Being bitten by the travel bug is a dangerous thing. It doesn’t let you stay put in routine for more than a month, if you don’t travel beyond that time, it starts gnawing at you. The bug is like a drug, the addiction is not easy to shake off and looks like we have been bitten by several travel bugs because even before we finish one trip, we find ourselves planning for the next.
Right after our Badami trip in January, we were already looking for the next long weekend and destination. The Good Friday weekend was perfect for another trip. Rayalaseema or Konaseema, was the next question (no, we weren’t giving a third angle to the existing political confusion in the state). Konaseema won eventually because the former would be boiling hot by end of March itself and Papi Kondalu trip was something we wanted to do since a very long time.
The plan: Drive to Rajahmundry on Thursday, go on a river cruise to Papi Kondalu, stay at the Kolluru Bamboo Huts and back on Sunday.
Back on the Highway !
The night before there was a threat to the whole trip, because coming home late after a company sponsored complimentary meal (who would miss a chance like that, even if it means getting less sleep), we realized, there was no water supply ! In a frustrated impulse, we decided to dump the trip but better sense prevailed, the Thursday morning dawned happy with water supply restored and we were back on the NH9 (New no. NH65) to Vijayawada.
Who wouldn’t love driving on a super classy highway like this one? The flowers along the highway divider were in full bloom thanks to the spring and it was a pleasure for the eyes as we drove past.
Highway 7, Suryapet – The hip and happening highway food court
For several years now, Suryapet has been a strategic location on NH9/NH65 (most highways have been given new numbers but people haven’t identified them with the new numbers yet) between Hyderabad and Vijayawada. It is 135 kms from Hyderabad and halfway between the two cities.
Before the 4 laning of the highway, it took 3 hours to reach Suryapet alone. Almost everybody travelling to Vijayawada had to stop here at some point in the day. For overnight buses, Suryapet was the centre for dinner break. Such an important centre meant that the entire highway at Suryapet was lined with dhabas and restaurants. These dhabas were very popular and one could see scores of lorries, buses, cars at almost every dhaba.
Today, most dhabas seem quieter because the brand new highway has reduced the travel time between Hyderabad and Vijayawada to less than 4 hours and a break at Suryapet is no longer mandatory ! Yet, there is one new landmark that has become an attraction on this highway which forces you to stop for a break at Suryapet, whether you need it or not – a new resto/travel plaza – Highway 7.
Located about 5 kms before Suryapet right on the Highway, “7” opened sometime in 2010 and is your hip-hop travel plaza, probably the first of its kind in India. The first time we discovered this place was during our visit to Bhadrachalam in November 2011. We were too excited to see such a state of art food court on an Indian Highway !
They have Subway and Baskin-Robbins outlets, alongwith the regular south and north Indian breakfast, meals, snacks. The area is wi-fi enabled too ! Style comes to Indian dhabas !!
On our very first visit, we packed a Subway for dinner on the drive. The food is always awesome. If you happen to stop here at breakfast time, don’t miss the Pongal and don’t even think of missing their coffee ! It is super strong and comes with a 2 inch froth that stands still till you click pictures and take your first sip !!
Alongwith your energies, you can refill your pockets too !
There is a Cafe Coffee Day outlet, a convenience store, a trinket/souvenir shop, a CD store, a play area for children and very clean restrooms. You can even get your car washed in 20 mintues !
We read on their website http://www.foodseven.com that this is run by a group that owns some popular educational institutions in the state. It is a great idea and we do hope it is the first of many, many more such travel plazas across the country and that they can harmoniously co-exist with the humble dhabas, we cannot do without our dhabas, can we?
So, heres to more delicious journeys on Indian Highways !
Our road trip continues…