Frequent long travels are a luxury for most people. Living away from family most of the holidays are spent running home for a few days but living in Bangalore has it perks. The number of places for a weekend trip are numerous and each one more beautiful than the other.
Recently my yearning to get away from the everyday routine pushed me to pack my bag and leave for a 3 day trip to Madurai-Rameshwaram-Kanyakumari. I am a very unplanned solo traveller, preferring to go with the flow.
On a Saturday night started for Madurai from Bangalore by bus. The volvo buses take some 6-7 hours to reach Madurai. My bus reached Madurai at 6 am and dropped me near Periyar bus stand. The Meenakshi Amman Temple is walking distance from there. I didn't have any hotel reservations so the first thing was to arrange a roof over my head. A kindly autowala took me a decent place near the temple. A room with attached bath, double bed and a TV for Rs.400 seemed a cheap kill till I found out few more hotels charging around 200-300 bucks just two blocks away. Anyway plenty of places to stay near the west Gate of the Meenakshi Amman temple.
With the whole day ahead of me, I started out to explore the city. First visit was to the Meenakshi Amman and Sundareshwar temple. The intricate work on the Gopurams is worth watching. Buy tickets for clicking photos with your mobile else you might get kicked out. There is also the Thousand pillar hall which doubles up as the museum. The Temple also has a Kalyan mantapam, where marriages are organised. Within an hour I saw some 3 couples get married!!
From the temple my growling stomach directed my feet to the Murugan Idly shop, one of the most famous shops for breakfast. The city is dotted with numerous temples and jewellery shops. Sundays are not a good day to be in Madurai as all shops are closed so shopping for souvenirs could not be checked off. In the evening I visited the St. Mary's church and the Nayakar Palace. The Palace looks beautiful by the setting sun and the towering columns in the palace get painted by the bright hues of the sun. A sound and light show takes place every evening by 6.30 pm.
My Madurai trip was concluded with chettinadu dinner at the Kumar mess. The food was so yumm it's taste still lingers in my mouth.
From Madurai, I had train reservations to Rameshwaram. I had read in Tripoto about the life defining train journey over Pamban Bridge. Even though it was pitch black outside, the inky blackness of the sea and the strong breeze was pretty intimidating. The train reached Rameshwaram at 5.30 am.
Rameshwaram is a tiny place and the border of Sri Lanka is some 28 kms away so the lodge owners don't give rooms to solo travellers due to fear of LTTE. They are not sexist so both single male and female travellers are left in a lurch. Again an autowala came to my rescue. For Rs. 20 he convinced the owner of Sumathi Lodge to give me a room. It cost me Rs. 600 but he was only the one who agreed so I had no choice.
The Ramanath swamy temple was very close by.Ideally pilgrims are supposed to take bath in the sea, Agneeteertham and the 22 wells in the temple before visiting the garbha griha. Since I am extremely scared of the endless sea, I directly went to the Main temple. The arrangement is very well planned so took me some half hour to complete my darshan.
After a quick breakfast, I took the city bus service to the Ghost town of Dhanushkodi. The city bus service in Rameshwaram is extremely good and frequent. From the Dhanushkodi bus stop, there are maxicabs which takes tourists to the tip where the Bay of Bengal and the Indian ocean meet. Due to construction work that part was closed so I couldn't see the tip which resembles the bow. The white sand and the dark blue Indian Ocean beckoned many while on the other side the yellow sand and the greenish blue Bay of Bengal was calmly attracting others. It was extremely hot in Dhanushkodi and the sand almost scalded my skin off. The bright sun defeats any sunscreen lotion but the ruins of the town are worth exploring.
Before leaving Rameshwaram, The house of Kalam is a must visit. It has his medals, awards and quotes. An inspiring way to conclude one's journey. In case one yearns for non-veg food, a small restaurant, Chola's is the place to eat. They are fast and reasonable. The mutton biryani is a must have. From Rameshwaram there is only one direct bus to Kanyakumari. Since I was short on time, didn't want to go back to Madurai and then go to Kanyakumari.
The bus is run by SETC and it seemed to be held together by duct tapes and ropes. The travel was like sitting on a vibrating chair. Its an 8 hour journey from Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari and the bus reached at 4.30 am.
The most attractive feature of Kanyakumari is the Sunrise and Sunset. The weather forecast said sun would show it's face at 6.38 am so I decided to take some rest before heading to the beach. A lighthouse showed me the way through the pitch dark roads. Just next to the government offical's guest house, a man started calling out "Rooms!! Rooms". It was a pretty little place with attached bathroom, TV and a small balcony. Tariff was Rs.500 which was felt pocket friendly. After a quick nap I ran to the Cape Comorin beach for the sun rise. The crowd was huge and finding a place to stand was getting difficult. It turned out to be a cloudy morning which disappointed me a lot. I ventured into the sea, the Bay of Bengal, to click some selfies. While standing on the boulders in the sea, with the wind rushing around my body and the sea spraying me with salty water, I heard people whistling. And then I saw the clouds part and the glorious morning sun rise up colouring the sky golden. The view of the sun rising between the Vivekananda Rock memorial and the Thiruvallur statue is unforgettable.
After the sunrise, I immediately ran to buy ticket for the ferry ride to Vivekananda Rock Memorial. The place is beautiful, surrounded by the sea on all sides and the wind almost making me weightless. After praying for a while at the meditation hall, it was time for the return journey to mainland. The rest of the day was whiled away in visiting the Kanyakumari temple, the Gandhi museum and the Light house. The place gets sticky and hot by afternoon, so light, full-sleeved cotton clothes should be preferred.
In the evening, I visited the Church of Our Lady of Ransom. There was a mass going on and the view inside was beautiful. Its massive in size with lovely sculptures decorating the interiors as well as the square outside. From the Church towards the sea beach there is a 1 km strip of land that goes out into the sea. No barricades and no security. One can just walk up to the end way into the sea and disappear...
It's seems like a path to self discovery, to understand that opportunities in life are as endless as the sea in front. It is so windy that one can almost feel it pushing. The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks block out every other sound. With barely enough time, I ran to catch the battery car to the sunset point. The setting sun coloured the sky orange and fuchsia. It looked like God's canvas was dripping with the brightest hues of orange and blue. The same battery car can be taken to reach back the Cape comorin beach.
With the sunset my trip came to an end and it was time to return back to the mundane activities. But the trip left me rejuvenated and tanned :)
Started Saturday night from Bangalore and returned Wednesday morning. I forgot to mention the travel expenses. From Bangalore to Madurai volvo buses cost some Rs. 650, Madurai to Rameshwaram by the CAPE-RMM express was Rs. 231, Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi can be visited by the city bus the ticket is just Rs. 14. From Rameshwaram the SETC ultra deluxe bus to Kanyakumari costs 270 bucks. The return journey from Kanyakumari to Bangalore by volvo bus may cost upto Rs.1100.
Total cost of trip came to some 5000 bucks inclusive of everything.