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Old 5th May 2011, 16:19   #1
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Default Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

April for us (wife and I) is turning out to be the vacation month of choice. Ever since I got married in 2007, leaving out, most of our trips were in April.

In 2009, it was relocating to Hyderabad from Bengaluru, nursing a broken-down Maruti 800 on the still not-yet-completely-ready NH7 in the heat of April running a fever of 104 degrees C. In 2010, it was a relaxed (non-driving) but expensive trip to Munnar and Thekkady.

For this year, the plan was to go to some place where parasailing was on offer. Given the time of the year, Himachal and Goa were in consideration. Weather dictated Himachal, but budget dictated Goa because we could drive and avoid the cost of a return flight for two. Driving up to Himachal and down would've eaten up most of the 7/8 days planned for the holiday. GHAC was going to run a paragliding camp in Pune which looked very interesting but was out of our budget.

So it was, despite our utter dislike for humid summer conditions in coastal areas, that we decided to get out of the comfort zone and go to Goa. Himachal could be done some other time.

The trip was supposed to have taken place in the first week of April, but issues at work and some medical constraints meant that it had to be postponed to the last week instead. This is the kind of flexibility that a driving vacation offers. No ticket cancellations/re-reservations to be bothered with.

After a couple of days' research to figure out the route to take and place to base our stay (North vs. South Goa) and hotel, we were ready to go.

Day 0 (April 21, 2011)
This was preparation day. Get the car tanked up. Get the air pressure in the stepney checked. Draw cash. Buy some essentials for the trip. Charge the cameras' batteries. Format the memory cards and keep them ready. That kind of day.

And then there was the car wash before turning in to bed. One to one-and-a-half hours of meditative, therapeutic bliss for me tending to my Black Queen (The march of the Black Queen (my new Honda Civic 1.8V in Black)) and getting her, to the best of my abilities, to look as best as she can.

The plan was to start at 4 am on April 22. As we went to bed, the weather turned inclement. Howling winds, thunder and lightning and the smell of moist earth. Nature had switched on the big air-conditioner and by the time I returned from washing the car it was actually almost shivering cold.

Someone from the southern hemisphere transported here after being blindfolded would've felt perfectly at home.

The road leading to our apartment floods easily, and is perennially in a state of repair. Fresh digging up started a few days back ostensibly to lay a storm-water drain (despite a useless mega-dig late last year to lay some manhole covers and underground pipes). The alternate routes out were also either dug up or in pathetic shape. Basically, even moderate rain would have put paid to our plans.

We just went to sleep, as it was out of our hands anyway.

Day 1 (April 22, 2011): Before the start
We woke up at 3:30 am, a little later than planned. Much to our relief, we realized that it hadn't rained where we stayed. The sky still looked a little dark and ominous but it wasn't windy. We decided it's best to start a little late as it wasn't going to get bright as early as it normally would.

By the time we went down to start loading the luggage into the car, it was 5:15 am.

To our horror, there was a nice, visible (even in the light of the lone tubelight in the basement) layer of dust on the car.

A freshly washed and dried car, parked underground in a covered area gathers a layer of dust in a matter of 7 hours. One can only imagine the ferocity of the winds that whipped up dust from outside the building and forced it into the cellar through the narrow ventilation areas and the available entry/exit ramps. We were just plain lucky that it didn't rain.

Here's a picture of BQ coyly waiting in the wings, ready to go out on holiday (from in-town driving, that is) -
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Last edited by spadix : 5th May 2011 at 16:20.
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Old 5th May 2011, 16:58   #2
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Default Re: Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

Good start for a nice travelogue Spadix.
Hope to see Goa through your lenses.
Do not forget to load pictures of Gadag-Sindanur stretch if you have some snaps.
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Old 5th May 2011, 17:13   #3
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Default Re: Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

Wow, waiting eagerly for the expedition to unfold. Dont keep us waiting for long.
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Old 5th May 2011, 17:34   #4
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Default Re: Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

Here comes the much awaited Travelouge from Spadix. Keep it rolling, especially after the long chain of mails, itna to banta hai bhai. Can't wait for long to read the whole travelouge. Any incidents enroute to goa and back? Did you go pass Amboli Ghat too?

OT: Venu Saab, remember the Dangling Ghost of Amboli Ghat?

Last edited by traveloholic : 5th May 2011 at 17:35.
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Old 5th May 2011, 17:42   #5
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Default Re: Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

So, the much awaited travelogue begins now.

Prashant Bhai, bring it on fast.
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Old 5th May 2011, 18:09   #6
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Default Re: Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

Good start this, lets get this travelogue going.

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Old 5th May 2011, 19:13   #7
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Default Day 1 (April 22, 2011), Phase 1: Hyderabad to Solapur

Day 1 (April 22, 2011): Phase 1 - Hyderabad to Solapur
Start time: 0530 hrs
Odo reading at start: 12461.2 km

We decided to take the route via Maharashtra. All things considered this seemed like the most consistent option in terms of distance and road quality. I'd heard mixed opinions on the routes via Karnataka, whereas everyone endorsed the Hyderabad - Solapur - Meraj - Kolhapur/Belgaum - Savantwadi - Goa route.

Either route would've been fine for us in terms of getting out of the city. We live close to NH9 almost on the outskirts of the city. While the NH7 connecting into Karnataka for the southern routes is around 31 kms away, 21 of them are on the empty ORR (outer ring road). It wasn't a huge problem starting a little later than planned.

We headed out in the cold and darkness. Dawn set in by the time we reached the tollgate at Patancheru 8.7 kms/10 mins away. NH9 tends to be busy even at this early hour. While progress was a bit slow, it wasn't bad at all and the late start didn't hinder us on this count.

I was a little short of sleep. The previous week was hectic with lots of in-city driving and not adequate sleep. The previous night also saw us getting not more than 3-4 hrs of tight sleep. The afternoon siesta on Day 0 really helped, as did the excitement of driving out.

Maintaining a leisurely pace, we passed the spate of small villages and towns between Hyderabad and Zaheerabad and continued on to the emptier stretches of the highway beyond Zaheerabad.

The road was nice and smooth. One of our relatives has a farm house near Sadasivapet and we visited it sometime in the winter. There was the odd pothole on this road at that time, but had since been repaired. In due course of time we crossed the AP-KA border after Zaheerabad. Initially the road condition got slightly worse. There were no craters or potholes but the surface just got a little rougher. Before I could generalize it to the probable current state of KA roads, it became even smoother than the four-laned stretch leading out of Hyderabad and was an absolute joy to drive on. I don't recollect exactly how long the four-laned stretch lasts. The undivided portion for the most part is almost as wide, like a 3-lane road, and offers decent overtaking opportunities.

A friend from Mumbai had driven to Hyderabad a few months back and had one unpleasant incident involving an Audi Q7 somewhere on this highway. I don't remember the exact stretch now.

Just as I was recounting this story to my wife, a white Endeavour loomed up in my rear view mirrors and started tailgating us. He wasn't overly aggressive, but the number plate read out a number that was a multiple of 9, and that's always a sign to me to be defensive. I gave him a wide berth and kept on at my cruising speed of around 110-120 kmph.

After a while he really started ripping and overtook us. A little ahead was a line of trucks with enough space to overtake. For whatever reason, he just stayed behind the trucks and I continued ahead. A few minutes later he was on our tails again and overtook us in short order. My wife told me that the guy in the front passenger's seat was trying to get a good look at us. A few kilometres ahead he suddenly pulled to the left without signalling at all and slowed to a stop near a bunch of dhabas. I wasn't too close behind so it was OK but it could've been close. I was getting a little irritated/worried now. The roads immediately outside Hyderabad manage to see their fair share of drunken fools who enter into needless "races". I concentrated on staying defensive.

A few minutes later he was back. This time he ensured that the overtake lasted longer and even I could see the guy in the passenger's seat trying hard to get a good look inside the car. We've got RE35 on the sides and it's a reflective film, so the Endy was hovering a little ahead of us, allowing the co-driver to glance into our car through the front windscreen. I have no clue what he was trying to achieve. I slowed down a little bit. He zoomed ahead and vanished into the distance.

By this time, we were nearing Umarga. There's a line of petrol bunks a few kms from the town and we pulled into a BP outlet here for a bio-break. I saw the Endy near one of the other bunks. The travellers were busy drying out some clothes. That was a Hyderabad-registered Endy and I sincerely had no clue what they were up to. This must've been their 3rd break in less than 200 kms. It didn't seem like they were on some short out-of-town drive.

While at the BP outlet I saw the Endy move on. That was the last we saw of him.

The stretch in Karnataka is very short. The KA-MH border falls almost midway between Humnabad and Umarga. The road continued to be nice and smooth to drive for the most part. If there is any complaint I have it is that directions at forks/intersections are not marked properly. For instance, somewhere near Naldurg I saw a fork in the road and was confused which fork leads to Solapur. One of the forks was marked Aurangabad, if I remember correctly, and I knew from maps that the other fork must lead to Solapur. I just confirmed this with a scooterist and continued on our way.

What the roads lack in adequate signage is more than made up for by the helpfulness and politeness of the Maratha people. Right from the bunk attendant near Umarga through to this scooterist to the MH-Goa border guard, this was a recurring theme.

Here is a grab shot - nothing special at all - of the Naldurg fort as we drove past. We didn't stop to explore the fort or take proper pictures. It's an impressive fort and deserves a dedicated visit. Maybe some other time.

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0762.jpg

We had taken some more pictures. Unfortunately, the particular memory card in use at that time developed a bad sector or two, and I found this out only two or three days into the trip. All told, nearly 40 pictures - mostly from Day 1 - were lost.

We hit the outskirts of Solapur town a few minutes before 0930. Following directions from mobike008 and ranjitp1 we took the NH9 bypass from the eastern end of the city to the western end and turned back into the city. There was a little bit of the morning traffic but less than what I'd expected, perhaps because of it being Good Friday. However, there was the typical small town feel of slow-moving vehicles hogging the right lane and not responding to the horn at all.

At every junction we asked the way to Mangalwedha and in less than half an hour we were out of Solapur town and heading towards Mangalwedha.

At nearly the 300 km mark we stopped again for a short break. This was at another BP bunk around 20 km into the Mangalwedha road. It was 1030 hrs - 5 hrs to cover 300 km including passing through Solapur town and a 10 min break in the middle at Umarga, which was decent going. Nothing spectacular and I was happy with the 60 kmph average.

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Old 5th May 2011, 19:26   #8
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Default Re: Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

Thanks for your interest and eager anticipation, all! I hope the rest of the travelogue can keep you as engaged as the first post or two.

@gajadonga: Unfortunately no pictures/videos of the Gadag - Sindhanur stretch :(. My wife was sleeping through the worst bit of this stretch, the part which I would have liked to have a video of.

I'll try to do as much "justice" to this stretch as I can using words. Hopefully time taken to cover the stretches should give some sort of an indication. Let's see.

Another video which I would really have loved to shoot was the Phondaghat descent. The thought struck me only after I completed the descent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by traveloholic View Post
Any incidents enroute to goa and back? Did you go pass Amboli Ghat too?
Oh yeah there were a few incidents. I've already described the one-sided cat-and-mouse with that white Endy. Then there are the usual instances of panic braking and overtaking moves where we suddenly needed to back out etc. I'll talk about some of those as and when they occur in the chronological sequence of events.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SILVERWOOD View Post
So, the much awaited travelogue begins now.

Prashant Bhai, bring it on fast.
Waseem bhai, I figured the only way I'll complete the travelogue is by actually posting live in small bits rather than relying on the Assembly line section, for instance .

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Old 9th May 2011, 18:29   #9
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Default Day 1 (April 22, 2011), Phase 2: Solapur to Kolhapur

Day 1 (April 22, 2011): Phase 2: Solapur to Kolhapur

My wife took the controls after that second break at another BP bunk. I looked forward to relaxing for a bit and having lunch before taking charge for the home run later in the day. The plan at this point was to head "left" after Meraj to Chikkodi and then take the Nipani, Sankeshwar, Gadhinglaj, Amboli route, and that I'll resume control at the beginning of the ghat section.

The Degaon road leading out of Solapur towards Sangola via Mangalwedha is typical Indian countryside material. Low traffic density means mostly good roads bar the odd rough patch. To our surprise this was actually a toll road too, which probably contributes to its general state of well-being at least at this time of the year.

It was on this stretch that we first started seeing the seemingly endemic problem of people simply unresponsive to the horn. Slow vehicles (of all types) would stick to the centre of the road and not budge an inch and it was simply up the overtaking vehicle to complete the move without any assistance whatsoever. We started observing this kind of behaviour on Degaon road and it just kept getting worse as we neared Kolhapur.

Some of the vehicles are double/triple-trailer tractors carrying sugarcane. That was a typical sight on this stretch.

There was one other thing that was very typical of this entire ~250 km stretch, by the way. I'll leave that for you all to guess. Hint: It's got nothing to do with Sanjay Ghodawat or the Star group .

Mangalwedha could be bypassed. From Google Maps it seemed like we would have had to go through the town but that wasn't the case.

We had a bit of a scare as we merged back on to the Mangalwedha - Sangola road from the bypass. A white Alto (K10) came zooming out of nowhere and we missed each other by an inch or so. My wife was visibly scared and slowed down for a few moments to regain her composure. The Alto in the meantime disappeared into the horizon. The driver was really ripping the pants off it. We caught sight of it later on. We were doing between 90 and 110 (about 80-85% of what could safely be done on that road) but as I said, that car was being ripped bloody hard by the looks of it.

In the meantime, a packed-to-the-gills Toofan suddenly took a liking for us and started tailgating us. As usual, we just maintained pace and ensured we gave him as wide a berth as possible. He couldn't get past and after a while he lost interest and stopped somewhere. A little further ahead we spotted the Alto parked under the shade of a tree to the side of the road. Its inmates were taking a break and as we went past we couldn't make out any sort of hand-waving or gesturing. So the close call seemed like a genuine mistake from both sides.

We came to a T-junction at Sangola and initially took the turn towards Pandharpur before - courtesy of a few gentlemen at a tea-stall to the side of the road - very quickly making a U-turn and taking the Kolhapur road.

We didn't have too much (if any) in-town driving to do in Sangola either. However, BQ recorded her first underbody hit on a massive speed-breaker near a railway crossing. My wife spotted it but didn't slow down to single-digit speeds, which is what is really required to survive these horrendous, unscientific car-breakers. We must have taken it at around 11-12 kmph and duly recorded a massive thud. This led to some more soul-searching by my wife . I told her to keep the car at around 5 kmph to cross the hump on the other side of the track. She took that equally big, bad 'breaker at around 6 kmph and all was well. That's the key, really. Drive almost parallel to the 'breaker and cut speed. But there was another instance where even that didn't help. More on that later. This was BQ's first underbody hit in months. We'd almost forgotten what one felt like. Thanks to the Railways for reminding us!

Sangola to Meraj wasn't as pleasing to the eye as Solapur - Mangalwedha - Sangola was. It felt almost like driving in the middle of a desert, replete with windmills to capture the energy trapped by unhindered winds. There was the odd patch of cultivated land and a semblance of a valley that might look grand in the monsoons but, under this searing mid-day sun, didn't do more than hold our attention for more than a few seconds and a couple of disinterested picture-taking attempts. The failing camera ensured that there isn't much left now of whatever little we attempted either.

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0766.jpg
Windmills a-plenty enroute Meraj from Sangola

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0775.jpg
Barren vistas - I

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0779.jpg
Barren vistas - II

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0788.jpg
Sangola to Meraj

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0789.jpg
Overtaking on the Sangola-Meraj road

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0795.jpg
Watch your back always

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0799.jpg
Nice road to drive on

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0801.jpg
I could see a lot of these trees especially after Meraj. Could someone please identify this for me?

Apologies for the poor picture quality. We didn't stop anywhere to take pictures. So you can see a lot of motion blur or poor contrast due to reflections off the windows.

Almost since the beginning of the trip, I was in constant touch with ranjitp1 and was receiving valuable tips and info from him on route and eating options along the way. Once he learnt that we were doing good on time and were on target to hit Kolhapur by around 2:00 pm he suggested that we continue towards Kolhapur from Meraj town and take the Phondaghat route and finish the ghat section while there was still ample daylight. Otherwise, he suggested, it's better to stay overnight in either Kolhapur or Belgaum, to avoid doing the ghats when it's dark. I liked the idea of finishing the ghat stretch in day time, so wife and I pushed to ensure that we would leave Kolhapur before ranjitp1's suggested time of 3 pm.

Meraj town was a bit busy and we had to keep asking for directions every once in a while (i.e. at major intersections). We were also held back a lot of times by slow-moving scooterists/motorcyclists as I mentioned earlier in this post.

Meraj to Kolhapur is an interesting stretch. This is totally Sanjay Ghodawat/Star Industries land. All sorts of businesses ranging from agri-products to restaurants to packaging and metal-working and whatever not. Why diversify in the stock market when one can inherently diversify by being a conglomerate? The Western world is enthralled with this kind of thinking by our very successful business leaders. I think Sanjay Ghodawat is no different. At one point we even spotted one of his cars - a grey Bentley CFS sedan if I wasn't mistaken. Too bad it was in the opposite direction and we couldn't take a picture of it. His house is also quite a sight. I think the plot's large enough to hold 9 football grounds, if not more. View from the perimeter is completely blocked by a thick line of tall trees. I'm sure people living in that area must feel like his palace is an oasis in the middle of a desert. Once we crossed his house we could hardly find more establishments bearing his name.

On we went, and one quick check with ranjitp1 at the Ichalkaranji road cross and we were on our way to Kolhapur.

Meraj to Kolhapur is also somewhat busy - much like Bengaluru to Mysore. Still, we were able to make good time. A little outside Kolhapur, one has to get on the NH4, drive on it for a kilometre or so and then get off again to enter Kolhapur town. It was mind-blowing how busy that NH4 stretch was. It felt like I was in a busy thoroughfare in Hyderabad! We entered Kolhapur town at around 2:15 pm give or take, seemingly well on target to hit the Phondaghat road much before ranjitp1's conservative cut-off time of 3 pm.

Regards,
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Old 10th May 2011, 15:07   #10
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Default Day 1 (April 22, 2011), Phase 3: Kolhapur

Day 1 (April 22, 2011): Phase 3: Kolhapur

I have decided to devote an entire phase of the day to Kolhapur even though distance-wise it was a very small part of our day.

What was supposed to be a breezy drive through a supposedly small town turned into an hour-long nightmare trying to find directions and driving through some tight traffic in narrow lanes and/or non-existent roads.

As I noted in my earlier post, we entered Kolhapur town at around 2:15 pm, and per the estimate dished out by the Maps application on my phone, 10 kms and a few minutes later we would be out of town heading out towards Phonda. Maps advised us to stay on NH204, totally circle the city and arrive at Rankala lake.

We asked for directions once a km or two before the railway station. I don't know Marathi but it's somewhat close to Hindi so I could make out bits and pieces of it. The bystander was extremely helpful (as I mentioned in an earlier post, a recurring theme in Maharashtra) and from what he described I could make out the route suggested by Maps was not an option due to road-building/construction works and I should instead look for a place called Kalamba and then proceed from there. He proceeded to give me directions to the next large signal/junction and then ask someone else there.

Doing this, we reached a pretty busy/important junction. If I remember correctly, it was called Shivaji Chowk. From here, I was asked to take a narrow uphill lane (one-way) going through a market that was selling mostly only Kolhapuri chappals and bags. Suddenly my wife wanted to do some shopping (she was driving)! There was still enough time left (for the 3 pm target exit time) but we decided there's no point shopping now, especially on that crowded street where parking was going to be a problem. We were still unclear whether we'll ever hit the Phonda road as so far different people seemed to have different opinions on how to reach there (blame the confusion on the road-building).

After going through that market and arriving at another junction I was asked to go back to Shivaji Chowk as the route forward was apparently closed. This is where I started getting a bit frustrated. So off we went to Shivaji Chowk again (not more than a km or so away), stopping another couple of times in between only to hear differing opinions once again. Note that the people were extremely courteous and were trying their best to be helpful but it was the confusion caused by closure of the main route that was killing us.

At Shivaji Chowk we were duly asked to retrace our path. The mercury levels inside me were rising just as those outside were slowly beginning to fall. I felt we made a huge mistake venturing into Kolhapur and was harbouring thoughts of heading back out to NH4 and proceeding to Sankeshwar.

In the middle of all this, my wife was totally enjoying herself, driving in the narrow, populated lanes and stopping every few metres asking for directions! You couldn't have asked for more differing emotions inside a car at that moment.

We finally came to a decision that we'll try asking for directions a couple more times, and if that fails I'll just jump into an auto and wife would follow. With this back-up plan in mind, we forged ahead to the same place where we were earlier asked to head back and continued forward. We also made it a point to ask auto drivers only to the extent possible. At one junction, two auto drivers got into a discussion and after a few minutes both agreed and sent us onward into an even narrower lane than we'd been on so far! It wasn't bad but rows of parked two-wheelers and oncoming traffic meant clearances were pretty tight. One of the bystanders actually looked closely at the car, and muttered something about whether the car would actually make it going further. After a moment's thought he said we'll be alright. There was no way we could make a U-turn in that lane. We'd have to back out all the way if we got stuck due to road-building or some traffic hold-up. Thankfully nothing of that sort transpired.

After we exited that lane we asked another auto driver for directions. He said we were on the right path (thankfully!), but he was very apprehensive about passing on further directions. He had a smile on his face and switched to Hindi when he saw the expression on mine. What was his concern? "Route bahut tedha-medha hai sahab. Aap confuse ho jayenge." My word! These Kolhapuris are too kind/hospitable to a fault! I thanked him for his concern and said that won't be a problem as I'll stop at every junction and ask for directions. He also had another suggestion. Instead of aiming for Phonda road directly, first reach Sambhaji Nagar petrol bunk, and then proceed.

We took the path he advised and kept asking for directions to Sambhaji Nagar petrol bunk. This was much better and we reached the said bunk in a few minutes' time. The clock was edging close to 3 pm but the worst was behind us.

After crossing the petrol bunk we eventually saw Kalamba, the place one of the first people we'd approached for help had mentioned. Somewhere in the middle of the ordeal I was repeatedly cussing him (jokingly) but now I found genuine respect for the man.

There were very few auto drivers to be found on this stretch of road which was clearly on the outskirts of town. A roadside fruit vendor asked us to look out for a Sai Baba temple and take the right-side fork. We went a couple of kilometres ahead and could make out no temple, but we did make out that one half of the road was closed for works, and the available half was no great shakes either. It was past 3 pm and the car was low on petrol (the yellow reserve light had come on). Confusion still abound. We asked a shop owner for directions and we were directed to a narrow kachcha lane opposite her shop on the other side of the road. We went there and the people there (RTC staff, it looked like) said it's better to go back towards Kalamba and Sai temple instead.

It was time to take 10 slow, deep breaths and head back towards Kalamba, simply because it seemed to me that the RTC staff spoke with greater conviction than the shop-owner lady. Anyway, we proceeded very very slowly and after asking another helpful gent for directions, finally arrived at the Sai temple. And we also realized then why we missed it earlier. The temple was built in the V of land between the two forks and it was a very "long" V. The sign board was invisible unless you were really looking hard for it, and the temple was a fair bit inside the V because of the narrowness of the V.

From here, the road just kept getting worse. We went through some residential colony and ended up on a cratered, potholed excuse for a road. We spotted a petrol bunk and tanked up and took a bit of a breather. It was 3:20 pm now, and by ranjitp1's word, on the border of the possibility of reaching Goa before night. However, there was no option but to push ahead. I asked the pump attendant if the road was this abominable through and through, and he said no. He pointed his hand to a spot and said the road's good from there on. I asked him how many kilometres away that spot was . He pointed to a tree a hundred metres or so away and said that's where the bad stretch would end.

We pulled out of the bunk, carefully negotiating all the craters and ditches and made our way to the tree he pointed. At that point we were greeted with what felt to our eyes like paradise - a smooth road and a kilometre stone indicating the distance to Radhanagari.

All along, people kept referring to Radhanagari. We could never make out if Radhanagari was a colony/suburb of Kolhapur or a different town. I kept thinking it was the former, given how frequently people were referring to it. It turns out, however, that it's a different town between Kolhapur and Phonda and some people were more familiar with Radhanagari than Phonda.

So finally, after spending more than an hour, taking a couple of detours and running around in circles, navigating some of the busiest old town roads we were finally outside Kolhapur and heading towards Radhanagari and Phonda. Wife and I switched roles at the petrol bunk and I was driving now.

Regards,
spadix
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Old 10th May 2011, 15:47   #11
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Default Re: Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

Why did you have to take so many detours Prashanth Bhai? AFAIK, once you take a left from the Miraj-Jaisinghpur-Kolhapur exit, you take a left from the Flyover and continue straight. You would come across a couple of Flyover and a couple of roundabouts and once you cross those, you are back on NH happily cruising towards Nippani.
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Old 10th May 2011, 16:50   #12
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Default Re: Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

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Originally Posted by traveloholic View Post
Why did you have to take so many detours Prashanth Bhai? AFAIK, once you take a left from the Miraj-Jaisinghpur-Kolhapur exit, you take a left from the Flyover and continue straight. You would come across a couple of Flyover and a couple of roundabouts and once you cross those, you are back on NH happily cruising towards Nippani.
Nikhil bhai, it was a conscious decision to take Phondaghat route.

Just to be clear, the detours were inside Kolhapur town itself, as we were trying to find our way to the Phonda ghat route.

There were 3 options, basically -
  1. NH4A from Belgaum to Panjim via Khanapur and Londa-Ponda
  2. The well-liked Sankeshwar - Gadhinglaj - Amboli - Savantwadi route
  3. The Radhanagari - Phonda route

The first one would have meant tackling the ghat section at a later hour, and driving through the forest and in the company of mining trucks in fading light didn't appeal very much to me.

The second one was what all of you had recommended but I took ranjitp1's suggestion for the third for the following advantageous reasons -
  1. Complete the ghat/forest stretch in broad daylight
  2. Drive the beautiful NH17 and hopefully catch a glimpse of the setting sun on the sea on-the-go

As luck would have it, the second advantage didn't materialize. The next post or two will explain why .

That said, a huge to Phonda ghat route. It was beautiful and I would encourage you to try it out sometime. Other than the fact that we were obviously not familiar with Kolhapur and the default route through the town was blocked, it's a very quick way to get on to NH17 as fast as possible. And there's brilliant scenery along the way to boot.

By the way, getting on to NH4 from Meraj - Kolhapur road is even easier than you've described. From what I remember, it's just one left turn on NH204 followed by an entry ramp! There's just a little bit of a hold-up at that left turn (depending on the time of the day).

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spadix

Last edited by spadix : 10th May 2011 at 17:07.
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Old 10th May 2011, 17:06   #13
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Default Re: Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

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  1. NH4A from Belgium to Panjim via Khanapur and Londa-Ponda
Obviously a typo, its Belgaum.
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Old 10th May 2011, 17:08   #14
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Default Re: Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad

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[/list]Obviously a typo, its Belgaum.
Ah, of course! I've corrected the original text now.

Thanks for the correction, Waseem bhai. That's one sharp pair of eyes you've got there.

This is the closest approximation to the route I took inside Kolhapur. It's not exact. I know for a fact - based on the turns that we took - that we took a somewhat different route between Rankala Ves bus stand and Sambhaji Nagar.

There was some going back and forth between Shivaji Chowk and Gangavesh, and then one more just after Kalamba where I took the left-side fork instead of the right-side one and went ahead for a little bit before back-tracking.

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Last edited by spadix : 10th May 2011 at 17:15.
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Old 11th May 2011, 14:10   #15
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Default Day 1 (April 22, 2011), Phase 4: Kolhapur to Kankavli

Day 1 (April 22, 2011): Phase 4: Kolhapur to Kankavli

I had my lunch between Mangalwedha and Sangola itself and I took the controls over from my wife at the BP outlet outside Kolhapur as she isn't very experienced with ghat section driving and of course, she must have her lunch as well.

In hindsight the running around in Kolhapur was probably helpful. The yellow light came on in the midst of it all and focussed my attention towards finding a petrol bunk. There was no functioning outlet for many miles after that BP outlet on the edge of town!

The Radhanagari-Phonda ghat route is very picturesque. Unfortunately I lost many shots due to the bad sector problem on that CF card. Anyway, here are a few I could salvage. This was during one of the longer breaks we took on the entire trip. The only time the camera out of the car was during this break. It's just too bad that I couldn't do enough justice to the scenery on view. We can also make out just how dusty the car got in the ~540 kms it did this far.

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0803.jpg

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0808.jpg

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsc_0811.jpg

Getting out of the comfort zone: Hyderabad - Goa - Hyderabad-dsg_0813.jpg

The road was being done up in a few places and we had to watch out for the piles of stones on the side of the road that reduced the width of the already narrow (due to wear-and-tear) road in such stretches. Nothing too alarming, though.

As we motored on, the scenery started getting more rugged, pristine and beautiful. One moment we would be passing through areas such as the one pictured above. The next moment would be some flat lands (with a good amount of greenery) where there were small settlements. Following that would be a stretch through dense forest where I found it prudent to switch on my lights so that oncoming traffic would be able to make us out earlier!

And then there was the beautiful Dajipur Talao. We so wanted to stop there and take pictures. But the lake shore was quite a distance away from the road and while there were a couple of trails leading to the shore from the road, it felt prudent not to risk BQ on those trails. One of them in particular looked quite easy but one never knows. A 4x4 would've been nice. The other option was to park the car and walk down to the lake, but we didn't do that as it would've meant another long-ish break. In hindsight, maybe we should've just done that, time and safety reasons aside. However, again in hindsight, perhaps it was a good thing, considering the faulty camera and the fact that for all that, we may not have had (m)any good photos.

I would encourage anyone who does this route in future to just slow down at least (like what we did) and look at the lake as you circle around it. I'm sure it'll look even better when the sky is bluer (spring-time) or during the monsoons.

As I moved on, I saw a silver Nano without a number plate in my RVMs giving me a good chase. We had overtaken this Nano quite a long time back and the driver seemed pretty tentative then. So it was surprising looking at the Nano trying to overtake us. I was doing between 70 and 80 and there would be some vehicle or the other in the opposite direction. It was a good game of cat-and-mouse. The Civic would get ahead if there was a vehicle to overtake, or in the corners (where I think the Nano lost out due to its tall-boy stance despite being RWD) but the Nano would get back on our tails on the straights.

A few kilometres ahead was a view point overlooking a valley. I stopped to check it out for a few minutes. It looked no different from the Araku valley viewpoint so I got back into the car and didn't spend any more time. The Nano went past us in the meantime.

The best part of the ghat stretch was to come after this viewpoint. The road was butter-smooth, clearly marked on both sides and there were ample road signs. It was just pure joy driving this stretch. We caught up very quickly with the few vehicles that had gone past us and of course, the Nano was one car ahead of us.

It struck my mind *after* completing the descent that we should've shot a video of this stretch . This was *the* best stretch of the entire trip. I think I should go back just to take pictures of Dajipur Talao and a video of the ghat stretch after the view point.

In short order we crossed Phonda town and reached Kankavli. The Nano went into a Tata motors dealership a little further ahead and then it struck me that it was a test mule! As it was pulling into the dealer's yard we could clearly make out the one guy in uniform and the family of the prospective buyer.

Some test drive that was - nearly 50 kms including ghat and straight sections!

We reached Kankavli a few minutes after 5:30 pm, and it was just a little over 100 kms from the BP outlet. It took us around 2 hrs of driving time to cover that 100 km in the ghats.

From Kankavli it was NH17 and it was just a matter of following the kilometre stones that indicated the distance to Panaji.

Or so we thought.

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