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Old 5th May 2016, 15:42   #1
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Default A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

It’s been quite some time that we did a car trip in the recent time and Skiddy was getting bored sitting all alone at home. That’s when Atul and I decided to skip a bike trip for a weekend and do a road trip by car. There were couple of long weekends coming in the month of April, so thought to quickly zero down on a destination and plan our drive. After some deliberation and travelogue read-up, Varkala was the place we both agreed upon. Heard a lot about the Papanasam beach in Varkala and the mesmerizing horizon view from the hill-top, chance to tick off yet another place from our ‘go-to’ list.

Our beloved friend Arun decided to join us for these three days of amazing journey. Weather forecast mentioned that it would be raining in Varkala and can be quite humid. Packed our summer wears, car papers, tanked up Skiddy and yes, the journey to Varkala started. Ponmudi was another destination we had in mind to cover if time permitted.

Car: Chevy Beat
Drivers: Atul and I, passenger: Arun
Route taken: BTM > Krishnagiri > Salem > Madurai > Thenmala > Varkala > Ponmudi > Varkala > Kollam > Alappuzha > Kochi > Palakkad > Coimbatore > Salem > Krishnagiri > BTM
Total distance covered: 1575 kms
Date of travel: 8th, 9th and 10th April 2016

Day 1

Our day started at around 3:45am, woke up, got ready and packed the car for the journey. Petrol and air check were done the previous night. Meanwhile, Arun came in and sharp at 4:30am we started our journey. In no time we reached Attibele toll gate via Hosur Road (early morning so didn’t feel the necessity to take the expressway), paid Rs 25 toll and entered Hosur. Drive was pleasant, early morning breeze, mild devotional songs in the background – thanks to Indigo 91.9 FM and chit chatting of three friends. From Krishnagiri to Salem we came across three toll plaza, Krishnagiri, Thoppur and Omalur paying Rs 60, Rs 86 and Rs 69 respectively. One can seriously go bankrupt paying toll fare in so many places.

Nonetheless, we stopped by at a Saravana Bhavan outlet near Salem for breakfast around 7am. The place just opened and we could peacefully have a sumptuous and delicious breakfast, hot hot idly vada, masala dosa, pongal, vada dipped in ghee filled sambar, tea and coffee. Breakfast was yummy and we spent some 1 hour devouring our food. After an hour we started ahead in NH7 and by 8:15am we reached Salem. Crossing Salem city so early was a bliss as traffic was so minimal.

Now the most boring part of the journey started, butter smooth road of NH7 yet I feel that it is one of the most non-scenic highways. All we did was drive, drive and drive. We stopped by at couple of places for snaps and fresh air. Crossed Namakkal, Karur, and Dindigul and reached Madurai around 12 noon. If I remember correctly, we came across three toll gates in this stretch – Rs 78, Rs 60 and Rs 40. (Apologies for not having exact details of all the toll booths as I misplaced most of the slips). We reached Tirumangalam and took diversion towards NH744.

After driving through hot and humid weather we reached Rajapalayam at around 1pm and decided to do away with lunch, as we weren’t sure whether we would be getting any good place to eat later on. Found a place called ‘Ananda Vilas’ serving non-veg food and immediately entered the AC section for relaxing and food. Parking space isn’t that huge, decent food, nice ambiance inside the AC room and good to use restrooms. We had chicken lollipops, mutton biriyani, chicken biriyani and some cold drinks. One hour of rest, we continued our journey ahead. Atul and I were exchanging the steering so that none of us get bored, sleepy or exhausted. We had yet another 170kms to cover and it was already 2pm.

From Rajapalayam, the roads started getting into single lane, narrow, through many villages, partial ghat sections. This would mean we would be slowed down drastically in speed. To top it up Kerala bus drivers drive as if they are on a mission to kill every soul on the road. However, I would say that the drive was super scenic amidst country side roads, green vegetation, colorful flora and dusky windy sky. Around 4:30pm we reached the famous Thenmala Reserve Forest and the dam/reservoir. The view from the bridge of the reservoir was magnificent. Magical green trees, back waters, coconut trees and evening sky with scattered clouds. We spent some time clicking over there. Another 20 mins and we started our drive towards Varkala. We crossed many rubber plantations on our way ahead.

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Just before losing out completely on the day light, we reached Varkala town around 6:30pm. Unfortunely, had to wait for some 15 mins in the railway check post, not one but two trains were about to cross the post. So by 6:45pm, we reached our stay – ‘Vedanta Wake-up’. Nice locality with hut, deluxe and regular rooms, decent parking space and too many back-packing foreigners. We booked a deluxe AC room for Rs 1500 including an extra person occupancy, couldn’t get a hut.

The first thing I wanted to do after entering the room was to take a quick bath and wash away all the heat and tiredness. Sometime around 7:30pm we started walking towards the beach which was just 1 km away from our stay. The hill-top walk down through stairs takes one to the sea beach, there are multiple such walk-down stairs. Obviously, at that point of time, the beach would be completely deserted. We spent some 10-15 mins near the water and climbed up. The market place along the coast line of the Papanasam beach is amazing, colorful and lively. One can find all sorts of dresses, sea beach wear, jewelries, chappals, antique pieces, fridge magnets and many many cafes which will be flocked in by large number of foreigners. Major attraction would be the fresh ‘catch of the day’ fishes displayed for people to see, get them cooked if they liked it and devour it. Fish ranging from small to big, squids to sword fish, all varieties but me being a fish hater was highly uninterested. It seemed like a mini Goa. We got inside a café as all three of us were famished by now. We ordered chicken momos, tomato cheese omelet, pancakes with honey and chocolate, pastas and some cold coffee. Food was delicious and the staff were too friendly. Around 10:45pm, we were done with dinner and decided to walk back to the stay.

First day of the journey came to an end and three of us retired for the night around 11:30pm.

Day 2

7:45am and all three were up for the day. Atul did some permutation combination, calculation, googling and brainstorming on whether to go to Ponmudi or not. It is a beautiful hill station some 84kms away from Varkala. We agreed that beach we will visit in the evening before sunset, now we will get ready, have breakfast and head towards Ponmudi. By 9am we were ready, got into the car and were looking out for a place to have breakfast. Came across a restaurant right before the end of Varkala town limits and got in to have food. Masala dosa, puri, plain dosa and tea were ordered. Half an hour and we were done with our breakfast.

The drive to Ponmudi wasn’t very simple, we had to come across many state highways, national highways, and narrow single lanes. Some of the places we crossed were Kallambalam, Attingal, Venjaramood, Nedumangad, Chullimanoor and Kallar to reach Ponmudi. All the while, Google Maps was doing its job best. The drive through the dense forest road of Ponmudi was mesmerizing, included 22 hair pin bends - high grown trees, creeping wildlings, buzzing forest noise, crickets, cool breeze, green hills and mountain ranges, valleys, twisties, curves. One can feel the nature in every breath and once you reach the hill top, the mountains embrace you. Plenty of space for parking, trails that leads to observation towers and other areas along the mountain ranges. Please make sure to carry some snacks and edible as the sole restaurant available in the peak has nothing much to offer. We spent some 2 hours on the hill peak and then around 2pm we descended back and started our journey back to Varkala.

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Followed the same route while coming back. To our blessing we experienced heavy-downpour on our way back, it was raining cats and dogs. Had to be extra cautious in those narrow roads and vehicles coming from opposite lane. After a while we stopped by at a place for lunch as three of us were super hungry and there weren’t any good place around. Looked like a big mistake as they just had veg meals and a plate of chicken biriyani – already 3pm, raining and not finding any other better place, we decided to go ahead and eat whatever was available. Somehow finished our food just to fill our stomachs and then around 3:45pm, we headed towards our hotel.

4:45pm and we reached our hotel premise. My hope to capture sunset was gutted, as the sky was fully cloudy and there was absolutely no sign of viewing sunset that evening. Some time to rest and then we would head towards the beach to play around. From 5:30 until 7:30pm we loitered around the sea beach, jumped into the water to beat the hot and humid weather, played like kids as if never seen a beach in life. Arun preferred to stay behind and enjoy from the beach. Soon we started to lose out on light and it became dusk.

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Headed towards the stay to take bath and get fresh. It was almost 8:30pm and we went out for dinner to the same place where we have dinner the other day. This time the order included chicken momos, American chicken choupsey, grilled chicken with rice, French fries and some coke. Done with dinner, we started talking a quick stroll and all three of us sat by a bench facing the sea. The night view of the sea was breath-taking, heavenly – the tides, cool breeze, friends, talks, everything seemed so perfect and beautiful. Neither of us wanted to get up and head back, yet we had to. Next day we have to get back home.

It was 11:15pm and we retired for the day, end of an amazing day two.

Day 3

Our day three started at around 7am. Once again before heading home, we wanted to go back to the beach and spend some time. I carried my camera to click some pictures, people, beach, random shots, etc. Walking around the beach, taking snaps, talking, observing others and time just flew away. It was already 9 and we haven’t had our breakfast yet. We hurried back to the same restaurant and ordered some yummy breakfast – English, Spanish and American breakfast with fresh juice. Done with the food, bid bye to the hotel folks, came back to the stay.

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Freshened up, packed, hotel settlement done and we were ready to start our return journey around 11:30am. Yes, it was a bit late and today we were taking a longer route to get back home. Nonetheless, tanked up Skiddy, filled air and hit the road. Our first destination was Alappuzha via Kollam. Until Kollam, the drive was mesmerizing – all along the road we could see the sea water on one side and back water on the other. I never saw such scenic views in my life, we stopped by at some places to click pictures.

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Right after Kollam however, the nightmare started. Single lane, people coming in from anywhere and nowhere, no road discipline, no honking, no indicators, no road sense – one will literally go mad driving/riding on these roads. We somehow crossed this stretch and reached Alappuzha around 2:30pm. For lunch we stopped at this nice looking restaurant called ‘Cassia’ on NH47. Very good ambiance, ample parking space and superbly maintained. Ordered duck fry, plain rice, dal fry, egg biriyani and some cold drinks. After a lavish lunch, around 3:30pm we headed towards Kochi – we still have 580kms to cover to reach home.

Continued on NH47 and we reached Kochi city by around 4:45pm. We did pay tolls on the way (as mentioned, lost the slips so not sure how much we paid). Crossing the city was another painful task, too many signals, inner roads and heavy traffic due to Kochi Metro construction. Another strange thing I observed were the red signals all along the highway, why would someone install signals on a fast moving highway? Anyway, we took the Salem Kochi Kanyakumari highway and crossed Chalakudy, Thrissur, Palakkad and Coimbatore to reach Salem at around 11pm. (Please note road condition between Thrissur and Palakkad is very very bad – single lane and very narrow ghat section roads with heavy traffic due to road construction. One needs to be very careful while overtaking).

When we reached Salem, we tanked up Skiddy once again for the remaining part of the journey, another 200kms for home. We decided to skip dinner and pick up some light snacks from the petrol bunk. To our relief there wasn’t much traffic on NH7 and we could cross the distance faster. 2am and we reached home, Arun bid farewell and the journey came to an end. All safe and sound, yet fully tired and exhausted.

Hope you guys liked the travelogue along with the pics. Until next time, drive safe!!
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Old 5th May 2016, 17:58   #2
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Default re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Great pictures and good write up!

Thanks for sharing the experience and its just added another To-Go place in my list

-Ravi
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Old 6th May 2016, 10:44   #3
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Default re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Nice pictures and a well written travelogue.

I had stayed in the Govt Lodge at the crest of Ponmudi many eons ago. It was unspoiled nature at that time. It appears that it still remains relatively free from commercialization even today.
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Old 6th May 2016, 10:59   #4
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Default re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Vow, you sighted Nilgiri Thar at Ponmudi and did not think it worth mentioning!

Nice trip and log. Not many would prefer the beaches of Kerala during the summer
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Old 6th May 2016, 14:37   #5
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Default Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Quote:
Originally Posted by ravib View Post
Great pictures and good write up!

Thanks for sharing the experience and its just added another To-Go place in my list

-Ravi
Thanks Ravi.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prowler View Post
Nice pictures and a well written travelogue.

I had stayed in the Govt Lodge at the crest of Ponmudi many eons ago. It was unspoiled nature at that time. It appears that it still remains relatively free from commercialization even today.
It is still clean and un-touched by commercialization. It was completely serene and fresh.

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Originally Posted by mallumowgli View Post
Vow, you sighted Nilgiri Thar at Ponmudi and did not think it worth mentioning!

Nice trip and log. Not many would prefer the beaches of Kerala during the summer
Those are not real Tahr, they are cemented structure kept in the main gate once you reach the hill-top
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Old 6th May 2016, 14:55   #6
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Thumbs up Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Simply superb narration. Hearty congrats. Pictures are just amazing. Being a native of Kerala, I really liked your comment on our own KSRTC Bus Drivers. We call them 'Aanavandi' ( Elephant Vehicle) and we are daily facing such threats from these so called drivers. When will they became polite? Why these guys drive their vehicles so arrogantly? I am not blaming every KSRTC Bus Driver. But a majority belong to this category.

Last edited by GTO : 8th May 2016 at 12:21. Reason: Language
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Old 6th May 2016, 20:18   #7
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Default Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Lovely lovely travelogue this one! All aspects are well narrated with details and with lovely pics. Read entire post in 1 sitting!
I am so much impressed with the place, drive and yummy food all the way that I have already shared the details with my Gang, and Varkala is going to be our next drive. Friend suggested opting for flight, and as usual I put him down with my calculations (where Drive wins whatsoever)!
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Old 6th May 2016, 21:43   #8
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Default Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Superb T-log. Its good you decided to cover Ponmudi as well. Varkala and Ponmudi have been there in my list for long time. Just waiting for monsoons to arrive
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Old 7th May 2016, 03:49   #9
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Default Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Good to see another t-log after a little longer gap! Good pictures and narration there.

Looking at the pictures, I realised that I had spotted your car on 17th April @ Hoyasala Resort! Pic on the sticker spotting thread!
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Old 7th May 2016, 20:59   #10
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Default Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Thankyou Nandita for sharing this wonderful travelogue. I am from Kerala, and you made me realize that I should visit Ponmudi at the earliest...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeevan Sukumar View Post
Simply superb narration. Hearty congrats. Pictures are just amazing. Being a native of Kerala, I really liked your comment on our own KSRTC Bus Drivers. We call them 'Aanavandi' ( Elephant Vehicle) and we are daily facing such threats from these so called drivers. When will they became polite? Why these guys drive their vehicles so arrogantly? I am not blaming every KSRTC Bus Driver. But a majority belong to this category.
second that, i am absolutely terrified by the way they drive. And when you try to travel in one, you will see that driver is trying to murder the engine, rather than take the bus to it's destination

Last edited by GTO : 8th May 2016 at 12:22. Reason: Quoted post edited
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Old 9th May 2016, 17:09   #11
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Default Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Nice travelogue Brought back the memories of the drive to Varkala in a 12-13 year old Toyota Qualis during Jan 2016. Mind boggling pics
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Old 12th May 2016, 12:50   #12
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Default Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Great travelogue. Such a beautiful place. nothing to beat a place like Goa minus the crowds. I would like to compliment your photography skills as well. All the pictures are amazing.
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Old 12th August 2016, 14:31   #13
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Default Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeevan Sukumar View Post
Simply superb narration. Hearty congrats. Pictures are just amazing. Being a native of Kerala, I really liked your comment on our own KSRTC Bus Drivers. We call them 'Aanavandi' ( Elephant Vehicle) and we are daily facing such threats from these so called drivers. When will they became polite? Why these guys drive their vehicles so arrogantly? I am not blaming every KSRTC Bus Driver. But a majority belong to this category.
Thank you so much! The only thing that scares us during any ride/drive to Kerala are the KSRTC buses, brings the heart to the mouth!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zinda View Post
Lovely lovely travelogue this one! All aspects are well narrated with details and with lovely pics. Read entire post in 1 sitting!
I am so much impressed with the place, drive and yummy food all the way that I have already shared the details with my Gang, and Varkala is going to be our next drive. Friend suggested opting for flight, and as usual I put him down with my calculations (where Drive wins whatsoever)!
Thank you so much!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bageera View Post
Superb T-log. Its good you decided to cover Ponmudi as well. Varkala and Ponmudi have been there in my list for long time. Just waiting for monsoons to arrive
Thanks for liking the t-log. Monsoon is here, so you might as well plan a trip now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by abirnale View Post
Good to see another t-log after a little longer gap! Good pictures and narration there.

Looking at the pictures, I realised that I had spotted your car on 17th April @ Hoyasala Resort! Pic on the sticker spotting thread!
Thank you @abirnale. I did acknowledge your post on the sticker spotting thread. Finally, someone spotted my car

Quote:
Originally Posted by karuvally View Post
Thankyou Nandita for sharing this wonderful travelogue. I am from Kerala, and you made me realize that I should visit Ponmudi at the earliest...

second that, i am absolutely terrified by the way they drive. And when you try to travel in one, you will see that driver is trying to murder the engine, rather than take the bus to it's destination
Ponmudi is an amazing place, monsoon would make it even heavenly. Hope you must have visited by now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vw19d View Post
Nice travelogue Brought back the memories of the drive to Varkala in a 12-13 year old Toyota Qualis during Jan 2016. Mind boggling pics
Thank you so much!

Quote:
Originally Posted by pduttaghy View Post
Great travelogue. Such a beautiful place. nothing to beat a place like Goa minus the crowds. I would like to compliment your photography skills as well. All the pictures are amazing.
Thank you so much!
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Old 15th August 2016, 22:49   #14
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Default Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

Hi, very well written TL. The pics are awesome to say the least. You have a great knack for capturing the moments and remind me of the proverb: Picture is worth a thousand words. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 18th August 2016, 16:57   #15
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Default Re: A beautiful beach and an enchanting hill station! Drive to Varkala and Ponmudi

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Hi, very well written TL. The pics are awesome to say the least. You have a great knack for capturing the moments and remind me of the proverb: Picture is worth a thousand words. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much!
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