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Old 9th March 2008, 03:27   #1
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Default Kolkata-Vizag-Kolkata (All in a weekend and a bit more)

"When evrything's coming your way, you are probably in the wrong lane" Now whoever said that has never driven on an Indian Highway, at least some parts of it. But then the 2190 km that we covered in the span of 4 days was, in the absence of better vocabulary, simply breathtaking and eventful too. Let me take you through the sequence of events in a chronological manner, with a bit a perspective (and some pictures) thrown in here and there. By the way this is my first attempt at writing a travelogue, do feel free to tell me if it can be called one.

Men and the Machine: It's not often that a group of techies, who pretend to work hard all week, suddenly decide to go for a long drive on a Friday evening, a drive that will take them all the way to Vizag (2 states and 870kms away). That's precisely what we did. But you see, the equation changes completely when you have a Polished Dome (PD henceforth) at the wheel. When I first met this guy (with thick black hair) some 13 years ago, he was already driving for 2 years. And in betwen he has driven some 80,000km in an array of vehicles (a separate article on that later). But we decided to give his beloved BlackPearl a bit of rest and chose "Silver Arrow" instead. Now Silver Arrow is an Esteem VXI, 2005 model, with some modification done to the exhaust. It's driven by a guy named Rajarshi. He is fast coming up as a driver to reckon with on Indian roads. Very fast and very modest (traits that do not generally go together). With 25,000 km in his kitty as well, the other guy in the car with a driver's liscence and neglible experience (that's me by the way) could breathe easy. We had a couple more people (read passengers) to make sure that the cost of the trip gets diluted.

Kolkata-Vizag-Kolkata (All in a weekend and a bit more)-rajarshi.jpg

Preparation: 2 hrs I guess should be enough. You need to maintain your car and that's something you can't do in 2 hrs. So you need to dump some clothes and whatever is important to you in a sack, and hit the road. OK do not forget the fuel and tyre pressures (we forgot the latter). I think the difficult bit is to convince the passengers, and that took an additional 2 weeks.

Kolkata to Vizag (Part I 15th-16th Feb): 11:45 pm and Silver Arrow was cruising down the familiar terrains of the Kona Express Way and Bombay road at a gentle pace. An hour later the long queue of trucks at Kolaghat reminded us that we indeed are on our way !!! One look at the heavens and you realize why it's called so (glittering stars with a plate of silver shinning bright). At Kharagpur, I decided to do some value addition, and there by made sure that we misssed the bypass and plunged inside the sleeping town. The booming of the engines was a sharp contrast to the absolute silence of the surroundings. And then in the darkest and most desolate corner of the town, our path was obstructed by a level crossing. Was it really a train, or a more sinister plot laid to rob us of our most prized possession, the Silver Arrow. A few nervous moments latter, the whistle of an oncoming engine brought a simultaneous sigh of relief.

3:00 am: We were back on the highway and PD was driving at good speed to make up for the lost time, becuase of my superior navigation skills. After all we had a target of getting to Bhubaneswar at day break. We crossed the border. (The number plates chaged from WB to OR, that's how I got to know). I had no idea where exactly we were, when the darkness of the night started to give way to something that I had never experienced before. We were engulfed in a thick white cloud of fog.The visibility for me was an absolute "ZERO". Much to my awe, Polished Dome was able to sense (not sure which organ he used) what lay ahead of the car, and seemed to be driving quite comfortably at times going up to 60km/hr. And then the fog made way for an absolutely splendid sunrise. We took our first real break (to refuel the car and relieve and refuel ourselves). 420 km covered in 8 hrs with a milage of 13.5

10:00 am: We had crossed Bhubaneswar quite a while back. The drive had just got a bit boring, with fewer challenges and reasonably good roads all the way to Chilika. Driving during the day as PD had often argued, is tougher with so many things (animate and inanimate crossing your path). Just when you feel a bit complacent speeding along, you find this unusal sight of a begger right on the middle of the highway. I took this picture on the way back. The fact that he survived 4 days, tells me Indian Highways are indeed safe.

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12:00 pm: From Chilika the roads deterioted but the view of the Lake from the winding and hilly roads was quite awesome. Everyone but the driver could appreciate the surrounding, as he is often greeted with the word Diversion, right at the point where you need to take one. But crossing into Andhra Pradesh meant that the roads once again became inviting. Even I was driving at 120kmph on that stretch, but be ware of the odd cycle, or tractor coming your way on the fastest lane of the divided highway. Oh yes one more thing, in Andhra if you ask someone which way is Vizag, and he says "Direct", he means straight ahead. So we went "Direct" for 300 km from Andhra border till the sight of the Vizag Cricket ground with the hilly backdrop marked our arrival. 4:00pm by my clock, we have actually made it.

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@ Vizag (Part II): Vizag is a beautiful city. You need not drive 870 km to feel it. You can also take the boring air or rail route. Parts of the city, specially near Rishikonda and Kailasagiri reminded me of the days that I spent in Sydney. It was pictursque to say least. No wonder we took lots & lots of snaps. Only hiccup was to find an accomodation with a lot of guys getting married to gals (and vice versa), but once we found one the hospitality was overwhelming. The Rishikonda beach with it's crystal clear water and moderate waves is ideal for some swim. If you are out for food or shopping the Ramakrishna Beach is where you go.

Trip To Araku (17th Feb): Araku, located amidst Anantagiri Hills, Eastern Ghats, is 120 km from Vizag, 80 km of flat raod and then 40 km of uphill drive. The road is pretty narrow, and at it's highest point the elevation is 1300 m. But some of the windings are quite steep, so the message is (copied pasted) "The road is Hilly, Don't be Silly". Why I say so, On one of those sharp corners, a bike brushed our side and managed to dislodge the fog light and dented the bumper. The biker however never lost his balance, and was assessing the damage when we last saw him. But that did not stop us from driving to Borra Caves, the biggest attraction in the region. Well. it is worth the hype.Driving downhill, as dusk setlled was indeed a slow and careful process.

Kolkata-Vizag-Kolkata (All in a weekend and a bit more)-araku1.jpg Kolkata-Vizag-Kolkata (All in a weekend and a bit more)-milestone.jpg

Vizag to Kolkata (Part III, 19th Feb): We had planned to start early. Plan? That's something that never works right? Our gracious host made sure that we had every single facility at our service. We bid him a warm good bye and were soon back on the same road. The journey was uneventful till 4pm. We stopped occasionally to take a snap of the beautiful Eastern Ghats. Then somewhere in Orissa (around 100 km from Balasore) it started to get a bit dark, and we could smell rain. Then the downpour started, but there was something unusual about the sound. And then it struck us, we were in fact in the middle of a very severe hail storm. The windscreen and the roof threatened to give way under the savage pelting, or so it seemed from inside. For once I saw a bit of tension in PD's face. Afterall the car roof was his last line of defence in that barren surrounding. For those who did not get the joke see the pic of PD below. We moved on, and soon left the storm behind us

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6:00 pm: Next was rain, and this was a pretty strong downpour. Again I marvelled at the driving skills of PD. The visinbility was very poor, but an occasional lightning lit up the surroundings for a moment like day. The empty highway, the torrential rain, the occasional burst of lightning, the rumbling of thuder... you may choose to call it romantic or you may choose to call it terrifying depending on who you are.

10:00pm By my watch. We had left the clouds far behind us, and the Sher-e-Punjag (Kolaghat) was now in sight. That meant HOME. We could not help but stop for a sip of lassi and our first big meal of the day. From there onward everyone feel asleep, as DP covered the remaining 75 km in the twinkling of an eye

2 days, 2190 km across plain land, lakes, beaches and hills and through hail, rain, fog,dawn and dusk.. It doesn't get any better or bigger than this. Now PD will surely disagree....
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Old 9th March 2008, 06:16   #2
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Magnificient Picture, well written Travelogue,
by the way which hotel you stayed in Ananthagiri ?

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Old 9th March 2008, 09:14   #3
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Nice Travelogue and pics Incognito.

After completion of Kharagpur - Balasore section, I can see that Kol - Vizag can be easily done in a day.
It will be much faster once Sunakhala - Ichchapuram section gets completed.

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Old 9th March 2008, 11:35   #4
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Good write up & pics.
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Old 9th March 2008, 12:05   #5
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Great writeup! Too bad I missed out on this trip... was looking forward to it. The Araku drive in particular sounds very tempting!
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Old 9th March 2008, 15:09   #6
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Incongnito - please leave this wretched IT world and do some justice to your writing skills which IMHO is better than your managerial skills
amazing travelogue and one of the best I have read..

Originally Posted by Incognito View Post
By the way this is my first attempt at writing a travelogue, do feel free to tell me if it can be called one.
I can see that spending so much quality time with modest Rajarshi has left an impression upon you
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Old 10th March 2008, 07:25   #7
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Very humorous writeup Incognito! Enjoyed it a lot.
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Old 10th March 2008, 10:12   #8
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Great write up. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 10th March 2008, 11:19   #9
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Excellent writeup Incognito. The pics are equally good. Enjoyed every bit of it.
The drive seems very tempting..would surely do it sometime soon.
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Old 10th March 2008, 13:06   #10
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lovely travelogue Incognito - i guess you were in charge of the camera?? see you soon man! enjoyed every bit of it.
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Old 10th March 2008, 13:23   #11
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Amazing write up. wish i could go on such a trip with like minded people.
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Old 10th March 2008, 16:24   #12
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Quite a witty first-write up and lovely pictures too.
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Old 10th March 2008, 16:33   #13
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Great pics, and fabulous write up !!
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Old 10th March 2008, 16:55   #14
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That was a humorous write up with some cool pics as well!!
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Old 10th March 2008, 22:27   #15
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Excellent writeup. Would have appreciated some scenic shots around Araku/Vizag though.
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