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Old 18th March 2020, 13:06   #1
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Default Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

The urge to pen down and share about the first multi-day drive of my life has always been there. But as it was undertaken way back in 1998 and the absence of an appropriate forum to share it were dissuading me. As time progressed, the self doubt of utility of sharing something which might be of no interest to the reader about a yesteryears trip took over and shut out the urge itself. Then it happened! My request for entry into this forum was cleared and all hurdles including the self imposed ones vanished. Only thing holding me back now was the availability of time to pen down the events as they happened. That also cleared now thanks to a bout of Pneumonia which has forced me into a rest at home now.

As this trip took place roughly 22 years ago, I searched through all the stuff at home to get hold of any bill, receipt, logs etc to help narrate the journey. The fact that we have moved houses through multiple cities over these years did not help the cause. Luckily one handwritten log which I had separately tucked in to a diary showed up. That is the crystal around which this is being written.


Journey Details : Visakhapatnam to New Delhi
Distance Covered : 1988 Kms
Duration : 22 Apr 98 – 25 Apr 98
Vehicle : Premier Padmini DLX BE S1 Non A/c, Make 1995

Preparations for the Journey
As with many moves, the reason for this trip was my move to Delhi from Visakhapatnam a.k.a Vizag. Then again, the main prompt for driving down was the concern for safety of many breakables including collection of crystal ware. Plus of course the basic urge to drive which needs no special mention. Mr. Murphy was at its best once we decided to drive down. Due to certain official commitments, I had to be away from Vizag at the last moment. This, coupled with other family commitments, ruled out my wife’s journey together with me in the car to Delhi. Eventually it panned out like this – Self away on official tour, wife packing everything, locking up in ready-to-transport condition and leaving for her home in Kerala, self arriving at Vizag one week before the date of move. So within one week, I packed off the luggage through a transporter and looked around for a co-driver to Delhi. Thankfully my car dealer M/s Spectra Motors Vizag (not existing now, closed down after Premier shut down) offered one of their long distance drivers from Hyderabad.

In those days, mobiles had just started coming in and I did not have one. One had to depend upon a combination of All India Maps and individual state maps to chart out the route. My plan was to complete the journey in 4 days, limiting the daily drive to 550-650 kms with no night time drive. The route thus chalked out was: Vizag – Jeypore – Jagdalpur – Raipur – Bhilai – Nagpur – Narsinghpur – Gwalior – Mathura – Agra- Delhi. I had planned the start date to complete my journey on a Saturday, so as to have a day in hand prior joining office on Monday. With Murphy again, one day before the journey, I get a message from the dealer that the driver is stuck at Hyderabad and will not be able to make it. The last minute search ended with one mechanic (Raju) who claimed to have driven around a lot. The arrangement was that he was to be handed over return tickets from Delhi in addition to the food charges for the day. Due to my condition, I found this very attractive and did not bother to check his credentials much. This was to hound me thereafter!

The vehicle was less than 3 year old and had hardly run less than 9500 Kms (9472 Kms at the start of the journey). Had done all vehicle service checks with the service centre two days prior and filled up petrol and air the day before. The communication plan was to be in touch with wife over STD Calls from the halt point for the day. Other than the above, maybe due to ignorance, I had not bothered to gather anything else like spare fuses, petrol can, torchlight etc for this journey. Later, when I got to know about the preparations other people take for long road journeys through this forum, I realised how stupid I had been then.

Journey
Day 1 – 22 Apr 98. Self and my co driver Raju started the journey from Vizag at 0630hrs. Plan was to hand over the wheel to my co-driver during the second session. Shortly into the journey, I started discussing the route plan and halt details with Raju and queried him for suggestions. Promptly he takes the map, opens a page and seriously was looking into that. Only problem was that it was held upside down! It was enough to freak me out and realise that I will be the sole navigator for this journey.
After we crossed Salur, I decided to hand over the wheel to him thinking that at least he could share the driving part if not for navigation support. His take off made me scream and that was the end of his driving support too. On querying he admitted that he has never driven a car and the desire to see Delhi was his only qualification for this offer. Poor me! The rest of the drive for the day was uneventful except that I remember the serene drive through Bastar with forests on either side. Any mention of Bastar due to various other reasons for which the area used to figure in the news thereafter, used to trigger this memory in me. The lunch was from road side shop in Jagdalpur followed by the fuel fill. The recorded mileage can be seen from the log as 12.9 Kmpl. The day’s journey was halted at Raipur at around 1800 hrs, having clocked about 636 Kms for the day. I don’t remember the hotel name now. I only remember having to find one accommodation for him also in the hotel, which was over and above the agreed part of the contract. Since we were already enroute, I decided to play along and finish the journey.

Day 2 – 23 Apr 98. Started from Raipur at 0645 hrs and crossed Bhilai and reached Rajnandgaon in time for the fuel filling. The mileage recorded is 14 Kmpl, which was fantastic for those days. Prior to Nagpur, for the first time I could witness the transformation taking place in Indian Highways, with a 4 lane flat highway being laid out. But alongside, the Indian Summer had started to take its toll on me. The year 1998 subsequently became famous for its severe summer and it had already started to set in by mid April. I have vivid memories of crossing Nagpur at around 1330hrs with a constantly wetted towel hanging around my neck. The non A/c car was not a great handicap those days in Vizag and this was the first day which made me realise this serious shortcoming of a non A/c Car while going up north India in summer. But one did not have to fear that much in those days to stop the car at any place and fill up water or ask for some help anytime. Generally, I remember it was much safer. After a lunch halt at Nagpur (remember taking a bye pass) and driving through Seoni and Lakhnadon, reached Narsinghpur at around 1930 hrs. I remember having checked the MP State map and identified Narsinghpur as a District HQ and therefore was not too worried about hotels. Well, there was no other means to confirm on short notice those days. To my horror, on reaching Narsinghpur, I could only see two lodges which had accommodation and had to decide on one of them. The time was not conducive for searching around too much as it was already dark by then. Well, I decided to rough it out on one of them and make up for it the next day. We had clocked 552 kms for the day and 1188 Kms ex Vizag.

Day 3 – 24 Apr 98. Started at 0715 hrs. The major event I remember about this day is the drive from Jhansi to Gwalior (those days roughly about 105 Kms). I filled up the petrol tank at Jhansi, with a dream mileage of 14.97 Kmpl and started for Gwalior on the state highway. This was a plain two laned highway, but the best state highway that I came across in my journey so far. It was a breeze and I could make the distance to Gwalior in less than 1 ˝ hours. This is another memory which I still carry as I happened to read in this forum about the poor state of the Jhansi – Gwalior road for many years to come. Incidentally I crossed the same road in 2018 when I drove down to Delhi to Vizag a second time (but different route). The road condition in 2018 was no comparison to what I had seen in 1998. Reached Gwalior at around 1830 hrs and checked in to a decent looking hotel. I do not remember the name but only thing I remember was that it had air conditioned rooms with TVs. Why I mentioned TVs is that I could watch the epic innings of the great Sachin Tendulkar in which he whipped the Aussies. It was a nice come back for the previous day’s not so great stay at Narsinghpur. We had clocked 461 Kms for the day and 1647 Kms ex Vizag.

Day 4 – 25 Apr 98. After a good rest and relaxed start of the day, we started the final leg of the journey to Delhi from Gwalior by around 0900 hrs. Before this, I was in Delhi for two years and was familiar with the roads and eateries. Since reaching Gwalior, the comfort feeling that the destination is almost within reach had already set in. On the drive to Delhi, I was on the lookout for nice eateries to taste the authentic Paranthas which the Dhabas on the old Agra-Delhi Road were famous for. At the first instance itself on reaching Agra by 1130 hrs, we ventured into one nice looking dhaba and did justice to the yearning for Paranthas!. The drive from Agra – Delhi was a breeze and I was in a very good mood and started explaining the landmarks to Raju who was wonderstruck with everything around. I realised that this was his first trip outside Andhra Pradesh. We reached our destination near Shahjahan Road New Delhi by around 1630 hrs. The first thing I did was to book a ticket for Raju’s journey back to Vizag (two days later to allow his Delhi sightseeing). We parted ways with good feelings even though the start was something which I cannot forget for other reasons. He was also very happy with the feeling of being in the Capital City and maybe the unexpected bonus tip. We clocked 339 Kms on that day and 1988 Kms from Vizag.

In hindsight, I thank the good condition of the vehicle (less than 9500 kms run when we started), roads and luck for an otherwise uneventful journey which I could finish as planned.
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Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998-vizagtodelhi98.jpg  

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Old 18th March 2020, 14:13   #2
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Default re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

Nice travelogue!
My grandfather worked for IRCON back in the days, used to tell me about the road conditions then. He has driven Jeeps mostly all over India.
Reading your travelogue took me back to those story telling days.
Looking back now, India has come a long way
Please share the pics of your Padmini and also of highways. Want to see how road-tripping looked during those days

Last edited by Abhinav V : 18th March 2020 at 14:16.
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Old 18th March 2020, 14:17   #3
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Default re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

So awesome!

I love hearing about these trips done 20+ years ago, when a road trip was really an adventure!

Cars today are really reliable, there's google maps, cell phone coverage in almost every remote corner of the country, breakdown assistance and service centers in several towns, a number of hotels and restaurants and great expressways, ATMs and online payments; all these are great but as a result, there is nothing really 'adventurous' about a road trip these days.

Last edited by am1m : 18th March 2020 at 14:20.
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Old 18th March 2020, 16:46   #4
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Default re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

That was a very interesting read. Thank you for sharing. Brightened up my otherwise boring day. If possible, please share a picture of the companion who didn't let you down - The Premier Padmini.
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Old 19th March 2020, 08:00   #5
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

Lovely thread, thanks for sharing!

I remember how long & tedious road-trips used to be back then (although still a lot of fun).

- We had a Zen, Esteem & Classic Jeep by the mid-90s, but prior to that, road-trips were in the Padmini, 800, Ambassador or 118 NE. With the Fiats & HM, carrying spare pipes & belts was a given.

- Overheating was common, thus a stop in the middle of the ghat to cool down the engine was an accepted practice.

- Single lane highway meant slow progress & lots of risk during overtaking.

- There were just a handful of clean & hygienic restaurants on any route.

How things have changed.
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Old 19th March 2020, 09:31   #6
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

Excellent thread. Thanks for sharing.
I have not been to any long road trips before the year 2005. Reading this thread just makes me wow.
In case if u find one, Will you also be able to share some pics of The Premier Padmini and the trip routes.

Cheers!
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Old 19th March 2020, 09:47   #7
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

Beautiful thread sir. Nothing like rekindling your nostalgia. For a 22 years old trip, you seem to remember and recollect good amount of details thanks to the logs maintained. Would have been a real adventure. Pictures of your ride and from the travelogue if any would be fantastic!
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Old 19th March 2020, 11:29   #8
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

Quote:
Originally Posted by Abhinav V View Post
Nice travelogue!
....
Please share the pics of your Padmini and also of highways. Want to see how road-tripping looked during those days
Quote:
Originally Posted by padmrajravi View Post
Brightened up my otherwise boring day. If possible, please share a picture of the companion who didn't let you down - The Premier Padmini.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ash22 View Post
Excellent thread.
In case if u find one, Will you also be able to share some pics of The Premier Padmini and the trip routes.
Cheers!
Quote:
Originally Posted by vshankarhere View Post
Would have been a real adventure. ... Pictures of your ride and from the travelogue if any would be fantastic!
Thank you Abhinav, padmarajravi, ash22, vshankarhere for the appreciation. Your request for snaps literally sent me rummaging through the old trunks, which were packed away since the last two moves. Finally could get hold of only a couple of snaps of the car in the background. In those days, with the levels of pay, one could barely afford the car. Camera roll purchase and developing with prints were also not cheap. So one has to be lucky to find a snap with the car alone
If one looks closely at the second photograph, one can see life's progression; the old care is outside the garage, while the new one is inside the garage.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to retrieve any snap of the route or the journey. I am hopeful and trying.
Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998-car_fiat_front_vizag1.1.jpg

Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998-car_fiat_side_delhi1.1.jpg

Quote:
Originally Posted by am1m View Post
So awesome!
.....but as a result, there is nothing really 'adventurous' about a road trip these days.
Thank you am1m. There is a difference at least in my case, that in those days age was on my side. Today age has caught on while the cars / roads / facilities have improved!
But drives today are enjoyable in a different way.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Lovely thread, thanks for sharing!

- With the Fiats & HM, carrying spare pipes & belts was a given....
Exactly. In hindsight, I realise how stupid and vain I had been to start the drive without much of the kit!
Premier had brought out S1 model with a re-designed engine. Thankfully it did not have radiator overheating problems, but it did have a tendency to cut off the engine when the throttle was pressed suddenly. Carburettor problem. I had infact written (old snail mail!) to Premier about all the issues which I had faced and remember receiving a reply and prompt support at Vizag through their Hyderabad service team. Drives then and now are different and enjoyable in different ways. Thanks a lot.
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Old 20th March 2020, 04:28   #9
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

I guess our highways are one of the best ways to see progress in our country. It was not too long ago before we had the luxury of multi lane, fast freeways. It is a joy to drive on these roads. That said, I do miss the old world charm of driving on a state highway. It feels different. You are a lot slower. You are in a different world.

I am glad Raju accompanied you for the journey, even though he could not assist with the drive. For folks like him, seeing the country, going on a road trip, visiting the Capital, seeing the sights are opportunities that he may never have in his life time. It is almost like when we get that first opportunity to visit another country. I can totally picture him heading back and narrating his adventure to his family and friends. For once, he is a star. This journey will be etched in his memory.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 20th March 2020, 05:21   #10
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

Hi bimal_67,
Thanks for the great TL. It was amazing reading through it. Although I was 3 years then, I still remember how my dad would praise the Maruti 800 for doing trips to Chennai and Tirupati without a fuss when some Amby's and Premier Padmini's would struggle due to overheating. He mentioned that it was a practice to sell distilled water alongside the Tirumala ghat section. Continuing his habit, I still occasionally (more frequently on hilly roads) look at a temperature gauge while driving.

Must have been quite an adventure driving on highways back in the day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandeepmohan View Post
I guess our highways are one of the best ways to see progress in our country.
(sadly) and the see the great inequality in the country.
Quote:
It was not too long ago before we had the luxury of multi lane, fast freeways. It is a joy to drive on these roads.
For the size of country and population, India has a surprisingly small total length of freeways (or expressways,) most roads are still 'highways.' That said, Indian highways have improved significantly in quality, but remain unsafe due to lack of driving discipline.
Quote:
That said, I do miss the old world charm of driving on a state highway.
The highway journey isn't complete without stopping at a small eatery to grab a tea/coffee/snack by a state highway.

Last edited by landcruiser123 : 20th March 2020 at 05:22.
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Old 20th March 2020, 08:24   #11
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandeepmohan View Post
For once, he is a star. This journey will be etched in his memory.
Agree. As brought out in the TL itself, during the travel with him over the 4 days, my initial disappointment in getting him on-board was overshadowed by his dreams. Glad that I could be play a part in realising a dream of his.
Quote:
Originally Posted by landcruiser123 View Post
Hi bimal_67,
Must have been quite an adventure driving on highways back in the day.

(sadly) and the see the great inequality in the country.
Yes indeed. I vividly remember an image which brought this out during a drive of mine from Vizag to Puri and back in 2016. It was in Orissa and we decided to take a small detour from the NH into a village on the side. Within a km from the 8 laned highway, the scene changed rapidly and it was as if we were transported back in time to the 90s. I don't mean any offience to anyone or any particular region, as I have seen this in many parts of our country. That's why to see the reality and the diversity of our land, I stongly advocate "Take a drive". No jokes though.
Quote:
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The highway journey isn't complete without stopping at a small eatery to grab a tea/coffee/snack by a state highway.
Yes very much. Any day for Paranthas dripping with desi butter, especially!
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Old 21st March 2020, 06:36   #12
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

refreshing read, thanks for sharing your journey. By the way your handwriting was also lovely.
I remember going to my village with my dad in his Vespa NV, a drive of around 80-85 km. Those were fun and unforgettable days. Stopping at a local shop and eating Vada with Pumpkin curry and Rosogolla was the highlight of those trips. And I remember drinking goldspot for the first time in one of those trip
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Old 21st March 2020, 12:47   #13
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

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... eating Vada with Pumpkin curry and Rosogolla was the highlight of those trips. And I remember drinking goldspot for the first time in one of those trip
Really appreciate your comments. Handwriting is thanks to the forced four laned copy writing during my early schooling in a convent in the 70s.

You have started me on another mental trip with the mention of the Vada. A crispy Urd Vada is another un-resistable for me Tx
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Old 21st March 2020, 13:02   #14
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

Very nice to be heading down memory lanes. Having sought the paper speaks volumes of memorabilia you must have accumulated and treasured over the time period.

It brought forth many a travel cum adventure as family in our Hillman, Standard Herald, Ambassador and Fiat through the length and breadth of northern - central - west coast of India.

Initially my father was the sole driver, my mother started joining in later after Hillman. I remained the proverbial "mundu - helper" and these cars taught me fundamental car mechanics. Oh how I feel out of place with no temperature gauge, ammeter to keep an eye on in contemporary cars. These sojourns taught me nuances of driving under varied conditions, to take note of sounds in the car. Sorry! got carried away in nostalgia.

the heat, dust and getting under the hand pump or artisan wells in the country side, having packed meals under tree shades and of course the bio breaks of discretion.

We visited Ahmadabad, Bombay, Goa, Kashmir, Leh (1981, 3 Ambassadors), Jaisalmer, Nainital, Mussorie (many times), Dehradun (Upteen times), Chandigarh, Renukaji, Jaipur - the list is long and lovely.

Thank you so very much for reminding us to reminiscence.
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Old 26th March 2020, 11:17   #15
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Default Re: Down the memory lane! Drive from Visakhapatnam to Delhi in 1998

Thank you dgoyle. This lock down a nice time to search thru all the memorabilia and to pen down everything. The satisfaction and happiness one gets in reading thru' them later is priceless. I would request you to take the plunge for all those yesteryear trips.

Regarding, taking note of the sounds of the car, this was grilled into me also during the initial driving lessons. It's a valuable input for the driver. Maybe due to this, I feel slightly uncomfortable in driving with the radio switched on.
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