"He who does not travel does not know the value of men"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Madurai- Rameswaram-Danushkodi

I have been planning for a trip to Rameswaram for a long time but could arrange the same only during October 2009. I decided to go there with my family. My father, mother wife and my two kids( 6yrs and 1 yr) joined me. I reserved tickets well in advance in the Kollam-Madurai passenger train which leaves from Trivandrum at 8.20 PM. The train fare including reservation charges is only Rs 100/- per person. On 27/10/2009 we left to Madurai by the above mentioned passenger train. The train cruised through the southern side of the country and reached Madurai at about the right time which was 5.30AM.


Although it took about 9 hours to reach the destination, we could get a nice sleep and so there was no boredom. After reaching Madurai Railway Station, I tried to look for the retiring room availability there. Luckily I got one double room for which they charged Rs. 350/- That was enough for us as we all had to fresh up only. The room provided to us was good. It would have been worth if we stayed there for a day. After settling there we had our morning tea from the IRCTC counter in the station. I was stunned to see battery operated vehicles inside the station for the use of physically challenged. The vehicle is sponsored by Airtel. Then I called up the travel agent for the taxi for local sight seeing and Rameswaram trip. After negotiation he agreed to come for Rs 2500/- for the whole journey. This included driver’s bata and night halt for one day.

We got ready by 7.30AM. At about 8AM the driver, one Mr Sarathy, came to the retiring room to pick us. He is a young guy who by the name itself is a driver in all sense. The vehicle was Tata Indica. As we were only 4 that was enough for the kids too.

At first we had our breakfast from the vegetarian restaurant nearby. After that we went to Thiruppuramkundam temple which is about 8 KM from the town. It is a big temple of Lord Muruga. After spending half an hour there we went to a Vishnu temple called Koodal Azhakar temple which was also huge. The time was only 9.30 AM but still we couldn’t walk on the street with bare foot becoz of the heat. Amazing thing about that temple is that we have to take tickets for the darsan. They charged about 15/- per person. One old man accompanied us and explained the history of the temple. From the top of the temple we could see the Madurai city. When we finished our darshan, I gave Rs30/- to the old man who joined us as guide without asking us. But from his face expression I could understand that he was not satisfied.

From there we went to Madurai Meenakshi temple which is simply exceptional. I could see a lot of foreigners there although the temple is meant only for Hindus. The architecture and paintings inside the temple is worth seeing. We spent about 1 hour there. The main deity there is Shiva. The temple closes at 1PM.
One should keep in mind the entry side through which we get in becoz all the four entries look alike. We entered the temple through the west gate but could find our way out through the North gate. The premises are almost similar that one gets confused. We could somehow reach near the car. It was really difficult to walk through the streets with bare foot because of the extreme heat. The vehicle was parked about 500mts from the temple yet they charged 30/- as parking fees. Sarathy told me that the fees are collected by the corporation. We returned to the retiring room at about 12 Noon. All were so tired of the extreme heat. We took one hour rest in the room.

After checking out at about 1PM, we had our lunch at the vegetarian restaurant from where we had our breakfast too. We started our journey to Rameswaram at about 2PM. We had to cover a distance of around 180KM from Madurai to reach Rameswaram. The route is via Ramanathapuram. The roads are in good condition and there was not much traffic too. Sarathy showed us the school where Dr Abdul Kalam studied in Ramanathapuram. Sarathy drove the vehicle in a normal speed and we were not in hurry too. The only thing which bothered us was the heat. We didn’t prefer AC as sudden switch over from cold to heat would affect us more. When we were about to reach the Pamban Bridge we saw the Hovercraft belonging to the Indian Navy on the seashore. The authorities did not allow taking the pictures of it becoz of security reasons.
While approaching the Pamban Bridge we saw the train from Rameswaram moving towards Madurai. It was spectacular to see the train moving along the seashore. Rameswaram is an island which is connected from the mainland by the Pamban Bridge.
I was told that earlier the railway bridge was the only route through which the area could be accessed. The railway bridge is much below the Pamban Bridge. We could see it from the top of the bridge. We could see boats of fisherman on both sides of the bridge. There were some portions in the sea covered with land area like small islands. Sarathy told us that only fisherman go there.

It was delightful to spent time on the bridge watching sea. Sarathy told me that the Railway Bridge can be opened up for giving path to the ships traveling in. This is the only bridge in India which is operated manually. We spent about half an hour in the Pamban Bridge enjoying the cool breeze. We reached Rameswaram at about 6PM. The toll charges for Pampan Bridge is Rs 20/- and for toll for entering Rameswaram is Rs 30/-

We had arranged rooms in a rest house of Ramsahaimal Sahuwala & Sons Charitable Trust near Abhirami Vegetarian Restaurant near the temple. Its only a few steps to the temple. We took two rooms @300/- per room. There are lot of other options too. After fresh up we had darsan till the closure of the temple at night. The main deity is Lord Shiva and you will be getting lot of books regarding the history of the temple. It is also available on lot of websites. We could see lot of people from North India coming to the temple for darsan.

If is found that large number of pilgrims are from Gujrat. Although we were all impressed with the temple architecture and atmosphere therein, we were dejected by the behavior of some people inside the temple who were trying to exploit the ignorance of the pilgrims. It was a trump card play. For about half an hour I watched an old man who was making a lot of money from the pilgrims who were unaware of the temple offerings. He was asking them to put money outside as offerings rather than inside the hundi. When the pilgrims move towards another spot he was seen grabbing all the money. At night after the pooja the temple deity will be taken for “ Palliurakkom” in a palanquin. That was placed in front of the temple when the pooja was going on. I saw that old man placing some coins inside the palanquin and asking people to pray there and put money inside. When he sees someone well dressed coming in he would put a 10/- rupee note inside it and that would make the unaware people offer the same amount inside it. I saw that man taking the whole money as and when the pilgrims move. I wonder these things happen with the awareness of the temple authorities.


The temple opens at 5AM. From 5AM to 6AM there is Sphadika Linga Abhishekam and for that darsan you will be charged Rs 50/-. All of us went for the holy bath which is famous in the temple. Although formally its written over there that the rate for the holy bath per person is Rs 25/- they asked for Rs 100/- per head. It is said that after having bath from the 23 holy waters inside the temple we could attain “Moksha”. We have to take a dip in the sea adjacent to the temple before proceeding for the holy bath. But the sea water was so dirty at that time.
After the Darsan we got ready by 7.30AM and had breakfast from the Abhirami Restaurant. Then we went to see Danushkodi which is about 25KM from the temple. Our vehicle could travel only up to a place where the tarred road ends.

I forgot the name of the place although I remember that it ends with a word called “madom”. The beach there was so beautiful with crystal clear water.

From there we have to take a private jeep or lorry to go to Danushkodi which is called as Ghost land. Earlier there was train service called Boat mail to Danushkodi. A cyclone in 1964 washed away the small town located in the east coast of Rameshwaram Island. The remainings of buildings and structures are still there. They charge Rs 1000-1300 for a a lorry to go there and come back.
It would take about 2 hrs for that. We decided not to go there as the kids would not be able to bear the heat. We could stand there with the help of an umbrella for shade. I was also told that a lorry goes there with 25 people together by collecting 50/- per person. Fisherman who resides there is charged only Rs 5/-. Srilanka is only 18KM from Danushkodi. I was told that lot of Srilankan refugees used to come in through that side earlier. Lots of them are still there in the refugee camp arranged by the Indian government near the Pampan Bridge area. Outsiders are not allowed to enter the refugee camp.

After spending for about 1 hour there we returned to the rest house. One the way we also visited the Kothandaramayyar temple. Although a route to go to Jadayutheertham is shown on the way, there is no clear path for that. The path shown is seen closed after some distance. At about 11 AM we vacated the Guest House and set for Madurai. Sarathy showed us the floating rock temple, lakshman Theertham and Sita Theertham on the way. Return journey was also via the same route ie via Ramanathapuram. Had lunch from a hotel called Meenakshi enroute. Reached Madurai at about 3.30PM. There was heavy rain in Madurai at that time. We had a small shopping from the main market and reached railway station at about 4PM. Our train to Trivandrum, Guruvayoor express from Chennai, was delayed for one hour and so we had to spend the rest of the time in the railway station. At that time I felt that it would have been better if we had reserved tickets in the passenger train which leaves Madurai at 11.30PM and reaches Trivandrum in the morning. That would have been a good choice instead of Guruvayoor express which was so crowded. We reached Trivandrum at about 1AM.

Travel Tips

1. Always carry an umbrella for shade especially if you are from North.
2. Reserve tickets well in advance as the trains towards this side are so
3. Try to avoid walking bare foot during morning time.
4. Avoid going to Danushkodi during evening time.
5. Always ask for the charges for the temple offerings and assistance in
advance to avoid unnecessary talks
6. Only drink mineral water.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


We have been planning to explore the beauty of Nilambur and surroundings since two years and we could fulfill it during Sept- Oct 2009. We, a group of 8 members headed by Mr John started from Trivandrum at 11PM on 29.09.2009 in Amrita express. The other team members include Basheer, Roy, Tarun, Nazar, Sasi, Pramod and Murali. Murali joined us at Shoranur railway station, the next morning. We started our journey to Nilambur by Nilambur passenger from Shornur at 7 am. The passenger train cruised via Pattikkadu and some other stations which can hardly be called as railway stations by its look. The train was filled with locals travelling to Nilambur and it was heavy rush while nearing Nilambur station. The train reached Nilambur station at about 9 AM. We were all stunned to see the rush in the station as the station was filled with those who are traveling to Shoranur by the same train which will be returning after few minutes.

John sir’s friend, one Dy Thahasildar(Retd) picked us from the Railway station in an innova car. Praksahan who was the driver of the car was a friendly chap. We directly went to the PWD rest house Nilambur. All got ready by 10.30 AM. We had our breakfast from a Vegetarian Restaurant ‘Sagar’ near the Rest House. John sir and his friend were seen charting the tour programme and we could see them giving directions to Prakasan.

30.09.2009 ( First day)

Kanoly Teak plantation: We first went to the Kanoly Teak plantation site where the entry fee is 10/- per head. In order to access the plantation site we have to cross the Chaliyar river. A beautiful hanging bridge has been constructed across the river now. It has become easier for the tourists to go to the other side of the river. I was told that earlier tourists used to go there by canoe. The view of the Chaliyar River from the middle of the bridge is astonishing. We could see a number of canoes engaged in taking sand from the river. A small stream called Mundanthode flows from the plantation site to the Chaliyar River. It was interesting to see the clear stream water of the Mundanthode merging with the muddy water of the Chaliyar River. Teak is known as the paragon of Indian timbers. Its scientific name derived from the Latin word TECTONA which means “carpenter’s joy”…. . And so goes the saying teak and rogue can lie anywhere. The Canoly plantation originally had 14.8 acres from which teak of 9.1 acres was cut for the use of alleys of the Second World War. The rest of the 5.7 acres of the plantations is still being preserved for historical importance as well as research needs. It was informed that there are a total of 117 teak trees which are being preserved now. A lot of renovation works are being carried out in the plantation site to attract the tourists. Thanks to the forest department.

Aadyanpara Water Falls : From the Canoly Teak Plantation we proceeded towards the Aadyanpara waterfalls which is about 13 KM from Nilambur. The water falls is so lovely to watch and the water is so pure and clean. I was also told that it is as dangerous as its beauty too because of the undercurrent. The water level would suddenly rise if there is rain in the hill. John sir and Tarun couldn’t withstand the persuasion of the cool water and they had a nice bath from the safer side of the falls. There were only a few tourists as it was a working day. The gooseberries which we had from the banks of the waterfalls, sold by the locals, was relishing. Even though we wanted to stay there for a long time, we didn’t want to miss out the other places as well. We decided to proceed further and Prakasan told me that it is better to have lunch before leaving to other places as it would be late otherwise.

We had given order for lunch in the Vazhiyoram Restaruant, a project of Tourism Department. The Restaurant is in a beautiful location with Vadapurampuzha River flowing along the back side of it. We had lunch from there and took one hour break at that place.

Teak Museum: Prakasan told me to visit Teak Museum first as it gets closed after 4.30 PM. The entry fee to the museum is Rs20/- per head. We get a lot of information regarding the various kinds of teak woods with its display inside the museum. It’s a must watch place and the lovely garden on the back side of the museum is worth seeing. I was told that we can see various kinds of butterflies around the garden. We spent around one hour in the museum and the garden.

Nedumkayam Forest Depot: From the teak museum we proceeded towards the Nedumkayam forest depot which is almost 10-15 km from Nilambur. There is a beautiful woodhouse built by a British Engineer named Dawson inside the nedumkayam forest area. The woodhouse is on the banks of the river Nedumkayam which flows from the ootty hills. The woodhouse is now under the forest department and there is a full time watcher who takes care of the building. There is no electricity supply to the woodhouse. It was learned that Dawson, the British engineer who stayed there in connection with the construction of the bridge across the Nedumkayam River met with an accident while swimming in the river and was drowned. In view of the services that he rendered and on the basis of the request from his widow, he was buried there itself. The scenery below the woodhouse near the banks of the Nedumkayam River was awesome. Although only four of us went to see there, we really enjoyed the time we spent over there. We had to return from that place with half mind as it was getting late. The watchman told us that wild elephants come there during evenings. There is also a settlement area nearby the river on the other side. The jeep road via the bridge goes to Manjiyam. I was also told that Ootty is only 20 KM from there if we go through forest area, although there is no specific path for trekking. We also visited the burial place of Dawson, the British engineer which is only walkable distance from the woodhouse. Tarun also took some pictures of the burial place in his mobile phone and had some comments about the British Engineer. He may have thought about the hardships faced by the Indian workers during that time.

At about 6.30 PM we returned to Nilambur and stayed in the Forest Bunglow, Chathumenon House near Teak House. As we reached there late, we had to take food from outside. We were very upset to hear the news about the boat accident occurred in the Thekkady Lake and all were behind the news the whole night.
Myself , Tarun and Sasi were in the same room. While Tarun occupied the bed and we found our bed on the floor. Early in the morning I heard Tarun making some noises and searching for his mobile. After switching on the light he was doing something in his mobile phone. On further enquiry I could understand that he had a dream that “Dawson sayippu” came and lay near him on the bed. Tarun was deleting the pictures of the burial place of Dawson which he had taken from the Nedumkayam. Tarun couldn’t sleep after that and tried to wake up everyone. We had great fun over that incident and everyone pulled his legs over that. We also had to get ready early as Prakasan will be coming by 8 for travel to Ooty.

Prakasan came at about 7.30 AM. We started our journey to Ooty at about 8 AM. via Edakkara and Vazhikkadavu. We could see the “Cattle market” at Edakkara, which is a rare site now in Kerala. We had our breakfast from Vazhikkadavu. Then we slowly proceeded our journey exploring the beauty of the Nadukani churam. There was a mild rain and the scenic beauty of the place is unforgettable. Prakashan told us that there will be landslides during rainy season and the road gets blocked more often during that time. We could see that a lot of patch works have been going on there in the roads. A toll of Rs 20/- per vehicle has to be given to the Tamil Nadu Government in the border. Nadukani churam is almost 60 Km from Ootty. From Nadukani, Sultan Bathery is only 42 KM towards left side and Gudalur is on the right side. From Gudalur Ootty is just 50 KM towards east and Mysore is 110 KM towards west.
When we reached Gudalur we decided to have a drive through the Mudumalai forest area. The mild rain with cool breeze compelled us for that move. We had a slow drive towards Mudumalai Wild Life Sanctuary which is about 17 KM. As it was raining there were only few vehicles running through that side. There is a check post of Karnataka forest Department before entering the Bandipur Wild Life which is about 15 KM from Mudumalai. They were having a thorough check of all the vehicles moving by that way. The Karnataka Government has restricted the traffic through this area after 8PM as it would disturb the wild animals. We saw peacocks and hundreds of deer while traveling through the way. Stopping of vehicles on the road is not allowed and mobile inspection team of the Forest department is agile in making sure that no one is violating the rules.

Bandipur is a calm and quiet place with continuous cool breeze. We spent about one hour there. Monkeys and pigs are common there. One thing we have to make sure is to close the doors and windows of the vehicle while parking. Otherwise our belongings will be in the hands of the monkeys at the top of the trees. The monkeys there not scared of humans. Entrance to the forest by the bus of forest department is possible between 6 AM to 9AM and 4PM to 6PM.

Some of us wanted to go up to Gundalpet which is only 30 KM from Bandipur. But we decided against it as it would fetch a lot of time. We then moved towards Mudumalai and the Karnataka check post people had a search in our vehicle once again in the border. From Mudumalai we turned left. Masinagudi is only 7KM from there. Ootty can also be accessed via Masinagudi and it is only 39 Km from Mudumalai. As the passage is extremely dangerous with 39 hair pins the traffic is restricted. Only one side journey is possible through that path. Vehicles are normally not allowed to come back via that passage as there were a lot of accidents before.

Masinagudi is a small town. It’s actually the valley of Ooty hills. There are lots of resorts available which are away from the town. It is all inside the woods, which is not that dense. The scenic beauty is astonishing and we really enjoyed the drive through the place. We could see the hills covered with mist on almost three sides. The greenery there with the village atmosphere is a tremendous experience. We made an enquiry for accommodation in one of the Resorts called Jungle Retreat. It is located inside the jungle and we found that no rooms are available. Reservations have to be made in advance. I think the resorts are being run by Bangloreans. The tariff is also on the higher side. It is seen that most of the vehicles coming through that side is with Karnataka registration.

We returned from Masinagudi at about 2PM and moved towards Ooty covering 39 hairpins. Prakasan had a tough time managing that and we didn’t have our lunch too. We decided to have food from Ooty as there are no good restaurants available in Masinagudi. Heavy mist covered the roads and it was getting hard to drive because of the poor visibility of roads. We reached Ooty at about 3 PM and occupied PWD Rest house which was arranged with the help of Tamil Nadu Liaison officer. Thanks to Manu Lal, our dear friend for that help. The rest house is nearby the botanical garden. As there was mild rain and mist we could only go to the Botanical Garden during the evening. We had a small shopping at the Tibetan Shop near the Botanical garden. Tarun had a long chat in Hindi with an old woman in the Tibetan shop. They were talking about the freedom of Tibet from China. The old women couldn’t understand the deaf and dumb language which Tarun used in between his hindi and therefore the old women was forced to talk in Malayalam which made us laugh. We purchased some woolen clothes from her shop and returned giving all the best for her fight for freedom of Tibet. We enjoyed the cool atmosphere of Ooty in the room after having dinner from Amaravati restaurant near the rest house.

It was Gandhi Jayanthi Day. We had 1mt prayer before going for the local Ooty tour. We had our breakfast at about 8.30AM and went to Ooty Lake which was crowded becoz of the holiday. We decided not to go for boating considering the Thekkady mishap. Also it was drizzling.

We went to the Ooty railway station from there. It was heavy rush out there and therefore our plans to go to Coonoor by train had to be set apart for the time being. We then went to the Rose garden. That was a good experience watching variety of flowers and enjoying the atmosphere. Entry fees to the rose garden is Rs20/- per head.

After that we proceeded towards Dodabetta peak. Dodabetta is the highest peak in Ootty. Dodabetta means big mountain. Although it is written over there that it’s the highest peak in South India, we cannot agree to that. Dodabetta peak is 8640 feet above Mean Sea Level. But the Anamudi peak in Idukki District, Kerala is 8842 feet above Mean Sea Level which shows that Anamudi is the highest peak in south India. We were there in the Dobabetta peak at about 12 noon and the atmosphere there was unbelievable. We couldn’t even see each other becoz of the mist. We couldn’t see the suicide point and other view points becoz of the mist. But altogether it was a wonderful experience. We were trembling with chillness and a cup of ice-cream could only aggravate it. There was heavy rush in the Dodabetta peak becoz of the holiday.

From Dobabetta we went to Kottagiri which is about 25KM away. We wanted to go to Coonor as well which can be accessed from there. Kottagiri is a small town. The traffic through this road was very light. We can also go to Mettupalayam via Kottagiri other than the common path used by tourist via Coonoor. We had our lunch from one of the Vegetarian Restaurants named ‘Kasthuri’ in Kottagiri as guided by a local taxi driver. Food was nice. Hats off to the hospitality of the Tamilians.

At about 2.30PM we returned to Coonoor which is about 20KM from Kottagiri. We reached Dolphins Nose at about 3PM. It is just a view point. The road to this place is very narrow and works are being carried out for safety. Cement bricks are laid on the roads in most of the areas. The place is about 15KM from Coonoor. The view of the Catherine waterfalls, Kottagiri village and Mettuppalayam from this point is worth seeing for the travel to reach there. The guides charge Rs 5/- for the telescopic view of these sites from the location. Lamb’s rock which is about 5 KM from the Dolphin’s nose is just a view point. We could see the lamb standing in the rocks in the mountain through the telescope. It was hard to find a lamb as it was foggy out there during that time.

Sim’s park is a small park in Coonoor for children. It’s nothing when compared to the Botanical garden in Oooty. We then rushed to Coonoor railway station to catch the last train to Ooty from there. But we reached there late by 5 mts as the last train departed at 4.30PM. The train journey from Coonoor to Ooty takes about 1.5 hours although it is only 20KM from there. We missed the travel by train through the hills. We decided to experience it the next time. We then came back to Ootty by road and reached Ootty at about 5.30PM. We could experience the beauty of Ootty in rain as it was raining cats and dogs while traveling back.
After having a walk around the streets of Ooty we all settled in the Rest House.

Since there was rain we decided to return early in the morning as we could only go slowly. We started our return journey at about 7AM carrying the good memories. We had our breakfast from Gudalur. Gudalur is also famous for Tea, coffee and cardamom. We proceeded towards the same route from Gudalur which we had gone ie via Nadukani and vazhikkadavu to Nilambur and reached Nilambur railway station at about 11.30AM taking little breaks in between. We thanked Prakasan for his support through out our journey. Train to Shoranur started at about 11.50AM and reached Shroranur at about 2 PM. We had lunch from the IRCTC Vegetarian Restaurant at the shoranur Railway Station. Murali had to leave to Palakkad from Shornur. So the other 7 members of the group returned to Trivandrum by Janasatabdhi Express which was running at the right time. We reached Trivandrum at about 9PM.