Connecting the Ghats ... Episode 1 of 5




……. Road trip across Western & Eastern Ghats





Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” 

– Jennifer Lee





Fed-up and tired of the confinements and stream of depressing disruptions, we (Runa & I) decided to get out of our confinement and break away from the constraints imposed, and leap on to a nomadic life away from the comforts of the concrete jungle.  Thus during Oct 2020 – Feb 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, we set out on a 10,000 KM journey … Connecting the Ghats


To set the expectation .... First - this travelogue, in its later episodes, recounts our journey through lesser known tracts of the Eastern Ghats. Since much has been said and written about the Western Ghats, we decided to avoid detailed description of our Western Ghat adventures herein; Second - it would be a pain to read the entire story at one go. I have thus split the whole story into 5 episodes; Third - this Episode in particular covers the first half of the journey, it briefly provides a glimpse of our travels in and around the Western Ghat region.


Armed with sanitizer lotion, masks, gloves and visors we set out from Kolkata at 0500 hrs on 05-Oct-2020 morning on our Maruti Vitara Brezza (ZXi – 1.5L Petrol) with a goal to reach Pandavpura (Karnataka) our hub for the Western Ghat exploits. We also were adequately loaded with maggi noodles, cup-o-noodles, crate of mineral water and basic survival items, just incase we had to rough it out. A  distance of 2300 kms to be covered in 3 nights and 4 days. On all our drives the regimen has been to start early and reach the day’s destination well before sunset, giving adequate time to handle hiccups, if any. The outward journey from Kolkata, was without any glitch, other than a commonly encountered navigational error, a consequence of blindly following ‘Google-map’. The brief run-down of the drive are –

Day 1 - 05 Oct 2020 

Dep: Home (Kolkata) - 0500 hrs; Arr: Puri (Victoria Hotel) – 1420 hrs;
Duration - 9hrs 20mins; Distance - 512 Kms.

Day 2 – 06 Oct 2020 

Dep: Puri (Victoria Hotel) – 0454 hrs; Arr: Visakhapatnam (Taj Gateway Hotel) – 1315 hrs;
Duration – 8hrs 21mins; Distance – 465 Kms.

Day 3 – 07 Oct 2020 

Dep: Visakhapatnam (Taj Gateway Hotel) – 0440 hrs; Arr: Hyderabad (Novotel Airport) – 1530 hrs;
Duration – 10 hrs 50 mins; Distance – 648 Kms.

Day 4 – 08 Oct 2020

Dep: Hyderabad (Novotel Airport) -  0500 hrs; Arr: Pandavpura (Sharadindu) – 1415 hrs;
Duration – 9hrs 15mins; Distance – 687 Kms.

Total distance – 2312 Kms (Kolkata to Pandavpura via Hyderabad)


It was perhaps the best of times on Indian highways. Being the peak pandemic period the traffic was significantly low. We used to depart early with a thermos flask filled with hot water for tea / coffee and packed brunch. Due to the pandemic, the choice of overnight hotels was restricted to those considered to have convincingly confirmed compliance with COVID protocols, in addition, it also came down to hotels that could ensure delivery of packed brunch at that early hour of our departure. It was a pleasant experience to be able to find a spot off the highway, under a shade, where we could relish our packed edibles and hot coffee, apart from the hygiene breaks. This became a routine, except that the brunch changed based on what the hotels could muster varying between aloo paratha, veg sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, muffins, fruits and juice ... simply loved it .. 😋 

Roadside brunch break ... became an important part of the journey

Out of bound - Jagannath Temple, Puri

Victoria Club Hotel, Puri ... our first halt

I must highlight a general observation! .... in comparison to previous trips we noticed that in many places along the highway one could see pockets of commercial activities building up. Neighbourhood traffic that tends to exploit the highway as a local thoroughfare seems to be increasing exponentially. Easy access has also led to mushrooming of shops, tea stalls, bus stops, etc.. right on the highway. While it is a fact that a highway brings about development, uncontrolled buildup is a serious concern.  There is no restriction on any kind of vehicle such as scooters, motor bikes, three wheel tempos, bullock carts, tractors, including pedestrian, you name it, all are allowed to use the highway at such localized pockets. They come on to the highway without care and eventually create bottlenecks or accidents.  The ever increasing speed breakers and similar barriers are a testimony to such incidents. A risky trend, quite contradictory with the objective of a smooth and free highway.


Deserted beaches at Vishakapatnam

Taj Gateway Hotel .. our night halt at Vishakapatnam

Arrival at Sharadindu (Sree Senior Homes –, was a big relief, not for the distance driven, but for not having faced any hindrance on the way. Before commencing our journey, there were conflicting reports on the need of COVID epass, permits etc.. Thus a fear always loomed that if we get stopped for a COVID pass or otherwise the scrutiny and the hassles that follow, could have hazardous consequences. Having heard of other traveler stories, this was a constant apprehension. Luckily, we passed through five states (three among them amidst rapid infection spread) with much ease. Except for the border of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, there was no police check-up. At the Andhra border, it was more to do with the region being sensitive to Naxal insurgency than anything else. 

Sharadindu - a birds eye view
Sharadindu - a tranquil commune

Sharadindu, in Pandavpura, was our new base, and it is always a great feeling when you get to a home-base. We had been planning to get there much earlier but for the pandemic and the lock-downs. There were multiple reason behind choosing Sharadindu as our 2nd residence. Prime among those was the ability to reach out into the wilderness of western ghats with much ease. Sharadindu is 300 metres off NH 150A (just 30 Km from Mysuru) on the road that connects to Kere Thonnur (Thonnur Lake). It is thus away from the city. The NH150A links NH 75 to the North and NH 275 on the South as it meanders across these two highways. From Sharadindu, all major destination within Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were within a day’s driving distance. Sharadindu is located in Mandya district, with five rivers flowing through, is perhaps the greenest district of Karnataka. The land is fertile and well-watered by the perennial rivers. The greenery & beauty around Sharadindu is simply too compelling.    


Sharadindu - neighboring fields

Sharadindu - towards sustainable surroundings

Sharadindu ... how green is my valley

Sharadindu ... garden fresh neighbourhood

Path to tranquility .... Sharadindu

Sunset at Kere Thonnur ... Sharadindu neighbourhood!

Over the 4 months (Oct thru Jan) that we spent operating out of Sharadindu, we drove 3800 kms criss-crossing the Western ghats mainly the portion south of the Shayadri range and upto the Annamalai  covering the angular area where the Eastern and Western Ghats converge. The confluence of the eastern and the western ghats with its unique habitat and bird variety makes the region around Sharadindu so special from a bio-diversity perspective. Moreover, Sharadindu falls along the Central Asian Flyway the shortest flyway in the world which connects a large swathe of the Palaearctic with the Indian subcontinent.  More than 300 species of migratory birds travel along the Central Asian Flyway. These passage migrants visit the rich habitats be it driven by monsoon current, or to utilize varied range of food that is not found in other habitats, or imbibed foraging practice since ages traveling from western to eastern ghats or vice versa. 

Dancing Frog of the Western Ghats - Agumbe

Should the reader be interested, you can watch a video clip about the Dancing Frogs here ...

Asiatic Elephant - Elephas maximus (endangered)  

The routine we followed was to spend a week on the road, return to Sharadindu, recharge and once gain set out on the next exploration trip. With excellent weather and strict adherence to Covid protocols, this was an experience of a life time, witnessing a wide spectrum of bio-diversity and pursuing some of the endangered species that are endemic to the region. 


Dhole - Cuon alpinus - IndianWild Dog (endangered)

Should the reader be interested, you can watch a video clip about the Dhole here ...

Lion-tailed Macaque - Macaca silenus (endangered)

I have written separately about our wild encounters in different social media posts, hence not repeating it here. 

In the next few episodes, I wish to share our experience on our journey driving through some of the remotest regions of the Eastern Ghats starting from the tri-junction of Chattisgarh – Telangana – Andhra Pradesh into South Odisha  considered  as the 'Red Corridor' ... Naxalite active regions. Stay tuned!

Feel free to share your views, comments, critique.


...... contd.. EPISODE 2 of 6


Anonymous said…
Absolutely riveting!!

ad0312 said…
Thanks a ton KG ... Much appreciate.
Saugata Banerjee said…
Superb photos and captivating read. Loved it!
Sreenath said…
Beautifully written.
Jayanta B said…
Wow! Simply wow!!
AD, you are my hero. I want to be you when I grow up.
Anonymous said…
Absolutely engaging ... looking forward to the next episode
Padmini said…
Thank you for sharing this wonderful account of an amazing journey. It's truly inspirational. May the forest be with you :-)
Anonymous said…
Very well written. Looking forward to next episodes. Must be wonderful experience driving thru the ghats and hopping thru multiple destinations! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
ad0312 said…
Thanks to each one of you for liking the post! While I would have loved to acknowledge individually, unfortunately that is not an available feature, as much as I know of Blogger. Nevertheless, your inspiring words means a lot to me and my wandering spirits!!
AL said…
Brilliant AD , ur perfection at everything you do is so refreshing !

With Bowdi beside you as a the constant motivator , ur setting a different standard for couple goals.

Lot to learn !
Raghu said…
Lovely read AD. Waiting for the rest to come!
ad0312 said…
Thank You Abhijit.
ad0312 said…
Thank you Raghu!!
Ojha said…
Fantastic naration AD. Truly an adventure cum nature trip.
It is indeed lovely to read about your drives. It is definitely a big stress buster for me too alongwith a couple of other things. Always a pleasure to know about like-minded people.
ad0312 said…
Thank you Sumeet. Sincerely appreciate your comments.
Sukdev Sen said…
AD- Intrigues me. Great description and beautiful pictures. It’s a learning for me 👍🏻
Unknown said…
Sukdev, Greatvto hear from you. Thank you for your encouragement. Hope you folks are doing good. Cheers!!
Venkat said…
Awesome adventure so beautifully captured in words and pictures!
Unknown said…
Great to hear from you Venkat. Thanks a ton !
AD,,,, Amazing... tempting for me too. Best wishes, Arobindu
sdg said…
Great story AD, and amazing photos too!

- Sanjay Dasgupta
ad0312 said…
Thanks a ton Sanjoy. Really appreciate.
ad0312 said…
Thanks a ton Arobindu.
Thanks for sharing AD. A pleasure to go through your story and a motivation to undertake something similar. Looking forward to the other episodes.
ad0312 said…
Thank you Himanshu. Knowing you and your adventurous spirit, I truly admire your feedback.