A Fossil Expedition and Capers in a Cave

The 12 seater van was speeding past GST road and the music was blaring from Valanteena’s phone, our designated DJ for the day, via the Bluetooth. The girls were all on their feet and dancing away. After several songs, UNO games and Charades we arrived at The National Wood Fossil Park, Thiruvakkarai. The place is about 15 kms from Mailam and about 28 kms from Tindivanam. Google maps was accurate. The van stopped at the large gate which was locked, thankfully the smaller gate was open. As we all trooped in, we realized that there was absolutely nobody in sight. 8 of us from LBN stood there staring at the wood fossils approximately 20 million years old! There were fossil tree stumps which looked like trees but actually had become rocks over the passage of time. The place was so serene and peaceful. A large banyan tree occupied a large part of the enclosure. The bilingual sign at the entrance said that this park is actually 247 acres wide housing more than 200 fossilized trees. The trees have been brought in by floods which happened millions of years ago and were deposited in river beds along with other sediments.  The buried trees became petrified. Petrified wood is formed by the invasion of minerals into cavities between and within cells of natural wood. The park is maintained by the Geological Survey of India. While we were taking in the sights and doing selfies, a gentleman entered the premises.

He opened the little office and took his seat. Talking to the official, a man of few words, we learned about some nearby caves that promised adventure. Armed with nothing but enthusiasm and bottles of water, we embarked on what we hoped would be a thrilling expedition. The sun beat down on us like a relentless game show host, making us question our life choices and the wisdom of venturing out on a 3 km trek in the sun. But with the promise of caves awaiting us, we pushed on, fueled by the prospect of discovering something truly remarkable—or at least getting some killer Instagram shots. The caves were called Laila Odai ஓடை  by the locals (the flower seller at the Thiruvakkarai Vakra Kaliamman temple educated us a bit on this)

A young woman obviously herding goats was nearby. Her directions were perfect. Desigan was in the lead and we all trooped behind through rough terrain, a ஒத்தையடி பாதை bracing ourselves for a 3 km trek. We joked, “This Laila Odai better be good!” But we were lucky. Aatukaara Alamelu, like a mirage in a desert had showed us a shortcut. Just after a 20 min trek, Desigan shouted, “It’s here!” We all cheered loudly eager to see the cave!

The terrain was uneven and rocky. We ventured inside in a single file with our wits and a handful of questionable jokes to ward off any lurking cave-dwelling creatures. The path was quite narrow. The floor of the cave was sandy. As we went deeper and deeper inside, we realized that there was absolutely nobody else there except us. I was mildly anxious but the team was in high spirits. Pics and Selfies were taken in rapid succession. Veera and Michael lingered to help the girls while Desigan, Kowsalya (a braveheart who knows to climb palm trees!)  and Kumaresan moved on wading through ankle deep water. At one point we had to crawl on fours. Next it became knee deep and thigh deep water. Except for Divya and me (we didn’t want to go any further) the others bravely went on. They stopped at a spot where the waters became murky and muddy and took a democratic decision to to turn back.


It was a great adventure and none of us had ever seen any caves like these before. We climbed on to rocks which had the view of the river cave below. It was a great sight to see. We were wary though of not going too close to the edge.

The mood was upbeat. Divya and Valanteena wanted to do some Insta reels as the location was perfect with green fields on one side and reddish rocks on the other. So reels shooting began! Another team, probably Geology research students went into the cave to study.

We started our trek back to the van triumphantly. On the way back I thanked Aatukaara Alamelu. I asked her whether many people visit these caves…She said, “ஆமாம் அக்கா. நெறைய பேர் வருவாங்க. என்னதான் இருக்கோ அங்கே பார்க்க! Yes, lots of people come and I wonder what they all see in there!”

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