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Old 5th January 2022, 10:12   #1
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Default Hayek's Road Trips - A Southern India Sojourn

I have always admired the Team BHPians such as @SSTRaveller, @Samba, @ Dr AD, @graaja et al who seem to just get into their cars every time they want to take a vacation. And while I have had my fair share of driving holidays abroad (Scotland in 2010 (Hayek's Road Trips : England, Wales and Scotland), CA Route 1 in 2013, Germany / Switzerland/Austria in 2014 (Hayek's Road Trips - A Central European Sojourn), the Pacific Coast Road in AU in 2016, England and the Lake District in 2017, the Blue Ridge in 2018 (Hayek's Road Trips - Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway (USA) in an Infiniti QX60) and most recently, Spain in 2019), I had not managed anything domestically more than two Bombay – Goa dashes and the usually Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar, Lavasa fare until the lock downs started.

Post the lock downs, I had managed two more Goa runs separated by just over 6 months, one in December 2020 in my X3, and then in June 2021 in the Tiguan. But my dream of a true driving holiday in India remained just that. One key challenge was resistance from the family – our holidays abroad have all been 2 weeks long – which meant that 3-4 days of driving interspersed with breaks was not too challenging. However, our typical India vacation is an extended long weekend – or at best the Christmas / New Year week – which implies 3-4 days of driving gives us fewer days of actual vacation time. But thanks to Covid, I had not taken a long vacation (2 weeks) in either 2020 or 2021. And while I had taken several short breaks interspersed around public holidays in 2021, I realized that I had the ability to take the entire period from December 25 – Jan 2 off. And by pushing my luck a bit with my boss (after all, what’s the point of having a great year if you can’t take some liberties), I also managed to get December 24 off.

The next question was where should we go? My wife has several friends in Bangalore and was keen on going there. Coonoor (near Ooty, in the Nilgiris district of TN) was my dad’s hometown. I had spent most of my childhood vacations there, but we had not stayed in Coonoor since 2013 – so that was on my agenda. And I have a 90+ year old aunt and an 80+ year old uncle who live in Coimbatore, so I could clearly not travel to South India without even a socially distanced meeting with them. So, my agenda was set – drive from Bombay to Bangalore, then to Coonoor, Coimbatore and back to Bombay.

For driving directions, I of course found the following threads invaluable:
1. Bangalore – Pune – Mumbai: Route Updates and Eateries (Bangalore - Pune - Mumbai : Route updates & Eateries) - A special call out to D BHPian @paragsachania for single handedly keeping this thread updated over the last several years.
2. Bangalore – Mysore – Ooty: Route Queries (Bangalore - Mysore - Ooty : Route Queries)
I also took guidance from our Coimbatore based D-BHPian, @Graaja, as well as some of our Bangalore BHPians to confirm that the best way from Coimbatore to NH48 heading towards Bombay is by heading all the way East to Bangalore, and then bypassing Bangalore using NICE Road to get to NH48 on the way to Tumkur.

Shortly thereafter, I ran into some resistance – my family did not want to spend New Year’s Day driving back to Bombay. And fitting all the lunches and dinners with my wife’s friends in Bangalore around a December 24 – December 31 schedule including driving, Coonoor and Coimbatore was impossible too. Fortunately, my son’s school had vacations starting December 18. We soon worked out a compromise – my wife, son, and my in-laws would head for Bangalore earlier during the week. I would drive solo from Bombay to Bangalore. The entire family would join for the Bangalore – Coonoor – Coimbatore leg. And while my in laws and son would fly back to Bombay from Coimbatore, my wife agreed to join me for the return leg.

A few days later, my wife's sister and brother in law also decided to join us - in their brand new Nexon Petrol AMT. However, they felt that driving from Bombay to Bangalore in one day, and to Coonoor on the next day would be too strenuous - and decided to leave for Kolhapur on December 23. On hearing this, my wife wanted me to follow the same plan. But I thought taking the 23rd off as well would be too much - and so decided to leave after office hours for Poona, and to then make a very early start for Bangalore on the 24th. After some investigation, I also decided to break journey on the return leg at Hubli

The next step was to make hotel bookings. My family wanted to stay in Central Bangalore (walking distance from Cubbon Park), and I got a very good deal from the Vivanta Bengaluru on Residency Road - so that was chosen fairly quickly. For Coonoor, we decided against staying at my grand-parents' old place (which had not been opened for over 3 years), and instead booked a property through Vista Rooms. For Coimbatore, we picked the Vivanta on Race Course Road. I decided to book the Ginger at Wakad for my Poona halt, given both the very reasonable price, and the location just off the Poona Bypass on the Bangalore bound lane. And for Hubli, we picked the Fortune on Airport Road.

So the plan was set:

Day 1 - December 23 - Bombay - Poona
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Day 2 - December 24 - Poona - Bangalore
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Day 3 - December 25 - Bangalore - Coonoor
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Day 7 - December 29 - Coonoor - Coimbatore
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Day 8 - December 30 - Coimbatore - Hubli
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Day 9 - December 31 - Hubli - Bombay
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I must say, when I look at this plan on paper right now, it does seem like a bit much. But at that point, I was full of adrenaline, and all set to do this.

Last edited by Hayek : 12th January 2022 at 21:34.
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Old 8th January 2022, 08:47   #2
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The next question was which car do we take? The family was all for the Tiguan Allspace, it is more spacious in the rear seat, its rear bench has better under thigh support, it has a 3-zone climate control which keeps the rear cooler, and a much larger boot.

I was keen on the X3 – we had not taken it on a long trip since Goa in December 2020, and now that it is almost 5 years old, if I did not take it now on a trip where I was driving alone nearly 40% of the distance, when would I take it? And of course, it is MY car!! I also managed to demonstrate how everybody’s luggage could be packed into the boot of the X3 – as can be seen from the photo below.

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Yes of course, this would obstruct visibility through the rear view mirrors, but I tend to use the outdoor rear view mirrors a lot more while driving, and I felt comfortable managing through this. And given my sister-in-law was also coming, it was only for the relatively short Coonoor to Coimbatore leg that we needed to have 3 people in the rear bench, with all this luggage in the boot.

In the meantime, fate seemed to intervene against my using the X3, we needed to get warranty repairs done – first for the suspension noise, and then for a failed electronic parking brake actuator. But thanks to superb service from Infinity Motors, all of this got done on time, and I received the X3 back in time for my trip.

Bombay to Poona

I have been going to work physically from mid-July. And from early December, we restarted physical client meetings and domestic travel too. But fortunately for me, my schedule for December 23 was full of Zoom calls, and I decided to work from home. Had our cook show up around 2 PM to assemble a box full of Teplas just in case. By around 345 PM, I was done with work – and by 4, on the road from home to Poona.

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I hate driving after sunset (somehow, I don’t mind just before sunrise – may be because I am a morning person, and more alert then) – but given this was just to Poona, it did not seem like a big deal. I must say, the drive to Poona was not that much fun. Traffic was bad from home to Matunga, then from the freeway exit to Vashi, lost early 5 minutes at the Vashi toll due to an idiot whose Fastag didn’t work (in my lane of course), then hit a 15-minute jam heading to the Khalapur toll, and lost another 10 minutes because of 2-3 people whose Fastag didn’t work. After a less significant delay at the Talegaon toll, and some delay due to road resurfacing work, I reached the Ginger Hotel in Poona Wakad in about 3 hours. Probably one of my slowest ever runs for this distance – having averaged just 48 kmph.

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I settled down in my room, more than a little nervous, wondering if traveling super long distance during the Christmas – New Year week had been a bright idea. I had 851 km to cover the next day – and Google maps was showing a 14+ hour run to cover the distance. I knew I would be faster than Maps on highways, but also knew I would take breaks – and thus assumed a 7 – 8 PM arrival in Bangalore (Residency Road) with a 5 am start from Poona.

This was my first time staying in a Ginger Hotel, and while I had once grabbed a quick coffee at the Coffee Shop at this property, I had not paid attention to how it looks. I must admit that for the price, this was remarkably good, both in terms of the coffee shop, dinner quality, and my room.

The Coffee Shop

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My Room - Cramped but Cheerful

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The only thing that could have been done better by the hotel was that they took a while to find my reservation which had been done through Makemytrip - they were struggling with a few other reservations too, and that meant I had to spend more time in the lobby than I would ideally have liked to.

Last edited by Hayek : 8th January 2022 at 09:56.
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Old 8th January 2022, 17:33   #3
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Day 2 – Poona to Bangalore

There are times when before a long drive, I find it difficult to get sleep. But fortunately, on this occasion, I managed to sleep very well – waking up at 405 am, just before my alarm clock was scheduled to go off. I need my morning coffee to get me going, and the staff at the Restaurant had told me that room service would be able to get me a Cappuccino early in the morning. However, on calling them, I was told the Coffee Machine was out for a cleaning – and hence had to make do with a Nescafe from the sachet that had been placed in my room. At any rate, I was ready by 4:55, having settled my bills, loaded the luggage in the car, and all set to go.

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The initial stretch of the Poona bypass had streetlights, and very light traffic – and so progress was smooth, barring for the road works having now moved ahead of me. But after about 6-7 kms, the streetlights went off, and I gradually started getting used to driving in pitch dark roads. Fortunately, there was a Blue Safari being driven very well ahead of me, and I decided to just follow in his tracks, which made my night driving a lot easier. One challenge once we crossed the city bypass limits was the inconsistent road quality – you had smooth roads punctuated by sudden potholes, and I did end up with a wheel in some of them – with a bone jarring noise that sent shivers through my spine. The only positive about these is they made whatever residual sleepiness I may have had disappear in a trace.

By 5:35, I was at the Khed Shivpur toll plaza, and while getting through it was easy, my friend the Safari driver disappeared, and it was left to me to thread my way through the truck traffic. I must say that some tinges of fear did cross my mind at this stage – from time to time, I had no other vehicles around me – and I was alone in my car. And then I spotted the reflective jackets of some of Pune’s intrepid cyclists who were out and about already – and any such fears faded away. Climbing up and down the Khambatki Ghat in pitch darkness was an interesting experience. But I must say that, I have never had such a smooth and fast ride through all these stretches, I crossed the Anewadi toll by 6:30 and as daylight broke, I was already at Satara. As long as one of ADAG’s potholes don’t blow a tire, leaving Poona at 5 am makes immense sense.

As I crossed Satara and headed toward Kolhapur, the road surface became super smooth, and combined with better lighting, my average pace started to rise. The outside temperature was a crisp 13.5 C and the BMW seemed to enjoy driving in such conditions. There were occasional fog banks – but nothing too severe which hampered my journey. My sister-in-law had started from Kolhapur around this time, and was tracking approximately 1 hour ahead of me.

Finally, around 7:40, a little more than 2 and a half hours after I started, I spotted a Vithal Kamat’s (about 30 km before Kolhapur) and decided to stop for a well-earned breakfast. The MID showed I had averaged 81 kmph, without ever driving much above 110 till this point in time.

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After a delicious breakfast (yes a Misal Pav plus a Batata Wada is a bit much for one person) and filter coffee, I set off again. Fortunately, the traffic had not picked up as yet, and very soon, I was on the bridge which marks the border between Maharashtra and Karnataka. My in laws had passed this point without being stopped, but there were KA cops around who flagged me down, and let me pass after a cursory glance at my RT PCR test certificate.

Roads in Karnataka were not as super smooth as usual – perhaps due to the floods shortly after my Goa trip in July, but progress was still rapid. A little after crossing the Hattargi Toll Naka, I noticed that there was an increased police presence, and slowed my pace down a little bit. Shortly after passing the turnoff for Belgaum city, I spotted a magnificent building on the left – this is the Suvarna Vidhan Soudha (image source: Wikipedia), and it turned out that the winter session of the KA assembly was on. There was some traffic due to the security checks being conducted as very politicians and other hangers on were turning off towards the building, but I was soon past that point, and free to resume making rapid progress.

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I had been impressed by the quality of the Kognoli – Belgaum stretch of NH 48 on my first trip to Goa back in 2011, and that positive impression had been reinforced in each of my subsequent trips – in 2018, 2020 and 2021. But once I crossed this stretch, I realized that if Kognoli to Belgaum was good, Belgaum to Dharwad was even better. North Karnataka may be thinly populated, but the state has done a lot to build infrastructure here. As I approached Dharwad, there were signs for the Dharwad bench of the Karnataka High Court and IIT Dharwad (I must admit, I did not know there is an IIT in Dharwad). Just before Dharwad town at about 1030 am, I spotted an Indian Oil COCO outlet, and stopped for refuelling diesel, and a bio break. Refuelling in Karnataka was a pleasant surprise – I had paid over Rs. 94 per litre at the start of my journey in Bombay, and here, I was able to tank up at Rs. 84.78 per litre. Wonder why Karnataka folks crib about being highly taxed! You guys have superb infrastructure, and low taxes.

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Shortly after my fuel break, I passed the IIT Dharwad campus on the left, and then saw the highway curve right to a toll booth for the Hubli bypass. I had been warned about this stretch from Team BHP threads – but seeing a single carriageway with such heavy traffic brought back a ton of bad memories to me. This is a road right out of the 1990s – the era before Atal Behari Vajpayee started building the Golden Quadrilateral. It is downright criminal that such as road exists in this day and age. Even back in the mid-1990s, when I drove down in my parents’ Maruti 800 to Poona, we used to have occasional 4 lane stretches which provided safe opportunities for passing. This single carriageway is in the midst of stretches with 3 lanes each way, there no passing lanes at all, and the slow truckers don’t seem to have heard of the idea that they should pull over and let faster vehicles through. The only consolation was that I had 190 horses and 400 NM of torque under my belt, and was able to leave gaps to the vehicle ahead of me, spot gaps on the other side of the median, and accelerate my way through. I dare saw seeing a BMW in their mirrors probably also made the vehicles ahead of me less likely to try a passing move of their own before me. I believe I drove safely but fast – and fortunately, this stretch lasted just over 30 km. There was a massive line of parked trucks beyond the toll booth at the other end of this corridor, but I was soon past them, and turning right back onto a superlative 3 lane stretch heading towards Southern Karnataka.

The next 350 kms were without doubt the best stretch of road I have driven on in India ever. Or at least since the days in the late 1990s when the brand new Bombay Poona expressway had just been inaugurated. 3 lanes each way, super smooth surface, proper lane markings, barriers that prevented local traffic from entering wherever they felt like, service lanes so that scooters do not occupy the highway – all of these were present in this stretch. My average moving speed would have been close to 110 kmph – with peak speeds of not much more than that – through most of this section. Just around 1235, I saw signs for the Apoorva Resorts Davangere which was on the other side of the road. I debated taking an exit to get to the other side to make a lunch halt, but realized that I had 8 Teplas and some fruit with me – and decided to instead stop after the next toll plaza and eat lunch in my car.

The Selfie
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... which triggered this catch up
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Posted a selfie with my location at the Heballu toll plaza (same name as a notorious for traffic jams Bangalore locality) and realized that my sister in law and her husband, who stopped for lunch at a Café Coffee Day a little earlier were now just getting there. Indeed felt great to catch up with them in the middle of the highway – especially as I had been a long way behind them till they stopped. After a delightful reunion, and polishing off the Teplas, we were on our way again. The rest of our family, who were visiting relatives in South Bangalore, suddenly realized that we were way ahead of schedule – we had anticipated reaching Bangalore in time for dinner by 8 PM or thereabouts, but by 2:40, we had crossed Tumkur and were on the final stretch towards Bangalore.

Peak Speed - Just before Tumkur

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The stretch of road from Tumkur to next toll plaza (Kulumapalya) near Neelamangala town was the worst stretch of the entire journey, road surface wise, it was as bad as the worst bits of Poona Satara, was 4 lane, and had heavy traffic. My average moving speed from Poona onwards as shown on my MID peaked at 91.3 kmph just before this stretch, but started trending inexorably downward after that. Despite the poor road surface, I had crossed Neelamangala by 3:10, and now was clearly in Bangalore city traffic. Bangalore traffic was not as bad as it can be, and at just after 4 PM – exactly 11 hours after starting from Poona, I entered the Vivanta on Residency Road. My family, who had started from Bannerghata Road around the time I was at Neelamangala had not yet reached the hotel.

Final Journey Stats

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It was indeed an amazing journey – and tells you how doable long-distance drives are if you have good infrastructure. I was not very tired at the end of it and had reached in 3 hours less than what Google Maps had estimated. We had some friends of ours coming over for dinner later that evening – and I had enough and more time to rest and freshen up before they turned up. Dinner that night was at Shiro’s in the UB City Mall – I was quite shocked to see how crowded the mall was. Yes it was Christmas eve, but in my experience, Bombay malls were certainly not as crowded as UB City was that evening. I had hoped to wrap dinner up very early – but it longer than expected, and it was well past 10 PM by the time we were ready to settle down. I had been keen on another super early start the next morning – but we decided to postpone our start to 6 am given the circumstances.

Last edited by Hayek : 10th January 2022 at 12:11.
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Old 11th January 2022, 18:38   #4
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Day 3: Bangalore to Coonoor

The next morning, we were all up by 515 am, and had checked out of our rooms by 6 am. Loading all our luggage in the two cars did take sometime – and it was almost 6:10 by the time we got going. Google Maps showed my a pump on nearby MG Road that was open – but when we went there, I found it was shut, and hence I diverted towards Mysore Road in the hope of finding a pump on the way. With that duly accomplished, we continued on the path shown by the map.

The Mysore highway is in a real mess – 6 laning work is on, the completed sections are next to nothing, and there was already very heavy traffic. I remember that more than a decade back, there was a Bangalore Mysore Expressway under construction – not sure what happened to that. Once the work is complete, this will be a great highway too, but that is clearly a long way in the future.

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About an hour after we started, we spotted an Adyar Ananda Bhavan (A2B), and decided to stop for breakfast. Breakfast was great – but traffic had become even worse by the time we restarted. We kept crawling along the Mysore highway until we reached the town of Maddur, after which Google Maps told me that an alternate route via Malavalli would be 15 minutes faster. We diverted onto this route – with the benefit that we were at least out of the horrendous traffic, even if the road surface was between mediocre and poor (but not atrocious). After threading our way through the countryside in lightly trafficked roads, we rejoined the National Highway towards Mysore on the Mysore Ring Road. Traffic here was light, and we were able to stretch the legs of our cars – but only for a few kms before we reached a junction where we had to turn left onto NH766 / NH 181 headed for Kerala and Bandipur / Mudhumalai.

Our Route from Bangalore to Coonoor

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About an hour later, we entered the Bandipur Wildlife Sanctury, which was indeed exceptionally beautiful. We were hoping that we would get to see some leopards or truly exotic creatures, but had to make do with one lone elephant, a herd of Indian Bison, and several herds of deer. There was a long queue of vehicles being checked at the KA – TN border. While both our cars had the TN E-pass in place, the cops flagged down by sister-in-law’s Nexon, but waived me through without any checks. I of course claimed it was because of my innate charm, while my sister-in-law felt this was discrimination based on vehicle brand. After losing nearly 25 minutes at this border crossing, we were on our way again, and soon reached the turnoff from the National Highway towards Masinagudi.

I have travelled the Mysore – Ooty route several times during my childhood – but also those trips were in State Transport buses which used the Gudalur route. I had also driven with my parents in their Santro back in 2004, but we picked the Gudalur route that time too. So this was the first time I travelled the Masinagudi route. I had been hoping for next to no on coming traffic given all the reports on Team BHP about non Nilgiris vehicles being prohibited from using this route downhill. But that was not the case – there was plenty of on coming traffic that I faced. But the road surface was outstanding, and I was very quickly in a rhythm, passing the slow moving vehicles ahead of me on the short stretches where I had a clear view until the next curve.

A pause halfway up Kalathy Ghat

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Like in the Hubli bypass stretch the previous day, the power and good brakes of the X3 came into play. However, I had my wife and in laws with me in the car, and was very quickly admonished and advised to drive slowly and smoothly. At any rate, by 1:30, we were back on the National Highway, and took a quick break, to give the cars and ourselves some time to recover from the steep climb.

Taking a Break - Off the Ooty Highway

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The rest of the journey to Coonoor through Ooty was relatively uneventful – there was heavy traffic leading up with Charing Cross, the main junction in Ooty town, but the rest of the route was smooth once we were past that point.

Journey Statistics

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Days 3-4: Our Villa in Coonoor

We soon arrived at the Villa that we had booked through Vista Rooms, which was located on the Brookfields Road, just above Sims Park. The Villa was beautiful, with a driveway leading up to a garage that was closed (occupied by the owner’s cars – we would learn more later) but enough space outside the garage for both our cars to be parked.

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There was steep staircase that led up, with an extremely large bedroom and family room on the first level, two more massive bedrooms and a dining room plus open kitchen on the second level. We settled down admiring the views from the house, and then headed out for a walk in the neighborhood.

Views from our Villa

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When we returned, we found that the owner of the property had come down to meet with us. It turned out that the owner’s family had three interconnected houses in the area – two Colonial houses, built in the early 1900s, and this one which was built in the 1990s. The owner also turned out to be a (rather famous) vintage car collector – and had 6 of his cars parked in Coonoor – two vintage Jeeps, a Peugeot 404, a Jaguar (sorry I forget the model number), a Packard and a Buick Eight.

The Jeeps

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The Jaguar

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The Peugeot 404

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The Buick Eight

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The Packard

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They were also nice enough to invite us over for breakfast at their own table the next day. When I booked this place, all I wanted was a clean and well-located place to stay for 4 nights in Coonoor – but their hospitality, and car collection were the icing on the cake.

Last edited by Hayek : 12th January 2022 at 07:27.
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Days 4 - 6: Dining and Walking in Coonoor

Back in the days when I used to visit my grand parents at their place in Coonoor, our biggest crib used to be the complete absence of places to eat out, especially for vegetarians. I must say that the food scene in Coonoor has completely transformed. We received several recommendations from our Host, as well as from other friends for where we could go and eat.

The next day, we drove back, more than halfway down to Ooty to The Culinarium, an extremely nice restaurant located at the Pony Needle Factory in Ketti. The site itself is exceptionally beautiful, and the menu, which was mainly Western dishes with a plentiful vegetarian selection, was definitely worthwhile. The portion sizes are somewhat small – which was good because it gave us a chance to sample a wider selection. I would strongly recommend their signature Pot Pies, as well as the Pasta and Pizza choices. My wife and sister in law of course also used the opportunity to raid the Pony knitwear store located there.

At the Culinarium

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We also visited Café Diem, another fantastically located restaurant, which is on the Kotagiri Road. This restaurant is housed in a heritage bungalow and perched on top of a hill with stunning views of the valleys all around. They are vegetarian only, and serve lunch off a 7-course set menu. Each and every dish served was delectable and would not have been out of place in the very best Michelin star restaurants anywhere in the world.

At Cafe Diem

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Of course, the best thing about Coonoor is how walkable it is. And we certainly used the opportunities to go on long walks, past Sims’ Park and towards Wellington on one day, towards Lamb’s Rock on another. Walking in crisp weather with beautiful tea gardens around certainly made the journey to Coonoor worthwhile in and off itself.

At Sims' Park

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Random Walks

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Another nice restaurant - albeit one we did not visit

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Of course, there was a lot of sentiment involved as well - on one of our walks, I spotted my Dad's old school.

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Of course, having visited Coonoor on a driving holiday, we could not leave our cars behind all the time. We took them for a drive towards Lamb's Rock as well.

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We spotted a Bison during one drive - glad we didnt see it while walking the same path

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Before we knew it, our stay in Coonoor was over, and we needed to go out and get an RT PCR test done for my son to make it back to Bombay. We were told we could get that at the Namkem Hospital, which incidentally was established by my Grand Father's friend. I remember visiting it as a kid - effectively a family doctor practicing from his home. Look at it now - as good as any 5 star hospital in a metro

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Overall, our stay in Coonoor was fantastic. Have been to Simla, Darjeeling and Coonoor in the last year - call me biased if you will, but I like Coonoor most of all.

Last edited by Hayek : 12th January 2022 at 08:08.
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Old 12th January 2022, 21:24   #6
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Days 7 – 9: Coimbatore and the Return Journey

Before we knew it, our trip was over. My sister-in-law and her husband were catching up with some friends in Coorg, while the rest of us were heading to Coimbatore. I had some family duties in Coimbatore – meeting my 94-year-old aunt, and 83-year-old uncle. Of course, with the journey to Coimbatore being a short one, we had no incentive to rush.

After a leisurely breakfast, and some time spent cleaning the cars, we headed out from our villa at around 1030 am. The journey till Mettupalayam was extremely smooth – light traffic, cool weather, and barely any use of the accelerator. I achieved my best ever MID displayed mileage of about 16 km per litre in this stretch. However, as we entered Mettupalayam town, I found a compulsory diversion which Google maps was not showing. We followed the traffic, and realized there was a massive amount of road work underway between Mettupalayam and Coimbatore. This road used to be a favorite in my childhood days – a single carriageway, but lined with beautiful old trees. It had been widened to 2 lanes each way – but was generally much more chaotic than I remembered, and with diversions every few kilometres. Needless to say, this was the most painful stretch of our entire journey. It was almost 130 PM by the time we checked in to the Vivanta Race Course Road Coimbatore.

After checking in, we went to a nearby restaurant for lunch, followed by visits to my aunt and uncle’s places. Family duties done, we grabbed a quick dinner, and then turned in for the night. My parents in law and my son were returning home the next day by flight, while my wife and I decided to leave at 5 am targeting to reach Hubli.

Saying Bye to Coimbatore
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We actually started a bit ahead of schedule. After a few diversions within Coimbatore, we soon hit NH 544, and were soon flying. I very quickly realized what a massive difference good roads make while driving at night (or before sunrise). The road surface was super smooth, there were proper lane markings with reflectors between lanes on every curve, and driving was really a breeze. Visiting this road, and benchmarking road work to this stretch should be a compulsory part of every NHAI tender.

Avinashi, Erode, Salem, Dharmapuri – we passed all these towns in a breeze, with hardly any diversions or poor-quality road surfaces. The only hitch was when we had to overtake several trucks carrying pulp, and some trucks carrying wind turbine paths on a Ghat section after Salem. At approximately 7:30, we stopped for breakfast at a Saravana Bhavan just after the Krishnagiri-Thopur toll booth – having covered over 200 km in just over 2.5 hours. After a delicious South Indian breakfast in the heart of South India, we were on our way again.

South Indian Breakfast near Krishnagiri

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Once we crossed Krishnagiri and were heading towards Bangalore, traffic picked up, and our average speeds dropped. As we approached Electronic City, I suddenly noticed that Google Maps (which I had set to our hotel in Hubli) was suddenly telling me to take NH 44 through Bangalore, and estimating an arrival time in Hubli in the late evening, as opposed to the 1630 arrival it had been estimating when I was near Hosur. I asked my wife to check her phone, and we realized it was telling us to take the highway towards Hyderabad, and then cross over towards Hubli way ahead. I pulled over to check what was wrong – somehow, Google Maps had decided that NH 48 was closed. I reset the directions to Tumkur, and it now showed the route via Nice Road and NH 48.

The entrance to Nice Road was somewhat confusing, but I had been adequately forewarned and realized I need to stay in the right lane to go left. I was shocked to reach the toll booth, and find an arrogant toll agent saying that this is a “Private Road” and Fastag would not be accepted. After paying a cash toll, I entered Nice Road. The initial stretch was smooth, but there were warnings indicating that there was road works up ahead. The contractors are carrying out what we Bombayites call “Concretization”, and there were stretches where we the road turned into a dual carriageway. Fortunately, these stretches were not too long, and I was not held up inordinately. We soon reached the Tumkur Road exit, and were back on NH 48. We once again set the destination to Hubli, but Google still thought NH 48 is shut, and showed us all kinds of wonky options. We finally decided to turn off the navigation, and continue down the highway. After Tumkur, the road surface was once again flawless. We pulled off the highway somewhere between Sira and Hiriyur and picked up some Tender Coconut water from a stall by the highway. I am sure he over priced the coconut water on seeing a BMW – but this was a classic example where both the vendor and the customer thought they got a great deal.

Lunch Halt at Apoorva Resorts

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I stopped for fuel a little before Chitradurga, and at around 1:45, pulled into Apoorva Resorts Davangere for lunch. The restaurant was quite crowded, but we managed to get a table for 2 fairly quickly. We suddenly realized that given the road conditions, we were barely 2 hours away from our planned night halt at Hubli, and that even with a leisurely lunch, we would be there by 4:30 PM. We were still full of energy, and were wondering what we would do for the rest of the evening. A minute later, both my wife and I were saying the same thing, “Lets go to Belgaum instead.” I quickly made a booking at the Fairfield Marriot Belgaum – yes we were letting our booking at the Fortune Park Hotel in Hubli go waste – but in the context of this trip, that was not a large sum of money (one tank full of fuel)

After a quick lunch, we were on our way again. We actually crossed the single lane section by 4:30 PM, and while driving through that, realized another benefit of having booked in Belgaum – we would not have to drive through that treacherous stretch before sunrise. By 5:30 PM, we were in Belgaum – and after a quick splash and dash to benefit once again from low Karnataka diesel prices, we pulled into the Fairfield at 5:45 PM. We had covered 886 km in less than 13 hours door to door!!

Parked at Belgaum

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Driving Stats - Coimbatore to Belgaum

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The views from the Fairfield were indeed pretty – the developer has a solar power plant just behind the hotel, and the hills nearby were full of wind farms. Dinner was extremely nice too, and they had someone available to clean our car and have it shining before we started the next morning.

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The next morning, we were up and running again just a little after 5 AM. Night driving in the Belgaum – Kolhapur stretch was tougher than the previous morning near Coimbatore. The reflectors on the lane markings were conspicuous by their absence, and there were long stretches where there was not a single other vehicle in sight. Nevertheless, we made rapid progress. We pulled over for breakfast at about 7:30, just after the Taswade Toll, only to find that this particular Vithal Kamat’s opened only at 8 am for breakfast. Clearly folks starting from Belgaum or Kolhapur do not believe in 5 am starts!

Too Early for Breakfast Here

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We continued on our journey and spotted another Vithal Kamat’s, sometime after Satara but before the Khambatki Tunnel. We stopped there – this was a fairly new restaurant, but I must confess that unusually for a Vithal Kamat’s, the Misal Pao was decidedly mediocre. But by this point, all we were focused on was getting home for lunch.

Not the Best Vithal Kamat

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By 10:30 am, we had crossed the Khandala Ghat, and pulled into the Khalapur toll plaza for one final bio break and Starbucks Coffee.

Average Speed - Belgaum - Khalapur

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The rest of the journey was smooth too – and just after 12 noon, 7 hours after we started from Belgaum, I had pulled into my parking slot in Parel, having covered 2,825 kms.

Driving Stats - Belgaum to Bombay

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Some additional statistics for those so inclined:

Bombay Bangalore - Distance: 992 km; Tolls : Rs. 1,345; Fuel: 97.17 l

Coimbatore Bombay - Distance: 1,364 km; Tolls: Rs. 2,045; Fuel: 133.36 l (after another 50 km of local driving)

Bangalore - Coonoor - Coimbatore - Distance: 469 km; Fuel: 57.36 l

This certainly was a holiday to remember, and hopefully, it will not be my last driving holiday in India. Until next time, Ciao!
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Old 13th January 2022, 05:26   #7
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 13th January 2022, 05:52   #8
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Awesome thread Hayek. I love road journeys like this and I’m hopeful that the silver lining of Covid travel restrictions will translate to a similar long road trip for me some time soon.

I too have only stretched my four wheel travel limits no farther than Goa and have been itching to do a driving trip to Coorg - even offered for my family to fly to Bangalore as long as they would be willing to let me drive. It didn’t materialise in 2021 but fingers crossed 2022 will bring better luck on this front.

What would you say to the feasibility of such a drive if it were in peak monsoon - say in late July? Still doable? Certainly much more pleasant to do it in the lovely December weather I know but just curious if this could somehow become a summer holiday plan too or perhaps best left to a winter vacation only like you did.
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Old 13th January 2022, 08:05   #9
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That's an epic road trip! I like your music collection - my kind :-) I am glad your X3 was ready and available for this trip, certainly a bit more special than a very capable Tiguan. For a lot of us from Bangalore, these are very familiar places, but the South Western region never loses its appeal for an enjoyable road trip! Will we see more such trips to perhaps other corners of India?
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Old 13th January 2022, 08:36   #10
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Great road trip, Hayek! Your X3 is perfect for such road trips, and glad to see the X3 doing such a long road trip.

I am glad you did not miss out on "The Culinarium" in Coonoor. That is one of the best restaurants in town. That is also our usual place when we visit Coonoor.

Regarding Bangalore-Mysore highway, yes it is a mess. I avoid that road at all costs now. There are other options to reach Mysore, via NH75 (Bangalore-Hassan highway) which are a bit longer but offer smooth fast roads all the way. I take that road instead of the Mysore highway. However, unfortunately Google Maps does not provide the right information and it it is impossible to find out best alternative roads for those who are new to this area.

Thanks for sharing this trip report. Looking forward to more such long drive reports from you.
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Old 13th January 2022, 09:46   #11
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Lovely travelogue Hayek and impressive mileage from the X3 on the flats. If not mistaken the Jag is a late 60's Mk II that was made famous by a Brit detective serial, I forget the name.

If you decide to do another trip you must try 'The Place to Bee' opposite the Hill bunk in Ooty and 'Le Maison' in Kotagiri which is very similar to Café Diem with a, set menu.
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Old 13th January 2022, 11:10   #12
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Nice travelogue, Hayek. Good to see that you enjoyed your stay in Coonoor. I was also in that area 3 weeks back in Bandipur. I am not sure how much you like Safari. You could have done that in Bandipur or Madumalai.
How did the Nexon AMT fare in the masinagudi route? when I drove in my Brezza Petrol Automatic in Low-2 gear, the legroom became quite hot. May be I should have used Low-1 gear.
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Old 13th January 2022, 11:54   #13
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Great travelogue, Hayek

Great attention to details, documenting the routes very well and the things-to-see in most of those places and some not. (that blanked out sticker from your car windshield).

A trip like yours just gives me more motivation to plan future road trips in such a way that I send out my folks up ahead and then drive out, alone

Loved the songs too, "Riders on the Storm" and "Comfortably Numb" are among my fav songs of all time. Just love Pink Floyd, maybe you could try some Scorpions' love ballads next time round!

Your family road trip reminded me of my own family trip we did in Gujarat few years ago. That was with a family of four, and we covered about 2500 km in a week or so.
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Old 13th January 2022, 14:34   #14
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Great road trip & a very crisp narration.

Very informative yet to the point.

Beautiful fotos of both the vehicles & background.

Overall a nice example of writing a travelogue for newbies ��
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Old 13th January 2022, 14:47   #15
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Lovely one to read Hayek.

The picture of misal pav is very salivating. I generally avoid the Vittal Kamat’s. There are times where I have timed my lunch for missl Pav at Phadtare, at Kolhapur. Not the swankiest I’d places though. That said, I’m up for one any time of day or night.

You’re right about the NICE road. We will have several pages of rants if we were to discuss NICE.

Nice read, thank you.
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