To land’s end and back

It was a foggy Saturday AM when we set off with Vasu (our chauffeur) on our road trip to lands end – the ‘South East India’ version of it that is. We have always wanted to make it to Dhanushkodi (mostly for birding) but not on this trip, the timing of it was different. It was about 4 days in August that we could manage as a group and that’s no good time for the birds:( I guess we will be back next time perhaps on two wheels:) for the birds.

Dhanushkodi, Rameshwaram had to be our next trip for sure as it would complete our Char Dhams of India circuit (other three being Dwaraka, Puri and Badrinath which we had visited during our earlier trips). So the better half managed to stitch together a 4 day road trip on Rameshwaram, Madurai and back.

The start was a little chilly but as we started rolling it got warmer by the KM:). The first stop was at the Hosur border for the entry fee, which was a short one by comparison to the pre GST era:). We hurry it upto A2B near Krishnagiri for breakfast IMG_5031after which it was the 4 lane NH drive up to Namakkal, where we change the roads on to narrower ones via Trichy towards Karaikudi and Rameshwaram. The drive through the Kaveri delta was scary. Almost all farms were dry or drying (even the coconut plantations) and there were well over 5000 trucks waiting to sand mine the dry river bed, not sure with or without govt sanctions, none the less an  act of monumental proportions, not in the interest of the river for sure, but who would tell them:(. The drive over the longish bridge over river Kaveri was even more heart wrenching to say the least.

The sections from Trichy to Karaikudi was perhaps the longest as we had to wait for a good restaurant for lunch, although we stopped somewhere for an ice-cream stop, in the sweltering 36 C clime:(

Lunch was a at a brilliant eatery in the town of Karaikudi, named Annapurna, IMG_5034aptly I must add – a simple vegetarian south-indian fare served on Banana leaves, with lip-smacking homely taste.

The post lunch session too was rather sultry and it took till about 5.00 PM or so for the excitement to return with the long stretches of roads lined with palm trees on either side, thankfully lush green this time round, with folks selling Palm Jaggery at regular intervals. We cross a railway station called Mandapam after which we sight sea on our right and what we were to see next was some thing we had seen on TV but it was a marvellous sight – the Pamban bridge. Although we were driving on the road bridge, the rail bridge to our left was the engineering marvel we were interested in. Built during the British times, this bridge over open sea is one of the world’s scariest bridges to ride on (per National Geographic). We stop a little while like others to marvel at the bridge, click some selfies IMG_5036as usual and press on and arrive at our hotel, passing the Dr. APJ Kalam memorial (which was closed by the time we arrived) by about 6.00 PM. The rest of the day went by in check in formalities, a casual drive up to the temple and the adjoining area, a leisurely walk near the temple side of the beach etc. After some simple, tasty dinner at hotel Saravana Bhavan we return to our hotel and retire for the day.

Next AM was an early start, as we wanted to get the Darshan as early as possible. Owing to this being the Aati month, there was much less crowd at the temple, so we could finish the Darshan rather quickly. Back at the same place for breakfast after which we get back to the vehicle and drive off to the next destination, Dhanushkodi, about 18 KM from Rameshwaram town. We had read about it, but what we saw was spell binding. DhanushkodiDhanushkodi is a Loooong strip (sliver actually) of land jetting in to the sea and the drive on the straight stretch of road with water on either side is an experience to relish. I missed my bike and saw some others on their bikes and that made me miss my bike even more, so decided to return on my bike some time soon to enjoy the ride on this stretch for sure.

Enroute, there’s another temple dedicated to lord Rama (Kodanda Rama) based on the mythology of this place (Ramayana, Ramasethu build site etc), which we visit and quickly get back in the car to get to lands end on this part of Indian subcontinent. The drive got better and better as the road gets closer to water after we pass the town of Dhanushkodi, now in ruins towards the point where the road ends. Rameshwaram 23Hop off the car, change in to beach friendly attire and get on the sand to admire the beauty of splashing waves on one side of the sliver and the calm, serene side towards Rameshwaram. One can see the tall TV tower of Rameshwaram from here too. We soak it all in, especially the younger lot rollicking in waters, while we walk about clicking some pictures in the mid day sun:(IMG_5058

Many Hindus consider this a sacred place for the last rites of the departed which we saw too, but the vast majority were there to enjoy the sheer majestic views of the sea as we were. We reluctantly hop back on to the vehicle, get to the ruins of the church at Dhanushkodi after a quick rinse of soda on the faces and a drink of lime soda for refreshment.

IMG_5089The views around the church too are great but the time of the day rendered the pictures rather plain. Sunset/ rise time pics would have been perfect but there’s always the next time. The views however are marred by the many shacks around, IMG_5084perhaps the only source of income for the locals, but sure can be relocated close by to better the scenery. Not sure if that would ever be done:( although we saw some govt officials visiting the area and talking to the locals.

It was the birthday of one of our co travellers so we get to the restaurant of the hotel we were at for a leisurely lunch and it turns out the chef too was serving them up leisurely, so we lose an hour or so during lunch. We were therefore left with just about enough time to get to the train station, buy the tickets and wait for the train for a journey across the Iconic Pamban Bridge. The train ride too was special, with 360 degrees of water, although the road bridge was a little too close to the rail bridge:( to soak in the feeling. We do click some pics, marred by the veil of a cloud at sun set time.

Our vehicle picked us back from the Mandapam train station as we drive back to Rameshwaram for some coffee near by and get back to the hotel rooms for some rest. After the birthday cakes celebrations with hit the town again for the usual dinner at Saravana Bhavan and retire for the day.

The next AM too was an early one (earlier than the previous day) for the Spatika Linga Darshana, after which we return to the hotel and rest for a while. Post breakfast we leave for Madurai with a visit to the newly opened Dr APJ Abdul Kalaam memorial. RameshwaramFamily 5The work is still going on at some parts of the memorial but its indeed a great memorial for the great man, with pictures all over the 4 sides of his grave.

The drive to Madurai was a short one in comparison, and we arrive by 3.00PM for a late lunch at another Saravanabhavan at Madurai. We remember to pick up some palm jiggery on the way too. Post lunch we make it to the hotel for a timely dip in the pool, although Madurai was far more tolerable in terms of the heat and much less humid. The dinner was at another restaurant in Madurai after some shopping session and we retire for the day.

Early next AM we visit the temple, close by. Madurai temple, famous for its golden lotus in the pond is colossal, although the guide we engaged was not all that excited to show everything there’s to see and I must say its slowly falling pray to rampant commercial interests and gentle neglect by the authorities. After the Darshan and the blessing by the local Gajaraja, we hobble back to the hotel for a relaxed breakfast, check out, return to the shopping areas around the temple and after some mandatory shopping sessions Rameshwaram 19(while we attempt some pictures around the temple) we start back for Bangalore by noon and arrive by 8.00 PM post lunch at Dindagal and a quick stopover near Dharmapuri for coffee.

It was a great trip to lands end and helped us complete the “Char Dham Yatra” and we are now all set for the next one:).

Enjoy the video and pictures and leave your thoughts behind as usual.

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