Plus Central Asia Onward travel blog

On the steps of our hotel the decision 'to go' meant that altho everyone said it was only half hour up half hour back we actually committed to 3 hours more in this distinctly 'Build it and they will come' classical example of religious, over the top commercialism. But boy does it bring in the $$$$$$$$$ in huge wads in huge # of ways...every other establishment is either a hotel/residency/lodge or a place serving food & other goods (puja etc) for the travellers who mass here. There is a totally independent state bus service just to shuttle pilgrims to and from Tirumala, a 26 km journey, the only time in India where we travelled on a 6 lane highway. Up the mtn, one way traffic each way, 2 lane road switchbacks - actually, a very nicely preserved natural area, lots of diversity in plants/trees. We saw what looks like a pine (casurina?) w/ bright orange flowers (pre-pinecone?) throughout the forest. When it comes to Hindu religous stuff they have really worked out a very efficient system of handling the crowds. Altho we did not care to wait 2-3 hrs to get inside, we did see the winding queue, long is not close to accurate, ha! An hour up and hour ther and back by noon.

Left Tirupati at 1 pm in state bus...leave when full, every 1/2 to 1 hour. Countryside is at first the same as arrival...huge rock outcroppings/mtns similar to the long escarpment upon which the temple is built (actully, now not just a temple but a whole city w/ deer park/zoo and 6 giant windmill generators on the highest peak). Then it flattens into agric rice/sugar/banana & esp numerous orchards of mango trees, many trees old/big. The ubiquitous coco palms are back and where there is not agric, thickets of acaccia fill in unused space (along w/ some kind of thorny vinelike 'weed'?)

About 1/2 way we reach the under-construction 4 lane hiway - 2 lanes operational. Altho road now is in better condition it does not change the speed of the bus, we still average 35 kmph (20 mph). The reason is that every kind of vehicle is permitted on every road regardless of its condition...huge cargo carriers which crawl up hill at 5 mph, tuk tuks, motorcycles, bullock carts, and then there are the herds of cattle and goats that fill one whole lane or at the very least a cow/carabow meandering across the road. Not a scenerio for rapid transit, ha!

The agric changes a bit...more market driven...tomatoes,peppers,grapes...and brick mfg, tall chimneys ie kilns and red clay also means pots & other more decorative clay items. Plots of eucalyptus and other wood producing trees(for?) first villages/towns we pass thru look dirt poor, all thatched roofs, mat siding but the clser to Bangalore we come prosperity seems to be creeping its way in, more cement bldgs & steel roofs.

Arr in Bangalore 7 pm, tired, decide to stay in Sri Trupthi Comforts again - justified/rationalized by having cable TV and hot water. Being close to bus station for onward travel to Hospit (8-9 hrs).

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