A trip to Kannur had been on our minds for long. But it took nearly four years to make it a reality, courtesy a laid back business assignment in Mangalore and Belgaum that gave me enough breathing time to drive further south to the amazing land that marks the start of Kerela. The day was 17 May and the time was 5.30 pm.
Earlier in the day, we had left the scenic township of Kumtha at 6.00 am in the morning. (We had reached Kumtha the previous evening at 5.30 pm, the Thane-Kumtha via NH 4- NH 63 took us 13 hours due to traffic congestion at various points)
Fortunately, the NH 17 proved a miraculous transformation from the pathetic state it was in the last we treaded on it. Leaving behind Honawar, Murdeshwar, Bhatkal and Kundapur in quick succession, we reached Udupi by 8.00 am. Taking the customary diversion from Manipal, we turned towards Karkala to seek the blessings of the 61 feet Hanuman statue housed within the Annapurneshwari temple of Alangar. It was 11 am when we left Alangar and we stopped at Mangalore for a sumptuous cent percent vegeterian Kannada meal. It was here that we unknowingly drifted away from the NH 17 and took a long detour via Vitla - Kasargod, a ghat section that needlessly extends the journey time to Kannur.
Kannur or Cannanore as it's called today, is an integral part of God's own country but hardly gets the attention it deserves, thanks to the 'Backwaters' obsession of tourists that pushes everything else to the backseat. People rave about Thekkady, Munnar and Periyar but hardly discuss Kannur's scenic backdrops. There's so much to relish here that you would want to come back again and again.
Our hotel - Malabar Residency - is located in the heart of the central business district, housed within a bustling business center. On the bright side, it's clean, cosy and well eqiupped in every respect. On the flip side, it offers a poorly maintained sparse parking lot - any day there's a special event at the hotel and you happen to be traveling, you've had it. Finding space for your car is nothing short of a nightmare. The staff strength is inadequate and that glaringly shows in the service. The reception is manned by inexperienced personnel who can't answer a single question with conviction. And to top it all, the hotel boasts of a 24/7 coffee shop intriguingly titled "The Village" which supposedly begins service at 6.00 am.
Barring the hotel negatives, we had a great time at Kannur. Among the highlights of the short trip were the visits to the Payyambalam Beach, St. Angelo's Fort, Arakkal Palace,Parassinikadavu Temple of Lord Mutthappan and the majestic 41 feet Ezhimala Hanuman. The Mutthappan temple was crowded with visitors but thanks to the grace of Lord Mutthappan, we managed a darshan as a kind tempo driver magnanimously agreed to share his parking space with us.
Short of time, we had to leave Kannur on 20th morning, but not without a vow to be back for more...as early as possible. We began from Kannur at 4.00 am and reached Belgaum at 4.30 pm via the NH 17 - NH 63 route. A smooth drive that was made even more pleasurable due to no traffic whatsoever. There's a beautiful Hanuman temple on NH 63 - don't miss it for anything if you happen to pass by.
The next day, we left at 5.00 am to visit our Kul Devi Mahalasa of the Mardhol temple of Goa via the NH 4 A route. Please avoid this stretch if possible as it's in truly bad shape. Potholes emerge from nowhere, rash driving is rampant and there're too many blind turns for comfort. Worse, the endless queues of trucks post Dudhsagar, carrying quarry material is a mandatory menace. The traffic police are wholly incapable of managing the traffic and it's left to some ingenious sterring wheel agility to make your own way.
It was 3.00 pm by the time we we back at Belgaum. We left the next day at 4.00 am and reached home at 1.30 noon.