Monday, 17 February 2014

Offbeat trip route: Pondicherry – Rameshwaram – Kodaikanal Part 2

To avoid the length of my travel blog, I have divided it into 2 parts. You can read first part of travel blog at Offbeat trip route part-1. First part was consisting of Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry whereas in this part, I have tried to cover my travel experience from Rameshwaram and Kodaikanal places.
            We were waiting for this trip from long time. Every year we plan a trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This time we selected mahabalipuram – Pondicherry – Rameshwaram – Kodaikanal for 9 days. Without any doubt, travellers for this trip were me and Wife Renuka.

To read part 1 of my travel blog, click on Offbeat trip route: Pondicherry – Rameshwaram – Kodaikanal Part 1 

Day 5: 12th Feb 2014 – Pondicherry – Rameshwaram – Dhanushkodi Beach:
             We reached at Villupuram station and boarded train at 8 PM on 11th Feb. We reached Rameshwaram in the early morning by 4 am. It was different experience to see a huge see while crossing Pamban channel. It was almost full moon night which was spreading twilight on horizon.
              We reached at hotel by 4.30. Hotel manager was waiting for us and we did checked in. we took rest and woke up by 7.30 am. Hotel location was very close to very close to sea and Temple. Room was very clean and well equipped with basic amenities. We kept morning slot for snorkeling. After breakfast, we left for snorkeling. Hotel owner Jayaram arranged snorkeling for us. After 20 min walk (Road parallel to sea and close to TTDC hotel), we entered into shallow water. As water level is around 3-5 ft. we were able to walk on sea bed for around 500 meters inside. After entering 500 m inside, now we were able to see corals. Now we prefer swimming to we can enjoy beautiful view of corals during snorkeling. The underwater world is just so unique. The more you look around, the more you see – Flat coral, Finger corals, brain corals, Blue colored corals, Cat fish, sea cucumber and some small fishes. Overall experience was just mind blowing. Our 2nd anniversary day was started with a wonderful experience.

Blue Coral Cottage

Blue sea

                We had lunch in restaurant which was near to Temple. It was authentic south Indian meal with a lot of rice and 3-4 types of curries. Ambiance was very average. After heavy Lunch we had some rest in hotel. We had a booked an Auto for local sightseen and for Dhanushkodi beach.
               We left hotel by 2.30PM in noon. Rameshwaram is full of temples and most of temples have strong connection with lord Ram. Rameshwaram is the place from were Lord Ram built bridge to across the sea to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from her abductor Ravana. In Rameshwaram, Wherever Lord Rama and His ally moved or stayed, that place became a Hindu pilgrimage place.
              Our first temple to visit was Rama Tirtham, where Lord Rama took rest for some time. Temple is small but beautiful, made up in typical Dravidian style, with pillars and statues over it. There is small Mandapam inside pond, surrounded by the water from all sides, with steps to reach there, but you have to cross water before stepping up. Just opposite to temple, there is huge temple come museum of lord Krishna. You can see moving statues which tell you a story of Lord Krishna.

Ram Tirtham
Ram Tirtham

Mandapam at temple

               Our next visit was at Five-faced Hanuman Temple. It is famous for Hanuman idol and floating stone. There is a big statue of Lord Hanuman in black color, having five different faces. Just in front of the statue is a small temple devoted to Him. Photography is not allowed here. According to the legend, when Ahiravana a great demon (brother of Ravana) took unconscious Lord Rama and His brother Laxmana to Patal Lok (In hell) to hide them .Lord Hanuman went in search of them and came to know that demon Ahiravana can only be killed if lamps which were put in five different directions are extinguished simultaneously .So Hanuman became the 5 gods in different directions, named 1-Hanuman 2- Hayagreeva 3-Narsimha 4-Garuda 5-Varahswami and extinguished all the five lamps simultaneously and then Ahiravana was killed and Lord Rama and Laxman were saved from his clutches. This five faced statue signifies the face of those five Gods in one God Hanuman.

God Bless you!

             We can see a floating stone but not allowed to handle it. We actually wanted to check the stone hence our auto driver took us to Seetha Ram temple. Here we were allowed to see and handled medium sized stone. It was floating on water so I thought it must be light in weight. Pujari asked us to lift the stone. I was unable to lift it and me and wife somehow able to lift it. It was heavy and nature’s wonder. Temple is very small but beautiful and peaceful. Again here, photography is now allowed and I was not able to click photo of it.
                Last point before we move to Dhanushkodi beach was Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam House. He is also known as missile man for his contribution in INSTRO and to developed high range missiles. Dr.Kalam’s house, now converted into a small museum. Its small two storied building of blue color with blue gate in a small colony .There are many posters and Dr Kalam’s picture since his childhood till he became President of India .His journey of achievements, displayed in very simple and impressive way. There is a shop on top floor where you can buy shell products. 
             Now our journey for Dhanushkodi beach begins. After few km, you can see sea on both side and some paddy fields. We saw wet land birds in route like black ibis, sea gulls and flamingos. We reached till Dhanushkodi check post point by 4PM. If you hired Auto then you need to take Maxi cab from this point as Auto’s are not allowed. If you have hired Jeep then you can do a further journey. Maxi Cab charge INR 2000/- for 1 van were 20 people can accommodate. We were only 10 tourists there and we lost round hour waiting for other tourist. By 5 PM, we decided to pay double i.e. INR 200/- per person and our journey to Dhanushkodi village begins. All maxi cab drivers are very arrogant and they never reduce single rupees.

Church at Dhanushkodi village
Church at Dhanushkodi village

Ruin City

              Our experience was quite different as we went bit late in evening. Our next 20 min journey was full of thrill. They drive vehicle from shallow water, sand, land and sandy patches. Do not forget to count your bones after ride as ride is very bumpy. We saw around 300+ flamingos on Bay of Bengal side. Once you reached at ruined village, you can see Bay of Bengal on left which is clam and rough Indian Ocean on right. Village was completely ruined due to 1964 tsunami and declared as unfit place to live by Indian government. It is also known as Ghost town. According to scripture Rama broke the Setu (bridge) by one end of His Dhanush (bow); hence this place was known as Dhanus- Koti .Good place for photography and unique experience. You can see some ruined house, old railway station and church in the village.

Ruined buildings

             Now you are not allowed to see last point (nearest point to Sri Lanka) of land because of naval restriction. Chain of sand shoals between Danushkodi (India) and Talaimannar (Sri Lanka) has the only land border between India and Sri Lanka, which is the smallest in the world. We went as close as possible to see Tip of land. After crossing 1 communication Tower, Local people stopped us else we will be caught by navel in charge of attempt to cross boarder in illegal way. Just few days back few fisherman and their boats were caught by SL naval hence this area was strictly under surveillance. Otherwise if you are lucky then you may get chance to see the tip of land. You can see some part of setu (Bridge) from here. Few people still live there w/o water, food ration and power supply. This place is simple nature’s wonder.

End Point - Boarder point can be seen in this image

              We witness Beautiful Sun set in Indian Ocean standing on east coast of India. This location is simply amazing and unique experience. Our return journey started bit late (as we went far away from village towards tip of land) in evening. Due to ruin area, sounds of waves from the two sides, no people and unique geographic condition; we were getting feel of ghost town.

Sun set in Indian Ocean standing on east coast of India

             To our surprises when we reached at hotel, Jayaram brought a cake for us and we all celebrated our second anniversary. All guests from hotel were invited by Jayaram and joined us in celebration. It was big surprise for us. All French, Italian, Maldives and Indian couple/family joined us and we all spend an hour together. We had new friends from different part of world. After this small party, I and Renu went for dinner in restaurant Ahaan. This restaurant is in star rated Hotel Daiwik. It is the only rich ambiance restaurant with good food. Snorkeling, Dhanushkodi and dinner; It was a perfect day from our trip.

Anniversary Celebration at Hotel - Many friends are missing in this snap

Hotel Daiwik
  • Auto (Railway station to hotel): INR 100/-
  • Snorkeling: INR 600/- for 2 person (No time constrain, as we spend more than 1.5 hrs)
  • Lunch near temple: INR 50/- per person from Rice meal
  • Auto for local sightseen and Dhanushkodi: INR 500/-
  • Maxi cab for Dhanushkodi village: INR 400 for 2 person (Normal charges: INR 100/- per person) 
  • Auto to Daiwik hotel from temple and return: INR 200/- (including 1.5 hours waiting charge)
  • Dinner at Daiwik hotel: INR 426/- per person for buffet dinner

Day 6: 13th Feb 2014 – Rameshwaram - Kodaikanal:
             This was our last day from Rameshwaram. Early morning we went for swimming in sea. We enjoyed crystal clear clam water. After playing in water, we went in Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple. This is major attraction from Rameshwaram and famous Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva. Construction of temple is beautiful and massive. It also consists of longest corridor with 1000 pillars in all Hindu temples in India. The history of the temple is linked with "Ramayana" and it is believed the deity was installed by Lord Rama after the war with Ravana at the instance of the great saints to get rid of the "Brahma Dosham" (means it is a sin occurred due to killing of a Vedic Brahmin). We decided to have a Teerth snanam (Holy bath) in temple and approached to Pujari (priest) so he can guide us well. First we had a bath at Agni theertham. This is the place on sea shore and around 100 m from Main temple. After this auspicious sea bath, we entered in Temple for main holy bath. There are 22 different wells in the temple premises. All Wells are containing holy water and all are related to either a god or different characters from Ramayana. Very few people know as there are respective temples for each well. Due to taking a help from Pujari (It was paid service), we got proper information and proper chance to have a bath in well. They splash a bucket of water in group of people whereas we were getting individual bucket of holy water. After holy bath, we got quick Darshan. It was different experience for us.

Agnitheertham
Agnitheertham

Ramanathaswamy Temple
Ramanathaswamy Temple

               After Temple visit, we took some rest in hotel and left this religious but beautiful place. Now our next and last destination was Hill station Kodaikanal. We wanted to get a feel of public transport so we had public bus till Madurai. On the way to we saw Pamban bridge. It was 4 hours of journey to Madurai. When we reached in Madurai, I was bit tired due to journey. Also we wanted to reach Kodaikanal in time and there was a bus to Kodaikanal in the late evening. I enquired for cab and we hired it for drop service. Again we were lucky that we got nice driver with command on English and well aware of tourist point. We were feeling cold once we started gaining altitude for hill station. We reached in Kodaikanal by 8 PM.

Annai India Gandhi Road Bridge
Annai India Gandhi Road Bridge

             We had booking at The Carnival Resort which is round 2 km away from main lake. We like hotel arrangement, Room and overall hotel property. They gave us Room with forest + Valley view facing. It was simply amazing view. Room was very clean and well equipped with all amenities. 24*7 running hot water was must as temperature was 5-6 degree Celsius. Everything was perfect about hotel expect distance. As it is 2km away from lake, every time you need to hire taxi but this place is away fromcity noise. After dinner in resort, we ask travel desk for local sight seen. They arranged us sharing basic vehicle for next day.

Carnival Resort Room
Carnival Resort Room
  • Holy bath in temple: INR 25/- per person
  • Dakshina to Pujari: INR 301/-
  • Hotel room rent at blue coral cottage: INR 1980/-(2 night stay)
  • Bus to Rameshwaram stand (bus No 1): INR 10/- for 2 person
  • Bus to Madurai: INR 150/- for 2 person
  • Bus to Arapalayam bus stand: INR 22/- for 2 person
  • Lunch on highway: INR 252/- (south Indian dishes)
  • Cab for madurai to Kodaikanal: INR 2400/-
  • Toll at Kodaikanal: INR 40.
  • Dinner at Carnival hotel: INR 220/- (Panjabi veg + roti only)

Day 7: 14th Feb 2014 – Kodaikanal:
             It was a lazy morning for us and weather was stunning. Clouds over mountain offers different views all time. We were ready by 10 PM for local half day sightseen after breakfast. One Bengali enthuse couple (60+ ages), one Delhi base honeymoon couple and 2 lovely French ladies joined us on trip. Our first point was coakers walk. This is an around 1 km walk along the edge of steep slopes on the southern side of Kodaikanal. If you are lucky then you can see beautiful village view on your left and valley view throughout the Coakers Walk. Mostly (Expect Summer) valley is covered with mist and cloud. We saw valley view but for hardly minute. My personal feeling is this place is not to view surrounding but to get a feel of beautiful nature and pleasant atmosphere with your love one.

View from Room

Hotel Carnival
Hotel Carnival

View from Coakers walk
View from Coakers walk

View from Coakers walk
View from Coakers walk

              Our next destination was Lake View point. This point offers you an aerial view of Kodaikanal Lake. After some quick photo session, we moved ahead. Next 1-2 point was valley view point named as Green valley point and Silent valley point. But due to mist, we didn’t see anything. We all were just enjoying weather. After this we stopped at Pine forest. It is popular only because of many Indian movies had cinema shooting in this forest area. Mainly couple songs from movie were filmed here. It was nice forest to have a walk. More you go in deeper more peace and nature feel. Just make sure that you will find a way back. It is good to visit if it is not crowded so better to avoid on weekends. On next day (Sat), Forest was too crowded when we pass from this location for Berijam Lake.

Lake view point
Lake view point



Pine forest
Pine forest

Lovely walk in Dense Pine Forest
Lovely walk in Dense Pine Forest

             After forest view, we saw Pillar rock view point. You can see two rock combination which looks like Load Ganesh’s trunk. They have entry fee to see these pillar rock which doesn’t make any sense as such. Same pillar can be also seen from road side and for that you don’t need to pay any amount. Also there is very less space to park your vehicle which create little traffic problems. Most of the time cloud plays a lot around this valley to give you nice photogenic seen.
             Now on our return journey, we saw Kodaikanal golf club. This is also tourist point only because of films shooting. There was nothing special as such. Van driver stopped at one mall for some shopping and then we moved ahead. When we reach close to Kodaikanal city, he stopped for last stop from trip which was Shola falls. There was small stream of water and even weather was so cold that no one was interested to put their hands in freezing cold water flow. We had small trek as we heard there were a lot of forest birds and nice forest. But due to short of time, we didn't go deep inside. We came back by 2 PM for Lunch in city.
               After lunch Van dropped us in hotel whereas other people went ahead for temple tour which we didn’t opt as part of package. After quick break, we came in city area for to visit lake. Star shaped Kodaikanal Lake is the biggest attraction from the city. You can enjoy the lake by Boating, Horse riding or by cycling. And even if you are not interested in any of the activity then walking around lake is wonderful experience. We had cycling around lake as all type cycles are available on nominal rent. This is the best way to see lake from all angles. We had 2-3 rounds around lake.




              For boating paddle boat, rowing and shikara style boat options are available. Even boating chargers are quite cheap as compare to other hill station lake. We rented a 2 seated paddle boat for an hour. Boating in evening time was an amazing experience as fog settling on lake. It was one of the memorable times which I spent with my wife. There was few little grebe Ducks swimming around lake. We feel good to observe them closely while doing boating.

Boating at beautiful Star lake
Boating at beautiful Star lake

Little Grebe
Little Grebe in Kodaikanal Lake

Little Grebe
It's too cold here - Little Grebe duck in lake

             I kept late evening time free for shopping. In Kodaikanal, all most all the shops are stocked with homemade chocolates. It is one of the major local product and available in very cheap rate as compare to other places. Apart from chocolates, Eucalyptus Oil, herbal oils, verity of tea powder and spices are famous and quality products. We took many chocolate boxes and some special spices. Renuka purchased some homemade thread hearing which she liked a lot. Everything in Kodaikanal shut down by 8.30 (expect few restaurant). During our shopping, when we asked good place for dinner, everyone told us to have it in restaurant Astoria. We enjoyed nice south Indian food before we reach hotel for some rest.

Evening walk at Coakers walk
  • Half day local Sightseen tour: INR 200/- per person
  • Coaker’s walk entry: INR 5/- per person
  • Coaker’s walk camera chargers: INR 10/-
  • Lunch at hotel Aryaas: INR 150/- for 2 person (veg meal)
  • Cycle on rent at Kodaikanal lake: INR 20/- per hour
  • Paddle Boating: INR 50/- for hour
  • Chocolates rates in Kodaikanal: INR 300/- per Kg. It may vary between 250/- to 400/-
  • Dinner at Austroy: INR 240/- for 2 person (South Indian dishes)
  • Taxi to hotel carnival: INR 100/-

Day 8: 15th Feb 2014 – Kodaikanal – Berijam Lake:
            Today we decided to visit Berijam Lake in first half and rest in second half; before we catch bus for Chennai. We rented a private car for this trip. It’s car owner’s responsibility to get permission to enter in forest area. He told us to be ready by 10.30 AM. We left on time, due to winter thick mist was playing around. Driver told us that if we are lucky then we can get the view of valley and aerial view of lake. Soon we entered in forest area. Forest was dense and we were hearing different calls from birds. We reached at lake view point and there were no mist so we were able to view lake and dense forest. After small pit stop, we went to lake area which was just 3-5 km from Berijim Lake view point.

Early Morning view

Berijam Lake and forest
Berijam Lake and forest

            Berijim Lake is around 30 km away from Kodaikanal. Only 35 vehicles are allowed in the forest. Journey towards Lake is very beautiful and full of greenery, dense forest. It gives of feel of forest once you go deeper. There are 2-3 valley view points and your journey ends at the Berijim Lake. Lake is very clean. Local and forest says, wild animal use this lake as a source of drinking water. Indian bison, elephant, cheetah are the animal found in this forest. To be honest, considering number of vehicles chances to spot wild animal is very minimal. Also to see wildlife, you need to enter in deep forest which is not allowed. Tourists do visit the lake and return back whereas when we were there, we started exploring forest area which is allowed on foot. Not able to spot any mammals but saw some beautiful forest birds. The place is full of nature beauty, huge dense forest and peaceful location.

Road to Berijim Lake

Berijim Lake
Berijim Lake

Way to Forest

               If you want to get a feel of forest on foot then there a forest trail available in dense jungle. For that either you need to go with forest officer or with expert person. We went there and enjoyed forest beauty with 1 forest research team. Road is blocked at the Lake check post. From there people take right turn to walk towards lake. Rather than taking right, walk straight for approx. 200-300 meters. On same road, you will find small board on left saying “shola Forest trail”. You can enter in the forest from that point on small narrow dirt foot trail. Take forest guide else either you may lost in jungle or may fall in danger. We spend around 35-45 min with research team (They were doing study on some raptors and giant lizard). As we were running short of time, 1 member from that team dropped us back on road and he went inside to join his team.

Way to Shola Forest

Forest view
Forest way

             We came back in Kodaikanal for Lunch by 2.30 PM. We had lunch in hotel Hill top tower. Overall food was good. Our return journey bus to Chennai was at 7.30 pm. We had time in hand so we decided to spend some time nearby lake and last min shopping. We reached in hotel by 5pm and had some rest. We board Praveen semi sleeper bus with a lot of nice memories from entire trip by 7.30 pm.
  • Berijim forest trip: INR 1200/- (Car rent only)
  • Forest entry: INR 150/- per car
  • Lunch at hill top tower: INR 390/- for 2 person (Panjabi veg)
  • Taxi to hotel carnival: INR 100/-
  • Room rent in carnival: INR 4400/- for 2 nights (Deluxe room)
  • Taxi to Praveen bus pick point: INR 150/-

Day 9: 16th Feb 2014 – Chennai to Pune:
            We reached in Chennai by 6.30 AM. We went to Chennai airport to keep luggage in store room. We spend some time in T Nagar and then came back on airport. We were not happy to check-in to the flight, but it’s not possible to extend our stay. We board flight by 4 in evening and reached at our sweet home.

Sahyadri ranges

On Clouds 

  • Auto to Chennai airport: INR 150/-
  • Lunch at airport: INR 350/- (heavy snacks)

Contact number for reference:
  • Jayaram (Blue coral cottage, Rameshwaram): 0-4573221703, bluecoralindia@gmail.com 
  • Snorkeling (Edward): 0-9047177540
  • Auto for Rent at Rameshwaram: G. Sathish– 0-9698870234.
  • Chandrashekhar for car rent (Madurai): 0-8883808380.

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune

11 comments:

  1. awesome work ....... keep writing and posting such a beautiful travel blogs !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Advait...Happy traveling...!!!

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Thank you very much...Happy traveling...!!!

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. Thank you very much...Happy traveling...!!!

      Delete
  4. The pictures and your very well post shows this is really beautiful place, everybody have to visit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much...Happy traveling...!!!

      Delete
  5. Wonderful sharing of traveling experience with beautiful snaps. Thanks a lot for writing very useful and interesting information. Certainly, it helps more travelers who plan to visit these places. we felt like that we were there by reading your blog itself. thanks for your time to write this blog. All the best for your more writings.....

    ReplyDelete