Velenkanni is quiet a religious hub for Christians. There, lies the shrine of “The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health”. Christians, mainly Catholics from across the country go to worship for good health. Having heard a bit about Velenkanni and mainly having a very dear friend named after it I had to make a pit stop here. On the way to Velenkanni, we made a pit stop at a village that had a Danish Fort. How the Danish people got to this side of the world, I don’t know. Nor do I remember studying about them in history class.
After reaching Velenkanni we did some hunting around for a place to stay. Since we hadn’t pre booked anything earlier because we wanted to be as flexible as possible, we went door to door searching for ‘cheap and best’ accommodation. We finally got a room at a hotel called ‘Angel Residency’. Quiet a holy town indeed. The first thing I did was go to church and send a picture to my friend titled ‘Your name is under construction’. He was happy that I had made a pit stop there. Apart from the church there isn’t much to do at Velankanni. After a quiet dinner in a noisy restaurant we retreated to our beds.
Bright and early next morning we saddled our horse and headed further south to Rameshwaram. Rameshwaram is a very important Hindu religious destination. According to Hindu mythology, it is from here Hanuman built a bridge to Sri Lanka for Ram and his army to cross and fight Ravan. This place had always fascinated me and some say that the myth is even true. I had to check it out for myself.
I have to say, the roads in Tamil Nadu is really good, especially the ECR (East Coast Road). On our approach towards Rameshwaram we had to cross the Rameswaram bridge. As we approached the bridge, wow!! It was beautiful. The sea on both sides of the bridge, the green water and the cool breeze (wind rather) which threatened to push the bike off and gave me a tough time controlling it. We stopped like other tourists on the bridge to seep in the moment and watch the spectacular view. After a while, we got on the bike and headed towards Rameshwaram. Now coincidently we reached Rameshwaram on a day prior to a very auspicious night (Beginning of Navratri). Hence, finding a roof over our head was quiet a task. A quiet and quaint town was suddenly bustling with pilgrims and devotees. It took us around 2.5-3 hrs to find an accommodation. The accommodation was of a temple and a trust (Pranami Mandir Trust) above the temple, luckily suggested by a tea stall owner where we stopped for a break during our hunt for accommodation.
During the hunt the odometer ticked to 1049kms. It had now been 1000kms since we started our journey. I had never ridden my bike that far. A very conflicting set of emotions loomed over me. A sense of pride and happiness of having come so far but also a fear of sorts that I’m so far away from home and still a majority of the journey still left.
After checking in we went to the beach where the main Rameshwaram Temple is
situated and did some ‘touristing’ and temple hopping.
After a quick dinner at the mess in the accommodation we called it a day. Bright and early next morning, nope, it was a lazy start to the day since we had to be at a place called Holy Island Adventure only at 10am. Holy Island is a water sports recreation provider that provided sports such as Banana boat rides, jet skies, snorking, scuba diving, SUP, Kayaking, Wind surfing to name a few. We signed up to do all of them except scuba diving as we had already done it in Pondicherry.
Now the water in Rameswaram is very clean and very shallow and no waves. A beginners paradise. When they said the water is very shallow, I thought how shallow can it be it’s the ocean it’s bound to be deep. But, I learnt it the hard way when we were doing the banana boat ride and we toppled and I went and hit myself on the reefs. I regained control and stood up rubbing my injuries and looked towards the shore, we were 50meters out and the water was only waist deep. After a few rounds we went about snorkeling away. The water was very transparent and could see a lot of sea life. Spent a good amount of time just floating around in the ocean with our snorkeling gear and watching the fishes swim barely a few feet below us.
Next we did some kayaking, SUP and a jet ski ride. All in all it was a fun filled day. But most of all, I was really looking forward to doing some wind surfing. Wind surfing is like surfing but with a sail attached to the board and the wind assisting. It was the first time I had seen one and I really wanted to do it. But the Gods around the corner had other plans. He proclaimed ‘No wind for you today!’. Hence, no wind surfing for us. We returned to our room for lunch and some rest. Late afternoon we decided to go to this place called Dhanushkodi where the Ram Setu point is there. That’s the exact tip where Ram and his army went to Sri Lanka where the bridge was built of stone by Hanuman. By the time we reached there it was already 5:30pm and the last time for entry for vehicles were 5pm. The guy at the gate said you guys can walk and go. Its 5kms (actually 7). It was already getting dark so I wanted to postpone the visit till tomorrow. Ratty said, “Lets go bro, we’ll reach in half an hr.” Bucking to pressure we decided to go forward. It was a thin strip of land with sea on both sides and it was very windy. I did a quick math and realized there is no way well make it before dark or even in 30 minutes. I suggested we jog some and walk some and that’s what we did. Unfortunately we reached a small settlement 2kms away from the tip and it had already gotten dark. No point going forward. Hence we decided to head back the 5kms. Luckily for us there was a tractor heading back so we hitched a ride back to the checkpost and back to town where we did some more temple hopping and straight into bed.
Bright and early next morning we went back to Dhanushkodi to see the Ram Setu point. Being the first guys at the point we had to let ourselves in. The place was very beautiful and really well maintained. We spent some time there on that windy morning and started riding south towards Kanyakumari the southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsular.
Now there were two roads that lay in front of us. The main ECR highway and the beach road and Ratty had made it his trip mission to only go on the beach road. And yes we did take only the beach road. Sometimes no road! A ~350km journey to Kanyakumari took us the whole day reaching only after sundown. The ‘beach’ road wasn’t in good state and was being renovated/constructed but it had a very good view. On one of our stops the locals suggested we go via the Salt Pans road. We joked that that place must be having a lot of salt and yes, it did have a lot of salt being harvested there. Sea water was accumulated in fields and the water let to dry leaving the salt behind. During the mid afternoon we came across a few windmills. Then it reduced but after a while more windmills and then some more till we were surrounded by windmills. The sun setting in front of us at an angle, the turbines rotating at a lazy pace, the thumping of the bullet at a steady 50kmph was a moment to cherish. We stopped for a while to watch the sun set in between the hills and entered Kanyakumari after the sun had set. The whole day riding on some pretty uneven and broken roads had taken its toll on us. A quiet dinner and we hit the bed.
After a quick breakfast we went to the southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsular. The southernmost tip had a temple, a Mahatma Gandhi memorial and a viewpoint. We went to all and it was at the viewpoint where we got to see the vast ocean in front of us. The Bay of Bengal on the left, the Indian Ocean in front of us and the Arabian sea on our right. Some say that you could see the three different colors of the oceans but we weren’t that lucky. The three water bodies seem to merge seamlessly and it was quiet a spectacular view.
With bags packed and the bike loaded, we made our way to a new state with different language and food. Gods Own Country they call it. We planned to make a stop for Varkala and then head onwards toward Alleppey if we had the time. Well we couldn’t make it that far. Varkala is only around 140kms from Kanyakumari but it took us around 6hrs to reach. Why? Because we took the ‘beach road’! Quiet early in our journey of winding (barely 4 lane )state highway, we took a diversion towards the beach road. The beach road looked pretty good in the beginning, then there was no road, then we ended up entering someones coconut farm but Ratty still insisting we take the beach road, we rode on. The speedometer barely went over 25kmph and the quality of the road was causing huge stress on my forearms and fingers from the constant braking and clutching. Little did I know that it was just a practice run for what was to come a few days later. We took a lunch break at Kovallam and were quickly on our way.
After riding almost 80% of the journey on the ‘beach road’ we reached Varkala cliff helipad around 330pm. It was too late to head onward towards Alleppey if we wanted to spend some quality time there so we decided to stay at Varkala itself. The bike too had started making some weird kind of noise from the secondary transmission while engaging the clutch. So, we thought it best we address it before we head out any further. The cliff wasn’t very high, probably 100ft or so. The main area of the cliff is a parking lot which doubles as a helipad. Along the cliff for 1.2 kms are cafes, restaurants and shops lined up one beside each other facing the sea. After a recommendation from a friend about accommodation we went back to the cliff café area to spend rest of the evening. The sun was almost setting when we settled down at a café with our drinks. The both of us sat there in silence, barely talking to each other, watching fishing boats go out into the sea. The sun began to set, the blue sky started to turn orange and with every second passing and the sun making its way towards the horizon, the orange in the sky deepened. The sun had finally disappeared under the horizon. The orange was at its deepest and then it started to turn black. The darker it got, the view of the sea diminished only to be replaced by hundreds of white dots of light emitted by fishing boats out at sea. Soon it was completely dark with only white dots. Wow, the whole transition was beautiful. We stayed there for a couple of hours just watching the sea lost in our own thoughts. A sumptuous dinner late at night (the cafes are open till 11pm) of Italian and we retreated to our bed.
Early next morning the first thing we did was open up the bike to see what the problem was. The nut holding the clutch plates and the connecting rod to the gear box assembly had become loose, hence the plates were grinding against the clutch case cover. After spending half an hour on it, we took it for a ride around the helipad and it was fixed. It was time to head out. A quick breakfast, and we were back on the road again. Next stop a hill station called Vagamon via Alleppey.