Shooting for Zee Zest’s latest offering, Highway Dreams, brought alive tens and hundreds of stories for Rakesh Raghunathan, a food historian, raconteur, and TV host. He heard them during his road trip across Tamil Nadu, driving through some of the state’s most scenic highways; relished them at highway restaurants; and soaked them in when on the road as the host of Highway Dreams.
Highways are points where people, their culture, their food, and so much more converge. Instead of the popular tourist attractions, the real, inspiring stories were discovered in far-flung corners, quaint towns, and vibrant beaches and farms of Tamil Nadu.
Of those many amazing stories and experiences, there are a few that will always stay with Rakesh. The TV host and food historian relives some of those memories during a candid conversation with us. Read all about them here, and watch them come alive on Highway Dreams, only on Zee Zest.
Read edited excerpts below:
Bird watching at the Therthangal Bird Sanctuary
Declared a bird sanctuary by the Tamil Nadu government in 2011, the Therthangal Tank area in the Ramanathapuram district is home to myriad species of birds, especially migratory. It attracts many bird watching, birding, and nature enthusiasts every year, courtesy the breathtaking views of the sanctuary, live coral reefs, and the feathered friends and creatures who call Therthangal their home.
Rakesh tried his hands at bird photography and witnessed the live coral reefs. Ask him about his experience and he said: “It was completely different. I’ve seen migratory birds in Chennai at a place called Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary but this village [Therthangal] is something else.”
“The villagers help the birds. It features a manmade lake for the birds, and they [the villagers and forest officers] ensure that activities such as too much honking and firecracker bursting don’t take place in this area. In fact, during our shoot, someone accidentally pressed the horn, and they immediately came and told us not to blow the horn because it’s their nesting period,” mentioned Rakesh, while talking about how much the locals care for the birds and animals of Therthangal.
Learning about tigers at Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve
Located in the Erode district of Tamil Nadu, the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve is one of the most significant ecosystems and wildlife destinations in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. This is the place where the awe-inspiring western ghats of India meet the eastern ones.
Rakesh, the host of Zee Zest’s Highway Dreams, visited the nature reserve to witness one of India’s big five, the tigers, and understand what the forest officers do to protect the creatures of the jungle and track them.
“Every place/frame that you turn to at Sathyamangalam had the most amazing and picturesque view – there was water, mountains and greenery. Also, the coming together of the eastern and western ghats. What I particularly enjoyed was learning about the work our forest officers do to avoid poaching and keep the animals out of danger,” he explained.
Candid conversations, surfing and more in Kovalam
One of the biggest highlights of Rakesh’s experience on Highway Dreams was the meeting with Arun Vasu, a passionate entrepreneur and philanthropist. He engaged in a candid chat with Vasu and learned about how his passion for water sports transformed an entire village.
“He has adopted an entire fishing village in Kovalam (Covelong) and is giving opportunities to the fisherman community, not just at the fishing bed but also beyond,” Rakesh told us. He added, “He [Vasu] set up a surfing school out there that is operated entirely by the locals, which I found very empowering for the community.”
Rakesh took surfing lessons during sunset hours at the beach in Kovalam and then camped along the shore that night. Watch the Highway Dreams host soak in the overall experience and cook a fresh catch with his trainer at the Kovalam Beach on zeezest.com.