It had been around 2 months since I took a leave from office. One of the advantage of being an engineer is that you have a friend in almost all the major cities across the country. So this time I decided to go to Bangalore, to one of my friend's place. A few days before the trip, we talked about visiting a few places in the 4 day vacation we planned, but it was never finalized. But anyway, I found myself in Bangalore on last thursday with zero idea of where to go. 2 of my friends (Anurag & Arindam) and me, started arguing about where should we go.
Again came the savior, Google! Somehow it was finalized, & we decided to leave for Kodaikanal in Tamilnadu. Any further destinations were left on fate, to be decided afterwards.
We took the car, & began our journey. Kodaikanal is a small hill station at about 450 kms from Bangalore. It takes roughly 7-8 hours to reach there including all the pitstops en-route. We left Bangalore after having lunch at 2 PM. There were some nice & beautiful stretches of road on the way. We reached Kodaikanal at 9:30 PM. Being a small town, most of the shops & market were closed by then. So, we found a nice hotel & got settled for the night, again with no idea about what were we going to do the following morning. There was a considerable drop in the temp. from Bangalore to Kodaikanal, & all of us were shivering. Since it was already late, ours was the last order for dinner in the hotel. The service was superfast.
On the next morning, we did some research on the net & it turned out that 'Berijam Lake' had the most no. of recommendations. Also, we found out about a space observatory on our way to the lake. Pretty soon, we got ready & got downstairs. But how would a road trip be complete if there aren't any potholes along the way. I put the car's key in ignition, but it refused to start. I tried again & again, but it wasn't going anywhere. I talked to the hotel manager & he arranged for a car mechanic. The mechanic came after some time & it took him around an hour to repair whatever was wrong. Finally, we hit the road. By then, most of the town was already covered in clouds & mist. And it was a beautiful drive on the curvy roads amidst the fog & the forest. We reached to a point from where we had to take permits to get inside the forest to reach the Berigam lake. The area was under the protection of the forest department. We couldn't get the permits since there is a limitation on the no. of private vehicles going in a single day. We asked the guys in permit office, & came to know that there are mini buses run by the forest dept itself which can take us to the Berijam lake, 13 kms deep in the forest. The entry fee is Rs.100 per person. We boarded one of those mini buses.
There were 4 other view points on the way to Berijam lake and the whole way it was drizzling which made the surroundings even more scenic. At one of those view points, we got a distant view of the lake. It was an eye pleasing glimpse, hidden in the dense forests of the Western Ghats. Just minutes later, the lake vanished behind the clouds. Moving ahead we reached the lake. The lake provides an exquisite scenery with its quite & serene waters. Everything at the site seemed to be green, the mountains, marsh lands, lake water. It was, just mesmerizing! One could also observe a variety of birds around the lake. The place was full of nature.
The bus took us back to the gate from where we boarded. We were quite hungry by then, there were some small road side shops. We had tea, bread omelet, & some hot pakoras. On the way back, we stopped at the space observatory. The entry is free. It is a 10 minutes walk from the main gate to the museum. We walked to the museum while it drizzled. There is some nice & useful information available about the various space programs. We stayed there for a while, gathered the information. We left the observatory & reached our hotel. We also had a glimpse of the Kodai lake while coming back. Boating is available there.
Now, it was time for us to move ahead to our next destination which was yet a mystery.
We shortlisted a few places & finally decided to visit Rameswaram. All of us were excited to drive through the Pamban sea bridge. So we packed our bags, paid the hotel bills & began our journey. Rameswaram is 290 kms from Kodaikanal, & it takes around 5-6 hours by road to reach there. We started at 5 in the evening from Kodaikanal. We had to cross Madurai on our way. Due to traffic congestion in Madurai, we got a bit delayed. Since it was already dark, we couldn't see anything while crossing the Pamban bridge. We reached Rameswaram by 11 PM. By that time, everything was closed & we had to find a place to stay. Hotels are a bit costly there, anyway we found one with the rate most suited to our pockets. By the time we checked in, it was already 11:30 PM. We asked the hotel manager if dinner was available. He let us down saying its too late & we won't get anything to eat anywhere else too. But still we went outside to try our luck, since we were all too hungry (we just had that bread omelet & chai in Kodaikanal). We couldn't find anything & we were just roaming to & fro on the roads. One of the hotel guys saw us doing that, he followed us on a bike & asked us if we wanted a hotel room. We told him that we already have a room, but we wanted some food. He also said the same thing, that every place is closed & it's impossible to get anything at this hour. Anyway, we lost our hope & went back to the hotel room. After a few minutes, somebody knocked our door. In front of us, was the same guy who followed us on his bike. He brought us some bananas for dinner :) We were more than glad to see him. We didn't have to sleep empty stomach that night.
While driving the last night, I noticed a milestone 'Dhanushkodi - 20 kms'. I had never heard about the place. I always thought that Rameswaram is the last point before the international waters between India & Sri Lanka. So, it made me think that what could be ahead in Dhanushkodi. In the morning, I read some articles about Dhanushkodi, and it seemed like a really cool place. So we got ready, had breakfast & left for Dhanushkodi.
Soon we could see the shallow waters on one side of the road. The shallow waters are literally shallow, just upto the ankle. The water body is land locked from most of the sides and one can walk from one piece of land to another through these waters. Its truly amazing. We reached Dhanushkodi, where we could see the violent Indian Ocean. All the vehicles were parked there, so we parked our car too. We walked along the beach which is pretty long, with the powerful waves crashing against the land beside us. The water was so blue that it could be set as a standard to define the color. There are mini buses which take you to Old Dhanushkodi from that point. We got into one of them. The condition of the bus was very bad, it looked like its being run for more than a 100 years. They used a thread to tie & close the door. The ticket was Rs.150 per head.
Once the bus was 'overfull', we rode towards old Dhanushkodi. It was pretty hot & humid since it was afternoon, but the views around were worth it. The road to old Dhanushkodi wasn't exactly a road. It's a bumpy ride as we crossed through beaches & shallow waters to reach there after 45 minutes. The beauty of the place cannot be explained in words. You have to be there to feel it (check out the photographs & decide for yourselves). The piece of land is surrounded by the tranquil Bay of Bengal from one side & turbulent Indian Ocean from the other side. One can see both their waters meeting together at some distance. It is a priceless scene. There isn't even a single tide in the bay of Bengal, whereas on the other side, you can hear the roaring of the intense waves of Indian Ocean crashing. Sri Lanka is just at a mere distance of 19 miles from here. There are not many people who visit the place, which makes it one of the most peaceful & pleasant beaches. Just awesome!
While coming back, we stopped at the ruins of the Dhanushkodi village, which was destroyed by a massive cyclone in 1964. The remains of the railway station, office buildings, houses are still present on the island. It gives an eerily feeling, just looking at those structures. Some 500 fishfolks live on the island in makeshift huts. Their only sources of earning are fishing & the little no. of tourists who visit the island.
We came back to Rameswaram, had lunch and started back for Bangalore. One last touch point that was left, Pamban Bridge, which we couldn't see the last night. As it is said about the bridge, it really is a miracle courtesy of civil engineering. It's a two & a half kilometers long road bridge spanning over the Bay of Bengal and is one of the two ways to reach Rameswaram. The other one is a railway bridge that runs parallel to it. It was early evening & with the sun in the background, it was a sweet view upon the bridge. Also the wind over the bridge was so powerful that it literally pushed us backwards.
We spent 15-20 minutes on the bridge & left for a really long drive, 650 kms back to Bangalore.