Earth Sublime

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Enjoy a quiet holiday at Pulicat

Around 60 kms from Chennai is a small slice of heaven called Pulicat, although the locals call it by another name - Palaverkad. It is one of the many fishing villages that dot the coastline and it boasts of a lagoon, a bird sanctuary and many monuments of historical importance.

There were many colonial powers like the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English that set foot on this place, centuries ago. As we enter the village, the first thing that we notice is the Dutch cemetery and the bizarre tombstones lead us to think that we have stumbled onto the site of the Incas or the Mayas! On both the sides of the cemetery gates, we could see a skeleton carved on it with the figure of the skull glaring at us from the centre.

The topography of Pulicat is remarkable; running parallel to the Bay of Bengal is the 18,440-hectare lagoon with small tracts of land scattered here and there. The only way to get around the place is by boat. So, we hired a boat and with a boatman in tow, we headed out into the waters of the Pulicat lagoon.

The boat went at a languid pace, giving us enough time to soak in the beauty of the surroundings. The greenish waters of the lagoon seemed as if to smile upon us. Some distance away we could see the lighthouse and the casuarina groves. Lending a dash of colour to the place were the blue sails of a boat which sailed away helped by the strong winds. The catamarans, which might appear just as logs of wood, seem perfect for a ride here. In fact, many of the folk here move around in them, carrying along their load of fish. On a thin strip of land, we noticed a few pelicans resting. The entire place was rife with sea gulls, terns and many other birds found on the coasts.

In the midst of the waters of the lagoon, there are small tracts of land (land ahoy!). One can embark here and relax a bit. We noticed that the locals had tried to build a fire; probably roasted their catch and fresh at that. After pottering around a bit, we were back on the lagoon. Many boats passed us by and we received a few friendly waves.

As we went on our tour of the lagoon, we were curious as to the activity that was taking place on a great big mass of land – lots and lots of the fishing folk cleaning their catch and sorting it and perhaps grading it. It turned out that it was the beach! In fact, this piece of land separates the lagoon from the sea. We also noticed something curious – at a particular point the waves of the sea seemed to be meeting the waters of the lagoon. Interlocking his fingers together, our boatman explained that there is some `connection’! Actually, every six hours, the waters from the lagoon merge with the sea and vice versa.

Adjoining the lagoon is another huge tract of land on which rests a dense forest which is off limits to tourists.

A few kilometers away from the lagoon are marshy tracts of land which attract birds in large numbers, a veritable treat for the bird lover. Maintaining a safe distance were flamingoes (pink and black), pelicans, waders, cormorants, herons and spoonbills. Along with a few village folk, we waded into the marsh-like land to view the birds closely. Squelch, squelch went our feet – a good mud therapy for the feet!

So, the next time you want to enjoy a quiet and peaceful holiday, Pulicat is the place to be.

1.How to get there: One can take the local train from the Central Station to a small town called Ponneri. From here, one can take a bus to reach Pulicat. In case you have your own vehicle, you can hit the Nellore highway and take a right at Poonchetty. From here, Pulicat is 20 kms away.
2. Place to eat: There are no hotels here. It is advisable to carry food and water along.
3. Distance from Chennai: Around 60 kms.


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