The Journey one embarks upon is the call of introspection into ones’ soul; the destination is hardly what he is searching for actually. The truth in these words is reverberated only through its essence, the embarkation. We often neglect the journey and the experiences it offers in lieu of those a destination might offer. A journey could mean absolutely everything; the journey of meditation, the journey of relations and the journey in its truest form; travel. A family of three, we seldom get time to rejuvenate ourselves together. My father, being a Seafarer for almost five decades often complains that his travels have never been pleasure oriented. My mother, an ex-professor at chemistry and often the sailing companion to my father suggests that other modes of travel have always been left out. That leads the equation to me, an auto enthusiast with tonnes and tonnes of eagerness to live the life of an absolute wanderlust. It all lead to just one constant answer; Embarking upon a trip, our family had witnessed never before. An impending task that lay before us was to genuinely look at viable options to visit. I take pride in calling myself “Torquebug” I persistently kept springing in various trips that involved immense road travel. Impossible! Was what my parents could only exclaim. Having taken couple of road trips, the idea still seemed pretty hectic, tiresome and scary to say the least. Before we move ahead, let me reveal what my suggestion actually was. Excuse me to be crude and brief. Time Line: September 15, 2015 – October 03, 2015. Option 1. Route-Plan: Mumbai-Indore-Omkareshwar-Mahakaleshwar-Agra-Delhi-Haridwar-Devprayag-Delhi-Udaipur-Mumbai. Option 2 Route-Plan: Mumbai-Banglore-Pondicherry-Rameshwaram-Kanyakumari-Ashtamudi-Munnar-Magnlore-Mumbai. It was almost impossible to convince my parents that such a trip was not impossible but simply exhilarating and something of a once in a life time chance. The only person who could help my cause was The HiVayKing (www.Hivaking.in). To those who are still in loss of recognition of this great personality here is his legacy (https://www.facebook.com/groups/hvkumar/). Mr. Kumar (Hereinafter referred to as Chief) easily convinced that with a vehicle like The Fiat Linea Tjet (http://www.fiat-india.com/newlinea/) either of these trips would be a breeze and definitely of fresh air! With lots of discussions and deliberations and multiple references with Chief we settled to take the trip down south. Chief’s impeccable planning had enveloped almost all of what one would want to see. Following was the route that was laid before us Mumbai (MH) - Bangalore (KA) - Tirupati/Tirumala (AP) – Madurai (TN) - Rameshwaram (TN) – Poovar (KL)[base] - Kanyakumari (TN) – Alleppey (KL) - Munnar (KL) - Valparai(TN) - Athirapally Falls (KL) - Guruvayoor (KL) - Nileswara (KL) - Bekal (KL) - Manglore (KA) - Udupi (KA) – Jog Falls (KA) - Murudeshwar (KA) - Kumta (KA) - Mumbai(MH) A superficial supervision of this route easily explains why I named this travelogue as Dakhsinaayan. Well, to be specefic, Dakshinaayan is the Apparent Migration/Movement of the Sun towards the South. (Details: http://www.polaris.iastate.edu/NorthStar/Unit4/unit4_sub1.htm||http://astrobix.com/astrosight/202-Uttarayan_and_Dakshinayan.html). Entering, passing and almost residing in about five states (Read all states of Southern India) and Eighteen destinations this trip seemed nothing less than our migration to the south. Post the decision on the routes and dates, another task that needed flawless completion was arranging accommodation for all these destinations. No matter how much of wanderlust I may possess, neither my parents nor I would be remotely comfortable finishing everyday routines in the open amidst nature. Nomadic was scarcely our theme of our travel, honestly. It was pretty obvious with such insane driving sessions comfort and convenience in terms of beddings and sanitation was at least what we would ask for. Here came the CHD, Central Hotel Desk, Chief’s very own team arranging budget hotels on real time requests. Instructions by team CHD were that hotels would be booked according to our progress towards the destination and I quote, “No Show is a sin”. Harsh the words may seem, but honestly, it was only a tenth of commitment that was expected from us as against what team CHD committed. The excitement was so intense each of us started our preparations for the upcoming road extravaganza. The Fiat Linea Tjet was serviced and ready, a car DVR purchased and ready to record the tarmac up ahead. Being Gujratis, food holds much of a special place in our plans, so we stocked up handsomely with it. Chief, on his side, collected all vital information and created an Instant Messaging (WhatsApp) Group for a live dialogue, updates and guidance throughout the trip. Such perfection definitely instilled much of the needed confidence in us. Departure day closed in and the anticipation for the longest trip ever embarked via road by the Buchs reached a hysterical zenith. Bang! D-Day morning at 0500hrs we’re all set and we rolled onto the Epic Road trip hardly thanking Chief and his team enough to make this possible. The first leg of the journey was the longest one and honestly the most dreaded one too. Looking back it all seems puny cribbing but on D-day it ran a chill up our spine. Mumbai (MH), via the Yashwantrao Chavan Mumbai-Pune Expressway and NH4 Pune – Satara – Kolhapur – Nippani – Dharwad – Davangeree – Tumkur – Banglore, from our gates is about 993 kms. Mentally we had to prepare ourselves for a 15:00 hour drive time and physically, in fact, much more. Bangalore traffic snarls are pretty reputed to disrupt schedules. Our first section of this long distance went pretty well and we reached Satara and Kolhapur according to our speculations during Lunch time. We stopped to have sumptuous food at Sai International right before the Karnataka Border at about 14:00 hours. Presumably, we began to expect arrival Bangalore by 20:00 hours. We realised how grossly one can go wrong. Entering the Nice Ring Road around Bangalore at 22:55 hours, we are, to date, trying to figure out where the delay cramped in. Post trip discussions, Chief did comment, till Kolhapur – Nippani you were fine! What caused the unexpected delay then?! Honestly, we have no answer to that. All we can do to communicate and express our plight is that almost for three full hours we felt Bangalore was still 500 kms away. Arrival Bangalore is another trip to the gates of insanity. For a person who is driving there first time, being intertwined into unnecessary roads and lanes and by-lanes is not uncommon. Had it not been for chief’s guidance, I am afraid I wouldn’t have made it out of Bangalore in civilized time. At 23:30 hours we were welcomed to our first CHD property, Nisargha Service Apartments. It was absolutely what we needed. The comfortable sleep that night was more due to the triumphant drive rather than tiredness. The next day in Bangalore, I needed to visit Fiat’s Authorized Service Station (Hereinafter referred to as FASS) as I was facing a problem with the wiper washer. In a city where I hardly knew anyone, I looked to seek advice from a friend and fellow Fiatian, Mr. Rengarajan Balasundaram. He quickly got me connected to Vecto Motor’s Works Manager, Mr. Channa Basappa. The solution was quick and the complementary wash was appreciated. It made me proud to have an answer to all those who question Fiat’s credentials. Looking back at the trip now, it seems as if it was also to prove how robust and fulfilling a Fiat vehicle can be. With all issues sorted, we were back to gearing up for the next destination, Tirupati. On September 17, 2015, we departed towards the Devsthanam. The pilgrimage to the Balaji temple of Tirupati is considered to be most fruit bearing and benefitting. Our day began by departing from BTM Layout in Banglore, via K.R. Puram, the Old Madras Road and Palmaner Chitoor road that leads to Tirupati and further to Tirumala. Having booked online we were already given a timeline to enter the temple complex. With all due respect, the temple seems to offer a list of various facilities, but they are hardly facilitative, in my honest point of view. Again, for a first timer who drives in there are boards of where to go but not how much to go. Apart from being ransacked at the check post to scan through the luggage the guards there offer no help to re stow the luggage. Idly pondering around rather than quickening the process. The roads to Tirumala are beautiful. Fifty-two bends is what I counted and each bend offered a scenic view to compete the previous one, we entered the main complex. Lost in where to park and where to proceed, it became almost a tiring effort, to eventually enter the reporting area. A unique compulsion to dawn the traditional dhoti was although an enterprising experience but an unnecessary formality. Since childhood, I have been taught, God is the most forgiving and benevolent power and his blessing do not depend on materialistic factors but pure hearts and souls therefore this compulsion only made me disappointed in the enforcing of “religious” factors rather than spiritual. Later only did I realise that it was something throughout my Southern trip I would have to endure. The experience for Tirupati was a mixed bag and I’d leave it to that. Towards the end of the darshanam we were pretty exhausted and hungry and decided to skip other famous temples, Padmavati and another, for a later time. Chief directed us to another CHD property which was just the right topping on the cake we would wish for. The PLR Kandy hotel was available with a very comfortable bed and lip smacking food. Our day post 17:00 hours was only recovering lost fluids and cashing on rest. Madurai, the temple city, was our next destination that we had to set our eyes on. Before we embarked upon this trip, there were certain decisions that we mutually decided on and the first being of those being that night driving was a strict restriction. Unfortunately, both arrivals to Bangalore and Madurai were well into the night. Arriving at our first Tamilian destination, Madurai, via NH45B Chitoor-Vellore-Perambalur-Tiruchirapalli-Dindigui, the city came as an absolute shock. Chief had warned us about the congestion and tried to route us as much further away from it as possible but the tip of the iceberg still nicked us. The CHD property was in one of the smallest lanes I have ever driven in and there was nothing to complain because most of Madurai was small lanes! One of the most excruciating parts that we witnessed while travelling to Madurai, our vehicle’s Right Side Outside Rear View Mirror (ORVM) lens decided to simply fly off! Navigating without it made me largely handicapped and parking without it in the lanes of Madurai an even scarier nightmare. Looking at the ordeal, the night’s experience was really beginning to worry us, only the staff of Kaveri Mahal who were immensely courteous and warm helped to reduce the anxiety. Food was also a pleasant surprise, Sri Sabreez, a pure vegetarian outlet was a few blocks of walking distance from our CHD property. All in all the day closed to a pretty subtle closure. The next morning was the iconic Meenakshi Mandir darshan. True to its tourist identity there were guides and decent facilities which we availed of too. The temple architecture is brilliant and the stories surrounding it were simply intriguing. After a quick round of darshan and totting around we walked back to our hotel. Bang! The first assault on the Linea, the narrow lanes of Madurai, incessant undisciplined traffic, absolute recipe for a crunch. A scaffolding of bamboo that was at the mouth of the lane of our hotel came excruciatingly close and left a mile long scratch from the rear door through the quarter panel and into the bumper on the rear left. Nothing, nothing apart from taking it in the stride could be done. It wasn’t anyone’s fault just sheer Madurai regularities. All in all, not a casualty but still a knife in the heart feeling that came along with me all the way. The next stop was another FASS to replace the ORVM lens. Forza Italia, the authorized service center was more than quick to respond to it. Meanwhile chief had already plotted the route to Rameshwaram from our interim destination. The route to Rameshwaram was well layed out both in the R-plan and via text that was provided by Chief but somewhere in our lapsed concentration we tracked off onto the wrong road. Our original route was Madurai Rameshwaram Highway towards Paramkudi and then Ramanathapuram, to take the easier route out of Madurai Chief had suggested heading towards Thootikudy and then taking the cut off to Rameshwaram. Somehow we overshot and proceeded towards Thootikudy. A quick recalibration of routes and we were back on track. Going through meadows and the country lanes of Tamil Nadu was unique pleasing and blazing all at once. The ambient temperature throughout this drive was about 38 Degree Celsius. Once we passed Paramkudi we stopped for lunch at a very rustic and subtle establishment called Vijay Motels. Good food and cheap food. To cool off ourselves we gulped immense quantities of ice-creams of local make. If I recollect correctly it was Aditya Milk, excuse me if I’m mistaken. Ramanathapuram was a mid-sized city with commute friendly traffic. This was the last leg of the route to Rameshwaram’s famous Pamban Bridge. On this route, there was INS Parundu that we passed. There was much of road widening and resurfacing that was being carried out so there was slight delay. This road, Kochi-Dhanushkodi-Madurai-Rameshwaram Highway offered splendid scenic views and some very beautiful wild life sighting. Well, wild-life because it was not in the zoo. A flock of peacocks and few peahens were what caught our eyes. Sadly the rains had just passed us and we couldn’t witness the magnificence. Right before the Pamban Bridge the first sight of the seas came onto the right side. A small clearing that offered as a set up beach was an apt place to enjoy the evening sunset. After about half an hour we proceeded to the Royal Park Hotel at the Rameshwaram Check Post. Pamban Bridge was a sight which was both was enterprising and disappointing. Enterprising were the winds, the view, the passing train and disappointing was the disorganized manner in which the cars, bikes and even busses would randomly halt! Again, reaching Rameshwaram at about 20:30 night driving session was almost invoked. A quick dinner and an early night were on card since the following day was scheduled to be the longest day. Beginning right before the dawn cracked, we proceeded to the temple of Rameshwar, the swayambhu shiva linga. Opting for the first 05:30 hour’s mani-darshan our departure from the hotel was at 05:00 hours. Striding in our dhotis and saree we completed the mani-darshan and proceeded to the famous twenty-two springs’ bath. It is traditionally believed a person is washed of his sins if one has taken either a bath which signifies a dip in those springs of the twenty-two naturally occurring springs (tirthas) (details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramanathaswamy_Temple) there and leaving behind the clothes there. Completely drenched we quickly changed and finished the rest of the formalities. This in all its forms of darshans was one of the most spiritual experiences. Genuinely feeling being granted a life to reconstruct life anew we checked out of the hotel and we rushed to one of my most awaited destinations, Dhanushkodi. Our Hindu scripture, Ramayanaestablished that Lord Ram built a bridge, called RamSetu between the mainland Bharata (Now, India) and Lanka (Now, Sri Lanka), in order to bring his army (vanar sena) across to rescue his wife Lady Sita. After Ram won the war and crowned a new king of Lanka, Vibhishan, Ravan’s brother, requested Lord Ram to destroy the bridge. Lord Ram broke the bridge with one end of his bow. Hence, the name Dhanushkodi, the 'end of the bow'. It is also said that Lord Rama originally marked the spot for the bridge with one end of his famous bow that he strung to marry Lady Sita. The series of rocks and islets currently found in a line between India and Sri Lanka suggests there was indeed a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. With such a mystical story that surrounded it, Dhanuhkodi was topping the list places I wished to visit second only to Leh Ladakh and preceding only Kailash Mansarovar. The only unhappy part of Dhanushkodi was that we had to hire an All-Wheel-Drive vehicle to tackle this shifting continental shelf. A road is under construction to pave way for private road vehicles but it seemed quite a distant future. Dhanushkodi was a sight that left us mesmerizing. The delta of two different water bodies is nothing short of mind equals blown expressions. The calm Bay of Bengal and the unsettled Indian Ocean, their confluence was just addictive. Away from commercialized shores, upon paying a premium above the agreed sum of INR 1300/-, we stressed the driver to take us to the actual “kodi” or the Ramsethu point. I guess during the period of late September and early October, 11:00 hours is the best time. The tide is favourable and the distance that could be travelled on the shores is vast. On the return journey to tarred roads, we learned that Dhanushkodi was a highly habited city and on December 26th 1964 a deadly tsunami had deserted the town of its residents and constructions. The railway line that was laid during the era of the British was also destroyed. A small ruin of the previously existing railway station also portrays the same tale. Also near this railway station there stands a small rustic temple which lasted the full blow of the ’64 tsunami. This is the temple of the floating Lord Ram’s rocks. They are corals in basic substance but surprisingly these corals float while others around don’t. Science or not, standing there in the feet burning sun, it does seem intriguing. The priest of that temple also survived the tsunami as a child and thence onwards has been visited by celebrities and known personalities to hear his tale through. He also submits news paper cutouts and interviews to confirm the same. Another temple, the Kodhanda Ram Kovil, temple marks the place where Rama is said to have begun his journey to Lanka also is worth a visit. Hindu pilgrims usually bathe in the ocean here before completing the pilgrimage to Rameshwaram. The spot is considered a sacred confluence. In addition, it is said that pilgrimage to the holy city of Kashi in North India is not complete without also worshipping at Rameswaram, including the ritual bath at Dhanushkodi. All in all Dhanushkodi was an experience of a life time. Photographs can hardly convey what we witnessed firsthand. At 14:00 hours, although reluctantly, we left Rameshwaram and headed for another long drive to cross the state into Kerala to reach Poovar. The plus point was the plush rooms of the Club Mahindra Holiday Resorts that awaited us. Exiting Rameshwaram and merging into the East Coast Road and passing via Pudukottai – Tirunelveli – Panakudi – Nagercoil – Neyyantikkara – Poovar. The road offered amazing driving pleasures and beautiful views. There were plenty of Wind mills and mountain ranges that dot the horizon throughout the route. Undoubtedly the Eastern Coastal Road didn’t disappoint one bit. With the first major break in the journey coming in, Poovar was a welcome stop. With chances for us to catch up on sleep, reduce undue swelling on our feet and wash clothes, the Club Mahindra Resort was a pamper we needed the most only to be readied for the next leg of the trip. Though it seemed like a return journey up north towards our home it absolutely had so many surprises hidden away waiting to reveal themselves. --- Double Post Merged, Oct 19, 2015 --- A Few photos to express what we witnessed.