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Old 8th November 2007, 23:28   #1
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Default Mahua & the road to Sukma (Trip to Chhatisgarh) Part 1

Every time I drove down the Warangal Highway (NH 202), near No: 6 Junction at Hyderabad, the milestone ‘Bhopalapatnam – 275 Kms, caught my attention. NH 202 beginning at Hyderabad passes through Warangal and Mulug, finally joining NH 16 (Nizamabad – Jagdalpur) at an obscure and remote little village, ‘Bhopalapatnam’ situated close to the Indrawati River in Chhattisgarh state’s Bastar district.

Circa 2003, Dad, Mom & I had been on Dad’s official vehicle – a Toyota Qualis, to visit the Ramappa temple, an ancient 11th century temple, situated at Palampet village, about 70 Kms from Warangal, on the NH 202, with a detour after Mulug. During that time, as we took a left from NH 202, towards Palampet, I saw the highway going straight, towards Bhopalapatnam, and thought to myself, that one day, I will come down this very road, from the obscure Bhopalapatnam.

That thought began to manifest itself again, 4 years down the line, when I called up my friend Roopesh Kohad, on his cell, and expressed an intent to visit Jagdalpur, and return to Hyderabad via Bhopalapatnam. Roopesh expressed interest, and soon we initiated a mail thread amongst our private Gmail Ids, planning and working out the trip. The third person to join us was Ranganath Eunny, another friend from Chennai, who too was interested in visiting Chhattisgarh, and was waiting for the right opportunity to do so.
Roopesh's co-worker & friend Pareeksheet Singh became the 4th member of the trip.
For sure, we knew that the roads in & around Jagdalpur were not going to be smooth; in fact, bad roads were a given. Our vehicle of choice for the 4-day trip will have to be sturdy enough to withstand the battering on Chhattisgarh roads; at the same time it should be spacious enough for the four of us to have a comfortable ride; should have ample space for our luggage and last but not the least, should be economical on our pocket.

Initial vehicles of choice were my Maruti Esteem & Roopesh’s Santro. But I had to quickly rule out the Esteem, as I had to spend close to Rs 10,000/- to replace its’ ageing tyres; and then a petrol vehicle is not exactly the vehicle on long runs - cost wise that is; especially if you can afford a diesel. Modern – day diesels with all their turbochargers and Common Rails offer on-par performance with petrol vehicles and cost cheap to run as well.

Just as I was racking my brains on the vehicle of choice, a bulb lit up somewhere. My BIL had a diesel TATA Indigo; all I had to do was to swap cars for 4 days. I checked up with my BIL and he had no issues letting out his car for 4 days.

Having finalized the vehicle, I got busy making the necessary travel arrangements. Trips to the nearby Chhattisgarh Tourism Board (CTB) office at nearby Domalaguda became more frequent- phone calls from the officer in charge, Kumar Satyam more so. Over the next couple of weeks, I would be regularly giving updates on the mailing list about the progress done, information collected over the net and so on & so forth. Ranga & Roopesh occasionally chipped in, with their inputs.

I made an advance payment for 2 Wooden Log Huts run by the CTB at Chitrakot waterfalls – and also arranged to block 2 rooms at Hotel Rainbow, a supposedly up market hotel at Jagdalpur.

We were targeting a late noon departure from Hyderabad, at around 1500 hours or so, so as to reach Bhadrachalam by around 2200 hours and have a good night’s sleep. The next morning, we were to have an early morning darshan of Lord Sri Ram at the famous Bhadrachala Ramadas temple, and proceed to Jagdalpur. Accordingly, Ranga booked his ticket on the noon Indigo flight from Chennai to Delhi via Hyderabad that was to touch down at Hyderabad at around 1210 hours. After having lunch with a friend, he was supposed to join us at my place – the starting point for the trip. Roopesh & Pareeksheet would be arriving at my place by Roopesh’s Santro.
This is the first of the numerous parts of my trip to Chhatisgarh. This is incidentally my first travellogue on the forum. Before proceeding further, let me just check up on the comments from other Team BHP -ians.
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Old 9th November 2007, 08:52   #2
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Waiting eagerly to hear the rest. Tried driving on NH16 from Nizamabad district, hoping to go across to Srikakulam via Jagdalpur, but was turned away at Mancheral since the bridge across the Godavari at Chinnur was incomplete (and no vehicle ferry across), and the road through that little bit of Maharashtra was also bad. Only if NH16 were complete, that would have been a great ride across to Chattisgarh from West Telengana region.

Hurry up, you have launched a suspense thriller!!!
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Old 9th November 2007, 09:02   #3
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Hope you have some pictures to embellish your write up. Do not keep us waiting.

You write well.
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Old 9th November 2007, 10:07   #4
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Ya, eagerly waiting to see that part of India through your travelogue. And pls keep the pics flowing in between, it adds that tempo in the travelogue...

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Old 9th November 2007, 12:34   #5
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Default Mahua & the road to Sukma (Part 2)

Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
Hope you have some pictures to embellish your write up. Do not keep us waiting.
You write well.
Fine.. I get the green signal so here I go off again.......
Finally the much-awaited D Day dawned – the 13th of July 2007. I had taken an off from office on that day, and spent the morning packing up my suitcase and a travel bag. At around 1230 hours, my BIL’s driver pulled up with the Indigo; I spent the next hour getting useful tips from the driver and also purchased a set of fuses and a spare headlight bulb. After making sure that the spares and the vehicle papers were in order, the driver handed over the keys of the Indigo, took my Esteem, and drove away.

Ranga’s flight had a delayed departure of about 50 minutes; he was not expected before 1300 hours. Roopesh & Pareeksheet came in by around 2:30 pm, and I helped Roopesh park his car in my car’s parking slot, in our apartment. All of us were set, and waiting for Ranga, but he was nowhere to be seen. Calls to his mobile drew a blank. Finally, after about 15 minutes we got through – it seems his mobile had run out of battery; the slow pace of food being served at Green Park, Ameerpet (where he was having lunch with a friend) further added to the delay. After talking to him, we decided to get going right away, and pick him up at Shankarmutt.

Having set out trip meter to 0000 we started off when the clock on Indigo showed 4:02 pm. We pulled over near Shankarmutt where Ranga & his friend were waiting for us. Quick pleasantries exchanged, we placed Ranga’s backpack and tripod case in the boot; picked a pack of cigarettes, bade goodbye to Bharath & Ranga’s friend, and set off.

I tanked up the Indigo with Xtra Mile diesel at the neighbourhood petrol bunk and slowly made our way through the rush hour traffic, through No: 6 Junction, Amberpet, Dilsukhnagar and LB Nagar. I did a final check up on the tyre pressure on a highway petrol bunk before flooring the accelerator. Soon we were cruising at a decent 80 to 90 Kmph on the sparsely populated NH9. Giving us company on & off was a Hyderabad – Jagdalpur private bus, and some fast moving Ford Fiestas and a Skoda Laura, which zoomed past us.

After driving for about 4 hours, we pulled up at a small highway dhaba for a tea and a smoke. It was a small dhaba – a small porch and a water tank to the left; paddy fields and a barn where some tethered buffaloes lazed around, completing the pastoral setting. The tea had an earthly taste to it – a perfect accompaniment to the chips and cup cakes that we were carrying. A smoke and some quite moments later, Roopesh took the wheel, and we were off on our way to Khammam.
At Suriapet, which is equidistant from Hyderabad and Vijayawada (137 Km), we bade goodbye to NH9 and took a left on to the road, which leads to Khammam and beyond. The road was good enough with not much of traffic, and soon at around 8:50 pm, we reached Khammam. Enquiring on the main road, for a decent place for food, we were directed to Hotel Sindhu, a few metres to our right, in a small lane. Having parked our car in a small compound adjacent to the hotel, we went up to the 1st floor A/C section and found a corner table for us.
Roopesh, Pareeksheet & I ordered the standard veg fare consisting of North Indian Curries and Rotis, while Ranga settled for chicken biryani. The food was OK and was served pretty fast. It was around 09:45 pm by the time we were done.
As we made our way out of the hotel onto the compound, we were surprised to find the compound gates locked by a chain and padlock combo. While we were figuring out the next course of action, a fruit seller seeing our predicament came to our rescue and undid the chain and opened the gate. The gate was not locked – the padlock was just a deterrent to prevent more vehicles from being parked in the compound.

I took over the wheel again, and soon we were out of Khammam on the nearly desolate highway. It was pitch dark outside, and save for the headlights of oncoming vehicles, it seemed we were the only denizens in Motown.

As we were passing Kothagudem town, a police patrol team on routine night patrolling pulled us over; and asked us for identification. I was expecting this situation- after all we were close to the epicenter of Naxal activism, and the recent Naxal-police encounter in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh forests didn’t quite help matters. Our car boot was opened up, and all our backpacks and suitcases were checked; the patrol team did get suspicious over Pareeksheet & Ranga’s tripod cases; but a quick explanation helped – satisfied, the patrol team waved us off.

We sped past Kothagudem Thermal Power Station (KTPS) at Paloncha town, and after taking a couple of wrong turns, we sped past Borgampad town, and soon the lights of Bhadrachalam town glistening over the placid waters of the Godavari caught our eye. We were tempted to pull over for some night photography, but decided otherwise – it was not a wise thing to do given the tense conditions prevailing.
Soon, we crossed the Godavari Bridge and pulled into Bhadrachalam at around 11:40 pm – sparsely populated as usual with the lone tea stall and a few passengers wearily making their way through the main throughfare on to their homes – obviously having arrived by the night bus.
We pulled up in front of the Gitanjali lodge on the main road – dad & mom had suggested this lodge- they had stayed here on their previous Bhadrachalam trip and found the lodge to be quite comfortable and economical and had recommended it. However, neither the façade nor the room rent was to our liking - Rs 500/- for a double bed non-a/c room. The receptionist refused to offer any discount; so we decided not to offer him our patronage; headed straight to APTDC’s Punnami hotel, located a few hundred metres to the left off the main road (towards Khammam).

We pulled up into the Punnami and checked up room availability. Luckily there were some non-a/c double bed rooms available, and we decided to check them up. Impressed with the room and the facilities, Ranga paid the advance, Roopesh & Pareeksheet checked up on the luggage being unloaded; later I backed up the car in the parking lot; giving it company were a TATA Sumo & a Chevrolet Tavera. The trip meter read 321 Kms.

The four of us shared 2 rooms – Roopesh & Pareeksheet in 1 and Ranga & I in the other. The room was decent enough according to Bhadrachalam standards – the beds were neatly made up; washrooms were neat & dry - the balcony opened up to a view of the lawn down below. Across the compound wall, a row of shops lined up the road – ‘Ramoji’ Watch Shop and others.

Having had a quick hot water bath, I retired for the night.

Uptill now, I did not take snaps.. The next day when we actually start out for Jagdalpur I will start putting in snaps.
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