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Old 5th July 2009, 16:49   #1
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Default Kodai and Munnar in the First Rains...

It is sweltering hot, the damp clothes cling to the body, and the only whoosh I now hear is from the overhead fan, pointlessly churning the humid air in the room. I am back from my dream vacation, and already longing to go back. Am trying to think of the grueling sales targets facing me, yet my mind pulls back dreamily to the day we left Pune.
It is 5:30 on the morning of June 1, 09, and we are raring to go. I can almost hear my Swift flaring her nostrils and tugging at the handbrake as I crank her up. The open road lies in front of me, and we have a long way to go. The plan is to reach B’lore by the evening. The NH4 is inviting as usual, the traffic easy, and I let her rip. Kolhapur in three hours, Belgaum in four and a half. The road is a beauty, and I find myself blessing those folks at the NHAI – scarred as I am, still fresh from my road-trip to Lucknow, bumping and scraping our painful way through the so-called cradle of civilization.
We cross Belgaum and are struck by the fact that there are no conventional roadside Dhabas here. The wife is extremely fussy about eating places, and prefers a pack of chips to eating in some of the seedier eating places posing as Dhabas. The stretch around Chitradurga is a crawl and for a moment I am transported back to the dusty heartlands of India. Back on the highway, we are trying to make some serious time, hoping to beat the dreaded peak hour in B’lore. Hope, it turns out, is an extinct breed as far as B’lore traffic is concerned. We enter city limits of B’lore exactly twelve hours since we left Pune, and it takes me a full two hours to get to the famous “MG Rod-a”. I had seriously thought that only the Pune drivers were such maniacs. A Good Samaritan on a scooter even offers to lead me to my destination, and promptly loses me at the next junction.
Arrived finally, we meet up with a long-lost friend, and just about the first thing we say to each other is “Cheers!” The first toast is raised to the National Highways Authority of India. Three hours later, around midnight, we are showering our blessings on the BRO, BSF, SRPF, ATS and what not. Before we crash, I just about manage to get a map drawing showing the quickest way out of B’lore.
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Old 5th July 2009, 18:03   #2
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Starting writeup is really good.
Please, give some space between lines and para for easy reading.
Waiting for pics.
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Old 5th July 2009, 18:15   #3
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Default Day 2 - All Thanks to Mr. HVKumar

Nine o’clock in the morning, we are back to our enquiries, only this time it is “Hosur Rod-a”. We curse the B’lore traffic all the way to the TN border. The road from Hosur to Krishnagiri is a breeze, and before long we are into the green country. Take a right from Krishnagiri towards Dharmapuri, and this poses a new challenge. Since we have left the NH and turned on to a SH, all the milestones and name boards are now in Tamil. We are back to the very basic level of literacy – remembering the words as pictures – to find out where we are.

he roads are fantastic throughout the day, and I thank Mr. HVKumar profusely for his advice to take this route instead of the usual Salem-Karur-Dindigul route. We go via Dharmapuri - Thoppur – Mechcheri – Mettur – Bhavani – Perundurai – Kangayam – Dharapuram to Palani. It’s a pleasure to drive, apart from the fact that the sun beats down on my steering hand and turns it almost to black. We realize we are close to a hill station even before we see any hills – the hotel owner at our lunch place in Kangayam starts canvassing for a hotel and gives us a number to call “Yin khase aaf yeny praabzhem”.
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Old 5th July 2009, 18:17   #4
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We have made bookings at the Kodai International, and once in Palani, we call up the hotel for confirmation. The receptionist pleasantly tells us that it will take us three hours to reach Kodai from Palani. It’s already about five o’clock, and I have a dread of driving in the hills in the dark. Wife is worried about robberies, but obviously she’s never driven through the Ghatis in MP and can’t believe when I say that this area is as safe as it can get. Nonetheless, I push the Swift a bit towards the red line, and try some maneuvers I normally wouldn’t. Considering the risks, I am chagrined when we make it to Kodai in broad daylight – 90 minutes flat. I wonder if the receptionist at the hotel thought I was driving a Tata 1612 truck.
The hotel is more than decent, food is good and the cold weather is refreshing. I feel the dirt and grime of team meetings, DSRs and xl sheets washing away from me. We crash, but I can still see the boards of “Hairpin bend 3/17” in my mind.
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Old 5th July 2009, 18:44   #5
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Default Day 3 and 4

We get up the next morning, scout around a bit, and find ourselves standing in front of the District Forest Officer’s office with our little slip of borrowed paper requesting permission to enter the Berijam forest. We are hoping to see some wildlife, but are disappointed. But the drive is exhilarating, and it’s good to see so much blue and green about us. In fact I think the sky in Kodai is always such a captivating blue, it looks like seen with a polarizer. We stop at the lake on our way down to the forest outpost, and laze around a bit. We take our time coming back up, happily giving way to creaking old buses and overloaded Omnis. Reach back to Kodai, have lunch and siesta, and the rest of evening is given to communion with Nature and Kingfishers.

Next day, we take the guided tour provided by the Hotel and immediately realize it is folly. Coaker’s Walk has been reduced to Coaker’s Hawking Zone, and the Pillar Rock threatens to be drowned in a sea of empty packets of Frito-Lay’s and other such waste. The golf course looks beautiful, though, and re-ignites thoughts about the only thing corporate that I am really attracted to. After seeing the tourist circus at the Pine Forest and the Guna Cave, we decide to give the rest of the tour a miss, and strike out on our own instead, drinking in the clear, crisp, cold blue of the skies.

It’s couple time at the lake in the evening, and we decide to walk around the lake. Less than halfway through, I am already fumbling with the car keys in my pocket. We keep circling the lake in our car, as this has the added advantage of keeping the wife from shopping for anything and everything that was visible in a shop window.
Having learnt my lesson in B’lore, I give a wide berth to the bar menu at dinnertime, and hit the bed at a good time.
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Old 5th July 2009, 19:01   #6
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Default Snaps - Day 3 and 4

Here are some more snaps of Kody..
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Old 5th July 2009, 19:07   #7
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Default Day 5 - Munnar

Early morning the next day, we are ready to leave for Munnar, and this time start our enquiries right at the hotel desk. I have driven 1400 km to Kodai, with the sole purpose of driving on the 75 km stretch of road from Kodai to Munnar which my father had said was one of the most scenic roads to drive on in India. Much to my dismay, it is learnt that this road, passing through the Berijam forest, has been closed down quite some time back, since it was said to be too dangerous to drive.

I have to go back down the Kodai ghat, descend further and hit the Madurai-Kochi highway at Periyakulam. Then on to Devikulam and Munnar – The distance has been more than doubled on this route. Nonetheless, at least the roads are good and we have a good time driving down the winding hills. The climb up to Munnar seems decidedly tougher than the one at Kodai, especially with the daredevil bus-drivers materializing out of nowhere at every turn. I entertain no pretensions to being a seasoned hill-Billy and stop the car at the very edge of the road every time I see one of them looming up on me.

We manage to reach in one piece, and have lunch at T&U. Staying there is impossible with the traveling-salesman budget that I have, so we find cheap acco right across the street at St Thomas’ Retreat – 1500 bucks with dinner thrown in, and I even get to read the Bible!

When we check in at around 2 pm, George at the front desk is lamenting the lack of rains, and makes dire predictions of draught. Around two hours later, my postprandial siesta is broken by the sound of thunder and heavy rains. The wind is buffeting the window panes into breakdown, and George just can’t stop smiling during dinnertime.

We decide to go for a night-walk since nightcaps are not allowed in the Holy Retreat, and it really turns into a Walk in the Clouds. It is thrilling just to know that such beauty exists.
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Old 5th July 2009, 19:22   #8
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One of my friends has recently visited Munnar and recounted horror stories of the final stretch of road leading up to the Top Station. Since there is no way we are ever going to see a sunset in this weather, we decide we might as well visit Top Station in the morning, avoiding the tourist circus and while the road was visible.

We avoid the circus alright, but the road is still not visible due to the fog. I try to take beautiful pictures of the Misty Mountains and Cloud-hazed Roads – sadly, all of them look like stills from the movie “Dhund”.

We reach Top Station and are enjoying the ginger tea, when slowly the other tourist cars start trickling in. True to form, I even meet a Gujrati gentleman who is lambasting the rain for “spoiling his mood”. I wonder what he is expecting, having come to Munnar in the first week of June.

While coming back I find a sad reminder of my ambition to drive on the Kodai-Munnar road – a forlorn looking lonely white milestone, partly hidden by massive roots of the tea plants, declaring Kodai to be 60 km away. The thoughtful guy who painted it white actually made it look more like a tombstone than a milestone.

The first rains are refreshing and there are smiles all around. Time and again I wrap my numbing fingers gratefully around a cup of ginger tea. This is our day two in Munnar, and we are finding it hard to go anywhere because we can hardly see the road most of the times.

In the afternoon it clears a bit and we decide to follow any turn in the road that presents itself. We spot a waterfall far away and decide to follow the road to it. The road gradually narrows down to only an opening between the cliff on one side and the valley on the other. We stall for a moment, wondering if we’ll find a place to take a u-turn at all, when I am horrified to see a Tata Tea Tractor screaming towards us from behind, and the driver shouting at us to get a move on. Resigned, I start moving further down the road, only to be confronted by a bold red sign – “Dangerous Bridge – Do Not Cross”. I come to the bridge and see that the sign was superfluous – I won’t normally have crossed the bridge even if I could see Salma Hayek standing at the other end. The tractor guy continues to shout in Tamil and is getting very irritated. I try to reason with him, but apparently this is a daily road for him and he isn’t bothered. Also, he is very strong and has a lot of guys with him. So me and wife look at each other, take a deep breath and let the car rip in first gear towards the other end. The tractor thunders by, laughing, and we are left with the option of crossing the bridge by ourselves again, on our way back. This time I don’t need a tractor to prod me. I lean back and try to look unconcerned. But when I offer to stall in the middle of the bridge to click some nice snaps of the waterfall, it is really too much for the wifey and I get a nasty whack.

By this time the rain is coming down in sheets, and I can’t see much in the fog. We decide to take a break and get down from the car under a huge tree. After rain subsides, we move on and go for lunch. Wifey complains of itching on her left leg, and sure enough, we straightaway spot a fully-fed and contented leech leisurely finding her way around the restaurant. It kind of kills the appetite, and we leave from there.

That evening we ponder over the next plans, and decide to leave early in the morning.
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Old 5th July 2009, 19:29   #9
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Default Day 7 - Mysore via Ooty

Early morning actually translates into nine o’clock, since there is no visibility before that. We leave from Munnar to Coimbatore, and this is the first time we come across broken tarmac on the road. After Murayur the road gets a lot better.

We go through multiple checkpoints of the forest department, lady officers sifting through out luggage, probably looking for hidden boles of sandalwood trees. We are asked to pay 20 bucks each time, no receipts, and given gratuitous advice to avoid these roads after 4 o’clock since “Thyger khomes out faar lunch”.

We reach and pass Coimbatore on our way to Ooty. Now I wish I had taken a different route – it is too painful to watch a once-beautiful hill-station dying of Asthma and asphyxiation. Climbing up from Coonoor, we can hardly stand the diesel fumes being belched out by the numerous trucks and buses. My childhood image of Ooty is destroyed forever.

We move on downhill, and I am in a zone. I do what is probably my best driving till date, and we are into Mudumalai in no time. We slow down, hoping against hope to spot a stray Tiger peering at us from the dense thickets – we couldn’t see any, though am quite sure they saw us.

We then enter into elephant country, the Bandipur Reserve. Soon enough we spot a couple of elephants peacefully chomping away, but our peace is to be shattered right away.

Few km further we see a car stopped on the road and people pointing into the forest. I stop the car, and see a full-grown male with huge tusks, struggling with a thicket. I ready the camera and start clicking – even before the first snap appears on the screen, I hear my wife screaming – “Run, run!!! It’s coming at us…” I manage to observe in that melee that the snap has blurred since the tusker moved, and immediately see it striding fast – coming straight at us. Its trunk is high in the air and it is trumpeting at full blow. I hope it is not calling the others and fumble for the gearshift. By providence I have left the motor running, and I peel away, tires screeching, just as the tusker reaches the road. It follows for a little distance, stops and lets out another huge trumpet. I am scared no end, and want a smoke but it’s not allowed in the forest so we run fast, ignoring all the herds of spotted deer that cross our path.

We reach Mysore at night, and find a nice hotel to stay. My nerves are still jangling, and the Kingfisher can’t fight with the mighty elephant. All night I dream of being run over by the pachyderm, and see headlines saying “Young Couple Slain by Wild Elephant”.
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Old 5th July 2009, 19:38   #10
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Default Day 8 Onwards - Wrapping Up

The next morning we leave from Mysore, with a plan to reach somewhere – primarily because we don’t know how the roads are going to be.

We leave at eight to go to Hassan, with Mangalore as the first target. We reach Mangalore at 2 pm, then revise the target to Udupi – reach there at 4 pm, and decide to go till Murudeshwara and stay there.

This is familiar territory, so no issues – I can just see myself spread out on Baga, with Kings and a plateful of the best Pomphret available.

We leave from Murudeshwara around nine the next morning and reach Goa at about 1 pm. After that it’s the usual story – Get up, go to the sea, go to the pool, go to lunch, drive around, have dinner and go to sleep.

The second day in Goa this blissful cycle is broken by the news of H1N1 Swine Flu having hit North Goa, and we beat a hasty retreat to Pune, suspicious of every innocuous sneeze.

In the Katraj tunnel, I can see the lights of Pune, and am already thinking about the team meetings, targets and xl sheets – I am sated and refreshed, and the small LED inside my mind now reads “BATTERY FULL”.
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Old 5th July 2009, 19:53   #11
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Nice start, well cursing bangalore traffic is something which comes naturally to everybody in bangalore ....

Will wait for the rest of the pictures...
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Old 5th July 2009, 21:13   #12
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Well written and great pics there . Its a treat to watch such wonderful green beauty. It was truly soothing to my eyes. Waiting for some more pics. An elephant charged at you ?? Please be careful while passing through the forests. Some things may just wait to surprise us.

Happy and safe driving friend

Last edited by tsk1979 : 6th July 2009 at 10:49. Reason: Please do not use more than 2 smileys per post
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Old 5th July 2009, 22:28   #13
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Lovely pics!

BTW, can you tell me what that signboard means---'Danger Bridge Do not cross?'

Do they mean 'Cross carefully'?
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Old 5th July 2009, 22:34   #14
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Very well documented but the episode with the elephant was really foolish , dude why do you think there are warnings plastered all around saying no stopping ? People get hurt doing that sort of thing anyways in future do stay in the safety of your car and take pictures also it would be worthwhile to take at look at the thread on wildlife on the roads (i have placed the link below), especially when you pass through wildlife conflict zones such as Bandipur , Mudumalai etc

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/shifti...val-guide.html (Wild Animals - A survival Guide)
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Old 5th July 2009, 23:44   #15
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@hellstar - Thanks a lot, am surely going to be very careful around wildlife henceforth.

@vnabhi - Thanks. As for the bridge, we enquired later on and found out that the bridge can go under anytime, unexpectedly, due to sudden waterflows from the fall next to it. It is not supposed to be crossed at all, since the road doesn't lead to anywhere apart from a few residences. Guys staying there apparantly approach from the other side of the hill. But the bridge is used by the Tata factory people as a shortcut, grossly ignoring the warnings - which are put up by the Tata guys only!!

@mnhegde and ASHISHPALLOD - Thanks a lot..
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