Last I posted was in January of 2015, somehow it happens. Not planned and I have been to numerous treks and trips in between but solo trips are the one which make me feel write about it.
This place has been in mind before I came to Bangalore (now Bengaluru :) ), read about it somewhere, some 7-8 years ago.
So anyway, I waited for almost two years to go there due to some reason but couldn't wait more as I heard govt is building the Railway Bridge and roads again. And I have to see the ghost town as it it so just booked the bus tickets and a hotel in Rameshwaram.
One thing I am always skeptical about is the hotel/guest house etc where I will be staying, that's the only thing which keep me in fear till I reach the place and see it. I don't really like to stay in hotels but then in small town like this airbnb or home stays are not the options. But since its a pilgrim place , I was sure about the decent crowd so booked a one which I read about in some blog and I made the perfect choice.
Don't have to do any research this time because I have already done that even before I came to Bangalore, so just checked about the hotels, buses. Another important thing was the dress code, yes you heard me right. Tamilnadu is known for its temples and its good to be in conservative dress to avoid any embarrassment. Also recently heard about the dress code to be implemented by the Tamilnadu govt even for children...so I thought better be prepared than sorry.. :) Also Madurai was on the way and Meenakshi temple already has a dress code like no women's shoulders, or legs of either gender, may be exposed .
So its always good to do a little homework before heading to religious places to avoid any embarrassment.
So here goes the journey....
As usual last minute packing after coming little early from office and reached at bus stop at 7:10 for 7 pm bus.. lol. But I wasn't the only one who was late, the bus was 30 minutes late and I already checked about it at 6:45 pm . So all well, and I boarded the bus with almost family crowd except one loud group of some guys. Had the sandwiches which I got packed from office and the moment bus moved little out of city, I fell asleep but woke up in an hour for tea/dinner break and couldn't sleep post that. Reason, sky was clear and stars were shining like anything and pretty visible from the seat even after lying down. I don't know till when but I kept gazing while the bus was moving continuously. Slept for an hour or two later, woke up just around 5 am, didn't want to miss the Pamban bridge on Palk Strait. Opened the window and started enjoying the cool breeze, little sleepy and lazy waiting for the glimpse of Bay of Bengal(Palk Strait) and here it comes....lots and lots of fishing boats on awesomely blue water, sea breeze, the railway bridge little away. Definitely more beautiful than I thought or saw in pictures.
And just after 20-30 minutes, we were in Rameshwaram, got down from bus, took an auto to Agni Teertham and went straight to hotel(Brindavan Residency). Again better than I thought, super clean and cosy enough for good sleep. Staff was great, made me feel so comfortable that I left all the pre conceived notions about the hotel at the reception itself ( I mentioned earlier, hotels scare me ). Was little confused, what to do, take bath and go to temple or sleep and go in eve. Since temple wasn't the reason I came to Rameshwaram and cosy bed in front of me, all I can think of catching some sleep. But I caught a lot of sleep.. lol...I woke up at 12 pm, freshened up and ready to go out and realized my stupidity at that very moment. Forgot my small day pack which also had cap and sun glasses, thanks to last minute packing.. :)
Anyway a cotton scarf was there to save me from the heat till I get a cap somewhere, came out and asked about timing of temple and some other info which I got immediately with some extra info about where to get good food. Just outside the hotel, a few meters walk I saw a tamilnadu style dhaba sort of. Looked clean enough to eat and I had veg biryani followed by tea, tasty food I must say. Liked it, may be because I was hungry or may be because the taste itself was good. Started walking towards agni teertham and temple, in between got one cap (a Ferrari cap in 70 bucks ...lol) and a small bag to keep cash and mobile. Kept all the things including slippers in locker room near to temple (as camera/mobile etc not allowed inside) and went inside the temple. It was Friday, so hardly any queue at the entrance. Roamed around there and saw all the wells with slogans written above them like "bathing from this well will let you go to heaven" sort of.. :) :) Ok I don't want to hurt anyone's sentiments here but seriously, one bucket of water from one particular well and direct heaven..awesome!!!
The temple visit was over in 20 minutes, some beautiful carvings for sure and it definitely make you feel in some bygone era. Came out, paid Rs 10 and took my belongings from locker room and all set to hit the beach. Didn't go to agni teertham where people were taking dip as a religious ritual. Just saw from some distance and moved towards the newly created path around the sea shore. I kept walking till one point where ferry was taking people for a ride, tempting, I too went and it was good. I stood at one side of ferry holding the corners and felt like flying, the wind was very strong and I was struggling with my hairs almost all the time, should have tied it,.. :) The famous TV tower was visible from everywhere and the town was looking beautiful from the sea. While every other person was busy in selfies and pics, I was busy in feeling the wind and sea and watching the seagulls, they were in plenty. Although I too took some shots but once the ferry almost stopped. One thing I would like to mention here, if you are going to do this ride, just after returning, stay on the bridge for sometime and just from the middle of bridge, see below from the left side. You can see a small shivling into the sea, playing hide and seek from the waves. It gave me tough time to click a shot as waves kept coming and hide it but I liked watching it emerging from the waves every other second.
It was over in 40 minutes, good 40 min ride in 60 bucks but easily avoidable if someone is on sightseeing trip and don't have extra time. I had all the time and not interested in any other temple, so for me it was a nice ride. Anyway it’s over and I again started walking further away. Now I can see only fishermen's boats, beautiful and crystal clear water and tons of birds. I couldn't saw anyone on that path so little skeptical about moving ahead but then saw a police check post and just after that a govt park with aquarium and stuff including jet ski... Wow jet ski in Rameshwaram, who does that... ME.. :) :)
The pavement finished and I got down to road and then later to sand, such an amazing sight. Pictures will speak, because for me any place where I can sit and watch waves that too crystal clear blue water is more than awesome. I can do that forever. Without wasting any time, I went for jet ski, damm its scary. The driver asked me, you wanna go to rough side or normal one, I said normal and boy was that normal?? I would have died if opted for rough side. I don't know but I was scared to death on that ride but it was super fun too. May be it was the first time and I wasn't expecting that speed in a sea... :) :) Next time the rough side for sure.. :)
Spent some time at the beach park, riding on the swing and watching waves. No one to disturb, only me , the park caretakers and the sea all around. It was 6 pm and saw the beautiful sunset and color changing water. Decided to come back as that street was completely deserted till the ferry ride. So walked back and went to temple street again as it had good food joints. Now this is the part I hate the most, eating alone but what to do on solo trip. Anyway the place was almost full so people joined me unintentionally and I enjoyed my masala dosa and needless to say the 'chai' . And went back to hotel, watched half of the already watched movie and slept. The day ended.
Woke up, got ready and checked out form from hotel and was taking my bag along when Mr Anand, (an old man, hotel manager and caretaker) asked me to take only valuable and keep the bag at reception and said it’s safe, you can come anytime and pick it up. I agreed and left my bag there, although it was feather light( ya I pack light always), still no need to carry all the stuff. Idli and chai in quick breakfast and started waiting for bus no 3. One bus came in 10 minutes but without stopping it left, I wondered why and asked a person if I am standing at right place or the bus stop is somewhere else?? Got to know I am at the right place..ok..so more wait. After 20 mins, bus no 3 came and I got in. Got a look too from conductor as I was alone. But just a curious look not the bad one. I too took a look inside the bus, and got relieved after seeing a bunch of guyz probably from Bangalore(wild guess and I was right) and few old ladies with family. Some 12 or 16 rs ticket till Dhanushkodi check point. I was very excited, after all I came all the way from Bangalore for Dhanushkodi. The roads are good and the view is very very scenic, a bird sanctuary on the right, a beautiful beach( I think that was Ariyaman beach) also on the right and bay of bengal on the left. Fast forward 20 minutes, reached last bus point, the check post at Dhanushkodi.
Got down and asked a security guard if he understand Eng/Hindi. He didn't but he was very keen and happy to help me. So in broken eng he said, those mini bus/trucks, that side, will take you till the last point. I thanked him and went to that bus stand, and they fill the buses till you stop breathing.. :) I heard that they also allow people to sit on top but I wasn't that lucky as water level was quite high and they were not taking any risk.
And now started the adventure. Although I was aware of these things so wasn't scared, only excited. However most of my co passengers were not aware that these jeeps and buses actually go inside the water where there is no sand, and the moment bus went inside water, everyone started shouting...where are you taking us, inside the sea... :) :) It was hilarious to see the expression on some of them. Literally what a fun adventurous ride that was, although the water is shallow but still you feel the thrill of going inside the sea, the boats on the left and lot of seagulls flying. Reached the ghost town of Dhanushkodi which got destroyed in 1964 cyclone. I don't know what to say about this place, the beauty of death?? Its breathtakingly beautiful to see Bay of Bengal on left and Indian Ocean on right . The huge waves from Indian ocean (called as Female sea as its wild :) ) and small waves from Bay of Bengal(called as Male sea as its calm) can make you feel wonder about the mother nature. Although I missed the confluence because of high water level, jeeps/trucks cant go till there and also it wasn't allowed to go by 11 no.. so I kept calm and decided to be back after 2-3 months and go till the confluence. Also the road is opening next month so the adventurous ride will be gone, no more driving inside the sea, I was lucky to experienced that.
I cannot the describe the beauty of this place, the ruins of a town, the church, the railway bridge, the white/gold sand and crystal clear water with multiple shades of blue and green, huge waves scary ones, I wanted to spend at least a night in that ghost town. Its not allowed to stay there post sunset(6pm) but may be can go and hide in some ruin and spend a night with golden silky sand beneath, trillions of stars above, soothing cool breeze and roaring ocean's waves...wow just a thought gave me a chill. Anyway I know I cant do that alone, so was just a thought. Spent 3-4 hours there but it feels like seconds to me, I was reluctant to go back but had no other option. So came back to bus stand and just before boarding the bus thought of having a cup of tea. Didn't expect a good one, but got a great one, pretty good tea that was. Enjoyed that while answering curious people's question, travelling alone...from where...and one question made me laugh, which country ma'am.....he he ....sir...your very own country. I don't know from which angle I wasn't looking like an Indian to that tea vendor and some other shop keeper, may be because I was alone. But people were awesome, ready to help, almost everyone understand good enough Hindi/Eng to communicate and there weren't any stupid glares and stares to make you feel uncomfortable, not even from fishermen. Completely loved it there. Time to board the bus and this time met a family from Delhi in the bus and their endless question (some of them pissed me a little, but I kept smiling :) ) so time went in microseconds this time.
Reached Rameshwaram and without wasting a nano second, went straight to the same beach park and just before the entrance of the park there were coconut trees and lots of boats and some wooden rafts. I got a perfect place on that raft, two coco trees above giving perfect shade from shining sun and the blue waters in front of me...some fishermen with their fishing nets far in the sea, a guy doing sailing in the open water with his colorful sailing net, my fav song list in my cell and cool cool breeze...hmmm..I was lost, completely lost. Not a single soul there, however it was a safe spot as park was just few feets away on the left. I forgot that I didn't have lunch until a guy woke me up and asked if I need anything. I couldn't understand and I got up then realised he is from the park, I asked what happened. He said nothing then asked me again is that fishermen troubling you, I said who? I saw diagonally, a fishermen was staring at me while having a beedi, he left just after that. I said I didn't realized, I think I should come to park. And he said no sister, if you want you can relax here, we can see from park if someone will trouble you, you don't worry. I smiled and said thanks but I said lets go inside park, I anyway have to leave in sometime. What a nice bunch of people, its none of their responsibility as I was outside the park. We went inside and had some snacks and chatted with those guyz and a girl who was giving ticket, really very nice people.
I thanked them again, said good bye and went towards agni teertham, the safest place to sit and watch the sea including lot of people taking a dip and donating the dhotis. Somehow I liked it there, the camphor smell was everywhere and I loved it. It was soothing and at the same time was a change from my otherwise waves watching obsession. :) Sat there for sometimes and then went to hotel, picked up my bag, some good byes at hotel too, Mr Anand was not ready to say good bye though. He asked about my day, about the stay, if I faced any problem here etc and asked me to come again and finally said very glad to meet you. :)
So finally I left the hotel and took an auto to Railway station (dinner on the way in Saravna Bhwana, good food). Boarded the train, it was just 3 hours journey till Madurai. Only reason I booked the train from Rameshwaram was to go via the railway bridge too.. :)
Reached Madurai railway station at around 12 am, went to AC waiting Room which has good couches, good enough for me to sleep(not for everyone though :) ). Booked for 6 hrs at 10 rs per hour. Could have booked the hotel but was little scared of going to hotel at midnight in a city where language could have been a problem, didn’t take a chance and decided to sleep in waiting hall. And my decision was quite cool, the place was well maintained even the washrooms, safe of course. I slept within half an hour and woke up by alarm at 6, but decided to sleep an hour more. So woke up at around 7, took bath, paid rs 10 extra and left. Took auto to go to Samanar Hills, little unknown place. Its a small hill, with caves and Jain temple of 9th century BCE. The caves are now closed naturally so there is another path from the hill, went there and saw a wonderful sunrise and ancient sculptures. The autowalla gave me full company till the top of hill, and explained me little about the place too. Later went to Meenakshi Temple, and it is as beautiful as I imagined. Read about it in school time history books and always wanted to go someday. So here it is magnificent, beautiful Meenakshi temple.
Spent an hour or may be more there, and then came out. Got lost a little.. :) It has 4 entrances and I went from one side came out from other side and then realized I kept my luggage at different side of entrance locker.. so went back that side and got my stuffs. Masala Dosa again in breakfast and still it was just 9:30 in the morning. Two options, to go do sightseeing which mainly include temples or go watch a movie(Wazir) and relax a little as had the bus back to Bangalore at 12:30 pm. Chose the later one...auto to Vishal de Mall..reached there at 10 am, show was of 10:10 and gates weren't open..LOL.....
What to do now, 5 min wait, some two -three people came. I asked the guard outside and he said movie??, I said yes. He said, go from parking area. OK, so I went. Bought a ticket and went inside the theater, omg not a single soul. Ok, now I was actually scared, I went to movies alone tons of times but never thought will have to watch a movie completely alone in a theater. Now I was having the second thoughts, shall I come out or shall I wait for few more minutes. In between the movie started but I was still not sure to be there. 10 mins later 3 girls came, oh god it was relaxing and now I actually started watching movie.. :) After some 40 -45 minutes some more ppl came, so I got to know people in Madurai come for 'hindi' movie post 30 minutes of show timing..lol...Jokes apart I should be thankful that at least 'hindi' movie was released there. Timing of movie was perfect, the moment the last song started, I left. Had lunch in the mall itself and then left for bus stand and what a big private bus stand. That was a nice thing for travelers, all private bus starts from there itself.
Boarded the bus and slept and slept and slept some more. Finally woke up at the stop for tea/coffee/loo and post that felt fresh and didn’t sleep a bit. Reached namma Bengaluru (silk board) at 9pm, took an ola and reached home.
No matter what, a solo trip always gives you a sense of achievement... :)
All I can say is it's a completely underrated place and perhaps that's why amazingly beautiful. Most of the people just explore the temples, which is of course why its famous for. But its much much more than temples. And also can't miss to mention the wonderful people.
For chai lovers: Try chai at just any place right from Ramweshwram bus stand till Dhanushkodi, you won't be disappointed. I has 'N' no of tea at almost all the visible stall there and even at the remotest area the chai(tea) was great. Loved it.
Called my grandpa after two days and asked him if he rem'r Dhanushkodi. He clearly remembered and told me that he went in 1962 by train and played and enjoyed a lot in the huge ocean waves at Dhanushkodi and it was very beautiful town with small houses and churches and all and how he came back and two years later got the news that the town is destroyed including the railway tracks and all.
Was just thinking he saw the life and I saw the death in the same town that too after some 50 years.
I read somewhere about Dhanushkodi, still remember: "The sea lost its temper and we lost the town"