Warning : Long post.
I had been planning this trip since 2005. Initially it was supposed to be with him in a motorbike, upto Kodiakkarai. For some reason or other it never happened. Then I moved to Tuticorin and the trip was forgotten. This year I decided I was going to do it anyway and extended the trip from Chennai to Kanniyakumari along the coast in a car. The route was Chennai - Pondicherry - Cuddalore - Chidambaram - Sirkazhi - Poompuhar - Tharangambadi - Nagapattinam - Vedaranyam - Kodiakkarai - Muthuppettai - Adhirampattinam - Mimisal - Tondi - Ramanathapuram - Kizhakkarai - Sayalkudi - Tuticorin - Tiruchendur - Periyathaalai - Koodankulam - Kanniyakumari.
Sane people don't travel in Tamilnadu in May at the peak of the summer, but I never claimed to be sane. We started at 5.30 AM on May 1 from Chennai. First stop was Pichavaram at 10.00 AM. There wasn't much of a crowd and boats were available easily. This was my first trip to Pichavaram, and I liked it a lot.
After Pichavaram, we went to Chidambaram temple. Nataraja wasn't in a good mood, so he closed the doors before we could go and meet him. We had lunch at some non descript hotel and moved on to Poompuhar via Sirkazhi. Just before the entrance of Poompuhar there is an excavation of an old Buddhist monastery right on the road.
Poomphuar art gallery is a beautiful piece of work by the Govt but the crowd makes it impossible to enjoy it. About a km away from Poompuhar art gallery is the place where they say cauvery meets the sea. It is nothing but a small tract of canal joining the sea. But the surrounding beach is private and hardly any crowd.
From there we went to Tarangambadi (Tranquebar) which has a Danish Fort and a church.
The fort is closed on Fridays, so we could see it only from outside.
There is a Masilamaninathar temple which is being slowly eroded away by the sea. The temple is now litterally on the sea. According to an inscription in the temple (which I couldn't find) the temple dates back to 13th century.
The Danish church has the grave of Ziegenbalg, the Danish missionary who installed the first Tamil Printing press and translated the new testament. We visited the church cemetry and searched for his grave but couldn't find it. Then we went into the church and found his grave and headstone just in front of the pulpit. I dropped my camera on the grave in an attempt to wake him up, but he didn't get up.
The Danish governor's bungalow has now been converted into a private hotel by Neemrana group, called Bungalow on the beach. It is awesome and charges are around Rs. 5000.00 per night. Since we had planned to stay in Nagapattinam, we skipped this and moved on to Nagapattinam.
There is a MGM hotel on the Nagappattinam Velankanni road with all the modern amenities and good clean rooms. We stayed there for the night, room rent was Rs. 2500.00 per night.
In the morning, we took the road to Vedaranyam beyond which is Kodiakkarai (Point Calimere). Fans of Ponniyin Selvan will identify this place, this is where Poonkuzhali rows in a boat with Rajaraja cholan. There is a wild life reserve in Kodiakkarai which is where we went. At first look it is disappointing, but then you spot the deers running around.
Six kms inside the reserve is the beach. The ruins of a chola light house is present there. Most of it was washed away during the Tsunami, so all you have is the foundation and a circular wall of about 6ft height.
After Kodiakkarai, we travelled to Muthuppettai lagoon. This is not in any tourist map. The lagoon is about three times the size of Pichavaram and connects two districts - Nagappattinam and Tiruvarur. On the road to Muthupet there is a small turn which you won't find unless you ask the locals, and suddenly you are in the boating wharf. It doesn't look much with no tourist facilities as in Pichavaram. You need to take the forest officer's permission from Muthupet and come back to the lagoon for boating. The boat was a small fishing boat with motor and hardly inspiring.
But as you travel into the lagoon, the mangrove forests deepen and suddenly you find yourself in a vast expanse of water. The boat takes you upto the point where the lagoon meats the sea and brings you back. Total time taken in about 3 hours. You have to take water and food as you will be in the lagoon for a long time. There are bird watching towers which provide a great view of the lagoon. There are a couple of places where you can stop for a picnic.
From Muthupettai to Ramanathapuram took us just two hours via Adirampattinam, Mimisal, Tondi and Devipattnam. The ECR has been extended from Nagapattinam to Ramanathapuram and it was a pleasure to drive at 80-100kmph. The road was good so we changed our travel plan and decided to travel to Tuticorin for night stay. Upto Kilakkarai and my alma mater (Mohd Sathak Engg college) the roads were good, and after that the night mare started. Suddenly there was no road and it was pitch dark outside. Our decision to travel in the night looked stupid and we struggled upto Sikkal. The distance was hardly 10 kms but it took us nearly half an hour to reach there. From there upto Sayalgudi the road work had been completed and it was fairly easy driving. Dinner was kotthu parotta as Sayalgudi and then on to Tuticorin. The last 10 km to Tuticorin was again a disasatrous road and finally we reached Tuticorin at 10.00 PM.
Next day we set off to Kanniyakumari through the coastal route of Tiruchendur - Manappadu - Koodankulam. The road after Tiruchendur is a series of steep rises and drops, but it is real fun to drive. There is hardly any traffic in this road as most of the people go via Tirunelveli - Nagercoil to Kanniyakumari. With the sunset and sunrise at Kanniyakumari the trip came to a close - 910 kms over three days.
We took a trip to Manimuthar falls in Tirunelveli district and after the obligatory shopping at RMKV Tiruneveli, reached Tuticorin.
Though we travelled along the coastal road, the coast was visible only at a few places like ECR upto Pondicherry and the road from Tuticorin to Kanniyakumari. In most of the places you will pass through towns and villages with no view of the sea. The roads in Tamilnadu were not as bad as I expected them to be. The TNRDC has done a good job with the ECR upto Ramanathapuram.