“We should go to Laknavaram Lake, they say it’s very beautiful”. We googled the images and we were very happy with what we saw. It was decided that we should go to the lake, which is in Warangal, roughly 220 kms from Hyderabad, about a three hour drive. Aaron has relatives in Warangal and they were ok for us to stay overnight, and everyone was pretty excited.
25 June 2011, Saturday. It was a beautiful morning. As usual everyone was late and it was almost 11 when we started. Everyone was in high spirits, and we talked about trivial stuff, but mostly about a person we all know (who we have called he-who-must-not-be-named afterwards) and his psycho family. There was me, Mamta, Aaron, Suman, Francis, Joy and Aijaz.
Off we went, and we had almost crossed the city when we received a call from another friend, Annie. She had been invited the day before but she declined, and on Saturday morning at 11 o’clock she suddenly decided to come. When we learned that it would take her at least an hour to get ready and find us, there followed a heated debate. Some of us wanted to wait, and some of us wanted to say “It’s too late you can’t come now”. I will not say in which camp I was, but let it be known that there were arguments and ‘group discussions’ and threats to leave. We finally decided we could not turn away someone who wanted to join us, so it was with grumbles and complaints that we waited, and waited, and waited for some more time, and it was close to 1 PM when she finally arrived and we inched away from the city.
Things went well, we drove by the beautiful countryside, including the town of Bhongir which is located at the foot of the Bhongir Fort which stands on top a big stone hill. People were no longer hostile, everyone was speaking again, and all was well.
Next stop was lunch. We had passed through many towns, and not a single one of us had thought of buying anything to eat, not even a chips packet, and we were starving. We found a hotel on the outskirts of one town, and stopped. It was a big building, with a separate family section. But the oddest thing was there was not a single soul in sight. The building itself was very dirty, it wore an uncared for look, as if it had not been cleaned in the last 10 years. It must have been a grand place once upon a time. There was an old chandelier hanging very low from the ceiling, and the counters and walls were rather fancy. The chairs, threadbare as they were, were large and comfortable.
We got seated in the family section, and discovered that they wouldn’t serve alcohol in the family section, because, after all, families come to eat there. Never mind that there was not anybody who even remotely looks like he/she comes with his family. Did I mention that we were the only “customers”? Anyway, let’s cut a long story short and just say that we finally got a couple of cold beer bottles on our table. The food was surprisingly good, and the most amazing thing it was we didn’t have to wait for it at all.
I should have written this post right after the trip, things are becoming blurry now. What a bad autobiographer I would make in my sunset years. But why I did not blog about this sooner, you would soon know. In the meantime, be patient, because the story is just beginning.
Post lunch, everyone’s stomach filled, our moods lifted. We passed a couple more towns. Then we came to Kazipet, a big town. It was then that Annie received a call and she had to return to Hyderabad. So we stopped in the town, and another parliamentary session started, the main points discussed being who will take Annie back and how they will go. Aijaz volunteered, and off they went to the train station. We didn’t even drop them to the station.
Again we went off, it was late afternoon by them, and we crossed another big town (forgot the name!). On the outskirts we saw a biggish lake and we decided to stop. Nothing much to do except stare at the water and take pictures. The place was apparently a grazing ground for buffaloes, so of course the ground was pretty messy. There were a few locals there, who told us that it had rained and the road to Laknavaram Lake was very dangerous, and we would be better off going in the morning.
Mamta and I suggested we turn back to the town, spend the night at Aaron’s relatives’ house, get up at the crack of dawn, go to the lake, and go home slowly. But guys being guys didn’t like the idea of defeat, which in this case meant not seeing the lake on that day. So our suggestion was overruled, we cleaned our dirty shoes, and and we headed for the lake. At this point, it seemed that all we had ever done all day was drive and stop and drive and stop. With a few parliamentary sessions in between.
The lake was at the bottom of a mountain, and to reach it we had to climb up the mountain, up narrow gravelly roads that twisted and turned. The sun had done its share of work for the day and was now heading home, and when we reached the mountain top, where the ticket counter was, he had sunk behind the mountains.
Did I mention that it was June, and that the monsoons hadn’t arrived? That summer was not entirely over? And that we were expecting an overflowing, silvery, glimmery lake, with a few boats here and there? Hahah what idiots we were! The biggest fools who ever walked. Or drove. Or stopped. Or drove. Or Stopped again.
Okay, we had reached the ticket counter, and they had constructed a few steps that led down to the lake. It was that time which they call “the gloaming”, when the sun had set but darkness had not yet covered the earth? A great time to visit a lake, is it not?
And the lake, oh the lake! The reason, the object, the destination of the trip, was nothing but a big empty valley between two mountains! With a big suspension bridge in between. It must have been nice during or after the monsoon when it was filled with water. But at the end of June, oh was there ever a greater disappointment? Tell me, O heavens??
We had come that far, so we climbed down the steps, walked across the bridge, took more pictures for lack of anything else to do, and when we reached the end of the bridge it was completely dark. Then we went back.
We were 200 kms away from home, on a mountain, in complete darkness, and trust me when I say it was scary. Somebody started hearing strange noises, somebody said something about bears being there in the mountain, and trees began to take weird shapes. We cursed Hollywood for giving us movies in which a group of friends get lost or killed or both in the forest/camping trips. We barely spoke until we put the mountain behind us.
Once we reached the road, which was a huge relief to everyone, we talked about which place we would visit in our next trip and such stuff. It was not yet the highway, we still had to drive through small roads near the fields. At one point of time we saw a few men coming home from the fields and asked if they had toddy, but fortunately they had none. Why did I say fortunately? Oh you will soon know. I didn’t tell you that toddy is a very popular drink in that area, did I? Well, we saw many toddy trees on the way, and small shacks which serve as bars. I had never tasted it, and was eager to try it.
We reached the highway and we had only travelled for a few metres when Bam! one of the tyres got punctured. And it was just our luck that the thingummy which was required to fix that was, well, you guessed it, we didn’t bring it. There was only a small pump thingy. We had to stop on the roadside, while the men tried their best to fix it. A few vehicles came, but no one could help us. And then the police came.
Warangal is a Naxalite area, and the police/army patrols the roads at night. I’m not 100% sure on this, but that night they sure did. Seeing us parked on the roadside in the night, they naturally came to investigate. A few guys trying to fix a broken tyre, two girls sitting inside the car, obviously non-locals, they had all reasons to be suspicious. They parked their jeep on the other side of the road, and asked us who we were and what we were doing there. They called Mamta and I over to the jeep, and their boss, or the senior cop, asked us where we were from, what we were doing (again). And guess what, I didn’t have an ID on me. I always have some ID or the other on me, but on that particular day I was like “Why do I need an ID to go to a lake” ? Luckily Mamta had her ID, and that saved us. It was really scary.
While we were being “interrogated” (hahahha), one of the junior cops had checked the car, and he reported to his boss that all was OK. After telling us to be careful, they went off. We thanked the heavens that we hadn’t bought any toddy. It’s not illegal or anything, but well, it still gives a bad impression. A bunch of guys and gals, in the middle of the forest, drinking, doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture.
By this time the guys had temporarily fixed the tyre, and we set off again. We haven’t gone far when Whoooosh, the tyre was back to its punctured state. But luckily there was a farmhouse nearby, and we knew the town was not so far away now. We somehow managed to stop near the farmhouse. It was about 8 PM, but with no streetlights and being a moonless night, it was very dark. And eerily quiet.
Suman called someone in the city, some garage owner, and this fellow called some other fellow, or something like that, but somehow they managed to get some fellows from the town to come and help us. Around nine guys turned up to help us. They had to go here and there, get the required thingummy, and get the tyre fixed. And all the while we girls had nothing to do. We went to the farmhouse, in which a man and two women lived, and sat on their porch and watched the man beat his dog. The women offered to cook for us but we politely declined (although we were starving).
It seemed like a quiet life. They had two cows and a few dogs, and probably worked in the fields, but they seemed happy. I might find it boring at first, but I think it might be nice to live like that.
We had a pre-dinner snack of Monginis cake and Sprite which were procured from the town. I think it was close to 10 PM when we left the place. I was exhausted. Once we left the place the only thing on our minds was dinner. We reached the town of Kazipet, but every shop was closed. I suggested we go to the train station, some shop was bound to be open. It was 11:49 PM when we reached the station.
There was no food at the station either. It was a shock to us. No food at the station! We used the toilets at the waiting lounge and left. Now our only hope was the highway dhabas which catered to travellers. It was some time before we could locate one dhaba which was open. There was a group of travellers who were just finishing their dinner when we straggled in. The kitchen was closed, of course, and they had some chicken biryani left. It was not enough, but we managed.
Dinner was followed by chai outside the dhaba. And then we ran into another spot of trouble, well, not exactly trouble, because nothing happened. Except that there were a few locals who must have passed some unflattering comments on the female members of our party, and our male friends decided to play the brave shining knights and confronted the locals. We asked them not to, we were used to men passing unflattering comments, and besides it was their turf and we didn’t stand a chance if anything should happen. Nothing happened, a few words were exchanged, and off we went, yet again.
I was extremely tired then, and slept the rest of the way. We had decided against spending the night and when I reached home it was around 3 AM.
What I learned from the trip:
- Pictures on the internet are not necessarily trustworthy.
- People are basically good, and willing to help complete strangers.
- What was the worst trip at the time, becomes the most memorable one afterwards. (We actually laugh about it now).