Monday, July 3, 2017

Day 17 - Bangalore to Kanyakumari to Chennai - 12 June 2017

When I started from Keys Hotel, Bangalore at 4 am the destination I had in mind for the day was the fourth corner, Kanyakumari. ORH had been booked in Kanyakumari for the next day and I had to get that advanced by a day. Ashok Kumar, Sr. Divisional Operations Manager of Trivandrum Division came to my rescue. He also arranged for the Station Manager of Kanyakumari railway station to be on standby to attest the log sheet. It was exactly 650 km from the hotel in Bangalore to the railway station in Kanyakumari. Much beyond expectations was covering this part of the journey in 7 hours. When I reached the railway station and got the log sheet attested by the Station Manager just after 11 am, technically all four corners had been covered. But, the Record Drive will be complete only upon reaching Chennai, as the expedition started from there.

If I were to halt in Kanyakumari I had a lot of time to kill in the day. after occupying the ORH I went for a drive to the Gandhi Mandapam at the land’s end to enjoy the beach and the lovely views across the sea. The Vivekananda Rock looked majestic and tourists seemed to have swarmed her despite the not so calm sea. When I visited Kanyakumari on excursion from school I remember having marveled at the three colors of sand one could gather from the beach. All that is past and kids today can’t do that today; the beach itself is an apology.

On the way back to the ORH I had a masala dosa for lunch. Before dozing off to sleep in the ORH I decided to drive to Chennai and complete the expedition this day itself instead of ‘wasting time’ in Kanyakumari. The two hour rest gave me the appropriate fuel to make a dash for the finishing point. At 2.45 pm I signed out of the ORH and left for Chennai – the final part of the FCoI.

I lived a dream during the day with the Champion. She felt so light behind the wheel that it seemed to me that she was raring to be back home. There were many moments of anxiety during the day but, together, we braved them and got to Chennai to complete the tough expedition. It was her show. The second leg of the day from Kanyakumari to Chennai was 685 km in 8 hours and 45 minutes. Reached the end of the expedition at the House of Hiranandani, Chennai at 2330 hours. It was 1334 km in 15 hours and 45 minutes today.

The previous record for solo FCoI of 26 days, 22 hours and 15 minutes (647 hours and 15 minutes) was bettered quite handsomely. 13214 km was done in 16 days and 19 hours (403 hours) to complete the FCoI expedition, thereby shaving almost 40 percent off the existing record. Most definitely, the documents have to be verified and the record certified by Limca Book of Records. When I got back to my apartment, despite the late hour I decided to make up for the nearly three weeks of 'parched' existence with a double shot of Beluga vodka!
FCoI in summary: 13214 kms in 403 hours at 777 kms per day and overall average speed of 57.5 kmph. Total driving hours 299 hours and 15 minutes, which was 57 percent of the start to finish time. Consumed 1000 ltrs of diesel at an average cost of Rs. 59.4 per litre, fuel efficiency per litre was 13.5 km. Travelled through 17 states in 17 days to break the existing record of 647 hours and 15 minutes.

Distance, time taken and average speed for the four corners were as below:
Kanyakumari to Tezu (first corner) – 4108 km, 66 hr 10 mt, 62 kmph
Tezu to Leh (second corner) – 3796 km, 73 hr 20 mt, 52 kmph
Leh to Koteshwar (third corner) – 2624 km, 50 hr 20 mt, 52 kmph
Koteshwar to Kanyakumari (fourth corner) – 2686 km, 39 hr 50 mt, 67 kmph

My heartfelt thanks go out to each one of you who supported, encouraged and egged me on during this tough expedition; it would be unfair to take names because I am certain to leave out many, for that was the kind of all-round assistance, prayers and motivation I received. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Day 16 - Pune to Bangalore - 11 June 2017

I anticipated the day’s drive to be stress free and smooth, as I had done this stretch quite a few times in the past. I also decided to leave later than is usual, at 5 am. Access to the highway NH48 was neither far nor difficult. Normally it is a nightmare to leave a city because of poor sign posting. However, nowadays with the assistance of navigation systems, that problem has been more or less eliminated. I have seen terrible traffic snarls near the Khambatki ghat, a mountain pass through the Sahyadri range on the NH4. Early in the morning the pass is generally free.

The sight of the Suvarna Vidhan Soudha just off the highway near Belgaum made me get out of the car to take in. Apparently the Vidhan Soudha was built at a cost of nearly Rs. 500 crores to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Karnataka formation day. Belgaum district has been in the centre of a border dispute between the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka since long. In order to spike any further dispute the Karnataka Government undertook this extravaganza by acquiring 127 acres of land from farmers. The question uppermost on most minds is: Was it required to bleed the exchequer for one sitting of the Assembly here every year? Is our democracy so devoid of accountability?

I was famished by the time I reached the Kamat Upachar outlet beyond Sira at 3 pm. After fueling at the outlet beside the Upachar I had a leisurely snack of dosa and coffee. It was just another 150 km to the Keys Hotel on the Hosur Road. The transit from NH48 to NH44 via the NICE road was a beauty. The bypass has considerably speeded up the movement from one link to the other. Finally, just before 6 pm I reached the Keys Hotel and was lodged in a comfortable room. The day spanned 882 km in under 12 hours of driving. Rains, sometimes quite heavy, had slowed progress before noon. But the most irritating factor was the 17 toll plazas I had to navigate by shelling out Rs. 1,111 as toll fee. It is not the fee per se that is the irritant; it is suffering serpentine queues and quite often some boorish car owners try to impress the toll clerk with their ID to seek exemption from payment of toll fee. Why anyone should be exempted from payment is beyond comprehension when all those who are exempted, as per the list displayed at toll plazas, are those who are eligible for reimbursement of expenses while on duty. If they are not on duty they must pay. Anyway, the toll plazas must go, in the interest of saving fuel, time and management cost.

However, the more important thing that occupied my mind was that the fourth corner will come up tomorrow when I reach Kanyakumari.

17 May 2018 - Day 6 - Ho Chi Minh City to Chennai

What does it take for me to fall in love with a country? Is it the natural beauty of the country? Is it the beauty of its buildings? I...