The fuel station attendant knocked on my window at 3.45 am – a full half hour before the appointed time. He said that at time there would be fewer vehicles on the road and that I should wash up and drive. He showed me to the toilet and by 4 am I was on my way to Puducherry. I felt happy that nearly two thirds of the distance was covered – had done 4300 of the 6600 kms.
The roads were free and I made haste to Chennai via Puducherry, Cheyyur and Kelambakkam. At Puducherry I drove into the Sunway GRT Hotel for the attestation and was duly obliged. The check points at Cheyyar and Kelambakkam, in my view, were not relevant, and unscientific diversions as they were not on the coast. The route need not have stipulated these check points at all.
I arranged to meet T.P. Abraham, my cousin popularly known as Avirappi, for the attestation in Chennai. Close to 10 am I hit the highway to Gudur. I was making good time and then came the needless Durgarajupatnam diversion. It was 60 kms of up and down from the highway. I located a former Sarpanch of the village to do the attestation, which he did after making me comfortable in his house. They even took a few photographs. The long drive through the city of Nellore cost me more time. I was wiser when I got to Ongole. I retraced the road to the highway entrance after the attestation rather than go through ahead to the exit. That could be as long as 10 kms of slow moving and frustrating traffic.
After Ongole I had to drive off the NH5 and take the NH214A to get to Bapatla, Machilipatnam and Narsapur. The 290 kms to Narsapur from Ongole took more than 7 hours. I was cooked. The road passed through busy villages and it was festival time. Tractors, animals and excited villagers were all over the place. It quieted down only after 11 pm. Speeding is scary. There are no street lights. Suddenly a tractor will appear in front of you with a full load of passengers. It is you who has to steer away to avoid them.
Narsapur was no place to rest. So I decided to drive another 80 plus kms to Yanam, where I thought I will find some place to rest. I reached Yanam at 2.40 am. It was disappointing. The place looked so run down and smelt of dung all around. I drove through the small city and decided against resting there. I weighed options. The only alternative was to drive to Visakhapatnam, where I knew I could ‘disturb’ my friend, Thulasi, any time. But it was 200 kms away. I pulled up on the roadside and decided to halt in car for a few hours – the second day in a row in the car. The comforting thought, as I was settling into a deep sleep, in the car was that I had reduced the backlog to 200 kms. I had been behind the wheel for nearly 23 hours for 1095 kms!!