Recently, I undertook the first long trip in my silverline ES. My family was very excited about the journey. We had covered Ooty and Palani before being back to Chennai. We had to skip Pollachi, which was part of original plan but dropped off as I need for me to come back to office to back up another colleague who is proceeding on leave.
Chennai-Ooty route : Chennai – Vellore – Krishnagiri - Dharmapuri outer - Thoppur - Mettur - Andhiyur - Athani - Sathy - Mettupalayam - Kothagiri - Ooty.
Ooty – Palani route: Annanur, Karumathampatti, Palladam and Dharapuram
We started at 3:30 PM from Chennai. We were crossing Poonamalee at 4:30 pm. Reached Vellore by 7:00 pm for an early dinner at Hotel Ariyaas and proceeded till Mettur (11:00 pm) for night stay. We stayed at SLK Tourist home (charges Rs 880/- per night).
Started at 8:30 am from Mettur and reached Bannari Amman Instt. of Tech, Sathy by 9:00 am. We stopped for breakfast in a small hotel at left diagonally opposite to the college. We were served hot parotas which were too soft which I cannot forget. This coupled with hot cup of tea, made a very delicious breakfast indeed!! In Chennai, I doubt whether we can get Parotas for breakfast.
We reached Ooty at 12:00 PM through Kothagiri route. Special mention to Mettupalayam - Kothagiri - Ooty road which I felt like an ultra-smooth to drive with virtually no traffic. At Ooty, our single tour agenda was to visit Avalanche to complete the Safari ride but owing to the huge rush and Forest department Safari vehicles fully booked, we were asked to come next morning by 9:30 am.
Woke up at 6:00 am and had a nice walk on the hill slopes nearby to hotel. Also had a taste of Ooty tea. We got ready and reached Avalanche by 9:20 am for our Safari trip into the forest. To our surprise, there were already lots of groups waiting for Safari.
We did not get a slot in first trip and had to wait for second trip at 12:15 pm. We spent our time visiting nearby lake and clicking some photos. In the safari ride, we were able to spot only a wild bird and by the time I clicked it, it flew away!! (Morning trip people saw a leopard, a fox and a warthog). After the trip ended at by 2:15 pm, we went to Lovedale to visit a friend. Enroute we had lunch in a small hotel at Muthorai which was very good and cheap too.
Enroute Lovedale, we went through Lawrence school, a very beautiful International school at Lovedale.
Winding up our Ooty trip at 5:15 pm, we came to Mettupalayam through Coonoor at 7:10 pm. Going through Coonoor is a very bad experience because of road having pothholes and heavy traffic mar the excitement of ghat section driving. The ride was so tired; we decided to stay at Mettupalayam for that night.
On Day 4 morning, we left Mettupalayam at 6:30 am and reached Palani by 9:10 am with a 20 mts stopover in KDC Ltd (Kumbakonam degree coffee pvt ltd, Palladam-Dharapuram road) for hot vadas and a good filter coffee . We went through. All through the way, the roads were excellent with just one stretch near Karumathampatti (2 kms) having bumps. The only challenge was to maintain the speed not more than 90kmph owing to 2 lane road with incoming heavier traffic.
We completed our Darshan by 2:00 pm and had lunch at TTDC hotel near to temple. We started our return journey at 2:30 pm. Palani to Chennai roads were excellent. Palani to Dindigul was two lane and after crossing Dindigul, we were in GQ type NH all through Chennai barring 15 minutes city drive in Tiruchi at around 4:30 pm. We reached home at Chennai by 9:30 pm travelling through Dindigul, Manaparai, Tiruchi, Samayapuram, Ulundurpettai, Villipuram, Chengalpattu.
I have included some photographs. The continuity may not be there but nevertheless tried to provide all the photos taken enroute while driving. Some points on ES before breaking off here:
1. Engine was very smooth with no clatter most of the time and in many places found that the noise of engine is hardly audible while driving. The engine responsiveness also gave me confidence while overtaking.
2. With tyre pressure of 32 psi on all tyres with only 3 of us, I felt a little bumpy ride when the roads are uneven. Enroute to Avalanche, the road were so bad in some stretches, the vehicle also shook heavily as per road ups and downs. The only saving factor was the ground clearance. Overall I was satisfied with my vehicle owing to ground clearance, titanium gizmos, responsive engine, practically excellent bootspace, rear leg space, easier handling and comfort etc. The armrest and lumbar support were boons for long driving.
3. Presence of family had restricted my speed to 100 kmph max. This is sharp contrast to me earlier accelerating my Santro Xing to 150 kmph in ECR from Pondy to Chennai when driving solo or with friends few years back. Whenever I saw straight smooth roads with no vehicles in victinity of my Silverline, instincts to press the accelerator took over atleast twice.
4. I realized bit late that I am carrying a bomb in form of thick A pillar. This was evident acutely in ghat sections where I was not able to locate vehicles coming in turnings. I did overcome this by leaning bit forward when my driver sense or instincts tells that 'A' pillar will block a view.
5. Few of the the ghat roads outside Ooty were very steep with inclination angle at 40 degrees (roads near Avlanche).Felt the heaviness of ES when I found that I need to rever the engine bit harder when climbing steep inclination in ghats. A minimum speed of (app 30 kmph) is always necessary to prevent vehicle slowing down to engine stalling. I think steep ghat sections reveal as if ES is underpowered at times. Climbdown at lower gears helped to control the vehicle in steep areas.
6. Auto AC worked well and found its benefits particularly in Ooty where chillness vanished as soon as I switched it on in the vehicle. No need to dabble with any rotary switches.
7. I cannot agree more with members' opinion that stock headlamps are not suitable for highways. I find that it has only a short distance clear throw creating risks at speeds above 80 kmph. Will change it to Philips EV asap
. I am afraid if it will void the warranty.
8. I had few people at Ooty enquiring about my ES on its performance, waiting period etc.
9. Made one mistake of allowing hotel staffs in Mettur to wash the vehicle because of lots of dead insects on the bonnet. Though they did a good job, the slight wetness all over the vehicle attracted lots of dust and mud which made cleaning a cumbersome process throughout the trip wasting few hundred bucks. Lesson: Never wash the vehicle just before travelling long distance when you are likely to encounter dust. Just clean/dust the vehicle with a soft brush and that should be enough.