Monday, April 07, 2008

The Scorpio Diary

670 kilometres, 12 Diet Pepsis, 5 stoppages, 4 Music CDs, 3 guys, 2 national highways, One Mahindra Scorpio. That was the Chennai-Hyderabad drive we undertook one day. Raghu was moving to Hyderabad from Chennai. The first thing he preferred to transfer was his beloved maroon red Scorpio. He had never driven deep into AP before. So he invited me and a couple of others to ride with him. I do the job of navigator rather well despite all my misgivings about asking for directions. So I jumped in. The plan was to start early at Chennai and reach Hyderabad by evening and then take a cheap flight back home. One guy dropped off but Karthik was game and so Raghu, Karthik and I started off at 4.30 AM on a Sunday. Upon my insistence, we avoided the backwater roads from Ongole to Narkatpally via Nalgonda and instead drove all the way to Vijaywada to savour the superb 4-lane Golden Quadrilateral National highway No 5. From There it was another National Highway (No 9). The second leg was a bad mistake that ended up as a sumo wrestle for the narrow road between the Scorpio and trucks. The ride to Vijayawada (428 KM) took us 8 hours. The second leg cost us another 8 hours for just 248 km. Nevertheless, it was worth the drive. No more words. I prefer to say it with pictures:

4:45PM and our first of the many toll gates that squeezed good money out of us. The Red Hills Toll outside Chennai. We were playing Annamacharya Keerthanas on the CD player inside. What a way to begin the day!

Dawn breaks and we are already in Andhra Pradesh. Another 14 hours of drive within AP.

Our first stop short of Gudur. We savour the balmy morning breeze while the Scorpio cools off the heat it generated by riding at 140 kmph!

Thoughtful stuff. An emergency phone for drivers. Not sure if it works but looks great.

We did toy with the least upto Vizag. But better sense prevailed well early morning. BTW that was our first Pepsi can.

About 25 km from Nellore, we encountered these tall plams right on the divider. Old Hindi songs on the CD.

Nellore and that greasy tasty dosa! That tucked in we rolled on to some unusual sights. That is a grain load on a tractor trailer. How it balances itself beats us but note that the tractor is moving away from the centre.

Close to Ongole. We are shuffling between Telugu and Tamil numbers. The agro wealth of AP shows up. Down season for paddy right now as the colour of the fields indicate.

As soon as we entered AP, we found pretty flowers growing on divider all along the way till Vijayawada. Nice touch!

Third halt and a well deserved rest for both Raghu and his Scorpio. He drove it all the way till Hyderabad. We are outside Chilakaluripeta and those rare trees came in handy for a much needed shade from the summer sun!

Raghu (shorts) and Karthik . How Karthik managed the trip beats me but jeans and shoes are the last thing I would wear for such a trip.

Chilakaluripeta. We are soaking on modern Hindi film know...Gangster, Anwar and the likes. More Diet Pepsis down. We have turned on the AC for a short while. Otherwise, we managed it without air conditioning mostly!

We did not expect hills until Vijayawada. But we found this one just after Chilakaluripeta.

Looks like a curve on a race track- chicane and all...well Raghu almost treated the Scorpio like a forumla car here. The curve appears suddenly and confuses the driver.

We passed all kinds of vehicles with all kinds of load. Looks dangerous? Well those sacks contain cotton. No wonder they are all stacked up that way.

Near Guntur: Riding backwards with legs dangling...I would have gladly traded my place in the Scorpio for a seat amongst those people. The TATA RTV was full!

Vijayawada! The railway bridge across River Krishna is visble here with the Kanaka Durga temple in the background along the hill.

A lone wanderer on the drying riverbed. Wonder what is he doing there?

We had lunch at Vijayawada and resumed our journey. After negotiating narrow roads and unruly traffic, we ended up at the foot of a hill which had a tunnel to go through.

Through the tunnel that lead us to the outskirts of Vijayawada.
Soon we were passing by the Vijayawada Thermal Power Station

Our quest for cheap diesel led us to this place. Time for a little rest for the Scorpio.

Just off the tunnel, we chanced upon this humongous masonary Hanuman. This was certainly not the first one on our trip. Right from Tada at the AP TN border, we had encountered small, large, huge and gigantic statues of Hanuman. We might have seen at least 50 Hanuman statues (with temples). Methinks Hanuman is the patron saint of highway drivers. But this statue takes the cake. It is the biggest and grandest of all the Hanumans we had driven past.

Just look at those crows to gauge the size of Hanuman.

There. Look how majestic it stands.

Traffic seems light. The fun starts about 20 Km from here.

Yet another Hanuman. this one is interesting though. It is a statue of the Panchamukha Anjaneya or the five headed Hanuman. The canopy kind of robs the aesthetic value.

We are close to hyderabad after a long duel with a bus and a truck. We rest here for some flavoured milk and ice cream.

Outskirts of Hyderabad. We are awfully late. the sun is setting. It will take us two more hours to rech our destination. All thanks to traffic!