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Start of a Dream

Every thing starts with a dream; unless you dream you cant achieve any thing. One such dream of many years was to drive from Delhi to our ancestral village across central India by our own car & put it in front of our house and the farm. Our Home town is Tenali around 1800km from Delhi and our village Pothumarru a further 12 km. It's my dad's idea and he had planned a tentative route based on the information available. It was ready on paper and remained so for some years due to -

- Not much information available on the road conditions.
- Safety across the lonely roads of central India.
- Not having much confidence & experience on long distance driving.
- In our minds Tenali was always so far away that it needed to be reached by train!


By 2016, road conditions had improved a lot. Many road travel enthusiasts traveled extensively all over India and also this route. The information shared first-hand in travel forums like Bcmtouring, www.team-bhp.com, www.facebook.com/hvkumar and Ghummakar helped a lot to gain confidence with lot of relevant travel details like pit-stops, etc.

- In 2007 we had done Delhi - Udaipur - Delhi 1600km on an Alto.
- In 2015 we did our Gujrat Trip of 3060kms in 2 year old Vento.
- Apart from these trips we did drives from Delhi to Shimla, Bharatpur and Sariska etc in Alto as well as in Vento.

Also need to mention some other passionate travelers who motivated us and many others
- Suresh Joseph who traveled by road from Kochi to London / St Petersburg / Singapore
- Little Indian Family of Explorers - a family of 4 with 2 young children traveled by road to Paris.

We took the idea out of closet around summer 2016. Friends & family reacted to it dramatically - varying from "Great idea, wow" to "Crazy, go by train if want to see the country on the way" to "seriously? you must be kidding". However we already decided to go by road.

My cousin Sivaram was immediately excited and pitched in to fly to Delhi from Hyderabad, the night before and be part of the onward drive till Hyderabad.
- we did extensive research for information on road conditions pre & post the monsoons.
-We studied, shortlisted and decided on the route to take, along with weather conditions.
-Multiple vitrual drives on google maps to check, memorize and pin the important points.
-Virtual areal survey with satellite view on google maps, for any landmarks, water bodies, etc.
- We then prepared a complete list of the items required, most-likely required and may be required, for the travel; segregated and packed separately, one inside the car, other in the boot.
- fuel for us: dry fruits, cookies, some sweets to keep us going in the event of a surprise bandh or delays.
- Medicines.
- The day was October 28th the for the onward trip, returning back to Noida by 13th November. Monsoons would have retreated and winter yet to hit provided the right weather for road travel.
- The vento was pampered a week before with a visit to the service center; got the fuel topped up and tyres treated a day before.
- We decided on the hotels to stay and booked one for the first day; we were undecided if we could reach Hyderabad in two or three days. Closed in on a few possibilities in Nagpur and Hinganghat if needed.

The Team:
Pilots: myself & Sivaram.
Navigation, time-distance management and expenses reporting: Dad
Charriot: Our 3 year-old Vento highline petrol, already run around 47,000 km.

Onward Journey - Noida - Hyderabad - Tenali - Pothumarru

28-10-16: Noida Home to Hotel Deepali, Sagar.
Route: Noida Expressway- Yamuna Expressway - Agra - Gwalior - Jhansi - Lalitpur - Sagar

The Drive
The Noida and Yamuna expressway are always a pleasure to drive on, but the terror of driving through the ultra-narrow streets of Agra to reach Gwalior road made us wake up early to start the drive at 4 AM. We executed this part well; could cross Agra by 7.30 AM while the city was still deep in slumber. This had to be the best motorable road in the country; with no surprises. If you imagine driving on Indian roads to be a video game, this is level -1 (easy). The fog early on meant even though we missed the sight of Taj Mahal, but brushed past the Agra fort.

Gwalior Byp
From Jhansi bypass it was a very smooth road to drive on till Sagar. After Jhansi there was hardly any traffic. The stray cattle ensured we were awake and alert all the way. Some used this road also as a ramp to display their cat-walk skills across, even pausing at times to check if anyone is watching. We did encounter some which were sitting idle on the highway. Staying in speed limit helps.

We expected to reach or first day's destination around 5 but reached by 14:14hrs, on time for lunch. Our over-night halt was at Hotel Deepali, Sagar and it turned out to be more than that.

Hotel Deepali Sagar: This needs a mention. This was one of the best hotels we stayed for the budget. We were pleasantly surprised at this 15 acre property, designed and executed tastefully with all the modern facilities, a gaming zone with bumping cars, snookers, huge marriage gardens and halls. Even with thin crowd to treat, all the fountains were at full glory, the lighting was at its aesthetic best. A nice indoor restaurant and an outdoor one with good food completed the experience. The rooms and ambiance was great and service decent. The duty manager at the hotel, turned into a tour guide for us and told us that this belongs to a regional politician. The most surprising aspect for us was that even though it was near the highway and lavishly built, this serves only pure vegetarian fare and no alcohol. I would not bet our money to say they get their return on investment easily. Definitely recommended for stay if going to Sagar.

29-10-16: Hotel Deepali Sagar to Hyderabad ( My Home Jewel, Chandanagar)

Route: Sagar - Narsingpur - Chhindwada - Savner- Nagpur - Hinganghat - Adilabad - Nizamabad - Kamareddy - Hyderabad
Total Distance from Noida: 1514Km. Drive time 26hrs.

The Drive:
Today was the longest drive of the entire trip & we started early with our mind set for this, with a hope to reach Hyderabad by night. By daybreak we reached Narsingpur, crossing Narmada river view and many other awe points on the Vindhyas. As the day light improved so did the scenery. We were crossing the Satpuda hills and the straight divided road gave way to an undivided carpet. The road blended with the lush green hills, twisting, turning and climbing through the forest and crossing small villages. We were in awe with the condition of the road in these remote areas of central India. It was eerily devoid of traffic except for some trucks. But what a drive it was. We enjoyed the country side with its green forests and fresh, clean air. For some one from around Delhi and other cities, this was heaven. We were able to manage 80 - 90, such was the surface of the road. We realized the meaning of "Live to Drive". Let us say this is game level -1 again. The only care you need to take on this road is not to stare around the awesome scenery outside if you are driving. The passengers will bless you for that.

Satpuda Ghats
After the hills we bypassed Chhindwada and after a few Kms were in the plains. We reached Nagpur & the highway went through the city center. We were lucky not to be hit by heavy traffic in the city, likely because of a weekend. The euphoria of a smooth drive through the city made us stop at "Zero Point" - Center of India. We did not need to do much detour to visit this geographically important point. Sadly, it was quite neglected and did not look prominent. There is a note at the place, though. We stopped at Vithal Kamat restaurant at ButiBori just after Nagpur for early lunch and continued at around 11:30. We were positive by now to reach Hyderabad before the change of date.
After crossing Hinghanghat from Daroda toll we hit the worst stretch of the entire trip. Welcome to game level - 5 and above. Again, 4 lane construction was abruptly stopped with lot of diversions and craters. Some stretches did not even have a surface. Even bombed areas look better. Moon surface would be easier to drive on. This was about 24 kms and then 20 km from Pandharkhwada toll to RTA checkpost near AP - Maharastra border. This took a lot of patient driving.

From Adilabad it was again a wonderful divided road. From Kamareddy the typical Hyderabad traffic started with haphazard driving with least respect to traffic rules. we took the Outer Ring Road (ORR) at Hyderabad and reached 20:14 hrs to Sivaram's house exactly on the eve of Deepawali festival.
Full marks to Vento for its wonderful road presence, brilliant ease of drive & comfort in the front & rear seats. Thanks to Sivaram, I could experience, enjoy the back seat of my car first time.

We stayed for 4 days in Hyd visiting relatives. On one such visit we enjoyed the drive on famous ORR for 86 kms one way to other side of the city. And it was indeed a great road to drive on. In the city, though, it was a different experience. Thought of the day: if you could drive in Hyderabad, you understand most complex behavior of humans behind the wheels.

04-11-2016 : Hyderabad - Tenali
Route: KV3, Hyderabad - Outer Ring Road - Suryapet - Koda - Nandigama - Vijayawada - Tenali
Took the ORR which was an excellent 8 lane road for 64 Kms and then took exit towards Vijayawada.

For about 40kms the road was not so smooth though divided. After that, the toll-road started & was very good to drive till Vijayawada, never mind the wrong route devils. We had one stop at 7 Food court restaurant for breakfast which I was told mandatory while travelling this route. It lived up to its expectation but a bit expensive. From Vijayawada to Tenali its an undivided road. No complaints on this stretch - because the road was good, the excitement of nearing our dream destination on car or sheer pleasure of driving the roads we saw from the bus windows through our childhood.

First time in my life I was driving to my home town and it felt emotional when I pulled into the parking. The sound of the hand-brake pull was straight from my heart.

We had not yet reach the farthest point of our road trip. Next day we started out to our village. It took 20 min for the 14kms. Roads had improved quite a lot. Took the car to our farm land slowly over the narrow dirt road and then parked at our ancestral home. This was most significant and most satisfying feeling to be able to do this from Noida. A dream of many years fulfilled. Why did we drive this long? The only logical answer I get to is to take a picture of it in front of our ancestral home and the farm land (cover picture). Some think it is crazy, some term it passion. I prefer the second reasoning, though.

In front of our farm land. Our Ancestral home

Beautiful paddy fields

Return Journey- Pothumarru - Hyderabad- Noida
09-11-16: Tenali - Hyderabad

Route: Tenali - Vijayawada - Nandigama - Kodad - Suryapet - Hyderabad ORR - Chandanagar
Most of the drive was event-less as most of the good and bad stretches were already experienced. As usual, we started very early so no traffic was encountered till reaching Nakrekal toll where we were held up for 25 min due to the demonetization of 500 / 1000 notes as every one was trying to dispose them off to the toll booth. The euphoria of demonetization was just catching up.

Stayed in Hyderabad for 1 1/2 days & continued on the return journey to Noida.

11-11-16: Hyderabad to Chhindwada (Hotel Karan)
Route: Hyderabad ORR - Medchal - Kamareddy - Nizamabad - Adilabad - Hinganghat - Nagpur - Savner - Chhindwada, Hotel Karan.
Except the bad stretch between Adilabad - Hinghanghat, it was good to drive. Had lunch at hotel Mayur in ButiBori which was good. Hit light traffic crossing the city of Nagpur. Reached the town of Chhindwada quite comfortably. Madhya Pradesh had indeed very good roads. Hotel Karan was surprisingly quite good. The food delicious not much expensive. The ambiance of hotel was nice and room small but comfortable with twin beds.

We started to realize the benefits of demonetization; no collection of tolls at any of the toll booths was a saving.

12-11-16: Chhindwada (hotel Karan) to Gwalior (Hotel Adityaz)
Route: Chhindwada - Narsingpur - Sagar - Lalitpur - Jhansi - Gwalior
We left Chhindwada a little late than usual to be able to enjoy the drive over the hills during early morning light and it proved to be a very good idea. We did not want to miss the beautiful hills that we did during our onward trip. Driving through the hills was lovely in the early morning light. Couldn't help stopping at several places for pictures of the beautiful locations.When we got out of the car at one such place, we realized it was very cold at 8 degrees. We had not brought woolens & were shivering. Took the pictures in a hurry as best as we could with shaking hands and got into the warmth of the car.

Drive in the ghats Beautiful curves

Narmada River After Narsingpur

Stopped again at Hotel Deepali, Sagar for heavy breakfast of delicious "Sev Poha" a delicacy of the region and stuffed paratha. The plan was to skip lunch. Reached Gwalior comfortably at 15:11 hrs.

Hotel Adityaz was good but restaurant expensive. Rooms were good, spacious with large bed. Had early dinner in the restaurant which had a singer performing local tunes, and hit the bed early. We planned to stay in Gwalior for the night so that we could avoid Agra madness during the evening traffic which would be tiresome and also we were not in a hurry.

13-11-16: Gwalior to Noida Home - The Home Run
Route: Gwalior - Agra - Yamuna Expressway - Noida Home Sector 82
We started in the dark and crossed Agra city by sunrise, before the crowd made it to the road to create chaos. As soon as we hit the Yamuna Express way it felt we reached home. We took a break for coffee just after Agra Toll and did the home run of last 167 Kms in 2hrs 28mins. Reached home by 10:00 hrs. It was an extremely satisfying trip.

Road Ratings: We categorized the section of roads we travelled into 4 categories & provided ratings as per our experience. 5 star is being the best.

Total Distance covered in the entire trip 4124kms. Including the local trips in Hyderabad.
Petrol Consumed: 268.59 lts
Cost incurred for Petrol: Rs 19663
Overall Average: 15.36 km/lt
Cost of Petrol per Km: Rs 4.76
Toll - Onward: Rs 2256 (including local trips) Return: Rs 755. Total Rs 3011

Click here for detailed time distance charts

For such a long journey it was important not to get tired mentally, which depended on the driving method. We decided early on that it was important not to hurry, be patient, take the time and drive smoothly. It would be good for both the car & the driver. Aim was to enjoy the drive & not to set any speed record & we did exactly that. Letting any impatient car, truck pass, maintaining a healthy speed and avoiding risks. Taking breaks every 2-3 hours helped to keep our minds fresh and body without strain.

We enjoyed the drive with the car performing extremely well, providing comfort and ease of drive.

More than reaching from Point A to Point B, it was the drive itself which provided satisfaction. Covering many regions, going through villages across heart of India provided a glimpse into the rich diverse cultures of India. Such an experience can never be seen by just flying over or even going by trains. It was humbling to see the vast empty spaces, small contented villages with simple people & simple needs, their lives going on slowly. In the cities we are always in a hurry meeting the deadlines, finishing working hours and the days just rush past like the lighted windows of an express train flashing by. Some times it does a lot good to take a break look at the country for a change. You would wonder what is development - traffic jams in the cities with frustrated souls around or peaceful living in country side letting the clouds pass.
-Happy Touring
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very nice write up and a nice travelogue. You are right on the fact that people should enjoy driving while on highway but some people prefer to test the limit of vehicle and their driving skill on high speed.