1000 km in a week

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Just got back from a 1000km roadtrip. Phew. That was one good road trip.

1. Bangalore to Kumbakonam: Took a new route this time. Bangalore -> Salem -> Attur -> Veppur -> Vridhachalam -> Jayamkondan -> Kumbakonam. Except for the last stretch, which was a little bad, the road is very good. Much better than the Kulithalai route that I took the last time.

2. Kumbakonam to Pondicherry: Never done this stretch before. Decent roads. It is mind boggling to see the number of wine (alcohol) shops on the sides of the road, right after you enter Pondicherry state. This, I am told, is because of the reduced rates – since it is still an Union Territory.

3. Pondicherry to Chennai: Fantastic stretch. Road upto Tindivanam is as good, if not better than the Golden Quadrilateral stretch from Tindivanam to Chennai.

4. Chennai to Bangalore: I have done this numerous times, but there was a twist this time. I was attending a family function in Pozhichalur (close to Pammal). I was told that there is a direct road from Pozhichalur through Kundrathur to Porur, and I can catch the usual Bangalore road from there. Right after Kundrathur and Anagaaputthur, I found a sign saying Sriperumbudur. I took a risk, and we took the route. Surprisingly awesome road. Takes you right to the highway just before Sriperumbudur bypass. The only bummer was the 100’s of speed bumps (and no, I am not exagerating with the number). Did Chennai to Chinnaar (A2B) in decent time – 4 hours. Chinnaar to Bangalore was just horrible. With the 6 laning effort that is happening, there are quite a few diversions, where 4 lanes become 1 lane. And with the ‘impatient’ bus drivers we have, these diversions quickly become a quagmire. It took us a good 3.5 hours to do what we usually do in 1.5 hours.

Anyways, in all, a good trip. The Skoda Fabia did a pretty darned good  job.

Road-trip report … continued

We reached Sterling Elk Hill around noon. The location of this resort is amazing. Near the city center but not too real. It is on top of a hill (Elk Hill?) which overlooks the bus stand. So it is about a half hour walk (or 10 min drive) down the hill to reach the bus stand. The resort has some beautiful rooms. The one that we had was a deluxe suite. It had a living room, with an attached dining table and a kitchenette, and an adjoining bedroom. I personally liked the rooms. The rooms are a little old, and show a little ageing, in terms of plaster etc, but very comfortable. They had a room heater, which we could use. What more do you want ? Good clean bed, clean bathroom, neat sheets, and a room heater!. (Yes, it was pretty cold in Ooty/Coonoor – sub 10 deg cel).

sterling-collage2

We stayed in Ooty for 2 days. Both R and me had already seen the sights in Ooty. So the first day, we did not do anything. We just chilled in the hotel room. The biggest mistake we did that day, was to have dinner at Sterling. One point of advise – avoid the food here. Very substandard fare. It is not unpallatable or anything ; but if avoidable, nothing better to have a better holiday. The next day, we took the car for a spin around the Ooty lake. The lake is huge, and the road is lonely at points. All in all, a nice drive. Had lunch at the Cafe at Hotel Nahar (Charing Cross). They have excellent wood-fired pizza. Delectable. Brilliant. Both R and me are big fans of pizza, and this pizza tasted great. We then did some shopping/mindless wandering around Charing Cross area. Went to Khadi, bought some stuff etc. Then in the evening, again went for a walk. The pizza was so good, that for dinner, we went to Nahar too. They have a North Indian restaurant at the back. Decent food. Went back to the room and crashed for the night.

Wood fired pizza at the Coffee Shop in Nahar, Charing Cross, Ooty
Wood fired pizza at the Coffee Shop in Nahar, Charing Cross, Ooty

We left early for Coonoor the next day morning. The road to Coonoor from Ooty passes through Charing Cross. So we thought we would have a quick breakfast at Preethi Palace (a hotel recommended by the Concierge at Sterling). Again, please avoid this place – Preethi Palace. Very shabby place. The tables are not even cleaned when people get off. And the food sucks. Anyways, after that bad gasstronomic experience, we headed down the awsome Ooty-Coonoor highway – this is a national highway, and the road quality is something that matches international standards. However, having said that, I hated this road. Why ? you ask. When the moron drivers in our country see good roads, they dont kick back and settle down for a nice drive ; they put on their F1 race car helmets. Why ? Why ? The buses and lorries, and ofcourse the tourist Indicas/Sumos/Qualis/Innovas become rakshasaas on the road. And this was relatively early in the morning. We reached Coonoor at around 10AM ; and checked in to Velan Ritz in Upper Coonoor, one of our favourite places. Despite the slighty ageing interiors of the rooms, the location of the hotel is the best ; and the staff are very helpful and nice.

We stayed the full day that day in Coonoor – walked around mindlessly. Coonoor is a place which is perfect for mindless walking. Awesome climate, nice people, nice winding mountain roads, fresh chill air. We started our journey back early the next day. Grudgingly I drove that stretch between Coonoor to Ooty on the national highway. We had breakfast at the Garden restaurant at Nahar (we completed all three restaurants in Nahar with this – and yes, the food here is also good. Traditional South Indian breakfast of Idly/Dosa/Vada). I had already decided to take the shorter Masinagudi route down to the plains. I did not want to take the smooth national highway. I dont like big trucks/buses overtaking me on curves in the hills. The Masinagudi route was so peaceful. Saw so many spotted dear near the road.

Masinagudi route between Ooty and Bandipur
Masinagudi route between Ooty and Bandipur

Down on the plain, we crossed Theppakadu, Mudumalai, Bandipur – we were making good speed, since the traffic was low. Then the dreaded no-road stretch arrived after Bandipur. Midway through this no-road stretch, we saw this arch which said – Himavad Gopalaswamy temple. We had heard of this temple from Ombalan (at the Secret Ivory). On a sudden whimsical decision, I swung the car into this road (yes there is a road). It is about 11 km from the main road, and about 7km of it is steep ghat section. Just before the ghat section, there is a forest department checkpost. ┬áThe temple (as the name suggests) is of Lord Krishna.

gopalaswamy1
Himavad Gopalaswamy Temple (image: wikipedia)

Very pretty nice tall statue of standing Krishna, playing the flute. He has the snake (naagam) over his head. It is around 700 yrs old. The temple is a regular temple – no cave etc ; but the miracle here is that, from somewhere, there is water trickling down above the God throughout the year. The pujari takes some of that water with this finger and sprinkles on you. Interesting. From the top of the hill, you can practically see the whole Bandipur/Mudumalai forest all around you. Great view. By the time, we finished the dharshan, it was about 11:30ish. We raced back to the no-road stretch, and thankfully covered it fast, and continued racing towards Mysore – we wanted to catch Chamundi dharshan as well.

Palace gates, Mysore
Palace gates, Mysore

I like Mysore for being such a good tourist friendly city. There are boards everywhere to every tourist spot. We found our way to Chamundi hills very easily. Again, the road laying is awesome. We took the Rs100 dharshan, which basically circumvents the queues. You are dropped close to the sanctum-sanctorum, and from there, it is the regular ‘jargugandi’ push. We were out in 10 minutes. Good dharshan though.

Back on the road, we asked for directions for Dasaprakash, my favourite eating place in Mysore. Been here innumerable number of times, when we used to go on road trips with my father. Good clean simple food. Had full plate mealsu. After that, it was Mysore palace dharshan. Both R and me had been here before, but it had been quite a few years before – so we did a revision study :-). Full crowd. So we milled around the palace pushed gently in a rapid fire tour of the palace. The palance still never fails to impress me though. What richness. What grandeur.

After the palace, it was back on the road to home sweet home. The trip back was nice and uneventful – Mandya, Maddur, Srirangapatna flew by. And we were at the BMIC confusion area around 7PM. There are absolutely no menafingul sign boards here for direction here. So I just kept following traffic ; and I realized pretty soon, that was not a very good idea – I ended up inside Kengeri Satellite Town. So I did the next best thing, hopped off the car, went and asked the nearest shop owner. And he said – “Straight hogi, Hoysala cirkal, right madi, straightu hogi, railway bridge, straightu hogi, mysore roadu“. Beautiful directions, except, I went straight and kept searching for a circle, and could not find one. After about 1/2 km, I asked someone else – about Hoysala circle. And it seems that small lamp post in the middle of the road, where one road branched off was the Hoysala cirkal. God, please teach these people what a circle is. Ask them to see the roundabouts in Mysore. Anyways, once I found the ‘cirkal’, I was able to find my way back to the main road. It joins just before the Raja rajeswari arch on Mysore road. Took the right turn on to the Outer ring road, and painfully made my way up to Deva gowda bunk, and then to Bansankari, Jayanagar, Bannerghatta, Diary circle, and then ….. home to Koramangala.

3.5 hours – 165 km Mysore to Bangalore Outer

2 hours – 30 km from Bangalore Outer to Koramangala

Not surprised. All entries to Bangalore are like that – Chennai-Bangalore resembles the same pattern as above. Hosur to Koramangala takes 2 hours.

All in all a great trip. I hope you guys enjoyed the trip report.