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Old 20th May 2014, 17:44   #1
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Default Weekend Roadtrip: Pichavaram > Tranquebar > Velankanni > Point Calimere > Thanjavur

Earlier in March this year, we had not travelled anywhere in a few weeks, and the travel bug was bothering everyone in the family from kids to grown ups. My wife was chatting with one of my kids teachers and she talked about a place we hadn't heard about before called Pichavaram. "It feels a bit like the Mysterious Island in Life of Pi" She said. On the map, it was just 60 km south of Pondicherry, and if Yann Martel every travelled to Pondicherry to write his story, it is possible that he has travelled here as well. We thought we might as well give it a try. I started the work on route map and had a skeleton of additional places to see along the way. There are a few routes to reach Pichavaram. The shortest is to take the Thiruvannamalai route to Pondicherry and then take the ECR to Chidambaram, or you can take the Salem route and then take a left for the highway to Chidambaram. Pichavaram is around 15 km from Chidambaram and makes Chidambaram a good place to camp.

Day 1 - Bangalore to Chidambaram

We started at around 7am on a Friday morning from our home near e-city and took the NH 7 towards Salem. We filled up diesel in the Innova from our trusted HP Petrol pump after Hosur.


Petrol Pump after hosur


NH7 to Salem



At around 10:00 am, we were close to Salem and I realized that we would reach Chidambaram quite early in the afternoon. We started checking for interesting detours. I figured that even if we go via Yercaud we would still reach Chidambaram by evening. We had fond memories of Yercaud from an earlier trip, and were curious to see any developments at the mini hill station. For anyone traveling straight to Pichavaram, this is a totally unnecessary detour and I will advise them to continue to Salem and take the highway to Chidambaram. We climbed up the hairpins to Yercaud and had a great tribal special lunch at the Hotel Shevaroys. Yercaud looked cleaner and more beautiful that we visited last time and we decided that we have to come back for a weekend sometime later. After hanging around some of the popular spots, we headed towards the climb down which should have connected us to the Salem-Chidambaram highway (SH 70). I wasnt really paying attention to the maps because I thought how can you lose your way just climbing down a hill". But after around 30 minutes of driving, i realized that we were heading in a wrong direction towards Bauxite mines in the region. We had to turn back all the way and hit the real hairpins that would take us to the Chidambaram highway. The road was pretty bad at places but we were going through a bamboo forest in full bloom and it was beautiful.


The climb to Yercaud


Climbing down from Yercaud


Bamboos in bloom

After a lot of winding roads, we were back on the main Salem Chidambaram route way which was a proper double carriage highway. We reached Chidambaram at dusk and checked into the Vandayar hotel based on Tripadivisor reviews. It is a nice, clean and economical place to stay if you are in Chidambaram. We had a vegetarian dinner at the same hotel and retired for the night.

Day 2 - Pichavaram > Poombuhar > Tranquebar > Karaikal > Nagapatinam

We started at around 9 from the hotel and headed off to Pichavaram using google maps. It is a bit narrow, but good road till we reach the TTDC hotel and boating complex. We parked our car and took the motor boats. There are various options for the boats starting from Rs 500 to Rs 3000 depending on boat type, and duration of the trip. we chose a 90 minute trip on a motor boat. When we started off, it looked like any normal backwaters ( we are from Alleppey back in kerala, so waterways were a normal way of life ). The boatman pointed out the Mangrove plants and their unique roots. Then he took a sudden turn and the pathways started getting narrower and narrower and there was just enough space for our boat. The plants created a tunnel around us and it was a pretty awesome. The kids were really enjoying this unique experience. We went for quite a distance through this maze, and saw a few birds and some otters. Though not as exotic as the magical island in "Life of Pi", the place did have striking similarities because both are mangroves. 90 minutes wound up our trip and we were back in the car heading back to Chidambaram.


Starting towards the mangroves


Entering the tunnels


More tunnels


More tunnels


More tunnels



Earlier in the morning we were asking some locals and my wifes sister in law who is from Karaikudi about other places of interest in the area. I always love coastal drives and wanted to explore places on the coast. After some deliberation, we decided to go to Poompuhar which is around 40 km south of Chidambaram off the East Coast Road. As we approached Poompuhar, we stumbled on an ASI ( Archeological Survey of India ) site of Melaiyur where there are ruins of a Buddhist temple. The site was fenced, but we could walk in and there was a mini museum which was open. Surprisingly there was no one inside to protect relics that are thousands of years old. Poompuhar was a couple of kilometers ahead from the site and we had lunch from a small restaurant nearby. The beach was nothing much to see except for a temple nearby. Apparently there was also an art gallery nearby, but we missed it. Interestingly Poopuhar was the capital of the Chola empire at one time and there was a mega port where ships from Rome and China used to dock. It was washed away by a tsunami more than 2300 years ago. The remains of the Port have been discovered recently by marine archeological excavations. It is an interesting place to see if you are interested in History, otherwise, i wouldnt really rate Poompuhar as a must see place.


Buddhist excavations


Buddhist excavations



We set off again down south and around 25 km's south from Poompuhar we stumbled on the coastal city of Tharangabadi or Tranquebar which is the Dutch name. It was a small surprise for us as there was a Dutch fort, a few very nice looking bungalows, and a very old church. The church was built by the German missionary Ziegenbalg who brought the first printing press to India. The fort is now a museum and has some interesting artifacts like Dutch weapons, vessels, and even whalebones. One of the bungalows is a Neemrana hotel and is probably a great place to stay. Spending around an hour in Tranquebar, we set off again to the south through Karaikal stopping at the beach for a quick tea and then reached Nagapattinam where we stopped for the night at our relatives place. There is a very nice beach at Nagapattinam which was built after the Tsunami . It has a large play area and the kids thoroughly enjoyed playing there in the night.


Near the Neemrana hotel


Church founded by Ziegenbalg


Fort Dansborg





Day 3: Velankanni > Vedaranyam > Point Calimere > Thanjavur > Bangalore

We said our goodbyes and started off towards Velankanni which is just 15 kilometers south of Nagapattinam. We paid a quick visit to the church. It was Sunday morning, but it wasnt much of a rush.


Velankanni Shrine


We started off again in towards the south, exiting the east coast road and heading towards Vedaranyam. the road was a bit small but in good condition. Some time we started seeing salt fields and prawn farming. After around 40 km's on an almost straight road, we reached the town of Vedaranyam. My brother-in-law had told me about a very remote beach here, so we used google maps to find it. It was remote indeed, and we passed through some garbage dumps before we reached the place. There wasnt a soul on the beach. We played there for about an hour before starting back again to our destination - Point Calimere.


Vedaranyam - isolated beach

It was around 15 km further south of Vedaranyam. This is the place actually closest to Sri Lanka, even though it is widely believed that Rameshwaram is the closest. There is a temple here and a rock where Lord Rama is believed to have stood and reconnoitered Lanka before he invaded.Beyond the temple is the entry to the Kodiakarai wildlife sanctuary.We drove into the sanctuary and observing mostly different types of deers and finally reached a beach in no-mans land. There is a watch tower from which you can observe the whole sanctuary. At the beach there are the remains of a 1000 year old light house which got washed away in the recent tsunami. It is interesting to see the way the bricks are placed because they did not have the concept of concrete then. After a few minutes of playing at the beach, kids collecting shells, and taking pictures, we headed for our next destination - Thanjavur.


Deer at Point Calimere


Point Calimere


Thousand year old light house ruins

We had to return first to Vedaranyam and since it was lunch time, we searched for a good restaurant. We were looking for good sea food and a local pointed us out to a very small restaurant. The place wasnt much, but it was the best fish and prawns preparation we had had in a very long time. I cant even remember the name of the restaurant, but it is a turn away from the TNSTC bus stand. After lunch wife and kids dozed off in the Innova and I started the longest journey of the day so far. I took the Thiruthuraipoondhi >Mannarguddi route. The roads were single carriageway but good and we reached the Thanjavur temple by around 5 p.m. For anyone who hasnt seen the Brihadeeshwara temple in Thanjavur, you guys are missing one of the most amazing sights to see in India. They say that the Chola's conceived like giants and finished like jewellers. The result is still standing even after a thousand years. The temple is massive and the carvings are intricate. We spent around an hour at the temple and started back.


Brihadeshwara temple - Thanjavur


Brihadeshwara temple - Thanjavur

We reached the highway (NH 67 ) which was excellent (four lane double carriageway).We reached trichy by around and decided to go directly to Namakkal instead of taking the Highway via Karur. It was not a very good decision because even though the distance was shorter, there were too many vehicles coming from the opposite direction, and no one seemed to have a dimmer option in their lights. We finally reached Namakkal and had some excellent dinner at the Saravana Bhavan. After dinner we navigated back to the main national highway (NH7) and headed back home reaching around 1 a.m, thus ending our quick three day getaway to coastal Tamil Nadu.
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Old 20th May 2014, 20:58   #2
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Default Re: Long weekend mini-road trip Pichavaram>Tranquebar>Velankanni>Point Calimere>Thanj

Excellent! Loved your choice of places & route (interesting detours as well!). Superb pictures, Thanks for sharing
I had read about the mangroves in Pichavaram in a newspaper article sometime ago, probably The Hindu ? Don't remember now, but your travelogue and pictures have ensured these places are in my To Visit places.
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Old 21st May 2014, 09:38   #3
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Default Re: Long weekend mini-road trip Pichavaram>Tranquebar>Velankanni>Point Calimere>Thanj

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Originally Posted by robbythomas79 View Post
I took the Thiruthuraipoondhi >Mannarguddi route. The roads were single carriageway but good and we reached the Thanjavur temple by around 5 p.m. .
Excellent travelogue Mate. I have some queries though

1. From Vedaranyam, did you come to Thanjavur via Thiruthiraipoondi and Mannargudi. How is the road condition. Is it better compared to the Needamangalam route?

2. Apart from the danish fort in Tharangambadi, are there any other places of interest to visit there??
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Old 21st May 2014, 10:41   #4
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Default Re: Long weekend mini-road trip Pichavaram>Tranquebar>Velankanni>Point Calimere>Thanj

Lovely travelogue. Nice list of places you chose for the drive. And the detour into Yercaud is a bonus, hope you climbed through the Salem route and drove down through the Kuppanur route.

What is your advise about safety issues on those deserted beaches of Point Calimere?
Do they have a safari like drive inside the Kodiakarai sanctuary?
Is it worth going for a drive into the sanctuary, and (or) whether it is allowed to go on a drive into the sanctuary?

Thanks.
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Old 21st May 2014, 11:32   #5
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Originally Posted by suresh_gs View Post
Excellent travelogue Mate. I have some queries though

1. From Vedaranyam, did you come to Thanjavur via Thiruthiraipoondi and Mannargudi. How is the road condition. Is it better compared to the Needamangalam route?

2. Apart from the danish fort in Tharangambadi, are there any other places of interest to visit there??
Hi Suresh,

1. I was told in Nagapattinam that the Needamangalam route is better, but I found the Thiruthuraipoondi, Mannargudi route to be very decent. Very few potholes on the road and less traffic.

2. Apart from the fort there isn't much to actually see. There is the Neemrana hotel if you want to stay. There is the old church, but it looks like a normal church.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ddrive View Post
Lovely travelogue. Nice list of places you chose for the drive. And the detour into Yercaud is a bonus, hope you climbed through the Salem route and drove down through the Kuppanur route.

What is your advise about safety issues on those deserted beaches of Point Calimere?
Do they have a safari like drive inside the Kodiakarai sanctuary?
Is it worth going for a drive into the sanctuary, and (or) whether it is allowed to go on a drive into the sanctuary?

Thanks.
Hi Ddrive,

Yes, I came down from Yercaud via the Kuppanur route.

The beach at Vedaranyam was a bit scary, because it was huge and there wasnt anyone around. But I never came across anyone hostile. The beach at Point Calimere is inside the sanctuary and is controlled by government officials. There is also an Indian Navy presence base right outside the sanctuary so overall it is a very safe place. It is not really a beach in a modern sense because there is no life guard etc, so you need to exercise caution if you plan to enter the water there.

Yes you can drive inside the sanctuary. There are one or two official jeeps, but private vehicles are allowed. My picture titled "Point Calimere" is in fact inside the sanctuary. You can see a lot of deers and the endangered blackbuck antelope ( seen in the pic ) but not many other animals. What I liked about all of these places is that even though there wasnt anything spectacular to see, unlike other tourist spots, there were hardly any crowds and it was peaceful.

Robby

Last edited by GTO : 22nd May 2014 at 12:59. Reason: Back to back posts
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Old 21st May 2014, 12:35   #6
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Default Re: Long weekend mini-road trip Pichavaram>Tranquebar>Velankanni>Point Calimere>Thanj

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Originally Posted by robbythomas79 View Post
1. I was told in Nagapattinam that the Needamangalam route is better, but I found the Thiruthuraipoondi, Mannargudi route to be very decent. Very few potholes on the road and less traffic.
Nice !


Some notes, observations and questions
- If you are are at the "lone beach" or Kodikarai, it does not make sense to head back to Nagapattnama/Nedamangalam to head back to Tanjore.
- What you did is the best. Its the shortest route to Tanjore via Mannargudi.

- @Ddrive, Bamboo forest snap, clearly says I think he went via Kuppanur. (Used the other hairpin to get down)

- Did you go via Ulundurpet/Vridhachalam or exited 4-lane at V Koot road and went via Veppur. If yes, how much time it took from V Koot road to Chidambaram?

- Did you take the Vridhachalam bypass? How is it?

Last edited by ampere : 21st May 2014 at 12:37.
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Old 21st May 2014, 14:10   #7
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Default Re: Long weekend mini-road trip Pichavaram>Tranquebar>Velankanni>Point Calimere>Thanj

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- Did you go via Ulundurpet/Vridhachalam or exited 4-lane at V Koot road and went via Veppur. If yes, how much time it took from V Koot road to Chidambaram?

- Did you take the Vridhachalam bypass? How is it?
Ampere,

That is an interesting point and I missed it in the travelogue. Google maps tells us to go via Veppur and thats what I took after exiting the 4 lane at V Koot road. The stretch is single lane and not in excellent condition. I crossed V Koot at around 5:30 P.M and as the night started, the lights coming from the opposite side were blinding. I felt later that I should have taken Ulundurpet/Vridhachalam. That stretch took me around 2 hours.

I took the Vridhachalam bypass instead of going through the town. The road is good, but there were no markings, and it looks like it has recently opened even before completion.
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Old 21st May 2014, 15:03   #8
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Default Re: Weekend Roadtrip:Pichavaram > Tranquebar > Velankanni > Point Calimere > Thanjavu

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Originally Posted by robbythomas79 View Post
For anyone who hasnt seen the Brihadeeshwara temple in Thanjavur, you guys are missing one of the most amazing sights to see in India. They say that the Chola's conceived like giants and finished like jewellers. The result is still standing even after a thousand years. The temple is massive and the carvings are intricate. We spent around an hour at the temple and started back.
Agreed on that. Brihadeeshwara temple is a must see in south India.

Nice t'log here. What are the main attractions in Pichavaram other than the lake?

And is point Calimere well-guarded? It looks deserted.

Can you reach the beach at Calimere? And any special places to visit on the way to Point Calimere?
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Old 21st May 2014, 16:01   #9
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Default Re: Weekend Roadtrip:Pichavaram > Tranquebar > Velankanni > Point Calimere > Thanjavu

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Nice t'log here. What are the main attractions in Pichavaram other than the lake?

And is point Calimere well-guarded? It looks deserted.

Can you reach the beach at Calimere? And any special places to visit on the way to Point Calimere?
D4D - In Pichavaram, you can take a longer trip that also goes to the beach beyond the mangroves. Apart from that there is nothing.

The entrance to Point Calimere sanctuary has forest guards and It isnt too big (totally it is 21 square kilometers). I felt pretty safe inside.


Whether there is anything special on the way to point calimere,it really depends on where you are starting from. All the places I have mentioned is between Chidambaram and Point Calimere. Personally, I liked the road after we diverged from ECR at Velankanni mainly because there was very little traffic, and the salt plains looked nice.
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Old 21st May 2014, 16:38   #10
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Default Re: Long weekend mini-road trip Pichavaram>Tranquebar>Velankanni>Point Calimere>Thanj

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Ampere,

That is an interesting point and I missed it in the travelogue. Google maps tells us to go via Veppur and thats what I took after exiting the 4 lane at V Koot road. The stretch is single lane and not in excellent condition. I crossed V Koot at around 5:30 P.M and as the night started, the lights coming from the opposite side were blinding. I felt later that I should have taken Ulundurpet/Vridhachalam. That stretch took me around 2 hours.

I took the Vridhachalam bypass instead of going through the town. The road is good, but there were no markings, and it looks like it has recently opened even before completion.
Is the V koot road leading to Vriddachalam by pass bad?? This is supposed to be a NH as per google maps.
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Old 21st May 2014, 17:20   #11
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Default Re: Long weekend mini-road trip Pichavaram>Tranquebar>Velankanni>Point Calimere>Thanj

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Is the V koot road leading to Vriddachalam by pass bad?? This is supposed to be a NH as per google maps.
Just looked up NHAI (http://www.nhai.org/doc/23june12/nh_nh%20wise.pdf). Apparently it is National Highway 532. But starting from V Koot road, it is single carriageway and not in the best condition.
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Old 22nd May 2014, 07:58   #12
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Default Re: Long weekend mini-road trip Pichavaram>Tranquebar>Velankanni>Point Calimere>Thanj

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Just looked up NHAI (http://www.nhai.org/doc/23june12/nh_nh%20wise.pdf). Apparently it is National Highway 532. But starting from V Koot road, it is single carriageway and not in the best condition.
It cant be still Salem as mentioned because at V Koot Road it merges into NH68 (the 4-lane). It was earlier a SH. Looks like it has recently been made a NH.
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Old 5th January 2015, 12:27   #13
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Default Re: Weekend Roadtrip: Pichavaram > Tranquebar > Velankanni > Point Calimere > Thanjavur

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Pichavaram
Thanks for the travelogue robby. I am planning a trip from Bangalore to Chidambaram, Vaitheeswaran Kovil, Pichavaram, Pondicherry and back.

I had traveled from Bangalore to Vaitheswaran Kovil in early 2012 and had driven via Salem > Virudhachalam Bypass > Bhuvanagiri > Chidambaram > Vaitheeswaran Kovil. The roads were good except for a small stretch between Bhuvanagiri & Chidambaram. Can you provide details on the state of roads in the above stretch?

Plan is to reach Vaitheeswaran Kovil by 5 pm and visit the temple in the evening. Stay overnight and leave early morning to Chidambaram. Visit the temple and then head to Pichavaram. Plan to reach pichavaram before 11 am and go for the boat ride.

Next stage is to head to pondicherry after lunch near Pichavaram. Any good place to grab a bite around Pichavaram?
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Old 5th January 2015, 17:49   #14
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Default Re: Weekend Roadtrip: Pichavaram > Tranquebar > Velankanni > Point Calimere > Thanjavur

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I had traveled from Bangalore to Vaitheswaran Kovil in early 2012 and had driven via Salem > Virudhachalam Bypass > Bhuvanagiri > Chidambaram > Vaitheeswaran Kovil. The roads were good except for a small stretch between Bhuvanagiri & Chidambaram. Can you provide details on the state of roads in the above stretch?
Hi procrj , The roads are good four lane double carriage till V Koot road. From there you can continue till Ulundurpet on the same good road but I am not sure of road conditions after that. I exited at V Koot road and went via virudhachalam. The road was a bit broken, but more than that, I travelled in the night and there was local traffic that were always on high beam that slowed me down. Since you are going in the day time, you shoudln't have much of a problem.

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Next stage is to head to pondicherry after lunch near Pichavaram. Any good place to grab a bite around Pichavaram?
There is nothing near Pichavaram. There is a TTDC restaurant there, but it didnt look very clean and we decided to go back to Chidambaram to have lunch.
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Old 5th January 2015, 18:14   #15
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Default Re: Weekend Roadtrip: Pichavaram > Tranquebar > Velankanni > Point Calimere > Thanjavur

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Hi procrj , The roads are good four lane double carriage till V Koot road. From there you can continue till Ulundurpet on the same good road but I am not sure of road conditions after that. I exited at V Koot road and went via virudhachalam. The road was a bit broken, but more than that, I travelled in the night and there was local traffic that were always on high beam that slowed me down. Since you are going in the day time, you shoudln't have much of a problem.



There is nothing near Pichavaram. There is a TTDC restaurant there, but it didnt look very clean and we decided to go back to Chidambaram to have lunch.
Do not take the V koot road to go to Vriddhachalam. The road is broken at many places. I used this road to go to Kumbakonam 2 weeks back. As you near Vriddhachalam by pass the road gets even worse.

Last edited by suresh_gs : 5th January 2015 at 18:15.
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