After a long gap of about a year, my travelling has resumed. The last road trip I did was to Hampi, Karnataka. It is one of the most amazing places I have ever been, and I am longing to go back there to spend at least a week. Well, if I make it to Hampi again, I won’t be going on a solo road trip this time. I got married this year in March, and the two of us went to a beautiful place called Unawatuna in Sri Lanka. We were lucky enough to be back in India just before the lockdown started.
So after about six months of lockdown, we hit the road on 5th September. After long deliberation, we settled for the Ananthagiri Hills. I had been to this place twice before and I did not like it much. But after reading a lot of blogs and watching a few YouTube videos, I realised I had never gone to the hills! It still did not seem exciting – I mean, I have driven in the lap of western ghats and there is no comparison. However, there isn’t much option. I viewed hundreds of pages, but I couldn’t find any other place which is worth a day’s trip. We needed a break, and we did not want to go for an overnight stay because of the obvious reasons.
We started our trip at around 9 AM and the instant we hit the road we realised that we were late. Unlike the entire previous month, there was no sign of rain that day. The weather was sunny and hot, not even overcast. Because of lockdown, we did not want to eat or drink outside so we prepared sandwiches and kept cup noodles with us. After driving for about an hour, we stopped under the shades of trees and ate our sandwiches. We stretched our legs and after spending 10-15 minutes we restarted our journey. We were not too hopeful of what we were about to find after reaching Ananthagiri Hills. But I had seen a video the day before a group had posted on YouTube. On the way to Ananthagiri Hills, there was an eucalyptus plantation where we wanted to make the next stop. It was big enough to spot, and we stopped for some time there. If you are travelling to Ananthagiri Hills, then you would want to stop here for a while. Click here to get the map location.
The view was amazing, a lot of tall trees in straight lines, well organised. It was a government controlled plantation or forest and there wasn’t any place to sit or hang around. We clicked a few photographs, but it was one of those rare instances where I could say the photograph, at least the ones I took, was not doing any justice to the actual place. Anyway, after spending some time we restarted our journey.
We reached our destination in about 3 hours. We parked the car in the parking lot, paid for the parking ticket (I guess it was 20 bucks). It surprised me they were charging for the entry of people, 30 bucks per person. It was ridiculous, it’s just a natural valley, it’s not like they were taking care of an ancient monument. I paid 80 bucks for us and the car and headed into the forest. Considering the lockdown and the unpleasant weather, the number of people at that place was way more than what I was expecting. Anyway, we started our so-called trekking. The heat was becoming unbearable, and we saw no beauty at that place. I admit, had it rained that morning, the view would have been entirely different. We walked for about 15 minutes along the pathway and we realised that it wasn’t probably worth the effort. So instead of going ahead, where the crowd was going, we hiked the hill. We hiked until we reached the top and there was nothing else but trees around us. We did not see any animal of any sort, but we were afraid of unidentified insects and ants. We found and sat on some stones, anyway. I had made tea earlier in the morning we carried it in a thermos flask. We sat there for a while sipping tea, thinking, should we go ahead and or not? As you might have guessed, we decided not to. We climbed down after finishing the tea; it was way more dangerous than climbing up the hill. The surfaces had small pebbles and slippery stones. I grabbed a long and strong stick, which helped us to climb down.
At a distance of about 30 KM from Ananthagiri Hills, there is a Kotpally reservoir. The night before, we had seen a few videos, and it looked like a nice place. The factor of hot and sunny weather with no rain was still there, but as we had come so close, we thought of trying it. The clock was ticking, and the hunger had struck. The next plan was, if we would find nothing there, we would sit under a tree or something, and eat our cup noodles.
We were following Google Maps and almost three-fourth of the path was beautiful and scenic. If only it had rained! We reached the reservoir but couldn’t find the last turn that Google Maps was suggesting. We moved forward, and the Maps rerouted and asked to take the U-turn and go back to the same turn. I stopped and stepped out of the car to survey. I found an undeveloped road; it wasn’t even a road at which could take us to the lake. But the question was, should we go? We could see nobody around. The road was not good; it wasn’t even a road. But we did not want to leave this place without seeing it, otherwise we would have never known about it. So I took the turn and hit the road. For the first time since morning, I was thankful that it had not rained, otherwise we couldn’t have used this road. It was a very narrow road, and it was leading us into the forest. The Google Maps was still telling us we were on the right track. But I wasn’t too sure based on some unpleasant experience with Google Maps. We saw someone walking and coming towards us. We stopped the car and asked him. I don’t know if he understood what I was asking, but he nodded and pointed in the same direction as what Google Maps was showing. So we kept on moving. After a minute or two, we saw a few cars moving towards us. The path was so narrow that it was impossible for the cars to cross. I had to go back in reverse gear without the help of rear view camera (which was new for me). We found some space on the left side and I gave space to the incoming cars. One after another, three cars crossed us. Now it gave us a sense of relief, I mean, if people are returning from somewhere then there must be something to see.
Well, I have no words to describe what a disappointment it was. Maybe because of the rain earlier this month, we couldn’t find what we saw in those videos. The water was smelly, perhaps because of the heat. A group of local bikers were sitting under the shade of tree and eating, looked like there on the picnic. But finding a place and spending 30 minutes to eat and relax was out of the question. So we took a U-turn and headed back.
The return journey was just another drive. We stopped somewhere on the way and finally ate the cup-noodles we had been carrying as our lunch. We drank another cup of tea and continued driving until we reached home. The only takeaway of this trip was the drive. We hadn’t gone out for a long trip since a long time, and perhaps it was a break and drive we needed for a change from the routine life.