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|14th February 2010, 22:42||#1|
A lengthy long drive in our Punto - Bangalore > Rourkela > Kolkata > Puri > Bangalore
This is my first travelogue. I got inspired by all the travel bugs in Team BHP and started to plan for a road trip to my In-laws place & my parents place sometime around New Year. We got the delivery of our first car - a "Minimal Grey Grande Punto Active (Mjet)" on September 16th 2009. Since then, we have made a trip to Nandi Hill, Mysore & to Kodaikanal. All these trips were short ones & I was very eager to take a long trip in our new Car. I had done a lot of research & read a lot of reviews before we decided to buy the Punto, thus I wanted to check out all its capabilities. I was in for a surprise as the car would show such strong traits that were well beyond what I had expected.
Our Trip would cover the following places excluding the intermediate halts
Bangalore > Rourkela (Steel Township in Orissa) > Ranaghat (a town in West Bengal, around 60 kms from Kolkata) > Kolkata > Diamond Harbour > Bhubaneswar > Puri > return journey to Bangalore
Should we really travel by Car???
Me and my wife spoke to friends regarding this plan & were showered with diverse suggestions. Few were thrilled to hear this plan & few were totally against it. Concerns were raised that we should not travel as a duo, and that I was the only person who would be driving. My wife has not learnt driving yet. A solo driver driving for such a long distance would be a very difficult job. I would have to drive even if I didn’t want to, just because there is no one to swap places with. Another big question was – Was I really ready to do this. Just as a flashback, let me tell you all something about my puny history of driving. I am comparatively a new driver as I learnt driving at a driving school just weeks before we bought our car. I took 9 hourly sessions spread across 9 days on a Maruti Alto and then the next car that I was driving was our Punto. I covered around 5000 kms within Bangalore city & a few short trips around Bangalore. So, it was a big question – was I prepared to take this trip driving all alone? Somehow me & my wife stayed focused on our decision & started to prepare our car for the drive. Again Team BHP came to the rescue. We studied the prep list on TBHP for going on along drive & bought all the essential items listed – foot pump, fire extinguisher & a Tubeless tyre puncture kit. Then, it was a wait until the D-Day.
Start of Journey (Dec 24th 2009)
The Telengana issue was raging around that time. We had our train tickets ready for Dec 24th, however were still very much confident to travel by car. 23rd morning we cancelled our train tickets & then there was no turning back. We were decided to start around 4:00 AM 24th morning. However, around nighttime we got news that Hyderabad was in a disturbed state due to the Telengana issue. We also came to know that there was a bandh called & that there were chances of agitation. Thus, we were forced to change plans & pause our trip till things looked better. We were even ready to delay by a day if situation didn’t get better. On 24th Morning we called up friends at Hyderabad to get a better picture of the situation. We were convinced that the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh were unaffected & that it was safe to travel. Finally, we decided against wasting one full day of our vacation & decided to push off on our adventure. By the time we did the final packing, loaded the car & left home it was 12:30 PM (24th Dec 09). We were finally on our way to an expedition. We had Google Maps, Yahoo Maps to help us regarding the route. We had packed in lots of food stuff for the journey .It was now Bye Bye Bangalore & Hello Rourkela which was our first target.
Halt at Nellore
After our start we ended up spending quite a good amount of time exiting from Bangalore. The route started from KR Puram Bridge->Kolar->Chittoor->Tirupati->Nellore. During the drive we did a mistake & deviated from the highway to actually touch Anjaneya Temple which is one of the landmarks. Then, from there onwards, we took a wrong road for around 25 kms towards Madanpalle, & ended up confronting a road that was meant only for buses or Jeeps. The road was so bad that our car’s ground clearance could not keep up. We returned back to NH5 after losing around 1 hour. Back on good roads, we continued onwards. Our first pit-stop was at a Reliance Plaza on the way to Chittoor. Next we reached Tirupati around 7:30 PM and continued towards Renigunta. We had to return back & then continue on the correct route. Finally we managed to reach Nellore around 10:00pm & called it a day. We had some dinner & retired for the night at a hotel.
Where is Sukma?
We woke up around 4:30 next morning & packed up our stuff. By 6:00 we were on the open roads again, ready for another long day of driving. Little did we know at that time that we had actually started on an adventure that we would remember till the last day of our mortal lives.
We were on NH5, roads were smooth like butter & I managed to keep an average of around 80 km/hr. We didn’t half for breakfast as we had some stock in-house for the journey. Next we reached Vijayawada around 10:30 AM. Next we deviated to NH221(This NH is not one way) and had lunch at a small restaurant on the way to Bhadrachalam. We continued onwards & reached Chhattisgarh border at 5:15 PM.
Now, many of you might be wondering why we were at Chhattisgarh? Well, Yahoo Maps & our luck had brought us there. We halted there to ask for directions and were told that the next town that we should be reaching in order to move on to Orissa was “Sukma” around 70 kms away. One of the locals there told us that it would take around 4 hours to reach Sukma and that we better start right away as it was already 5:30. We were entering a politically sensitive area and thus it was not safe to drive after dark. Maoists are very active in this part of India. We had another option to return back till Rajahmundry & then continue on our journey but then we would have to return back by more than 100 kms. That was not something that we wanted to do.
We made up our mind to continue & face whatever lay ahead. As soon as we entered Chhattisgarh border, we noticed that the roads were very bad. When I say Bad, I mean “really really bad”. Those were the worst roads till date. Those roads were meant for trucks or for vehicles like Mahindra Jeep, Bolero etc. I could only manage an average speed of around 10-20 km/hr. It seemed as if that road was carpet bombed and all that remained were potholes & rubble & big stones. Within a few minutes it was dusk and the little traffic that we had for company started to vanish. Soon it was pitch dark and the road became scary. There were no lights from behind & no vehicles in front. It was only me and my wife in our Punto slowly making pace towards Sukma. It was a jungle road and we had already started to get an eerie feeling. Around 6:30 we reached a security checkpost. The guards were armed with guns. They did not stop our vehicle but flashed their lights inside our car to see our faces. At that point I sensed fear within me, fear of not knowing what lies ahead, fear of being alone on a jungle road with hardly any other vehicle to accompany me, fear of getting robbed & the worst fear of me and my wife getting killed by robbers or terrorists or what not. There was another huge factor of our Punto not being able to keep up with the roads (please read “no road”) that we were forcing it to run on. That road was not meant for any car and here we were, asking our brand new car to take the worst test possible. In fact it was not a test, this was reality and our life depended on our car. There was no one who could help us in the middle of a jungle in case anything happened to the car. That was the moment when I decided that I had to end this road as soon as possible & that I would have to ask for more from our car. It was the call of the hour & I got transformed into a rally driver. Headlights switched on to full beam, rpm’s climbing to 3000+ in each gear, I rolled down the road towards oblivion. The next 3 hours were the most thrilling moments in my life. Nothing beats that, absolutely nothing. It was the ultimate challenge that I could get myself into. It would be very difficult for me to pen down the situation that I tackled at that time. The road looked as if it was a road to hell, darkness everywhere, crossing a jungle, no one else in sight & me driving as if I was in a rally. Engine roaring, gear shifting between 1st and 3rd within seconds, gliding over potholes and braking wherever ground clearance would be compromised. Next we reached another security checkpost. This was around 8:00 PM. The security guy came alongside my window and started to enquire about my destination and asked me why I was travelling so late. When I asked him if there was any risk he gave a very diplomatic answer – “Jab bhi kuchh hota hai raat ke baraah ya ek baje ke baad hi hota hai. Waise hone ko to kabhi bhi kuchh bhi ho sakta hai, magar Aap chinta mat kijiye, bahut Security force hai yahaan.” I thought “agar hum maare gaye toh kya security hamari laash lene ayenge. Would we become tomorrow’s headlines in the local newspapers?”
Well, we gathered our dwindling courage & forced ourselves onwards. Soon we met with our first accident. The road was very narrow & I saw a truck coming from the front. I steered towards the left & stopped so that the truck would pass. The truck came at a good speed & passed so close to our car that it hit the rear view mirror & broke it completely. My wife who was extremely nervous by that time could not hold on any longer and started to cry out of fear and anxiety. I gathered my senses as there was no time to repent or check whether there was any other damage. I just consoled my wife & accelerated on. Finally around 9:15 PM we entered Sukma. We had never waited or longed for something so badly. When we enter entered Sukma & saw street lights lighted along the road, we were so relieved. We were so happy that we made it alive. We enquired at a shop that was still open & got to know that there was a decent lodge nearby, run by a family, where we could halt for the night.
There was no chance of finding a Hotel in Sukma as it is a really small place & we were not in a condition to search. We just wanted to sit and let the feeling sink in that we were safe. The Lodge had just the basic amenities. We had dinner and settled for the night. Next morning we started around 7:00 AM and the next point we had en route was a place called “Malkangiri”. Yes, this is the same dreaded “Malkangiri” which is the Maoist headquarter in Orissa. And Sukma which we had left behind is the Maoist headquarters in Chattisgarh . . .
Will these bad roads ever end . . . ?
Well, soon we entered Orissa and saw that the roads improved only marginally. We crossed many places – Jeypur, Nabrangpur, Bolangir. When we reached Bolangir around 9:30 PM that day after one full day of driving. In between we had halted only once at Nabrangpur for lunch. But, both of us did not want to halt for the night as we wanted to be at home ASAP. So, we had some snacks, packed some chips & cold drink & started once again. I drove all night and finally we reached Rourkela around 5:00 in the morning. It was an exhausting drive and I was very sleepy. But I managed to keep myself awake by splashing water on my face from time to time. This was one marathon drive from Sukma till Rourkela (starting at 7:00 AM and ending at 5:00 AM the next day). In between we halted for approx 2 hours for lunch, snacks etc. So I drove for 20 hours at one go. Even I had never thought that I would be doing anything like this. Finally we were home. But this was just one big chunk of our total journey. Next we drove till Ranaghat, West Bengal via Ranchi. Then spent some days at Kolkata & Diamond Harbour. While returning back, we halted at Bhubaneswar, spent one day in Puri, halted at Visakhapatnam, then at Nellore & then reached Bangalore on Jan 11th. We had covered roughly around 5400 kms in 18 days. I shall write more about the return journey if I get time. For now, this is all that I could manage.
Average Mileage as per car trip meter – 21 km/ltr +
Issues with car – None
Maximum speed attained – 140 km/hr
Total trip distance – approx 5400 kms
Last edited by khan_sultan : 15th February 2010 at 10:59. Reason: only 2 smileys per post please.
|15th February 2010, 01:00||#5|
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: SF Bay Area
Thanked: 126 Times
Man that was one brave trip! Doing it with little driving experience, no second driver and a new car requires lotsa courage.
Nice pics too. Cant wait to read the rest of the travelogue.
|15th February 2010, 08:23||#6|
Join Date: Feb 2008
Thanked: 6 Times
Not sure why you choose dangerous, slow & unknown roads.
You could have have been on GQ till balasore, then to Jamshedpur, Ranchi & Rourkela. That would have been longer by 100kms but would have been much faster and trouble free (good roads throughout in Jharkhand and orrisa).
|15th February 2010, 09:44||#7|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Jan 2010
Thanked: 2,961 Times
Oh!! God, you've taken the utmost risk that too with your family. You went through the checklist in TBHP for the list of items to carry, but you forgot one important think to consult - The route map. However glad that you were all safe to share this now.
Just one question though, Pic 3 & 5 appears to be have taken at the wrong side of the road. Is that so?
|15th February 2010, 10:47||#8|
Join Date: Aug 2009
Thanked: 50 Times
BTW. Important is that you came out unharmed from that scary situation. Relying solely on google/yahoo maps leads to such routes. Hope you'll be better prepared next time. However, this sure was a very brave trip and that you'd remember your whole life!
|15th February 2010, 11:10||#9|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Mississauga, CA
Thanked: 974 Times
@kaustav...Nehow its an inspiring drive. I was like in the scene driving through the jungle road part when reading your post. Good that the punto has been so strongly built. Do you have any pics of the road to sukma? i know its a big ask coz in those situation we can hardly think of clicking pics.
|15th February 2010, 11:23||#10|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Mar 2008
Thanked: 125 Times
That was a very scary situation you were in! Never rely on Yahoo or Google maps. They are very unreliable.
I guess you did not take the pain to get acquainted with the great HVK. You could have avoided such a situation with his help.
Drive safer and better prepared the next time!
|15th February 2010, 11:50||#11|
Join Date: Nov 2006
Thanked: 11 Times
That was one hell of an experience Kaustav. I am sure you didnt intend it this way, but please never attempt such things with family. I enjoyed reading your log esp the jungle ride part, it was quite scary and you managed to capture the effect for us with your writing
|15th February 2010, 12:41||#12|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Mississauga, CA
Thanked: 974 Times
|15th February 2010, 13:02||#13|
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
This famous poem by Robert Frost depicts the situation I was in when I made the choice to proceed on the road to Sukma & then onwards. I do regret that I did not consult people & relied only on Yahoo & Google maps for my journey. But, on the other hand that has made all the difference. I would have traveled on smooth roads & would have reached my destination much faster. Me and my wife would have been safer & there wouldn't have been any risk. But as luck would have it, there we were at AP Chhattisgarh border and were challenged with the herculean task of braving that deadly road. I agree to all the concerns that you all have raised & agree that I was an idiot to have overlooked the Road Maps section & not to have consulted gurus before starting on this journey.
However, I have emerged as a better driver and a stronger person after this ordeal. This long journey threw all sorts of challenges at me - bad roads, no roads, ghats, night driving, extended driving for 20 hours ... and I successfully covered all of them. It was like an endurance race for "man, woman & the machine". Now, no distance is too far for me. I feel as if I have taken a crash course on driving. The bonding between me & the car is really strong now. I know what it is capable of doing & when it would start to complain.
I would never ever want to go on such a journey again, where I am faced with this kind of a situation where few things are under my control. However, if I unfortunately get myself into it again, I sure know how to beat the hell out of it.
Shall try to complete the remaining part of the travelogue soon.
Regarding pic 3 & 5 - I am driving on the wrong side of the road. This is soon after we leave Bangalore from KR Puram. Due to construction work going on, there are diversions on the road for quite some distance.
There are no pictures for the "Road to Sukma". It was nighttime & I was not in a situation to click pics. I am sure if I had more hands I would have done that.
More coming up later . . .
|15th February 2010, 13:09||#14|
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: New Delhi
Thanked: 67 Times
This is one hell of journey and very aptly written by you, reading through was like I was on the driver seat and expiriening it my self.
Hope return journey was not that bad.
|15th February 2010, 13:11||#15|
Join Date: Nov 2009
Thanked: 22 Times
That was really a scary experience... I guess you need to study the route well in advance to embark on such a long journey...
Good narration and photos....waiting for more..
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