Travelogue: Highway to Hyderabad

Nirupama Rajan

At around 5:45 am on 26th January, my friend and I set out from Bannerghatta Road with a goal that seemed slightly impossible at the time- to reach Hyderabad by the end of the day on our Honda Activas. In fact, I think secretly, neither of us really expected to get all the way there.

Life at SimplyGuest - Travelogue: Bangalore to Hyderabad

It all started a couple of days before when we realised that all our friends were traveling out of the city for the upcoming weekend. With nothing to do, we thought we’d take our scooters out for an early morning ride on one of the days. Until then, all our long rides had been shorter than a hundred kilometres, simply because we were riding scooters and not motorcycles. So, our plan initially was to just do one more of these – leave early morning, ride for a few hours, explore some town or village on the way and get back to Bangalore latest by lunch.

Our friend overheard us and began telling us stories of how he used to ride his TVS Jupiter to Chennai. The again, he was far more experienced than either of us so we weren’t surprised. We’re not sure how it happened – either we were inspired by his stories, or maybe spontaneity slowly crept into the conversation – but somehow we ended up deciding on an overnight trip. We figured we’d take the Mumbai highway, ride for as long as it was comfortable, halt for the night wherever we were and return the next day. Even then, we definitely weren’t considering anything like 600 kilometres!

That was around when we heard reports of the disturbances happening in North Karnataka over water issues, and we figured the Mumbai highway may not be our safest bet. So we decided to take an equally great road- the one to Hyderabad. We were on the phone that evening figuring out our action plan when I said, “Imagine if we actually made it to Hyderabad.” Both of us laughed it off then, but about five minutes later, we realised that’s exactly what we wanted to do.
We didn’t tell a lot of people about our goal because one, we didn’t know ourselves if it was possible, and two, we knew most people would just laugh at the very idea like we did initially, and we definitely didn’t want anybody dampening our spirits. Nevertheless, amidst nods of encouragement and expressions of concern – from friends who were either very ignorant or very experienced – we set out on our journey.

We had prepped ourselves and our vehicles as much as we could in one day (read my previous post for more information on the subject); I was riding an Activa 125 and my friend was riding an older version of the Activa (109 cc). Our first target was to reach Chikkaballapur, a town on the outskirts just after Devanahalli.

About ten minutes into the ride, we were struck by the realisation that it was much, much colder than we’d anticipated. Still, the very idea that we were able to be out on Bangalore roads at such high speeds thanks to the empty roads made the experience worth it. After picking up a helmet from a friend’s place (yes, that’s how last minute it was), we took a beautiful little inside road from there that would connect us to the Hyderabad highway at Devanahalli. After that, we figured it would just be one straight road to Hyderabad.

We hadn’t been on the highway for more than ten minutes when we took a diversion by mistake and got lost inside Chikballapur. For quite a while, it didn’t even strike us that it was a little strange to have so much local traffic on a highway. (I blame this on the cold-induced numbness of our minds). Anyway, long story short, we somehow mapped our way back to the highway, looked long and hard for a U-turn and were finally back on track.

By the time we finished breakfast at what seemed to be a highly popular joint near Bagepalli, it was around 10 am. We were honestly quite taken aback by how quickly time had flown by and started discussing the idea of stopping our journey at Kurnool by the end of the day – which would have been about 200 kilometres before Hyderabad.

The morning half of the ride was absolutely amazing. As the sun climbed higher into the sky, it grew considerably hot and our layers kept coming off; still, the fact that we were out in the middle of nowhere, with rocky hills surrounding us and an endless road stretching ahead as far as our eyes could see kept us in high spirits throughout. Well that, and all the Gatorade and Snickers we had on us.
By the time we crossed Penukonda and reached Anantapur, it was around lunch time. However, we figured we’d hold off on the longer breaks for when we really needed them and settled for a quick scoop of Belgian chocolate ice cream at a highway Thanco’s instead. Besides, a truck driver also on his way to Hyderabad had duly informed us at our previous rest stop that it would take us at least till 7 pm to get there; even though we had discussed stopping at Kurnool, I guess both of us really wanted to make it all the way to Hyderabad even if it meant riding late. Besides, by then, we’d spoken too much about Hyderabadi Biryani and Khubani ka Meetha to even consider not being able to gorge on these later.

From Anantapur it was on to Gooty and then Kurnool. This stretch was quite taxing because of the afternoon heat coupled with the fact that it was all barren land with not a tree in sight. My eyes were begging for something green and soothing to look at. In fact, even when we stopped to rest, we were both quite silent, preserving our energy for the ride. By the time we got to Kurnool, it was around 4 pm. We went off the highway and into the town because we both wanted a longer break and good lunch.

After scouring the streets for a while, we came across a big hotel with an attached ‘A/C Restaurant’ and figured that would be our best bet. After going to all the trouble of parking inside and everything, we were told that the restaurant had just closed because lunch time was over. Neither of us had the energy or the inclination to go out and look for another restaurant. So, we assumed the best ‘tired and pitiful’ expressions we could, and told the staff all about our “long and exhausting” trip, and how we’d practically eat anything they’d give us. I guess it worked because ten minutes later, we were sitting on couches in an air conditioned room – empty except for us – eating the best curd rice and mango pickle that money could buy. Sure, it was a lot of money, but hey, it was an exceptional circumstance.

The question that was hanging in the air was whether we were going to stop there (I mean, we were literally in a hotel- all we had to do was book a room) or go on to Hyderabad. It was risky, because we had a good 200 kilometres to go and the sun had already begun to set, but perhaps it was the curd rice that put us in such a good mood, or maybe it was the fact that we’d already come such a long distance. Either way, there was really no going back now. And thank god for that decision because right after Kurnool, we crossed the Tungabhadra river into Telangana (we stopped on the bridge for a quick victory picture), and from there on until it finally got dark, it was one of the most beautiful stretches of land that I’ve ever laid eyes on. We rode with the sun setting behind us, casting an orange glow on green hills and luscious paddy fields interspersed with scrub forest every now and then. It was so refreshing, we entirely forgot about our fatigue- it was like the start of a new ride!

Nirupama en route to Hyderabad
Nirupama en route to Hyderabad

However, all things must come to an end and this did too, when the sun finally went down under and nightfall was upon us. It was almost 7 pm by the time it got dark, and we still had 80-90 kilometres left. Having left the last big town behind us, we had no choice but to push forward until we got to our destination. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time – we weren’t able to see the poorly lit trucks in front of us until we were just behind them, and at one point our visors were severely attacked by a horde of insects attracted by our headlights, nearly cutting off our vision entirely. Still, we rode slowly and carefully and the first city lights came into view at around 8:20 pm.

We didn’t really have time to celebrate then, because as jubilant as we were, all we really wanted to do was get to a bed and get some rest. This wasn’t to happen for a couple of hours though, because we were going to stay at a relative’s place that happened to be on the other side of town, and by the time we adjusted to the city traffic, lost our way a few times, and made it there after more than sixteen hours on the road, it was 10:30 pm. Without thinking much about what we’d just accomplished, I cleaned up, ate and went to bed. It was only on the next morning, when I woke up to the light of a different city streaming in through the window, that it really hit me. To be honest, I still don’t have words to describe the feeling.

We made the most of our one day in Hyderabad- which essentially meant that we ate everything we could get our hands on, even though our original plan was to eat light so we could ride back comfortably the next day. But when again were we going to get the chance to stand outside an ‘Irani Café’ and sip hot chai from a saucer while simultaneously wolfing down freshly baked Osmania biscuits? And with similar thoughts in our heads, we ate tawa bondas, Karachi biscuits, biryani (although I was constantly reminded that my veg biryani was not actually biryani) and of course, the Khubani ka Meetha that we rode all the way to Hyderabad for! We finally ended our day with a slow drive by the Hussain Sagar lake and by the time we got home, I was already fast asleep in the car.

The next morning, we were up by 5 am and out on the road by 5:30; we wanted to make it back to Bangalore before it got dark. Once again, fuelled by the cold creeping into our bones, we rode at top speed, stopping at petrol stations to soak in the warmth and shiver a little! The journey back was quite similar in that it was the same mix of barren land and stunning views, sweltering heat and freezing cold, and as always, absolute exhilaration. We also had the best ghee idlis ever in a food plaza somewhere between Hyderabad and Kurnool. We met a large group of motorcyclists on Avengers around afternoon, and were later trailed by two random guys on a bike for a short distance, although we soon left them far behind (this was probably the only slightly scary incident of the whole trip).

Riding back is always easier and that was evident by the fact that we made it to Bangalore city limits in about 12 hours. By 5pm, we were already battling the evening traffic near Devanahalli, which is where my riding partner and I parted ways after spending three of the most exciting days of our lives together. Even as my legs turned to jelly out of sheer exhaustion and I practically hit every bump at top speed because I was still adjusting to the slow city traffic, all I could think about was where my next long ride was going to be to! Admittedly, as much fun as this was, I’m hoping that the next time is going to be on a motorcycle, simply because they’re better suited to long-distance riding. But whatever the case, one thing is for sure- this was only the very first of the many, many long-distance rides that I plan to take through the rest of my life. Once you feel that riding high, you’re going to keep going back to it!

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