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Thursday, January 17, 2013

The NH7 Road Trip: Bangalore to Hyderabad

This is how it started . . .

Me: I need to go to Hyderabad.
Friend: Go on your bike.
Me: Yes, actually.
Friend: Great, I will come too.

. . . and just like that, two weeks later we were on NH7, riding a Bullet loaded with huge backpacks, cruising on a 600 km journey from Bangalore to Hyderabad.


Here's the buildup. A friend of mine from my Master's, a Hyderabadi, was getting married on December 27, in Hyderabad. So I needed to be there, in Hyderabad. Another friend (my co-pilot for the trip), a Hyderabadi, wanted a break from Bangalore and go celebrate New Year's at home, in Hyderabad. As for me, I have practically been living with Hyderabadis for the past five years, and simply speaking, Hyderabadis never run out of things to say about their home town, Hyderabad. So, I have had quite an overdose on everything related to the city, but I never had actually been there. Here was a really good occasion for me to go visit . . . Hyderabad. 

Talking about the bike, I had recently purchased a Royal Enfield Bullet Classic 350. And that locomotive of a two-wheeler was demanding to be taken out where it belonged to, the wide open highway. The brilliantly laid out NH7 provided the perfect opportunity.



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Now coming back to the journey . . .
Here is the checklist:
  • One bike (duly serviced the previous day)
  • Two riders (one of them well fed and well rested, the other one hungover and sleep deprived)
  • Two helmets (one of them with a loose padding and without a visor) 
  • Two backpacks (a week's worth of clothing for two in the first, and all kinds of electronics in the other)
  • Two jackets (a must if want to call yourself a biker)
  • Shades and night goggles (same as above)
  • A Bob Marley scarf and a muffler from Connaught Place (a great style statement)
  • Money (borrowed from another friend the night before)
  • Riding gloves (conveniently forgotten at home)

We left home off at 5 AM. These days Bangalore is covered in fog in early mornings during winters and that day wasn't an exception. We crossed the airport at 6 AM (we treat it as the city limit), and stopped at a Coffee Day soon after for much needed espresso shots. Then we set out again, the trip now had officially started.

We decided to stop and take turns only after every 100 odd kilometers. Our first stop was at a Punjabi dhaba with a sardar owner.

I can say this with good authority that every word of the last sentence makes for a pleasant shock if you are in Karnataka: a dhaba, a Punjabi dhaba, a sardar owner, they are rare, rarer and the rarest things respectively on the highways in these parts.


Anyways, we had some tea there, and also decided to tie the bigger backpack to the bike itself (a marvelous feat of engineering, I must add).


Continuing on the journey, we were greeted by a pleasant country side landscape; fields full of freshly cut crop and flocks of buffaloes grazing on what was left (some of them breaking off for freedom). Then there were rocky hills of the Deccan as we entered Andhra Pradesh and scattered along these hills were very ancient looking ruins of forts and bulwarks. By the time we reached Anantapur, the sun had already crossed over our head. It marked the completion of a third of the total journey.


Anantapur is notorious for its organized crime syndicates, (nationally made famous by the Rakta Charitra films). Adding to this flavor of the place, we did come across many annas on bikes there who looked shady to say the least.

After we crossed Anantapur, we stopped for a lunch break. Again, it was a Punjabi dhaba, but the owner was Marathi this time. The food was good and the owner was friendly, plus, he also had a pet rottweiler.


The second leg of our journey was uneventful. The road was smooth, the traffic was at its minimum and it was pleasantly warm and sunny. Everything was good except that riding for so long was taking a toll on our rear ends, and they were slowly but surely becoming a casualty of the trip. It was especially tough for whoever the pillion was, courtesy, the nominal rear seat that the Enfield guys have provided for Bullets as an afterthought. Regardless, we kept moving at a healthy cruising speed of 75 km/h on an average.We crossed Kurnool (marking the second thirds of the trip) at around 3.30 PM and made the final stop before the last stretch at 5 PM at a tea stall 100 km from Hyderabad.

By this time, we were really tired, our minds were blank and our butts were numb, but now the adrenaline was kicking in; we were on the final stretch of the trip, the last lap of the race, the finishing sprint of the marathon, and we could almost smell the biriyani from there. The traffic increased considerably as we came closer and closer to Shamshabad (Hyderabad Airport area), but it was all a blur, it did not matter. And then we saw it: the magnificent Nehru Outer Ring Road (NORR). Mission accomplished. We were now inside Hyderabad.

At the first sight, the Outer Ring Road looked like a feat of civil engineering, perhaps equaling the Yamuna Expressway. It was an elevated eight-lane highway complete with lighting, and ditches and barricades on the sides. It had huge elaborate branching junctions and the vehicles were going at at-least 100 km/h. It was beautiful. The sad part was, that two-wheelers were banned from riding on it. So, we had to take the by-lanes on the side to reach Hitech City.

When we finally reached Hyderabad City, me and the co-pilot, referring to the conversation at the top, are like: mazaak mazaak me pahuch gaye yaar (something on the lines of: wasn't that supposed to be a joke dude).

By the way, the bike, the Royal Enfield Bullet, the king of Indian roadsters, did not crib for a moment during the entire journey, and it was still sounding as if it had just done a stroll in the park. My respect for it had now increased exponentially.

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The very first thing I did in Hyderabad was to go to Paradise and stuff myself with biriyani and chicken-65. I stayed in the city for a week, and whatever happened there belongs to another post. I do, however, want to mention here that the city won me over in that duration. Colorful people, awesome food, well developed infrastructure and a deep rooted heritage, it had everything that I look for in a city.

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The return journey was a very different experience.  The stay in Hyderabad had been very hectic and we were not in the mood to come back at all, let alone make that same journey on the bike again. But after considering other options we finally settled for a bike trip. And things started going wrong from the very start.

We woke up very late, 9 AM. Leisurely, we set out at 11 and reached the outskirts at 1 AM. From the past experience we thought a cushion for the pillion would be a good idea, but we were too lazy to look for one. We had run out of cash and we kept on forgetting to look for ATMs. The straps of the backpack we were carrying were starting to disintegrate and there was absolutely no cobbler or tailor to be found. Also, the cap of my camera got blown off to oblivion. The bike, however, had an oil change and was rumbling on, as good as ever.

 
 We made our first stop at a drive-in somewhere outside Shamshabad, we had a brunch there and continued. Our next stop was outside Kurnool at 5 PM, making that particular stretch the longest continuous ride that we did. At that time we thought we would be making an entry into Bangalore at around 11 PM, which later turned out to be a huge miscalculation. 

A long night-ride was ahead of us, but we still were in that leisurely Hyderabadi mood. We actually stopped for a photo session with the bike at dusk. 


We crossed Anantapaur at 8.30 PM. For us, this marked the end of civilization, all the way up till Bangalore. We tried looking for a place to have dinner, but could not find one that wasn't significantly shady. We forgot to refuel and to take out cash, again. 

Here is our situation an hour after leaving Anantpur. We were in the middle of nowhere, we were hungry, we were almost out of cash, the bike was running in reserve, our seats were on fire and except for the occasional overtaking car/truck/bus, it was pitch dark.

 

But, the air was clean and the sky was clear and moonless, and the view of the night sky was just fabulous. For that reason, the whole ride was worth it. At around 10.30 PM, we saw a fiery red moon rising from the horizon.
 

With the help of some scattered change and a God-sent fuel station, we now had enough petrol to carry us to Bangalore. But the endurance test was a long way from being over. Adding to everything else, the temperatures suddenly dropped 100 km form the city, and it was misty yet again. When we finally hit a huge speed breaker on the highway, we knew Bangalore was very close now. 

Reaching the airport took us what seemed like an eternity. It was now 2 AM. We stopped there for much needed food and rest and warmth. We had a strong urge to leave the bike there and take a taxi home, but there was this journey to finish . . . we crash landed at home at 5 AM.
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This trip is one of those events that can easily be a highlight on your life's resume, one of those cherished times which give you a great sense of achievement, and can spawn off stories in the days to come. It also is a certificate of how crazy or random or stubborn you are. We had traveled 1200 km on the highway, seen all kinds of weather, times of the day and terrains. We went from excitement to boredom to euphoria to exhaustion to frustration to bliss, all during those 36 hours on the highway.

There and back again, through the complete spectrum, and it was all meant to be a joke!

  . . .

41 comments:

  1. What a joke it turned out to be! Very nice post and congratulations on making it back safe. So when are you moving to Hyderabad?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks... will move there as soon as you do :)
      ... and Congrats

      Delete
  2. Wow, and just one word WOW.

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  3. 600kms... and that too with a pillion? :-o

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ... and with two loaded backpacks :)
      Actually many people do it... Bangalore to Hyderabad highway is a favorite amongst bikers.

      Delete
  4. Now that's a Life purely lived!
    Cheers!

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  5. Nice...I have been planning a solo night ride from Hyd to Bangalore to beat the daytime heat and glare. You have inspired me now... :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. bahut sahi "kasam paida karney waaley ki"

    ReplyDelete
  7. lovely picture.. i did this ride myself on a P180 Gen I and Gen 2 DTSI about 4 trips up and down between 2002 Nov and 2004 Mar.Mostly traveled behind a Volvo to avoid being lost or getting glared by the oncoming headlights.
    back then the roads went that great either.

    Planning to take this ride again sometime in June or July this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks... and the roads are fantastic now. Good luck for the next one!

      Delete
  8. helpful, Going to meet someone special
    Simple words and ver well placed.
    Good work and coincidentally im also getting my royal 350 ..haha
    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  9. Do you think pulsar 180 can make this trip?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course it can.... I know many ppl who have done it on Pulsars and other similar bikes.
      Good luck!

      Delete
  10. Brilliant, just loved the way you have written it. It was me living in your moment.
    I am planning to take a trip same from Bangalore to Hyderabad with a Enfield, i just wanted to know what all do we need to take care of the bike? Do we need to change anything in a garage when we get to Hyderabad to Bangalore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Praful .... glad you liked the post.
      Well the road to Hyderabad is just awesome... very less chance of a breakdown, especially if you are riding a Bullet. Just as a precaution you might want to take along a spare clutch cable, fuses and a spark plug. Get the oil changed before you coming back to Bangalore. Do get a full tank before leaving Bangalore and before re-ntering Karnataka, you won't find many gas stations in Karnataka. I don't think anything else is should be kept in mind.
      Goodluck, ride safe and enjoy!

      Delete
  11. Thanks for this nice post. I was in immediate need of such detailed info and thanks to your post I can now better plan my holidays and travel plans and can go ahead with it in a more confident manner.Keep sharing such ones.

    Wedding Halls Hyderabad

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for the post mate! I'm gonna ride to Hyderabad on my Thunderbird.

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  13. Anybody planning for 11th Jan (Sat) to 14th Jan (Tuesday) To & Fro from Hyd - B'lore?? I am a solo driver on RE.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Dude, Just WOW!!
    I am planning solo ride in TBTS from Bangalore to Varanasi(2000KM) in 4 days..
    Possible or over ambitious ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh wow ... you are going for the complete NH7 route?

      First of all a disclaimer: i have not been a 2000km long journey .... yet.

      500km a day is both possible and ambitious. I would make sure that i get a quick service and oil change after every 2 days, I would also carry spare wires and spark plugs. Ride during the day time only as you would be going through some of the most remote and wild areas of the country. I am not sure about the road conditions after Hyderabad... bad roads can slow you down quite a bit and take a toll on both you and your bike.
      Other than this... ride safe and be good to your bike :P.
      Good luck and enjoy the journey!

      Delete
    2. Yes, i will be taking NH7.. After Nagpur road seems to be in bad shape..
      Thanks for suggestions.. Trip on :)

      Delete
    3. Hi VJ,

      Have you done this trip.... Please let me know about the road condition in MP at NH7???

      How was overall experience...

      Delete
    4. Hi Prabhat, Yes i have completed NH7 from Bangalore to Varanasi, it took 5 days and total distance i covered was 2200KM solo. Had awesome ride :)

      Delete
    5. Prabhat, I am sorry to say it but, there is literally no road. NH7 is in real bad shape specially in MP.

      Delete
  15. Friends, Here is my rating on NH-7 road condition state wise. (1-5)
    1 - Extremely Poor
    2 - Poor
    3 - Average
    4 - Good
    5 - Excellent

    Karnataka - 5
    Andhra - 5
    Maharashtra - 3
    Madhya Pradesh - 1
    Uttar Pradesh - 2

    I hope this helps :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey VJ... Congrats on complete a mammoth journey Bengaluru-Varanasi!!! Kudos to u!
      I want to do a Bengaluru-Nagpur ride on a bike... planning to buy a Honda CBR250R or RE TB500 for the same.
      How much time it took for u to reach Nagpur? which bike did u ride on? how many stoppages did u take? where did u night-halt?

      Thanks in advance,
      Saurabh Tare

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi, Nice post and Blog. Really nice pics. Though a few pics of the food would have been appreciated ;) I would be doing the route in 8th Aug on my Chrome500. Have to catch a flight from there to Raipur. Have done Blr-Mum before this so no biggie. One thing though, how is the crosswinds in this section do i need a Windshield???

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for updating more information about travel destinations. Your information about various tourists spot is really attractive. Similarly you can also get more information about the top 15 places to see in Bangalore by visiting this site.

    Places to see in bangalore

    ReplyDelete
  19. Great job, Kartik!
    I hope to achieve something similar in years to come! :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. very well written and nice photo essay...

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  21. http://greattelangaana.com/news/ekminar-bazarghat-road-to-be-widened/1469

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  22. Road widening in main hyderabad will ease the traffic.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Nice Idea. Your trip seems really exciting, adventurous and full of thrill. Whenever you again think of going Hyderabad, check out these best places to visit in Hyderabad. You will definitely enjoy visiting them.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hello...very good article..loved reading your experience..:)
    Please can you throw some light on "highway riding tips" like which lane is better for bikers, safety precautions, do's and dont's etc.,
    I am riding on NH7 from Hyd to Anatapur this week....

    ReplyDelete