“Never Underestimate the therapeutic power of driving and listening to very loud music” – Anonymous
The above quote perfectly describes it. There is definitely something therapeutic about driving and listening to loud music. What better way to do this than going on a road trip with your friends? I was presented with this opportunity when a colleague/friend from Pondicherry decided to get married.
We have been telling him for a long time that we will definitely attend his wedding. But many of us had ulterior motives. I had never been to Pondicherry and that was one of the main reasons I wanted to attend his wedding. Just kidding. He is a good friend and we have been part of the same lunch group for years.
Then the next obvious question came. Who all were planning to go? It was a weekday and that meant all of us couldn’t go. This discussion went on for a while and we finally came to a decision.
The minute I decided that I was going, there was no second doubt. I was driving to Pondicherry in my car. This was the first time I was taking my car (Renault Duster Petrol version) on a road trip. My dad and my sister had taken the car on multiple occasions for road trips but it was the first time I was taking it. Prior to this, I always took a road trip in my dad’s car ever since I bought this car. His car is definitely more convenient, faster and more fuel efficient. But this time I did not listen to him.
Bangalore – Salem - Villupuram
We then had to decide which route we were planning to take from Bangalore to Pondicherry. The wedding was in Villupuram, which is a small town 30kms away from Pondicherry. There are three routes you can take from Bangalore to Pondicherry. So we needed to find the shortest and most convenient route. The shortest route is through Tiruvanmalai , a distance of 270 Km through NH7 and NH66. But we were asked to avoid this road since this was under construction and was filled with potholes. All public buses take this route and our friends who took the buses had a hard time sleeping due to the road conditions. The next route was around 360Km through NH4. But this was not the best route either. The approximate time taken for both these routes is around 6-7 hrs.
Our last option was to go via Salem. This was the longest route with a distance of 380Kms via NH7 and NH68. This was the one suggested by everyone else other than Google and this is the one we took. So was it a good choice? I will definitely let you know soon enough.
Since the wedding was on Friday and there was a reception to attend on Thursday night, our initial plan was to leave from office (Electronics City) by 1 PM on Thursday. But you know that road trips never go as planned and by the time we left our office premises, it was almost 2:45PM.
We were finally on the highway and none of us had to worry about office for the next few days. It is such a divine feeling when you do not have a care in the world. You have the steering wheel in your hands and you can go anywhere where your legs decide to take you. Also the stretch between Bangalore – Salem (NH7) is really good for highway drivers and you can drive as fast as you want. I love driving and it was then I forgot about everyone else in the car. I was going somewhere new and that is a feeling you cannot express.
Since it was a weekday, we did get some traffic and I was not able to go as fast as I wanted to. Since we had to be in time for reception, we drove all the way without stopping. They were all playing some games but I was too lost in driving. There are definitely no words to express it. In spite of traffic, the feeling you get when you race another vehicle and then another and then another. We soon reached Salem (190 kms from Electronics City) and then we followed the bypass. This was a mistake one of the other cars did. They went inside Salem town and lost almost 1.5 hrs.
Take the bypass and then take the left. Do not continue on NH7 and do not take the bridge onto NH47. At one point, you have to take a right to go to Madurai. Instead, keep going straight and this takes you on NH68 which is to Pondicherry. If you do not understand Tamil script like us, then all the boards in English will say Chennai. Follow this route for another 180Kms and we soon reached Villupuram. Considering the fact that we took less than 5 hrs to cover this distance of 380kms, it definitely was the best route for us to take in spite of the traffic. Yes it is longer but it took us the least amount of time. The roads are excellent and it is mostly a 4 lane (2 on each side) highway till Villupuram. (There are few stretches between Salem and Villupuram where it is not a 4 lane highway). The downside to this is the toll charges. We paid a total of Rs426 in toll to cover this stretch.
Villupuram – Pondicherry:
We left Villupuram around 11:00AM the next day after the marriage. The distance is around 38 kms between Villupuram and Pondicherry. We have to take NH45A. The road condition is not that great. Due to peak hour traffic and several closed roads due to a political rally, it took us more than an hour to reach our hotel.
We spent the day in Pondicherry and I will be updating details about Pondicherry in my subsequent posts.
Pondicherry – Mahabalipuram:
Someone got it into my head that we should visit Mahabalipuram. This is a UNESCO World heritage site and this lies between Pondicherry and Chennai. By the time we left Pondicherry the next day, it was almost 1PM. You have to take the East coast road for this section. This one is a beautiful drive since it runs almost parallel to the Bay of Bengal. This is beautiful and we are treated with awesome views of the Bay of Bengal. It is around 100 Kms from Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram and it takes roughly two hours to complete this journey. I was the navigator for this stretch of the road and I took my time to take in the beauty of this section of India through a photographer’s eyes. Toll charges for this stretch is Rs45.
|East Coast Road|
Mahabalipuram – Chennai Mahindra City
Our plan was to stay the night in our office campus for the night. By the time we left Mahabalipuram, it was after 8 PM. It was dark by then. We had to take SH 49B which covers a distance of 35kms. Since none of us knew the road, we decided to trust our Google baba. The only problem with this was that it decided to take us through a back road after around 20kms on SH49B. Also the entire stretch is quite isolated during night. If it was a normal back road then it was still okay. The road was quite narrow and we had marsh lands on one side and a lake on another. If we even deviated from this road by an inch, we would have been in the lake. Thankfully that did not happen. It takes around 1 hr from Mahabalipuram to Chennai Mahindra city.
Chennai Mahindra city – Kanchipuram:
When there are 4 ladies in the car, then the obvious plan would be to stop at Kanchipuram for silk sarees. It takes around 75 minutes by car to cover this distance of 44km on the Kanchipuram – Chengalpattu road. The roads are quite bad in some places with too many pot holes and that is why we took so much time to reach Kanchipuram. We paid around Rs155 in toll charges.
Kanchipuram – Bangalore:
By the time shopping and lunch was done, it was almost 5 PM. I was the navigator for this stretch and we drove on NH4, NH46 and NH7 to get back to Bangalore. This stretch is also a beautiful one and I spent some of the time looking at the glorious sunset while my friend drove and others slept in the back. The distance is around 280 Kms and we took around 4 hours to reach electronics city. Roads are again a 4 lane highway. But then traffic in Bangalore was really bad and I reached home only around 11 PM after dropping everyone off. We paid around Rs 220 in toll charges for this stretch.
Overall it was a good trip. All of us came back tired and happy with the trip. Half of us did not even make it to office the next day and ended up working from home. I love road trips and the nostalgia associated with it.
But have you ever come back from a road trip and felt that your car was a mess. My car was an actual mess with food, sand and what not. As soon as I came back, I asked my dad to call 3M Car Care, Marathahalli, Bangalore to get my car cleaned. They do an awesome job and I always send my car there after a road trip. Check out their site for more details on other services they offer.Since I am a known customer they come home to pick up and drop the vehicle.
Note: This blog post has been written in collaboration with 3M Car Care, Marathahalli, Bangalore. Views expressed here are my own.
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|A Mini South Indian Road Trip|