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Old 5th July 2017, 21:26   #1
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Default Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Prologue

Long weekend coming up and donít we all start planning for a vacation, for a perfect weekend getaway? It was Eid holiday on 26th June and from a really long time Atul and I didnít go out on a bike ride. Hulk, our new green Kawasaki Versys 650 just got delivered and the time for this long weekend was just perfect, right after the run-in and 1st service completion of Hulk. Destination was already decided Ė it was Vagamon in Kerala. Have been there once in January last year but couldnít explore the place properly.

Vagamon, far away from the hustling bustling city culture, lush greenery and serenity to gift each visitor, could be your quiet offbeat hill station away from the maddening tourist crowds. This place is pretty unexplored and untouched, hence offers a beautiful picturesque of Mother Nature. Stay was booked some two weeks before in a resort called Winter Vale. Two of our friends, Arun and Amruthesh decided to join us in their respective D390s.

Everything was going fine until one unlucky Saturday night, when we were on our way to Shoolagiri McD to celebrate one of our friendís newly delivered D390. A small stone came flying and hit Hulkís radiator making a hole in it (you can read about the complete story in Atulís Versys 650 ownership thread - http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/superb...sys-650-a.html (Homecoming of the Hulk : Kawasaki Versys 650)). Needless to say, Hulk is going to be grounded for the next couple of weeks, disheartened and disappointed, we were almost on the verge of cancelling the resort booking and the trip as a whole. But then finally we decided to go ahead with the trip along with Skiddy. Arun and Amruthesh would join us in the car as well.

Vagamon trip is not just going to start smoothly. Just the day before the drive, on Friday, Atul thought of tanking up Skiddy early morning instead of waiting till evening or night. Never seen this happen ever, the rear wheels of Skiddy were locked and as Atul tried accelerating the car ahead, the wheels just dragged along the way. We called apartment security guards to push and see if they can help with anything, after a loud thud sound, the wheel started moving. Without spending much time, both of us headed towards Chevrolet service center in Hosur Road for a quick check up. Well, this was high time we did actually cancel the trip. However, the service center folks kept Skiddy for half a day and assured us that there was nothing wrong with the brakes, wheels or anything else. He also confirmed that the car can be taken out without any problem. A sign of relief, as Hulk was already sick so didnít want anything to happen to Skiddy now. On our way filled petrol and air, informed Arun and Amruthesh that we are good to go next day early morning.

Did some quick packing for the trip, some snacks, camera equipment, made everything ready and slept. In some hours, we are going to hit the road.

Some quick bytes from the trip:

Dates: 24, 25 and 26 June 2017 (3 days)
Travelers Ė Atul, Arun, Amruthesh and I
Vehicle Ė Chevy Beat LT(O) P
Overall route taken: BTM (home) > Hosur > Salem > Karur > Dindigul > Theni > Kumily > Alady > Vagamon > Elappara > Kuttikanam > Kumily > Theni > Dindigul > Karur > Salem > Hosur > BTM (home)
Kms covered: 1130 kms
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Old 5th July 2017, 21:37   #2
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Day 1

When have we ever started a ride/drive on time? Answer is never. Since it was a long weekend and most people from Bangalore would be out to some places or the other, we wanted to start early and avoid unnecessary traffic in the toll booths and on the highway. By the time we woke up, Arun and Amruthesh came home, we loaded the bags in the boot, it was already 5:10am (we were supposed to start by 4am). 5:15am we started our drive for Vagamon.

Via Silk Board, we took the elevated expressway and in no time crossed Karnataka border to reach Attibele toll gate. By now most vehicles are already on the highway and the three-day escape from Bangalore city started. Took us almost 45 mins to cross the booth and hit the highway again. Around 7:15am we reached Krishnagiri and headed straight towards Salem highway. We took a quick tea and bio break in between. The drive was a usual highway run, trying to squeeze between trucks, crossing toll gates, mini ghat section near Dharmapuri and reaching Salem around 9am. Just after crossing the Salem toll gate, we decided to stop by and have our breakfast in the Saravana Bhavan hotel. Ordered vada sambar with a dollop of ghee, puri sabji, ghee roast dosa, Pongal and tea. Food was yum and after some 45 mins, we started our drive again.

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Usual boring highway drive, talking, pulling each other’s leg, listening to music in the background, some of us falling asleep in the back seat of the car, munching snacks, we crossed Namakkal, then Karur and reached Dindigul. When in Dindigul one should definitely try the famous Dindigul Thalapakkati restaurant. The timing was perfect as we reached there around 1:45pm and it was lunch time. Luckily we didn’t have to take any detours to reach the restaurant, it was just in the intersection from where we needed to take the highway towards Theni.

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The sheer joy of having biriyani is just something that you can’t express by words. Ordered mutton biriyani, mutton brain fry and veg meals (Amruthesh is a vegetarian). We ended this sumptuous meal with some ice creams. Around 2:30pm we started for Theni. Till now I was the one who was driving the car, from now on Atul would drive till we reach Vagamon. I went back and decided to sleep for a while, driving 372kms isn’t easy.

I wasn’t aware of much that happened after Atul started driving, as I was fast asleep in the back seat. Apparently, the highway being a single lane one, there were too much traffic and vehicles coming in from opposite lane. I woke up only when we stopped by at a tea shop somewhere around 4:30pm. Ordered tea with some snacks and the view in front of us was mesmerizing. Hills covered with rain clouds and fog, mild drizzles, lush green vegetation on both sides of the road, cool breeze, friends and piping hot tea. Each of us gulped down three cups of tea. Well, the journey started again after some 20 mins of break and when the rain started pouring in.

By 5:45pm we reached the Kumily town and from here Vagamon was some 50kms away. We took a wrong turn somewhere after Kumily yet Google maps showing us that we would reach our destination with an additional 15mins via Alady, we decided not to turn back and continue in this route. Bad decision – the roads ahead were horrible, patchy, bumpy and full of water. On top of it heavy rains and dense fog added on to the discomfort while driving. Most parts of the road were not even visible due to water puddles covering the way, not knowing whether there is a pothole of not. The only good thing was the green and fresh atmosphere, covered with a blanket of misty fog. I opened the car’s window and the feeling was so blissful – cold and fresh breeze sweeping through the face, tiny water droplets making its way through the window. We stopped by near a tea estate and clicked some pictures. Since it was raining heavily as well, I didn’t dare bringing out my DSLRs. Crossed a flowing river right across the tea estate and clicked some pictures there as well, the place was full of high rising pine trees.

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Braving heavy rain, dense fog and extremely bad road conditions, we reached our resort at around 8pm. Winter Vale resort is an eco-friendly green stay that offers complete serenity to those who are looking for an escape into the nature. With villa type houses all along this private property amidst green lush trees and surroundings, the resort is not less than a heaven abode. Rs 1200 was our per night stay fare (got some good deal via Goibibo). We were more than happy as a complete villa was booked for us – ground floor Arun and Amruthesh and 1st floor, Atul and I. After completing all the hotel formalities, we headed towards our rooms, it was still raining though. We could also park Skiddy right near our rooms.

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We all settled down, freshened up and headed towards the resort’s restaurant to eat dinner around 9pm. I was dying of hunger. The resort has an in-house restaurant and dinner is a buffet system. Though the food wasn’t good and not worth Rs 350, there were no other choice. There wasn’t any other place to eat in the vicinity of the resort. Food served were chapatti, pulao, chicken 65, gobi manchurian, dal fry, mixed veg sabji, chicken curry and ice cream.

After dinner all four of us decided to take a stroll around the pathway of the resort. Night breeze, whistling sound of the trees, dense fog and dim light walking way, all these were moments worth treasuring for lifetime. By 11pm all of us were quite tired from the journey and decided to call it a day.

Toll fare for the day – approx. Rs 435. Bangalore elevated expressway Rs 45, Attibele toll gate Rs 50, Krishnagiri toll gate Rs 65, Thopur toll gate Rs 85, Omalur/Salem toll gate Rs 70, Rasampalayam toll gate Rs 40, Dindigul toll plaza Rs 80

Last edited by nandita_bayan21 : 13th July 2017 at 10:33.
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Old 9th July 2017, 19:08   #3
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Day 2

My eyes opened to what seemed like a thunder storm, maddening heavy rain with trees banging against each other. Saw my mobile and the time was 6:45am. I opened the door and came out. The frame was a completely different one, cool morning breeze, fog covering the distant mountains and flowing freely through the trees and mild drizzle (the heavy sound of rains must have been due to the roofing style of the villas). By now even Atul woke up and came out to join me to see this marvelous view. He was utterly surprised that I woke up so soon and enjoying the nature. This is when we realized that the resort is situated right at the top, in the middle of a tea estate, which ever direction you see all that was visible was green budding fresh tea plantation. While we were awestricken by the view, Arun and Amruthesh joined us too.

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By 8:30am all of us got freshened up and walked towards the restaurant for breakfast, breakfast was complimentary. Puttu, horse gram curry, bread butter, cereals, milk, idly vada and fresh pineapple juice was served, we ate and decided to head towards the swimming pool in the hotel. I have no clue about swimming and so does Arun, hence Atul and Amruthesh were the only ones who went down the pool and enjoyed a lot in the water. The scene around the swimming pool was fantastic, fog flowing in and out, mild rain, dense green high rising trees and a running stream nearby. Arun and I spent time clicking pictures and making videos while Atul and Amruthesh showed off some swimming tricks. Around 10:30am we came out from the pool side as other people started coming in. For some time, we spent time around the play area – it had a huge trampoline, I enjoyed it thoroughly, jumping, hopping, falling and enjoying the surroundings.

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With the whole day ahead of us, we decided to explore some local site seeing areas of Vagamon. Walked down towards the reception area to check what is the best possible way to roam in and around Vagamon. They told us some parts require a bit of off-roading, hence taking own private vehicles wouldn’t be advisable so we agreed upon a 4X4 Jeep to take us through some of the selected spots. Fare was decided at Rs 2000. All got ready, took cameras (though I was a bit apprehensive to take them along was it would rain anytime), jeep was already waiting and headed out around 11:45am.

The first place to visit was the Kurisumala Ashram which was some 3 kms from our resort. The church is a small chapel in the Sahya Mountains, a major tourist for Christian devotees. In the vicinity couple of statues of Jesus oversees the place. When we reached here the fog became too dense and rain started to pour in. clicked some pictures quickly and got inside the jeep. Couldn’t climb up the stairs of the small hill top from where one can see a magnificent view of the valley down. From here we went to Thangalpara, some 4 kms away.

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Thangalpara is a pilgrimage destination for Muslims because of resting place of a Sufi saint. The location can be reached only by footsteps and one needs to cross many smaller rocky hills. To our continued dismay, the place was completely covered with thick and dense fog, yet we decided to walk ahead and get a glimpse of the famous huge rock and also of the ancient cave located in the vicinity. There came a point where we couldn’t see anything in front of us. We were literally acting like blinds not able to figure out where the damn rock is – is it in front of us? Behind us? It is in the right; we are seeing left? It is in the left; we are seeing right? Damn! This was highly frustrating, finally, we all gave up and decided to walk back down. The walk was however so soothing, refreshing and relaxing. On our way all of a sudden, out of nowhere all hell broke down and it started raining cats and dogs. The only umbrella we four had just came to our rescue but not for a long, became a martyr as it couldn’t withstand the strong blast of winds. All we were left out from the umbrella was the torn cloth and the lose strings attached to the main handle. So much for a 100 Rs umbrella I brought three years ago in Ooty. It just breathed its last breath. With nothing much to do and no shed to take shelter on, we all came closer to one another, shielding each other from the rain hits, wind and cold. By now, we were drenched to our bones leave aside the clothes. After some 15 mins the rain subsided and we descended towards the jeep.

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It was already 1:30pm and all of us were famished. Asked the driver to stop by at a local restaurant for some food. Had hot mutton biriyani, beef fry, veg meals and some tea to warm us up. It started becoming uncomfortable for all of us because of the wet clothes and stickiness. From here we went to the pine forest. The road leading to the pine forest was a narrow shopping lane, hardly any room for pedestrians, not sure how the jeep guy drove through it. Then came the real power deal of 4X4 wheel drive – man, never saw a vehicle crossing through muddy, slushy and rocky roads, rather no roads so smoothly. The other time I experienced this was in Kodachadri, when took a Thar drive to come down the hills. The driver was maneuvering the jeep so smoothly as if he was diving on a butter spread road. Finally, reached the entrance of the pine forest.

I personally feel that the pine forest one sees in Kodaikanal is far better than any other places. In Vagamon, the pine forest is spread across a very small area but the view was definitely worth watching for. A small river was flowing down the foothills of the forest. Tall high rising pine tree and the sky above, all so mesmerizing. Spent some half an hour here, clicked pictures and decided to head towards the famous Vagamon meadows. The driver did warn us that since the fog was too thick we might not be able to see the green meadows properly.

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A drive of 3 kms we reached Vagamon meadows by 3:30pm. As told earlier, the entire place was engulfed with thick dense blanket of fog. Entry fee was Rs 10 per person and Rs 50 per camera. Decided to give it a pass, we told the driver to take us back to the resort as we won’t be able to see anything through this whiteness. Before leaving we had some piping hot tea and fresh made bhajjis.

By 4:30pm we were back in our resort. Thanked the driver (definitely need to re-negotiate on the price later with the reception as we couldn’t see anything major), we headed to the rooms to get fresh. I took a quick bath and came out to sit on the balcony and enjoy the beautiful view in front of me. Atul joined me as well after a while. Later even Arun and Amruthesh joined us. We spoke in length about our old trip memories, the fun we all have in these rides/drives and all other life’s situations. In between we did order for some tea, french fries and onion pakodas. No one knew how time flew and it was already 8:30pm. It was dinner time.

Today’s buffet menu was chilli chicken, tawa fried veggies, fish curry, rice, dal, chapatti and fresh cut-fruits. Ended the dinner with a cup of tea. After food, we again took a quick stroll within the resort campus. The feeling was so refreshing and relaxing that none of us wanted to go back to the room and sleep. Yet it was getting colder and fog started to flow in. It was 11pm and finally, decided to head to our rooms. Finally, another day got over.

Last edited by nandita_bayan21 : 13th July 2017 at 10:36.
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Old 13th July 2017, 23:32   #4
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Day 3

Our morning once again started with what seemed like thunder storms and heavy rains but was just the roof doing the tricks. Came out from the room at around 8am and the view was once again so refreshing. Fog covering the mountains, mild breeze and drizzle. The sound of rain drops falling on the tree leaves and trickling down the ground is just so soothing. Atul joined me too and enjoyed the view. We got ready and went down to wake up Arun and Amruthesh. After a while headed towards the restaurant to have our breakfast. We needed to start with the return journey as soon as possible.

Though it was 8:30am yet the breakfast wasnít ready completely so we decided to take a walk and enjoy the resort for one last time. This time we explored a different side of the resort, the one towards through the green tea estates, small flowing water stream, a pond towards the base of the resort where one can do boating as well, on request. Spent some half an hour and headed towards the restaurant. Breakfast was ready Ė puri, sabji, cereals, milk, fruits, idly vada and sambar with chutney, bread butter jam and tea. By 9:30am we were done with food and agreed to go back to rooms and started getting ready for the return trip. I did a quick time pass in the trampoline as well.

By 11am we finished all our hotel payment formalities, did negotiate on our jeep trip from the previous day as well and they reduced it from Rs 2000 to Rs 1500. Time to head home but before that needed to tank up Skiddy as it was running low on fuel. Loaded the bags, buckled up and headed towards Elappara. 8kms from the resort. This time we didnít choose the way provided by Google maps (the same bad one which we took while coming), instead decided to go via Elappara and Kuttikanam. The drive till Elappara was good, much better roads, less bumpy and potholes and more scenic and green. We stopped by at many places to click pictures.

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When we finally reached Elappara and went to the one and only HP petrol there, they told us petrol was over and we need to go to Kuttikanam, as thatís the next available petrol bunk in that area. The fuel indicator was already blinking and with no other way out we headed towards Kuttikanam hoping that Skiddy wonít give up before we reach the petrol station. The drive in this stretch was mesmerizing Ė so many lush green tea plantations, small waterfalls falling down the hills, fog covering the mountains and the slight drizzle. We reached Kuttikanam around 12 noon and the petrol bunk (Thank God, Skiddy didnít give up on us), did full tank, stopped at the nearby shop for tea and snacks.

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Started the journey once again, amidst green lush hills, foggy mountains and twisty curvy roads. By 1pm we were in Kumily. From here the horrible single lane traffic started where people come in from any direction and makes the drive quite stressful. Drove for another 2 hours and then decided to stop for lunch. The restaurant was the same place where we had tea break in the evening while going to Vagamon. Ordered chicken curry, veg meals, Kerala paratha, chicken biriyani and veg curry. After a 45 mins break we started once again towards Dindigul to reach highway soon.

When we were just about to cross the Kodaikanal junction in the Chennai Theni Highway, a thought just pass through us should we take a deviation and head towards Kodai. But then it was too short a notice and everyone needs to go to office the next day. Hence dropped the plan and continued to reach Dindigul. By 6:15pm we were in Dindigul and entered the national highway, much relief after driving on that single lane busy highway, though the roads were in really good condition. From here on we did a quick run to cross Karur, Namakkal, and Rasipuram to reach Salem by 9:15pm. The traffic in Salem city wasnít really bad and we crossed the city limits in no time. Around 10pm we reached Dharmapuri and stopped at a highway dhaba to have dinner. Ate tandoori rotis, dal fry, matter aloo sabji, paneer matter sabji and finally some hot tea.

By 11pm, we resumed our drive and this was when the traffic started to pile up on all toll gates we crossed, the heaviest traffic being in Attibele. Nonetheless, reached home at sharp 1am. Unloaded the bags, Arun and Amruthesh bid goodbye and a wonderful trip to Vagamon came to an end!

Recommendation Ė if you are a nature lover, loves a mystical climate amidst lush green nature, then Vagamon should be your next trip destination. Trust me, you will love it!

Toll fare for the day Ė approx. Rs 435. Bangalore elevated expressway Rs 45, Attibele toll gate Rs 50, Krishnagiri toll gate Rs 65, Thopur toll gate Rs 85, Omalur/Salem toll gate Rs 70, Rasampalayam toll gate Rs 40, Dindigul toll plaza Rs 80
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Old 14th July 2017, 09:43   #5
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Note from Support: Thread moved to the Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!

Last edited by GTO : 14th July 2017 at 09:44. Reason: Bump
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Old 14th July 2017, 10:18   #6
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Keeping Vagamon on tab for a vacation some time. Nice write-up as always. Small question though, why does your car have an L at the back? I assumed both you and Atul are quite adept at driving.
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Old 14th July 2017, 10:51   #7
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Thank you for the nice travelogue. Crossed Kumuli many a times but never got around to Vagamon.
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Old 14th July 2017, 10:57   #8
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Quote:
Originally Posted by nandita_bayan21 View Post

Just the day before the drive, on Friday, Atul thought of tanking up Skiddy early morning instead of waiting till evening or night. Never seen this happen ever, the rear wheels of Skiddy were locked and as Atul tried accelerating the car ahead, the wheels just dragged along the way. We called apartment security guards to push and see if they can help with anything, after a loud thud sound, the wheel started moving.
Leaving the car with parking brake engaged during monsoons could be the reason. It happened with our Spark too. So now instead of parking brake, I leave it in 1st gear.
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Old 14th July 2017, 13:00   #9
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Quote:
Originally Posted by nandita_bayan21 View Post
Prologue



Never seen this happen ever, the rear wheels of Skiddy were locked and as Atul tried accelerating the car ahead, the wheels just dragged along the way.
Sounds like Skiddy wants to be taken out more often .

But seriously an amazing travelogue. Kudos on making this trip in monsoon as the roads in the route can be quite tricky due to rains and fog.
Hope hulk gets better soon.
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Old 14th July 2017, 13:34   #10
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Beautiful pictures and beautiful views. Have passed through Dindigul-Kodaikanal multiple times, never thought of visiting.But after seeing your photos vagamon is on my must see list.
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Old 14th July 2017, 13:57   #11
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Absolutely stunning pictures! Short & sweet travelogue. Loved it! Vagamon looks so lush green!

How is the cellular network coverage at Vagamon? Is it poor? Google maps has this weird thing where it finds the shortest routes, and tries to send you through non-existent routes. Have experienced it multiple times during my trips in India.

Based on your experience, the best way to reach vagamon is through Kuttikanam & Elappara? How are the rest of the roads in & around vagamon?
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Old 14th July 2017, 16:56   #12
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Nice travelogue. I recently drove to Vagamon from Chennai.

On the way up to Vagamon, from Kumily, i took the Kuttikanam, Ellapara route and while coming back, I took the Upputhara, Marikulam, Anavilasam, Kumily. The route coming back has some sharp bends and steep ups and downs between Marikulam and Anavilasam, but it tested the skills and fun to drive and shorter by approx 18 Kms.

I drove my XUV5OO and it was fantastic.

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Old 14th July 2017, 19:50   #13
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Lovely narration and awesome photographs !!! Thanks for sharing.

Warm regards,

Siddhartha.
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Old 15th July 2017, 10:43   #14
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Quote:
Originally Posted by nandita_bayan21 View Post
Prologue
Never seen this happen ever, the rear wheels of Skiddy were locked and as Atul tried accelerating the car ahead, the wheels just dragged along the way. We called apartment security guards to push and see if they can help with anything, after a loud thud sound, the wheel started moving.
Have experienced the same in Hyundai Santro. The car was not at all moving from it's place. We later called the Hyundai Roadside Assistance and they removed the wheels and released the brakes. They later advised that parking the car with handbrake on a cold weather and leaving it still for multiple days may result in this situation and it is better to put them in first gear.

Nice travelogue too and will plan one soon to this place
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Old 15th July 2017, 12:46   #15
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Default Re: Drive to the enchanting hill station of Vagamon!

Amazing travelogue adorned with some superb snap shots and all relevant details. After going through your well written travelogue, I have already planned to visit Vagamon this month itself. Thanks for the inspiration.
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