Hyderabad to Nellore onboard the Figo Express !

It all started over a cup of coffee !

12th April 2013, Friday – 7.15 PM

Three of us sipping coffee at Cafe Coffee Day, Kondapur. The brother had to catch the 10.30 PM Simhapuri Express train to hometown Nellore, the cab had been booked to pick him up from home at 9.15 PM.

8.00 PM

All three of us driving to Nellore in our Ford Figo Express !

We still don’t know how it all started but half way through our coffee, the two guys decided that the brother should simply dump the train and we should hit the road instead. Somebody wanted to get the kick of a sudden adventure drive in the middle of the night, someone wanted to drive over the newly built ORR/NH65, when the travel bug bites, excuses come by the hundreds ! Before this writer could even get a hang of what was happening, we went home, threw in a few clothes and were on the road by 8 PM !

The brother had a First Class AC ticket that couldn’t be cancelled in the last moment, he assured us he would claim it from his company, ok, that was supposed to be confidential ! The cab was duly cancelled. What was funny was that, the two of us had tickets for the same train to our hometown the following week, we decided a trip to hometown was always “the sooner, the better” !

Highway or runway?

The Nehru ORR, with its reflectors shining in the night, looked like the runway, at a speed close to 140 km/hr, you could mistake your car for a plane, we half expected the car to take off suddenly at that speed !

We ought to thank the people behind the idea of upgrading our highways to world class standards. There are few things that can match the joy of a road trip on such amazing roads !

Headlight Headaches

The Nehru ORR, leads to NH65/9 the Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway. The Highway numbers are confusing because the NHAI has still not decided whether to use the new Highway numbering system or continue with the existing one. This beauty of a road gave us company till Narketpalli from where we took the Miryalaguda State Highway.

The Miryalaguda road is the shortest route to Nellore from Hyderabad and the road which has been in bad shape for years, is now being converted into a 4 lane highway. We were a little cautious, considering the night time traffic and diversions at every corner.

It usually takes around 7 hours to reach Nellore on this route and if we had to keep up with the time, we had to make do with biscuits for dinner.

The road was decent enough and we made good progress upto Nalgonda. We passed by Dachepalli and Damarcherla on the way, these two towns are famous for the cement factories of some of the top players in the cement industry. It was quite a sight to see the brightly lit factories busily going about their production even at night.

Just after Nalgonda, there was a brief traffic block. Since it seemed to take some time, we switched off the car. The traffic cleared in about 10 minutes and the brother, who was driving the car announced that something was wrong with the headlights, the high beam didn’t seem to be working, he said. Only the fog lamps were on, the dimmer/dipper light seemed to be working though. In the dead of the night, on an under construction highway, bad headlights is like your worst fears coming true !

We checked the headlight control near the steering and concluded that its grip must have loosened because of the bumpy road. For the next two hours, the poor brother held on to it with one hand and drove with the other because if you let go of it, the lights would go off !

It was close to midnight when we reached Piduguralla, the road gets better from here as the 4 laning work is almost complete in this stretch. The brother wanted some music and was treated to Telugu hits of the 1980s that made him feel like a lorry driver !

Following the Eagle

Around 1 AM, we reached Addanki, from here we hit the NH5. We stopped to check the headlights, the Figo’s boss decided that the headlamps were totally not working. We tried to insert some paper, cardboard to hold the control switch in place but nothing worked and the dimmer/dipper saga continued.

A short distance later, we began to follow an APSRTC Garuda Bus, the idea was to use the bus’ light for a better view of the road. Things seemed alright for sometime, until, the Garuda Bus rammed into a truck carrying vegetables, parked on the right side of the road near the divider ! The truck was pushed into a vertical position and it turned over on the divider. Thankfully, nobody was injured, sacks of vegetables lay strewn on the road. The bus had a very nasty dent. Why was the truck parked on the wrong side of the road at that time of the night? The Indian road mentality can never be understood !

We witnessed the accident from right behind the bus. Our brakes were applied on time, so we stopped way behind the bus but the incident was enough to rankle us. We tried to joke about how funny the truck looked being tossed up, decided we have enough of following vehicles, the Figo’s boss took over the wheel and drove on holding the headlight controls and wondering how much we would have to shell out on its repair.

Light dawns !

Ongole and Kavali buzzed by us and we stopped at a Toll plaza near Kavali, Nellore was less than an hour from there. All of a sudden, the Figo boss, who was driving the car, burst out laughing ! The headlights were suddenly turned on ! How? Well, when the car was stopped at Nalgonda, the brother turned off the headlights too and when we resumed the journey, he simply did not turn on the headlight switch knob properly !!

Used to driving a Vento, the brother missed the third turn of the knob, required to switch on the Figo’s headlights ! We laughed till our eyes were streaming with tears, till our ears and mouth ached. It was 3 hours of strenuous, cautious driving ending in a painful wrist for both the drivers ! That the scene was hilarious, is an understatement. We’d stop for a moment, look at each other and burst out laughing at our own stupidity.

Mom, dad ! We’re home !

At 3.30 AM, we reached home and knocked on the doors. The mom and dad must have gone to bed that night, planning to receive their son the next morning from Nellore railway station, instead, they woke up at 3.30 AM to find their kids (30 year olds qualify as kids, don’t they?) at the door ! They weren’t informed about the change of plan because we did not want them to keep worrying till we reached home. They were shocked, confused and thrilled. The dad, though, wondered if his kids had gone mad !

Simhapuri Express was scheduled to reach Nellore at 7.30 AM, the Figo Express reached there 4 hours before !

After a weekend of fun with family, we got up at 3.30 AM on Monday, 15th April, dressed for work and drove 450 kms straight to work in Hyderabad !

So what do we conclude from all this? A lot does happen over coffee !!

Categories: Andhra Pradesh | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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