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Old 25th November 2012, 13:51   #1
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Default Chennai - Courtallam - Chennai in my Intercity Express

This is my first travelogue and not a professional one! So kindly excuse the quality of the write up. I truly believe you'll enjoy reading it just as much as I did penning it down! Anyway, here goes...

I travel not for the destination but for the joy of driving to the destination. Small reason why I'm "allergic" to trains and buses for travel. The last time I went by train was in 2007, and trust me I've never been inside a train ever since! My last travel in an omni bus was 2 years ago and I was forced to take one as my previous car (Swift) met with an accident near Coimbatore. It has to be my car (Ertiga) that accompanies me for the travel, else I don't go! Simple ground rules which my family comply with wholeheartedly because they basically don't want to disappoint me!




Been all over Tamil Nadu, except a few places and this was one of them. For long I wanted to try the Madurai - Rajapalayam - Tenkasi - Kollam route as I heard it was quite scenic and the roads are good. Icing on the cake is that this route is a state highway, so no toll booths! I've done the Chennai - Madurai highway stretch a million times but this route further down was something I didn't want to miss. This time an opportunity came in the form of a wedding in Rajapalayam. Actually, I didn't have to attend it because the bride is a very very distant relative and my absence would have gone unnoticed. But, for me, the agenda is not the wedding but the drive down there and further! Anyway, they were immensely pleased that we (myself and family) were making it to their wedding; little did they know that I had other plans in mind! Anyway, we were all geared up for the trip.

Like all of my trips, I start very early in the morning for my onward journey to beat the terrible Chennai traffic (Chennaiites will agree!) and on my return I make sure I enter Chennai way past midnight when the city sleeps. So here is my travelogue.

Day 1: Got up at 3:30 AM in the morning. When there's a trip in the morning, my body also works as an alarm clock! Ok, to be honest, I never really slept but was tossing and turning around waiting for the clock to strike 3:30! My wife, mom and my baby daughter were all up and ready by 5:00 AM. I was planning for a 4:30 departure but with my daughter, she makes the final call with regard to timing! So 5:20 it is and I load the luggage and make sure everyone's comfortable. My wife takes the middle row and my mom takes the last row and we pack soft bags so that we can dump as much luggage as we can. I start the car and let the engine idle for a while. In essence, I'm getting my Ertiga prepared (Excuse my stupidity but I see my car as a person HAHA) for the long haul. Out of the city in about 30 minutes by which time the city had already woken up. My family were catching up with their early morning sleep while I turned on the stereo. Kept the volume mild so as not to wake them up. On a long trip like this, my USB is full of Ilayaraaja's tracks. I love his music with my driving.

I pace myself by the distance and this was a 620 km one way drive. I take it slow and cruise at ~80 km/h. Stopped for breakfast at about 8 AM and then continued on our journey. Ertiga is made for the highways and everytime I'm on one, I have this cheeky grin like Jeremy Clarkson while he drives the Gallardo in Italy! Close to lunch time we were nearing Madurai and it was highways all the way. Although highways are a pleasure to drive, they offer very little in the form of scenic beauty. Usually the Chennai-Madurai stretch is just one dry drab landscape and nothing interesting. I was looking forward to the post-Madurai stretch.

We then reach Madurai by-pass and I can tell you its a terrible stretch. To add insult to injury, they charge a toll of Rs.55 for a 25 km broken tarmac stretch! Here is another daylight robbery: Just before entering Madurai by-pass, there is a NHAI toll booth that collects Rs.67 and just immediately after the toll booth (about 7 kms) you enter this terrible by pass. As soon as you enter that by pass you pay Rs.55 to Madurai Corporation to use that 25 km stretch. As soon as you get back on the highway you come to another NHAI toll booth that charges another Rs. 50! In another 5 kms you enter this Thirumangalam-Kollam stretch. So that Rs.50 I paid is just down the drain! I grudgingly get past this as soon as I can and then take the NH208 Thirumangalam-Kollam Road.

This road is easy to find as it is clearly signposted on the highway (Madurai-Virudhunagar stretch). This route is very scenic and being a state highway, it was a 2 way road. The road was broken in patches but nothing that really disturbs the overall experience! On the way we stopped somewhere before Rajapalayam for lunch on a roadside shop (thattu kadai). On trips we love to try such local spots rather than posh restaurants. Trust me their food is more fresh and more tastier than some starred restaurants out there! I cannot have a meal without meat and this being a vegetarian shop I was a bit disappointed. But the cook, understood my craving, made me a nice masala omelette! Wow! After the meal we reach Rajapalayam in time for the wedding.

Day 2: Had a late start but was on the road to Courtallam. On the way we stopped for a palm drink (pathani). Enjoyed the scenic view all the way and it started raining while it was sunny! Just that morning I had washed my car and I was actually mouthing expletives at the rain but when I saw the misty clouds and cool evening breeze, my expletives turned to compliments! I made a mistake on the route here. Instead of driving straight to Courtallam via Ilanji, I went to Tenkasi thinking that's the route. Tenkasi is in shambles with some bridge work going on. Pathetic roads and traffic and I kicked myself for missing the turn. Wasted some 30 minutes going around Tenkasi to get out of it and we were back on our way to Courtallam. We didn't book rooms and were confident of finding one when we reached there. By this time the sky was overcast and started to rain again. We were checking hotel after hotel and little did I realise that I was driving all the way to Shengottah! Anyway, the road was so good that I forgot the distance. Entered Shengottah for no reason and came out the other way. The whole town is a one way route and this is the Kerala border. I envy the Kerala guys here for the wonderful weather they enjoy all through the year!

Came back to Courtallam again and checked into a nice resort called Saaral. This resort overlooks a hill where clouds descend and from my room I can see the main road from my balcony. My favourite pass time when I'm at resorts is to sit by the road and watch cars go by. On a rainy day its even more interesting because I get to see them splashing water!

Day 3: Decided to check out the waterfalls. Had our complimentary breakfast and got ready. As if on cue, it started raining heavily and we were stuck in our room. I went out to the balcony and ogled at my Ertiga for a while and then checked out the other cars in the parking lot. The rain never seemed to stop and we decided to go with it. Arteries and tributaries were overflowing onto the road and it was flooded. En route to the falls, a part of the road was completely washed out and was running like a river. Reminded me of many Leh travelogues where the members had to wade through the water bed. I didn't want to hurt my Ertiga and was waiting patiently for a car to pass by. Then a Swift came and literally flew through that water bed at a high speed. That guy was nuts to do that but anyway it gave me the confidence. Slotted into 1st gear and crawled through the bed. I don't like to rev my engine so basically let it crawl through. Finally came through and reached the falls. What a sight! Amazing is the word. We never intended to bathe, so clicked some pics and started preparing for our journey back. Started at 3:45 PM, much later than my scheduled time and I cruised till Madurai. Started from Madurai at 9 PM and reached Chennai by 2:15 AM. Should really appreciate all those truck drivers who do this journey every night and yet give way for you to pass when you flash your lights! Hats off to those guys! Their patience is commendable. I love night driving because of lesser traffic, no cows and idiots on the road. Moreover, night driving gives the perception of lesser distance; probably because you could only see upto your lighted area. Was happy that my vehicle performed well and overall satisfied about this memorable trip!
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Old 12th December 2012, 15:25   #2
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Default Re: Chennai - Courtallam - Chennai in my Intercity Express

Just came across this TL and to begin with the title was a little misleading to me (thinking it was a train journey ) till I read your narrative just to know that you absolutely do not like train rides etc. (Could have Ertiga some where in the title and thats just a suggestion).

However that a nice narrative and of your outing.

What was the name of the falls and yes it seemed quite majestic (maybe due to the rains as well). Do post more pics if you have.
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Old 12th December 2012, 19:17   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by girishglg View Post
...What was the name of the falls and yes it seemed quite majestic (maybe due to the rains as well)...
This looks to be the main falls at Courtallam ("Peraruvi" in Tamil).

OP has not mentioned when this visit occured, but from the looks it seems to be during heavy rainfall period (June/July) when the heavy water flow results in bathing being disallowed temporarily.

There are many waterfalls in Cutralam, though the more popular ones are "Peraruvi/Main falls", Five falls and the Palaya Kutralam falls (Old Courtralam falls).

Before I got a chance to visit Kutralam, I had only seen TV coverage of the falls during peak bathing season, and somehow it did not appeal to me (the idea of taking bath in the falls jostling thru the thick crowd). But one visit changed my perception entirely.

It definitely is an interesting experience...one can walk from main falls to the five falls (in the same drenched dress), usually there will always be a slight drizzle or light rain, "saaral" in Tamil ..one can snack on the way on salted pineapple slices (one of my fav items), salted raw mango slices and the usual peanuts on the way. One gets very good fried chicken and Kaadai at the Old falls. Muttai (Egg/boiled) Bajji is also another fav item for me . Then taking bath at the next falls, then continue snacking, then continue to the next falls...this can go on all day...and you would feel rejunevated the next day, and not land up with running nose/cold/fever etc. inspite of being wet the whole day.

Another must-try snack is the fried freshwater fish (Catla) available on the way to the main falls...awesome, for those who are used to the taste of freshwater fish (slightly different from salt-water fish)

Last edited by Blue Thunder : 12th December 2012 at 19:27.
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Old 16th December 2012, 23:48   #4
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Default Re: Chennai - Courtallam - Chennai in my Intercity Express

Quote:
Originally Posted by girishglg View Post
Just came across this TL and to begin with the title was a little misleading to me (thinking it was a train journey ) till I read your narrative just to know that you absolutely do not like train rides etc. (Could have Ertiga some where in the title and thats just a suggestion).

However that a nice narrative and of your outing.

What was the name of the falls and yes it seemed quite majestic (maybe due to the rains as well). Do post more pics if you have.
Sorry if the title misled you! This is the Courtallam falls and as Blue Thunder has beautifully articulated, this is the main falls. The waterfall is heavy due to the rains and bathing is banned during this time. Yet you get to drench yourself in the shower from the falls and people enjoy that. If you're flying, the nearest airport is Madurai or Trivandrum and you can hire a taxi. If you want to reach by train, the nearest station is Tenkasi or Shengottah. Alternatively, you can reach from Tirunelveli (nearest city) as well.
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