The Southern Sojourn II : Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi

Day 3 :
Rameshwaram is not your typical tourist destination – for one, it does not follow the concept of extended breakfast timings. Also, you would be hard pressed to find a decent non vegetarian eatery. A lot of googling did not yield any reliable result, so we decided to go to the ‘pure-veg’ restaurant attached to the hotel where we were staying. It was around 10:30-ish, when we ambled into the restaurant – and were promptly informed that because breakfast timings were almost over, most of the items were over! We made do with generous helpings of whatever items were left over, and then started planning for the day. The main objective was obviously Dhanushkodi – we had heard a lot about the ghost town and the ruins of civilization that had been wiped off by a devastating cyclone.

Dhanushkodi was around roughly a 20km trip from Rameshwaram. From what we knew earlier, the town of Dhanushkodi did not have any approach roads – the only way to reach there was to hire on of the 4×4 jeeps/buses that would take you through the sandy shore till the town ( or whatever remained of it).

Initially, we were considering hiring a jeep from Rameshwaram, but this is one of those umpteenth times that IBR’s collective knowledge helped me out – one of the IBRians who had visited Dhanushkodi a few weeks back informed me that a road was under construction when he had visited, and there was a decent possibility that it would be complete by now. So the previous plan was discarded, and the Thunderbird and the CBR set out towards Dhanushkodi. We reached a checkpoint, which was pretty much crowded with people and vehicles – it was the place where all private vehicles had to stop, and tourists had to opt for buses/jeeps which took them onwards towards the ghost town. Surprisingly, the sentry waved us forward, through a small gap in the barrier, and found ourselves looking at a long stretch of freshly laid road, sandwiched between the sea and the sandy shores on both sides. As the road was still not complete, only two wheelers were being allowed – and given the fact that not many tourists visited this place on two wheelers – this meant we had the entire road pretty much to ourselves! Given its proximity to the ocean, the climate here is quite fickle – sudden showers interspersed with a few minutes of bright sunshine seemed to be pretty common there. To be honest, riding down that empty stretch of smooth tarmac, without having to worry about any traffic ( the CBR had already left us far behind ) with the sea beating a harmonious rhythm of waves – it is experiences like these that validate the thirst to travel all those miles. After spending almost an hour just to experience the beauty of the place, we reached Dhanushkodi.

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Empty Roads + Drizzling Rain + Killer view = Happiness!!!
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The traditional way to visit Dhanushkodi – hire a jeep or a bus that slowly crawls through the sandy shoreline. Decent ‘offroading’ experience, I guess!

A little bit about Dhanushkodi first – it was a flourishing town which was significant both as a pilgrimage centre as well as a trade port. According to Hindu mythology, it was from here that the famed Ram-Setu was built till Lanka (present day Sri Lanka ). It is said that the name Dhanushkodi is derived from the fact that while returning from Lanka, Ram used the end of his mighty bow ( ‘Dhanush’ means bow and ‘kodi’ means end ) to break the bridge. Archaeological evidence points towards the existence of a land bridge which slowly got submerged into the ocean over the course of time. Pre-1964, Dhanushkodi had a significant population, and basic facilities like police station, hospital, school and even a railway station. It was hit by a violent cyclone in 1964, which totally devastated the town and destroyed most of the buildings. Later, it was declared as ‘unfit to live’ by the Government. Currently,one can see the ruins of some of the buildings – and the place is only inhabited by a few fishermen and their families who mainly live in makeshift huts.

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Dhanushkodi Church : A grim reminder of Nature’s Wrath

The tarred road ends just after reaching the town, after which road laying work is still ongoing. There is a small, gravel road which continues a little bit further before coming to an abrupt end. After that, it was a bit risky to ride further as there was a distinct possibility of getting stuck in the sand. The only way forward was to continue on foot, towards the extreme end of the landmass – the Ram Setu point.

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End of the road – I tried to push my bike beyond this, but only ended up getting stuck a couple of meters into the sand. Had to ask the others to pull it back.

On the left side, one can see the relatively calm Bay of Bengal – the water is shallow enough in most of the places near the shore to walk across ; on the right side, the volatile Indian Ocean with wave after wave fighting a futile battle against the sandy shoreline. We parked our bikes and loitered about a bit – enjoying the tranquillity of the surroundings and watching the birds. In the distance, two excavators carried on with their endless routine – maybe the next time, the roads will be complete till the very end of the Dhanushkodi. While that is certainly a good initiative, making the place accessible to more tourists – the unfortunate lack of basic civic sense in most Indians also makes this a scenario to worry about. With more people coming in, the raw, untouched nature of this place can no longer be preserved, as commercialization and lack of common sense will slowly turn this into hundreds of other beaches that have already suffered from the same ‘modernization’.

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Long stretches of nothingness as far as the eye could see

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There are a few ‘kuchha’ shanties which double as shops in the Dhanushkodi town selling snacks and beverages. We opted for a glass of lime soda which was sickeningly sweet. Apart from that, a few other shops sold unique souvenirs, like oyster shells, sea stones and the like. The shop owner seemed to have a different story attached to each one of the stones – some of them were excellent at removing stress, while others would lower your blood pressure, he claimed. All of us, except me, got something from there and then we spent some time enjoying the sea breeze near the beach.

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Dhanushkodi Beach

On the way back, we also visited the KodandaRama temple, which is a piece of land jutting out into the shallow sea. Unfortunately, the entire surroundings were filled with dirty and polluted water – even the temple and its surroundings were filled with waste materials. It is unfortunate to see how much the average Indian lacks common sense – even places of religious significance are not safe from this.

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Unfortunately, people have little or no regards for environmental preservation – the water is polluted, frothing and foul smelling, presumably because of the humongous amount of human generated filth being dumped into it

Just behind the temple, there is an extended area of shallow water – the water barely crosses ankle depth and it is possible to walk around there.

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AarCee : walking on water like a boss!

There was a small crowd of people, busy with some religious proceeding there – we later discovered that some photographers had got hold of a rock-like formation and were claiming it to be the holy rocks from RamSetu – and they were allowing people to get their pictures clicked with it!

Once again, Rameshwaram not being your typical touristy place, there is not much to do once the daylight fades away. And considering the lack of any eateries that served non veg around, as well as the overabundance of time to kill – we decided to hit the roads and visit the same dhaba that we had visited the night before while on our way here from Kanyakumari. Everyone seemed enthusiastic about the idea, and so at about 7:30 p.m., we set off towards the mainland. That dhaba was at a distance of roughly 50kms from Rameshwaram, it took slightly a bit more than an hour to reach there. The dhaba guys were surprised to see us back there – I guess they never imagined that someone could travel 50+ kms on not-so-good roads at night, just for the sake of good food. The things we do for food!

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Preparation of ‘sibi paratha’ – that was the name we could make out from the limited interaction we had. These guys were amazed ( and happy ) that we had rode back 50 kms just for the sake of dinner. Ah, the things we do for food!

We stuffed ourselves to our hearts’ content – copious amounts of pepper chicken, chicken masala, kerela paratha and ‘sibi’ paratha were devoured. When we were done, moving around was a bit difficult. Riding back 50kms on a full stomach and after an exhausting day was all the more energy sapping. Once back, we got some of the packing done as we intended to start riding back to Bangalore next morning. Sleep was once again hard to come by, so we indulged in our favorite pastime of ‘100 reasons why the KTM RC is NOT a good tourer’ – and it went on and on till well past 3 in the morning.

Day 4 :
Waking up on the last day of a trip is a really sinking sensation – once you realize that the fun is almost over, you got to head back home now and once again immerse yourself in the mundane daily life. Serenity was all loaded up and ready to rumble on the roads again. We got a headstart of an hour or so, the others still needed some time to pack and get ready, while we wanted to stop by the Pamban bridge and click a few pictures. The Pamban bridge provides an excellent backdrop, of the blue sea dotted with small boats – and the view from the centre of the bridge is simply breathtaking. To prevent unnecessary congestion, there is a rule which prevents vehicles from stopping midway while crossing the bridge. Unfortunately, the concerned authorities there seemed to have worked out a mutually beneficial policy – wherein tourist buses and vehicles are allowed to stop for a short duration ( 15 ~ 20 minutes ) in exchange for a small compensation to the police. We saw about half a dozen buses parked at regular intervals along the bridge, while the passengers enthusiastically got down and clicked pictures. Later, when the remaining two members of ur group were passing the same place, this unwarranted ‘stoppage’ had caused a large congestion on the bridge which severely inconvenienced vehicles from both sides.

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Ladies and Gentlemen : Pamban Bridge!

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Finally, I am in one of the pics!

Nothing major happened on the way back. We met up with the others well near Dindigul again, after navigating through a confusing array of state highways. We stopped for food at the same place ( Fantasy Restaurant ). Faced a lot of heavy, slow moving traffic near Krishnagiri, where we had to compete for road space with a Scania multiaxle bus which seemed to have forgotten that it occupies more than half the road. We bid goodbye after the Attibele toll booth, after which the CBR and the KTM separated off towards their destination, while we continued towards ours.

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