It’s 6am on a Sunday, so there’s barely a soul on the streets of Cochin. We decide to try some of that famous appam and stew before we leave Kerala. We set off post breakfast and are hoping it won’t rain, so we can make good time. Wishful thinking as it turns out. We drive straight into heavy rainfall. And to make matters worse, a lot of the roads are submerged. Naturally, this leads to a huge traffic build-up. There are some sections where we have to take the car through a foot and a half of water. When told that we were starting the drive below sea level, we didn’t think we’d actually be taking the cars through so much water. Another tip, stay clear of private buses. They work to a time schedule and will do whatever it takes to make it in time, including going on the wrong side of the road.
Once past the two-lane sections of the road, we reach the Pallakad-Coimbatore bypass road, which is a smooth, straight six-lane road. Time to put both the 3.0-litre TDI and 4.2-litre TDI engines to work. On cue, the A7’s retractable spoiler makes its first of many appearances.
Instead of taking the route earlier planned, through Ooty and Mysore, we decide to try taking NH209 because we’re told the road is quite good and there’s barely any traffic on it. This turns out to be an excellent decision as this dual carriageway, which goes via the town of Sathyamanglam, barely has any traffic and is in excellent condition. If you’re driving from Cochin to Bangalore, take this road, it’s worth it. As soon as you reach the start of the Dimbam ghat section, you see a sign that reads ’27 hairpins ahead’. Sounds like fun? It sure is.
The climb up is quite scenic, but there are lots of truck drivers and bikers that attack this road with a vengeance, so it’s safer to drive as slow as possible. When you get to the top, there are no hairpins on the way down, in fact, it’s a gradual descent on a near-straight road and you’re surrounded by massive trees on either side as the road passes through a forest reserve.
Once past this stretch, it’s smooth sailing up to Bangalore. We give the crazy traffic of Bangalore a miss, and stop at Tumkur, around 50km from Bangalore. The hotel is right on the highway to Mumbai, which works in our favour, especially considering we have to drive 900km to Mumbai tomorrow. A long, long drive awaits us, and we’re still not even halfway to Delhi.