Friday, November 27, 2009

The tale of Wayanad and the Baleno

My cubicle was killing me. My google keywords were 'drive', 'travel', 'places around Bangalore' rather than MFC calls or MAPI error codes. That urge to travel had once more reached dangerous levels.

Hence after some googling and consulting, Wayanad was zeroed in. Then came the news of rain, landslides and the resultant catastrophe in the Nilgiris. But there was also one piece of good news: the 2004 Baleno parked in my aunt's garage was looking for someone who'd put it to good use. Hence, last moment plans were made, CDs were burnt and the 200cc monster was dumped where the Baleno was once parked.

5:20am, The streets of Bangalore:: The skies were dark, the roads were wet and the winds were howling. The silver Baleno whizzed silently across the roads of Bangalore. In half an hour, we were out of Bangalore and the sun lit up the Mysore highway as soon as we passed kengeri. Generous words about this road have already been stated at many instances here. The next stop was the 24X7 Mc. Donalds just after Channapatna. After refuelling our stomachs and the car, I decided to reconfigure the tyre pressure. I was running 29/29 on the Bridgestones till now and I pumped it up to 32/31 knowing that speeds will be down in a while.

We wade through the Mysore city on the double road. The drive from Mysore to Nanjangud was the only painful stretch with local traffic comprising of maniacal KA-09 numberplates (Mysore regd) creating havoc. It felt as if a law had been passed recently mandating that all psychotics of the town to oscillate between Nanjangud and Mysore for the rest of their lives.

After Nanjangud, the road was majestic, the traffic was sparse, view was awesome and there were plenty of tender coconut vendors on the roadside. We crossed Gundulpet and took the right turn towards Bandipur. Drive to Bandipur is absolutely fascinating and the best I had on this trip. We stopped when we spotted some deer. The roads are winding and flanked by dense forests. I'd heard of Zebra crossings but out here I saw places marked as 'Elephant crossings', 'some other creature crossings'.. We rolled down the widows and enjoyed the fragrance of the forest. The Kerala check post is a big nuisance with trucks parked royally on the national highway reducing it to half a lane for both way traffic. From here, the Wayanad district starts and we drove for an hour in the hilly terrain of the ghat section to reach Kalpetta. Rain welcomed us in Kerala and made the view all the more greener.

To be honest, my first reaction on upon reaching Kalpetta was disappointment. I was expecting a hilly terrain with n number of hair pin bends, nerve crackling climbs n all. However, the entire drive presented moderate slopes. The search for a place to stay began. Our quest to stay outside the city took us to various places which turned out to be either too expensive, or too 'inside the city'. We decided to search later and headed to the Pookot lake and Lakdi trail. The visit to the lake was a pleasant experience. On a boat, in middle of the lake- we got what we had come for. Serenity, chirping of birds, peace, pure air. All these luxuries- simple but still so far in the maddening crowd of the city..

Monkeys are very decent here (yes, I cannot forget the time when I had to fight with the monkeys to retain my bag at Sivagange). The lake is formed in the valley of a number of hills and you can be assured of a majestic sight.

As we started back, the weather changed once again (and again and again in the next hour), we witnessed clouds descending from the tea gardens right onto us. We had to stop for pictures twice. I was happy that my initial inhibitions about the place were washed away thanks to the rain.

Reaching Kalpetta once again, the search for a place to stay continued. This got us to another resort called 'Haritagiri'. We still were not satisfied and after having a late lunch here (with complimentary pink ayurvedic water), the search continued. We finally landed at Green gates resort- credit goes to our persistence, our expertise in sign language (helped us ask for directions) and our craziness. But we knew our efforts have paid off as soon as we entered the resort. Located on a hill, with the drive from its gate to the actual place steep enough to keep old underpowered cars away- is the regal green gates resort. I was initially a bit wary as I had little hope that I'd find this grand place way out of my budget. The smiling staff at the reception welcomed us and as we heard the tariff, we almost pounced on them! There's no way we were going to search for any other place now that we were getting this beautiful place at such a reasonable price. With breakfast too..

This was one of the first for me: where the resort turns out to be better than the place. Located on a hill, there was ample to explore here. We took a couple of walks here and each breath was exhilarating. The air so pure, the surroundings so green and all the amenities!

We explored the resort for the rest of the day. Though we did go out in the evening – determined to explore the place and eat somewhere. However, yet again every place we went to reminded us that we could go to a better place- by going back. Hence, we returned and had dinner at the resort’s restaurant under the starry sky.

In all, the trip turned out to be a wonderful one with the prime reasons being the resort, the Baleno and the roads..

About the Baleno:

++ :)

- Confidence of taking it anywhere thanks to assured presence of a Maruti service station everywhere

- One of India’s favorite ‘mod-ded’ cars. Surely has potential. I drove the stock one with decent acceleration but have been outrun splendidly by some modded Balenos in Bangalore. A K&N filter coupled with free flow exhaust system can do wonders.

- Mileage. The big word in Indian motoring. Since my aunt’s driver cribs that this car manages only 10.5 kmpl in the city, I was expecting the trip to burn a big hole in pocket. I was amazed when calculations at the end of the trip revealed a figure of 15.8kmpl. I’ve checked, rechecked and re-rechecked. Guess need to have a word with Mr driver and ask him if he can change his driving style. Mind it- I did switch off the engine when I was coming downhill at times. Something that is not a very wise thing to do in a hilly terrain. And yes, I am a miser driver as well. The car ran between 1000-1900rpm for most of the journey. The higher tyre pressure also helped.

- Fuly loaded: I was driving the Vxi model and for that price; getting a Sony Xplod system, electric mirrors, alloys and a spoiler is just wonderful. A ‘value for money’ car.

- Riding height: I love being close to the road. No explanations needed for that!

-- :(

- Maruti engineering. Well it lasts but is always coupled with a couple of squeaks and rattles that refuse to die.

- Lacks precision: Though the basics are right: engine, chassis and suspension can take on Indian roads, but…. You miss precision engineering. A couple of tight corners, feedback from the steering- you drive it long and you know its not perfect.

- Space: I am convinced that Santro or i-10 could beat it in terms of cabin space. Two tall people- one in the driver’s seat and the other behind hime are bound to have a fight regarding pushing back the seats.

- Riding height- yes I did mention that I love being low, fast and close to the road. But given the condition of our roads, this is a big problem. Sickening crunches or chassis scrapes are painful noises even to the non- automotive population.

1 comment:

  1. Dude.. First word.. Jealous.!! Absolute freaking jealous I am when I imagine the tranquility you drove to, far away from this mad place.. But awesome article nevertheless and you have this amazing style of making the reader connect with what you write.. Keep them coming..!!