My Corner: Road trip to Goa: dr anand naregal

Lots of eye brows were raised when we decided to head for Goa by road in monsoon. “Do you know how bad the roads are beyond Bombay. “You will reach Goa on check out date.” But having been to Goa 5 times before and thrice in Monsoon, I thought Monsoon it had to be. To prepare ourselves for the trip I got my car serviced, got tyres, wipers and breaks checked. Got a GPS installed, downloaded few Google maps and 7 days weather report from BBC. Umbrella, Meglite torch, my camera and I shuffle were other things which were packed a few days in advance, not to forget car papers as we were travelling thru three different states. As the D day was approaching we had one confusion yet to be sorted out and that was, which highway to take beyond Bombay? NH 17 via Pune –Kolhapur NH 4 is one of the best in this country Chiplun which is more scenic, curvy and full of adventures, but slow, Or NH 4 via Pune and Kolhapur, 6 lane fast highway with runway like quality but could be sometimes boring for driving enthusiast. Finally we left that decision for the day and decided that we shall take the shot as we near Mumbai. 22nd July. 3 30 AM. – Kitchen activity is on full swing, Puri Bhaji is being prepared. Luggage is being loaded and last minute checks are being made. Finally after all the double checks and customary prayer we are in the Captiva and start our 1100 km long journey at 4 am. We are on the newly laid Bharuch highway and doing it

quite fast and past the Narmada bridge in no time, Crossing Narmada can be a big hurdle during day time, It is ironic that people still rely on 120 years old British build golden bridge while our own so called ‘new’ bridge is always under repairs. As we near Surat in just less than two hrs it has started raining very heavily. But this doesn’t hamper our progress thanks to good quality of roads and flyovers which are made at every town thru which NH 8 passes. After Surat we realize that it was too early to praise NHAI and we hit lots of diversions and road blocks. Heavy downpour doesn’t really help. 8 30 am. Its 250 kms on the tripmeter and we reach Dairy land (at Talasari) very much in time for morning breakfast. This is our favorite place for a break while going to Mumbai and it is run by famous Parsi dairy farm from Mumbai. Set among the vast green lands with trees, there is a roofed pathway leading to old colonial bungalow which houses Amboli DhabDhaba In its full monsoon glory this eatery. Services is quick, we order mixed pakoras, sabudana wada and hot tea. Food is really tasty and I feel really fresh and ready for next leg of our trip. (Do not forget to buy box of milk drop sweets for your friends from here). 9 am. Time to change drivers and I am in navigator seat. Roads from here on, though not very wide, but are smooth. This winding road passes thru and around many mountains but practically run parallel to coast line. One can visit places like Bordi, Dandi, and Manor if you have time for slight detour. 10 30 am we are at Ghodbunder road, the place from where one takes left turn if you want to bypass the maximum city. In 5 and ½ hour we are in touching

distances of Mumbai, advantage of leaving early you see! But in ten minutes our dream run ends as soon as we reach Mumbra by pass. We find ourselves among the sea of stationary trucks all around us. After 10 minutes of being immobile we start getting restless. Scene around is quite calm. Most have stalled their engines. Many do not have anyone in driver’s seat. Some of them are having snacks on roadside stall. I get the shock of life when I find a helper taking bath in rear of his truck. Everyone is At Moti talav, savant wadi- photstop

behaving as if they are at home rather than stuck on a highway. Ultimately patience of my friend runs out, he gets down to enquire and response is “Hum to idhar kal raat se hai”!. Somehow something clicks for us (May be morning prayer) and jam cleared over next 1 hour. This is our worst timing 3 hrs to cover 100 km to bypass Mumbai. 3 PM. It is decided that to cover as much distance as possible to day only its imperative that we stick to NH 4 via Pune- Kolhapur and give a skip to costal beauty. After having Lunch at Panvel, we hit the purple patch, Mumbai Pune express way. This is probably country’s best road to drive on. One can easily drive at 150 -160 km /hr, But lane driving is still something Latin and Greek to Indian drivers. And unlike in the west, here the slowest vehicles are the one who thinks it is their birthright to hog the inner most lane, making everyone to overtake from the wrong side. Result is, I feel like I am playing a video game, driving on a six lane highway at insane speed and overtaking vehicles from the right and sometime from the left and sometime from the centre. Soon we hit the Western Ghats and we slow down a bit. I remember, some thirty –thirty five years back when I used to go to south with my dad as a 10 yr old kid, there used to be a small temple on

old Pune-Mumbai highway at the beginning of Ghats and all vehicles had to make a customary stop here and pray for their safety. We have come a long way since then. Here we are amidst the full glory of monsoon, cruising at the speed well over 100 without realizing that you are crossing the section which was dreaded by most travelers in the past. At the top near Khandala ghat we slow down to appreciate the natural beauty all around us. Rain washed mountains with greenery all over and the winding dark tarmac going thru tunnels Couple trring “ fish trick” from dil chahta hai at arrosim beach and viaducts made a beautiful sites. Persistent rains in past few days is responsible for lots of small waterfalls cascading by the side of rocky face of the mountain, at places you can just take out your hand out of window and can actually touch these falls. To complete the setting we have uninterrupted rains giving us company thru out so far. My only regret is on this highway is we cannot make a tea stop or chiki buying stop at Lonavala, which is what we never failed to do when we were travelling on old Pune highway. We have crossed Khandala in no time and now heading towards Pune. The 2.6 liter Captiva is taking on the Ghats with poise and power. Power is important while driving on the mountains, our car is cutting thru the ghats and taking on the curves like a knife goes thru the butter. Higher seating position all round good visibility are other plus points and seeing those hatchbacks huffing and puffing over those slopes makes you feel proud to own such a vehicle. Its only when we go outdoors we realize the true value of these power packed SUVs. 5 PM. We are bypassing Pune. Lately Pune city has outgrown itself and has engulfed this bypass within it, as a result lots two wheelers on the road. I

remember fondly that this is the city which gave me my first two wheeler, Luna moped , way back in 1983-84. We feel like going in the city and having a coffee and a muffin at the German bakery ( Blast or no blast this place serves some real mouth watering delicacies) but lack of time doesn’t permit this, instead we continue driving on and feast on our own the puri bhaji. 6 PM. We are on Pune – Kolhapur road, another winner, I think we can easily cover these 200 kms in two hrs. I am really thanking Mr guests v/s resort staff foot ball match in full rains- great fun

Atal Bihari Vajpayee for starting this Golden Quadrilateral project, only irritants are those Toll plazas which pop out every now and then. And whats more they are now not satisfied with 10 Rs, they want 40 or 50, Highest we paid was at Pune – Mumbai expressway, whooping 140 bucks. We decide to halt at Kolhapur. Google maps from my I phone also lets me know about hotels which are near highway. I choose one of them and call to book a room when we are 50 kms away from Kolhapur, what’s more we also talk to chef and ask him to prepare some dinner with spicy dishes for us (main dish ?? Veg kolhapuri offcourse). We enter Kolhapur exactly at 8 pm, some 800 kms from Vadodara. That is 16 hrs of driving in day, enough to call it a day. After the well deserved dinner and pan we straight crash on our beds. 23rd 8 am. After a healthy breakfast on a terrace restaurant we depart for GOA. Today we just need to do 210 km and plan to reach hotel by check in time that’s 12 noon. After 35 km drive we reach Nipani, where we say goodbye to this beautiful Tarmac and take a single lane country road. Day is slightly clearer than

yesterday but soon becomes dark and cloudy as we take on to cross western ghats second time in two days. Difference is drastic. Roads are narrow, monsoon has created enough pot holes and it goes thru lots of villages. As we climb towards Amboli the mist and cloud completely envelops us reducing visibility to less than 5 meters. Oncoming traffic is only seen if their headlights are on. Fog lights do come in handy here. After so many twists and turns we reach Amboli Dhab Dhaba (waterfall in local language).This water fall is right on the road and comes suddenly to your view as big surprise. One must visit this place only in monsoon to see this fall in its full glory. And when the fog descends and one cannot see the adjacent hills, it feels that the entire fall is descending down towards you from the heaven! We had a very refreshing ½ hr tea break here, where we also feasted on Bhuttas and then headed for Sawantwadi. As we left Amboli we started our decent from ghats, road is slightly wider and better. Delphi navigator is of great help here guiding us thru every junction and small inner roads. We are in Sawantwadi sharp at 11 am. This is very picture perfect sleepy little town, and as we take a turn we come Typical goan fisherman to Moti talav , a large lake with lush green hills all around. Site is such a pleasing one that it is impossible not to stop here for few minutes. “Place is also famous for preserving its heritage and specializes in wooden toys and dolls” – my friend informs me from lonely planet guide book. I am wondering if one wants to see real India it has to be by road and not by hopping from one metro to other by air. 12.30 pm Afternoon and we enter Goa state. You don’t need any signboard though. Cool refreshing breeze from sea, swaying palms and lush green paddy fields announces loudly that you have reached GOA.

As we were spending more time in journey, rather than the destination, this time around we just had two days in Goa. But the whatever time we had was really well spent in various activities like playing beach football, swimming in Log Book the pool while it was raining heavily, Total Kms: 1100 (One way) having mock tails at Martin’s corner Journey time: 20 hrs (Sachin’s favorite restaurant in Goa) or Diesel : 225 liters(9500 Rs)-both ways just gazing at the sea or walking alone Best section: Mumbai –pune express way on a vast empty beaches. Really, Goa Worst section:Mumbai bypass via Mumbra Fastest section: Pune- kolhapur never lets me down, It has so much of Star attraction: Amboli water falls everything that I never comeback without promising Goa to come back soon. But this time I wanted to talk about the journey and not the destination so GOA for some other time. Bye for now. catch me on face book or at anand.naregal@rediffmail.com with your comments and views.

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