Day 7: Mangalore – Talegaon (Goa)

When we woke up this morning, we were a little wiser. We left Mangalore by 7:30. The plan was, yet again, to keep things simple. But we could not, yet again. So, today, instead of the earlier planned Gokarna, we ended the day at Goa (Talegaon, near Panaji) at Rati and Saurabh’s place.  We drove close to 420+ kms. On the way we stopped at Kaup, Udipi, Murudeshwar, Maruvanthe, Gangoli, Karwar. We did not, unlike the plan, stop or stay at Gokarna. Aum beach, for now, will remain a future destination. We ate at the world famous in Udipi restaurant – Diana hotel at Diana Circle as well.

When we started at 7:30, we laid our cards on the table. They involved a few things. The fact that a little bit of fatigue was setting in. The fact that driving over the last two three days had been very tiring, for sure. The biwi was somewhat under the weather, having taken crocin continuously for the last couple of days. My back pain was starting to make its presence felt and I had already had a moov-y nite on the trip. And we were about 1000+ kms away from Mumbai as per the planned route. And finally, the acknowledgement that from hereon the route offers destinations every 50-100 kms.  We evaluated a lot of things and identified Murudeshwar as the next decision making point.

The road between Udipi and Mangalore at that time of the day is quite comfortable and we could have got to Udipi in a little over an hour. But we saw an exit to Kaup beach and decided to check it out. The beach has a lighthouse for chrissake. 🙂 When you’re about to exit towards Kaup, you come across signages announcing adventure sports, etc. When you get in, you search for more signages. Finally you reach the lighthouse officer’s office. Then you cross it. A little later, you realize that you’ve most likely skipped the beach. So you turn around. Go back to the lighthouse office. And then you realize that between the shops and a couple other things, there is a small track that takes you to the beach. When you get to the beach, you realize one more thing. And you say it out loud – Damn, this is beautiful! Yep. That’s how you it happens.

We hit the beach at a time when there was no one around. Not a soul. Actually, one. There was a bird, and a very camera shy one that. It looked like a beach which is still used for evening binge sessions since there were places where liquor bottles were scattered just like that. But otherwise, it was fairly clean. And with a pay-and-use toilet in one corner. Closed, of course. We went up to lighthouse. And we realized that there is another beach extending on the other side of the lighthouse. Equally beautiful. With a couple of stay-in cottages. At least that’s what it seemed like from a distance. Biwi and I absorbed that beauty for some time, and then headed onwards towards Udipi.

Udipi. Quiet and quaint. It was the only quiet place in our entire trip I’d think. We had heard about the famous Diana hotel at the Diana circle. So, we promptly parked the car in a lane next to Diana, and had a hearty breakfast involving idli, vada, dosa, dahi vada, coffee and gadbad icecream. All for a total of 180 bucks. In that moment, I could have shifted to Udipi in search of a better life. The food was excellent, and their sambar, one of the best I have had in a very long time. After the breakfast, we decided to do walk down to the famous Shri Krishna Temple. All was well until I was asked to take off my shirt and showcase my paunchy magnificience inside the temple. I survived that. And having clicked a few pictures here and there before setting off for the next part.

The drive is bad and good. The road qualities could be much better, but it was not crowded like yesterday. And  it did not necessarily cross all the villages. The concept of a by-pass existed here. In a coupl of hours (12:30ish), we hit Maruvanthe. Now, Maruvanthe, is a place you are automatically going to pull over to your left and click some pictures. It helps that there are several small shanties selling coconut water. I missed not having a fish-eye lens on my camera then. Its difficult to capture that image with a normal lens. But it is gorgeous as you drive for a kilometer or two with the ocean on your left and an estuary on your right.
As we were sipping coconut water, the shop fella suggested that we go back and check out Gangoli. He did not actually tell us the name, but he gave us some directions and said that its a place where five rivers merge into the ocean. In reality, its five branches of probably 2 different rivers that merge. But, it, again, is a very delightful view. However, not recommended for the weak hearted and vegetairans. The stench of fish is almost unbearable here, since its a fisherman’s cove as well. Lots of fishing boats around.

From Gangoli, we crossed Maruvanthe again, and headed towards Murudeshwar, which is about an hour and half away. Murudeshwar is a reasonably modern construction on a very old shiva-lingam. There is a huge Shiva statue and a large temple constructed, and you can also see a representation of Shiva givinga s shivaling to Ravana. The beach next to Murudeshwawr is a majorly touristy place. Watersports, shanties, hotels, drinking joints, you name it and you havae it. It is so crowded that you can be put off even before you’ve parked your car. The twin descriptors of a being a beach as well a temple is a sure fire receipe for working up a giant crowd. We had a thali at Kamat’s there, which was strictly sub-par.

RoadtripDuring the lunch, we reassessed and we came to the conclusion that it’s hitting us now. And rather than the planned Gokarna-Ganapathiphule-Mumbai or Gokarna-Tarkarli-Chiploon-Mumbai route, maybe we should just head back home with one stop. And hence, we picked Goa for a stop over at Rati and Saurabh’s. And the road trip hence, resembles, something like what’s on the left side here.  Biwi wanted to meet Rati much. So, we started driving through the Konkan highway. Surprisingly, the place that really caught our imagination along the route was . It is quite beautiful, and has made it to our list of potential destinations.

We made a tiny mistake. We went to Talegaon from inside Goa, rather than sticking to NH66. So, in essence, we spent the last two hours just navigating the last 40 odd kms. Also, at about 5 or so, as we were entering Goa from Karwar, we felt like stopping for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, once you’ve entered Goa, all you get for miles and miles are bars. And if you stop at one, try having Thums Up for caffiene content. The coffee can put you to sleep.

We reached Rati’s place at 7:30 or so. And we managed to stay awake till about 11:30 or so. And by then we were sure what were going to do the next morning! 🙂

p.s. A part of the conversation with Saurabh is going to make it to some other post. It was about the “need for appreciation” in office. Most managers would know what I mean! 😉

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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