Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Road Trip I

A vacation, a car and a road. With as little planning as is possible for a couple of itinerary-pinned-down -to-the-last-minute type of travelers. The direction was more or less decided by the toss of a coin (or so we would like to believe) –the South. Safer, friendlier, more familiar.

Day 1: Bombay to Goa. Km: 554
Good roads, some traffic and lots of greenery. The ghats after the rains are a sight for sore city-weary eyes. But it’s been a long hard drive with just meal and photography stops. We get to see the hills but very little of the sea! Wasn’t this supposed to be a coastal trip?
I am cranky after 12 straight hours on the road. Keeping an eye on an accelerator-happy driver with his car (that he calls -with delusions of grandeur - ‘the beast’, if you please!) is as much hard work as driving. The hotel we are using as a pit stop isn’t helping – the aircon goes wonky and we are forced to shift rooms in the middle of the night. Maybe, unplanned trips aren’t our thing.


Day 2: Goa to Mangalore. Km: 420
The drive is prettier. And we get to see much more of the sea. But the roads are bad, bad, bad in Karnataka. The beast is an unhappy animal. We reach Mangalore in about 9 hours, longer than would have been required if the roads had been good. Karwar on the way is a very pretty beach. The clean sand and the blue shimmering in the afternoon sun – ah! There is a naval base called Sea Bird being built. So a long stretch of coast is completely walled off and motorists are asked not to stop. But for people looking for that perfect beach, Karwar has enough to offer.
Of course there are also the incredible backwaters and rivers that we cross over innumerable bridges. Kerala sure has cornered credit for this kind of beauty. Karnataka can and should try to catch up.
Getting into Mangalore is a bit of a nightmare though. Roads are dug up, flyovers are being built, the standard Indian cityscape. But dinner is a mix of Mangalorean and Mallu. Appam and stew, Kerala Parotta and Mangalorean chicken curry - God’s in his heaven and all’s well with the world!


Day 3: Mangalore to Bekal Fort and back. Km: Approx 140
Finally, a relaxed day! We cross over the 3rd state border in as many days. Suddenly signs are in familiar language and we can talk to the locals! The Kerala roads are better; only just, though. North Kerala is not a place I am familiar with. It’s Muslim country and burkhas and mosques abound. There are burqa boutiques(!!) and Gulf money is very visible – those brightly coloured buildings in the midst of beautiful countryside. Advani is coming visiting and there are lorry-loads of BJP fans around – slightly tense I thought. We pass Kasargod and go on to Bekal Fort.
I love forts and this is the highlight of my trip so far. As forts in India go, it’s well preserved and maintained. It’s got beautiful views of the sea as it juts out into it. Seems a sweet place – not one where pitched battles have been fought. Its shadowy nooks give ample privacy for young couples – and there are a few even on this hot and muggy day.
And the mandatory Malabari beef fry and chicken curry kind of completed the niceness of the day. I am possibly getting the hang of a road trip after all.


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