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Old 1st July 2010, 17:52   #1
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Default Of treks, tea plantations and temples

There we were - wanting to go on a week's vacation but staring at rains everywhere. Ladakh was the initial thought, but logistics were just not working out. Time passed, and distances started shrinking! Rajasthan nearly made it but the temperatures scared us. Munnar was tempting but ruled out coz of the rains.

So we decided on Tamil Nadu where the SW monsoon won't be in full force. After much searching we decided on a farm in Sathyamangalam, a home-stay in Coonoor and a resort in Kumbakonam. So here goes, a week's holiday in Tamil Nadu (essentially Kongu Nadu + Kumbakonam/Tanjore).

The first step was to re-claim my ride! Wifey has been practising driving so she takes it to office everyday. So those L boards had to go. Also, I thought I'll get a general checkup done at Advaith, ORR. Left the car for a day and it was set to go. Odometer read ~43100 kms. Bye-bye all 335E and 500c volvos, I'll be back.

Wild Valley Farms, Sathyamangalam
Our first destination was the Wild Valley Farm at Germalam, Sathyamangalam. We set off at 6.30 am on Sunday and took the route via Kanakpura, Malavalli and Kollegal. Although the website map had the route from Malavalli as via Oderyarpalya, Daniel (the owner of the farm) suggested coming via Chamrajnagar as the other road was in bad shape. The start wasn't great as Kanakpura road was very crowded at that time. Darn - we should have left an hour earlier. We reached Kollegal around 10.30 and had breakfast at Hotel Annapurna. The food was good. After that we wandered around the town as we for some inexplicable reason missed the Chamrajnagar turn not once, but twice! Talk about going around in circles. Finally we hit NH209 that leads to Chamrajnagar via Yelandur. We continued on the same road (Sathy road) with our destination being Hasanur. We then ran into a strike. Hmm! The police at the check-post suggested getting to Hasanur via Talewadi-Thimbam. All of this is forest road, the ride quality being excellent but the width being just enough for 2 vehicles to pass. The high-point of this detour was a bear sauntering peacefully across the road. Near Thimbam we came back towards Hasanur and took a diversion to Germalam forest check-post.

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the betta

The farm was perfect - rustic, charming and so away from everything. The forst is so close by that it reaches out to you every minute of your stay there. Although the facilities are basic (no TV, no room-service, no tamasha), the warmth of Daniel and his team was amazing. The high-point of the stay was the trek into the forest and climbing a nearby betta (hill). En route we found a bufallo skull that reminded us that "namma area alla guru / yeh apunka ilaka nahin hain re!". The only jarring note was that a couple of dogs at the farm decided that the i10 was an enemy and scratched one whole side of the rear (bumper and boot). What a gory sight! This would require some Pidilite work. KMs covered at the farm = 0, coz we didn't need the car.

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"mea culpa"

Mahindra Home-stay, Coonoor
We didn't know at that time but there was some flare up of the Hogenakkal issue and there was slight tension in the air. Daniel was concerned about us having KA plates, but our i10 still has AP plates. There was this mega Tamil conference happening in Coimbatore and that coupled with the Hogenakkal issue could be a tinderbox. Hmm, we left the place a little nervous and followed the Sathy road-Bhavani Sagar Dam, Mettupalayam-Coonoor route. There was this huge posse of khadi-folks at Bhavani Sagar, which made us vary. But after that it was pretty peaceful, and we saw lotsa KA cars on the road. All was well! We tanked up right after Mettupalayam as I didn't want to look for bunks in Coonoor.

The scenery on the road leading to the ghat road was nice with the nilgiris, the trees and A Raja/Stalin posters vying with each other for our attention. Initial driving up the ghat road was sedate. However, there was a lot of blind-overtaking by the local cabs leading to near misses at the hair-pin bends. Pitied the buses and trucks coming downhill - you could hear the 'whoosh' sounds of their air brakes due to sudden braking. One thing I found strange was many guys didn't brake on time when they saw a downhill bus/truck turning at a hairpin bend. Whats the use of going forward when you are only going to stall his wide turn? A cab had to reverse because of this foolhardiness. Later, toyed with a TN indicab for a bit - he goes ahead, brakes for traffic and then when I get a clear road my 3rd gear puts him behind. Aah, the pleasure of driving a petrol car up the hills. Wify started passing snide remarks if "I would ever grow up" so abandoned boy-games and soon enough we reached Coonoor. We asked a policeman at Coonoor for the fire station (that was the landmark given to us) and he is like "Do you want the fire station or the fire execution service?". Dhuh, what was that?

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The home-stay was very good, and the view from our room was excellent. We could see the hills and valley right across the road. The temperature was very pleasant. We had great walks in a couple of tea gardens and went to a tea factory. A Raja, though, kept an eye on us wherever we went. We decided to take the toy-train from Coonnor to Ooty the next day, and that was a disaster. The view was nothing great (isn't the Neral-Matheran trip better?, or should we have done it right from Mettupalayam?). I think what was worse was the crowded nature of the compartment. It was jam-packed leaving us tired and irritated at the end of the journey. We got off at Ooty, looked at the urban sprawl it had become (we were last there in 2003 when it seemed a wee bit better) and promptly jumped back on a bus to Coonoor. Bus journey had loud music blaring, and the language was a mix of Kannada and Tamil. Hmm, will this dialect survive or will it be swamped by 'pure' Tamil? KMs covered at Coonoor = 0, coz we used buses, autos and a train to get about. And of course walked!

Indeco Anandham, Swamimalai
A 6.30 start from Coonoor. The route we followed was Coonoor-Mettupalayam-Avinashi-Tirupur-Kangayam-Karur-Trichy-Tanjavur-Kumbakonam. Till Tirupur there was quite a bit of traffic. NH67 between Kangayam-Karur was amazing. After that it was a disaster till Trichy. Our hopes soared on reaching Trichy, but the Trichy-Tanajvur-Kumbakonam stretch tested patience quite a few times. Lotsa unruly traffic, no famed Tamil Nadu driving surfaces and a few diversions coz of road work. A Raja decided to let us go, but Stalin decided to watch us all through. The gulag beckons? I have never seen so many political posters in any other state I have visited. It was nearly 2.30 by the time we reached the the resort.

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Amazing temple!

First sights of Tanjavur/Kumbakonam/Swamimalai was like being back in medieval times with so many temples around. The first day we went to a nearby temple in Swamimalai. We hired a driver the next day as we needed someone with local knowledge. This proved a good move as we could relax and take in the sights and shops of these places. The pinnacle was the Brihadeeshwara temple. It was a sight to behold. The sheer majesty of the gopurams, the intricate carvings, the divine feel in the temples was amazing! We hired a guide and got lost in time. Most writings were in old Tamil, but the Ganesha temple has Marathi writings in Devnagari. Hmm, there were Marathas in this part of Tamil Nadu before Rajinikanth! KMs covered at Swamimalai was ~ 200 or so.

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Are we going the right way?

We were done, and started getting the itch to get back home. Started next day and followed the Swamimalai-Kumbakonam-Grand Anecut-Namakkal-Krishnagiri-Hosur route. The driver we had hired the previous day for local sight-seeing had suggested an alternate road to reach Trichy, so we avoided going to both Tanjavur and Trichy proper. Driving surface again was average and we did steady speed to Namakkal. From there the sign boards shocked us a bit - 290 kms more! But then again it was a familiar sign - NH7, a known devil for me between Devanahalli and Shamshabad. But this was unknown territory. Speed picked up and the landscape whizzed past. Jarring note was the absolute lack of overtaking from the right for any car. The trucks were disciplined as usual, but most cars didn't want to give way from the right. Lunch was at A2B at Krishnagiri. Krishnagiri-Hosur was fun as I had a TN-registered Elantra for company. He wasn't crossing 130, so we gently passed each other quite a few times. Given the flat landscape with amazing all-round visibility, this speed was fast but not risky. Only rules I continue to follow: try over-taking from the right, slow down well in advance when reaching any break in the median, give way to bigger cars immediately when spotted in the rear-view as they reach you quicker and then get confused if you start moving to the left, and finally drive up any gradients by being on the left lane just in case some joker is coming down the wrong way. Of course, anything more than 140 and the i10 would have been pushed to an identity crisis. Passing Hosur required slow-speed "see gap, will slot in" kinda driving. After that reduced speed as we entered Karnataka. Finally, the elevated road and silk-board. Whew, home again!

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The road back home

Rubbed the scratches from the bumper/boot using Pidilite rubbing compound. Seems to have covered them well, except for the deep ones where there are minor dents. Put new 'L' signs back. Odometer read ~44200 kms. 500c and 335E volvos still around - all is well.
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Old 1st July 2010, 20:37   #2
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Hi carzest

eventhough your narration is good, we could not experience what the pictures have to say.

Can you please reload the pictures, probably in the original size/resolution.
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Old 1st July 2010, 21:35   #3
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Carzest, nice narration, unfortunately the pics ar really small, can you recheck? Do you stay in Maratha Halli area? that 335E & 500c is a good one. Those volvo's are familiar to all which go to ITPL

Hey My 100th Post

Last edited by Fordy : 1st July 2010 at 21:35. Reason: Hey My 100th Post
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Old 1st July 2010, 22:00   #4
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Originally Posted by Fordy View Post
Carzest, nice narration, unfortunately the pics ar really small, can you recheck? Do you stay in Maratha Halli area? that 335E & 500c is a good one. Those volvo's are familiar to all which go to ITPL

Hey My 100th Post
Sorry guys - re-loading some pics
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Old 1st July 2010, 22:15   #5
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Wow ! The Temple at Tanjore will never cease to amaze me!
Very nicely done and one really feels satisfied at having gone there and visited it!
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Old 1st July 2010, 22:58   #6
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How is the condition of NH 209 after Malavalli ? I travelled the Malavalli-Bangalore sector a couple of weeks ago and the roads were really good except within Kanakapura town. Is the highway as good on the Malavalli-Kollegal-Chamarajnagar stretches also ? If so, this can be a good (and more scenic) alternate route to Coimbatore.
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Old 2nd July 2010, 00:15   #7
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Wow! The overhead golf course shot was nice. thanks for sharing.
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Old 2nd July 2010, 01:03   #8
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Except the last pic all other pics did some chemistry on my brain!!! Fantastic pics. I loved the towers, golf course, the road (awesome) & the dusk
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Old 2nd July 2010, 06:48   #9
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Thanks guys! Wifey took most pics so she'z thrilled with the appreciation

@fordy: sorry didnt answer your question yesterday - yup, I stay @ kundalahalli gate close to marathahalli. do you also stay close by?
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