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Old 23rd January 2018, 23:11   #1
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Default Winter Road-Trip: Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

When time pushes you into that cycle where you need to plan your trips around your kid's holidays, we have very little choice. Alright, this doesn't mean that we don't take any other trips. There are always these occasional itch to get out over weekends and we budge. I'm only talking about those 'more than a week' kind of proper vacation. It is for this very reason that our major trips have been around summer and winter for the last couple of years.

And I have ensured that atleast one of these are driving trips. We did Uttarakhand during Summer '16, Alappuzha during Winter '16 and Shimla/Manali in Summer '17. Uttarakhand was strictly a 'no self drive' trip. Alappuzha, a drive from Bangalore. Shimla/Manali was fun as I hired a self drive from Chandigarh and had super fun in the ghats!

With winter approaching, I was skeptical over doing any trip at all since had some commitments to handle. And since we were thinking of doing an overseas trip in 2018, we were also thinking about saving for it. But like my Mom always says, I have a bigger hole in my receiving hand! And have never bothered much about the financials!

So in November, I broached this topic with my better half, who by the way is no less a travel companion to myself! Thoughts started surfacing and I proposed VIZAG!

"How long?" she quipped,
"We can get there in 2 days" I answer.

"Why not fly?" again she goes, "We can always rent a self drive like our Manali trip".
"Yeah, why not?" I get on with my due diligence and see that self drive rentals will set us back by 40k easily including everything, plus the flight costs of 20k. We had just brought home a pre worshipped Octavia 1.8 TSI in September but haven't really taken her out for a long drive. So it was decided that we drive, but not more than 500km per day.

So then I throw this - "Why don't we drive to Vizag and then to Hyderabad and back to Bangalore. That way, we can just make this a road trip." We have never been to Hyderabad and this was a deal maker for us. She gave a thumbs up.

Few more days into due diligence, I look into the routes, sightseeing, etc. I decided to up the ante now - "Why don't we make this an unplanned road trip? We'll drive how long ever we feel like, stop over when required, explore things on the way?" She was also excited about this idea, but the fact that our 8 year old is also with us, we had to atleast plan a template that we can loosely adhere to.

So again I went about preparing the route and made something like this:
Winter Road-Trip: Andhra Pradesh & Telangana-screen-shot-20180123-9.09.03-am.png

A- Home, Whitefield, Bengaluru, Karnataka
B- Haritha Beach Resort, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh
C- Eco Tourism Resort, West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh
D- AP Tourism - Haritha Resorts, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
E- Papikondalu Resorts, West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh
F- Taramati Baradari, Hyderabad
G- Haritha Resorts, Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
H- Ahobilam, Andhra Pradesh
I- Mantralayam, Andhra Pradesh
J- Home, Whitefield, Bengaluru, Karnataka

The reason I sticked to APTDC properties was that they were cheaper and built on awesome locations.

The start date was decided to be 17th December with no decided end date.

I just left it like that and still undecided to make any hotel bookings since I wanted to keep this true to the spirit of a ROADTRIP! All APTDC hotels were available at this point and hence didn't bother.

There was a bereavement in the family by the first week of December and this meant that we cannot visit any hill top temples, according to our custom. Hence I had to rework the plan - basically remove the hilltop temples from the list. So we decided we'll skip all temples on the way from Hyderabad and drive back straight to Bangalore. The rest of the plan remained the same.

Now just out of curiosity, I went about the APTDC website looking for availability. Shocker - Rushikonda and Taramati were booked up. The rest were still available. We started discussing and decided that we'll book only our Vizag and Hyderabad hotels in advance since we intend to spend more time there. So I made bookings for 3 nights each.
Vizag: 19-22 '17
HYD: 24-27 '17

Just a week before the trip, I called up Skoda ASS for a general checkup appointment and they were totally booked for more than a week. Since the car was anyway out of warranty, I took it up to a Bosch Service Centre nearby. They did a thorough check and informed me that the front tie rod ends were not keeping well and should be replaced. I checked with my friend who runs a garage himself by sending the pictures and he affirmed to get it replaced. They placed the order and got it by the evening and took delivery of the car the same day. Next day, took for a balancing and alignment and got all straightened out.

There was some unexpected work on the 16th which meant we couldn't even pack! So we decided to leave on the 18th instead of 17th. Our booking at Vizag was done for the 19th, which meant we had only one stop over.

We finished packing on 17th morning and slept for the afternoon. I woke up close to 4 pm and was feeling very energetic. So asked my wife - "What do you say we hit the road now, we'll stop over at Tirupati. That was, we can cover atleast 200+kms today.". She liked the idea as well and we got ready in a jiffy, loaded up the car and started out by 5pm.

Disclaimer: All photos were taken using my moderate smartphone, hence the quality is pathetic to say the least.

Last edited by luvurride : 9th April 2018 at 00:32. Reason: typo
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Old 24th January 2018, 01:46   #2
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Default re: Winter Road-Trip: Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

Dec 17, 2017 Sunday:

Being a Sunday, traffic wasn't bad heading out to Hoskote from Whitefield. Stopped at the IOCL just out of Kannamangala for the first refill and moved on. Wife was feeling hungry and hence decided to stop at the Highway Star for a quick bite. Since daughter was sleeping, I just grabbed some take away for wife and we ambled along. FASTag worked brilliantly and we had crossed KA border and then the pain started. I'm not new to this route as I frequently used to take this for my Chennai trips until about an year ago. But the roads have deteriorated and there have been many speed breakers that have cropped up. This slowed us down considerably and it was close to 7 when we reached Palamaner. As we were just about to exit town, I spotted Mr. & Mrs. Idly and pulled over since it was daughter's dinner time. Food was good here and we gobbled up some sambar idlis and dosa. After dinner, I looked for hotels in Tirupati and booked the Fortune Select Grand Ridge in Tiruchanur Road.

We continued further and the Bi xenons with HID Fog lamps did awesome lighting up the road. Reached the hotel by 10pm, ordered a sandwich for dinner and called it a night.

Completed 240km.

Dec 18, 2017 Monday:

Next morning, woke up leisurely for a complimentary breakfast at the hotel followed by a swim in the pool for an hour. We checked out by 12:30pm and hit the road. Just out of Renigunta, GMaps prompted to turn left towards Venkatagiri and then onto NH16 at Gudur. I was skeptical if I should continue the Kalahasti way. Stopped and asked at the junction, and the people said the road was fine. So took the Venkatagiri route.

The route was fantastic 2 lanes until Venkatagiri. But after the turn off, there were occasional potholes that kept popping all of a sudden. I could see a Verna taking it real slow. Finally hit the NH 16 and the flow was smooth from thereof. Time was close to 3pm nearing Nellore and hunger pangs started. I was hoping that I'll find a decent place close to Nellore. But to my disbelief, couldn't find any more than roadside dhabas that looked shabby. Pushed along the bye pass and spotted a RK Family AC Restaurant attached to a petrol station called Chowdhary Bros. Pulled over and tested over first proper Andhra meals! HEAVENLY! Simple Rice, Pappu(Dal), Fry, Sambar, Rasam tasted fantastic. Wholesome, tasty and satisfying! Toilets attached to the petrol plaza were also decent.

Here is a picture from Google as I didn't click any:
https://goo.gl/maps/wmcxP2XYQyD2
Pic Courtesy: Respective Owner/Google

Left the place close to 4pm and pushed it hard hoping to reach Vijayawada before night falls and take a break. FASTag had a mixed response, some worked, some did not.

Just before Guntur, as the RED mark of fuel gauge popped up, stopped to fill up. 547km driven!

Proceeded further and reached Vijayawada just before 7pm. Wife was busy locating hotels and we couldn't find any cheaper options since most of them proved to expensive. Not sure why?! I didn't want to deviate from the ring road and also wanted to stay on the onward side only so we don't loose time the next day getting out. Finally identified a Hotel Sun City, walked in, bargained for a better rate than OYO and checked in.

https://goo.gl/maps/Z1d7eYNDiZ32

Room was strictly basic with hard beds. Ordered food in house - phulkas, paneer butter masala, malai kofta, gobi chilli with lassi. Greasy, but tasty! I had some work calls, after which called it a night.

Completed 651km.

Dec 19, 2017 Tuesday:

Again, woke up late, had a basic complimentary breakfast at the hotel and checked out by 11:30. There was a Spencers supermarket closeby and we stopped there first to pickup some stuff like snacks, juices, toiletries, and few knick knacks. Eventually, left Vijayawada at 12:30pm after having fresh tender coconut water.

NH16 wasn't necessarily empty, had its fair share of traffic. There was also roadwork going on before Tadepalligudem which slowed us. Bought some guavas at the toll plaza and they were one of the best I've had in recent times. You know the ones that you can eat even if they aren't ripe!

After crossing Godavari bridge by around 2:30pm, started the look out for lunch place. Again, couldn't find any decent stuff until we hit Rajahmundry bypass. Almost closer to the exit, spotted a restaurant on the road, the name I can't recollect, and stopped as we couldn't hold any longer. The usual fare of rice, pappu, fry, sambar tasted delicious with the hospitality of the server! They were fondly pushing you to eat well! Ahh, that warmth and innocence that we miss in the city!!

The ambience is very average with huts at the back, probably serving alcohol as well. But didn't feel insecure as a family. The restrooms were bad, hence we decided to leave after lunch. The rest of the journey was uneventful. The scenery was also good once we crossed Tuni, giving a glimpse of what to expect in Vizag!

By 6pm, entered Anakapalle and got a taste of Vizag traffic! It was no different than Bangalore. The only relief was the Port Road. I had booked at V Hotels in Dwaraka Nagar, not realising the fact that this is the commercial district! Again, wading through waves of traffic, managed to reach the hotel by around 7:30pm.

https://goo.gl/maps/wBw36aXgYVK2

Its a new hotel with great interiors and the room was also modern with all amenities. Made acquaintance with the bell boy and he helped out in getting stuff whenever required for the rest of the stay. They had basement covered parking and hence the Octy settled down for a much needed rest.

Without any more energy left to head out, ordered room service with some yummy Biriyani and Chicken 555. Food was good.

Completed 1015 km!
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Old 24th January 2018, 23:53   #3
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Default re: Winter Road-Trip: Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

Dec 20, 2017 Wednesday:

We are late risers, no matter how hard we try. The fact that this is a vacation also made our daughter take it easy, otherwise, her usual routine starts at 6am!

The only thing that pushes us out of the bed is the harsh reality of complimentary breakfast in most hotels closing by 10:30am. So pulled us out to head to the restaurant of V Hotel for breakfast. It was good with one south indian and one north indian breakfast dish, pastries, juices, fruits, Omelettes and Dosas made in live counters.

After leisurely getting ready, we finally decided to head out. The first spot was Kailasagiri. This is a hill top converted to an eco park with a toy train, huge statue of Shiva Parvathi and a Museum. There is also a cable car that takes you from the Beach area to the hilltop. You can drive your car upto the top where there is car parking space available.

We parked and straight up took tickets for the train and sat inside. There aren't any fixed timings as I could see, they were just waiting to fill up and then move. This is basically a train tour of the entire hill top with a guide. I did not find it all that amusing, but the views were great from the top.

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A viewpoint on the way up-

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After this, daughter wanted to take a horse ride. We decided against walking around since it was afternoon with sun scorching upon. Hence descended the hill and started driving towards Rushikonda on the beach road. We were thinking about having lunch at any good restaurant on the way, that is when I suggested to go up to the APTDC property and have lunch there since I also wanted to check out the property.

Food was delicious with me and daughter ordering Rice+chicken curry
+prawn fry and wife trying out peas pulao since she is a vegetarian. The bill was so cheap, I did regret the decision of not having booked the property earlier.

With satiated tummies, we headed out to Ramanaidu Studios. There is an entrance fee after which you climb a hill until you reach the studio gate. Probably once a thriving studio, I could see that shootings aren't happening right now. We just strolled around a bit and eventually decided to move out as there was staunch smell in the air of some animal kill. Sorry, no pictures here.

We then headed back to the beach road towards the city onto INS Kursura Submarine museum. With the sunroof off, it was a fantastic experience driving along the sea on some beautiful roads.

We reached the museum and found a parking opposite to it. Went inside and stood in line for the tickets. This is the one of a kind museum in India with a once on-duty now decommissioned submarine on display. You will be allowed a walk through with a guide, an ex-navy gentleman, who describes each compartment and their usage. The tour is available both in Telugu and Hindi. After getting tickets, you have to again wait in the queue to get in. Fortunately, when we bought our tickets, they had a Telugu tour commencing and calling out - Since we understand and speak Telugu, we were guided inside without waiting!

I'll let the pictures do the talking -

Attachment 1720554

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Time was 7pm and we decided to head back to the hotel. Once there, I took out a stroll alone to the commercial district for a while to digest all that I had for lunch. Back to the room, I ordered my fav Chicken 555 again and finished the left over pasta that wife and daughter had ordered.

Odometer Reading: 1042 km


Dec 21, 2017 Thursday

I don't think I need to emphasize again that we are late risers. Long story short, we left the hotel only by 1pm and headed to the aquarium called Matsya Darshini. This is also on the RK beach road opposite to the Submarine museum. Hardly took about 45 minutes to cover this as most of the fishes are in smaller tanks. They also had a good collection of turtle.

Just out, we saw a Percolator coffee house above the same building and decided to check out. Surprisingly, they have these rocking seater+table installed outdoors facing the sea. But there were only 4 of them and all were occupied. We ordered some sandwiches and pizza and waited indoors. We got a table in a while and moved on. It was a different experience, probably more relished when you are in your late teens/early 20s and infatuated! Food was average though. But their thick shakes were amazing!

After a lazy time around the meal, we left for Yarada Beach which is supposed to give a great view of the sea. To reach there, you first reach the port area and then you climb up a Dolphin hill where the viewpoint is, and then get down to the beach. Now, there are two routes to climb up the hill. GMaps by default guides you through a route which is restricted for public access by Indian Navy. We were then guided to go back via a village and climb up. The roads were in tatters but not for long.

This is what GMaps recommends:
Winter Road-Trip: Andhra Pradesh & Telangana-screen-shot-20180301-8.39.19-am.png

But this is what you are allowed to take:
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You eventually reach up the climb after a few hairpins and reach the Naval residential settlement. Wow, I was impressed how they have built it with clean surroundings with walking/jogging lanes by the sides of roads! Just past this settlement, the descend begins and you get the magnificent view of the sea.

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We descended and reached the beach and the beach was empty! We had a great time playing in the sea, enjoying the sunset.

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By around 6pm, left the place and drove back into the city. Since I the fuel tank was nearing reserve, I decided to tank up and stopped at the BP in Vizag port.

We then headed for some shopping in the business district closer to our hotel. Hunger pangs struck at 8:30 and I called up a local reference through a common friend and he suggested to go to The Dolphin Hotel which has a rooftop restaurant. We headed there and luckily got a seat. There was live band playing. We enjoyed the ambience and the food which was very good, but a bit on the expensive side compared to V Hotel. One of the crispiest and softest Butter Naans I've had in recent times with Panneer Butter Masala and a chicken starter.

Returned back to the hotel and retired for the day as the next day, we had to head to Araku Valley!

Odometer Reading: 1085 km

Last edited by luvurride : 7th April 2018 at 02:23. Reason: Adding more pictures.
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Old 26th March 2018, 01:16   #4
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Dec 22, 2017 Friday

Well the eagerness to get to Borra caves enroute Araku Valley made us wake up earlier, by that I mean 8:00am . Since we packed the previous night, it was just a matter of getting ready, having our complimentary breakfast at the hotel which we got bored of by now, check out.

We rolled out by 10:30am and it took about half an hour to latch on the Araku road. Now this was something. They had made bus lanes in the middle and all other vehicles to use only the service lanes! And the service lanes were crowded by two wheelers and all other vehicles, while the bus lane was empty. Nonetheless, this slowed us down considerably. Once we were out of this, the vistas turned green and we were soon climbing up the ghats. Windows came rolling down and we took it slow enjoying the breeze.

We managed to reach Borra caves by around 1pm and came to know that the entry is closed from 1-2 pm. We decided to have lunch and stopped at one of the houses that lay out tables on the outside for food. Had a simple and sumptuous meal of rice, pappu, vegetables. I then drove to the parking lot and started walking to the ticket counter. We saw bamboo chicken stalls lined up and since I had already heard and planned for it, stopped and ordered quarter kilo of chicken. Wife being a vegetarian and not sure if my daughter would like it, I thought that should be enough. They sell in quarter, half and 1 kilos. You have to place an order and pay advance, they give you a token. It takes about 30-45 minutes to cook so you pre order and they will have it ready once you are back from the tour. Pretty good system I say!

"Bamboo chicken is a chicken curry prepared by stuffing the bamboo shoot with the chicken and then cooked on charcoal. Bamboo chicken is an oil free and nutritionally rich dish."
- Courtesy Wikipedia.

We went to the ticket counter by 1:45pm and I could see a huge line piled up. But, there were separate lines for male and female and hence Wifey volunteered to get the tickets and it was done in a matter of 10 minutes. We then entered and reached closer to the entrance of the caves. A decent looking gentleman approached as a guide and we immediately took his service. That made things much easier as he took us exactly to all the intriguing formations of stalactites and stalagmites like Shiva–Parvati, Mother–Child, Rishi’s beard, human brain, etc.
It was an interesting visit indeed and my daughter was fascinated. There are multicoloured lights that are projected inside the caves that give you this surreal atmosphere. We even sat there for about 15 mins soaking the atmosphere and wondering the nature's beauty. It gives you this fulfilment to be a part of nature.

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After spending a good hour and half inside the cave, we came out and headed straight to the bamboo chicken counter. The funny part is there are so many and I forgot where i ordered from. I then had to show them the token to eventually figure out the stall. The steaming chicken was ready and it was really tasty. My daughter also ate a fair share and she wanted more! I cajoled saying her that we shall get it the next day and we moved out.

It was 4pm and we drove straight to our halt for the night - Haritha Mayuri Resort. I had only booked this resort the previous day and was lucky to get it as all other Haritha resorts were fully booked. We reached by 5pm, checked in. It is a basic and clean accommodation with wonderful view of the valley from rooms. The only downside is that there is no elevator. We had our rooms in the top floor and hence was a good climb up the stairs every time. We had a refreshing tea and stepped out for a stroll enjoying the weather. Wifey was hungry and we were at the restaurant and pushing the folks to get us something. We got phulkas with panneer butter masala and veg curry served. Food was delicious and cheap. But then, they don't let you book the bill to your room, hence you have to pay while you eat. Another trip up the stairs to the room to get the cash.

After dinner, I came out to the parking lot and started chatting up with a taxi driver asking him about road conditions toward Bhadrachalam. He said there were some bad patches, but manageable. I then asked about the naxal interference in the area and anything I should be concerned about. He said he just drove that route couple of days back and there was nothing to worry about. I felt assured to carry on.

We were back to the rooms tired but then they had organised a tribal dance and campfire. We decided to be in the rooms and watch it from our balcony. We retired for the day early as we had a long drive the next day.

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Odometer reading: 1216 km

Last edited by luvurride : 7th April 2018 at 02:30.
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Old 3rd April 2018, 02:43   #5
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Dec 23, 2017 Saturday.

We woke up to a misty morning.

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What a peaceful start! If only we knew how the day would turn out! But then, that's the fun of a road trip - expect the unexpected!

Got ready and came down with the luggage. Loaded up and headed to the restaurant for breakfast. The breakfast was not inclusive of the rate at Haritha. Hence we bought breakfast coupons for items we wanted to eat and gobbled up a few dosas.

Just out of the gate of the Haritha resort is the Coffee Museum. Time wasn't 10 am yet and the place wasn't open. We spotted the tribal museum at the periphery and decided to check it out. It was open and there weren't much crowd so just parked by the roadside to get in and it was certainly a worthy visit. They have brought about the life size models of a tribal village - the people their houses, their life style including food, entertainment, etc. We thoroughly enjoyed spending time here and also bought few return gifts for friends back home.

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Because of this, we lost time and could start out of Araku only by 11:30am.
We rolled out, took a left turn towards Chaparai. The beautiful valley is a sight to behold with mountains all around. The roads were good almost till Chaparai. Chaparai is a small flat rock where water passes through and hence a popular tourist destination. We stopped briefly on the road to look and didn't sound interesting and the crowd was heavy as well. Since we were already behind schedule, we decide to move on. The reason I say behind schedule is because I wanted to get out of the valley before dusk.

We passed Paderu and headed to Lambasingi which came highly recommended for its closer to zero temperatures. We were fascinated by that fact and decided to stop over. We reached Chintapalli and were very hungry as it was 1 pm. We stopped at a makeshift hotel out of a house and had our hearty meal of the usual Rice, Pappu, Sambar and curries. When we finished it, I asked the shopkeeper about the way to Bhadrachalam and any risks I should be aware of. He just asked me 2 questions:
1. Are you a local businessman?
2. Are you a politician?
When I answered in negative, he said then I need not worry and I won't be bothered. He also said that buses ply on that route, hence it is safe. That was reassuring!

With that, we headed to Lambasingi which turned out drab with temperature close to 15°C. Wrong timing I guess! Wasting no more time, we decided to drive to Bhadrachalam. It was close to 2pm already.

At Lambasingi...thats a lollipop btw
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The roads started deteriorating and we were also climbing up the hills. Eventually caught up with a few other cars traveling in that direction and we were sort of going as a convoy. Road condition was pathetic and I was pitying my Octy for going through that torture. We did not make any stop and kept driving amongst winding roads. Eventually, we started to descend and got to Sileru. It was about 4:30pm. There is a 90° left turn within the town, just before making it, we were promptly stopped by a group of policemen. I stopped and got down. They enquired the usual stuff like where I'm coming from, where headed, etc. and then asked me to show the papers. I took the leather wallet from the dashboard and started taking out the documents. Surprise! Surprise!! I can't find my insurance papers!! Meanwhile I gave my RC and license to them saying I'm searching for the insurance. I looked everywhere in the wallet and also searched the dashboard thoroughly, but couldn't find it. I then remembered that when I had done the insurance name transfer a couple of weeks before and took it inside home to make copies and might have not kept the papers back in the car! There was a trim young officer who was incharge there and I explained my plight to him with a straight and sorry face. He asked me if I have a copy in my email. I said I might and took out my phone, alas, no network!! By this time, wifey and daughter had also gotten down as she had only opened up our bags in the boot for checking. I told the officer that there was no network and I can't do anything at the circumstance. He looked at us thoughtfully and then told his deputies to give back my RC and license and told me to continue. I thanked him profusely and then asked him about the road ahead, he assured me that roads get better and no need to worry about any other risks.

Time was a little past 5. We left Sileru and soon the roads were getting better. We just stopped briefly for a bio break and continued. I started pushing since I wanted to cover as much as possible before dark as I knew that this was the infamous AP-Odisha border. About 25kms on, I asked wifey if she spotted any vehicle on both directions. YES, I did not spot any! It was true and she also got the thrill! Daughter had slept at the rear seat and we both were enjoying the arrow straight roads with the thrill at the back of our minds. Thats when I missed to spot a sudden rift in the middle of the road, it was too late to brake, hence went over it in close to 3 digit speeds. It was a bit unsettling, but Octy showed no signs of remorse. By then we could see this huge lake to our right keeping company. That was the Donkarayi Reservoir. The scene was great. But no stops!

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We ambled along and reached a spot where the road was headed both right and left. My preloaded GMaps was guiding me to the right whereas the tarmac seemed to continue its pattern straight. I took the right and realising this, stopped and pondered. Wifey and I had a brief discussion and we decided to follow the logic than rely blindly on GMaps. So I reversed and took the straight road. The scenery changed to dense jungle and it was 6:10pm and almost dark. Again, no company, no vehicles!

The one in BLUE is what I took. GMaps wanted to take the GREY one. You can see how close this takes you to the border.!
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I pushed and we could see that we were nearing a small town. As I slowed down, the road ahead was a complete dead end and I could only turn right to go further. And the entry was built in such a way that only one vehicle can enter. The entire town seemed to be surrounded by compound wall like a fort! The thrill factor multiplied as we entered and could not find a single soul inside. The town looked like a government settlement with proper perpendicular roads, street lights and government houses like in a railway colony. Driving for half a km, I could see a main road ahead, but then the road intersection was cut off with a trench! Nowhere to go and no one to ask, I turned around, came back to the another intersection, turned left went to the next one and headed in the same direction. This time though, I could latch on to the main road.

GMaps caught up with us now and I continued. Few kms down, I could feel that there was a minor thud sound coming from the left suspension when I make a hard turn. So I slowed down considerably at turns, but could still hear it. Well, can't do much in the middle of nowhere. Hence decided to push. Further ahead, joined what seems like a highway and turned right.

This the Rajahmundry-Bhadrachalam highway and soon entered Chinturu. Time was 7pm and I was famished and stopped over for a tea. The tea shop was also making hot Punugulu(Something similar to a bonda). That with spicy red chutney was divine. I had 2 cups of tea and got some Punugulu for wifey and daughter as she was still sleeping. But wifey finished them all! We moved ahead and the roads were wider and good, but I was still getting the suspension noise. Entered Bhadrachalam at about 8pm and tanked up.

Meanwhile, tasked wifey to look up for a hotel to stay and she said nothing was available. We decided to drive around the main roads and enquired about 5-6 hotels who were all sold out. Right....Saturday! I had not booked a hotel in advance, but hey, thats the point of a road trip! By now sure that there weren't any option to stay, I came up with a brilliant idea(!) of visiting the temple first and then we could decide about our stay at Bhadrachalam or drive to Khammam for a halt. Wifey hated that idea as they were tired and my daughter was hungry. We gave her some biscuits and then headed to the temple.

Time was almost 9pm. We weren't sure how the entry/ticketing worked so I dropped them off near the entrance to figure it out and headed to parking. The lot was full but then people were leaving. Just when I found a spot, parked and walked back, I spotted a few hotels there. Deciding not to give up and try my luck, I stepped into Sudharsana Residency and asked for a room. He asked "How many people, Saar?". My joy was boundless. I didn't even bargain and took up a room for the price he quoted and paid up right away. Telling him that I'll get my family, I rushed to the entrance. Wifey had befriended the guard by then and she came to me saying that the guard suggested to try hotels near the parking. Smiling, I told her I already booked one and she was happy! We decided to visit the temple the next morning and headed to the hotel. We kept our luggage and came down to dine at a small restaurant opposite. It was crowded to the brim - and they had self service only! It took almost 30 minutes to get our order. We finished it, came back to the room and called it a night! What a day it was!

Odometer reading: 1589 km

Last edited by luvurride : 9th April 2018 at 03:42.
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Old 7th April 2018, 02:05   #6
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Dec 24, 2017 Sunday.

We woke up by 7ish, not because we wanted to. The hotel was at the backyard of the temple and the chants eventually woke us up eager to head to the temple.

This was the view out the room's balcony:

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Temple info below if it should interest you:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sita_R...,_Bhadrachalam Courtesy: Wikipedia

We got ready by 8:30 and decided to head out the same restaurant where we had dinner. I first stepped out and saw the room attendant about the temple timings and rush. He advised us to go after 10 as the crowd will reduce. He also asked if we had breakfast and I told my plan. He said he could get the breakfast for us from a nearby place where they cook at home and it will be very tasty. I thought this should be great as we get to taste local food and told him to get idli, pesarattu and vada. Off he went whilst I stood in the balcony facing the temple to observe the crowd. It was 9:00 and we still haven't got our breakfast. I again went down to check with him. He said we will get it in 5 mins. Few more follow ups later, we got it by 9:30 eventually and it tasted divine and ...uhhh.....HOT! By far that was the HOTTEST CHUTNEY we had in the entire trip so far! Flavour of AP, I must say! We did not get the vadas, but gobbled up all the pesarattus and idlis. Even our daughter who does not eat anything hot, still managed to finish it up with her lips and mouth turning red! Meanwhile, I asked the attendant to get me 2 packets of curd to pacify all that heat that had gone in. Finally, we set out to the temple at 10:30.

In daylight

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The temple has dress code for entry - dhoti for men and saree/chudidhar for women. I hadn't carried one, so purchased one the previous night from a shop next to the hotel. Men should also remove their shirts while entering the sanctum sanctorum.

We went to the regular queue line first and asked them if there were any special entry available. They suggested that if I'm willing to pay 500, then I can get special Darshan tickets but I should head to a different entrance for that. We decided to do that since the crowd was very high in the regular queue and head there. But there is a catch - These special darshan tickets are issued batch by batch. Like we wait in the common area and someone from the temple office will get the tickets, setup a table and chair and issue the tickets to buy. Then you are allowed to enter the queue. We learnt this system and waited for him. He came after 12 and we got the tickets to go in. We had a wonderful Darshan and came out by 1:30pm. We then bought prashad for folks back home and headed straight to the hotel. I took a shower to freshen up and decided to leave and have lunch on the way since we had our breakfast late. We wee out by 2:00pm and in no time reached Brundavan Restaurant in Palwancha. We had called this hotel up the previous night to check for rooms, hence I knew it. The place was nothing spectacular but decided to stick to our staple food in Andhra so far - you know - the usual Rice, Pappu, Curries.

The Godavari -

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We were back on the road by 3pm and I called up my garage-owner friend and asked him about the suspension noise. He said not to worry and suggested to just go to an alignment shop nearby to have a check on the suspension as it could be a small stone or something that could be stuck up. I started looking for alignment shops or garages but found them all closed being Sunday. So I decided to drive on. We bypassed Khammam and were on the way to Suryapet. Traffic swelled and eventually caught up the Vijayawada-Hyderabad highway at around 4:30pm. The suspension noise has somehow disappeared by now! I stopped for tea at Suryapet. Unable to decide if it was Tea or Boost, I just left it with him. His look was priceless!

On to the highway, spotted a decent restaurant for tea and bio break. Once done, started pushing. With an XC60 caught up for company and good roads to stretch after a while, we were at the outskirts of Hyderabad by dusk. I got into the Ring Road and was amazed since this was my first time! Excellent infrastructure I must say! The only other man made thing that fascinated me in recent times was the Yamuna Expressway.

Exited the Ring Road at Gandiguda and took the PV Narasimha Rao Expressway to Masab Tank and then reached our hotel Minerva Grand in Banjara Hills. I had chosen this because this would help us cover the sightseeing and eateries in the city.

Checked in and got into our room which was spacious and ordered for the Hyderabadi Biriyani! It was Yummm! Settled down and called it a day!

Odometer reading: 1945 km

Last edited by luvurride : 9th April 2018 at 03:41.
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Old 8th April 2018, 02:06   #7
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Dec 25, 2017 Monday.

Its Christmas!

We woke up for the sole reason that the breakfast buffet closes at 10:30am.

Post breakfast, I started researching what to do in Hyderabad for the next 3 days and I came up with a plan. As per it, we decided to do city sightseeing and shopping for the first two days and Golconda Fort for the third day. So we got ready leisurely and left the hotel at around 12pm. This would mean that we would have to extend our trip for a day more. So I enquired Reception and they said they were fully booked. I decided to worry about it later since I was sure I could find some other place.

I didn't feel like driving inside the city, so decided to hire a cab for 8 hours rental. I booked through an aggregator and got a Dezire allotted. We got into the cab and told him to head to Birla Mandir. He was a local but was totally new to taxi business, hence found it difficult to locate Birla Mandir himself! To add to the misery, he was aggressive behind the steering for no reason and at unwanted places! Wifey was scared and fed up. I cooled her down. We eventually reached the Birla Mandir and found it to be closed, to be opened up soon. There was heavy crowd waiting to enter. We did manage to squeeze through, but found the place not to our liking and quickly completed the tour and came out.

It was around 1:45pm and we were getting hungry. I suggested that we try some authentic Biriyani and started checking with friends in WhatsApp. I got referred to a place called Shah Ghouse near Charminar and so asked the driver chap to take us there. Google routed us through old city with congested roads which made us reach there only by around 3:15pm. We barged in and found the place to be not so clean with renovation work going on. It was packed to the brim, we found us a table some how and had to wait for more than 15 mins for the waiter to turn up. We placed the order and again waited another 20 mins when our Chicken Biryani and kebab arrived. Wifey's Veg Biryani came another 10 mins later and we had lost all our cool by then. The food was delicious, but we famished to care by then!

It was close to 5pm then. We got into the cab and went to the gate of Chowmahalla Palace to be be promptly told the place was closed for the day for entry. We then headed towards Charminar. By then traffic was horrible owing to some local function. It was choc-a-bloc all around Charminar and we couldn't get out any side. Better sense prevailed upon spotting the shops around Charminar and I suggested we do our shopping there since there was no point use sitting in the car through traffic. We also decided to let the taxi go and got out.

Maddening Traffic -

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The Charminar -

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We did some good shopping for some dresses for Wifey and daughter. Once done, we hailed an auto and got back to the hotel by 9:30pm. i decided to take a walk to digest that late afternoon/evening lunch and walked down to Jubilee Hills Main Road. Sarvi Bakery and Restaurant was around the corner and I had a refreshing Irani Chai with some biscuits. That was my dinner! I packed some Naan and Panneer Butter Masala for family and headed back. The day was done!

Yummy!

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Odometer reading: 1945 km. No change since it was rest day for Octy!


Dec 26, 2017 Tuesday.

The day was reserved for shopping again with an evening visit to Hussain Sagar Lake. Before that, I had to find a place to stay. Meanwhile the prospect of visiting Ramoji Film City came up and I hooked up online to find tickets available for the 28th. Since were free till the New Year's eve, we decided to extend for another day more. I looked online and booked up for 2 more nights at Hotel Comfotel, which was basically on the other side of the Inner Ring road, hardly half a km from Minerva Grand, where we were staying.

We then headed out from hotel at around 12pm and visited this store on the Ring Road called Aanchal. Wifey got some dresses for herself and then we decided to have something light at Dunkin Donuts. I parked the car back at he hotel and booked a taxi to get to Hussain Sagar Lake by around 4:30pm. The timing was perfect. There was queue for tickets, but managed to get to the boat ride in about 30 minutes. It was nothing spectacular but the fact that they have managed to carve a spot like this within the city and managed to keep up the tourism is amazing! After spending some time at the Buddha Statue Island, we headed back. It was time to check out some fun games available there and it was great!

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We then decided to step out by 7pm and take an auto back. The auto stand person asked us if we wanted to check out some Hyderabad Pearls. I said why not and asked him to take us to a shop. This shop was so good with unique collection, that we ended up with a good deal after spending some hour and half, ,But we did not buy pearls! Only bangles and ear rings!

We then got back to the hotel. On the way, I got down for some awesome Chicken Biryani take away from Sarvi hotel.

Odometer Reading: 1950 km.

Last edited by luvurride : 9th April 2018 at 03:40.
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Old 9th April 2018, 02:06   #8
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Dec 27, 2017 Wednesday.

Today was the day to change hotels before we head out. Since we had packed our stuff the previous night, we got ready, had breakfast and then executed the plan. Comfotel was also good, but the rooms were smaller as compared to Minerva Grand.

We soon left the hotel deciding to head to Golconda Fort. This time though, I decided to drive myself. But before that, Lunch! We headed out to the City Centre mall that was closeby as I spotted a Chinese Buffet there in Zomato called Aromas of China. That is what I was researching the previous night - identifying good eateries around.

We were really hungry and the buffet turned out to be really great. Filled to the brim, we stuffed ourselves back in the car and drove to Golconda Fort. Wifey and Daughter had a power nap from all that heavy food while I drove!

We reached Golconda Fort by 2:30pm, parked it in the lot and headed to the entrance. Now one smart thing I did was to buy tickets online the previous day. Hence we had no hassle getting in although we were looked at as a different species since the guards knew nothing about online ticketing! The looks on their faces looking at the printed ticket back and forth was priceless!

When we entered, I engaged a guide who clubbed us with another group as well and took us through the fort tour. History always fascinates us, so we were hooked. But we were done in 30 minutes and he said we could walk up ourselves if we wanted to. Wifey decided to settle down while I dragged my daughter and climbed up. It was a good view from up there and the physical endurance in the hot sun helped immensely in digesting all the Chinese we consumed!

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Getting down and reuniting with Wifey, we did some more photoshoot of selfies and headed out by 4pm. I wanted to be there for the Sound and Light Show but it started only at 6:30pm. We were told that the tickets would be issued by 5:30pm. Since we had time to kill, we decided to check out the Qutb Shahi Tombs. We decided to leave the car and hailed an auto. I told the friendly elderly driver about our plans to return to the Sound and Light show and he agreed to stay and drive us back. Reached the place in 15mins and hired a guide there as well. The place wasn't as interesting as the stories he narrated. Well, that works!

Here is more on it for the history buffs-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qutb_Shahi_tombs Courtesy:Wikipedia

After a brief tour and some more photo session later we hopped back on the same auto and reached back to the Fort entrance. We saw that the counter wasn't open, so had some tender coconuts to quench the thirst, used the Sulabh toilet complex at the parking lot and waited at the entry gate. Surprisingly, we were the first.

They did open up the counter at 5:30 and I got Executive Class tickets for us and walked in. The sun was going down and the setting was magical. With lights turned on the internal pathways, I started clicking more.

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When we reached the seating area, people were already occupying. The good thing they do is had over some mosquito cream when they validate your entry to the seating area. We got into our seats and waited for the show to begin.

The show started at 6:30pm sharp and with the sun set completely, the focus lights on top of the fort as we can see looked surreal! Amitabh Bachchan has given the voice over for the narration. We enjoyed it! The only let down was that one of the speakers was not working and hence could not hear the bits that were played from that.

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The show was done by around 7:20pm and we were out soon and drove back to Banjara Hills. We were already hungry and the unanimous choice was to go to an Andhra Cuisine, now that we have had our fair share of Hyderabadi Biryani.

I had already identified to go to Rayalaseema Ruchulu and we were heading that way. Traffic was swell and hunger pangs were pushing us to the limit. I spotted a restaurant called 'KaramPodi' on the way and asked Wifey if we should try instead of driving for 15 more mins to reach Rayalaseema Ruchulu. We were sitting in the restaurant in the next 5 mins!

There was no one else except us and I was a little skeptical. But the food turned out to be exceptional! They give you 4 types of podis for rice, and they were tasty and spicy - true to their name! Their Karampodi Special Chicken was fantastic and so were the vegetarian dishes. That was one hearty meal!

We then drove back to the hotel and settled down. There was one issue though. There was a new large family that checked in to the adjacent room. They had another room probably in the other wing. Kids kept coming to this room and every time they pressed the bell, we were also getting the ring. I complained to housekeeping and they were also clueless. Eventually, asked them to disable both the bells so we could catch some sleep.

Odometer reading: 1974 km.
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Old 9th April 2018, 03:05   #9
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Dec 28, 2017 Thursday

Today was supposed to be long as we had planned for Ramoji Film City. As planned, we got up at 6am, probably for the only day in the entire trip, and had our breakfast and left the hotel by 7:45am. The reporting time as mentioned was 9am and we managed to reach there on time. People were pouring in and finding a parking took about 15 mins. We headed to the online entry counter and got in in a jiffy! Another wise thing to have done!

Getting hold of the maps, we were given a brief by the crew. To give an idea, the whole park is divided into four zones -

1. Fundustan - Kids zone with fun & adventure activities
2. Movie Magic - Live Shows of Movie Making, Wild West, etc.
3. Film City Tour - Bus Hop on-Hop off Tour of various movie sets including Baahubali.
4. Eco Zone - Nature zone with Bird Park, Butterfly Park, Bonsai Garden, etc.

It will be possible to cover all in a day if you start on time and go about each zone with some time awareness. The only part that would delay your progress are the live shows in the Movie Magic zone since the capacity is limited and you would have to wait in long queues.

Now the theme park zones are located a good 10km from the ticket counter and you will be taken there in their buses - some their own, some chartered from APSRTC.

You will be dropped at a place called EUREKA. This is from where we can access all the theme zones. This also houses the restaurants.

We started off with Fundustan. Kids love this place as they have multiple activities for them. We went through all of them and my daughter had a great time!

We then came out and headed to Movie Magic which is opposite to Fundustan and ended up waiting for the Movie Making Show for almost 40 mins in queue. This show is a live performance where they show how they shoot a scene in 3 different stages by adding visuals and sound. They even call upon actors from audience to demonstrate this. Worth watching!

We then went to the next show called 'Spirit of Ramoji' where they showcase multiple cultures and dance.

All these shows happen as per time schedule which will be printed in the information pamphlet we get at the ticket counter.

We decided to check out the Wild West show in the evening since were hungry by now as it was 1:30pm so went to the food court and had some sandwiches. The service here is systematic and fast.

We hopped on to the Film City Tour bus. This is a guided tour where a crew member describes each and every movie set as we pass through. Quite interesting to see those larger than life sets! They also stop at few places where you get down, go through the set and then hop on to another bus. The places they stop are Mahabharata set, Train Station set and Baahubali set.

The Bhagavatham set-

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Guess the Station -

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Boarding the bus to the next set -

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The Maahishmati Kingdom -

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Thematic Menu -

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When we completed this and got down at the Eco Zone, it was 3:30pm. The bird park here houses a variety of species from around the world. Butterfly park was fascinating for the kids. There is a waterfall setup as well inside the bird park. Once out, we visited Kripalu caves, which is a model of a Buddhist cave temple.

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Kripalu Cave -

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We got back to the Eureka zone by 5:30pm and we knew we had missed the Wild West show, the last one being at 5pm. Nevertheless, we settled down in the large open seating area for live performances. There are also crew photographers stationed at various zones whom you can use for clicking professional photos and get them collected when you are back in Eureka. Since wifey and daughter were too tired already, I picked up our photos clicked in the Baahubali set.

They had an evening food court just adjacent selling various snacks and tea/coffee. Got us some to refresh and the performances started around 6pm with live performances from professional singers and dancers entertained by Emcee.

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They wrapped it by 7pm and the carnival started by then. They had multiple themed floats going on a parade with live music. The whole Film City was lit up and we had super fun with a fitting closure for the day.

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Winter Road-Trip: Andhra Pradesh & Telangana-img_20171228_192510049.jpg

By 7:45pm, we boarded the bus back to the parking lot. There is a souvenir shop here if you are interested. However, we were tired already and decided to leave.

Wifey suggested Karampodi again, but I wanted to try something else. Some research pointed us to Vivaha Bhojanambu. We were there and again, fantastic food! The place was packed for a weekday night but has a larger eating capacity, hence was no problem getting a table. With dinner done, we were back to the room and called it a day!

Odometer reading: 2122 km.

Last edited by luvurride : 9th April 2018 at 03:37.
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Old 9th April 2018, 03:22   #10
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Dec 29, 2017 Friday.

We woke up to realise that our daughter was running temperature and started nauseating as well. So we decided to extend the stay for a day more to see if she gets better. I extended the room since it was available.

We were just relaxing in the room watching TV. By afternoon, I decided to head out for lunch as Wifey didn't want to venture out. Food at Comfotel wasn't really any interesting so I went to Karampodi again! They had a lunch buffet and had a great lunch myself and headed back to the room. Medicines had helped and our darling was feeling better already. I came out in the evening and cleaned up Octy with a good wash myself. Then headed out for a walk in the Inner Ring road. Checked out the famous Karachi Bakery to buy some biscuits. And then went to Sarvi to pack up some dinner and head back to the room where we had our dinner and went to bed early.

Odometer reading: 2131 km.

Dec 30, 2107 Saturday.

Since daughter was feeling better in the morning, we decided to drive back to Bangalore. We checked out around 11am and headed out of the city, bidding adieu. I tanked up Octy just before getting on the Outer Ring Road intersection.

We latched on to the Bangalore highway and reached the Stop n Go food plaza close to 2pm. We had a simple thaali and started again after a bio break. The rest of the drive was uneventful and we were at the Nandi Upachar at Devanahalli at 7pm. We had an early dinner of idli and dosa and reached home at Whitefield by 9:30pm.

It was a great trip that we would cherish in memories for years!

Odometer reading: 2706 km.

Last edited by luvurride : 9th April 2018 at 03:39.
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Old 9th April 2018, 04:55   #11
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Default re: Winter Road-Trip: Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

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

As fresh as the Monday morning espresso! But @luvurruide will need to get up at 12 for that?

Great going!
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Old 9th April 2018, 11:31   #12
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Thanks Amp! Indeed I just got up! And a pleasant surprise to see the post up! That's to all you early risers we have got a 24/7 TBhp running!
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Old 10th April 2018, 15:34   #13
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Default Re: Winter Road-Trip: Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

A great travelogue indeed. Though it seems you missed out on a few things or had to wait for long. But then again, it was your decision to go with the flow and not plan in advance. I liked that part.

RFC offers a lot to the eyes and ears. Though one day is sufficient to cover major attractions, it's advisable to earmark at least 2 days if one wishes to explore the attractions in details. You should have visited Salarjung Museum and Shilparamam as well. Two of the prime attractions of Hyderabad.

Andhra-Odisha border is notorious for Naxal activities. But they don't harm civilians as such. They are waging a never ending battle with the system.

Glad that your Octy didn't let you down a bit but for the noise from suspension which eventually subsided.

A great read, indeed.

Regards,
Pratyush
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Old 10th April 2018, 23:43   #14
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Default Re: Winter Road-Trip: Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

Excellent... write-up and trip. You've covered two places that I want to visit over and over again - Araku & Sileru. It take a lot of courage to do Sileru especially during the late hours. And yes, it's difficult to find vehicles plying on that road.

You could have had food in Sileru at the T junction where you were stopped for checks. The make shift hotels serve very good home made food. There is a small market as well there - you'll have to take right.

Quote:
Originally Posted by luvurride View Post
Dec 23, 2017 Saturday.

The one in BLUE is what I took. GMaps wanted to take the GREY one. You can see how close this takes you to the border.!
Attachment 1748863
You took the correct way. You would have cursed yourself otherwise had you taken the road suggested by google - it was pretty bad even for a bus about 2 years ago.

Mango lovers can have mangoes till their hearts content. There are plenty of trees dotting the road side and usually you can find lots of ripe mangoes fallen off the tree.
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Old 11th April 2018, 01:34   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prince0407 View Post
You should have visited Salarjung Museum and Shilparamam as well. Two of the prime attractions of Hyderabad.
Yes, but then we were never on a schedule like you rightly pointed out. Hence didn't bother. Hindsight, we could have skipped Birla Mandir and gone with Salarjung.

Quote:
Originally Posted by prince0407 View Post
Andhra-Odisha border is notorious for Naxal activities. But they don't harm civilians as such. They are waging a never ending battle with the system.
Exactly what I was told by the locals. I was wary about this and hence checked at multiple places/people before taking that leg of the journey. Glad we have a story to tell now!

Quote:
Originally Posted by prince0407 View Post
Glad that your Octy didn't let you down a bit but for the noise from suspension which eventually subsided.
Yes, it was an absolute treat driving the Octy over 2.5k km. To be frank, I was more comfortable in Octy than XUV, my earlier drive. Could be to do with lack of thigh support.

Glad you liked the thread!

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Originally Posted by nischaltopno View Post
It take a lot of courage to do Sileru especially during the late hours.
It was an absolutely thrilling ride, no doubt, without any company - just the 3 of us!

Quote:
Originally Posted by nischaltopno View Post
You could have had food in Sileru at the T junction where you were stopped for checks.
I was more concerned crossing the naxal area before dark, hence did not want to delay any further for such stops.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nischaltopno View Post
Mango lovers can have mangoes till their hearts content. .
Huh, never knew about this. May be we were overwhelmed with the thrill of the ride!

Last edited by luvurride : 11th April 2018 at 01:35.
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