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This is my first travel story in India-Drive.
I have been working in Bangalore from the past few years.
Recently, I moved back to Hyderabad.
My last drive is from Hyderabad to Himalayas with India-Drive team.
It is my best and longest I have ever done in my Duster.
I have been to Suryalanka around 10 times, frankly speaking, I lost the count!
Last month me and my friend decided to go on a quick weekend getaway.
Plan is to start on Saturday morning and come back by Sunday evening.
We all know that Suryalanka is overcrowded during weekends.
So we constructed a strategy to beat the crowd.
Hyderabad --> Vijaywada --> Suryalanka
We took this route since we had accommodation(friend's place) at Vijayawada.
Best route from Hyderabad to Suryalanka
Hyderabad --> Nalgonda --> Miryalaguda --> Narasaraopet --> Suryalanka
I would suggest people to visit Chirala beach along with Suryalanka, we missed out due to time constraint.
We started on Saturday around 11AM.
We took the famous the Hyderabad-Vijayawada section.
This is one of the best section after Hyderabad-Bangalore.(my personal favorite)
Maintained steady 110km/hr in my trusted Duster.
We reached Suryapet by 2PM and stopped over for lunch at Hotel 7.
Hotel 7 is one of the best in terms of Infrastructure/Food/Quality/Maintenance.
Suryapet to Vijayawada took us around 2 hours +.
Crossing Vijayawada is always pain. Multiple diversions and no proper signs leads to confusion.
One of our friend stays in Vijayawada outskirts, we reached his place by 5PM.
Decided to call the day off.
Has anyone been to Philippines? Need help and information. I am doing quite a detailed research on this beautiful country and looks like the trip can be extremely surprising with 7000 islands and the vastness of the country.!
The distance and the accessibility between or across many islands can be little time consuming. Need guidance on the worth visiting spots and logistics for the planned itinerary.
Those who say God is a great creator, I guess they forget to say He is a great painter too .... with his five fingers on each hands the way he painted Andaman in blue , green and white , one must travel himself to experience this slice of paradise in India.
A destination with beautiful pristine beaches , multiple islands to explore, rich marine life and a great spot to begin your water sports in India.
Andaman has two options to reach - Flight through Chennai or Kolkata or take a ship/vessel from Kolkata /Chennai.
The island has the beauty of Indian ocean and blessed with nature all around. I tried looking for a direct flight but had to fly via Chennai from Hyderabad. You dont need to change your flight at Chennai. Its not connecting but via Flight! .
Security quickly comes and check your boarding pass and then you fly again in less than 50 minutes from Chennai to Port Blair. The total journey is four hours ( Hyderabad to Chennai - One hour and Chennai to Port Blair - 2 hours ).
Port Blair has a lot of options to explore and of course a great place to visit around many other connecting islands or parts of Andaman. However I had a mission to step first in Havelock - a well known water sports and honeymoon destination for Indians.
From Port Blair you can take a ferry - ( Government Ferry/ Green Ocean /Mukruzz) to reach Havelock.
The travel time with Mukruzz is one and an half hour. You need to keep your bookings either online from the website or through travel agents since the seats on each ferry are limited . Once you reach the ferry , you need to get your tickets checked in and stamped to board the ferry. Ensure you double check your timings and make your flight and ferry bookings accordingly.
The ferry from the airport is just 3 kms and cab drivers can charge you anywhere between INR 200 to INR 300 for a drop.
The union is very strong so only option is to ensure you negotiate with calm and witty answers instead of any arguments.
Mukruzz runs three times a day from Port Blair to Havelock and Neil Island.
As the vessel starts its journey over the ocean, you can see the beauty of the blue water with islands around and their silver sands stretched across the shore.
Once you reach Havelock, collect your luggage from the disembarked part of the vessel and exit the ferry.
At the exit of the ferry itself you can see small boats which take you to Elephant beach for INR 900 and offer you free snorkelling. Other way of reaching Elephant beach is by trekking for 2 kms through muds and jungle. Choice is yours to select ! Pick whatever suits your temper or mood.
You do have Taxi stand and water sports centers at the exit of the Ferry! Feel free to negotiate for both of them for a day trip.
We booked our resort at Vijaynagar Beach - one of the most beautiful beaches that connects you through the beach side of all good resorts in the same stretch till Kalapathar Beach.
Our booking was at Dolphin Resort. A lot of other resorts are in the same road and can be a great option for family and couples.
We hired a cab and reached the resort just 3 kms away from the jetty. The reception was quite welcoming after a long traveling . The sea facing cottages will not only take your breath away, you can see haven of heaven and beauty of sea all around in the stretch of the beach with white soft sands, Mohua Tree and gentle cool breeze!
The skeleton of some old big trunks, beds of wooden sofas, green lawns with beautiful flower and trees all around just bring out a fresh you after a long journey!
The island has no network as such and have to be away from the technology . In a way its a great thing to reconnect with people around you and not with those who are away from you! You are forced to look back at the beauty of nature and interact with the people around you. It is a great moment to speak and discover that you have been pet of technology so much, this liberty if gives you nothing but atleast a light mind and a great mood to focus on your travel and trip with your companions.
The options of dinning is actually very less. The timeline for all courses - Breakfast, lunch and Dinner are strictly within mentioned time frame and it is followed almost across all the islands in Andaman. If you have an idea to drink and fish out any bottle from any bar anytime . I am sorry, you have to rework on that attempt. All licensed bars have rights to sell drinks only thrice in a month and no liquor is sold outside the permission day .
The sunrise in Vijaynagar is the best! The beach is so clean and clear, you would not mind sitting and bathing in the water, soaked in the sun over the white sand for hours. Time is such a luxury in Havelock - no matter how much you spend, you still see time left in your pocket for the day.
Havelock is a place to book two wheelers for INR 500 a day and go around exploring the island. Ensure you fill petrol from the pertol Bunk at fairly cheaper rate of INR 68 instead of paying INR 80 at the bike on rent outlet.
From Vijaynagar beach, Kalapathar beach is very close . It is on the same stretch and connects you through a nice shadeful road. Kalapathar on a cloudy afternoon will remind you of your ride towards Chapora Fort drive in North Goa from Sinquerim Beach after Taj Resort!
From Kalapathar beach you can head directly to Radhanagar Beach. This beach is known for its sunset. I did see some videos on Youtube before but my first sight at the beach blowed million cucumbers in my eyes for its cooling soothing effect. The crescent shape beach with trees all around and sea so blue and shimmering is just too good to be true! The white soft sand , less people and clear water is strong reason enough to sit quietly and enjoy the breeze and the sunset.
If you want to have lunch before Radhanagar beach entry, you can pick up one of the small outlets offering typical meals and a non veg menu of your choice.
I would recommend for a stay at vijaynagar beach over Radhanagar beach because Radhanagar beach will cut you off from every thing else in the world.
The 3rd day was to take a cruise again and reach Neil Island in the morning. The travel time is one hour. Neil island is a 7 km island with three places to visit
Sitapur, Lakshampur Beach I , Lakshmanpur Beach II and Bharatpur Beach.
Bharatpur Beach is for water sports and Lakshmanpur Beach I is for Sunset and Lakshmanpur Beach II is for visiting a natural bridge formed of rocks . You can also visit Mangrove close to Sitapur beach. In my opinion best option is to book a jetty in the morning for Neil Island and then return by afternoon to Havelock or Port Blair. Other than the blue water, I didnt find much to get excited or spend money on! Bharatpur beach is a place for water sports -you can go for snorkelling, Scuba Diving, Paragliding, Glass Bottom Boat ride , jetsky all at a package or select and make your own package. As the day pass, the demand for water sports decreases and your negotiation power increases. However you do miss the beauty of water sports that can really thrill you in the early morning over late afternoon.
4th day, we had a ferry booked to Port Blair. We decided to stay at Mega Pode . Thanks to Sruthi for recommending this resort. Megapode is just a little over 1 Km from the jetty. The resort is big and faces the ocean and jetty. The maintenance and room services are also great! It has multi cuisine restaurant, Bar and also garden area to sit and relax your evening or late afternoon looking at the ocean.
The same afternoon we booked a cab and traveled almost 29 kms from the resort to a spot known as Chidiyatapu! There is no entry fee for this sunset hilly region. You get to explore a lot of places on your way to this destinations. You get to run next to the airport runaway and can click take off or landing of flights! There are few really nice off beat photography location on your way to Chidiyatapu! There are spots where you need to little conscious to ensure its not a landing for crocodile and if not can have great photography of the sea and you together . Try to reach the spot by 3 PM so that you can hike/treck for 2 kms up hill and look at beautiful andaman, the ocean and the sunset ! I am confident like many you will enjoy the beauty of the place.
If you want you can go to Cellular Jail for lights and sound show , Mahatma Gandhi Water Complex for sport Activities, Handloom Industry at port Blair. In the interest of time, we decided to go and relax in Karbon Beach and spend time watching others enjoying the waves and water sports.
The time we visited , Andaman was hosting a festival known as Milan ( meeting ) having all neighbouring countries brought their vessel in Port Blair.
We wanted to visit Jolly bouy island . This island comes under Mahatma Gandhi National Park controlled by Forest department . There are multiple islands that comes under this region and also controlled by the forest department. To travel to the permitted island , we would need to have permission from the forest department and you cannot carry any plastics. Your bags are checked and permits are stamped. You can get your permits by travel agents . Jolly Bouy speciality is - the island remains closed for 6 months and remains open for 6 months -October to March every year. The break of six months is to increase the richness of marine life in the sea. The season when Jolly bouy remains closed, Red Skin island remains open.
You are not suppose to carry any plastic bottles. You can rent two water bottles for a security deposit of INR 200 for each bottle you rent and fill it up with sealed water bottles . After security check you board the boat and journey through the clear water for close to 40 minutes. The jetty is close to 40 minutes drive from the resort . It is close to wandaroor beach almost 29 kms away from Port Blair.
The journey can be fascinating since you get to hear and see a lot about Andaman during Tsunami and its impact and effect and other islands around.
Jollu Bouy island is really beautiful like any other untouched island. You dont get to eat or drink anything at this island. The three hours trip includes swimming, snorkelling and glass bottom boating! The charges are usually INR 200, INR 500 & INR 1000. The crystial clear water and marine life is so so rich in this island, one really needs to see it to believe it! The school of fish of different color and sizes, the huge size of oysters , variety shades of star fish and corals are breathe taking and of course quite an experience.
Incase you want to do any other trip , you can definately go to Ross Island, Twin Island, Ross and Smith Island, Batarang Island Trip and have Mud Volcano experience. Though we do have multiple choices to go and explore in Andaman, it is still an island with certain restrictions like lots of island across the globe.
Keep these in mind -
Night life is zero after six PM.
No Drink options unless your hotel keeps bottles .
Meals are kind of tiring to eat and have very limited options across the island. So dont be particular or choosy. Keep an open mind.
Water Sports -discuss and judge your sense before paying and jumping in the water. you should go for snorkeling and scuba diving early morning.
Union is strong for cabs and bikes. Prefer to take two Wheeler for your trip in every island.
Book your ferry before you reach Andaman . Opt for online or Agency support to book them.
Population is good enough to speak in Hindi and English.
Pick a hotel next to the beach or else your trip will lost the purpose and have no value of return
Try visiting during Full moon day or just after full moon day. You will experience high tides and water just next to the beach resort. Or else you get to see only dead corals.
Try Chidiyatapu for a drive, learn about culture, business, life style of the locals.
This was the last view of Andaman from the flight!
What if I give you a package comprise of – Hills, sea, lakes, pristine beaches, seafood, nice resort , good roads and panoramic view - all for a very economical pricing and you cover all of these without any rush in just three days? Don’t turn your face away! As you keep reading this travelogue below, you can experience the beauty of the trip –so vast and versatile, no dispute –Konkan coast is one of the best road trips to do!
The long weekend of 15th August was the reason enough to go and explore Konkan coast. This is one trip I shall always cherish for its simplicity and havoc journey through hills and lakes and coastal lines. The month was the busiest for me and I was drained out by the time I was set to fly to Pune for this journey. Continuous travelling for three weeks just made me run out of energy to pack my bag and fly to Pune for Konkan coast drive. However just after half an hour drive from Pune, the magic wheels flushed out all the toxins in my thoughts – “I am Tired!” Infact – I was on the road that changed my mood and became passport to one of the most memorable trips of 2017.
Saturday Morning – I had a flight from Hyderabad Airport to Pune. My friend for Donkey years got his Nissan Terrano ready at the airport. We started the journey at 7 AM. He is very particular with his car! He would not let anyone touch the car . That was more like a pre independence celebration of my hands and legs before 15th August. Only things I kept myself engaged were - mouth to speak, eyes to see the scenic beauty and mobile phone for quick GPS guidance. However this trip would not have been successful without Nikhil Patel from India Drive. His guidance was simply Fantastic.
Target destination was Devbagh, Tarkarli and Malvan Beach. We had no bookings for accommodations. We decided to go to Kholapur and take our first break. However once we stepped out of Pune, we had our first halt for a short tea break just below Khandala. The saga of hills, ghat roads can be seen from this spot.
Your mind gets unloaded with the fresh air and highway speed as you keep climbing the ghat road! The road to Kholapur from Pune is pretty decent. It’s a four lane road. You definitely enjoy the beauty on both sides, can spot small mountains, breeze and light shower of the monsoon and seasonal flowers all over.
Once we touched Kholapur, we decided to have lunch. We decided to have lunch at Dehati. This is one of the must try restaurants! The restaurant is very decent, have awesome dishes and try out the Kholapuri Thali! They serve in copper crockeries and utensils. The chaas is awesome and come in Kokkam mix and the mutton keema will activate your taste buds like a bomb! The food is so delicious, I could not imagine anything better can be offered for the lunch. They served each item one by one. This keep your food warm and just from the oven!.
After Happy eating, was the time for real driving! We headed towards Radhanagri Road! One has to be really insensitive to ignore the beauty of this journey! The road takes you up to the mountain with Ghats on right side, seasonal water falls at every curve, forest and wild flowers, plants and greenery, fog and mist and farming land far away in some village as if painted by Dali of Maharashtra! . Incase you want to visit the dam /reservoir, you can take a look at the dam and do photography!
Radhanagri has another beautiful feature. The quick changing weather can bring a lot of mist and fog on your way followed by canopy of trees, lush plantations, sneak peek of dears and monkeys. The beauty of the place is ornamented with seasonal waterfalls and then suddenly you realized you have reached the plateau which opens up to a super beautiful pristine lake.
The lake is so huge and beautiful, you don’t mind stopping for sometimes and ideally enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings. No matter where you halt your car, you can either hear cricket, birds chirping or waterfalls! It is not recommended to go away without enjoying these scenic beauty and sound of nature. It is advised - lower down the window panes and step out of the recycled air in your car!
We halted almost at every corner and clicked pictures of the seasonal waterfalls, plants, flowers and the greenery. The kingdom of clouds float all around the ghat road and bring plenty of peace. While standing at the edge of the lake, you do spot a temple on the other side of the lake. You cannot see any mankind but you know for sure, you are not alone in this mystic world of silence and nature.
Without further delay, we headed towards Malvan. Another must worth mentioning part of the trip was– every tea stall you stop the car, you get fresh tea brewed in front of you! They use herbs, tea leaves and masala to brew your drink! What a taste…. Sometimes it does surpass elderflower essence So, to my surprise.
This experience was very uniform throughout my journey for next three days. Kudos to all Aai who prepared tea on our way.
It was towards the dusk, we reached Tarkarli beach. The beach road has plenty of houses for homestay. We decided to go and look for Maharashtra government lodge. I heard they are usually located at good spots and maintained well. It was quite big resort just on the shore. However the receptionist was more like he owns Hyatt and was rude enough on your face.
He was upfront - take any room you want but tomorrow we might ask you to leave if we have people coming in. Without a second thought, I ticked off the spot off my list! However I did pay a quick visit to the cottages. I was happy I decided to quit. The charges were INR 3000 plus for a bed which has two blanket and a roof made of thatch! The light settings was like we are just taking off inside the flight .
It was little frustrating to find a decent resort after we left the government resort. Since August is monsoon and off season, almost all the resorts were off and were closed. However you will find people are pretty helpful sending you to other resorts for accommodation. All come his way – he who waits – we finally reached a resort which was very decent and run by a local family.
The cost of the room was INR 2000 which is very clean, well maintained, slim furniture – making enough space for two people, clean washroom with geyser, air conditioner and television. It had a big window facing the sea and a big balcony with two easy chairs for you to sit and enjoy the breeze. The property is in expanding mode. It has garden, plenty of space for further development. It opens up on Tarkarli beach. Once we dumped our luggage, we went straight to the beach. The neatness was quite high and unspoiled by mankind- the footfall is less in off season.
It was quite interesting to see when fishermen return from fishing, you get van come to get the fishes directly from the boat to the van and go for trading at markets. This is indeed a great strategy to keep the beach clean. We did spend quite a long hour on the beach, letting the sound of the waves evaporate our tiredness for good.
We did order sea foods. Almost all listed in the menu card were available for order. We didn’t hesitate to order promphet, prawns and chicken for the night! The cold breeze and beautiful night was enough for us to call it a day!
This day was for exploring Devbhag beach, Malvan Beach . We started our journey with Devbagh beach. Devbagh beach is known for water sports. Once you reach the beach, it has back water on the left and sea on the right. The point where the sea and the lake meets is really beautiful. You have plenty of people conducting water sports and sea trips. We negotiated for INR 500 and got to visit Dolphin point, Tsunami Island, Meeting point of Devgarh beach and lake. I was lucky to spot few dolphins in the morning otherwise it’s not so easy to spot one. The meeting point was very rough though for the boatman he said –“ no danger!”
Tsunami Island is said to have formed in 2004 after Tsunami. This island get vanished during high tide, usually in the evening and again get visible next day morning! The best part is the sea walk. Once you reach close to the island, you need to get off the boat and walk to the island over the sea. One might think, you would drown soon, you realize the fun only when you land on the water. The guide told us, they can do snorkeling during peak season starting from October and the island get visitors like crazy during the day. It turns into a commercial spot during business season.
After the water sports, you can take a leisure walk on the beach! Its quiet and peaceful surrounding! You can just walk and take a place of your own to enjoy the view of the waves. For Lunch we headed to atithi . It is a well-known place for Lunch and dinner. You get variety of fish and Konkani dishes. It’s been told the place is so popular that in peak season, you need to wait at least for 45 minutes to get a seat.
After lunch, we had few more beaches to cover! We did cover the Rock Garden beach! The garden is very small but once you step towards the shore, you can see water blows which is a classic! The designed rocks on the edge and the natural beds of rocks are both -simply awesome and beautiful. If you want to get drenched, you can simply sit on a rock bed and enjoy the splash all over! Otherwise just enjoy the breeze and see the locals fishing using small baits for pleasure and fun!
Take a drive further down to Malvan beach , visit the Sindhudurg fort , enjoy the sunet! We decided to take a lovely walk in our own resort beach! It was so quiet and peaceful, we went on walking for almost two hours one side and chit chat with few fisher men on the shore! Their journey for the day was over and they just were getting ready to march towards home! The sunset was beautiful, leaving a flavor for such pristine beach and tranquility in mind.
Next day we wanted to start early and cover few beaches on our way! The locals informed us that Vengurla can be a nice spot for a trip and also thelight house. As we started around 8 am in the morning, to our surprise it was another beautiful road journey through forest, villages, ghats and waterfalls! The fresh air and the clouds over the sky was perfect to feel the cool breeze and smell of the earth! It takes you back from where we all come from! The surprise waterfalls and sudden ghats only leaves you packed with energy for the rest of the journey!
Vengurla Light house was just a surprise for us. It has two ways . Road 1 – By walking and Road 2 - taking the vehicle directly to the light house on the top of the mountain. It was a wise thing to take the car all the way up to the lighthouse! The moment you start going up in the mountain, you start seeing a different topography! The road is lush with green plants and flowers, sneak peak of beach on the left, direction to more than five beaches on the right! As we approached towards the light house gate, we stared spotting peacocks, grazing goats and butterflies!
It was just a mystery that such a hidden treasure was hiding on the top of the mountain. At times you are not fortunate to get everything! Light house gates were chained and closed. We tried ringing the number found on the gate for checking if someone responds. It went unanswered as well. However when He takes a thing away, He gives you back something better! After getting disappointed, we just decided to walk and follow the butterflies for some photography!
Little did we know we were marching towards a zone from where you can have the entire view of the Vengurla beach , crazy waves on the rocky side of the shore, azure blue sky lined below with sky blue water of the ocean! . We didn’t bother to repent on driving up to a closed light house! We did silently sit on the edge and enjoy the heaven for at least 30 minutes. On our way to Sawantwadi, we did spend sometimes in three more beaches! Its interesting one stretch can have so many beaches hidden on the way! All of them are lovely and can be accessed easily!
Though most of the beaches are secluded and have very less footfalls, use your discretion before going and the time of the day you are going to these beaches. We have spotted few people though, still a recommendation for your own safety. The beauty of the beaches are awesome. You have clean sand all over!
As we keep driving towards Sawantwadi, we continued exploring the nature and its beauty! Some places are just stretched with palm trees, some stretch are full with coconut trees, some have lakes and some have mountains around both sides of the road. For lunch we halted at Sawantwadi. The restaurant is one of the most traditional dhaba with Konkani, Marathi dishes!
I promise you won’t be disappointed in trying either fish or chicken or mutton! Just have patience… because almost every other car stops and crowd have lunch and move out. As we bid bye bye to the city, we were entering the zone of waterfalls! The monsoon and the weather just made Sawantwadi ghat so so beautiful. With every turn and curve, you see you are just one turn closer to the waterfalls and away from the sea level.
Sawantwadi is no more the charming place it used to be before! Wherever there is mankind, there is destruction of nature! All I could hear, noise, scream and honking. Instead of fresh air, it was smell of cooked food, snacks and crackers. Instead of flowers and greenery, we can see plastic bottles and leftovers around!
There was no point of seeing this damage and we drove further almost three kilometers ahead for our next stop. In a minute we were free from the nuisance and just parked our car next to a place where it was just covered with floating clouds!
Right after Sawantwadi ghat, we left towards Pune. It was an extraordinary feeling when you see beauty of nature in so many different flavours! Just at the turn towards kholapur highway and not even 2 kms, we found a spot that will jaw drop you! This was again a lake with beauty unparalleled...
The place is known as Ajra.
You can simply park your car down and climb up a small mountain like structure and enjoy the nature and breeze for free! How beautiful life is when its simple and free.
Only thing left in this journey was to go back to Pune! The holidays were over, the dates went to the books of history, phone was untouched almost two days except for photographs! As we started driving towards Satara, sipped fresh brew tea at stalls, enjoyed the sunset and evening breeze, only thing was on mind ..... In September .. I have my next destination on card... so lets get ready again!!!
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