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Old 11th September 2016, 11:17   #1
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Exclamation Italian Invasion: Vagamon

So after the drives to Ooty and Valparai (Breakfast Drive to Valparai!) what next had always been lingering in the minds.

I did miss the Yercaud drive and couldn't wait for the next hill-run. The Independence day long weekend sounded as the perfect time (interns of office leaves only!) and so it was.

With the dates finalized, it was time to decide on the venue and accommodation. I tried calling up Woodbrier to check on the availability in Valparai and they conveyed that even their Munnar and Meghamalai properties were full! This was expected being a long weekend but then this inquiry was 2 months prior!

Ooty was kept as the last option and hence we decided to try either Vagamon or Nelliyampathy. Hari, who had been to Vagamon in 2014 had a contact who could help find a place, but wait, before that we had to finalize on the count. Dhans was so adamant that he said he will do this drive even if none of us could make it

After 2-3 days of constant mess on a WA group, the final list was done with around 10 confirmations and 3 being tentative. So we went ahead with that and Santhosh was given the responsibility to 'deal' and finalize the accommodation with priorities being that the place should be away from the town and should have sufficient parking space. But there wasn't much choice available there too since we needed a place which can accommodate 4 families and 6 stags and hence we ended up with confirming and paying an advance to 'Pilgrims Retreat'. We had booked 6 rooms with no idea or known reviews and had to be content with a similar pic as below from the web.

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It was only after the booking confirmed we did explore a little more and found the website and were happy that it was a pretty good place. Gmaps showed that this place was isolated from the Vagamon town which was what we needed too.

The guys

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L-R: Aravindh, Pradeep, Naveen, DRIV3R, Dhans, Manoj, Santhosh & myself.


The Rides

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The route

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Trip Stats

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The prelude:

So with the participants spread across multiple cities, Coimbatore was decided as the starting point on Sat (Aug 13). Plan was the Chennai'ites would start on Friday evening and halt for the night at my place in CBE and we join the CBE folks the next morning at Ukkadam. Naveen and fly from Bangalore would reach Avinashi early on Friday and halt there and then join the gang at Marapalam the next morning.

Come Friday evening and we start around 6:45 PM. Some 30 odd minute delay than the original plan. It was the usual route which we take every other week, so nothing much to write about that. Traffic as expected was heavy and we reached my place in CBE around 2am.

The plan was to start by 7am and we set off from my place at about the planned time. DRIV3R along with Pradeep & fly were a little late and hence we started off asking them to catch up with us at Marapalam. By the time we reach, Naveen was already there and that was the first break of the rather long drive that was waiting for us!

Random shots at my place

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Once everyone gathered, we set off towards Walayar which was the next planned stop. We had in mind for a quick visit to my family friend's farm in Walayar, it was an agri farm where they live and the twist to it is their wonderful collection of vintage and classic cars!

Few clicks from Velmurugan Farm:

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My SS is undergoing repairs in there

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L-R: Santhosh, Naveen (the cars belong to him), myself, Hari, Aravindh.

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Last edited by h14 : 11th September 2016 at 21:40.
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Old 11th September 2016, 22:02   #2
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So after the rather longish outing at the farm we moved over to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. The place was empty and we were the only ones there. Food was good but they took their own sweet time to serve. Finally after wasting quite a lot of time we managed to make our move towards Palakkad.

Since we lost a lot of time already, next stop was decided for lunch. Some 20 odd mins into the tolled highway inside KL we get to know that it was just the start! Beautiful 4 laned tolled highway with traffic signals almost every 5 kms and full of civilization either sides. You hardly get open highway to stretch your legs and to make things worse were the sophisticated speed guns! Oh and not to forget the signals had very long red timings even for city standards. I could sense NHAI saying "Welcome to Kerala".

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-img20160813wa0005.jpg

Traffic was continuously heavy and was only building up as we progressed.

Next stop was for lunch at Angamali. Again, good food with slow service meant we again lost couple of hours. Plus atm visits etc delayed us further.

We then asked Hari and Dhans to start early as they were to buy some fish for dinner at a market near Thodupuzha. We then start a good 1 hr later than them and by the time we reach Thodupuzha, they were done with the fish shopping and we were all set to hit the ghats.

We then see a diversion saying Vagamon. We all take right there and it was a very narrow road. There was hardly any space for 1 car and was hoping no vehicles come down. It wasn't just narrow, but pretty steep. Aravindh was driving my car and I kept on telling that this definitely isn't the route I took when I went to Vagamon few yrs back for the Mahindra great escape.

We continue on the same road and there were few cars coming down and they did make way for us. But the real pain was the numerous impatient autos. At one point we had to pull over and let them pass to drive peacefully. Few minutes into this road I was wondering should we turn back and take the proper road, this was not only very narrow and steep but deserted and we were off the mobile network too.

But then when we hit a corner, the sight of a might waterfall welcomed us and we thought that was well worth the drive in that stretch.

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-123.jpg

Now the roads were slightly wider and after a nice break at the waterfall we set off. Natural light was reducing and we push off from there. Naveen didn't stop and hence was ahead of us.

The route uphill was simply fantastic. The landscape were nothing I've seen before and now I was thanking our good stars for having taken this route instead of the usual one. We later came to know that this was a shorter route and hence steeper too!

Some random shots en-route:

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That's how wide the road was for the 25odd kms
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Those 25odd kms were nothing short of refreshing and we reached the hilltop to witness the sun set. If we had done the uphill after sunset we would have missed those lovely landscapes. We wanted to stop at many more spots, but didn't do so due to time and also that Naveen was ahead and waiting for us.

Upon reaching the top, we pulled over to reach to the guy who helped in booking. Since there was no mobile coverage, we reached to the only shop there and the shopkeeper helped us with his mobile.

Our guy was waiting in the town for us, but little did we know that we were in the opposite direction some 15odd kms apart. To avoid confusion, we ask him to wait in the town and decide to go there ourselves.

By this time Dhans who didn't stop had reached Naveen and they both set off towards to place of stay with GPS for help. All this we were able to know after some frantic calls in the very feeble mobile network that we got.

So with all the family folks gone off, 3 cars with the stags set off towards the town and en route we see a diversion marked to Pilgrims Retreat. But we proceeded further towards the town and some 2 kms later visibility was near zero. It was cold dark and super misty! We pull over there and got out to experience the mist spread. The fog encountered can't be explained by words!

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-128.jpg

Now we get mobile coverage and reach out to out guy and explain our location and asked him if he can come back to us. He agreed and it was decided that we wait for him at the diversion which would take him close to 30 mins.

So we get there and manage to park the 3 cars safely (narrow roads with poor visibility). There was a tea shop and we head there and grabbed some tea. The chilly evening combined with tea and with absolutely nothing else to do was a perfect recipe for loads of chit chats! Did we have some fun or what? Those 30 mins were super fun, Manoj was sharing his house hunting experiences in Chennai, Pradeep was at his witty best on his forgettable experiences at CAI and what not!

We all did have a dig at KRS who was thousands of miles away in MY. After some time a CJ340 arrives and it was this guy. Once he exchanged warm bear hugs with Santhosh (only with him ), we set off towards the resort.

The drive from there was very testing. Roads were mediocre with no signs of civilization. It took a good 40 mins for us to reach the destination.

We were all very tired by now. It was only the weather and the peaceful location that was keeping us up. Dinner was ready in a while and the feast was on followed by some non stop nonsense late into the night and slowly one by one we retired for the day.

Last edited by h14 : 13th September 2016 at 22:52.
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Old 11th September 2016, 23:36   #3
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Day 2

It wasn't a lazy Sunday, but we hardly did anything. Woke up around 7:30 and managed to take a shower. They had solar heaters installed, but there was hardly any sunlight. Somehow managed a cold shower and went out to check on the others.

Most of them were still sleeping. We were just wandering around sipping some hot tea. The view of the mountain from the resort was a lovely sight. You could just sit there and stare at it all day!

Some of the early risers

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-32.jpg

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-33.jpg
Scenes around the property

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By now breakfast was ready and one by one the other folks were getting up. At around noon all the guys set out for a small drive in two cars whilst the ladies remained at the resort.

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-15.jpg

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-23.jpg
We just headed out to the main road and drove out further few kms. Climate was yet again playing hide and seek; misty, smoky, rain and what not! We experienced almost everything except sun shine.

A 'green' bridge en-route:

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-132.jpg

We then spotted a small shop and get there for some tea. All he had was bread omelette and black coffee. By now rain was belting down and we grab the coffee and decide to wait it out to get back to the cars.

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-p_20160814_130938_1_p.jpg

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-p_20160814_130946_1_p.jpg
We reach back in time for lunch. The food served was wonderful. Breakfast, lunch, dinner were all excellent.

Post lunch, whilst the others went about playing cards and stuff, this was what I ended up doing.

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-img20160818wa0018.jpg

It was so refreshing that I just sat there watching over the mountains for almost an hour, then managed to get myself a reclining chair and fell asleep until the rains woke me up. Easily the best afternoon nap in a very long time.

It was evening already and when I walked in, there was rummy in one corner and carom on the other. The games were so intense to the extent of some championship. Soon they finished that and moved over to play Frisbee. I was the lone spectator for all these events as I was still drowsy and haven't recovered from the late afternoon nap

Once they were done and tired, it was time for some music! My car got center stage and the Morel Tempo's got its much deserved workout.

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-96.jpg

By now the guys were winding up and relaxing, but were once again pulled in to play dumb-charades (felt sorry for the family men, they couldn't say no). This time I had Aravindh as a co-spectator (who unfortunately fell prey to a leech and was recovering from that) and we had loads of ROFL moments. This lasted well over an hour and we were back outside and the music resumed!

Sunday night extended into Monday and we forcefully hit bed as we had a very long drive back to Chennai. Plan was to start around 9am post breakfast via Kumily and Dindigul. It was going to be 2 cars to Chennai while the other 3 were to CBE, Avinashi and Kumarapalayam. Though the onward route was the shortest for those 3, they too decided to come via Kumily and divert off at Dindigul.

Last edited by h14 : 13th September 2016 at 21:56.
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Old 11th September 2016, 23:45   #4
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Day 3 - The conclusion

We started off the day with photo shoots of the cars at the resort and post breakfast we settled the bills and set off around 10am.

Clicks of the property:

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-1.jpg

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And time for the cars to take center-stage

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-2.jpg

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Since we had decided on Kumily, it was a longer drive before descending. We had to travel all the way to Vagamon town and then hit Kumily road. The roads were wider and better and traffic was decent. The landscapes were good in this route too.

Random clicks en-route:

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We reached Vandiperiyar without any fuss and got held up there in a massive traffic block. It was due to a narrow bridge and cops were holding and organizing traffic. Plan was the break for lunch at Kumily.

We reach Kumily and the women wasted no time in shopping for spices! After some 40-50 minutes we were somehow able to get them out of the shops and get into the restaurant. Post lunch we get back onto the cars quickly (fear of them getting into a shopping spree again) and crossed the border and entered TN.

Now I was behind the wheel for the first time in the return drive! I was very desperate to drive this Cumbum - Dindigul stretch which is a treat for those who love driving in 2 lanes. It was non-stop from Kumily to Dindigul and we had a blast! Except the few places before Batlagundu and near Dindigul where by-pass roads are being newly formed and pending completion in some places, the roads were good which enabled us to reach Dindigul before 6pm. Stopped over at a tea shop on the Dindigul by-pass and after swapping baggage's and passengers, all of us bid good bye to each other and split ways towards our respective destinations.

Dindigul-Trichy as always done in no time and we reached Trichy comfortably. From Trichy we set off towards Chennai expecting some very bad traffic, but surprisingly roads were free and even Trichy to Ulundurpet was a breeze. All this was put off with an extremely long queue at the Ulundurpet toll and it took a very long time to cross. We stopped for dinner at Woodlands. Aravindh was driving my car for the Trichy-Dindigul sector while I had a power nap and so took over the wheels back after dinner. Next break was at Mamandur for a late night tea and again a swap of cars happened for the last time in this drive and I set off home with Santhosh and Aravindh via Chengalpet-Thiruporur while Hari and Manoj continued via the GST. We reached home at about midnight and thereby concluding yet another wonderful hill-run.

Star of the Trip:

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-117.jpg

Jr.Naveen was undoubtedly the star. He enjoyed the drive more than anyone else! It was a very long drive and he hardly complained. He was full of energy and was loving the presence of so many cars around him. His expressions on seeing another identical Punto for the first time was too good, he was turning left and right frantically trying to figureout which was his dad's car! Once he got used to us, he was enjoying and spending time in all the cars. The next gen enthusiast had announced his arrival in this trip. Kuddos to Naveen for having accustomed him for the child seat from the early age and now he's comfortable with long drives.

Some pointers
  1. The Pilgrims Retreat was a very homely place.It does not qualify for a resort and they don't claim that way either. Details and contact info are here
  2. Food was good and the caretaker/cook was a great guy. You hardly get to see such persons in the hospitality sectors.
  3. You get 100% privacy and it was a home away from home feel for us.
  4. Bigger cots and better blankets are definitely needed for better comfort.
  5. Solar water heaters proved of no use in the weather, but we didn't complain.
  6. The longer route via Dindigul-Kumily was supposedly faster and enjoyable

Last edited by h14 : 13th September 2016 at 22:39.
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Old 14th September 2016, 07:23   #5
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 15th September 2016, 12:31   #6
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Thanks for sharing! Those are some lovely photos with stunning backdrops. It would have been an amazing journey throughout with those Italian beauties Thanks for sharing the accommodation details as well. How different is Vagamon from Valparai?
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Old 15th September 2016, 21:42   #7
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Awesome! I had been to Vagamon just a month back and was mesmerized by the climate & scenery. We were put up at a place near Kurisumala, you can see their cattle grazing on top of the hills, in one of the pics. Such an unpolluted place and hope it stays so. Attaching a bunch of pics my my journey to share the good times with fellow bhp'ians.

One of the moments...

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-wp_20160818_14_02_08_pro.jpg

A minute later...

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-wp_20160818_14_03_30_pro.jpg

View from the homestay. Kurisumala Ashram's property and their cattle grazing atop - zoom to see those.

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-wp_20160819_07_56_18_pro.jpg

On the way back - from one of the view points.

Italian Invasion: Vagamon-wp_20160819_10_07_51_pro.jpg
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Old 15th September 2016, 22:10   #8
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Thats a brilliant write-up h14 ji!!! Those pics are inviting!!! Hope you enjoyed the Fiats in the twisties!!

Cheers

Prasanth Krishnan
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Old 16th September 2016, 01:38   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zahoor23 View Post
Thanks for sharing! Those are some lovely photos with stunning backdrops. It would have been an amazing journey throughout with those Italian beauties Thanks for sharing the accommodation details as well. How different is Vagamon from Valparai?


Both are kind of un-commercialised hill stations. That is the similarity.

Other than that, we felt Vagamon is a more offbeat place with lots of greenery and scenic views. The place of stay was the most influential in our opinion and we liked the fact that we had no mobile reception or internet to distract us. And the view, just as you step out of the property.

Again, if you choose to stay somewhere near or within the town, I guess not much of difference.

Coming to driving aspect, Valparai is more fun when U ascend the hill. Atleast as per the route we took.

Also, since our cars were from a neighbouring state and bore it's abbreviation on the number plates, we were subjected to some hostility en route.

To sum it up, we all loved Vagamon much and have it in our to do list again.
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Old 16th September 2016, 06:55   #10
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Italian Invasion: Vagamon-imageuploadedbyteambhp1473988778.389187.jpgItalian Invasion: Vagamon-imageuploadedbyteambhp1473988799.790071.jpgItalian Invasion: Vagamon-imageuploadedbyteambhp1473988836.046238.jpgItalian Invasion: Vagamon-imageuploadedbyteambhp1473988853.097241.jpgItalian Invasion: Vagamon-imageuploadedbyteambhp1473988879.784601.jpgItalian Invasion: Vagamon-imageuploadedbyteambhp1473988906.804080.jpg

I visited Vagamon a couple of days ago, and the views that it offered were stupendous. My family is contemplating another visit, and was wondering if there are any pre-eminent lodging options.

I drove all the way toward the 'Kurisumala ashram' and didn't take the road to 'Kurisumala'- unsure if we missed out on something?
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Old 16th September 2016, 13:23   #11
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Wonderful travelogue Anandh. Loved every bit

And thanks for the info and snaps of Venkateswara farms. Have always wondered about the Jeeps and vintage vehicles parked - they became more visible after the 4-laning
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Old 20th September 2016, 23:33   #12
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Hello. Beautiful pictures, crisply written and put together. Are the vintages open to view and admire, for outsiders, also. If yes, please do list the contact no. Now the only missing part, I found was, fooding and lodging. Perhaps all details are there, waiting to be uploaded. It would be a great to know the places to eat and stay. Perhaps some advise as to places to visit, or look out for in terms food, view points, lodging etc. Looking forward to seeing them in your future post, out here. Thanx in advance. Regards
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Old 27th September 2016, 14:20   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zahoor23 View Post
Thanks for sharing! Those are some lovely photos with stunning backdrops. It would have been an amazing journey throughout with those Italian beauties Thanks for sharing the accommodation details as well. How different is Vagamon from Valparai?
Thanks Zahoor23. It was indeed a wonderful trip. Comparing Valparai and Vagamon ain't fair! Both are special! Vagamon is still unexplored and far more out of reality if I can term as such! There are no fuel stations here, the climate is wonderful, and it has recently got few ATM's.

Quote:
Originally Posted by swiftnfurious View Post
Awesome! I had been to Vagamon just a month back and was mesmerized by the climate & scenery. We were put up at a place near Kurisumala,
Thanks swiftnfurious! Kurisumala sounds interesting. I just completed another visit to Vagamon yesterday so shall check out Kurisumala next time

Quote:
Originally Posted by Asta_la_vista View Post
Thats a brilliant write-up h14 ji!!! Those pics are inviting!!! Hope you enjoyed the Fiats in the twisties!!
Thanks Prasanth! It was indeed a great place to drive with the FIAT's!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jacobvarughese View Post
I visited Vagamon a couple of days ago, and the views that it offered were stupendous. My family is contemplating another visit, and was wondering if there are any pre-eminent lodging options.
I stayed at Pilgirims Retreat then and then at Winter Vale last week and both were decent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mallumowgli View Post
And thanks for the info and snaps of Venkateswara farms. Have always wondered about the Jeeps and vintage vehicles parked - they became more visible after the 4-laning
Thanks mallumowgli! It's Velmurugan farm and yes, now the cars are more visible from the toll plaza.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dr. sen View Post
Hello. Beautiful pictures, crisply written and put together.
Thanks!
Quote:
Originally Posted by dr. sen View Post

Are the vintages open to view and admire, for outsiders, also. If yes, please do list the contact no.
Yes they are! You can get in touch with them over facebook at Velmurughan Car Paradise

Quote:
Originally Posted by dr. sen View Post
Now the only missing part, I found was, fooding and lodging. Perhaps all details are there, waiting to be uploaded.
The place of stay is already mentioned with its website.
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