Car Trip : Bangalore to Madurai-Thiruvananthapuram-Kanyakumari-Rameswaram-Dhanuskodi


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July 13th 2016
Published: July 14th 2016
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I look for opportunities to open a new travelling chapter to enrich myself.

An assignment to Thiruvanathapuram provided the idea to drive my Hyundai Xcent from Bangalore and to visit nearby destinations on the way back.

Thiruvanathapuram (Trivundrum) is the capital city of Gods own country (i.e. Kerala) and located around 730 Kms from Bangalore.

We plan to cover the following places in our tour :

1. 1st day – Madurai,

2. 2nd day & 3rd day – Thiruvanthapuram (Trivundrum),

3. 4th day – Kanyakumari,

4. 5th day – Rameswaram,

5. 6th day – Back to Bangalore

My wife was my usual travel companion in all my driving adventure. This time my son would be accompanying us upto Trivundrum.




18.06.2016 DAY 1 – BANGALORE TO MADURAI (435 KMS)

Route – Bangalore-Hosur-Salem-Dindigul-Madurai (NH44)

Madurai is one of the large cities in Tamil Nadu and abode of rich Dravidian cultural heritage. The city has got historical significance spanning thousand years. Meenaksi Amma Temple is the most famous destination of Madurai.

I thought of commencing our journey in the early morning, but it was late as usual. Filling up fuel and nitrogen in my car, withdrawal of cash etc were the pre-requisites. When we finally started it was already 10.30 AM. Next one hour was passed to negotiate with the busy Bangalore City Traffic. When we crossed the first Toll Gate (Rs. 45) of Electronic City Flyover and next Toll (Rs. 25) at Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border, it was around 11.45 PM.

Selecting the shortest que in a Toll gate

Selecting a particular que in a crowded Toll Booth with so many options was anybody’s guess. Both the toll gates were full of all kinds of vehicles in all the lanes. My wife believed to have power of guessing which lane would cost less time. Every time we had reached near any toll gate, she insisted to follow a particular que which I follow obediently without any contest. Sometimes the guess worked, sometime not.

This time she suggested to follow a que of trucks and transport vehicles, since other lines having passenger cars would consume more time. Unfortunately her guess did not materialise, since an ambulance reached with untiring sound in our adjacent lane and passed on the Toll Gate immediately followed by large no of cars for free. Anyway this was only the beginning of Toll Gates and I hoped next time her anticipation would be fruitful.

Driving thru NH44

One of the un-avoidable attraction of my journey was to drive thru National Highway 44. This Highway started from Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir and ended its journey to Kanyakumari, covering from extreme North to the last point of Southern India. This highway is a true symbol of national integration.

I love to drive thru this highway. In our earlier journeys to various places of Kerala and Tamil Nadu we travelled thru this highway. This six lane highway is a driver’s paradise and pleasure to move on.

We touched NH44 and a substantial portion of our journey today would be thru this highway. Intensity of traffic largely reduced after Hosur and we could increase the speed. Weather was cloudy and comfortable. The road between Hosur and Krishnagiri/ Dharmapuri was very scenic with surrounding hills in both sides. Cloud above the hills were reminding the onsets of monsoon. Car was smoothly cruising the highway and we were enjoying the surrounding beauty of nature.

At 12.45 PM we reached Paiyur after crossing Krishnagiri Toll Gate (Rs. 60). There were large no of makeshift shops on the highway selling different varieties of mangos.

We stopped and collected a few after a brief research. The lady shopkeeper was extremely gentle and in the end gifted a piece extra. We enjoyed the gesture. She also carefully cut the mango into pieces and we enjoyed the taste. It was an offbeat different experience.

After crossing another Toll Gate (Rs 86) at Vellakal, we reached the beautiful Ghat Section near Salem. Broad roads took a twist and turn in various places. Nature was open and bountiful here with large no of hills on both sides of the road upto and after Salem standing under the black cloud. NH44 was proceeding amidst this beautiful landscape like a serpent, a wonderful experience of drivers. We encountered one more Toll Gate (Rs. 69) near Periyar University to reach Salem (200 Kms from Bangalore).

Lunch at Sree Saravana Bhawan Highway Branch, Salem

While entering Salem, we faced traffic congestion and decided to fill our stomach. We selected the above-mentioned hotel randomly and I must say we made the right choice. There are number of hotels with same name, sometimes with addition of prefix like “The” etc and it was easy to confuse.

Lot of people were patiently waiting to acquire a table. We could acquire a table after nearly half an hour. I selected “Southern Thali”, my wife “Gujarati Thali” and my son “Ghee roast Dhosa” respectively. In my thali, there were twelve bowls with different varieties of food and all of them were quite tasteful. Prices of food were quite reasonable. All of us enjoyed the splendid food to its best. I must mention that this restaurant was one of the star attraction of our journey.

Driving with full stomach

Usually I take light food during my drive, but this time I could not restrict my greed. My the stomach was full. Understanding the consequence I decided to reduce the speed of my subsequent drive. But despite my best efforts, I was feeling drowsy while driving.

Struggling with drowsiness while driving was a risky affair. At around 4.15 PM we had a brief coffee-break at Namakkal. In between I had to stop twice to thrash water to my eyes. While coffee re-energised me, dark clouds were gathering at the distant horizon. When we reached Karur at around 5 PM heavy rain started. Madurai was still around 150 Km from here.

Rain, Rain, Rain

We closed the windows. Inside atmosphere was calm and quite. My son was in deep sleep. Torrential rains were pouring the highway outside. Few vehicles were plying on the road. Occasionally large body (carrying cars) were seen moving slowly. Some heavily loaded vehicles were struggling to move at snails speed.

Road was taking twists and turn in several places. Wide distant horizon and nearby hills were looking like a mystic painting. While driving carefully, I was enjoying the outside wet environment.

Intensity of rain subsided after some time and ray of sunshine peeped from the cloud. Thin line of distant hills appeared amidst the grey clouds. It was drizzling outside. NH44 was looking wet and afresh, glittering in the twilight sun. What a mesmerizing drive I was having.

Area of Colleges

On the way large no of educational institutions like Engineering College, Dental College, Nursing College were noticed on both sides of the road. Some of the colleges were very large in size and their buses were seen on the road.

While crossing Avarakurichi Toll Gate (Rs. 78) we recalled to take right turn from here in our earlier trip to Munnar and other places.

Latest toll gate (Rs. 53) was crossed near Kodai Road. Travellers visiting Kodai Canal had to take a turn from here (80 kms).

After Dindugal we noticed many Biriyani Hotels in one place.

Arrival at Madurai

At around 6.30 PM we reached the outskirts of Madurai. Now we had to take left turn to get NH 49 which went inside the Madurai City. This was a narrow and crowded road. After the loss of my Apple IPAD, GPS in my mobile was my only guide. But due to faulty connectivity it failed to direct in several occasions. Locating a place in a big crowded city like Madurai, particularly after nightfall without GPS help was not easy.

Booking at TTDC 2, Madurai

Our room was booked at TTDC-2(Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation). There were two TTDC hotels in Madurai i.e. TTDC I & II in different locations. Nevertheless, after all these road hangover when we reached the hotel, we came to know that was TTDC I and not TTDC II where we had booking. It took another half an hour to finally locate our hotel, TTDC II.

Rooms are quite spacious and equipped with essential amenities required in a budget hotel, reasonably clean toilet and above all tariff was quite reasonable (Rs. 1095 for a non-AC double bedded room with complimentary breakfast).

History of the temple

Menakshi (Fish-eyed) Amma temple is the crowning glory of the Southern India temple architecture. This beautiful temple is the abode of Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Siva. As per legend, after waging war for conquering three worlds (Heaven-Earth and Hell) when the goddess finally reached and looked to Lord Siva, she could recognise him as her destined husband. Both of them came back to Madurai for marriage.

The original temple believed to have been built during 6th century BC, was destroyed during early 14th century by the Army of Sultan Alluddin Khilji. The temple was re-built during the 16th Century by the Nayakar Kingdom. The temple has 14 Gopurams covering all sides in a vast land area.

Temple darshan timing:

a. Morning – 5 AM to 12.30 PM,

b. Evening – 4 PM to 9 PM.

Dress Code :

i.Shoulders, legs are not be exposed.

ii.Shorts, caps are not allowed.

Our visit to the temple

Immediately after check-in, we came out to visit Meenakshi Amma Temple, nearly 3 Kms from the hotel. Here, we made a mistake to take our car for the temple visit. Roads in and around the temple were very narrow and heavily crowded with all kinds of vehicles and pedestrians. Moreover, the car parking area of the area was the only place to park the car, all other nearby places being fully occupied. After wasting more than an hour we could locate and park our vehicle in the temple parking. Ultimately, when we entered the temple it was around 8.30 PM.

We kept our Camera, mobile inside the car and shoe in the stall adjacent the entrance gate. Fortunately there was not much crowd. Unlike in other well-known temples of South India, I did not observe strict adherence of dress code while standing in the que. As usual there was lack of discipline near the shrine. Everyone was pushing others to stand in front of the deity and pray as long as possible. We were delighted to have darshan of the goddess.

Procession to carry Lord Sundareswar to the Goddess before the temple closes at night

As per the rituals, every evening before closing of the temple the shrine of Lord Sundareswar (Shiva) was brought to the bedroom of the goddess to spend the night at the temple and taken back in the early morning. We were lucky to observe the procession carrying the Lord to the temple. Fortunately there was not much crowd to observe the same.

We left the temple at around 10.15 PM. Looking to feel our stomach, but most of the shops were closed. Somehow we managed our hunger with some street food.

Since that was not enough I consumed two mangos purchased on the way after returning to our hotel. Feeling extremely tired and exhausted I went to a deep sleep.



DAY 2 - 19TH JUNE, 2016 – SUNDAY – MADURAI TO THIRUVANANTHAPURAM – 315 KMS

Route – Madurai-Tirunelveli-Panakudi-Nagarcoil- Thiruvananthapuram

A warm and gentle early morning

I woke up early in the morning by the ringing of Alarm Clock attached to my mobile. It was a sound and un-interrupted sleep last night. The hotel was constructed in a large area. There was a big courtyard and a garden within the hotel space. There was a beautiful balcony adjacent to the room. Three big trees in the garden located very near to the balcony were accommodating no of squirrels and varieties of birds.

I spent some time in the balcony watching the busy activities of squirrels and birds. Thereafter I decided to visit the Meenakshi Amma temple once again in the morning.

Journey to Thiruvananthapuram

At around 10.30 AM we began our journey to Thiruvananthapuram. Climate was quite hot and humid. Today’s trip was again thru NH 44 further down to the south. Once again the GPS was troubling. When we touched NH44 thru NH 49, it was around 11.30 AM. There were three Toll Plazas between Madurai and Tirunelveli i.e. Madurai (Rs 62), VirudhuNagar (Rs 65) and Salaipudur (Rs. 75) respectively. At around 1 PM we reached Tirunelveli.

Tirunelveli – A place of Windmills

One of the important landmark after Tirunelveli was large number of rotating Wind mills. There were thousands of windmills spread across both sides of the road. India is one of the leading producer of wind energy and a substantial portion of the wind power was generated in and around this place. Reason for the phenomenal growth of the windmill was the high wind blowing in this area.

It was a worm and sunny day. Gradually tall mountain ranges emerged in the distant horizon. Nearby hills are filled with green bushes. Huge coconut, banana orchards were visible on the roadside. Overall landscape was magnificent and it was a real pleasure to drive.

I stopped the car in between, to enjoy the bounties of nature and take few snaps. Also the power of wind blow could be felt as if anything loose would fly immediately.

Another noticeable feature was the presence of Car Show Rooms immediately after Tirunelveli. Almost all leading car brands established their showroom here. Reason I do not know. Possibly this indicated the relative prosperity of this area.

Right turn towards Thiruvananthapuram

Near Panakudi (Kanyakumari was around 30 Kms from here), we took a right turn to catch NH 47B leaving NH44 towards Thiruvananthapuram. It was around 2.20 PM in the afternoon. Before that we passed the last toll plaza (Rs. 60) near Nangunneri.

Driving thru narrow highway

Driving thru NH 47B was a sharp contrast to the drive thru NH 44. This was two lane road passing thru Nagercoil to Thiruvananthapuram (around 100 Kms from Panakudi). Road was extremely busy with full of traffic throughout the journey to our ultimate destination. Road passed thru several busy areas (both in Tamil Nadu and subsequently in Kerala) and in all these places traffic congestion was a big pain. In fact driving in National Highways of Kerala was tough due to the narrowness of road. This problem I faced during my earlier journeys to Kerala also.

It took nearly three hours to reach Thiruvananthapuram crossing just around 100 Kms.

Hotel KTDC, Chaitram, Thiruvananthapuram

We booked our accommodation in Hotel KTDC, Chaitram, a Government of Kerala owned hotel (Tariff Rs. 1183 for Non-AC Double bedded room with complimentary breakfast, booked thru Make my trip). Hotel was located in Thampanoor at the heart of Thiruvananthapuram city.

Outside look, reception and the lift of the hotel were good to give a good impression which was entirely deceptive. Condition of the room allotted to us at the fifth floor was extremely poor. The room was shabby, walls full of dampness. Both the room as well as the toilet were not clean. Towel provided was dirty and became disfigured due to prolonged usage. One mosquito repellent was provided without any repellent oil. There was no hot water coming in the shower. Bedsheets were not changed regularly. Response of the front office desk of the hotel was extremely poor. They were determined not to listen to any plea of the boarder. We had to stay in that hotel for two days and I must mention that the hospitality standard of this hotel was one of the worst I have ever seen anywhere. Moreover there was no service provided on the second day (not even complimentary one bottle of Mineral water) of our stay. However we could not change to any other hotel since we paid in full tariff in advance thru Make-my-Trip.

Sunday evening was spent on our personal engagements. In the evening rain started and gradually the intensity increased. At night, we had dinner at a nearby restaurant.




DAY 3 – 20TH JUNE, 2016-MONDAY -THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Visit to Padmanabhaswamy Temple

Today we planned to visit two destinations, first Padmanabhaswamy Temple and then to Kovalam Beach. The temple was located nearby but having the Madurai experience of car parking difficulties, I was sceptical whether we would drive or not. Fortunately, we had no problem here. The locals near the parking lot helped us to park our car.

History of the temple

This temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu. History of the temple dated back to eighth century AD. It is one of the sacred Vishnu temples in India. Lord Vishnu is enshrined in the Ananthasayanam posture, the eternal yogi sleep on the serpent. Main idol of Sree Padmanahaswamy is about 18 Ft long and can be viewed through three main doors. Maharaja of Trivancore is the trustee of the temple. It is the richest Hindu temple of the world.

Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala takes its name from the presiding deity of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, who is also known as Anantha (one who reclines on the Serpent Ananatha). The word 'Thiruvananthapuram' literally means - the land of Sree Anantha Padmanabhaswamy.

Strict Dress Code

I read about the strict dress code requirement for devotees in this temple. Hence I kept my shirt, banyan, camera, mobile etc inside the car. We brought two dhotis for wearing inside the temple. My wife wrapped her Salwar Kamij with a dhoti. Wearing a dhoti I entered the temple premises with my trouser in hand along with my wife. However, we could not succeed even after all those preparations. I was told to leave the pant in the nearby counter and come with purse in hand. I obediently followed the same. This time we succeeded. We could enter the temple.

Darshan timing

Temple opens in the early morning at 3.30 AM and remains open upto 12 Noon in the morning session. However, there are 30 minutes to one and half hour gap in between. During those periods darshan remain suspended. Darshan again started at 5 PM and remain open upto 7.20 PM with a gap of half an hour in between.

Our Darshan

We entered at around 11.15 AM, next darshan timing would start at 11.45 AM. One noticeable thing is that the idol of the Lord in the Black Stone is huge and need careful watch to have a proper darshan. Some time is required to adjust our eyesight with the dim light of the Grabhagriha. Luckily, there was not much crowd and huge congestion in front of the deity and we had an excellent darshan of the Lord.

Kovalam Beach

This destination was the next choice. It was slightly far away from our hotel. When we reached it was raining. I did not find anything special here. It was just like any other sea beach. Both of us were feeling hungry and looking for seafood at a reasonable price. Randomly we selected an eating place on the beach. It was an ordinary restaurant. We were treated very well by the shopkeeper and briefed about varieties of seafood available. But when asked about the price he started from Rs 1500/- for just a plate of Prawn Curry with Rice (despite being a off-season). We were about to leave the hotel but after several round of negotiations it was finalised at Rs 600/-. Our hunger prevented us to go anywhere else.

I noticed this tendency to levying exorbitantly for ordinary services rendered, in various tourist destinations of the “Gods own country”. My experience was that Kerala being the place for wealthy travellers with deep pockets, not for people like us who look for basic facilities at reasonable cost.

Poovar Island

From Kovalam we decided to visit Poovar island. This place was in the outskirts of the city (about 25 Kms) and was an attractive tourist destination, famous for its backwaters, confluence of Neyyar river meeting the Arabian Sea and also the sea beach. The road going to Poovar was narrow and it was an hours ride. This place was beautiful with greeneries everywhere. There is a similarity with backwaters of Alleppy or Kumarakkom, which we visited earlier.

We thought of a backwater boat ride and inquired the rate. To our dismay the rate started with Rs 2000 per hour (off season rate) with an offer of negotiated price upto Rs 1500. We left the idea and came back to the city.



DAY 4 – 21ST JUNE, 2016-TUESDAY - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM TO KANYAKUMARI (90 KMS)

Journey to Kanyakumari

Our next destination was the southern-most point of India, Kanyakumari. Three oceans, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea were meeting the mighty Indian Ocean here.

Kanyakumari was around 90 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram. Our route would be thru Salem-Kochi-Kanyakumari Highway (NH 47).

We started at 9AM after having the complimentary breakfast. I was short of liquid cash and thought of drawing the same from an ATM on the way. Unfortunately, my repeated attempts proved futile, since wherever I attempted there was no cash. Mobile GPS was troubling as usual, that was a double whammy.

I was trying in SBI and SBT ATM. At last I could draw the required cash from an HDFC Bank ATM in the fourth attempt.

NH 47 was a two lane highway. The road was heavily crowded with all kinds of vehicles. Moreover it passed thru number of small and mid-sized, busy towns making the drive very time consuming. Amongst all the vehicles on this road, the agility and skill of negotiating crowded streets by the Red Colour State Government Buses were noticeable.

We reached at Nagercoil at around 11.45 AM. Kanyakumari was around 20 Kms from here. Thereafter the environment became quiet and lonely. Backwater could be seen nearby. We entered Kanyakumari at around 12.15 PM.

TTDC Hotel Kanyakumari

We booked a NON-AC Room in TTDC Hotel at Kanyakumari (Tariff Rs. 1450). This hotel was located at the sea-shore and best located in Kanyakumari at reasonable price. Covering a vast land and wide variety of rooms, this was arguably the best place for staying at Kanyakumari. Lighthouse was also located in the same compound.

We were allotted a sea-facing room in the ground floor. Room was reasonably spacious and there was also a small room in between the toilet. It was very clean and equipped with all required facilities. Additionally there was a splendid sea-facing balcony.

We had two must see places in mind, Kanyakumari Devi Bhagavathy Temple and Vivekananda Rock. Temple would open at 4 PM, thus we planned to visit the temple in the evening.

Vivekananda Rock

Our available time was short. Hence immediately after check-in, we rushed to the jetty for visiting the Vivekananda Rock. It was off-season, hence there was not much rush. Ferry charge was Rs 34/- per head.

Vivekananda Rock was around 500 Mtrs from the Indian Main Land and was the southern-most point. Entry fee was Rs 20/- per head. Before proceeding to World Religious Conference at Chicago, Swami Vivekananda meditated in this rock alone for three days.

This had been my third visit to the rock and every time my appreciation to this place was rejuvenated. Most interesting was the meditation hall inside the temple. We sat there for a while and tried to concentrate the “OM” emblem glowing in the darkness.

The place was maintained by Vivekananda Kendra. List of major donatees were encrypted in the wall. I saw the name of Amitabh Bachhan, who donated Rs 11 Lakh being the highest contribution of all names.

Another interesting aspect was the three different colours of the water distinctly visible, light grey and deep grey in both sides of the rock and blue colour in the distant Indian Ocean. On return we also visited the statute of Thiruvalluvar erected in the adjacent rock. TTDC opened a restaurant below the statute.

I felt hungry and looking for hotels serving Bengali food. In my last visit around 15 years ago, there were large no of such hotels on the seashore. But the nos were drastically reduced now. Instead, large no of restaurants have come up selling different varieties of food ranging from Punjabi, Marwari, Gujarati, leave alone South Indian food. At last we could a locate a Bengali hotel. It was late afternoon, I thought of trying our dinner here.

Gandhi Memorial Hall

Weather was warm and humid. We entered Gandhi Memorial Hall. The Gatekeeper took us inside and started describing history of the place. After the lecture, at a stretch he fervently requested for donation. I gave Rs 20, he seemed to be not satisfied but accepted it.

Next was the Kamaraj Memorial. Historically important but the faded glory was prominent in that hall.

Kanyakumari beach

Kanyakumari beach was next in the list. This was the last point of Indian land meeting three oceans i.e. Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. A prominent Board reminded “to be cautious since many people lost their lives here”. Despite that many people (even children) were taking bath at that place.

We came back to hotel for a tea break. Drizzle started and we were enjoying the panoramic view of the sea and the rainfall taking sip in the tea cup from the hotel balcony.

Observation Tower

An observation tower was erected almost inside the sea. This tower was located just in front of the sea facing side of our hotel. Since it was raining, going to the Sunset Point was not worthwhile, being far away from here. Instead I went to that Observation Tower.

Meanwhile the intensity of rain increased and weather deteriorated. I stopped in the lower balcony of the tower to feel the stormy sea. Sea was rough and height of wave increased. Lot of crabs were climbing the nearby rocks. Splashing sprinkle of roaring sea-water soaked my clothes. I was thrilled and took some snaps.

Instead of steps there was a walkway to climb to the top of the five storey tower. Panoramic view of the swelling sea waves striking the sea shore were really fascinating.

Kanyakumari Devi Bhagavathy Temple

This famous temple (Devi Parvati or Durga) was one of 51 Sakthi Peeth as per Hindu Mythology. Devi Kanyakumari was popularly known as Devi Bhagawathy, Durga or Parvati. As directed by his guru Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda worshipped here to seek devi’s blessings.

Temple opens at 4 PM in the afternoon upto 8 PM.

I heard about strict Dress Code required for entry in the temple. Based on our experience in Thiruvananthapuram, we came prepared without banyan and wrapped in dhoti, but surprisingly there was no strict restriction, may be due to thin crowd. We had a nice darshan of the goddess.

Dinner we had in a Bengali Hotel (named Sonar Bangla Hotel) with Fish Curry and Rice. Food was delicious and reasonably priced.



DAY 5 – 22ND JUNE, 2016 - WEDNESDAY – KANYAKUMARI TO RAMESWARAM (310 KMS)

Route : Kanyakumari-Tirunelveli-Thoothukudi-Valankani-Ramanathpuram-Rameswaram

Rameswaram was not in our original plan since we were hard pressed to return Bangalore by Thursday afternoon. Nevertheless, having reached to Kanyakumari we thought of not missing one of the most revered holy place of Hindus in India, Rameswaram.

Early morning I rushed to the “observation tower” for observing the sunrise. But sun god peeped behind the clouds for a while and vanished thereafter.

Serving of complimentary breakfast was slightly delayed. Last night we noticed two buses arrived at the hotel packed with visitors. Whether they were the reason for delay in preparation of breakfast, I am not very sure.

We started at around 9 AM. Very soon we reached to the starting point of Srinagar-Kanyakumari Highway (NH44). From this point the longest Indian Highway (3750 KM) began its journey to the northern corridor of India. This journey upto Tirunelveli was splendid and worth remembering. Nearby hills, coconut and banana plantation on both sides of the road, mountain ranges in distant horizon created a scenic view in the morning sunshine.

Route to Rameswaram from Kanyakumari

1.Kanyakumari to near Tirunelveli (72 Kms)

One toll gate (Rs 60) was passed. Just before Tirunelveli (72 Kms from Kanyakumari) we took a left turn to get the NH 138 which moved to the right below the highway flyover.

2.Around 50 Km from NH 44 upto Thoothukudi thru NH 138 and then to take left turn

NH 138 was a two lane but excellent road with newly led tar. Landscape changed dramatically and white salt making waterbodies were seen miles after miles wherever we looked. We stopped for a while to take snaps, tasted the salt. It was like chewing the dust with salty taste. Not very interesting I must say.

We passed the outskirts of Tuticorin City. Lot of factories were seen on the roadside.

3.Around 12 Km in NH 38 after taking left turn and then to take right turn to catch the East Coast Highway (State Highway 49) at Vellankani

Rameswaram was around 200 Kms from here. In between we crossed two Toll Gates (Rs 55 +Rs 60).

4.Around 120 Km in East Coast Road upto Ramanathpuram

This was also a two lane road and moderately maintained except few places. At a small place called Vember we dropped for a lavatory and tea break. Road was almost empty, but a good place for cow grazing. While driving we usually place importance to humans and vehicles but sometimes ignore animals. Immediately thereafter an incident occurred for which I was not prepared.

Clash with a cow

I was tempted to increase the speed. Suddenly I noticed a cow crossing the road very slowly. I pressed the horn but it ignored and paused almost at the middle of the narrow road. Having no other alternative I pressed the brake and was able to move my car to the left. I escaped the collision narrowly but not without damage. The right hand mirror of the car hit the horn of the cow and was completely broken. I paid the price for ignoring animals on the road.

5.Taking right turn at Ramnathpuram to NH 87 towards Rameswaram (56 Km)

At around 1 PM we took a right turn to touch NH 87. This road was coming from Madurai and we had to drive another 56 Km from here. This was a wide and well maintained road. Vagai river was seen on the left side after a while. Coast Guard points were seen on the roadside. Around 20 Kms before Rameswaram the railway line could be seen and was accompanying us upto Pamban Bridge.

Pamban Bridge

Before the bridge, we were stopped in a Toll Gate (Rs. 60). After a while the famous Pamban Bridge was seen. This railway bridge and the parallel road bridge were connecting the Pamban island (where Rameswaram was located) with the mainland. The railway bridge constructed over the sea more than a century old was considered an engineering marvel. Also it was shown as one of the ten most dangerous Railway Bridges in the world (particularly during monsoon or cyclonic storm when the sea was rough) in National Geographic Channel regularly. Middle portion of the bridge could be raised for movement of ships.

We stopped our car midway through the road bridge. It was a sunny afternoon. No train was running through the bridge. Sea looked greenish with hundreds of fishing vessels in varieties of colours all over the place. Two bridges are standing separately side by side, but comparatively the road bridge was longer and also bigger both in size and height from the sea. Height of the railway bridge was quite low from the sea (as if the bridge was floating on the sea). The bridge looked to be quietly standing on the sea. We noticed five peacocks roaming on the railway bridge.

TTDC Hotel Rameswaram

We entered Rameswaram town at around 2 PM. Roads inside the town was narrow and full of traffic. We spent some time to locate our destination TTDC Hotel, Rameswaram. Like any other TTDC Hotels, this hotel was located in the most prominent place of this town, i.e. near the temple and on the sea shore. Hotel area was quite spacious with different varieties of rooms.

We booked a Non-AC room for a night. A room on the second floor was allotted. The room was not ok. Both the room as well as Toilet were dirty. Cot and Bed-sheet were not cleaned for a long time. Windows were broken. A substantial portion of the wall was covered with dampness. Most interesting was the Television where only few dotted lines were visible. A bad room to stay but we thought of not wasting time looking for alternatives since we have to start towards Bangalore tomorrow early morning.

Dhanuskodi

If we see the Indian map, a thin land line is spread between the oceans from Rameswaram towards Srilanka and stops at Dhanuskodi. Indian territory ends here and Srilanka was around 30 Kms from here crossing Palk straits of Bay of Bengal.

We decided to go Dhanuskodi first and visit the Ramanathaswamy Temple in the evening. Distance between Rameswaram and Dhanuskodi was around 20 Kms. We came to know from the hotel that we would be allowed to drive upto around 12 Kms. Thereafter we had to take the minibus ride (Rs 150 per head).

After a quick lunch, we started our journey. Crossing the town we reached NH 87 once again which would lead us to Dhanuskodi. This newly tar laid four lane highway was excellent and well maintained. There was hardly any vehicle on the road. I was tempted to increase the speed. Suddenly we saw the sea initially far away and after some time almost touching the road on both sides. It was a totally different experience.

Car parking in Dhanuskodi Ckeckpost

Near the check post there was a parking area. Our drive ended here. There were bus services too from Rameswaram to the Dhanuskodi Checkpost. We had limited time in hand and hence boarded the Minibus immediately for undertaking the balance portion of our journey. The driver was a young guy. Starting from the highway, soon he departed it and steered the bus to the thick Sand on the seashore. We were amazed to see that the bus came down to the sea and the rest of the journey was on the sea water. Probably it was a backwater and the sea was only knee deep. Nevertheless it was an amazing drive. We could see only sea water in all sides of the bus. Our trip continued for nearly an hour and ultimately we reached Dhanuskodi.

A Ghost Town

Dhanuskodi was called a Ghost Town. There was a rail link earlier which was fully destroyed in a devastating cyclone occurred around fifty years ago. Thousands of people died in that tragedy. Before that incident, Dhanuskodi was an important town linking between India and erstwhile Ceylon. Deserted ruins of Railway Station, Post Office, Church and other places still reminds us about the glory of the past.

The road after the Check post, although not allowed for private drive, also looked to be good and motor able. On the way thru our Minibus trip, we noticed several two wheelers and trucks carrying loads going towards Dhanuskodi even after crossing the chek post. Due to its proximity to Srilanka, this road seemed to become strategically very important. Work in the under construction road upto the last point of Dhanuskodi was going on in full swing and seemed to be completed within a short period.

A holy place with breathtaking beauty

Religious importance of Dhanuskodi was paramount. As depicted in Ramayana, Lord Rama built the “setu”(bridge) from the last point of Dhanuskodi to Srilanka to conquer Ravana and bring back Sita.

The sea beach was wonderful and pleasant. Walking few kilometres we could reach to the area where the “Bay of Bengal” was on the left side and “Indian Ocean” on the right side.

Compared to blue and violent Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal was greenish and quiet.

There were some shops set up by local villagers selling tea and snacks. This memorable adventure ended in the late evening when we came back to the check post from where we began our voyage. I must mention the driving skill of our bus driver and the care he took while driving his vehicle within thick sand and sea water. Overall it was an unforgettable experience.

A narrow escape

When we started our return journey it was almost dark. Highway was dark and empty. Moreover a dusty layer engulfed on the car windscreen affecting the visibility. My wife told me to clean it. Physically tired I ignored the advice which proved very costly.

I started slowly but gradually increased my speed since the road was excellent. It was totally dark and almost without any vehicle. I switched on the headlight and started driving in a tired and relaxed manner. Suddenly there was a huge jerk and I felt the car had been speedily moving rightwards of the road. I lost the control, applied the brake but it did not appear to have worked. The car almost turned ninty degree within fraction of a second, to hit the road culvert and on the verge of plunging into the backwater just outside the road. Just within inch of the culvert the car stopped.

Entire incident happened within a minute. Our first reaction was whether we were still alive. We realised that we were. We missed a big accident by a whisker.

I came out of the car and saw that this portion of the road was under construction. Stonechips were only laid without tar. Possibly while driving at speed the wheels skidded when I applied the brake and the car lost balance. During our onward journey to Dhanuskodi in daylight I noticed this portion of the highway but on return it was not visible in the darkness. The entire area was totally dark and there was no vehicle on the road.

Thanking the almighty we resumed our journey. By 7 PM we reached our hotel. A brief refreshment and then we prepared for our visit to the Ramanathaswamy Temple.

Ramanathaswamy Temple

This was one of the holiest temple worshiped by Hindus and one of the char dhams located in four corners (others are Puri, Dwarka and Badrinath) of India. Lord Siva was worshiped here by Rama here along with Sita.

There was not much rush since this was not tourist season. It was a nice and peaceful darshan. Pilgrims all over India gathered here to offer puja and chanting prayers to the lord. We saw a big group of housewives (possibly from North India) chanting songs and mantras praying for blessings from the lord.

We purchased Holy water and Prasadam from the temple counter. The temple corridor was the largest of all Hindu temples, well decorated and worth seeing.

We came out at around 9 PM and finished dinner from a nearby restaurant. We could not resist thinking of the terrible incident we faced in the evening and possible consequences which we narrowly escaped. Once again it reminded us the preciousness of life.



DAY 6 – 23RD JUNE, 2016 - THURSDAY – RAMESWARAM TO BANGALORE (600 KMs)

Route - Rameswaram-Ramanathapuram-Madurai-Dindugal-Salem-Bangalore

Due to certain unavoidable pre-occupation, we were to reach Bangalore within 4 PM, Thursday. We started at 5 30 AM. We had to cover around 600 Kms within little more than 10 hours.

We touched NH 87 very shortly. This highway went straight to Madurai which was around 170 Kms from here. It was still dark and cloudy. I was maintaining comfortable speed with increased caution remembering the horrific incident we had yesterday. When we touched the Pamban Bridge, the morning light was emerging from the darkness. Innumerable dots of light from the fishing boats were still visible on both sides of the bridge. It was a pleasing sight.

Covering around 50 Kms we reached Ramanathapuram. Next at least 100 Kms road broadening work was going on to make it a four lane highway. Driving speed had to be moderate to negotiate several diversions and narrow portion in certain areas.

We entered Madurai by 8 AM. Once again we lost our way in between the roads of the city due to malfunctioning of the GPS in our mobile and lost precious time. Finally when we reached NH 44, it was around 9.30 AM.

Rest of the journey was a smooth drive. With brief stops in between we could reach Bangalore within our target i.e. by 4 PM.

Total distance travelled was 2060 Kms. Petrol consumed was around 135 Ltrs.




Approx. Total cost :

1. Hotel Charges – Rs 6400

2. Petrol - Rs 9200

3. Toll - Rs. 1400

4. Food - Rs 4500

5. Misc expenses – Rs 3000



Total - Rs 24500

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2nd July 2018

Thanks
Awesome explanation man , Thanks.
4th October 2018

Very well narrated. Thanks
Seem to be a great couple. Calm and ready to accept all moments.
5th October 2018

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Thanks
5th October 2019

Lovely trip
I liked it. We are also planning on such trip from bangalore -madurai-rameshwarm-kanyakumari-thiruvananthpuram-kochi-maysure- bangalore. suggest your views

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