CHENNAI: Peter Van Geit needs no introduction. As the founder of Chennai Trekkers Club, this Belgian has made Chennai his home for about 18 years. Here’s what he has to say about namma city...
A place of historical importance in the city and why?
A beautiful location in the city which is close to my heart and carries a lot of natural beauty and history is the Theosophical Society next to where the Adyar River meets the sea. It’s a beautiful green jewel in our concrete surroundings where the natural beauty of the original Madras can still be seen. Old heritage buildings are spread across this paradise.
Where would you take someone who is new to the city?
The beaches are among the city’s most beautiful natural heritage. You can lie down and listen to the sound of the waves, build sand castles, take a refreshing dip, play volleyball or soccer or just go for a long barefoot walk.
What’s the best part of Chennai cuisine that you’d recommend?
Coming from Belgium where potato is the staple food, my favourites are pooris and masala dosas! The tangy aloo masala, the yummy chutnies, the crispy dosa. Simply irresistible!
Some of your favourite haunts in the city no Chennaiite should miss?
One of my favorite hangouts is the quarry near Ottiyambakkam (beyond Sholinganallur) where we (CTC) organise open water swimming classes twice a week for anyone interested, for free of course. Another weekly companion is the open sea, off Palavakkam beach — I go for a 3-4 km sea swim every week. Floating on the peaceful ocean while seeing the sun rise above the water is beyond description.
Another wonderful place is the Pallavaram Hill opposite the airport where we organise our periodic CTC fitness test for freshers. Climbing up a 100-metre high hill early morning with spectacular views on the airport and city is wonderful.
The first three words you learnt in Tamil? And your favourite words?
Amma, illai, nandri.
My commonly used ones: thambi, saapadu, polamaa?
Have Chennaiites become more sporty and adventurous?
No doubt Chennai has transformed itself from a lazy, laidback peaceful town a decade ago to a city brimming with sports activities. In addition to many outdoor and sports activities organised by CTC every weekend (and now even every weekday morning) throughout the year, you can see countless number of running and cycling groups popping up across the city. Social media and smartphones play an important role in sharing and inspiring one’s friends to become more active.
Your favourite spot for a quick one-day outing in and around Chennai?
Auroville and Mailam. Auroville has beautiful sandy trails to run and cycle. It’s a perfect escape from the summer heat. It’s also has many lip smacking continental restaurants. Just 30 km away is Mailam, which has some of the most amazing blue stone quarries. These old mines are not used anymore — when filled with rainwater, they turn into blue lagoons.
An incident that made you proud to be a part of Chennai?
The floods last December brought out the best in everyone in the city. The spirit of humanity shown by thousands of volunteers who jumped into rescue, relief, cleanups and rehabilitation was mind boggling. Proud to be a citizen of this city with a big heart.