After 7 consecutive weekends of travel in September’14, reality had taken over and there was a lull of almost 3 months. Every now and then people would crop up with “when’s the next trip?” And then, December, our favourite holiday month set in and travel ideas began to buzz. By then, we were craving for some travel and also realised that the year was drawing to an end and annual leaves that were unutilised would go waste. Since there is no greater sin than wasting your leaves, we decided it was time to go on a trip ! Also, one of our regular travel partner was going abroad and we wanted to make that one more road trip together.
Planning for a plan !
So, a 4 day trip was scheduled for the second week of December but the question was where? We had travelled to most of the popular places in Telangana, Andhra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. We looked slightly North towards Maharashtra, the roads were bad, we were told. Then we looked at Chattisgarh and zeroed in on Chitrakoot Waterfalls. We checked with the Chattisgarh Tourism resort, that looked lovely in the pictures, for accommodation and the person incharge simply laughed and asked us to walk in any day ! We thought we were all set when just a week before the trip, there was a naxal attack on the very same route that we were supposed to take and after that, we were too scared to even look at Chattisgarh on the map !
The next idea was if the roads between Telangana and Maharashtra were bad, we could take a train to Pune and hire self-driven cars and drive to the popular hill-stations around Pune. That idea had to be dropped because people wanted proper road trip. Bangalore-Coorg, Vishakapatnam-Anantagiri-Chilika didn’t excite many. In the meantime, a colleague who hails from Palani offered to get a VIP darshan at Palani and so the trip plan began around Palani, then Madurai came about. From Madurai, we could go towards TN or towards Kerala. Following Madurai, the plan moved to Valparai, Athirapally, then Munnar was added in, Kalady. Somewhere Rameswaram cropped up but had to be turned down because it would be one marathon journey back to Hyderabad.
Till the day before the trip, nobody had any concrete idea where we were heading !
9 hours, 4 states !
On the afternoon of 10th December’14, we started our trip, the first leg of the drive was to Krishnagiri, 60 kms beyond Bengaluru. We planned to stop there because accommodation in Bengaluru would be a costly affair. While we started in our Figo that afternoon, our group in another car, a Hyundai Accent, was scheduled to start two hours later after finishing up work.
By 3 PM, we were on the NH44(NH7), after a smooth drive on the suave Hyderabad ORR. A little more than 2 hours later, we stopped at Kurnool for a cup of tea at our regular pit stop Baba Ramdev Hotel, just after the Kurnool toll gate. The other car, we learnt, had just started their journey.
For the next 3 hours, we drove non-stop as the familiar sights of NH44 zoomed past us, passing through Gooty and Anantapur enroute. We took a dinner break at AP Tourism’s Haritha Hotel very close to the AP-Karnataka border. Wherever the location, food at Haritha Hotels never fails. Options may be limited but the taste is great, ever reliable while travelling.
We were in Bengaluru around 10 PM and continued on NH44 through Electronics City, Bengaluru shimmered under the lights, boy ! What a massive metropolis ! We stared around as we drove past the swanky buildings, huge flyovers and traffic jams at 10.30 PM, we were like a bunch of village bumpkins visiting a city for the first time. Despite having visited Bengaluru several times, it was like we had never seen this grand version of the city.
Now, do we have tell you about the traffic? Suffice to say that by the time we left the city and entered the Hosur Road highway, it was close to 11.30 PM ! Shortly after we reached the outskirts, we were surprised to find the border checkpost welcoming us into Tamil Nadu, it was amusing, we were in and out of Karnataka is less than 3 hours !
Past midnight, we were close to Krishnagiri, traffic taking up a lot of time for most part of the 60 kms drive from Bengaluru. We were tired and sleepy by then and dropped our initial plan of staying at the Parshwa Jain Temple in Krishnagiri. A colleague had told us it was a good place to stay but in the middle of the night, we had no energy to look for directions and Google Maps told us we had to deviate further from the highway. We decided to stay at some place on the highway and found MGM Hotel, a decent place to stay while in transit. The hotel manager was woken up and promptly rooms were allotted, a dash of Tamil from this writer helping the cause.
Car 2 was still somewhere in the vicinity of Anantapur when we went to sleep around 1 AM. In about 9 hours, we started from Telangana, crossed into Andhra Pradesh, drove through Karnataka and reached Tamil Nadu !
Into TN heartland
Early next morning, we were up and ready to resume our journey to Palani. We waited for the other car to join us, they had reached Hosur around 4 AM and were expected to join us by 8 AM. In the meantime, we took a walk in the cool morning air of Krishnagiri for a cup of coffee. From the highway, we could see the Krishnagiri Fort high up on the nearby hill. The fort is believed to have been built by Sri Krishnadevaraya, does the name Krishnagiri come from the legendary king? The fort is not very clear in this hazy picture but you get the idea !
We waited till 8 AM and when the other group was going to get delayed further, we decided to start to Palani, hoping the other would catch up with soon somewhere on the way. We had another 300 kms to go to Palani.
Continuing on NH44, we passed through Dharmapuri and stopped at Salem for breakfast an hour and a half later. We forgot the name of the hotel but the Sambhar we had there was by far the best recent times. The joy of having authentic Tamil Nadu Sambhar in Tamil Nadu is something else !
We then passed by a gate leading to the iconic Salem Steel Plant.
These are stuff that you grow up hearing about and when you see them before you, it feels like your Geography text book has come alive !
While we left Salem, the other car had just reached Krishnagiri, there was no way they could catch up with us on the highway, so we decided to go ahead to Palani and wait up there. The next 150 kms drive on NH44 was a breeze, the beautiful views of the Tamil Nadu plains, rich agricultural lands on either side and canals of the River Kaveri popping up from corner, were a treat for the eyes and the roads, every car’s dream ! The tolls on this route, though, cost a fortune ! At every toll gate, we were shelling out Rs.100 notes and getting only 5s and 10s in return. No complaints, not when you have great roads and picturesque views like this.
We broke off from NH44 at Vedasandur towards Palani. We had an awesome time during our 24 hour driving date on NH44. From Vedasandur it was a decent double road but it took up a lot of time and by the time we reached the pilgrim town of Palani it was 12.30 PM. Our partner car had just about reached Salem by then. It was going to take some time before we could present ourselves before the Lord of Palani. Till then, we had all the time in the world to stand and stare !
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