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Day 0 – 25th Dec 2010: Bangalore to Chidambaram (412 Km)
Day 1 – 26th Dec 2010: Chidambaram to Point Calimere (208 Km)
Day 2 – 27th Dec 2010: Point Calimere to Ramanathapuram (370 Km)
Day 3 – 28th Dec 2010: Ramanathapuram to Kanyakumari (291 Km)
Day 4 – 29th Dec 2010: Kanyakumari to Vathalagundu (413 Km)
Day 5 – 30th Dec 2010: Vathalagundu to Bangalore (508 Km)

Route Map (Interactive)

Day 1 – Dec 26th, 2010

Km 412 (0)

A weird sound woke me up at 0400. Knowing that I am only one on the floor, I step out to check. No light and no sound. After checking down on my bike, I go back to sleep to wake up again at 0600.
Soon I am out of the place leaving my bags in the room.

I first head towards the city to have a closer look at the famous shiv temple. Unlike last evening, there is enough space to maneuver the bike and enough light to take some pics.
The large wheel of the chariot was really impressive.

After completing a parikrama of the temple on the bike, I make my way towards Pichavaram.

Km 431 (19)

Clouds shroud the sun as I make my way to the boat house. The parked boats for the tourists make for interesting silhouettes. A little further away fishermen bring in the early morning’s catch.
The govt ticket booth is still not open, though it is supposed to open at 0700. I negotiate a ride with a boatman who is repairing his boat.
To my surprise he end up being a middleman and delegates me to a young man for a 1 hr ride. A bit skeptical of the young man’s skills and his boat, I test the boat for stability. His confidence and my own ability to row lure me to step inside.
My fears were unfounded as Swami (as I would found out later) pulled us towards the distant mangrove forests with strong strokes.
After crossing the wide stretch of water, we entered a narrow passage flanked by Mangrove forests.As we slow down, I strike a conversation with Swami, my boat man. He knows a smattering of Hindi and English which he picked up from tourists. At the age of 25, he had been working as a boatman at this boat house for four year. Prior to that he was in school and dropped out after class 8.
Kids dropping out of school was something I would find everywhere during this ride.
Thegovernment owned the boat and paid himRs40/- for every rideWe talked about the mangrove, the tsunami six years ago, fishing and the animals in the mangrove forest.
He pointed me to the tide mark and the fact that it was low tide at that time, all the while rowing the boat.After a while, he stopped the boat under a shady overhang and we quietly settled down comfortably to listen to the sounds of the forest. The trees were full of birds, especially parakeets.

Click here to hear the bird sounds.

After a while I fished out an apple and pear from my pocket and we shared our breakfast all the while enjoying the shade and the sound.
It probably was everyday thing for him, but for me it was a novelty. I would dream of Huckleberry Finn and his boat ride that day.

On our way back I request Swami to try my hand at rowing. It was his turn to hesitate. However, my persistence paid off and he handed the oars to me and we switched places.
The boat was very similar to the rowing boats of Nainital with which I have had ample of practice several years ago.

In a few minutes I had gained Swami’s confidence and he let me row all the way back to the boat house.

Back with my feet firmly on ground, I think of the day ahead. My friend DJ is from Mayiladuthurai, a nearby town. I decide to pay him a visit before heading to Point Calimere.

Now if you look at the map, Point Calimere or Kodigeri looks extremely interesting. It is on a piece of land jutting out into the sea surrounded by salt pans. Far from any big city and its associated cacophony.

But first I must call up DJ to see if he got home from Bangalore. After confirming, I head towards the  hotel to pick my bags.

Km 446 (34)

Back at the hotel, it takes me a few minutes to pick up my stuff and head out. It is warm, so I dress light but still making sure I am wearing full sleeves.

Km 458 (46)

The roads are in great condition and weather excellent. Driving at a moderate speed I enjoy the sun and the fleeting wind. It is fun driving past the fields.

The wide and smooth road is often interrupted by small villages where the road narrows and potholes predominate.

I cross one such village where the road is flanked by cane furniture shops. There are so many shops that I wonder how much the competition would drive down the prices.

Km 491 (79)

Mayiladuthurai gives me a jumbo welcome.

I hit the first intersection and stop at the nearby petrol pump.

DJ picks me up in a few minute and we head to his home. There we realize that his Kinetic keys are missing. Funny how the scooter kept going without the keys. We double back and find the keys at the petrol pump.

Back at DJ’s house, he impresses his mother by the fact that I am coming on bike all the way from Bangalore.

After an excellent breakfast of dosas, uttapam and double coffee I head on.

I have “miles to go before I sleep”.

The beautiful field flanked roads continue past Mayiladuthurai.

Km 506 (94)

At Akkur, I turn towards Tranquebar or Tharangambadi. The desire to have a look at the old fort pull me towards the place.

Km 519 (107)

Tranquebar fort is a small fort, much less impressive in reality than in the photographs. The yellow painted walls gives impressions of a recent construction which is far from true. The fort was built by the Danish in 1620 A.D.

The fort is located right on the water front and the incoming breeze promises a pleasant evening.

However, when I arrived at the fort, the sun was unbearably hot and the dark museum provided relief from the heat.

Km 558 (146)

Post Tranquebar the roads are excellent. Suddenly out of nowhere several liquor shops start appearing on either side of the road. Surprised I take a break to look at the map.

It is then I realize that I am nearing Karaikal and liquor is cheap here. The shops are to cater to the needs to nearby Tamil Nadu residents.

I make good time and soon am past Karaikal to arrive at Nagapattinam.

The map directs me towards Velankanni which looks like a place I can ask for on way to Point Calimere.

At Nagapattinam the roads are confusing and there is no bypass. I wander around the city and end at a large bridge which overlooks a fishing harbor.

After asking for directions a few times, I am directed towards a small road which would take me to Velankanni.

The road is narrow and full of potholes which are full of water.

I am forced to slow down as I negotiate the potholes without crashing.

At a sign board, I turn left to arrive at Velankanni.

Velankanni seems a major pilgrimage with shrine dedicated to Our lady of Good Health

To my surprise there is a huge mela going on in the town.

There are crowds of pilgrims all over making driving a hazardous task. I go far enough in the town to see the shrine and take a few pictures, before heading south again towards Point Calimere.

Past Velankanni, the roads improve dramatically. It would seem as if the lady of the shrine want the devotee to suffer hardship to get to her. The truth is that I took the wrong road to Velankanni. The terrain change drastically as I head towards Vedaranyam. The road is surrounded by water filled low lying areas.

The fields are greener. Driving is pleasurable again.

However, soon the green fields give way to dry land with salt deposits all over.

I start wondering about a place to stay at night. Behind me is Velankanni with its numerous hotels and lodges. Up ahead is Vedaranyam where I may find a lodge while the road ends at Point Calimere with its forest guest house.

Intermittently there are small covered shacks which look abandoned. I could pull up next to one of those and sleep there.

Km 617 (205)

The road ends at Point Calimere with its few shops and a forest guest house. The entire place is empty but I need a go ahead from the local forest officer to get a room. I call him up and am asked to call after 15 min.

So I head down to the beach deciding to walk the small distance.

The sand is rough and is littered with shells and other debris. Fortunately there is little plastic. This is not a beach for tourists. It is primarily a docking yard for the fishermen with old boats and fishing nets dumped all over.

I hail a couple of young boys who are passing by to strike a conversation. One of then was called Ranjit. The other boy’s name too complex to remember.

We talk about what they do, where they live, where I come from and other small talk. It seemed talking to me was a prestige thing for them as they beamed at other passing fishermen.

Like Swami in the morning they had dropped out of school to start work as fishermen.

They offered (for a price) me a ride in their boat which I declined.

After a while I headed back to the guest house. The lighthouse in the distance looks inviting. Later when I visit, I find it to be out of bound for visitors.

At the guest house, the caretaker has got a confirmation from the boss. So I sign the register and pick a room.

After dumping my bags, I take a shower before heading out again for the sunset. This time, I decide to take the bike and head towards the pier adjoining the beach.

Km 618 (206)

Parking the bike near the pier, I stroll towards the smelly area. Not being used to the predominantly rotten fish smell, I cringe my nose  and take some time to acclimatize.

Once I recover, I experience one the the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. The pictures from my measly P&S camera need no commentary.

I linger on till the sun has descended below the horizon and then head back to the guest house. On way, I take a diversion to the light house, only to return from the gate.

Km 619 (207)

Back again at the guest house, I wash and hang the clothes to dry. I then study the maps before heading out for dinner. Since I had skipped lunch, I was extremely hungry.

I had a choice of three places for dinner.

At the gate of the guest house, there was a thelewala making bhajis. A little further was a small shack with fresh paronthas being made out in front. This place was crowded.

Towards the end of the market, there was a proper restaurant with a sign board depicting chicken and other non-veg items. Though the sign board attracted me, seeing no customers inside, I headed towards the parontha place.

On entering I realize the crowd was due to the T.V. belting out Tamil songs. Ranjit and his friends were in the crowd. Both of them got up to make space for me on the bench and I joined the crowd.

Dinner was same as the previous night except for the tea but server differently.

The person placed a plastic sheet on the plate, crushed two paronthas on it and poured hot curry (much different from sambhar) on top. Everyone around me was eating this like one would eat rice. I joined in pausing only to order an omelet and more paronthas. I don’t remember how much I ate, but I was eating long after others who started with me were gone.
Post dinner I strolled down the town’s only road, reveling in the drowsiness of a full stomach and the twinkling starts overhead.

I stop to pick up a mosquito coil. The shopkeeper spoke good Hindi and we exchange a few sentences. Waving him good bye, I return back to the room.

A little while later, I hear lots of hoopla outside the room. I step out to see a huge crowd assembled outside. The caretaker and his boss were arguing with the crowd. Not understanding the argument, I watch the tamasha for a while and then go back to sleep.

Km 620 (208)

Day end

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