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Old 30th October 2009, 15:39   #1
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Post Bangalore-Belgaum-Amboli-Goa-Mumbai

Okay, so here is the mother of all road trips as far as I am concerned.

When every day in my life appeared to be just another day, I thought to myself why not make that another day a special one and see how long I could keep it special. This trip was purely driven by my heart who told me that she was seeking true love and wanted to know if it could be found elsewhere.

So I decided to set my spirit free and do one of the few things that I've always longed to do - Drive endlessly all through the great western ghats. I wanted to test my limits and my nerves under control. I had done long drives alone in the past - to Coimbatore, Mangalore and several other places. I had also done several others with friends. But this was a long one and maiden one in solitude. So I planned my offs for Diwali a little over a month ahead. My trip was from Bangalore with the destination being Mumbai where I would get to celebrate Diwali with my parents.

The trip was planned with a lot of thought with several tasks en route... all that was left was executing it to perfection.

My route went this way - Bangalore-Belgaum-Goa-Mumbai with a total distance of 1200 km. This was planned to be extended by taking a break in Mumbai and then proceed with my parents and Rafa (my dog) to Panchgani via Pune which meant roughly another 300 km. This extension didn't happen because of some reasons. En route to Mumbai I had planned a break journey by spending a day in Goa to meet some of my childhood friends and classmates some of whom I would be catching up with after nearly 20 years. Being a native of Goa, my heart was inclined to being there at any cost right from the moment I set wheels on the road.

Earlier I had planned to leave Bangalore at 10.30 pm on the night of 14th Oct. However, this didn't work out as I left my office late and had other pending tasks to be accomplished before setting out. So I stayed that night at a friend's place to catch up on some sleep. I managed to muster 3 hours of sleep before getting ready and rolling by 3.25am on the 15th. Fresh from sleep and into the wee hours of the morning I hit Tumkur road and reached Nelamangala by 4.10am. It was easy getting there with negligible traffic during these hours.

At exactly 5 am I reached Tumkur listening to Dire Straits Alchemy (Live). It took me 85 minutes to travel a distance of 75 km at an average of 52 kmph. After getting out of Tumkur I decided to stop by a chai shop at the outskirts. Milds was an unknown terminology for the chaiwalah, so I had no option but to pick up a pack of Kings. Very much needed for the drive though I had quit the puff game two weeks ago.

My chai break was 15 minutes long until I set out for my next drive point Chitradurga the land of forts. This stretch between Tumkur and Chitradurga was exceptional as expected. I traversed 129 km in 100 minutes at an average speed of 77.4 kmph which was my best stretch for the trip. Gliding on the smooth as silk road with the sunrise on the eastern front I drove out of the darkness and into the light of another beautiful day.

The feeling was so heavenly until I bypassed Chitradurga. With the next drive point being Hubli, I had to ensure I averaged 70 kmph at the end of Hubli covering 209 km. However, the road turned foe. Not surprisingly, because I was fully aware of the road conditions as I had done a thorough research prior to the trip. So my target was 70 kmph average speed so that my arrival at Goa didn't get delayed. Finally I managed to cover 156 km of an 'under-construction-messed-up' road between Chitradurga and Ranebennur and Haveri in about 3 hours and 10 minutes at an average of 45 kmph. Very stressful stretch and I was just half the way to my destination. Just as I was out of Haveri the NH4 was back in shape and smooth as silk and I had to cover 60 km to get to Hubli. I had to do this at an average of 95 kmph which in turn meant that I had to reach Hubli in about 35 minutes. So I pulled up my socks as I was soaking in the heat. I raced in the most disciplined manner, passed scorpios, taveras and indicas at speeds matching 125 - 130 kmph. Finally I touched Hubli toll gate in 30 minutes flat, being 5 minutes ahead of time. Phew!

That stretch of 210 km was extremely strenious. The terrain there was dry, barren and dusty as one would expect. By the time I had reached Hubli my body began to cry, my eyes began to sulk, the pain was very evident and physically I was in tatters. And this was just 400 km with over 800 more to go. But I strongly beleived in my mental conditioning and this ruled over the odds. My watch displayed 10.35 hrs. I got out of Hubli and decided to take a break on seeing a decent hotel beside the highway. This turned out to be an hour's brunch break. By 11.35 am, I was off to my next drive point - Belgaum. Refreshingly beating the heat, I touched Belgaum at 1300 hrs averaging 65 kmph traversing a distance of 92 km. The roads were good, winding, with several curvy ups and dips and bold demarcations.

On touching Belgaum, I bid farewell to National Highway 4. I took a diversion to enter the city as I had to connect to SH 121. Without a present-day electronic navigational device (which I consider a waste if common sense prevails), but with meticulously researched directions I managed to get to the other side of Belgaum to connect to State Highway 121. At this junction I had to do a refuel with my car giving a healthy mileage of 21 kmpl. On refuelling I set out to the most looked forward drive point Amboli - The centre of the Marvelous Mammoth Western Ghats - around 62 km from Belgaum.

The road for about 15 km was in shambles, but otherwise the stretches were motorable. Very narrow road, winding sharply with lush green fields on either side and a slowly depleting traffic as I drove away from Belgaum. It was 14.10 hrs by the time I reached Amboli. I averaged 55 kmph to get to this drive point. Awesome! Blissful! I stopped by to take some breath-taking pictures. (Images are at he end of this note).

What a sight! If one treks on foot about 5 km north-west, although I wanted to but I could not, one can reach to the top of the third tallest peak of the western ghats - Geographically known as The Sindhudurg Ranges. From this peak, facing west, one can see endless stretches of the western ghats on the left and on the right; and not to mention a small part of the Arabian Sea, overseeing Goa. This part of the world is a natural wonder. It is barely explored and is blessed with countless waterfalls.

Starting from Amboli began a sharp descend of nearly 2100 feet to sea level. This ghat section is treacherous. Very narrow roads and sharp curves on the edge of the ghats with steep valleys staring at you at several bends. My next drive point was Sawantwadi, hitting this place bang at a 'T' on NH 17, the superb Goa-Bombay National Highway. Amboli to Sawantwadi is roughly 40 km. Just when I decided to enjoy the drive and take it a little easy, I saw a Baleno approaching me and approaching quite rapidly with some 3-4 bends behind me. He almost closed in on my rear bumper flashing his headlamps desparately. I indicated to him with hand signals that I would give him way as I saw an oncoming Truck. A few bends and there was some traffic from the opposite direction and it was nearly impossible for me to give him way. He didn't seem to understand and kept flashing. After a while when the traffic cleared up I slowed down and switched on my right indicator. He refused to overtake and continued flashing. Frustrated by this jerk, I slowed down, switched off my indicator and gave him a hand signal to overtake, when he finally did. After overtaking he went dead slow blocking me which was a clear sign that he was fooling around with me. I told myself "time to play". With Boney M's Rasputin on near to full blast I started flashing my head lamps asking for way. He then started to speed on the ghats wanting me to play catch up with him. I knew that this was very risky but what is fun without risk. With one hand on the gear lever and the other on the steering, I manoeuvred to close in on him at speeds of 60 and 70 kmph. This was getting riskier for me. Just before I thought of calling it off, I managed to overtake him at a very sharp bend. I had to swerve right to stay on the road or crash. With over-excess understeering I managed to stay on the road. And just when I started to oversteer to stay adrift after the bend I saw a broken log blocking 1/4 of the road on the left. I had to quickly understeer oversteer and then drift a little to avoid the left rear of my car slamming into the log. Finally I did it without a scratch... and all of this action in about 3-4 seconds from the time of overtaking him. I continued to speed while the Baleno followed me for a few bends and then stopped the game after that. This was very risky and I decided not to play 'foolish' again. ('foolish' is the name of the game).

I finally reached Sawantwadi at 1530 hrs averaging 40 kmph. I stopped by for a chai beside the Sawantwadi lake only to see the Baleno pass by with the driver giving me a teasing grin.

Bang on NH 17 now, I continued to roll towards Mapusa 50 km from S'Wadi. By now I was in my domain; the weather that had reared me from birth. And I felt so much at home. I began to love the humidity. I started to sweat wrings. It was cool in its own way as I crossed the Maharshtra-Goa border and then drove into Mapusa for a phase 1 halt at around 1625 hrs, covering a total of 680 km from Bangalore at an average of 65 kmph which is fair.

That evening I met with 2 friends, one after almost 20 years and another after nearly 15. Absolutely ecstatic!! I went to Dona Paula beach for a quick drive and stopped at Miramar's Gasper Dias avenue for sometime. With my car parked beside the road on the beach side, sitting on the bonnet facing the Arabian sea... the sea breeze hitting gently at my face, the whispers of the low tidal waves, listening to Kansas' 'Dust In The Wind', Mark Knopfler's Golden Heart and a few other classical rock ballads, I thought that I could feel true love, it appeared to be on the horizon, but was it the darkness, or a delusion or a momentary truth? I still don't know. Only time would tell. If only she was beside me on the bonnet that night I would have shared it with her. I was lost in time and mixed emotions and finally decided to drive back. It was 10.30 pm.

16th morning I headed straight to Cafe Central, which is a pastry-bakery-condiments delight - the best I've known ever and there cannot be a better one than this for a long time to come. I remember going back to when I was 4-5 years old, my dad used to bring home loads of goodies almost everyday from Cafe Central for my sis and me. As I went back to an era, I was lost in time, very briefly though. I purchased some delights for the journey and for home.

It was 10.30 am, and I decided to set out on phase 2 - Goa to Bombay - which is a fabulous konkan belt drive of 520 kms and 9 ghat sections. The road is winding, smooth, narrow, two-lane with stray pot holes after good long stretches. Not to mention, this route is very serene especially during and post monsoons. And this was the time; thick forests and lush green trees welcoming me all the way. It was very refreshing.

25 km after crossing Sawantwadi I stopped by a hotel which serves tasty Malvan food, veg and non-veg. Speaking in Marathi, I got friendly with the waiter who found my Marathi accent quite funny but grammatically correct language. I ordered for Usal (Gravy grams), Jwarichi Bhakri (Special type of Maharashtrian bread) and Loncha (Maharashtrian pickle). I think I should stop here as far as the food goes. I also slammed down a half bottle of KF Premium Strong beer to beat the heat with some chilled fresh lime soda. Fabulous lunch and my watch displaying 1.15 pm I got all set for a non-stop drive to Navi Mumbai as I had to reach home by 9.00 pm - which meant 435 km in 7 hrs and 45 min at an average of 55 kmph which was quite doable knowing this route.

The drive to Bombay via Ratnagiri, Oni, Chiplun and Mahad was another spectacular experience. This time around, with no 'foolish' games lurking. All of the 9 ghat sections were challening with blinding curves, sharp bends and narrow steeps and dips. Just around 30 km before Chiplun is a diversion to Mahabaleshwar, Wai, Marleshwar. The diversion is after the Poladpur ghat. Mahabaleshwar from this diversion is 40 km. And my hands are itching to do this small stretch the next time around.

Since the ghats had quite a few bad stretches marred by the rains, I was running behind schedule by about half an hour. I finally reached Panvel at 9.30 pm covering a distance of 520 km in 11 hrs 30 min with one long lunch break and a few short stops. A total distance of 1200 km from Bangalore. By the time I reached home it was 9.45 pm and my parents were shocked to see me as they were expecting me to arrive the next day by either bus or flight :-) As usual, Rafa needed over an hour to calm down as he licked me all over as though he was starving for food.

To be continued... my eventful return journey.

Images below:
Chiplun Ghat and valley
Arabian Sea view at Ganapatipule near Ratnagiri off NH 17
Amboli ghats (the other pics)
Attached Thumbnails
Bangalore-Belgaum-Amboli-Goa-Mumbai-img_0180.jpg  

Bangalore-Belgaum-Amboli-Goa-Mumbai-img_0156.jpg  

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Old 30th October 2009, 17:09   #2
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Hey nice detailed log. Add more pics bro!!. Dont involve yourself into any 'foolish' game as its very precious to risk for such sort of games !!
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Old 30th October 2009, 21:37   #3
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Nice write-up. God only knows when the so called NH4 would be fully four laned.
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Old 1st November 2009, 00:40   #4
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Agastya, So where is Cafe Central? And what's the speciality? Any good Goan Sweets? Nice write up.
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Old 1st November 2009, 10:47   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Agastya_Drifter View Post
Just around 30 km before Chiplun is a diversion to Mahabaleshwar, Wai, Marleshwar. The diversion is after the Poladpur ghat. Mahabaleshwar from this diversion is 40 km.
@In the bold sentence, you say that just 30 km before chiplun, that means you are at sangameshwar on ratnagiri- chiplun road. as you said, there is diversion for marleshwar and that is correct but there is no diversion for mahabaleshwar and wai from sangameshwar. the only diversion you are talking about is at poladpur for mahabaleshwar. i think , that is typo mistake at your end. correct me if i am wrong.

btw, you had taken efforts to write this beautiful travelogue.
looking for many beautiful pics as well.
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Old 1st November 2009, 23:24   #6
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Thanks Ashish. I stand corrected. I think I wrongly entered it in my log.

The Marleshwar diversion is around 30 km before Chiplun. Mahabaleshwar, Wai, Panchgani diversion is at Poladpur around 60-65 km after Chipun en route Mumbai.
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Old 1st November 2009, 23:51   #7
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hi deutscheafrikar,
At Cafe Central, they specialize in bread and pao varieties. They also have 'Onay', which is a type of hard crusted pao. The best of all are their veg/mushroom patties and samosas. They also have an awesome variety of rolls and pastry products. Pinagr, bebinca, dodol, doce are made to order and are mesmerizing. they also have bottanchi biscuits freshly made and i guess available only between certain hours in the afternoon.
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Old 2nd November 2009, 12:03   #8
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Well written. Add more pictures. I recently added my first travelogue and it was worth writing. I wished that I had added more pictures.
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Old 2nd November 2009, 14:55   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Agastya_Drifter View Post
stopped at Miramar's Gasper Dias avenue for sometime. With my car parked beside the road on the beach side, sitting on the bonnet facing the Arabian sea...
Quote:
I headed straight to Cafe Central
Sarko Ponjekar Mare Translated - A true Panjimite

Cafe Central - The owner/brothers are family friends. They have/had 3 VW Beetles in their family. One had caught fire close to Panjim Market, some years back. The burnt up shell of that car still rests in their buiding compound - may have been moved now though.

Contrary to the name "Cafe" - its not one. Its a bakery with some amazing goan sweets and bread available. The toast available there is my favourite. They still use traditional ways to bake the cakes and bread.

Some of the sweets they sell are over as soon as they come out of the oven. There was a time when me and my dad used to stand waiting for them to finish the baking and make the bread available at the counter.

The aroma of that freshly baked bread still lingers in the subconsciousness.

Thanks for bringing some memories back.
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Old 2nd November 2009, 22:28   #10
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Okay now a question to the sarko ponjekars,
Is the Bebinca better than Vital Desouza of Mapuca and the Dodol beter than Simonias? If yes then I will drive down to the Cafe the next time I go to Goa

P.S. Spitfire diddn't you mean 'mure'?

Last edited by deutscheafrikar : 2nd November 2009 at 22:38.
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Old 3rd November 2009, 10:10   #11
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Is the Bebinca better than Vital Desouza of Mapuca and the Dodol beter than Simonias? If yes then I will drive down to the Cafe the next time I go to Goa
Err.... well cant really compare. Each one have its own unique taste. And a comparison just isn't the part.

If you do come down to Panaji, you should try the Cafe Central products though.

But for the best Bebinca in and around Panaji - you need to head towards Ribandar. And ask for D'Silva's house. Its a long red one which you find on the one way coming back to Panaji from Old Goa.

Just before the house there is a stone staircase leading up to the house of D'Silva's. You need to get there before 9:00 am and knock on the door and ask for Bebinca. Any later and the stores in Panaji must have made off with it, to pack and sell them under their brand.

Carry your own container, you might not get even a paper bag there.

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P.S. Spitfire diddn't you mean 'mure'?
That is Sashtikar (Salcete) talk - North Goa it's Mare
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Old 3rd November 2009, 10:53   #12
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@ agastya: Very well writen travelogue. Hope you have some more pics of the journey.

Just two suggestions from my side:
  1. Never indulge in foolish games, it can be very lethal. You yourself had a close shave.
  2. On a long drive, especially when driving alone, don't drink, howsoever small it might be. Beer in the afternoon after good lunch allows drowsiness.
BTW which car did you do the journey in?

Cheers
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Old 4th November 2009, 10:29   #13
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I believe Agastya drove in a Maruti Zen.
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Old 4th November 2009, 14:12   #14
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Originally Posted by deutscheafrikar View Post
Okay now a question to the sarko ponjekars,
Is the Bebinca better than Vital Desouza of Mapuca and the Dodol beter than Simonias? If yes then I will drive down to the Cafe the next time I go to Goa

P.S. Spitfire diddn't you mean 'mure'?
We can't really compare, each one is unique in its own taste. It's hard to pick. You have to try all of them.
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Old 4th November 2009, 14:21   #15
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@spitfire: wai mare, sarko ponjekar. ponjecho patranv hanv :-)
Wow, i had never heard of D'Silva's, need to go there the next time.
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