Day 6: Kozhikode – Mangalore

Some people don’t learn their lessons. I am one of them. At least, in this moment of divine introspection, I am ready to admit this. And if you value your life, you’re not supposed to remind me that I accepted this. At any point here onwards.

So, today, we drove ~240kms. We started at 11:00. And we parked at 7:30. On the way, we took a small detour to see Kappad beach (Kozhikode itself), and then Bekal Fort. Yes. That’s the story in short. In detail, its a lot of things!

Our maths was precise. 240kms. 4 hours of drive on the better Kerala Highways. Or, maybe 5. One hour of Bekal Fort stopover maybe. We were a little tired, and wanted to take it easy. We had a decent breakfast at the hotel, and got sufficient sleep before starting off this time. So, no 5AM hurries, and no continuous planning. The only thing we had done was we had identified a hotel at Mangalore (The Saffron) and another at Udupi (Sai Vishram or Janardhana) as potential overnight targets. You see – Uncleji at the homestay had warned us that in Kerala, we should stick to nicer hotels even if we have to pay more. You should not trust these cheap hotels. Lots of funny business, he said. We got the drift.

We had planned to take this day as a light one. Little driving, and lots of sightseeing, driving by the coast, and all the good things that come to your mind when you’re close to the ocean.

At 11, we set off. At 12, we were crossing Kappad beach. At 1, we crossed Vadakara, and at about 2 we crossed Kannur. There are a few things you need to know if you’re ever going to do this route.

  • It is actually beautiful. In patches. It’s full of greens, groves and shades almost all through. There are several instances of you crossing a “backwater”-ish formation and most of them are beautiful because they’re generally untouched.
  • It is called a highway. Mumbai people can akin it to Jarimari road that connects Sakinaka to BKC, or a slightly better version of chapel road/hill road connect in Bandra (during evenings). For those who are not familiar with these stretches, you can compare it to the sound that comes when you are grating a tiny piece of aluminium against the wall. That screeching sound. Yes. That bad. The road is well laid, but for a highway, it spends most of its time inside villages. The concept of a by-pass does not exist. And since we are all such nice people, the road next to our house or shop can be used for the following activities (in no particular order) – parking my vehicle (in no particularly ordered or civil manner, and my vehicle can be a fully loaded truck too), getting together with 5 people and chatting, holding hands of another person of the same gender while walking, shitting and spitting, asking my cow to wait for me, generally running across the street, yogasana (esp the variety which involves outstretched hands). I am sure I am missing at least a dozen more things I had on my list.
  • It’s a two lane highway with no dividers. So, at any point, the probability of someone trying to take you head on or run you over is 0.5.
  • While the beach is probably less than 300 meters away from you, you rarely get a glimpse. Because the alleys that take you to the beach also have a huge density of houses. It is definitely not our answer to Highway 1 of US.
  • The bus drivers of Kerala are as bad or worse than the BEST or DTC/Blue line guys. You’re better not taking them on.

I am being too cynical here. If you have the time, then idle away and drive at an average of ~30kmph on this highway (NH66 also known as NH17) and enjoy what the God’s own country has to offer. There are several small places right throughout the drive – Thalassery, Mahe, Kannur, Payannur, NIleswaram, Kanhangad, Palikere, Bekal, Kasaragod, etc. that you can take small detours at. Lots of temples. Lots of beaches. The urge to compare one beach to another dies after you realize that you’ve been comparing twins and then quadruplets and then whatever the right term  for two identical siblings might be. It’s a beautiful countryside. Take your time to explore. If you love to see the temples, well – this could be a great trip. If you want to do beach hopping, well you could do that.

Moving on, through the driving ordeal, we reached Bekal, eventually, at 3:30 or so and had lunch at Nirvana. Nirvana is a property right next to the fort. Our GPS screwed us (once again) in trying to locate Vivanta by Taj. Also, we were a little frustrated with the driving part and Bekal seemed like a beautiful place, so we did consider taking a luxury break here. But as GPS would have it, we didn’t. Anyway, the lunch we had at Nirvana was a disaster. And we quickly moved on to the fort which is mesmerising, to say the least. As you explore the various arches and the expanse of the fort, you can’t but admire the beauty and the magnificence of it. It’s not magnificent in the Lal Qila way, but the ocean in the background, and the white sand uncrowded beach gives it a texture that is unbelievable. Its clean and well maintained, and some more weeding out work is going on right now. We marked Bekal as another place where we may want to come and spend a weekend in peace at some later time.

At 4:45 or so, we moved onwards. As we were getting to Mangalore, we debated whether we wanted to go forward till Udupi. Eventually, with the high beam driving along the two-lane highway and the quality of roads deteriorating as you enter Karnataka, the decision was made in favor of staying overnight at Mangalore.  The drive on this road is exhausting. Overtaking is a balance of skill, timing, patience and speed. And one of the worst things that can happen to you is when a truck driving at 11.5kmph feels like overtaking another truck driving at 11.45kmph. Which happens quite often here.

Tomorrow’s plan – Udupi, Maruvanthe, Murudeshwara, Gokarna.

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