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The Silver year..


March 1, 2015

Rains always mean good tidings for Krishnan and I. There was a slight drizzle the night of Feb 28th while we were loading the car and we smiled, knowing our trip would go off well. The heavens had sent us the signal. 

This time the road trip is with a difference. We want to cook our own food all along the way and have decided not to zip but drive at a max speed of 100 kmph where possible. We would have actually liked to do the whole trip in a caravan or the modern day motorhome, but Indian roads and roadside facilities have to be created to make that happen. Someday 🙂

We started at 8 am and it was pouring. We had to stop at Goonj’s office to wish Anshu, Mini and the entire Goonj team on their 16th anniversary and we did just that. May Goonj achieve even greater success, because as Goonj succeeds, it means our society is becoming more giving, more responsible and less consumerist. From Goonj’s office we started and got onto the Yamuna Expressway. Two pictures from the road –





We stopped at around 10 am to eat some breakfast, yes dosas that Amma had made the night before. We were at the Rambagh exit around 1130. The signage is a little confusing. Continue on the expressway and then take the exit to the left and it puts you on the road to the Taj. Well, Agra traffic is tough. It took us about an hour to reach our place of stay, The Coral Tree which is a beautiful Homestay about 600 metres from the Taj Mahal and just behind the Shilpgram parking. It’s near the Eastern gate. The Coral Tree is a visual treat and the owners are just wonderful hosts. We aren’t staying anywhere else in Agra henceforth. 

We reached around 1230 and Padmesh and Ghanshyam came to meet us at 230. Both of them were part of the CMS project team and had worked with Krishnan on the ORS campaign. What a committed set of people and both their wives are also in the education space. We explained what ShikshaDaan is and we discussed a few of the NGOs that we could meet up. Made tea on the small camping gas stove that Vishal had got for us. The tea somehow tasted better :):) maybe the excitement added some taste to it. We made lunch on the same stove and it was super exciting. 



Later in the evening we got to meet Padmesh’s wife Divya and GhanShyam’s wife too. Met Alok as well – after nearly 5 years ! He had come and helped out during Hareesh and Ashwin’s visit. Divya told us about a girl who is the class topper in her 10th but lost both her parents to AIDS and her uncle and aunt were not keen to let her continue her education. She is going to try and see if funding from ShikshaDaan can help in this girl continuing her education. Tomorrow Divya will bring along Shiv, who is from the same village as this girl and studies in the Army school and is again a school topper whose father is a milkman. 

What’s interesting is inspite of driving for 200+ Kms on an Indian road we could still meet so many people and not be tired. Things are changing for the good :):):)

March 2, 2015

The morning chaos almost made me give up on this idea of cooking on the trip … The gas stove gave up. There was gas in the cylinder but it wasn’t coming through the nozzle and we just started to make sambar. The morning tea was great and as soon as I put some daal into the cooker and put it on the stove the flames went out :(. Electricity went out and the induction stove was useless. We managed to make some pineapple juice in the Hurom Juicer just before power went off. The only 15 amps plug point is in the bathroom … And we had to use it for the juicer and the induction stove. Finally Amma went to the kitchen downstairs and made the sambar on their stove. Vandana and Pratibha, the sisters who run The Coral Tree are just so friendly and welcoming. As soon as electricity came back on, I made some dhokla on the induction stove. In all the tension, I didn’t follow the instructions fully and ended up with great tasting sticky dhokla !!!! We managed to eat breakfast only around 11. I also made rice quickly. 

My regular routine fight happened with Amma because she washed her clothes and it was raining … So I lost my cool and told her to wait for the sun to show up before washing anything. Her favorite God Hanuman seems to have come to her rescue because the sun came out and dried off all the clothes. 

Learning – carry clothes for a week in one box and extras in another smaller bag… The one large suitcase doesn’t have to be lugged around everywhere. Especially in many places if the room is on the first floor it’s a challenge. 

Learning 2 – this one is just for me …. To not let Amma buy the fruits just before any road trip :):):) she bought double the quantity I had planned on and it was a bit of challenge carrying it all. 

Learning 3 – we don’t have to take supplies for the entire period of the travel… We can buy as we go. It was good that we repacked just the night before leaving on the 1st. We saved space and a lot of heartburn. 

We had a great lunch of sambar rice and aloo (potato) subzi and at 3.30 went to meet Tulika Kapoor who runs Aryashree, an NGO in the space of education. We took an auto and reached her place by 4.05 and had a great meeting talking about education for the slum children in Agra. We got back and in the meantime the repairman had repaired the gas stove. He had left his number with mom to say we could call him and get a regulator and a single stove which would be longer lasting. I did get him to bring the single gas stove and the regulator – it works like the regular gas cylinder now so feels much better. Then Divya came by with Shiv. Will write separately about Shiv. We all spoke to Dhanush to wish him for his 10 board exams and he seems quite relaxed which is good.

March 3, 2015

Today the morning routine was better – we anticipated the power cut and made the poha on the stove. We got talking with the guests that were staying in the room opposite ours. They were from France and were travelling all over India. Had already travelled to southern India and now were touring the North. Surprisingly they didn’t like Pondicherry as much but loved Chennai. Krishnan was very happy to hear that. 

Then Amma made enough puliyothare (tamarind rice) for our hosts and the trip tomorrow. I managed to make the rice at the same time for the curd rice. At 1130, Puneet Asthana from Indian dreams foundation came to meet us along with Jyoti. It was again a great discussion on the challenges of education and especially educating the girl child. 

I have reorganised the clothes in such a way that we don’t need to pull out the large suitcase in Bhopal tomorrow and we have loaded up the car. We leave at 6.30 am tomorrow and reach Bhopal. 

March 4, 2015

Just when I was beginning to think we had made a mistake in choosing Bhopal as a halting point the beautiful lake appeared and within minutes we were at Shamla hills and the stunning lake view room at the Ivy suites. Just the view from our room has taken away all the pain that the traffic and road conditions inflicted on us after we entered Bhopal. :):)

I am unable to believe that the access to a state capital can be so bad. The roads are narrow, there is hardly any signage and there are potholes and yes everyone drives any which way !! 

Well, this time we came to Bhopal in a different route. Last time in 2012 we had come to Bhopal from Agra via Gwalior, Shivpuri, Guna and Narsingarh and yes the 25 Kms stretch at Narsingarh required us to find strips of road amongst the huge potholes. This time we took the Gwalior-Jhansi-Lalitpur-Bina-Vidisha-Bhopal route. Till Gwalior the road is average, no potholes but some diversions and traffic is higher. 

Beautiful views along the way – 



Then you get onto a four lane highway till Bina – just awesome roads. The road to Vidisha is not bad again but just a two lane road. The route is very scenic. Then we reached the point that said Bhopal straight ahead and the airport on the right… And the road got really bad. Krishnan has captured it on video, will post that. I will certainly write about it and hope the CM sees the video. The roads leading into state capitals have to get better everywhere. 

Learning 4 – the Yeti’s mileage is awesome 15 kmpl. Yay. 

For now, enjoying the view 🙂

March 5, 2015

Spent the day at Bhopal. Met with Arushi’s team. Awesome work that’s not known outside of Bhopal. Hopefully we can get them connected to the right institutions. Met Sargam Khushwaha …. A first standard KV student who will try and convince her teacher to give me a second chance to study at KV. Sargam is blind, but she reaches right into your heart with that high watt smile. Krishnan was deeply moved to see this little muppet so full of life. This one is definitely sticking around on ShikshaDaan’s list, whatever be our target segment. 

From Arushi we went and met with Krishnan’s ex-colleagues from the USAID project and shared about ShikshaDaan. We then got back to the Homestay and got them to make some poha for us. I watched the documentary that is making headlines “India’s Daughter”…. Heart wrenching to see what Nirbhaya endured and what many other Nirbhaya’s endure :(. I have some views and will post as my Women’s day blog. 

I made Sabudana Khichadi on the Induction stove … Forgot the jeera :):) but it still tasted good. This is for the road tomorrow. Hopefully this time we will get out of Bhopal correctly, since Krishnan has got directions from everybody we have met :).

March 6, 2015

Happy Holi. We started at 6.40 am and went to TT Nagar, MP Nagar and Chetak Chowk and lo and behold  we were onto the highway to Nagpur. The road upto Nagpur has three that sections unlike what we remembered ..the sad thing is the roads in the ghat sections are better than the roads that go through the towns. The patch through Itarsi is terrible. Have shot videos of that, but by and large, many sections of the roads in Madhya Pradesh have been laid really well. We had gone through this same route in 2012 on our trip to Bangalore and there is marked improvement. 

We had a surprise at Betul – a 4-lane tollway to Nagpur !!! Krishnan has probably captured the goofy grin on my face because last time this stretch was just crazy with diversions everywhere. Courtesy Holi we got a free ride on the toll way. We breezed through to Nagpur and then got two cops to fight amongst themselves in deciding which route we should take. Finally the senior cop prevailed and we went through the city and tried to get onto the highway. We did take a few wrong turns but finally got onto the highway. The route from Nagpur went through Hinganghat, Adilabad, Nirmal, Kamareddy to reach Hyderabad. 

The worst roads on this trip were in Maharashtra – there were toll booths where they continue to collect toll for roads that don’t exist and they have been this way since the 2012 trip. So where is the tax payers money going ? Am sure, one of the biggest scams waiting to break open is road building everywhere, especially Maharashtra. We got worried that we will lose all the advantage that we had on time if this is how the roads were till Hyderabad. Well, Gods came to our rescue and Chandrababu Naidu too because we crossed over to Andhra Pradesh. At the toll booth, the guy was so right when he said, “Woh Maharashtra ka road accha nahin hain, an aage Andhra /Telengana hain, bahut accha road hai”. We were back on our 4-lane no-pothole highway and life was good. Reached home in good time and just had to stop to make tea and clean the windshield. It rained heavily as we were entering Hyderbad but the rains stopped as we got into the city. 

Krishnan used the google maps to navigate and that “share-auto” driver be blessed for telling us not to go to Bolarum but go onto the Alwal exit and then to Thrimulgiri. This time around we weren’t sore and angry like last time thanks to the Betul-Nagpur and the last 250 odd kilometers to Hyderabad. 

March 7 and 8, 2015 

In Hyderabad. Met the Hyderbd gang at ISB and that too in the “Soorma” Bhoopali room. Antony, please note :). Awesome suggestions on ShikshaDaan that we immediately added in. 

March 9, 2015

Left for Bangalore and on the best road between two cities anywhere in India. Reached Arun’s place and got to catch up with friends and demo our favorite juicer – cold press technology and all that :):):). Met Akshay finally…and he is as much fun as Bala lets him be :). She needs to let him have some fun. Mano’s Tupperware is ordered. Venky, Mano, Arun, Vidya, Bala and Sathish, thanks for all the suggestions and ideas. Vidya, your warmth and Adeeti and Avani’s love just stole the show. Thank you. Infact, Avani asked me as soon as I came in, “aunty, are you staying tonight” and I said “yes, can I?” The grin on her face said it all, what a cutie. My mother is going gaga over them. God bless you guys … Ok Arun, may Einstein bless you guys !:)

March 10, 2015

I cannot understand the fascination that Karnataka has for speed breakers…. I understand you need them just outside schools, or children’s play area, but I cannot understand the logic of having them every few kilometers on a world class road. Ok, before I get to them, again, great directions from Vidya and Venky helped us get out of Bangalore rush hour traffic and onto the “NICE” road quickly. It was a breeze on the NICE road and we were on our way. We stopped at our favorite Kamat Lokaruchi and had an awesome lady serving our table. Just her sunny smile and super efficient service got us through all the subsequent speed breakers. The other good thing was finding out that the road from Hunsur to Gonikoppal has been relaid and brilliantly well. It had been a nightmare and last time we had to take the Ammathi route to avoid this stretch. 

We shopped at a different shop from our favorite T.J Coffee as we thought of the name incorrectly. Shopping done, Met with Babu and again, super impressed with his speed :):). The house needs some repair and we will meet Babu again tomorrow to finalise. Got to Madikeri and Club Mahindra .. It’s a beautiful property. Had to eat Pizza and Sandwiches since it was past the lunch time. This is also the only Club Mahindra resort with great food. The other problems exist – no extra bed came for Amma, the tea bags were not replenished in time, just one handtowel, they wouldn’t accept Amma’s ration card as age proof !! But the beauty of the place makes up for many of these. We slept at 6 and woke up at 10 pm :):) so we had been tired !. 

March 11, 2015

Had a great breakfast ..especially coffee and the Ragi Nooluputtu. Club Mahindra has to train their servers not to look away when the customer is trying to get their attention. 😦 Anyway, we were early so got everything piping hot. Went to Bittangala and met with Babu and the contractor. Then went over to Babu’s house and also met his wife at the bank. Met Raghu and made some lunch for us. Got back to the room and again, Club Mahindra let us down a bit – the buggy went empty as we were waiting and the driver was the one we had asked for the buggy just then :(. Anyway, we got back to the room and enjoyed the good food and completed the packing. All set to leave for Bangalore tomorrow. 

March 12, 2015

We left as planned by 8 am and decided to count the number of speed breakers on the way :). Well we scored an effortless century. Sad that there are so many of them on almost every road of Karnataka. Anyway, we stopped at this new food mall near Maddur and ate at Adyar Anand Bhavan. If you like Adigas, A2B won’t be a patch on it … So we went to Adigas a few kilometers ahead and ate the rest of our lunch. 

We reached Bangalore around 12.45 and got onto the NICE road, exiting at the Electronic city. By the time we reached Manish’s place it was 2.30. Swati and the kids were waiting to have lunch with us and so we first had lunch. Then we just sat down and talked :). Krishnan managed to take a swim at the pool which was nice and refreshing to him. Ashok came around 6.30 and we talked some more and we showed Ashok and Aadit our packed Yeti :). Finally we slept off by 10 because we want to leave by 7.30 tomorrow morning. Menu decided and we are all set again.

March 13, 2015

They have completed the work on the Bangalore Chennai highway near Hosur, so it was a breeze till we reached Chennai. Just as we were entering Chennai, Krishnan told me to go straight and I did, just into Poonamallee town :):):). We turned around quickly and got onto the outer ring road towards Tambaram. Struggled a little bit in Tambaram till we reached the GST road and then it was easy to reach Athai’s house. Ate awesome Appams, dropped my mom at Athai’s place and then went home to drop stuff off before going to meet Amma, Nachi, Kousalya and Dhanush. 

March 13 to 20, 2015 – In Chennai

March 21, 2015

Left Chennai by 8.15 am. Got onto the outer ring road and reached Gummidipundi really quickly. What a lovely concept these ring roads are !! Great roads all the way till Hyderabad – the route we took was Tambaram-Puzhal-Gummidipundi-Tada-Gudur-Nellore-Ongole-Addanki-Piduguralla-Miryalguda-Nalagonda-Narketpally-L.B. Road (Hyderabad). About 650 kms of great roads. We also managed to buy some amazing “Cheekus” from a lady just before Narketpally. Easy drive !

Happy me as the road was great –

  

Rice fields around Nellore –  

A cement plant near Nellore – 

  

March 23, 2015

Left Hyderabad sharp at 6 am and got onto the highway easily through the Tirumulgiri junction and M.D farm road. The first 667 kms was a breeze on the four lane highway till Betul. Just before entering Nagpur, we tried to take the bypass. Please don’t attempt the bypass that says Amravati – complete waste of time. Just go through the Nagpur city and it joins the Betul highway. Interestingly it’s a straight road, no turns. We took one wrong turn and ended up wasting nearly 45 mins :(. We did manage to find our petrol pump where we had filled petrol on the way to Hyderabad. The convenio store was open this time and we bought some things to eat. Left Nagpur only by 2. Reached Betul by 3.30 pm and stopped for lunch. 

Stunning views midway to Adilabad –

  

We had breakfast just after Adilabad. The toll plaza guys allowed us to use one of the gates that was closed, so that we had good shade.

  

Left Betul at 4 and the nightmarish roads began…. Read my blog Road to heaven goes through hell for how we reached Bhopal thoroughly harassed and tired. 

Just a few kilometers after Betul, the forest starts..

  

Terrible roads after Betul, stunning views though !

  

March 24, 2015

Left Bhopal at 8.45 am. This was a markedly different experience of driving even though the distance was much more. Read about this on my blog Highway through heaven. Some pictures along the way –

As we started from Bhopal –

  

Train near Vidisha 🙂

  

The fort at Datia –

  

We reached home at 10.30 and an awesome journey of 6140 kms concluded :):):). Don’t feel like unpacking. Just want to rest a couple of days and start another trip. 

Trip statistics –

Starting meter reading – 31390

Closing meter reading – 37530

Toll charges paid – ₹ 4845


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8 comments

  1. I’m so glad you’re going this Bindu. Thank you got sharing your travel experiences. Still can’t get over the fridge in the car but it makes sense when you are cooking your own food. Best of luck

  2. You guys rock!! #respect 🙂

  3. Wow ,
    Exhausting drive plan . Hope you guys get through all your speedbreakers and achieve your destination smoothly . 🙂

  4. Dear Bindu Maam, just awesome.This read in the first few minutes, before starting my work, on a Monday morning fighting with the all blues managed to charged me up. Being a passionate driver, I loved the the way you and sir traveled across meeting some wonderful people and institutions. Many thanks for transmitting the motivation to go for road trip. Best wishes to you and sir and keep exploring the beautiful nation!!!

  5. Another b’ful post of yours.. hoping I will do something similar soon!

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