puducherry being added last January. This year it made its way to Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.
We meet Vignesh, our captain for the evening, who leads us on the tour that starts from the elegant Palais De Mahe. Virulent yellow cycles lined against butterscotch yellow walls, await us. “We have 15 cycles in Pondy. But in case even a solo traveller wants to do a tour we don’t turn them down,” says Samarth.
The duration of the tour is around three hours. Each participant is thoughtfully handed a cloth slingbag that holds a bottle of water and eventually their mobile phones and belongings.
Zip around town
At eight kilometres, this is one of the shortest tours that BLive offers. We stop by 13 landmarks incuding the statue of Joseph Marquis Dupleix, French War Memorial, Jumma Masjid, Manakula Vinaygar Temple where we meet the adorable temple elephant with a superstar status, and see elderly women in elegant saris glide past on their cycles giving us a complex.
A welcome refreshment break at La Maison Perumal includes piping filter coffee and Tamil recipes such as karunai kizhangu vadai or vazhapoo vadai. Plus a hands-on kolam workshop.
“As of now Pondy has only two tours, but we are working on a few more: one in the heritage space, a culinary trail, a night tour and something related to the beaches,” says Samarth who recently tied up with Club Mahindra for tours outside the property, showcasing village life just a little outside the coastal town.
The tours are immersive and promote sustainable tourism. The company works with local communities that have a strong understanding of the destination’s history and culture. “For example, in Goa we organise breakfast at a 200-year-old Portuguese house…”
The cycles come in two modes: manual as well as electric. After brushing up on our rusty pedalling skills in the manual mode, we switch over to electric and it enables us to zip around town as smoothly as a knife through warm butter.
Granted, a few passers-by intimidate us with their loud horns or rude overtaking skills but there is still something very pleasant about cycling through the charming lanes of this town, flanked by yellow and grey buildings and pink bougainvillea branches in the salty sea breeze.
For details log onto www.blive.co.in