Anyone with a FIAT @ home would understand the enthusiasm in making innumerable excuses to be on the roads. The desire to drive far away from the maddening crowd and get away from the daily mundane life sometimes becomes so strong that there isn’t any other option than to plan for a long drive. And with each new trip the itch to drive further and farther increases as well.Our Taurus (GP 90 HP) has now taken us to multiple places since it has been with us. We have already been to Kudremukh, Sringeri, Horanadu, Agumbe – 3K Bhubaneswar, Vizag, Vijayawada – 3K Pondicherry – 2K Shirdi, Mumbai, Pune – 2K Srisailam, Nagarjuna Sagar, Medak – 3k (Multiple Visits) Few travelogues have been already put up and can be found http://www.teamfiat.com/threads/pun-toured-tour-de-pondy.14206/ And http://www.teamfiat.com/threads/pun-toured-the-beautiful-western-ghats.13197/ Lack of time has not allowed me to complete two more travelogues which I was writing. With passage of time you tend to forget a lot of details and the travelogues remain incomplete. So I had decided that I will start penning my travelogues as soon as I complete them. So here is how my last travel went. It has been 20 months of blissful ownership of my Taurus (GP 90 HP). It recently completed 30 K KMS on the odometer and what better way to celebrate it than driving on the 40 twisting hairpins during our recent trip to Valparai. Just a few months after getting our car we had drove to Kudremukh and the nearby places in October 2014 just after the monsoons. Since then we had been planning to visit and explore the Western Ghats further. It’s completely different visiting such places after rains. It’s all green and fresh with light rains thrown in between. Nature at its pristine best. Though we would have loved to be there just after the monsoons the plans never materialized due to some unforeseen circumstances. I was down with dengue during Sep-Oct 2015 and the rest of the year was spent recovering completely and catching up with the piled up work at office. We didn’t have enough leaves as most were exhausted during my hospitalization. The plans were shelved and we never knew when our lives entered another year. During the Sankranti my wife and kid had their schools off for the whole week. I got my quarterly leaves and the itch to travel was back in full force. I had one day off during Sankranti and since me and my team had just successfully closed two projects I knew there will be at least a weeks’ time when I can take it easy. The places were mostly decided. It had to be either Kodai/Valparai or Munnar/Valparai. My better half had already been to Munnar a few years ago and we would be doing a Kerala trip sometime in future so she voted for the first option. It was not like we wanted to visit Kodai but we were not sure if Valparai alone would be worth it. After our trip we realized we were so wrong. My wife wasn’t ready to come back from Valparai. It was just feast for eyes with greenery all around, wildlife (this place is a birder’s paradise), tea gardens, mountains, forests and those twisty roads. All ingredients for a great road trip. As soon as it was decided that the road trip is on we started making the itinerary. Initial plan was a 5 day trip but with close to 3 K KMS we were sure that two days would be spent in the car only. Besides we had a plan to take a break at Bangalore and spend a day with one of my friend and his family. So I decided to take an additional day off and club it with the Sankranti holiday. This is how we planned our trip would pan out. 12th Jan – Start from Hyderabad and reach Kodai the same day – 1.2 K KMS. We even though about taking the break @ friend’s place while going but dropped the plan as we would always be in a hurry to leave the next day. Besides 12th being a work day we would not have been able to spend some quality time with them. So we decided to start as early as possible and be @ Kodai before it is too late. 13th and 14th Jan (half – day) – Sightseeing @ Kodai. 14th Jan (2nd half) – Travel to Valparai 15th Jan – Sightseeing @ Valparai 16th Jan – Visit to Athirapally falls on the way to Bangalore. Spend the rest of the day @ friend’s place 17th Jan – Start for Hyderabad early in the afternoon. To be continued ..... --- Double Post Merged, Feb 15, 2016 --- We started looking for stay options in Kodai and Valparai. There were hardly any options in Valparai at least on the net. One of our TFI members suggested taking the HVK 501 pack. Most of the well-read auto enthusiasts would know about HVK and I too knew well about him. Took the 501 pack and followed the instruction. Pinged him on WhatsApp and he provided me the options. The ones in Valparai were beyond my budget. HVK suggested me to try Misty Creek though they do not have any tie ups with them. I knew about Misty Creek and the owner Benny but from the photos on the internet I had not liked it and hence didn’t explore the option. When HVK suggested it I did some more research and found out mostly very good reviews. I called up Benny booked the room and transferred a token amount. In the meanwhile HVK gave me few options in Kodai and I was getting some better offers on net for other hotels. When travelling we prefer spending as less as possible on stay and food unless the plan is to unwind at some good hotels or if the place where we are travelling is famous for food. I updated HVK that I would do the booking on my own and asked him to share the route maps for my travel. We booked The Carnival Hotel in Kodai. The route maps were immensely helpful especially bypassing bigger towns and saved us quite some time. Besides HVK was very helpful in guiding us during the drive. I would rate the experience with HVK and Team as exceptional. Even though I did not use their services in booking hotels, Valparai booking was done as per HVK’s recommendation his inputs on the routes were extremely helpful. Besides the support during the drive is commendable. I would suggest anyone travelling on roads to use his services. One may get stay options, routes etc. on the net but nothing beats the firsthand experience HVK has. I will touch upon that later in the travelogue. With the hotels booked and route decided it was just waiting for the trip to start. After going through all related links on Valparai we found that having a BSNL connection would be good. We had a couple of SIMs unused from our stay in Bhubaneswar few years back. Now with national MNP available we converted one of those to BSNL. Though Airtel has served us well over the last few years it is costly. After using BSNL I can guarantee nothing is more economical than BSNL in the country. But as far as connectivity is concerned I found Airtel better throughout the trip. There were places where BSNL had no connectivity and Airtel was still working. But there were places where none worked. The day before the trip I left office pretty early. Checked all documents of the car and visually inspected the car. I had got the car serviced for 30 K @ 27 K itself a week back due to the long drive it had to take. We hit bed by 8:00 PM and the plan was to start by 3:00 AM early in the morning. --- Double Post Merged, Feb 15, 2016 --- Before I move on to the detailed travelogue below are the customary route map and travel stats. So we were looking at close to 3K kms trip. Below the actual MID trip stats Distance Covered: 2750 kms (So around 300 kms for local sightseeing) Travel Time (In car): 48:12 hours Average Speed: 57 km/h Mileage: 17.7 km/l (MID) Mileage: 17.1 km/l (Tankful Method) Total Diesel Consumed: 160 liters approx. So my observation that MID shows a mileage which is in the range 0.5-1.0 km/l more than tank full method proves true again. --- Double Post Merged, Feb 15, 2016 --- Jan 12 2016 - Day 1 Well I have noticed that the night before the travel the sleep isn’t as tight as other nights. I and my wife both face the same issue almost during all our road trips. To overcome this we had slept less the previous night. My wife made sure she or our daughter do not sleep during the day time the previous day. But somehow in spite of being pretty tired I would not say we had a great sleep. We overslept and woke up around 2:45 AM. At least our bodies were rested enough but not so much the mind. We were not tired actually but didn’t feel fresh as one feels early in the morning. We all got ready by 4:30 AM and all set to roll 10 minutes to 5:00 AM. The pre decided route. This was based on the inputs from HVK route map. Close to 1.2 K KMS to be covered and we were looking at midnight arrival @ Kodai. Not the start we expected. We would have loved to start by 4:00 AM at least. But as with most trips especially with a baby on board early start is a rarity. With our experiences from previous trips we had decided on the following To limit our top speeds to 120 KM/H. To stay put by 9:00 PM irrespective of whether we reach our destination or not. To stop earlier if roads or weather were not conducive for further travel. We have usually noticed that the time mentioned in GMAPS usually matches the travel time including breaks if driven sanely @ an average 10 KM/H more than what it suggests. A little faster and once can save a good 2-3 hours if breaks can be kept to minimum. So we thought a 9:00 PM is pretty much possible. The top speed limit was put as during the last few months of growing up my daughter has now developed a sense of speed. She turned 4 a few months back and there have been times when she has mentioned whether we are going too fast or slow. Earlier we didn’t have the speed beep set and there were times when my wife has touched 150 km/h unknowingly and I would have to ask her to slow down. On our last trip to Pondy I kept speeds up above 120 and still noticed that the average speeds never touched 80 KM/H. With too much braking, acceleration and deceleration all the momentum would be broken time and again. Besides there were times my daughter would ask us to slow down if she felt we were doing more speed. So it was a conscious decision to stick to the 120 KM limit. The speed buzzer was set @ 120 and we decided to stick to it till Bangalore at least. Better be slow and safe than be sorry and not be in a position to regret as well. We were proven correct as we had the average speed up by 2 KM/H when compared with the Pondy trip even though we travelled 1 K KMS more and the sightseeing was considerably more than Pondy trip. All loaded to start the trip. Kids grow up real fast. She isn’t sleepy this time. Just the flash and she closed her eyes. She was completely ready and excited this time. --- Double Post Merged, Feb 15, 2016 --- Usual close to 5:00 AM start Get set go We drove in the dark for the good amount of time. On HYD ORR One hour into the drive. Light conditions changing slowly. I tried to keep up the pace driving close to a ton. I am not too much of a night driver. Lights from oncoming vehicles and the fact that I wear glasses doesn’t make driving in dark any fun for me. Most of my trips I have driven well into the night after sunset. But somehow I find driving evening through night better as somehow my eyes are able to adapt the change. But I find it extremely hard to drive if I have to start early in the night. My eyes take some time to adjust especially if I have woken up. My wife anyway finds driving in dark difficult. There never had been a situation where she had to drive in dark or on ghats. She drives within the city in the night though. We distribute our driving duties in such a way that she gets to drive on the freeways and I take up ghat sections and after dark driving. Finally “SuryaDev” takes pity on us and gives “Darshan”. Perfect timing for the shot.