Following the Ramayana: Adam’s Bridge
Rameswaram is a town in the south east of Tamil Nadu with a spectacular temple and an important place in the ancient epic story the Ramayana. It is at the end of this island where it is written that a bridge was built by the ape army so that Lord Rama could go to Sri Lanka (only 30km away) and save is wife Sita from the evil Ravana. Whilst only the start of the bridge can be seen by the naked eye now, it is believed to have been used up until the 16th century.
My journey to Adam’s Bridge began in Rameswaram. From here it is about a 15km bus ride to the drop off point on the beach, past this point only 4WD vehicles can travel. Being not one to do things the easy way, instead of jumping into a share jeep for the rest of the 10km journey, I took off my shoes and starting walking bare foot paddling in the ocean.
It was a 35 degree day and there was no shade, but the beach was an endless stretch of pure white sand with no other soul in sight. It was simply the quietest, most isolated and cleanest place I have seen in India; pure bliss
For the next 10 kms I walked barefoot in the sand, letting the salt water wash over my calves and refresh them. To me, bathing my feet in the ocean is one of those experiences that can’t be measured in terms of the joy it brings. Wet sand squelching between my toes and the fun of running away from waves as the tide slowly edges its way further inland.
About 5 kms into the walk I past the town of Danushkhodi. This town was apparently washed away in a flood, all that remains are several broken buildings, some brick pillars in the ocean, an abandoned railway station and a few brave fisherman huts. It feels like a ghost town, and we stop to chat to the few remaining locals who point out the old railway station and church.
Continuing on it was now nearing the middle of the day and the sun was relentless. It must have been at least 35 degrees Celsius, and I can feel my ill prepared skin starting to burn. Its isolated, no other soul is in sight, but I still don’t feel brave enough to strip down to my underwear and dive into the ocean. So instead, in front of a lone statue of Hanuman I wander into the ocean fully dressed. The water is warm but still refreshing as the waves roll in around me. I put my head under and enjoy the crisp, cooling effect over my burning scalp.
The walk continues on, and slowly my clothes dry in the sun. In the distance it looks like I am approaching the end of the earth. I can see the sand ending, and the ocean before me, with the waves crashing against an imaginary wall at the horizon. As I approach it becomes apparent that there are small sandbars within the ocean. This is Adam’s Bridge.
Thought to be a man-built bridge, or as Ramayana legend has it, a bridge build by the ape army to enable Rama to walk to Sri Lanka. Now predominantly underwater, Adam’s Bridge stretches over 30 kms connecting India to Sri Lanka. To me it feels like I have reached the end of this vast country, with no other choice but to turn around and go back the way I came, unless I wanted to succumb to the will of the ocean.
So I turn around and start back along the beach the way I came. By now I am tired, the sun has burned my skin and I can feel dehydration setting in. Once I reach Dhanushkodi I sit down for a short while and decide I just can’t face the 5km walk ahead. One of the local stall owners suggests I wait for 20 minutes and a local van will go past and take me back to the bus stop. So I stop.
An hour later, still waiting for the elusive local van I start to panic. I have a train to Chennai this evening, and if the bus doesn’t arrive soon I won’t have enough time to walk back to town to make my train either. Then finally in the distance I can hear the stalled humming of a rusty van.
It stops in the distance and I run to meet it. Its not a van meant for people, but rather a cargo van carrying the fisherman’s catch of the day. The only room left is on the roof. I look up at the top of the van and start to panic, as I get older I find my fear of heights becoming more pronounced. How am I going to climb to the top and then sit on the roof of this van. I close my eyes and just find a way to make it to the top and into the middle of the roof so I am surrounded by other people and fish, away from the edge.
Its a muddy journey back along the sand and marshland, a couple of times we stall and it looks like the van may be stuck, but we make it out with little trouble. Eventually arriving at the bus stop, I am weary and burnt but also exhilarated from the day. It is so rare to have 5 minutes without seeing a soul in India, but to have almost an entire day is a luxury beyond words, coupled with the beauty and smell of the ocean. This journey to the end of the country could be the closest thing to my perfect day.