We decided to take a road trip from Chennai to Nagpur recently in our 2 year old Indica Vista. The plan was to break the trip at Hyderabad for a few days and then proceed to Nagpur. There are many different ways to drive from Chennai to Hyderabad. The popular route is to take NH-5 from Chennai to Vijaywada and then NH-9 to Hyderabad. However, not being sure of road conditions due to recent cyclone Nilam, we decided to take the following route. Chennai, Renigunta, Kadapa, Kurnool, Hyderabad. The Chennai – Renigunta road is basically the Chennai Tirupathi route and can again be done in different routes. Since we left from south Chennai, we decided to go via Thiruvallur and Thiruthani via NH205. Unfortunately, due to road widening activities, the road is in a dismal condition. Newly constructed parts of the road are good, but the transitions from the old to the new are in a really bad shape. Therefore, I recommend that this road should be avoided for atleast 6 months.
I found a lack of good eating spots near Renigunta, so a good idea would be to fuel up at some decent restaurant before leaving. From Renigunta, we drove to Kadapa via Rajampet. This route is scenic as it passes through Sri Venkateswara National Park. The road conditions were good, however it is a 2 lane road and I would recommend against driving in the night. We drove into Kadapa town for lunch. This is not a good idea as traffic is very congested within the city. Later, we discovered an APTDC Haritha restaurant on the outskirts of Kadapa. From Kadapa we drove to Kurnool via Nandyal. Road conditions were fairly good despite four laning activity in progress. Similar, for Nandyal to Kurnool. At Kurnool, the road meets the Bangalore – Hyderabad NH4 which is a pleasure to drive.
Entering Hyderabad is a smooth experience because of the PV Narasimha Rao expressway which connects the Hyderabad airport to Mehdipatnam, within the city. Overall driving time with all breaks (breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner) included was about 15 hours. However, traffic in Hyderabad is nightmarish compared to Bangalore or Chennai traffic. Road rules are non existent or flouted indiscriminately and traffic congestion is severe on narrow city roads.
Hyderabad – Nagpur route is completely on NH 7 and this is a fantastic road for 95% of the time. Road has quite a few bad stretches once Maharashtra is entered, but gets better when approaching Nagpur. After coming back to Chennai, we had driven for more than 3000 kms which was a great experience. The Vista was amazing throughout – both on the highway, city conditions and bad roads without any complaints.
However, the risk of planning routes in India is that road conditions are not guaranteed. This is a real shame, because bad roads really put a major dent in travel plans, in terms of time, fuel economy and adding to frustration. NHAI website does not provide too many details about current road conditions and of course, one cannot realistically expect NHAI to state that a road is not fit for travelling. There is a real need for a website in which road conditions are available. A community edited approach sounds like a good idea to me.