Sunday, January 04, 2009

A date with three states

Who: me, wife, kiddo
What: A leisure trip
Where: Karnataka and Goa
Why: No particular reason
How: Our humble Maruti 800
When: December 22 - December 26, 2008

We left Thane on December 22nd at 4.00 am. The Thane - Navi Mumbai patch was bearable in the dawn-lit environment - we crossed the industrial belt in less than 30 minutes.Before we realized, it was the sleepy township of Panvel greeting us with open arms. Offering our customary salutations to the Panchmukhi Hanuman on the way, we entered the Panvel-Pen road that marks the beginning of what has now become our second home - the scenic National Highway No. 17...what with our umpteen trips to Goa without rhyme or reason.

We reached Wadhkhal Naka (a popular intersection known for its Wada Pavs) at 5.45 am - a left turn from this point introduces you to the ensuing greenery and pleasing road bends.

Nagothane - Kolad - Mangaon took us to Mahad - here was our first tea break. Rejuvenated, we resumed the journey on the Poladpur - Khed patch. We stopped for breakfast at Pratapgadh point midway on the long winding stretch of the majestic Kashedi ghat. The time was 8.30 am.

The journey continued ahead through Chiplun passing through the rather dull stretch of Lanja - Rajapaur. Here, we had our lunch break of home-made methi parathas and chatni under the green cover by the roadside. The afternoon was in its full 1.00 pm splendour.

We now entered the scenic Sindhudurg region - a place whose amazing ecosystem is needlessly disturbed by the huge posters of local politicians all over the place.
The drive ahead via Kankavli and Kudal was smooth - slowed down only due to the occasional bullock cart in the way...

Sawantwadi came and went by - the hair pin bends of Banda also passed by and we now entered the territory which epitomizes merriment in gay abandon - GOA. Mapusa to Panaji was just like the usual city travel - with modern wheeled machines desperately trying to roar past you... with the typical urban disdain for a smaller vehicle.And if the smaller vehicle happens to be fast..the contempt gets even more venomous.

We found our way through the noisy traffic to reach Miramar Beach at 4.30 pm - our first stop-over in the cosy cottage of GTDC beach house. The night was adorned with Xmas festivities. We enjoyed a light dinner and refreshing beer at the resort hotel.

The next day, we left at 6.00 am for Mhalsa temple, Ponda before embarking on the way to the coastal state of Karnataka. Before that, we had tea and bread at a cosy hotel just before Margaon.

First came Karwar, then Ankola, followed by Kumta, then Honavar, next Murdeshwar - Bhatkal - the splendid Marvanthe beach to Kundapur, where we had lunch at a small joint offering vegetarian meals served in banana leaves...truly sumptuous and filling.The time was 1.30 pm.

We resumed with new vigour...Saligram - Udupi was a quiet drive.Thankfully, the traffic was bearable and after losing our way for a while in the congested township of Udupi, we reached Hotel Karavali on the NH 17 at Udupi at 3.00 pm - our stop-over for the second night.

The hotel is modest in ambience but very warm in hospitality - an ideal stop-over for the weary long-distance traveler. In the evening, we had a leisure walk through the adjoining Malpe Beach - where we booked a room at the wonderful Paradise Isle for the next day.

The next morning, we left the hotel at 6 pm. for an unforgettable drive on the NH 17 Udupi - Mangalore stretch. Thanks to the friendly native folks, we were advised the right routes at the right time, all through our brief sojourn at Karnataka.

We had tea at a roadside stall just before Mulki and the friendly stall guy proved some great company in the wee hours. He tore few pages of his life book while we had tea - his enthusiasm was infectious, his concern unconditional.

We took a left diversion from Mulki. This was the route to Karkala where another left fork way ahead takes you to Moodbidri. Some way further down, you reach Hosanadu, home to the sprawling Annapoorneshwari temple housing a 61-feet Hanuman idol - a picture of humility and strength bundled together. The time was 8.30 am.

From here, we proceeded through Karkala for Sringeri through the Kudremukh forest region. The road immediately after the forest region was pathetic - construction workers and bulldozers greeting us mile after mile on the narrow winding path.

Sringeri, the holy town housing the Adi Sankaracharya Math, arrived at 11.00 am. The math and the temple is divine, clean and sanctified by spiritual grace but the area outside is shabby, filthy and congested.

After the darshan, we left for Udupi, this time through the small scenic villages of Perduru and Agumbe.At Perduru, we had a great lunch at a small joint - boiled rice, sambar with curry leaves, rasam and chutni - a meal that was made unforgettable by the sheer simplicity of the family that served us.

Before Agumbe, we shopped for some handicrafts at a local shop. Mud idols, wall hangings and fancy stuff - great to look at, and easy on the pocket.

We reached Udupi via Manipal to reach the beach resort at Malpe Beach at 3.30 pm. This was the stop-over for the third night. The evening was spent at the virgin beach and dinner was at the exquisite bar and restaurant facing the beach.The resort is well maintained but the service is poor. The staff needs an orientation program in customer service at the earliest. The owner could spend more time supervising the staff rather than hosting special dinners for chosen dignitaries.

The next morning, the clock stuck six when we left for the return journey to Goa. We had breakfast at a Udupi joint before Kundapur at 7.30 am. The next halt was directly after Margaon en route Panjim at the Mhalsa Residency - typical mouth-watering Goan food..try the Goan thali of several fish varieties packed in one meal. You will love it.

The time was 2.30 pm.

Passing through Panjim and Mapusa, we checked in at the Vittal Kamat Hotel in Sawantwadi at 4.00 pm - our stop-over for the fourth night.A great place - clean and tidy. But no frills - no non-veg or bar, if you are looking for spice. You would get that in the town aplenty - although there's a dearth of decent family restaurants in Sawantwadi. Buy some goodies from the stuffed markets instead.

The next day, we began at 5.00 am, had brief halts at Sangmeshwar (Swad Sangmeshwar, a good place for snacks and tea) Mahad (Vittal Kamat Udupi varieties for lunch), Pen (Hotel Karnala for snacks, in fact I had a chicken thali here) to reach our Thane residence at 5 pm (But for the traffic at Kalwa that made us travel back through Airoli to enter via Mulund, we would have been home by 4.00 pm)

Five days and Four nights....the fascinating trip is long over but etched in memory for life...Looking forward to the next one.

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