At Adam’s bridge 15 km of fast flowing shallow water (1-10m deep) separates India from Sri Lanka. There was once a ferry connecting Rameswaram to northern Sri Lanka but now all travellers must fly. Or excellent road is part of a long term plan to build a bridge.
Again, we read in the paper that “ custom sleuths” have captured drug traders, this time from Sri Lanka ( sadly we read that 75% of Punjabi families have a member addicted to opiates, also 7 tigers have been killed in shares by villagers protecting their livestock in Bandipur park). An Indian on a motorbike noticed us and informed a cyclist ahead. Unlike the rest of Asia, touring cyclists are rare, so he waited, and we joined him for a couple of days. At 23 Warde has cycled from his home town in Belgium to Oman before flying to Sri Lanka, then India. Plucky!
On quiet roads we delight to see so many eagles, kingfishers, flamingos, peacocks, and striking cobalt blue bird whose name I cannot find. Development has started in this wild landscape, old people chopping wood to make charcoal, and the industrial scale wrenching crunch of diggers removing acacia trees for farming and settlement. SE India will look different within 5 years, but right now there little traffic and always something interesting to look at.
Horns have a spectrum of meaning from notice me /acknowledge me to I’m undertaking/ overtaking or I’m cutting across in front of you. On a quiet stretch of road two buses in front and one behind were blasting their horns at each other almost continuously. But then it dawned, they were blasting at me ‘Get off the road or we will kill you’. I stopped, and a bus skimmed by, whisper close, swerving to avoid the two ahead. Then silence, and I realised I was holding my breath!
What were the chances of three buses meeting me on a narrow section of an otherwise empty road? It’s too easy to become blasé on Indian roads. My new song to keep me alert is “ Oh, oh, oh, oh, Staying Alive, Staying Alive….”
Rameshwaram town is mentioned in the epic ancient Hindu poem Ramayana. In the poem Rama ( the reincarnation of the god Vishnu, the protector – the blue god with four arms), worships his perfect wife Shiva. The demon god Ravana of Lanka (the one with 10 heads and 20 arms to represent his many disguises) abducts Sita. So there is a big trip to Lanka with a monkey army, crossing the boulders peppering the sea between Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka at Adam’s bridge to successfully rescue Sita. But it never seems to work out well for women! Poor Sita must pass a virtue test by fire and in many versions of the tale she is exiled and swallowed by mother earth.
No cameras are allowed inside the colourful temple: it is very peaceful, calming, as we walk along tall covered corridors and stop to watch the pilgrims receive small silver pails of water poured over their heads from each of the temple’s sacred tanks. The pilgrims also bathe in the sea, sharing the beach with wandering cows and goats. The water is not inviting – we swim at Adam’s bridge. Swamis (Hindu teachers) recite mantras sitting next to lingams. These are the phallic stones, sprinkled with flowers that represent the god Shiva, the god of creation, destruction and reincarnation ( the transformer). Usually lingams sit in a dish called a Yoni, representing female genitalia so that together they are the source of creation. It’s all very atmospheric. Again we are the only westerners.