Pulicat lake or Pazhaverkadu as it is called in Tamizh, was one place where I wanted to go so badly. And finally, on one Saturday, I declared, “Tomo, I’m going there”. My mom said that she would love to come as well. Why not, the more the merrier. Next day, early morning, we took off at about 7:30. From Chennai, Pulicat cannot be reached in a single stroke. A couple of breaks are necessary, if public mode of transport is opted for.
It was 11 by the time, we reached Pulicat. An important tip here, the local people do not relate to Pulicat, do if you’re asking the locals for direction, refer to the place as Pazhaverkadu, not Pulicat. As soon as we reached the first thing I spotted was the Dutch Cemetry.
Just as the name suggests, the Dutch Cemetry was created by the Dutch indeed. During the colonial period, though a major part of India was under British Raj, there were some places which were under French, Portuguese, Dutch etc. And this part of India, in and around Pulicat were under the Dutch Rule. So out of the several things, left behind by them, the Cemetry holds a great importance.
Presently this place is under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The gate was closed and locked. So we enquired the nearby shop about the whereabouts of the key and surprisingly it was with him. The door was opened for us esp, and we went in.
The gateway was an arch and on either sides was a pillar with a skeletal shaped relief. Inside there were a few large domes and several engraved plates and head stones.
Any Dutch here to translate these? Or any present Dutch people, who are planning to visit here, whose grandparents or great grandparents rest in peace here?
Soon, we came out of there and headed to the lake right ahead of us. A boatsman came to us, with a proposal to go the islands in the locality and a beach on the other side of the island. Ofcourse, we had to bargain. The prices are anywhere from 450 bucks to anything upwards. The price varies with the number of people, and the age-group. For a gang of friends its higher than family, even if the number of people might be the same, coz they might booze and go out of control. The cost given, is not just for the boat, but also the risk taken by the boatsman. For higher number of people, he’s accompanied by an assistant. In case of any mishappening, it is he who rushes first to help out the people and save them.
Soon we headed off to the sea in our boat. We were given an option of having or not having a life jacket. Another tip here, go for it. Yes, the boatsmen here, do not give the option immediately. It’s given only when asked for. It was Rs.30 per piece. But it’s definitely worth it, than to risk your life.
From there, we boarded the boat and took off to our first stop. Or rather, we diverted a bit to check out Annamalaicheri. This place can be reached on road, from a few stops ahead of Pazhaverkadu, but much after Ponneri. Better still, it can be reached on boat. So why to reach there? For a visual delight, might be an apt answer. This is the very place where heck a number of birds come over on migration. We didn’t plan to visit Annamalaicheri, as this would be a very wrong season to venture there. We thought of coming here, just to visit the birds, once again in season (November-February).
However, our dear Ilayaraja, the boatsman, was nice enough to show us a teaser of the place. We just checked out the starting point of Annamalaicheri. Just there at the starting point itself, in an absolute off season, I was lucky enough to spot a couple of flamingos, a few painted storks some pelicans, several cormorants and darters. Awesome! I was lucky, I must say...
Any guess what this construction is? Any wild guesses? This is the toll gate where the Dutch collected taxes for the incoming ships.
Then we diverted to check out our first stoppage. The island beach. This was on the other side of the island, and the sweet Mr.Ilayaraja offered to accompany us there.
I’ll stop here for a break. Part 2 is coming soon...
TO GET THERE:
From Chennai – Koyembedu to Redhills (18.5km) to Ponneri (20km) to Pulicat (18.5km).
From Bangalore – Bangalore to Kolar (67km) to Chittoor (112km) to Puttur (67km) to Ponneri (85km) to Pulicat (18.5km)
The Government’s Forest Guest House is available at Pulicat. But it has to be reserved in advance from the Wildlife Warden in Chennai or Bangalore.
Several small to medium end hotels are available at Ponneri & Red Hills.
Contact of Wildlife Warden, Chennai: +91 44 2432 1471
Contact of Boatsman /Fisherman Mr.Ilayaraja: +91 98425 86363 / +91 89397 24227
Contact of Keyholder of Dutch Cemetry Mr.Hussain: +91 97868 67210
Season for Bird Watch: October to February