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Old 4th August 2014, 19:07   #1
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Default The 5-year itch: Chennai to Jaipur in a BMW 320D

THE FIVE YEAR ITCH…

The excitement & anticipation was building. 31st March was approaching. One would have assumed my being a Banker was the cause for this excitement; 31st March being the end of the financial year.... Yes, that was one of the reasons, but 31st March for me carried a very different significance. That for me, meant the date I would hit the road for my annual road trip. 31st March, 2014 was even more significant as me and my partner for this road trip was embarking on our annual journey for the 5th year in a row. The excitement was even higher this time as the vehicle for this trip was my new BMW 320D. The first 2 years it was my Honda Civic and the next 2 years it was my Tata Safari. Couldn't wait to hit the road...

The difference this year was that 30th and 31st March were holidays and the financial work year ended on the 29th itself. The other significant difference was also, unlike the previous 4 years where we started the journey from Bangalore, this year I was starting the journey from Chennai and that added an additional 730 KMs to the journey. My partner Narasimha from Vijayawada was to join me at Bangalore.

29th March, 2014
I started from Chennai in the evening around 5 PM and the stretch to Bangalore was way too familiar as this had become part of my weekly travel. Forgot to mention, I had moved to Chennai in May '13 and my wife - Smita & Daughter - Damini continued to stay in Bangalore. Hence part of my weekly routine was this drive to and from Bangalore to spend the weekend with family.

From the time I started this weekly trip to & from Bangalore the roads have received a complete makeover. The entire stretch from Arcot to Hosur is a six lane highway and the drive is just beautiful. The pain point though, has always been the exit from Chennai. The first 80 KM till Kancheepuram takes close to 2 hours irrespective of the time of start due to the heavy bus & truck traffic.

Being aware of the traffic scene, I decided to take my time and enjoy my drive and not attempt to rush till I crossed Arcot. The anticipation of seeing my daughter and wife meant that I didn't have any stops and it was a non-stop, 365 KM, 5.5 hour wonderful drive to Bangalore. All along you have enough good places on the highway to eat and refresh yourself. Reached home by 10.30 PM, to a lot of Hugs & Kisses from my daughter, Damini. Decided to hit the bed early and get some good rest before continuing on the road trip.

30th March, 2014
Narasimha reached Bangalore at around 12.30 pm from Vijayawada. After lunch we shopped for our basic supplies required during the trip. A crate of Redbull & water each, juices, Ice etc... The Ice box was cleaned and ready, filled with a few bottles of water, Redbull, juice bottles and of course ice. That was our refrigerator for the trip to ensure chilled supply of water, juice etc... At this point I must mention that both of us maintain a very strict "NO ALCOHOL POLICY" during the drive. That means irrespective of whether one is driving or not there will be no alcohol consumption in the car. One of the other supplies that one must have is loads of loose change especially if you are embarking on a long road trip such as ours. Rs.10 & Rs.20 notes to pay for the highway TOLL. So I had organised for Rs.6000/- in 20's & 10's in fresh currency. This was an important learning from our first trip way back in 2010.

Anyway, with the supplies in place and the car loaded we hit the road at 5 PM. Since I stay in North Bangalore, within 20 minutes we were on NH 4. Beautiful roads and absolutely nothing to complain. The BMW was just amazing. Owing to its length and low profile, the way it hugs the road and sticks to the line on curves at high speeds is just stunning. Could confidently negotiate curves and bends at good speeds . The car didn't even break a sweat. The engine refinement and noise reduction is just great in this car. You barely hear any engine or road noise in the cabin. The suspension also has a very solid feel and small bumps and uneven roads are child's play for the car and one doesn't feel these in the cabin.

The first driver switch happened just after we crossed Davanagere. Narasimha took over from me. It was a smooth drive and the roads were beautiful all the way till Hubli. The 6 laning of the road till Hubli has been completed. Bangalore to Hubli is a little over 400 KM. The Hubli - Dharwar bypass(part of NH 4), a 25 KM stretch continues to be a single road for some reason. Once you cross Dharwar the road again is just beautiful and 6 lane and has a runway feel to it when you drive in the night. About 9 KM from the point where the Hubli-Dharwad bypass ends and where the 6 lane highway starts you will find a BP petrol bunk. Adjoining the bunk is a RAJASTHANI DHABA. A fairly popular place among locals as well as highway travellers, the food is just amazing. We stopped there for our customary dinner at around 9.45 pm. We have been stopping here for dinner every year for the last 4 years. Would highly recommend this place for the food. Typical DHABA where truck drivers and families also eat. A caveat though. The food is very oily(but so is Rajasthani food) but equally delicious. So, we helped ourselves to 2 portions of Dal Tadka, Aloo Pyaz, Sev Tamatar, Rotis, Masala rice and of course Chaanch(Spiced Buttermilk). Lip smacking & Out of the world....

After a leisurely & sumptuous meal we continue on our journey. We cross Belgaum and enter Maharashtra. Suddenly the 6 lane Golden Quadrilateral became 4 lane and the quality of roads also deteriorate, no sooner you enter Maharashtra. Again, nothing to complain about but the roads become very bouncy and don't give you the confidence to drive beyond 100 KMPH. We continue on our drive and reach Kolhapur by 12 PM. We had covered a little over 600 KM. This was our first stop over as we had decided to visit and offer our prayers at the very ancient Maha Lakshmi temple. There were a lot of options of hotels in Kolhapur and we picked a small economy hotel to spend the night.

31st March, 2014
Having reached Kolhapur by midnight, we didn't have the luxury of a long sleep hours. We enquired the time at which he temple gates would open in the morning and realised that it was as early as 5 AM. Wanting to avoid waiting in long queues for the Darshan of Godess Lakshmi, we decided to reach the temple by 5 AM. Barely managed three and a half hours of sleep and started the day at 4 AM. Here I must mention, I am a big fan of Google Maps aided by voice navigation and used it to reach the temple which was barely 4 KMs away from where we were staying. Accurate directions ensured we reached in no time. As expected there were a few regular early morning visitors to the temple, mostly locals. This meant we had a wonderful Darshan and I must say I was really in awe as I entered the sanctum sanatorium. The temple itself was fairly ancient and the architecture very different from what we get to see here down South. After the Darshan, we spent a while walking around the temple and admiring the grand old structure and soaking in the divinity. It was a mini town in itself with small shops lined inside. It was also a coincidence that we happened to visit the temple to offer our prayers on the auspicious day of Ugadi - The start of the Telugu New Year. Couldn't have asked for a better and auspicious start to the New Year. Felt blessed.

Having finished our visit, we were out of the temple by 5.45 AM and were heading back to the hotel when we spotted a road side Tapri(small shop) selling Tea. What better way to wake your senses than a hot cup of tea early in the morning. The tea was a very typical one, very similar to the Irani Chai that you get in most cafés in Hyderabad. Myself and Narasimha helped ourselves to 2 cups of chai each. Satisfied, we headed back to the hotel. Decided to catch a few hours of sleep before we resumed our journey. We are again up and ready by 9 AM and head down to checkout & have our breakfast before we start. The restaurant served the conventional Idli Sambar, Parantha Curds, Bread Toast, Cornflakes etc… what caught our eye was a large bowl full of finely Chopped Onions, a large dish with some sort of piping hot gravy and another large bowl filled with Boondi Mixture(normally consumed as a snack with tea), all kept together. Not sure how this was supposed to be consumed we ask the waiter to help us out and he told us this was a Maharashtrian dish called ‘Missal Pav’. We were supposed to add the Boondi Mixture, Onions and Gravy in a bowl and have it with Pav(Bread). We decided to experiment and lo!!! We were pleasantly surprised with the dish. Both of us had two full large helpings of the spicy Missal Pav for breakfast, followed by helpings of curd to cool off the spice. Walked out of the restaurant happy & smiling…

We were rearranging our luggage in the boot and realized the Ice in the Icebox was completely molten. Whilst emptying the water and wondering where to get fresh supply of ice to last us for a full day; the waiter from the restaurant walks out and offers to fill our icebox with ice from the hotel, free of charge. WOW!!! Our appetite whetted and supplies filled we hit the road. Within 10 minutes we were back on the highway and were heading towards Pune & Mumbai.

The traffic was brisk and we continued to do good time. As mentioned earlier the roads continued to be bumpy. Very soon we cross Karad, Satara and head towards Pune. The landscape is fairly dry all along. While we were just under 50 KM away from Pune we stop to tank up the car. This was the first re-fuel stop after we started from Bangalore. The tank capacity is 55 Liters and we had covered 830 KM before re-fuelling. Roughly a little over 15 KM/L. Very impressive mileage for a car in this segment. We were driving on COMFORT mode all along. Didn’t switch to EcoPRO or SPORT mode either all along.

Very soon we cross the bustling outskirts of Pune and we hit the Pune – Mumbai Expressway. I have always been in awe of this road and enjoyed driving on this road. The two of us were recollecting how, over the last five trips, it has always been me driving this stretch for some reason. Complete coincidence I guess. It has always been a joy driving through the arrow straight stretches of the highway, followed by the ghat roads of Khandala & lonavala, interspersed by a lot of well lit tunnels. Sheer JOY. On the straights, I just couldn’t resist the temptation of switching on to SPORT mode and pushing the pedal. Pure pleasure feeling the car respond to your every move and just accelerating in no time. We stop for a quick lunch at one of the fast food joints along the highway.

Very soon we exit the expressway and hit the Thane – Belapur road. This has always been the most dreaded part of our trip. Exiting Mumbai has been the single biggest pain point owing to the traffic, irrespective of the time. We entered Mumbai at 3.30 PM and our estimate was we would cross Ghodbandar road and hit Vasai Creek(Ulhas River) by 5 PM. We were wrong. Traffic jams and work on Vasai creek ensure we exit Mumbai and cross Vasai Crek only by 5.40 PM. One can drive for hours together on a highway without any stress. But the stress of driving through city traffic for over Two hours is just too irritating and painful. Thank God for the Automatic Transmission in the car. All the same, I have always been in awe of the city of Mumbai. It is a city like no other. It always amuses me…. the sheer size, the chaos and the order that exists in this chaos, the pace of life, the co-existence of up-market bungalows, high rise apartments & slums, street food & high end fine dines, ultra narrow lanes & express highways connecting parts of the city, the list goes on. No wonder, it is called the City of Dreams. But at that point in time, we were just too happy to have exited Mumbai.

Once we cross Vasai Creek, the roads once again are beautiful black strips and six lane. By now Narasimha had taken over the drive and I just thoroughly enjoyed the sunset on my left. Couldn’t stop wondering at nature’s beauty. Gradually a bright blue sky turns yellow followed by a vibrant vermillion and finally a melancholic grey before turning pitch black only to be dimly lit by the moon light & star dust. Come to think of it… isn’t it just amazing. Was pondering over the fact that on a regular work day in the city, would I even notice day turning to night; leave alone noticing the changing colors??? It also felt strange, how me and Narasimha being very good friends hardly speak when we are on these long drives. There is this strange silence and an even stranger understanding of what’s going on in each other’s mind. “Let’s stop for a chai/smoke/dinner etc”, we almost say simultaneously and that too many a time throughout the journey. The only silence breakers were obviously some music - retro Hindi or Telugu depending on who was driving and the hum of tires running on the black top.

Very soon we crossed Maharashtra and we are back on beautiful, smooth, six lane black tops. Continued the smooth drive, crossed Surat, Vadodra and were on the express highway to Ahmedabad. I was driving, but then there was a sense of tension and uneasiness in my head. This was the part of the stretch where we have always had some or the other accident over the last two years. On 1st April, 2012, on the same road my brand new(Three day old) Safari breaks down leaving us completely helpless. We were stuck on the highway for 10 hours before my Safari could be towed to Ahmadabad. On 1st April, 2013 at a speed of 20 KMPH the brakes fail and my Safari kisses the rear end of an XUV 500 damaging the XUV’s tail lamp & rear bumper and damaging the Safari’s right head lamp, bumper, fender and leaving a big dent on the bonnet. I am yet to get to a logical explanation of the above two incidents. All I wanted at that point in time was to complete this stretch and cross Ahmadabad.

Thankfully, there were no untoward incidents and we reached Ahmadabad peacefully at around 11 PM. Managed to get to a restaurant on the outskirts of Ahmadabad just in time before the restaurant was shut. Had some great food, a mixture of Guajarati & Rajasthani styles of cooking. Have realized that small restaurants always dish out great, lip smacking food.

After dinner we were back on the road and start driving towards Udaipur. Narasimha took over the wheel and I decided to get some sleep before my next turn at the wheel. We crossed Himmatnagar and reached the last toll gate in Gujarat. Lack of motion for what seemed to be a considerably long time, woke me up. Realized there were a lot of trucks waiting to cross the toll gate. I was wide awake by then and Narasimha mentioned that we were running low on fuel and the next fuel station after the toll, we must re-fuel. I checked the display and it showed that the vehicle could cover another 20 KM with the existing fuel. So we agreed we needed to re-fuel at the earliest. Now that I was awake and couldn’t sleep again, started chatting and the two of us went into rewind mode and were discussing the previous trips. In the process we didn’t realize that we had covered a good 50 KM after the toll gate and the display showed 0 KM. this stretch after Himmatnagar is a bit of ghats and jungle. The moment we realized the fuel was almost empty we were in some kind of a panic mode. The car could stop any moment now. My first instinct was to switch off the AC and put the car on ECO-PRO mode. We decided to keep driving on till we found a fuel station. Not that we had any other choice. As luck would have it, we had hardly driven 1 KM and LO!!! WE FOUND A FUEL STATION!!! This was about 2 AM and we managed to wake up the guy who was supposed to be manning the station. Tank filled, tension relieved we started driving again.

At about 4 am we crossed udaipur. Have always been in awe of Rajasthan, in general. Not that there was anything much that could be viewed at that time of the day, but the sheer fact that we were driving through Rajasthan brought in a sense of excitement. And it's always a very different feeling of calm and being at peace with oneself when one is awake at that time of the day. Continued driving and reached the bypass/flyover that diverts from Chittorgarh towards Bhilwara, Kishangarh & Jaipur.

It had become a ritual of sorts for us to take a quick pit stop on this flyover. The first time we were on this road 5 years ago the stop was more from a "stretch our legs" perspective. But then the view of the Chittorgarh fort and the overall view from this flyover, of roads criss crossing was captivating. Since then we made it a point to stop for a few minutes every single time we were on this flyover, irrespective of the time of the day. This time was no different. We stopped on the flyover at around 5 am, had a Red bull each. Enjoyed the early morning chill. There was more than a nip in the wind.

Got back into the car and continued the drive. We crossed the industrial town of Bhilwara very soon. Crossed the toll gate after Bhilwara and stopped for a hot cup of chai. The addon package was the fresh 'Rabdi'(a form of sweetened condensed milk) that was being sold. Piping hot chai and Rabdi with the backdrop of the sun just peeping out of the horizon felt divine.

Feeling energized we were back on the road. Narasimha took over the wheel. I decided to catch some sleep. Very soon we crossed Kishangarh and were on the so called express highway to Jaipur. While I love that particular 100 KM stretch of road to Jaipur, it can hardly been called an express highway. The numbers of intersections on that stretch make it difficult to maintain a consistent speed. Having said which, Narasimha was in an unrelenting mood.

By around 9 am we were on the outskirts of Jaipur. The traffic build up meant we had to slow down to 20-30 KMPH. I was very glad that this time we managed to reach Jaipur without any damage to the car. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 5 TRIPS!!! But my happiness was short lived. Out of the blue a small stone/pellet hits the wind shield causing a small part of the wind shield to chip off. Guess that came off the tire of some other vehicle ahead of us.

Nobody's fault. Just couldn't help look up to the skies and ask, WHY? But then, I got my answer. When it comes to capital markets, they say "Risk can only be minimized; not eliminated." I thought maybe some bigger damage was averted and we got away with one with very low impact. Providence!!! With that thought I thanked the almighty above for keeping us safe.
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Last edited by GTO : 5th August 2014 at 08:54. Reason: PM coming up
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Old 4th August 2014, 19:43   #2
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Brilliant. Using the car for what its meant for. I'm sure the whole trip was a lot more relaxing and enjoyable for the driver. Also nice to see you didn't face any issues with filling fuel from highway bunks, and also the runflats didn't give you any issues. These cars are really made for long distances, and its only then that their character comes out.
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Old 4th August 2014, 20:06   #3
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Good to read your travelogue vishigollakota and nice to see cars being put to their actual use like akshay1234 said. One of the Hyderabad trips I did was just to drive the ultimat3 after I bought it. I can understand the itch!
Wish you many more trouble free and fun filled road trips ahead!
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Old 4th August 2014, 20:27   #4
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Wonderful write up. Two like minded friends having done trips for 5 years every year in a great car. You couldn't have asked for more.

you bring my memories back.

Keep writing.
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Old 5th August 2014, 13:27   #5
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Originally Posted by vishigollakota View Post
In the process we didn’t realize that we had covered a good 50 KM after the toll gate and the display showed 0 KM. this stretch after Himmatnagar is a bit of ghats and jungle. The moment we realized the fuel was almost empty we were in some kind of a panic mode. The car could stop any moment now. My first instinct was to switch off the AC and put the car on ECO-PRO mode. We decided to keep driving on till we found a fuel station. Not that we had any other choice. As luck would have it, we had hardly driven 1 KM and LO!!! WE FOUND A FUEL STATION!!! This was about 2 AM and we managed to wake up the guy who was supposed to be manning the station. Tank filled, tension relieved we started driving again.
Luckily you found a fuel station. It would have been horrific have gotten stuck in the middle of nowhere! I can only imagine the repercussions.

I had faced a similar incident with the Passat once, when the 'distance to empty' displayed 0 kms and I remember driving another 25 kms after that without re-fuelling as I had forgotten my wallet. After that I was told by the SA that even after the distance to empty shows 0 kms the car is capable of going another 35-40 kms if driven sedately. I wouldn't want to experiment that though.

Like akshay1234 mentioned, it is nice to see you exploiting the touring capabilities of the car. You must have had a blast while munching highways.
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Old 5th August 2014, 14:54   #6
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Default Re: The 5-year itch: Chennai to Jaipur in a BMW 320D

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Originally Posted by vishigollakota View Post
THE FIVE YEAR ITCH…

On 1st April, 2012, on the same road my brand new(Three day old) Safari breaks down leaving us completely helpless.
On 1st April, 2013 at a speed of 20 KMPH the brakes fail and my Safari kisses the rear end of an XUV 500 damaging the XUV’s . I am yet to get to a logical explanation of the above two incidents. .
On a lighter note , did it have something to do with the date ? I am just kidding . Nice writeup , I hope there are more pictures to this TL. Was there a Rajasthani dhaba somewhere between Nasik and Pune ?
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Old 5th August 2014, 15:13   #7
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Great write-up & nice pics, please post more if possible

You have managed to test the car to the hilt, including her fuel reserve.

The Kolhapur to Jaipur stretch is fairly long, even if there were two of you sharing the driving. I, for one can never sleep in a car and prefer to drive during the daytime only. Kudos to you for doing 1550 km non-stop.

During our last road trip, I managed 877 km from Pune to Mysore in 15 hrs with only me driving & max speed 110 km/hr.

We had the same experience between Pune & Satara. Rest of the journey was a breeze.
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Old 5th August 2014, 15:24   #8
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Superb write up, enojoyed reading every word of it. Sad to know about the Safari incident.
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Old 5th August 2014, 19:13   #9
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Nice write up. Am really amazed that you decided to take the 320D on such a long trip. Ever since my car suffered 2 broken alloys the last time Dad took it To Jaipur, I have been in this fear that I cannot enjoy the car on highways due to these menacing potholes or speed breakers which come out of nowhere.

How did your wife and daughter enjoy the trip? The back seat of the BMW is not a very comfortable place to be in specially after the Safari. Also do you have a space saver in your car? Was the boot space sufficient for all the supplies plus the space saver?

Lastly I am really surprised to hear that you also suffered from the windshield damage by a pebble. Is there a quality issue with the 320D windshield or what. My car also got a chip off right after the first pebble hit it. All my others cars have encountered multiple pebble hits and have come out unscathed over the years.
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Old 6th August 2014, 13:25   #10
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Nice trip log, looks like the roads remain the same this year in terms of condition. Its interesting to note that starting at 5PM in Bangalore you reach the dinner stop near Hubli at 9:45PM, thats 4:45 hours of driving time considering without breaks, I guess the beemer was flying at that time or the traffic was less to maintain a consistent triple digit speed.

By the way while crossing Baruch did you take the Golden bridge or went via the highway?

Some more pictures would be a great addition to the log.

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Old 6th August 2014, 15:28   #11
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How did your wife and daughter enjoy the trip? The back seat of the BMW is not a very comfortable place to be in specially after the Safari. Also do you have a space saver in your car? Was the boot space sufficient for all the supplies plus the space saver?
I guess only OP and his friend made the trip.
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Old 7th August 2014, 10:07   #12
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Great travelogue vishigollakota. After reading through, felt like I have been there with you on the trip.

Keep going and all the best.


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THE FIVE YEAR ITCH…

The excitement & anticipation was building. 31st March was approaching. One would have assumed my being a Banker was the cause for this excitement; off. With that thought I thanked the almighty above for keeping us safe.
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Old 16th August 2014, 19:28   #13
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Thanks folks!!! It was great driving this car around. The total trip distance was 5300 KM. 2650 KM one way.
The pebble/stone chipping the windshield was NOT a quality issue I think. Happens quite often when a stone gets catapulted off the tyre of another vehicle. Guess the centrifugal force does that.

The RFTs did just great. Loved the experience in the 320D.

More pics coming soon. Am doing part 2 of this trip which was the drive back. Will share soon.

Thanks again.
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Old 24th October 2014, 15:48   #14
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Thanks folks!!! It was great driving this car around. The total trip distance was 5300 KM. 2650 KM one way.
The pebble/stone chipping the windshield was NOT a quality issue I think. Happens quite often when a stone gets catapulted off the tyre of another vehicle. Guess the centrifugal force does that.

The RFTs did just great. Loved the experience in the 320D.

More pics coming soon. Am doing part 2 of this trip which was the drive back. Will share soon.

Thanks again.
Hi Vishigollakota your roadtrip has truly inspired me and my friends. We're planning a roadtrip from chennai to jaipur in feb, was a little confused to see you choose this route as google maps is giving us very different route options, a little confused
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Old 25th October 2014, 10:46   #15
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Hi Rahul_66, yes Google maps will show you the route via Hyderabad and nagpur. However the Highway just doesn't exist. For example from Nagpur to Adilabad there is virtually no road and we took a good 6 hours to cover the 170 KM distance. Likewise there are lots of stretches where there is literally no road. Likewise gwalior to jhansi virtually no road. We took this road on the way back this time.
While the NHDP map shows the above stretches as complete, the reality is they have not even started work on these stretches. This is part of the NORTH SOUTH CORRIDOR. The road that you read about in THE FIVE YEAR ITCH is part of the GOLDEN QUADRILATERAL.

Would recommend the Golden QUADRILATERAL even though it is 300 KM longer. You will at least enjoy the drive. All the best with your drive.
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