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Old 16th January 2015, 17:38   #1
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Default Unplanned 2400 kms - Hyderabad to Munnar

Hyderabad to Munnar : through salem, dindigul, theni
Munnar to Hyderabad: through Coimbatore, erode, salem

It was an unplanned trp. We attended a friend’s engagement and as we were driving back home, my wife and I got talking – how our own engagement was, the day unlike any other day, our feelings as fresh as frozen lettuce in McD burgers . We had been married for less than a year back then. This was in September 2014. It was raining all over the place. There were reports of deluge on the news, the papers printed aerial shots of families abandoning their villages like trained fishermen, paddling away to safety, their children and utensils in the tow…

We reached home, talked about how we must gather more memories before we grow old so we can relive and reminisce when our bodies no longer permit travel. Needless to say, my wife obliged. We packed and left. It was already 4 in the evening. We planned to drive to Bangalore and stay there for the night. We did not have the hotel bookings (but I knew it won’t be difficult to get a booking, it being monsoon season). My wife wanted to go to Coorg, I suspect it was because of its closeness to Bangalore. I wanted to drive all the way to Munnar.

Driving on Hyderabad-Bangalore highway is like taking a trip through the neural pathways of my brain. So many memories took root here – my first long drive to ooty, relaxed getaway to mysore, devotional outing to tirupati. This highway is like an imprint on my mind that I refuse to set free. I keep going back to it, drawn to its easy reliability.

By the time sun slipped into the horizon we reached Kurnool. From here onwards, traffic thins out and literally zeroes out like its fuse has been pulled out. By the time we reached Ananthpur it was 9 PM. It is insane – so quiet, dark and rid of traffic, the only light being the one coming from my car’s pair of headlights, dazzling the earth, bringing into focus things that want to stay in oblivion.

In Bangalore, we stayed in a crappy hotel that had a thick coat of rust on its railing and the toilet’s flush made a loud hissing sound like it was sucking the whole planet inside out. But it was alright. We were on an expedition the kind that rivals bad experiences...

In the morning, we found our way back to the highway. Having decided to drive to Munnar, we began from Electronic city. Via hosur, sedam, and onwards till Dindigul where we had to bid farewell to the adorable NH7. Munar was only 150 kms from Dindigul. We lunched here – tomato bath and curd rice. Not great, but not so bad either. Very close to Dindigul we saw an accident – the car had run into a divider and overturned, its front leaking oil and its radiator spliced apart. The police were hurrying things and traffic had come to a standstill. These things frighten you, it is almost subconscious. You don’t want to let these incidents dampen your enthusiasm, but they do. So, for a while we drove in a subdued silence, my wife looking out the window and not saying much but actually saying a lot – we are grownups, we ought to plan, we ought not drive a lot, maybe take a train, it is less risky… we were 1200 kms away from our hometown. I was nervous myself but I dare not show it, for it was not going to do any good.

Adding to this, we missed the crucial turn we were supposed to take near Theni. From there Munnar was only 70 kms. We kept driving, as if in a daze, until my wife read the signboard and consulted her smart phone to emit a low squeal, like a funny cat. We stopped and checked. We were on the wrong route. I tried talking to locals but no one spoke hindi so we kept driving ahead. After close to an hour of this insanity, I met a gentleman who was fixing his flat tire. He looked at me with that look of misfortune and I knew it. He said I missed the turn near theni so I must keep going forward and munnar was about 120 kms from there. It was about 5 in the evening and I did the math. 120 kms of ghat driving would mean 3 hrs. We debated for a little while and decided to carry on.

And then it started raining. Remember how I said it was September and how I had forgotten my time machine at home! Yes, so I was stuck in the ghat section, in a nowhere land with no hotel booking, with my wife in the car, while it was raining like the sky was coming apart in shrieks of thunder. The roads got narrower and the yellow mango dipped behind the hills. Moonlight was no good – fog was enveloping us from all sides, even from under the hood. Yes, the road was so moist that wispy coils of mist rose from the naked road, like tiny roots of phantom that was taking hostage directly above us, in those hills towards which lay our destiny. I drove with my wipers in full swing and AC defogging the best it could.

There was this temporary moment of stasis as I felt lifted out of my body, observing from high above the treetops, the singular car running through the maze of roads, climbing up and up. The winding road lying there like a dead snakeskin, coming to life, issuing cold mist through its many pores.
We reached devikulam by 9 PM. A roadside homestay was available and the host took one look at me (in my drenched clothes, for I had to step out to enquire for rooms on the way) and knew it – he opened the door for me, my wife stepping aside, her teeth chattering and rain pattering my car’s roof just behind us. The host served hot tea and I thanked him enormously. We took a hot bath and decided to eat apples for dinner – even if there was a hotel somewhere, I was not prepared to drive in that rain again. Some of the hairpin bends were like hairy animals lurking in the dark, spouting venom, enfeebling me, giving me the shivers…

In the morning, we woke up to these scenes.
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Munnar is the most beautiful hill station we have visited so far. Planned or unplanned, one has to visit this place to believe its beauty. The undulating landscape is the most beautiful thing here; just pick any road and keep driving...

Guess what, my wife wants to go back to Munnar. I will plan well this time.

Return leg:

The local guide whom we paid 400 bucks advised we take the route via polaichi. This, he opined was the favourite one for many that drove from Bangalore. This ghat section was different from the one we took earlier. This one circumnavigated a wildlife sanctuary. There were signboards everywhere enforcing the speed limit, limiting the honking, and forbidding overtaking. These rules ensured that the climb down was pleasant - no haste, no second guessing. It was the only road with no diversions and even the taxi guys seemed to dial their craziness down.

An additional advantage was of course the Lakkam waterfalls. It was a good spot for taking pictures; the water was very cold and the shacks were selling roasted fish on the roadside. There was a zoo I believe but we didn’t check that out. Parking the car was not easy- on either side of the road for as far as the eye can see cars were lined up like vegetarian cicadas, half their bodies drowned in the mosaic of leaves and branches. Finding a spot was tedious and we had to walk all the way back to the falls which I must say was just fine – not great, not a dud, but just fine. The rocks were slippery ; my wife and I tried getting in the water for a while but the crowd there was simply not letting us have our peace – inebriated men splashing water at almost everyone.

Towards the end of the ghat section a man in khakis flagged us down. I was lost in my thoughts, slowed and braked. I was on auto-pilot. So when he beckoned for me to roll the window down and shoved the cello-taped plastic gadget into the space between my face and the steering wheel, I held my hand up and told him I was not interested in buying. He did not get it. His hand stayed there. In that moment I happened to see his uniform more closely, his insignia and the paraphernalia of all things police on him. That is when it hit me – it was a breathalyser. I blew into it softly, for I had not done this before. He made me blow savagely next time, at the end of which his device chirruped happily.

My wife and I laughed at length. Who would have confused a policeman for a guy selling gadgets! I did. So here is the thing. This was the last laugh we were going to get for the day. It was about 5 PM in the night and by the time we reached Coimbatore it started raining heavily. The drive from there on till salem was a nightmare. It rained so heavily it felt like my car was wrapped in a tentacled network of silver swords. These were not inanimate rain drops, they were more than that, they were alive, and they were unto us... It was not the sort of rain I drove in ever before. The din this rain produced as it fell on the car was like listening to gothic metal on 500 watts JBL. My visibility was poor; I could see the red glow of other car blinkers smudging into the night. It was as if a hand was wiping everything. Brief flashes of white from the oncoming traffic dazzling my eyes, rain falling like the earth was turned upside down and seven seas were slashing us wet. And then to make matters worse there were these nasty speed breakers. No way of knowing where they were. My wife leaned closer, her elbows planted on the dashboard to get a good look, guessing from the slowing and pacing of other cars before us, giving me the heads up.

And this was not everything. Don’t forget we had no hotel bookings. And from what little research I did it looked like salem was the place to crash for the night. So it was a 150 kms of drive through this torrent. At some point it rained so heavily, the penciled lines of rain looked frozen in time, caught in the sights of the car’s headlight, unmoving and unchanging, encapsulating us in a globe of stenciled water paint the type that would never dry. And then suddenly it would stop. It actually stopped raining for sometime in the middle and we were able to pick up speed and cover more ground. But it was never really gone, it was right there, above us, scheming sadistically… we considered stopping but it was a highway and if we had chosen to stop near a dhaba, there was no telling if hotels would still be open late into the night. We needed to get to salem and we needed to get there the earliest possible.

At 11 PM in the night we reached Salem. It was still raining so it was not easy asking people for directions. We drove around for a while and talked to locals in broken hindi and finally found a hotel. The guy at the reception was a short man, his shoulders slouched and his chin very square. He had put on a weary expression when I asked him for the room tariff. When he showed me the sheet I told him we would be up and gone by 6 in the morning. So he withdrew his hands from the glossy tariff sheet and asked me ‘how much do you want to pay?’ the sheet had all 5000 and upwards price/night. I said I will pay 3000 and he accepted without a word.
It was a great hotel. A quick bath in warm water and my head was cleared. I promised my wife we would never do this thing again. It was too much. Any trip, even a small one of 300 kms from home should be planned (hotel bookings mandatory). That is the consensus we arrived at that night.

Next morning, as promised we left by 6 in the morning. From there on it is just the usually story – NH7 all the way back to Hyderabad. We reached home by 7 in the night.

Adding some more pics to make this post more robust.
This was near Ananthpur where we stopped for a bio break. The guy gave us a stink eye when we asked for the loo so I had a cup of tea to make up for it.

Unplanned 2400 kms - Hyderabad to Munnar-wp_20141121_008.jpg

This was, well, all the time. I love radiohead. It is soulful, existential...

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The kittens and the cat were in a restaurant. When we went there for our lunch it was past 3 I think and so there was no one in the place. Just us. And after serving us, he flipped the board to closed (not literally, I mean he did not have a board) and mopped a little bit and then he lifted a plastic barrel upside down. under it were these cute kittens waiting for their regular meal. so cute, couldn't resist the temptation to take the pics.

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Rest of these were on the way
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Last edited by SyncNest : 21st January 2015 at 14:37. Reason: added pics -jan21
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Old 16th January 2015, 22:38   #2
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Default Re: Unplanned 2400 kms - Hyderabad to Munnar

Nice narration of a trip that was planned all of a sudden. Great pictures too! But hey, don't end it so abruptly. We want more, so please whet our appetite.
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Old 17th January 2015, 11:07   #3
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Default Re: Unplanned 2400 kms - Hyderabad to Munnar

Well written sir , but where is the picture of your ride ?
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Old 17th January 2015, 11:33   #4
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Default Re: Unplanned 2400 kms - Hyderabad to Munnar

Thank you vnabhi, girimajiananth. I am new here. Love the sticker and keychain. Here is my ride

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Old 23rd January 2015, 11:44   #5
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Default Re: Unplanned 2400 kms - Hyderabad to Munnar

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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