Hmm I see some parallel travelogues about Goa. Maybe we should have had a mini Team-bhp meet there ? Sunday 10th : 4:30 AM IST on the dot. Airport Road
The 4:00 AM deadline for departure has passed but we are not yet ready. I have been ignoring the last and final boarding calls from my family and continue sipping a cup of coffee. The threat of leaving without me is an idle one since I have the car keys in my pocket. Finally at 4:30 Luggage packed, checklists checked and trip log filled in we set off. There was a thought of going through the NICE road but the early hour and the assumption on lack of traffic has tilted the scales in favour of Yeshwantpur. It is exactly 2 years since I had gone on this road stretch and the improvement in infrastructure is amazing. The last time in 2008 it had taken me 1 hour to cross the first 29 Kms , today we covered 60 kms in the first hour. It might have been even faster if the Neelamangala flyover was opened. It seems to be ready but waiting inauguration. One of the stretches seems to have just been opened and the personnel manning the toll booths are in training. The toll booth guy goes through the motions of collecting toll but does not actually collect the money and waves me through.
The general condition of the road is getting better now and a lack of traffic at this time allows us to whizz. Since breakfast had been packed we do not have to waste time stopping for food and simply dine “in-flight”. As I compared my log with the previous trip it was clear that we were making much better time which inspires us to skip some more customary stops and try and reach our destination as soon as possible. Detailed timing logs have been posted in routes forum. Driving is a pleasure and I goad Lucia to reach 150 on a straight stretch. This is more to check Lucia’s power and I decelerate to cruise at a more comfortable 110 - 120. Indian roads are just not designed for speeds above this. Dawn has broken and I hate the plain stretches and hope that the highways authorities and forest department get around to planting big native trees instead of shrubs they are so fond of.
How do you overtake with such road hogs?
We soon cross the windmills and take the customary photograph.
We do stop for a coffee in the Reliance Kamts and winded up having a couple of Idlis too. This is the Kamats before Hubli, Food is okay, service super efficient, restrooms not exactly okay and words cannot do justice to the dustbins outside.
This photo below might.
I had eaten in this place when it part of Reliance A1 and been disappointed when Reliance suspended operations. These restaurants filled in void in having a comfortable place to stop. It is nice to see that this place has reopened now under a different management and has healthy competition all across.
The stretch after Hubli bypass is also very disturbing on the eyes with lots of garbage left on the road and also a continued lack of trees and cover. The roads from Hubli to Ankola are much better now and I manage an average of 60+ kmph. From my previous logs I see that 50kmph was the average earlier. The problem is the 2 lane and truck traffic which makes overtaking difficult. However the time does fly and then stretch through the forest is relaxing in spite of all the speed breakers. To the best of my knowledge there is no wildlife in this forest and driving fast is no risk to the non existent denizens of the forest. We did see a pitiful site of a domesticated small calf run over and lying on the road. I am careful of domestic cattle thereafter.
There is a van carrying vegetables. An old lady is sitting on the vegetables completely oblivious of the surrounding traffic. Photo does not come out too clear
The first glimpse of the sea comes at Ankola though I am not sure if it is the ocean or a river mouth. We just get a short glimpse and are soon at the outskirts of Karwar. The sea view is beautiful as usual though the navy or port authorities seem to have put some barricades on the hill where one used to get the wonderful view of the ocean. Spoilsports. 12:00 Karwar
Should we stop for lunch or have lunch in Goa ? We do stop at Lotus in Karwar to check out the place. The place looked very clean and neat but it also looked like food would take a long time so the decision was made to go on. At approx 1:00 we reach the border. This is the point we typically become emotional and also dread the customary useless questions from the police or tax auhtorities. Last time they made me fill some forms the purpose of which I was not sure. What do they do with these forms. This must be creating useless employment to lots of people I guess. Forms have to be collated, stapled, stamped filed which requires people. Lessons from School Economics on disguised unemployment flashes before me. Border
- The story of the wire you see is a long one and needs a separate post.
This time I just whizzed through the border. No idea why no one stopped us but I did see a couple of young people on a mobike with a dazed look held up on the Karnataka side. Never understood what the police or tax people are actually looking for at the border. I understand (not fully though) that they do not want you to carry alcohol, but that is into Karnataka from Goa. Why bother if you are leaving Karnataka for Goa ? This question has me baffled since a long time and I have not had the guts to go and ask them. Anyone knows? Rear window just after border
The scenery suddenly changes as we cross the border. Is it the so many ramshackle bars and restaurants? Are the roads suddenly looking different? Are the houses different? Well something or everything is different but it is so difficult to pinpoint what.
At 2:50 we are at Benaulim
Benaulim is what western comics and books of the past where men were men would be called a “one horse town” There is a main cross called Maria Hall though that might not be the official name. The road west goes to the beach, the road east goes towards Margaon. The road north towards Colva and the road south towards Varca where many of the 5 star resorts are located. Main Cross at Maria Hall
There is a bus stop and a small ledge where there are always between 2-5 people sitting. When we first saw this a few years back there seems to be always 5 people sitting and hence it got christened the Panchayat. The Panchayat members don’t seem to know the concept of time. They seem so contended just sitting and chatting with each other or staring at nothingness. It always makes me wonder on what sort of problems they might be having, if at all and if so do they worry about their problems. I have also been tempted to just go there and sit myself but am worried that I might be accused of usurping the Panchayat.
The Panchayat though not in full session
The beach is 2.5 kms from Maria Hall and is lined with a couple of shops on both sides followed by a stretch of fields before reaching the beach.
There is general irritation since all are hungry. Without unpacking we rush to the beach hoping we might be able to grab a bite if any of the shacks are open so late. The first shock hits us when we see that the Benaulim beach parking is full. Cars, mobikes and hordes and hordes of people. Johncy is supposed to be a nice place and is packed. We do get a table and I start hydrating my system which had got badly dehydrated. We order our customary sea food and pork and then leave everything to Karma. One important thing to note in Goa that time is a different concept as thought about elsewhere.. If one is short of time and is in a hurry, Goa is not the place for you. My normal patience (self assessed) is taxed when the food comes in the wrong order with the main course coming first followed by starters after some time and my pork chilly fry being forgotten. On reminding the steward I hear the usual “it is just coming”. However his expression of puzzlement followed by his surreptitious looking at the order book, banging his head and rushing to the kitchen confirms what I suspect - He has forgotten to place the order. He now refuses to make eye contact and finally after 45 minutes of waiting when I ask him to forget the food and get the bill he triumphantly and returns with the trophy of pork chilly fry. This is not a goanese dish as I had thought but is somewhat though not exactly Chineese. First meal in Goa has been disappointing. It is now 4:30 and it is latest that I have had lunch in a long long time. We get back home and unpack and plan for the evening. There is an elegant restaurant called Pentagon near Majorda that we had liked and we head there at 08:00 PM. The problem is that I don’t remember exactly the route to Pentagon and need to keep asking. Nice Goanese people like most of us are warm hospitable people and don’t like to be in a position where they cant help. If they don’t know the way, their hospitality prevents them for informing us that. If we are looking for Pentagon they will assume that it would logically be near Hexagon or Octagon. Go first left and then second right is the same as go right first and then second left. Lots of contradictory directions gives us a drive through many of the small roads and with some meandering we do finally find Pentagon.. There is a live band playing and the place is not too crowded. Place is as elegant as before though the food quality is not the same. It seems that there are very few Goanese actually in the services industry, Most of the people including chefs are from elsewhere and it is a pity that the number of places where you can get authentic Goanese cuisine is reducing, I assume that the smaller non touristy places away from the hubs might be the better places though as tourists I have never tried such places.
The atmosphere is still the same and the number of foreign tourists seems to be very high in this restaurant. The band is playing well and the music is inspiring people to dance. There is a couple waltzing so elegantly. Seeing too much of the bollywood dances I have forgotten what “classical” dance is like and we get mesmerized by the fluid movement and grace. Some resident expatriate doctor starts singing most of the popular songs dubbed in what sounds like French.
My pork Vindaloo is disappointing making it 2 disappointments of the day. I have never had consistent Pork Vindaloo and maybe some experts in the forum can help here. Why is that this dish is so different in every place? What is really authentic Vindallo? Is Alu really an ingredient in Vindalo as Pentagon had done ? Anyway the atmosphere more than makes up for the food and we leave with a good feeling. it is very important in such vacations to set your expectations to zero so everything comes finally as a pleasant surprise. Today we would have been very happy even if our expectation had been set high
Driving back I observe the familiar fogging of the window with the humid air. Though it is not raining or drizzling the wiper needs to be on. Day 1 is over