Road trip to Kalinga Desa – IX – Palasa to Hyderabad – Highway marathon !

In 2 & 1/2 days, we had travelled from Hyderabad to Parlakhemundi, Palasa, Bhubhaneswar, visited the temples of Bhubaneswar, Konark and Puri, it was hard to believe that we had travelled so far. Now, it was time to go home but we had a long way to go, approximately 830 kms – one full day of travel on the highway !

Get, set and go !

The journey back home started from Bhubaneswar by train 3 AM. The plan was to reach Palasa, drive to Parlakhemundi, pick up our friend and start back to Hyderabad by 11 AM, the latest. We didnt have too many hopes that the train would reach Palasa on time but to our pleasant surprise, the train dropped us off at Palasa by 7.15 AM, on dot as per its schedule.

When we stepped out of the station a wild thought hit us – what if our, friend’s car that we parked at the station 2 days ago was stolen? At the parking lot, we were relived to find the car waiting for us. Another big surprise was that the parking fee for 2 days was only Rs.30/- ! Try leaving you car for 2 days at the Secunderabad Railway station !

As we started from Palasa, our journey had officially begun ! The 42 kms drive between Palasa and Parlakhemundi was beautiful, we came across some breathtaking views !

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It took us some time to realize that it was not thick fog but clouds covering the mountains in the distance ! It was such an pretty sight ! We had never seen clouds descending that low.

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Despite the fact that we had to strictly stick to our schedule, we couldn’t stop to take pictures of the country side on the Orissa-Andhra border – green fields, cloud covered mountains, ponds with lotus and lily flowers coupled with the freshness and chill of the morning !

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The roads were good even in these interior parts of the state and we reached our friend’s place at Parlakhemundi by 9 AM. We had about an hour to relax, get ready and then go. By 10.00 AM, we were back on the road, wonder if we would be as punctual if we were driving to work?

A dreamworld along the highway

Driving into the Srikakulam district of Andhra was like driving into a dreamworld. You just cannot give words to the mesmerising scenery around you. This is probably the most beautiful part of the NH5, part of it through green forest area on one side and hills on the other, you pass by ponds and lakes filled with flowers and birds – the setting was very fairy tale like ! We couldn’t stop to take pictures because we didn’t want to disturb the tempo of our friend who was driving the car but, those scenes are unforgettable. A lot of it had to do with the fact that it was just after the monsoons but we suppose each season will have a charm of its own.

Annavaram out of the blue !

As we were nearing Vishakapatnam, some 3 hours later, we took the detour via Pendurthi to avoid driving through Vizag city traffic. It was lunch time and we realized the nearest big town or city where we could hope to get a decent lunch was Rajahmundry and that was atleast another 3 hours away ! Suddenly, we hit upon the idea of going to the pilgrim town of Annavaram, which was less than 2 hours from where we were, we could stop for lunch there and then take the road to Rajahmundry before joining the NH5 back to Vijayawada. We drove non-stop for 4 hours and having a strategic stop for lunch was important to regain our energies.

It turned out to be a great idea because even at 2.30 PM, we got to feast on the delicious authentic Andhra meal at Ratnagiri Resorts in Annavaram. We tried to push our luck for the famous Annavaram temple prasadam but if you don’t visit the temple, you don’t get prasadam ! Saying our prayers to Lord Satyanarayana as we passed by the hill where the temple is located, we resumed our journey.

Panic at Rajahmundry !

It took us a little over 1 hour to reach Rajahmundry by 4.30 PM. We thought we were doing good but ss soon as we reached the outskirts, something “paranormal” seemed to be happening in the car ! The auto locking system was locking and unlocking on its own, the doors would get unlocked and locked automatically, trust us, the first 3 times it happened, it sent a shiver down our spines ! Then, water start dripping from the AC vent at the front passenger side ! We stopped the car and panicked (this writer did !). We thought something had gone wrong with the car and were worried if the car was fit to make the rest of the 430 kms journey to Hyderabad !

Considering staying back at Rajahmundry as the last option, we called the regular car service centre who assured us that it must have been some malfunctioning of the auto lock system and asked us to keep driving as long was the car ran ! As we checked the car one more time, it dawned on us that since we had been running the AC non-stop since we started from Parlakhemundi, ice had formed inside the AC devices and the melting ice had caused some kind of a short circuit in the wires controlling the auto lock system !! We should have been relieved but had panicked too much to even feel the relief, we kept staring at the locks for the next one hour !

Traffic woes at NH9 !

By the time we started from Rajahmundry it was 5 PM, it usually takes about 8 hours to reach Hyderabad and so if we had to reach home in decent time, we had to really pull  back the lost time and our hope was the 198 kms between Rajahmundry and Vijayawada. There was no way we were taking the Aswaraopet road after the bad road experience we had 3 days back. Though a longer route, traveling via Vijayawada was a wise decision because the entire route was on NH5 and it would take us only 2 hours.

Our friend did an awesome job at the steering wheel as we reached Vijayawada exactly at 7 PM. We stopped at an eating joint for a quick bite because we decided to drive non-stop to Hyderabad. We were also aware that the Vijayawada-Hyderabad highway, NH9 was not in great condition. The break did us a lot of good and we were raring to reach Hyderabad. The journey resumed at 8 PM, we hoped to reach home by 1 AM.

From Vijayawada, the drivers changed hands and the road for first 50 kms upto to Nandigama was excellent, the blinkers on the super smooth road shone like those on an airport runway ! Our joy was short lived, just out of Nandigama, we were in for a shock, for about a kilometer ahead, lorries had come to a standstill ! We wondered if the traffic would move for the rest of the night, thankfully, panic did not set in this time (for this writer, that is), we decided to keep our cool. To prove that things get sorted out when you keep your cool, in no time the traffic began to move.

Negotiating a kilometer long lorry traffic is no joke and it seemed to take forever to overtake and go ahead. It slowed down our journey considerably but we drove on cautiously. We let the first driver sleep after driving for more than 500 kms. The remaining two of us bore witness to the heavy traffic, dangerous diversions, dust from the road laying work, blinding high beam lights on the opposite side and tiredness and sleep that kept threatening us for the rest of the journey.

Hyderabad, finally, made its appearance at 2 AM. We almost dragged the car and “sleep drove” the next 2 kilometers to reach home ! We didn’t even have the time and energy to recount the journey, we don’t even remember when we entered home and slept ! It wasn’t until the 3 of us met the next morning in our usual car pool to work that it sinked in that we had completed a marathon on the highway !

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