Monday, August 21, 2006

Down under to Vailankanni and Point Calimere

Every year we go to Vailankanni in January. It is a sort of a New Year pilgrimage. My parents came here soon after they were married and then with each one of us, as we arrived. Since then we have been coming here every January. I must confess that I am addicted to this place. Apart from the visit to the shrine this place is an amazing world in itself. The whole family looks forward to the trip.

Since the beginning we have always driven down to Vailankanni as having your own transport is ideal for a family like ours, that likes to explore. The drive till Trichy is uneventful. From Trichy the sights change suddenly, as banana plantations line the road on either side of the way. Somewhere along the way, the river Kaveri joins you. It flows calmly and steadily along the way and the sight is beautiful. We always take the bypass from Trichy, which means narrow well-maintained roads via green paddy fields and more banana plantations. After you reach Thanjavur, the rice bowl of India, you enter a sea of green paddy field broken only by the narrow road. The drive is sheer pleasure and you feel you are going back in time as you rapidly leave civilization and enter a very sparsely populated agrarian region.

As you near Vailankanni, the geography changes. You can smell the sea air and the earth looks like a lumpy green blanket dotted with lots of small ponds. The bird population too changes and you see a lot of fish eating birds. The land is empty save for a few cattle grazing here and there.

There is a variety of accommodation here, our favorite is the MGM Resort bounded on three sides with green paddy fields and the main road in the front. The view from the room is breathtaking. The IT boom can be seen here too. Air Conditioned busloads of families from Kerala coming in by the hour. Last year a big family joined us as we sat with our drinks on the lawns and it became a big pot luck party. They were a group of techies from Bangalore who had joined together and taken their families from Kerala and come here. And you know when Achayans get together what happens!! Some serious vellam adi :p

An hour of driving towards the south of Vailankanni takes you to Kodikkarai also known as Point Calimere. It is bounded by Bay of Bengal on the East and Palk Straits on the South. The wildlife sanctuary here is home to bluebuck, spotted deer, wild boar, semi wild ponies, bonnet macaque, water birds like flamingoes, ibises, herons and spoonbills. Also some of the endangered reptiles like olive ridley turtles, starred tortoise, vipers and marsh crocodiles. If you go around the evening, you can see the birds returning to the beaches and scrub forests to their nests. A truly wonderful sight, and they are quite tolerant of humans.

The drive itself is a delight. You drive through a forest road with an occasional village in between and on the way you suddenly come across clearings, with the sea on both sides. The sudden appearance of the sea takes your breath away. There is intense security checking here due to the proximity to Sri Lanka. You also get to see a rock with Rama's footprint, as he is suposed to have traversed these forests during his Vanvaas.

What strikes you about this place is the for bird calls and the sounds of the sea. We stopped near a scrub forest to photograph some birds and saw an old man patiently catching small fishes for dinner in the backwater. He caught about five fishes and then folded his net and walked away. My brother who was talking to him gave him ten rupees, which he declined politely. With a straight face he told my brother that if accepts the ten rupee he will drink and hence reach home late with the fish and then his wife would beat him up :)) If you know Tamil, then you get to enjoy yet another aspect of this land…Tamil humor :)

All around you see birds, that you get to see only on Animal Planet or Discovery Channel… and silence, blessed silence all around. You feel like you are the only people on the planet.

We take the hour-long drive to Point Calimere every year. The year of the Tsunami devastation was the only time we didn’t visit Vailankanni as it was not advisable due to the outbreak of diseases. Somehow down the years, going to Vailankanni has become more than a pilgrimage. It is a time of family bonding and having our otherwise busy Dad all to ourselves. Nothing like walking with him on the beaches of Kodikkarai, listening to his gyan or just being one with Nature’s silence.

(Ideal time of year to visit:December and January)


calvin said...

Added to my list of places to drive to. :)

mathew said...

been there just twice..and that too when i was quite young..infact i swore that i' ll got there if i could clear my engineering(which seemed remote those times)..sadly i have been there yet!!

silverine said...

Aashik: You wont regret it. You get to see so many sangams on the way. If you Google you will get more info. I like the drive from Vailankanni to Point Calimere more than the arrival. Stop on the way and don't just drive through :)

Mathew: You must go there and then onto Point Calimere, the drive is wonderful!!!

quills said...

Lovely post and it took me on an imaginary but picturesque road trip as well.

I have only gone to the Velankanni mathavu shrine once, long ago just out of school with a group from church, but it was a nice experience. But we traveled through the nite and must have been a different route as well going from Kerala, so don't recall much about the areas we traveled through.

Mind Curry said...

ahh..a travelogue..nice..good prospects i see for you :)

i am also a regular at vailankanni, i usually drive down from kerala with dad and bro..with an occasional uncle tagging along. only twice we have had the entire family and other families join in. its been over 4 years since our last trip, and we have planned one later this year.

the drive through tamil nadu is really picturesque, with the vast plantations and windmill fields. enjoyed your description.

Jiby said...

my parents go there every year with a few friends of theirs...i havent been to velankanni since i started college...i used to be so intoxicated by the place coz a place like that where Mathavu appeared is so close to us while lourdes and fatima were too far away to visit...when i was small i really believed miracles can happen there...maybe if i go there now i will be a better christian again!

good post...u got me to think of a place where every year of my schoollife i prayed so innocently and feverishly for all the things i wanted those days.

silverine said...

Quills:The drive is quite sad if you go in the other scorching months. January is the best time as it is rice planting time.

mind curry: I love the place, the shrine and everything. Do go to Poondi Matha Shrine too, another picturesque drive if you go via the interior village roads. Enjoy your trip :)

p.s.The Audio of Malayalam actors was so rofl and brilliant dialogues too. Imagine being arrested for bellbottom pants et al. Superb!!!

Jiby:I hope you get to go soon, the place is inspiring!

kickassso said...

makes me wanna wish I could get my driving license sooner

Btw, our neighbours had a narrow escape from the Tsunami @ vailankanni because of their car breaking down!!!

Last time I went there was in '94... waiting for the gauge conversion to finish so that there is a through train from kerala

silverine said...

kickasso: Your neighbour was lucky!!! I hope you will do the drive down to V'kani and Point Calimere, when you get your license. It's a wonderful experience being at landsend, it's like a place forgotten by time. The villages on the way to Kodikarai do have provisions but it is better to carry your own :)

Alexis Leon said...

Never been there. But had a nice feel from your post. Great one...

Jiby said...

there is this miracle/anecdote we have abt must be knowing childless couples who present the shrine with a thengumthai are able to bear kids. our uncle and aunt went there, each of them with a thengumthai, not knowing only one was needed, and after 12 years of marriage, they surprised us by having 2 kids!

silverine said...

Alexis: Vailankanni is a special place indeed and we are lucky we decided to explore Point Calimere :)

Jiby: Amazing!! Even my colleague got a child after almost 20 years of marrriage after an offering at V'kanni of those silver icons. She went recently to present the baby before the shrine and then only had the naming ceremony in Guruvayoor :)

Dhanush said...

Good Travelogue.. For a change. I would need the driving directions to drive down on the Bird.

Me too publlished a travelogue. We have some strange coincidences on the blog. :)

Anonymous said...

If ever I come to India, I will make it a point to visit the place. Hopefully, in December or January.


b v n said...

Nice one silverine. reminds me of the family trips we had till a few years back to few places in that time it felt like some kinda i miss that very much .Now i have one more place added to the list.

silverine said...

Dhanush: Great travelogue you have put up. You dont need directions to Point Calimere, it's a straight road down to South Vailankanni.

Kajan: I really hope you do, because it a novel experience :)

b v n: Thank you! Family trips are the glue that hold many families together :) I hope you get to make the trip !

Anonymous said...

Came in early to office and thought I will check out your blog. Now I am so tempted to go this year. Will discuss with ya today, got to met Laddoo today :(


Dhanush said...

but then how do i reach vailankanni ;). I need those from blr to vailankanni :)

Jagan said...

i have been to vailankanni but not to point calimere ..but i have been to thanjavur and tiruchy quite a few times ..

i wish i cud make a trip to kerala once ..its been my long time dream

silverine said...

Trish: Check your mail :)

dhanush: Strange coincidence indeed since Jiby too published one :)

Jagan: Make the dream come true...there are many trains to Kerala :)

simplypp said...

hey every year to velankanni....? tsunami year...? experience?