Pune To Enchanting South India!!


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There is always unique excitement within us when we are about to travel. The roads and highways sometimes feel like man made marvel. From last two three months my work load index has grown like anything. I hardly get time to read travelogue and visit our very own TAI. I was waiting for Diwali festival so that I can combine official holidays along with personal leave and go for much needed travelling.

As usual the manager was reluctant to approve leaves but somehow, I convinced and got my leaves approved. The initial plan was to explore “Heart of India” (Madhya Pradesh) and move up to Nalanada covering Varanasi and Bodh Gaya as well. The plan needs to be compromised as it was not at all getting fit along with days in our hand. So, exploring South was only option with us!!

I could remember clearly one shot in film “Chennai Express” in which Shah Rukh Khan was driving on Pamban bridge. I had seen so many pictures of these bridge in some or other travelogues. This bridge is also a man-made marvel. Somehow, itinerary started building up in my mind for visiting Rameswaram. This place is also a famous pilgrimage spot as its one of the Char Dhams. Along with Rameswaram I was also trying to club Madurai.

I opened notepad and started planning the itinerary. Took help of TripAdvisor for getting Points of Interests. Had gone through few travelogues on identifying the road conditions. Took suggestion from H V Kumar who is well known traveler. Finally, the itinerary looked as below,

Day 1 – Pune - Bangalore
Day 2 – Bangalore – Madurai
Day 3 – Madurai – Rameswaram - Dhanuskodi – Rameswaram
Day 4 – Rameswaram – Kanyakumari
Day 5 – Kanyakumari – Vagamon
Day 6 – Vagamon – Alapuzha
Day 7 – Alapuzha
Day 8 – Alapuzha – Valparai
Day 9 – Valparai
Day 10 – Valparai - Bangalore
Day 11 – Bangalore - Pune

Day 1 – Pune to Bangalore

We did all our packing and slept early so that we can start from Pune in wee hours of morning. After a short prayer we started from Pune around 5:15am. The destination for the day was Bangalore. The roads till Satara was having many potholes. As soon as we cross Annewadi Toll the road quality changes to concrete with excellent surface, but still you cannot achieve a good speed as till Kolhapur there is miscellaneous traffic on road. Even if you honk to your limit no one will move out from your way.

Once you cross Kolhapur and enter Karnataka then you will be welcomed by amazing road and thin traffic. You can have a great drive in triple digits till Dharwad. There is this 30kms of single lane road between Dharwad and Hubli where you need to keep lots of patience. There are many truck convoys ahead of you. Either you need to stick behind them or need to overtake entire convoy in one go.

Suvarna Vidhana Soudha as seen from highway near Belgaum
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After Hubli till Davangere you can again do triple digits and cover some lost time. There is road widening work happening between Davangere and Chitradurga, there are lot many diversions in this section which will slow you down tremendously. These diversions have all sorts of speed breakers, some visible from long distance and some visible only after front tires goes on it. Few diversions are having potholes as well.

You can again zoom from Chitradurag till Dobbaspet. Once you cross Dobbaspet then you will be again into traffic till Neelmangla and entry of NICE Road. As usual this time as well I somehow managed to miss the entry at NICE road. I need to enter Bangalore city to take U turn and come back at proper entry of NICE road.

I would like to say that NICE road is not so nice. At start the tar is vanished where you need to keep jumping into another lane. We were completely exhausted this time till we reached Electronic City. There is metro construction happening in this area where traffic is worsening. After struggling through traffic, we finally reached our hotel. After having some light dinner, we crashed in our beds.

Day 2- Bangalore to Madurai

We started a bit early from Bangalore to avoid traffic till Hosur. It was foggy in morning.


We took Bangalore – Hosur – Krishnagiri – Salem – Dindigul – Madurai. There was heavy truck traffic till Krishnagiri later it was literally a run way till Madurai. The roads in Tamil Nadu are amazing when compared with Maharashtra. We reached Madurai in afternoon itself, the lanes inside main town are quite narrow. We reached our hotel and took some rest.

In evening we visited Meenakshi Amman Temple. The temple timings are from 5:00am to 12:30pm and then again from 4:00pm till 10:00pm. They don’t allow Cameras, mobile phone inside temple. You cannot carry bag inside temple as well. They have good facility at entrance to keep your mobile phones, baggage and footwears.

Gopurams of Meenakshi Amman Temple
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There are total four entrance to temple, we went through west entrance.
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After entering inside temple, we saw that there are 3 darshan queues (one with Rs.50 ticket, second with Rs.100 ticket and third was for free darshan). We opted for free darshan as many were saying that it will take hours to have free darshan. But to my surprise within one hour we had our darshan. There is no artificial lighting near main deity. It looks so beautiful to see Meenakshi Devi in brightness of diyas.

After having peaceful darshan we roamed a bit inside temple campus. We visited their museum which is located inside temple campus. The main attraction of this museum is 1000 pillars mandap. Sculptures are craved on each pillar. There is huge idol of Shivas in Natraj mode inside this mandap.

When we came out it was already dark, the gopurams looks divine in moonlights. We went to have the famous drink of Madurai named “Jil Jil Jigarthanda”. This drink is made from milk, sugar, dry fruits and some added flavors. We had this at famous Vilakkuthoon Hanifa Jigarthanda shop located at walkable distance from temple.

Jil Jil Jigarthanda
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We roamed in narrow streets of Madurai. After having dinner we came back to our hotel. I would say that the car parking is very congested near temple. It is better to park your car at Madurai station and walk for 2 Kms or you can park in the lanes of Dhanappa Mudali street which is bit nearer to temple.

Day 3 : Madurai – Rameswaram - Dhanuskodi – Rameswaram

The entire night it rained heavily in Madurai. In morning as well there were rains with dark cloud surrounded in sky. We finished our breakfast and started our journey towards Rameswaram. The rains were increased as we were on road.
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The roads are decent in this patch. There was a mix of 4 lane and 2 lane stretches. Until Ramnathpuram we came across rains which were lessened as we moved towards Pamban. The Pamban bridge is the connection between Indian land and Rameswaram island. Now we were driving on much awaited bridge which is approximate 2 Kms long.
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The railway line running parallel to road bridge
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The bridge on railway line which gets open for ships to pass beneath it.
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We entered Rameswaram after clicking few more photos on bridge. By this time the rains were stopped. There is Rs.100 entrance for cars into Rameswaram.

APJ Abdul Kalam Memorial near Rameswaram entrance

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As sky looked open, we planned to visit Dhanuskodi first and the come back to Rameswaram. The roads for Dhanuskodi are excellent. It almost takes an hour to reach Dhanuskodi. We reached Dhanuskodi village and came to know that due to cyclone warning no one can go till tip. The security has placed barrier on road. With heavy heart we came back after exploring old village and beach of Dhanuskodi

Beach od Dhanuskodi
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Dhanuskodi is an abandoned village. The town was destroyed in cyclone of 1964 and remains uninhabited in the aftermath. This is old church in Dhanuskodi village
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I just took my location from Gmaps.
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With heavy heart for not able to visit tip we drove back to Rameswaram. It strike suddenly to me that in my last Rajasthan trip we could not visit border from Tanot due to latest surgical strikes. Somehow, these things will be in mind which will make us to plan to go there again sometimes in life.

We came to our hotel at Rameswaram and took some rest. Meanwhile it started to rain outside heavily. The temple was at walkable distance from hotel hence we decided to visit it in evening. It was raining cats and dogs outside, we waited for rains to stop but all in vain. At last we took our umbrellas and started towards temple.

Ramanath Swamy temple is famous temple in Rameswaram. It is one of the “char dhams”. They don’t allow your mobile phones inside temple. There are many lockers available at nearby shop keepers to keep your mobiles. We proceeded inside temple, it takes almost an hour to have darshan and explore temple. When we came out of temple the rains were stopped.

Ramnathswamy Temple
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Rameswaram is also known for the home of APJ Adbul Kalam which is located at a walkable distance from temple through some narrow lanes. The house of Kalam sir is open for tourist from 8am to 7pm. When we reached there it was nearing to 7pm. We quickly went inside to see the gallery where all medals were displayed. It was proud moment to see Bharat Ratna and other medals.
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We came back near temple and has some wonderful south Indian dosas.
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Day 4 : Rameswaram to Kanyakumari

I could see that now the rains have completely stopped. After getting freshen up we started our day with sumptuous south Indian breakfast having all in one thali.
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Our journey towards Kanyakumari started. While crossing Pamban bridge we again stopped to have some clicks. We took Rameswaram - Thoothukudi - Tirunelveli - Kanyakumari route. The roads are fantastic throughout.
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Some interesting hills on this route
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We entered Kanyakumari in afternoon after paying Rs.25 as a car entrance fee. We first checked in at our hotel. After resting for some time, we went for ferry ride towards Vivekananda Rock Memorial. I came to know from Tripadvisor that there is Rs.50 queue and Rs.200 queue for getting into ferry. Also, I came to know that Rs.50 queue is so long which takes hours to get ticket. But surprisingly when I reached, I could see only few people in Rs.50 queue. We took our tickets and grasped our seats in ferry. The last ferry towards rock starts at 4pm.

Ferry approaching
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You need to take life jackets and then enter ferry. Ferry is having a good seating capacity. The staff is cooperative as well. There are two gates for entrance in ferry, they allow you through one gate and when half the ferry is full then they close first gate and open second gate for entrance.
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Now we were sailing through the sea towards Vivekanada Rock Memorial.
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When you get down on the rock from ferry then you need to pay Rs.20 per person as rock entrance fees. I don’t understand why the authorities don’t club this amount with main ferry tickets.

Vivekananda Memorial
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The place was packed with tourists
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This is a statue of great Tamil poet and philosopher “Thiruvalluvar”
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There are three main places to visit on rock which are,

1) Parvati Mandapam – It is said that Devi Parvarti did “tapasya” by standing on one foot and her foot print got imprinted in this rock. We could see the foot print in this mandapam.

2) Vivekananda Mandapam – This has a huge statue of Swami Vivekananda

3) Meditation Hall – It is said that Swami Vivekananda done meditation here prior to world visit. The hall has spiritual atmosphere where just an “Om” can be listened.

Photography is not allowed at above three locations

At the back of this rock we could see some multi-color sand. It is said that the Devi was rebuffed in her marriage. She was very furious, she threw all the food (Sambhar, Dal etc.) that was prepared for wedding guests. This was the reason why it is now looking red, yellow, brown and so on.
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Kanyakumari is known to have view of all three seas, viz Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian ocean. The location is known as Triveni Sangam. It’s a religious point as few peoples were taking a dip here.
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Vivekananda Rock from different angle
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The roads of Kanyakumari are good for driving as well as walking. When we were coming back from seaside, I could see something flied quickly and vanished in bushes. After closely looking I could see it was none other than a peacock. It seems there are few peacocks in this area. I tried to click it as near as possible.
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We reached Kanyakumari temple (Bhagvathy Amman Temple). There was less crowd in temple. I was little bit annoyed when they asked me to pay Rs.20 per head. This is the first time I came across temple where there is entrance fee. Photography is strictly not allowed inside temple.

The temple is nicely maintained from inside. In no time we reached the main sanctum of the temple. It was nice to see the divine goddesses in diyas brightness. Her nose ring was glittering very bright. It is said that seaside door of this temple is kept permanently closed as few ships mislead this glittering nose ring to be lighthouse and get crashed on the rocks.

We completed our darshan and went to Gandhi Mandapam which is located at walkable distance from this temple. The ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were kept here before scattering them into Indian Ocean. Apart from 2-3 peoples there was no one here.
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The location where the ashes were kept is in center of hall. There is a hole in dome through which sunlight falls straight on this place.
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The sun had already set hence we started back to our hotel when we crossed this lighthouse which was throwing a high focus beam.
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A screenshot from google map showing my location at the end point of India
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Day 5 : Kanyakumari to Vagamon

Today we will be leaving Tamilnadu state and enter Kerala. We finished our breakfast and started our car towards Vagamon. I had noticed that many buses in Tamilnadu has nice painting on rear. While moving towards Vagamon I again came across one.
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We were slowly progressing towards “Gods Own Country” which was very much noticeable as surrounding were getting changed accordingly. The road was lined with many palm trees.
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Paddy fields beside road
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We stopped at a roadside hotel for lunch. I noticed that most of hotels just have meals in their menu in afternoon.
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My car entered Kerala and was now moving in hilly area. There are so many wonderful churches on the way towards Kumily. I could not resist to click this church as it was looking like a structure in Disney land.
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Lots of tea estates were spread across the area. The climate was getting cooler as we were proceeding towards Vagamon.
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It was almost 4.00pm when we reached our hotel. There area was filled with mist all around. The evenings were colder in this part.
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We took a little stroll in one tea estate and came back to our hotel. We ended our day after having a good dinner.

Contd:
 

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Day 6 : Vagamon to Alapuzha

The mornings in Vagamon are very pleasant. We got up freshly, had our breakfast and straightaway started towards few Points of interest in Vagamon. We first went to Vagamon Meadows. This location is having ample parking space near entrance. Though the opening time is mentioned as 8:30am but it gets open at 9:00am only.
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The meadow is paradise for photographers.
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After this we went into Pine Forest. There is no parking at this location, you need to park your vehicle beside road. Google maps will still show the road ahead as there is Treebo hotel on the way towards Pine forest, but if you are staying there then only you can take your car inside.

We parked our car beside road and started walking through narrow lane towards pine forest. One can spend as much of time here,
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After spending some time in Pine Forest when we came near Kumily it was almost noon so once again it was time for south Indian thali.
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After having our lunch, we headed towards Alapuzha by descending the entire ghat section. From Kumily onwards the roads were single lane with good amount of traffic to slow you down.

Board directing towards Alapuzha
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First sight of backwater along with boat
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We reached our hotel. After taking some rest we headed towards International Coir Museum. This place is beside main highway NH66. There is ample parking space in museum. They strictly accept cards for paying the entrance fees. The museum is maintained very well, it has a workshop within it where the preparation of Coir can be seen.

Few clicks inside museum
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The highlight of this museum is house made up of coir. You can enter it and see how beautiful it looks. Right from floor, furniture till roof everything is made up of coir. The staff is very helpful as they explain you about everything inside museum.

After exploring coir museum, we reached at Alapuzha beach. There is good parking facility at beach. It was almost evening time, I quickly clicked the sun setting at horizon.
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We had some good faloodas near Alapuzha beach.
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Day 7 : Alapuzha

We made lazy morning start on this day. After breakfast we headed straight towards Alapuzha government Jetty Point to explore backwaters. The jetty point has private as well as government boats. There is paid parking facility near the jetty. Once we got down from our car all agents gathered beside us to sale their packages.

There are many packages which one can choose. I would say there is always a package for every budget here. I bargained at Rs.500 per hour for private shikara. The deal was finalized for exploring backwaters and canals for 3 hours and return at same point.

The shikara was very well maintained and clean. The entire Shikara was for us. We slowly progressed from one canal to another and finally went to Vembanad lake at Kuamarkom.

Houseboats of different size and shapes
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Our Shikara
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Backwaters of Kerala
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Local life at backwater
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Lovely houses beside backwater
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Houseboat in Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom
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We reached back to our starting point. I would say that three hours is too much to explore the backwater because after certain point of time you become used to the surroundings.

Banana chips are famous in Kerala. You will find “Malabar Chips” shop near jetty point where you will get many sorts of freshly prepared chips. We shopped for Banana chips and jackfruit chips fried in coconut oil. Apart from this we also purchased Kerala sweet (Halwa) here. For tasting purpose, they give you good amount of quantity of everything available in their shop. Half of our tummies got full here itself.

Afternoons gets very hot in this area hence we headed back to our hotel for rest. Now entire evening was with us hence we took a stroll near one water canal. In many of these canals there is a boat service at Rs.5 per head which takes you from one shore to opposite shore of backwater. It was nice experience to travel along with locals in this boat.

Click from local boat
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We once again visited Alapuzha beach to spend evening. Had some fun in water and ended our day once again with Faloodas
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Day 8 : Alapuzha to Valparai

This was the day when we were about to bid good bye to Gods Own country. We started our trip from Alapuzha towards Valparai. The NH66 will test your patience between Alapuzha and Edappally. It has miscellaneous local traffic throughout. Few times the dividers start in between and vanishes. The bikers and truck will make you slow down. In addition to this few flyover constructions demands for diversion which are roller coaster in themselves.

After Chalakudy the forest area starts. The roads are zig zag with very less traffic on it. It was afternoon when we reached there. There are dense trees beside road
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In movie “Baahubali: The Beginning” many of us saw that mighty waterfall. After googling I came to know that this shooting was taken place at Athirapally Waterfall. We were now heading to see it as how it would be in real.

First sight of Athirapally waterfall.
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There is proper parking place near waterfall. You need to take entrance ticket and walk for say some 500meters to reach this fall. The falls are never dried up as the river Chalakudy itself falls from the peak. For security reason they have tied ropes at the banks of this river. No one can go beyond these ropes because water levels may rise within no time if dam gets open.
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There are steps to go till base from where one can get that gigantic view as showcased in Bahubali film.
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It takes quite an effort to climb all the way back from base. It was afternoon where sun was blazing hot. We were completely exhausted till we reached car parking area. We took a rest of few minutes before starting our journey. There are many vendors selling pineapples and watermelons around parking area. Beware of monkeys, they are many here!!

After a short rest we started our journey towards Valparai. A couple of kilometers ahead we came across Vazhachal waterfalls. This location is also having nice parking place. We decided that we will just click the photo and not go ahead if there is trekking involved.

If you have ticket of Athirapally falls, then there is no need to pay anything here. They have made a nice walkway which will take you near waterfall. Thank god this time it was straight and there was no need to climb any steps.

Vazhachal Waterfall
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There is forest checkpost just beside entrance of Vazhachal waterfall. We need to enter vehicle details and count of passengers. The forest officer hand over you with receipt which we need to show at checkpost at other end. The distance between two checkpost is approximately 60Kms, they provide the time of 2 hours to you. The initial start of road was very good and smooth but later while nearing to Malakkappara it started deteriorating to worst. It was pain for tires and suspensions.

View of Sholayar Reservoir on the way
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At last we crossed forest checkpost and were out of that bad road patch.
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Gates of Sholayar Dam
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By the time we reached Valparai it was almost evening. We were surrounded by beautiful tea estates. The climate was very pleasing.
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Day 9 : Valparai

I had specifically decided to stay here for one day just for relaxation as this was last spot of our trip. We got up lazily that day. After having breakfast, we decided to visit Valparai town. The roads towards town are pretty good and lined up with beautiful tea estates.

My car in tea estate
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Panoramic view of tea estate
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Lovely roads towards Valparai town.
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View at upper Sholayar Dam
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Few more tea estates
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Found this at the back of one Ford Ecosport
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We did some shopping of Tea and other small things in Valparai town. It was afternoon by this time. We came back to our rooms to take rest. After a small siesta we had a refreshing tea and headed towards Sholayar Dam.

Walkway on the dam. There is some government guesthouse at the end.
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The view of other side. It was getting darker and foggy
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The surroundings were getting colder after sunset. We had a sumptuous dinner at night and went into cozy beds.

Day 10 : Valparai to Bangalore

Today we will be starting our return journey. While travelling the days simply fly. With heavy hearts we bided good bye to Valparai and started our journey towards Bangalore. The ghat section of Valparai is famous for its 40 Hair pin bends. I remembered my drive to Ooty over 36 hair pin bends.

The roads in ghat section of Tamilnadu are simply amazing.
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Mirrors are placed at every pin bends so one can have a look for vehicle on the other side of bend
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We came across waterfall known as Monkey falls after coming out of ghats.
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Within a couple of hours, we reached Pollachi. Now the plains have started, and we were zooming towards Bangalore. At Avinashi the roads were of four lanes with smooth tarmac. We were now doing triple digits. By evening we entered our hotel at Bangalore.

Day 11 : Bangalore to Pune

This was last day of my drive. Today we will be reaching our home. The traffic of Bangalore is chaotic. To add to metro construction had made it stronger. Somehow after struggling in multiple diversions and signals I reached NICE road. It was peace to drive on NICE road once you come out of Banglore city traffic.

There was chaos created at Neelmangla toll by trucks and local traffic. The section till Tumakuru was filled with miscellaneous traffic.

After Tumakuru we done triple digits till Chitradurga. Road widening work is happening between Chitradurga till Davangere. This section sucks juice out of you. There are numerous diversions with all sorts of speed humps on them. Few diversions are simple off road. I was exhausted till we reached Kolhapur.

We took a small stop at Kolhapur for rest and later started towards Pune. In late night we reached our home safely. We were happy as one more destination was ticked off from our bucket list.

**** I forget to add that while approaching Madurai we came across direction board of Sivakasi. This name has fascinated me from my childhood because this was the name where fire crackers were prepared. There are many factories in Sivakasi who prepares fire crackers.
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“Standard” brand cracker shop
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This was clicked somewhere on the way.
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Thanks all for reading !!
 

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Nice travelogue and excellent pictures. [cheers]

We were there (early February 2019) in Madurai and Rameswaram in our last annual tour programme. Our traveller was not allowed to park on the side of the Pamban bridge hence we got down at one end and walked through to the other end. However, I found that you managed to park your car at the side of the bridge and clicked a photo. Good!
Details and pictures of my travelogue in this thread

Previously, we visited Valparai and Athirapally along with other places - details and pictures here
 
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WoW!!!!
Amazing Travelogue with such beautiful pictures and detailed information.
I am sure your Travelogues must be increasing the footfalls to the places you visit.
I am Inspired by your spirit @GrandRk
 
Thread Starter #9
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WoW!!!!
Amazing Travelogue with such beautiful pictures and detailed information.
I am sure your Travelogues must be increasing the footfalls to the places you visit.
I am Inspired by your spirit @GrandRk
Thanks bro for your words. These places are already in bucket list of many tourist.
 
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