On Valentine’s Day weekend, we decided to celebrate one of the greatest love of our lives – travel ! This time the rocky lands of Rayalaseema beckoned us, within a span of 2 days, we planned to cover 4 popular tourist spots in the region. We were keen to see how our packed itinerary would work out, a test of our planning and travel discipline.
Highway (a)musings !
Our trip began at 3.30 AM that Saturday. Our first destination was Yaganti Uma Maheswara Swamy Temple. The drive upto Kurnool through ORR and NH44 was as usual, smooth and easy, though our speed was restricted a bit because of the traffic even at that early hour. Gone are the days when people could travel to Kurnool in 2 hours by road ! Thanks to the traffic it now takes close to 3 hours.
Enroute, we stopped on the Krishna River bridge near Kurnool, it was 6.30 AM to catch some cool morning air. It was still dark and we could see the silhouette of the ancient fort wall located in the river. We’ve tried to capture pictures of it from a moving car on several occasions but never succeeded. This time though we stopped, we couldn’t get a proper capture, it was too dark and we could only manage this poor excuse of a picture ! Such is the irony of life.
It was a record first for us that we didn’t stop for breakfast, there weren’t too may good places after Kurnool anyway. From Kurnool, you could drive further upto Dhone before deviating to Yaganti or take the usual Nandyal-Mahanandi road. Since our last experience with the Nandyal rode was nightmarish, we took the Dhone road.
After we crossed Kurnool, at the next toll plaza, instead of Rs.5/- change, we were given this biscuit packet ! This shall go down as one of the amusing things on Indian Highways.
An innovative idea of sales promotion, we thought or probably the toll guy understood the hunger pangs of some of us ! Though very unusual for us, for some reason, we didn’t open the biscuit packet right away. (To know what happened to the biscuit packet, keep reading us till the end of this series !)
Driven by technology !
From the moment you take the deviation at Dhone, the scenario changes, roads become narrower, traffic lesser and the landscape drier. We were driving into the heartland of Rayalaseema and this region is characterized by its aridity. We could see thorny shrubs and dry lands stretching for miles together. Occasionally a train passing by close to the road would get us excited ! If there is one thing this photographer cannot resist, it is taking pictures of trains from the car !
All was well till we were close to Betamcherla, famous for the black stone slabs called “Napa Rayi” in Telugu. There we made enquires on the road to Yaganti. Some suggested going further ahead to Banaganapalli, while Google Maps showed us a shorter route through a village road. The wise among us took the main road, while the technically “wise” followed Google Maps. A few people, we asked, did express their doubts on the road but told us we could take a chance.
The shorter route took us into the remote villages of Rayalaseema that had roads just wide enough to allow a car to pass through without scraping the walls of surrounding houses ! Open drains, pigs, cattle, filth, non-existent roads and in between all this sign boards giving us directions to Yaganti, when we looked in the direction of the signboard it looked like we had to drive into somebody’s house ! We could not even turn back because there was absolutely no turning radius for the car ! We were trapped inside a village and the only way out was to follow the signboards, road or no road !
We somehow meandered our way to the edge of a village and from there, all signs of a road disappeared. We were now driving through some of the most backward villages in the country.
Perhaps there is truth in the agitations that this region of the state deserves more attention. What else can you say when you see places like this?
So much for being driven by technology, turned out that technology took us for a ride !
A drive on Mars
For the next hour or so, we drove on a terrain like this !
There was no one else except the 8 of us in two cars, the red mud track seemed never ending. There were dry fields on both sides, occasionally a tractor would pass by throwing up a dust storm. They laughed at our plight and asked us if we couldn’t find a better route to Yaganti ! They told us this was a cart track and was only frequented by bikes or bullock carts. Of course, we didn’t tell them, we were techies and we landed up here following our technology !
It was an out and out endurance test for our cars as they braved the most hostile road conditions. We needn’t have paid Rs.800/- for an off roading experience back in Hyderabad, this was even better !
There were places where we literally dug out rocks from the surface so that they wouldn’t hit the floor of the car. We were amazed at the ability of our cars to survive the endurance test ! Whoever complains about Figo’s road clearance, please read this post ! The Verna and the Figo, simply rocked it !
It was one hell of an experience, getting lost in a unknown place, totally cut off from civilization and finding your way on strange path. If you want to know how it feels like driving in Mars, head here, the red soil makes it all the more authentic ! One should say the drivers did a great job, though. Another blessing was that we did not end up with a flat tyre, that would have been your worst nightmare coming true !
It all happens for the good
Don’t people say that all the time? It turned out to be true in our case. It might have been a very difficult path to drive on and took up a lot of time, put us behind our schedule but the road gave some us some breathtaking views. After 15 kms on that path, we inched closer to Yaganti. The roads got slightly better, in the sense that atleast there was a semblance of a road.
But, it was the view that took our breath away ! On either side of the road, there were huge wind weathered rocks that seemed as old as the Earth. They were a wonderful sight, we didn’t have enough time to click too many pictures because there were suddenly an increased traffic of tractors and with the narrow roads, we couldn’t stop long enough to take good ones. Here is just a sample, obviously the picture doesn’t do any justice to what the eye actually saw.
The gigantic rocks got close to the road at some places, looking imposing and on a lonely road like that a tad bit scary too ! Sometimes it felt like we had been transported to the time when the earth was just forming.
We tried to recall all the Geography we learnt in school to identify what kind of rocks they were and realized, we should have paid more attention to our classes !
Through all this, we suddenly hit upon a curve and found was this view that literally made us slam the brakes and shout out in amazement !
We had reached the top of hill from where the ghat road snaked down to Yaganti. From where we stood, we had a fantastic view of the Yaganti temple and the hills beyond.
If we hadn’t taken that deviation to the wrong route, we wouldn’t have come this way and would have missed these beautiful sights. The main route via Banaganapalli has decent roads but it would neither give the thrills of driving on mud tracks, nor the mind numbing sights. Whatever happens, happens for the good after all !
Driving down the narrow ghat road was another experience in itself, only one vehicle can pass at a time and we had some anxious moments when a bus came hurtling upon us on the opposite direction. We had no complaints whatever, not, after all the scenes that we got to capture.
This is one drive we will tell people for ages, we will also let our car to give you its version of the story !
– Rely on technology but believe in people !
– After you get on to the Yaganti road from Dhone, finding a decent place to eat is difficult, plan to stop for your breakfast/lunch/dinner at Kurnool.
– If you are confident of your driving skills and your car and you want some excitement, take this road. However, it is advisable to venture on this road only if you are in a larger group and only at day time.
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