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Old 3rd August 2008, 16:48   #1
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Talking First trip in Safari - 2100 kms.

Bangalore - Chennai - Kumbakonam - Karaikal - Tranquebar - Srimushnam - Pondicherry - Chennai - Bangalore

This thread takes off from my IOR at http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-d...ari-2-2-a.html (Finally upgraded from M800...To Safari 2.2)

Truth be said, the timing of my purchase of the Safari was too sudden. I had initially expected to purchase my truck only post September thinking that all QC and other niggling issues if any might be sorted out in a year since the model was launched by TM. The other reason being my work pressures would ease out only then.

However, two issues pushed me out of my comfort position and made me take the jump immediately. The first was the increase in the prices and the news of imminent increase in excise duties.

The second reason, self-fulfilling if you may, was a long deferred temple trip to Kumbakonam. My in-laws had been keen on such a trip for sometime now, and I had been putting it off citing work as a reason. So truly being more kicked up by the idea of doing a long trip on a Safari than motivated by possible price increases, or a cultural heritage trip I bit the bullet. The other thing being that I had a small window of opportunity work-wise and I knew I would not get such an opportunity till September end.

Of course, I planned to justify my immediate/surprise purchase citing possible price increases as reasons. My wife definitely didnt buy it but fortunately went along.

So while finance negotiations were on and booking was being done, I made arrangements for stay at Kumbakonam. The plan as conveyed to my in-laws and other relations joining us was that we would reach chennai in our 800. We would then borrow a neighbour's Scorpio and carry on. Obviously 5-6 people cant do such a long trip in an 800, right? Broke the news to my folks the night of the purchase with pics and asked them to keep it a secret from my in-laws

We finally manage to leave Bangalore at 7. We took the Hosur-Krishnagiri-Ambur-Vellore-Chennai route. The road is good as usual, except for the fact that people keep crossing blindly, so one needs to keep an eye for that. Topped up fuel at a Company Owned Company Operated BP pump before Krishnagiri. They have a Adyar Anand Bhavan hotel in this pump. So finished breakfast there. We thought about picking up some of the famous Ambur biryani from Khoja's but this was put off because this was to be a temple trip. Boo Hoo. Overall, it was a leisurely and we reached Chennai at around noon.

You can imagine the grand and totally royal surprise on my in-laws faces when they saw us pull in to the house in a Safari. The dogs too went mad, barking madly at a new truck entering their territory till they see us get down. Yeah, my in-laws have three dogs at their place.

The next day, we head off for Kumbakonam. The first step is to pick up more surprised relations from Ambattur and navigate through morning office traffic in Chennai. The scenic ECR route to reaching Kumbakonam is out because of our starting point, Ambattur. So we take the new Maduraivoyal bypass through a dirt track from around Mogappair west. This bypass meets the Grand Southern Trunk Road between Tambaram and Perungalathur/Vandalur. I for one really like this bypass. And the best part I notice is that for the ?14-19? odd kms you dont have people crossing the road at arbit places. Really neat road.

And all this time do I take any pictures? Hell, no. In all the excitement the camera was totally forgotten. Yes. And as this experience would bear out, this was a lasting feeling throughout the trip. We took hardly any pictures. This is something I plan to correct from the next trip onwards. Sorry folks.

From Vandalur, we reach Chengalpettu and the town provides various options. Do we take the branch to Kalpakkam and follow the ECR to Chidambaram? Or do we take the Villupuram route? The vote is for the Villupuram route, because we have done the ECR enough in my opinion. Pondicherry has been almost like a monthly getaway for us. So we take the Villupuram route. From Chengalpettu, we cross Madurantakam and reach Tindivanam. Here, am tempted to take a turn to Gingee to check out the fort. I remember reading in my history books in Bombay that Shivaji's reign extended to this area and he had rebuilt this fort. That was a surprise for me. But am voted out.

I didnt realise I am going to have more regrets and wishes like the Gingee opportunity on the way. This area of TN is full of history / culture. In any case, this trip is for a particular purpose, and I have the truck for future explorations without an agenda.

We continued on from Tindivanam along the Villupuram route looking out for the Panruti turn off. We found this after we crossed Vikravandi. Unfortunately, one side of the road was being resurfaced with tar. And the buffoons there didnt have a lookout at the ends of the work area to regulate traffic. I continued along this route, not realising this, till I was challenged by a state transport bus. I had no choice but to move my new truck over the side that was being resurfaced. Pulled over once we got through this patch and got down to inspect this truck. There were tar spots all over the sides also. I did get really upset there. But there was nothing that could be done there. So keeping the regrets to myself, we continued along till we reached Panruti. I realised Panruti was famour for Jackfruits once I reach there. You got to see the size of the jackfruits that are being sold all along the road sides in Panruti. I had heard about it, but had not seen these fruits of this size, either at crawford market in bombay or anywhere in Bangalore. However, in this case I ruled out purchasing any for fear of dirtying the interior and the seats.

We continued along, passed the outskirts of Neyveli and reached Chidambaram. Evidently, there was some political meeting due to which traffic was being diverted. We went around in circles for a bit till we discovered we had ended up in the middle of the bus stand. We then stopped for lunch at a strictly so-so hotel near the bus stand. The
time by then was 3.30 pm. The only thing we could manage at that time were dosas and coffee.

We then continue through Sirkazhi after which we take the branch towards Mayavaram. En route to Kumbakonam we pass Aduturai, which we realise is around where one of the temples is located. Suryanar Koil. So after a bit of hunting, we discover the temple and manage to reach there before sunset. The temple, like most in this area we realised, is steeped in history. I think it was built around 1100 AD by Kulothunga Chola I.

We continue on, reach Kumbakonam and proceed from there to Swamimalai. I had made reservations for two rooms at Sterling Swamimalai. I highly recommend this resort, especially for use as a base in such trips. It no longer belongs to the Sterling Timeshare group. It is now managed by the same group that manages Sterling Mahabalipuram. The place is a heritage resort. The decor is very ethnic. The generic kerala ayurveda style massages are reasonable and good for a resort of this nature, around 450/- for one session. The interesting though was the restaurant within the resort. Its completely vegetarian keeping in with the theme. While that might be the downside, it does serve alcohol though. However, the cuisine is very authentic and the best part; surprisingly cheap for a resort of this standard. With 5 of us with pretty reasonable apetites, especially after lot of travelling and stuffing ourselves the bill never crossed Rs. 500 per meal.

In and around Kumbakonam, we spent the next two days visiting the various temples. If I remember correctly, we visited almost 8 temples in the two days. Notable among these were Alangudi, Swamimalai, Oppiliappan etc. Cursory research on the net indicates that the average age of these temples is around 1000 years. Thats quite a bit of history
once you think about it.

The weather was fortunately not unbearable and in fact was cool in bits. Once we were done with the temples we had set out to see in Kumbakonam, we checked out of Sterling Swamimalai. The night before we check out though, we head on the Kumbakonam-Karaikal route to visit a temple at a place called Thirupambur. This temple is is one of the few places or only place (not too sure of that) that has both Rahu and Ketu worshipped at the same idol. While the temple itself is very interesting, the route to it is what makes it more. Firstly, its almost 30kms from Kumbakonam and then there is a turn off that is all to easy to miss. But then began a good 1 hour of apprehension for me. The road is absolutely pathetic. It literally felt like each wheel was in a different pothole at a different level. And I was getting very nervous. I could see no sign
of civilisation for most of the route, it was dark and I was driving a new Tata Motors vehicle before the first service. But reach safely we did, with no incidents. And in that trip itself more than the rest, I kind of felt the purchase was justified. For the comfort inside on such roads, and the ability to handle these roads.

The next day morning we check out and head out to Karaikal, stopping on the way at Thirunallar for a quick dip at the temple pond and a visit to the temple. The Kumbakonam Karaikal route is a pain compared to the other highways because it is a two lane road and there is always somebody driving real slow in front of us. We finish lunch at Karaikal, top up fuel for Karaikal is a Union Territory and continue north towards Tranquebar. Over there we check out the Dutch fort. There is a Neemrana boutique hotel at
Tranquebar. Seems like a nice place for a weekend getaway. I think I might visit the place in the winter.

After Tranquebar, we visit Thirukaddaiyur. This is one interesting temple. It is one of the few ancient temples in India that has both Shiva and Vishnu within the inner sanctum. It is also a sprawling temple complex. The entrance door is more than 25 feet high and made of wood. The distance from the door to the main temple complex itself is 500 mts. And they huge cultivated and well maintained garden. Unfortunately or fortunately public access is not allowed in to the garden. Which is what keeps it preserved I suppose.

From Thirukaddaiyur, we proceed onwards to Chidambaram again. At this point, I am kind of reaching the end of my patience with all the temples and getting desperate for at least a beer. But that was not to be till late that night. After Chidambaram, we slow down, and keep on the lookout for the turnoff for SriMushnam. We find it, and go along for a quite a bit seeing not a soul. To make things worse there were a lot of abandoned huts on the way. Fortunately, there were a few km marker stones on the way and we reached SriMushnam. The experience was kind of funny because you are travelling along a path with not a soul in sight. But suddenly you reach Srimushnam, which is actually a big town and see a lot of people. Architecturally speaking this final temple that we stopped at was also amongst the most impressive and beautiful. Its filled with
intricate stone carvings. Walking across, somebody who has seen his share of temples, can make out the distinct influences of the Hoysalas, Cholas and more recent stylistic influences. I was really impressed. Chanced upon this gentleman sitting outside the temple, who introduced me to some of the temple management people there. It seems the history of the temple is lost in antiquity in terms of who first built it and that this temple is mentioned in various texts older than 900 AD. This is further evidenced by the various architectural influences that is visible with each ruling dynasty having contributed its bit. However, in this temple as with all the rest we saw in this trip, there is no real preservation activity. WIth the result that most of the structures are crumbling down. What a pity. To put it in perspective, every single temple we saw in this trip pre-dates Hampi of Vijaynagar fame by a minimum of 500 years.

Its dark by the time we are done with Srimushnam

We have finally covered all the temples that we set out to visit. Now there is only thing in our minds, beer and good dinner. We decide at 7.45 pm to head towards Pondicherry and ask around for routes. We are told that the route we took to reach srimushnam is a slightly dicey because
some local dacoit had been killed or arrested the previous day. Ahhh, me thinks, no wonder the abandoned huts and the eery feeling while passing through it. So me asks, whats the better way from here considering its already dark. The people look at us and ask if we are travelling in the safari. Not understanding then, I give my assent. Then they proceed to inform me about the new bypass to Vriddhachalam thats being contructed from where we can reach Cuddalore.

Ohh ok, we head off. We are on our way, the road is good, proper signs everywhere. And then abruptly the road disappears. What was early a two lane road with trees on both sides gives way suddenly after a point to this four lane wide pothole filled dirt track. Now having already covered more than 10kms from Srimushnam we are not in a position to retrace. And we decide to carry on. This is where the Safari won our hearts again. For what seems a long stretch we are the only vehicle on this path in absolute darkness. Abruptly again the road narrows. At this point we slow down to investigate and realise that the so called road is now a two lane road again and there are huge craters on both sides. We realise these are not craters, these are almost like having two stone quarries on both sides. So we proceed slowly till we suddenly see civilisation and as abruptly as earlier, we are on a proper road and inside Vriddhachalam. We stop there, to get some water. And then begin a non-stop drive through Neyveli and Cuddalore till we reach Pondicherry. We reach Pondy at 10. That was one marathon drive at night.

We find some decent accomodation and wet our beaks with beer and round it out with some teachers. The food is so so, but hey we were tired and anything would do.

We have a wet lunch the next day at satsanga and then drive back to chennai via the ECR. I took a days break at Chennai so that I could give the vehicle for service at Concorde there. Following service we returned to Bangalore.

Now vehicle update. Not a glitch, not a problem worth mentioning all along this trip. Around Panruti in the beginning of the journey the rear O/H AC started dripping water. So we switched off for some time. Later we switched it on again and didnt have this problem again. I guess that probably would have been due to the heat. The vehicle is fabulous on bad roads as noticed on the way to thirupambur and on the vriddhachalam bypass. Had I made this trip in the 800, I probably would have made everyone carry their equal share of the car back piece by piece on their shoulders. I am reclaiming my life.
Further, for the first time, I noticed buses allowing me to overtake them. In fact, I had bus drivers showing their hands asking to me to overtake. May be it was the Safari you think? I dont remember that happening in the 800. Or may be it being TN they were expecting a politico vehicle? Am not complaining

Next agenda. Am off temples for sometime for sure. But this area of TN is surely amazing if you were to approach it from a cultural and historical perspective. I need to read up a lot and make a planned/prepared visit to the UNESCO world heritage sites if Brihadeeswara (Thanjore), Gangaikondacholapuram (after the chola king whose kingdome
stretched to the Ganges). And also to Chidambaram and Darasuram.

In any case, I am not going to be making any trips till september end. At that point I have trips planned to Cochin, Coimbatore/Palakkad and to Wayanad in quick succession.

The only regrests during the entire trip was my failure to remember to use the camera despite carrying it. I was enjoying driving the safari too much. And secondly, not remembering to check the mileage through the trip. I estimate I was getting 11-12 before the first service though. This is with 5 people on board with luggage and using both ACs full time. Not bad I assume.

Finally, a few pics, as mentioned, of a very dusty safari:
Attached Thumbnails
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First trip in Safari - 2100 kms.-08070912-027.jpg  

First trip in Safari - 2100 kms.-08070912-028.jpg  

First trip in Safari - 2100 kms.-08070912-039.jpg  

First trip in Safari - 2100 kms.-08070912-040.jpg  

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Old 3rd August 2008, 20:32   #2
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Hey nice colour selection and a nice travelogue, if there were more pics of the scenic view would be very good.

Enjoy your ride and write more and more travelogues of your future expeditions on your Safari.

The way you have surprised is what i liked the most in your travelogue, which i do to most of my family members and friends in all sorts of things...

Hey don't forget to post your pictures on the following thread where all the Safari guys are together - http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/suvs-m...tml#post925532

Last edited by gowda79 : 3rd August 2008 at 20:41.
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Old 3rd August 2008, 21:10   #3
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That was a really magnificent travelouge, DaiusPitar. Looks like you really enjoyed the vehicle AND the journey Thanks for sharing with us.
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Old 3rd August 2008, 21:13   #4
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Originally Posted by DaiusPitar View Post
In any case, I am not going to be making any trips till september end.
Famous last words. This vehicle will make you WANT to travel, as you've probably realized from this first trip. Distances shrink, roads become smoother, traffic moves aside and you feel the urge to drive.

Just take a look at the number of LONG first drives by Safari owners here on the forum....
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Old 3rd August 2008, 22:11   #5
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A wonderful travalogue; so the travel bug's effect is showing.

Why am not surprised when you say that you forgot about everything else (camera, mileage, et la) when you are driving the Safari? Seems to be a valid reason.

And wish you all the best in trying to keep your resolution of not traveling till september end. :-)
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Old 4th August 2008, 23:23   #6
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WOW!!! That was one neat travelogue DP. Great narration. I could really visualize all the bad roads and how the Truck would have carried you all smooth and safe. thats what this truck does the best. Not surprised at how you forgot about the cam, pics etc. I'm sure this feeling goes beyond pictures. this will remain in you for a looong loong time... until you take the next great trip on this beast, cherish these moments..

Congrats once again dude.

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