It was one of those random days, we were driving to work in our usual car pool, when our friend who was planning to visit his one-month old baby at his in-laws place in Parlakhemundi. We still don’t what led to what, suddenly, we were discussing the possibility of a road trip to Parlakhemundi. If you are wondering where Parlakhemundi is, well, it is a small town on the Andhra-Orissa border, some 800 kms from Hyderabad !
Initially, we dismissed it as one of our mindless talk but the idea kept cropping again and again until we decided to give in to our madness! As we began to plan for the trip, we realised that the proposed dates fell close to our first wedding anniversary and since we were anyway driving all the way to the Orissa border, we felt it was a great chance to fulfill our long time dream of visiting Bhuvaneshwar-Konark-Puri.
Before we knew it, we were off on our first long distance road trip in our friend’s Santro Zing ! Prior to this trip, the farthest we had gone by road was 450 kms to hometown Nellore. This trip was almost twice the distance and we were jittery but excited.
First ball – Googly !
We started our trip at 1 PM from Hyderabad. The idea was to reach Rajahmundry by 8 PM, stay at our ancestral home and leave for Parlakhemundi early next morning.
We did alright till Suryapet through heavy traffic though the road was not in a great condition. At Suryapet, we had a choice of taking the longer but better road to Rajahmundry via Vijayawada or the shorter route via Aswaraopet. We took the latter, the road has had a decent history and we wanted to save some time to have the famous roadside Bajjis at Rajahmundry.
The moment we set wheels on the State Highway 42 to Aswaraopet, we knew something was wrong. The road was pathetic, to say the least. In some places, you had to search for the road in between big potholes !! To make matters worse, by sunset time, there was a heavy downpour. So, we not only had to tackle potholes, we also had to drive through slush filled potholes.
Ditched at night !
Our woes continued through the night and reached their peak at 8.30 PM when while trying to escape a pothole, our car tyre landed in a ditch on the edge of the road ! It was raining heavily and we were stranded by the roadside with no village or town in sight anywhere. Our worst fears seemed to be coming true when we couldn’t reverse the car out of the ditch. As we began to lose hope, the boys decided to give one last try before calling for help. One of them lifted the car slightly, while the other reversed with full force and lo ! the car jumped out of the ditch !! We were too shaken to even celebrate !
It was 10.30 PM when we reached Rajahmundry, forget Bajjis, we couldn’t find anything to eat. After roaming around the city we finally found an eatery open and bought some Parotta and curry. We again roamed to find an internet cafe to take a print out of our train ticket for the next day to Bhuvaneshwar. We went to bed at 12 AM, after reaching home to our surprised grandfather, who had no clue what we were upto in Rajahmundry at that hour !!
On the suave NH5
We were back on the road by 3 AM the next morning. From Rajahmundry, we had no worries about the road because we were on one of the best and busiest highways in the country, NH5. It was raining heavily but it only added to the excitement of the drive. According to our plan, we were to reach Parlakhemundi, 364 kms away by 9 AM and then drive 40 kms to Palasa to catch a train to Bhuvaneshwar. Since our friend planned to stay back at Parlakhemundi, we did not want to risk taking his car on unknown roads to Bhuvaneshwar.
15 minutes later, we realised that we had forgotten the ticket print out at Rajahmundry ! This writer sulked for a while and when no one was willing to give a second look, went to sleep in the back seat, only to wake up an hour later to find the car parked in a petrol station and the other two laughing ! The reason – it seems the attender at the petrol pump got the shock of his life to find someone in the back seat wrapped in a blanket from head to toe and not moving !! In a foul mood for losing the ticket print out, this writer had gone to sleep wrapped like an Egyptian Mummy !!
Beauty all around !
The sun was just rising when we stopped for a hot cup of tea in a small village somewhere near Pendurthi. We took an alternative route without touching Vishakapatnam city. The NH5 passes right through the city and we wanted to avoid the city traffic. We were apprehensive of travelling on the less travelled roads after our previous night experience but were joyfully surprised to find the road in great condition.
The drive was through hills and forests, the landscape was unbelievably beautiful ! We never thought this part of Andhra Pradesh, close to Vizianagaram and Srikakulam was so rich in scenic beauty.
By 9.30 AM, we were driving near Parlakhemundi, the sign boards changed between Telugu and Oriya alternatively because while one village was in Andhra Pradesh, its neighbour would be in Orissa ! It was a moment of celebration when we crossed the border to Orissa, for this writer, it was the first time outside the border of South India !
Parlakhemundi, is technically in Orissa but most people who live there are from Andhra Pradesh. The town is exactly on the border between the two states. Located on the foot hills of the Eastern Ghats, the little town looks no less than a hill station. For its size, the town is pretty well developed. It is supposed to be a popular education center on either side of the state border.
We freshened up at our friend’s place and said a hello to the new little entrant to the gang. It was almost 10 AM and our train to Bhuvaneshwar was scheduled to leave from Palasa at 11.40 AM. We ran frantically to find an internet cafe to take a print out of the ticket, the town had not woken up yet and after several tense minutes, we found an internet cafe, got our prints and made a dash to Palasa in our friend’s car. It was past 10.30 AM and we were sure we would miss the train and hoped the train would be late.
The 40 km drive to Palasa was awesome, the weather was excellent and there was bright greenery all around. The road was good and we reached Palasa with 15 minutes in hand before our train Vasco Da Gama-Howrah Express arrived ! We parked the car at the station and boarded the train.
Within half an hour we drifted off to sleep after close to 17 hours on the road in the last 23 hours !!