Day 3 : Tharangambadi-Karaikal-Velankanni –Nagapattinam – Vedaranyam- Kodikarai – Devipattinam- Rameshwaram (347Kms)
Incredible India!!! Words can’t do justice to the beauty that surprises you at every turn in this vast Indian empire. Just as human fabric syncs across religions, caste, creed … Mother Nature has truly blessed this mainland with natural beauty running its length and breadth. Be it the Towering Snowcapped Himalayas in the North that stretch all the way to east, the Deserts of Rajasthan, Deccan Plateau, Coastal region, innumerable Hill stations. These were the thoughts running in my mind while re capping journey so far.
Tharangambadi was Danish colony from 16th to 18thcentury. Fort Dansborg was built in 14th century through joint agreement between King of Denmark and Indian Ruler- Raghunatha Nayak to establish Tharangambadi (Tranqeubar) as major port hub. Old Town with heritage buildings such as Governors Bungalow, Churches takes you back in time. Wish one could go back in time to have glimpse of history. Main Fort stands overlooking the majestic sea… we explored the Fort that has on display artifacts of Danish Community.
A detail about the journey undertaken by Danes to reach India is amazing read. Hundreds of sailors lost their lives, a few hundreds abandoned the sail at ports on course the journey. Row of chambers at ground level served as barracks, warehouse and jail. The Upper story of the Fort used to be lodging of governor and senior merchants. The fort has been renovated and reconstructed through the years. The fort was surrounded by a moat, access to the fort being over a drawbridge. The moat has completely disappeared. A Shiva temple built in 13th century is located 200 meters away from Fort is supposed to be oldest monument. As per local vendor, an island with fishing village was washed away with no survivors!!! Start reality of Mother Nature’s Power.
With Mercury soaring and no shades to take cover the only option was to have ice creams from our young 12 yr old vendor – Guna. Even with waste bins around, typical of public places – ice cream wrappers, paper cups lay scattered all over… we did our part by dumping them in bin. Put a word of advice to Guna on requesting his clients to use the bin. After cooling heals in beach, we kick started days ride from Tharangambadi to Rameshwaram (347kms). Considering that we were starting at Noon, night ride looked imminent. The Entire stretch of journey is on NH45A almost running parallel to bay of Bengal.
Within a few kms you enter Karaikal which is part Union territory of Pondicherry. A Major port city, Karaikal was French colony from 16th century until 1956 when it was unified with India. Lord Saneeswara at Thirunallar is the only temple devoted to Sani bhagwan (Lord Saturn) in India. Considering the distance we had to cover for the day, we passed by karaikal without any visits to local tourist spots. We proceeded towards holy town of Velankanni home to Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health.
Always heard about this spiritual abode, and as the church emerged as we rode into town … the feeling is hard to express. Silence around the church helped in absorbing this special moment.
Next Town we passed by was Nagapattinam where Fishing, trading and tourism are major economic engines. We took deviation into bypass avoiding the busy lanes within the town. We could see sea on left at a distance while crossing bridges. Salt pans was common sight in this region, an interesting aspect of these salt pans was use of Spinning blades. Being on the move + the breeze from sea kept us in good humor in spite of 40+ temp. . A stretch of 5 kms the road renovation work was in progress which curtailed our speed .
To the left entire mass of land was filled by backwaters with fisherman trying their luck. We spotted a eagle hovering above the fisherman for a few minutes before he threw a fish that was smartly caught by eagle with its legs. Strong breeze and 10 min break amidst the serene surroundings almost made us sleepy!!!.
Our next stop was vedaranyam for lunch which is known for historic salt march carried out in 1930 parallel to Dandi March to protest sales tax levied on salt extraction. Post lunch we proceeded to Kodikarai (Point Calimere), this point marks a right angle turn in coastline.
Bird Sanctuary( Nov-Jan is best time to spot migratory birds), Muthupet Mangroves, Ramarpadham – Stone slab that has footprints (Spot were Lord Rama is supposed to have stood) are tourist spots that we crossed while heading to kodikarai beach. Towering Light House stands on Kodikarai beach but not accessible to public!!Due to strong winds, the water had heavy mix of soil. It was here , according to tamil epic “Ponniyin Selvan” , Vanthiyathevan (hero of the story) took a boat to go to Srilanka to bring back Raja Raja Cholan. East coast and surrounding towns were ruled by Cholas, Pandyas and Pallava rulers at various times We had to head back the same way till vedaranyam town .We stopped over at vast Salt pan fields keen to know about how it works.We walked into the fields and engaged in conversation with Bhaskar who was harvesting the salt.
He patiently explained to us the complete process – right from setting up the farm bed to harvest. Source of salt water is bore wells which passes through channels running across the firmed up beds. Salt is harvested every 4th day and post every harvest, the bed is filled up with saltwater. Salt gets spoiled if its not harvested on 4th day.According to him power bill is main money drainer as they are charged commercial rates. Salt farmers earn 750 rupees for each ton.
We pulled over for tea at muthupettai, where we met a local fish vendor sporting a hearty smile. Fish sellers like him hire a van collectively to Nagapattinam for sourcing the fishes. According to him they get better deal and more varieties compared to vedaranyam coast. During “No fishing Period” , they go to Tuticorin market-( Kerala vendors bring in their catch to Tuticorin) to source fishes. End of Day he gives the unsold fishes to poor families within his community. Human connects like these and their tales inspires one to keep exploring. I am sure rural folks can give us a lesson or two on ways to lead a contended life.
Sunset amidst lotus ponds and paddy fields kept us in high spirits as on the last leg of 240kms to Rameshwaram. NH45A runs all along the coastline, almost every 10-15 kms we crossed a town and invariably names of all towns had “Pattinam” suffix. Adirampattinam, Mallipattinam, Ammapattnam, Kottaipattinam to name a few J. Baring a few stretches, the roads were too good with traffic reducing as we progressed into the night. Cool Breeze, Light houses indicated that we were riding along coastline. At regular intervals we spotted vast lands with tube lights – Shrimp farms. According to local sources due to its high value Lights and fencing is done around the farm to prevent thefts!!
Riding in the night has its plus and minus, on the positive side you are saved from scorching sun, flip side being the 200% focus required to maneuver when blinded by lights from opposite direction and missing the sceneries. As riders we do keep it interesting by taking turns to lead the ride following the headlight beams… adrenalin more often than not kicks in when roads twist and turn, which is major relief for rider as he moves his butt and sways to left or right. We clocked 80 Plus for an hour nonstop From Mimisal to Devipattinam … heavenly!!! Devipattinam was our penultimate stop – 50 kms from Rameshwaram. We had dinner at local eatery which was on verge of closing. Through them we learnt about Navagraha temple for which Devipattinam is famous. We decided to visit temple on our return leg.
Last 40Kms as we rode into Rameshwaram, it was pin drop silence and not a soul on road. Broad empty roads had a eerie feel especially when rode across famous pamban bridge that connects Rameshwaram with mainland. Another landmark that caught our attention as we entered Rameshwaram was Final Rest place of our Late President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. While penning this blog, feel it would be befitting to dedicate our ride to him. Just as he always reached out to common man and egged him to Dream BIG which was his mantra to success all through his career…. Through this ride thus far along the east coast we learnt our lessons of living from our experiences. TTDC’s sprawling tourist guest house is located right next to Main Shiva temple in Rameshwaram along the sea coast.
Wow!!! Yet another memorable leg winds up at Rameshwaram shores…. Mind was fresh and awake but body did yearn for a break as we hit the beds immersed in dreams of Incredible India!!!
Route Map: https://goo.gl/maps/eFXR2yYYKR42