The day dawned bright and sunny – albeit with a bang ! It was the day of Diwali and people had burst crackers throughout the night. It had only become louder with daybreak !
My kids were up and about and ready to add to the noise and air pollution ! After a few minutes with the sparklers and flower pots and some other formalities associated with the festival, we embarked on our day trip to Pichavaram at about 9.30 in the morning.
It had been ages since I took the road south of Pondicherry. With all the heavy rains I doubted if it would be an easy drive. But alas ! The roads were very smooth and free of potholes. My Maruti Alto just slipped along the black tar effortlessly. The landscape quickly changed to rural theme and it alternated between paddy fields, small streams, back waters and small villages.
The river Vellar had a good flow owing to the recent rains. The delicate Naanal plants in the water were gently swaying to the breeze. Naanal or Hardy Sugar Cane grass ( botanical name Saccharum arundinaceum – thanks Google !!) is a perennial grass that grows on the river banks.These shy and fragile plants are known to withstand even the severest of the storms. The melodious tamil song ‘Nadhiyoram naanal ondru naanam kondu naatiyam aadudhu mella’ echoed in my mind while admiring this scene. We stopped by the riverside to click some pictures.
I was enjoying the drive on the newly laid ECR stretch between Cuddalore and Chidambaram. The breeze from the open car window, the sound of kids and the melodious music wafting out the car stereo made me forget the purpose of this drive and I missed the exit to Pichavaram ! After overshooting a good 4 to 5 kms nearer to Chidambaram town and asking for directions, we made a U-turn and drove in search of Pichavaram.
A big sign board pointed in the direction of Pichavaram. The smooth highway had given way to a worn-out mud road. There were villages and a small railway station, Killai, along the way. It was a 10km drive down these roads till a gated entrance to the boat house.The boat house itself was a simple concrete structure with a ticket counter and a dock. We had made it to our destination in an hour-and-a-half. The time was 11.00 am and the sun was shining bright.
A board listed the various boating options and their rates. We chose to take the row boat to the beach for 3 adults and 2 children. Four hours of boating at a nominal rate of `800 was not bad, or so I thought till I got into the boat ! We were given life-jackets and after some resistance the kids too wore the oversized jackets. The boatman was ready with our boat and the kids literally dived into the boat with joy. After we were seated comfortably he started rowing.
Within a couple of minutes into the backwaters the boatman was giving us information about the area. He also said that paying another `800 would take us through the forest area in the mangroves where quite a number of movie shoots happen; the latest one being ‘Dasavatharam’. After some initial hesitation on our part and some enticement by the boatman by extolling the beauty of the forested area, we gave in. He on his part magnanimously agreed to reduce the rate to `400 !
The boatman now swerved the boat towards the thick mangroves…
Stay tuned for Part 2 !!