The monsoon is one of the most magical times of the year in many parts of India, especially in the South and South West of the country where the rain thunderously inundates every pore of Mother Nature.
Dry, ragged mountains like the Sahyadris in Maharashtra burst into every imaginable hue of green and rivers, lakes, fill to the brim as dark clouds gather and burst forth with life-giving rains.
It was in this weather that TraveLusts decided to undertake a road trip along the 720 km long coastline in West India known as the Konkan region. The Konkan region has a distinct culture,including a separate language known as Konkanese!
Our journey began from Maharashtra down to Goa, Karwar and into Karnataka and we had chalked out a tentative route to go all the way down to Kerala, India’s southern most state to cover the circuit in about 980 kms, one way.
The upcoming festival of Dushera afforded us a short 5 day break and we grabbed the opportunity to drive down the Konkan region in a valiant attempt to chase the fabulous Indian monsoon.
We set off on a rainy evening from the city of our dwelling, Pune towards Begaum in Karnataka which was to be our halt for the night.The sun set quickly as we advanced at a fairly neat pace and covered the 340 odd kms (Pune – Belgaum) in about 6 hours. The National Highway has four lanes for most parts, but a lot of it is under construction and diversions are (very annoyingly) aplenty.
After a night halt at Belgaum we began our drive on day 2 towards Goa. We left Belgaum at about 830 am after a hearty breakfast, and crossed the lovely forest near Mandovi river. We tried to venture into the Dudhsagar Falls, one amongst India’s tallest waterfalls, but the crowd of tourists (courtesy the holiday season) was appalling and we dropped the idea.
Despite a traffic jam around the Dudhsagar Falls approach road, we were able to reach Goa by 2 pm. We entered the State from its South side at Molem, thus avoiding the infamous traffic of its capital Panjim and other towns.
Since we wanted to spend an evening chilling out, we shacked in at the Blue Planet, a vegan restaurant and hotel (with quaint wooden cottages) at Agonda for the night. Meanwhile we caught a gorgeous sunset (yes, they are overrated but they still make our hearts burst into a song!) and stretched our limbs to gear up for the drive the next day.
We set off for the final leg of our onward trip towards Mangalore and onwards to Kerala. This was the longest stretch of driving due to bad roads and heavy traffic even though we covered only about 365 kms.
We stopped at Gokarna intending to visit the famous Om beach, but once again the holiday crowd was an absolute bummer. The narrow approach to the beach was jammed with cars and we just didn’t want to partake in this ‘carnival of human bodies on the beach’.
We finally reached the sleepy town of Kasargod in Kerala at 11 pm, tired and literally ambushed from our arduous experience.
A comfortable stay at a friend’s hotel in Kasargod, a hot shower the next morning and a lovely rustic Malayali breakfast set us on the return journey on day 4, as we drove fast and long, taking a new shorter and more scenic route via Yellapura in Karnataka, (detour begins before Karwar at Ankola) reaching Belgaum at about 9 pm the same night.
The drive back to our hometown on day 5 was unadventurous as we drove through a crowd of cars all returning to the city after a long weekend!
~ Other than the rain that poured from the sky almost incessantly through our drive, the rain had also wreaked much havoc on the roads, resulting which we traversed on nearly 1500 kms of really bad roads. Potholes were common and the only good stretches were in Goa.
~ The National Highways we took are all under expansion, and the diversions on these stretches were very discomfiting. The diversions would pop up out of the blue and force us to not only slow down, but also invariably change lanes! In the night, this proved to be rather dangerous, as we would watch speeding cars in our rearview mirror, apply brakes and come to a screeching slowdown as they’d see our indicator flashing. We did have a few near misses.
~ The entire route from Pune – Kasargod was very crowded without exception. While heavy traffic kept us company nearly throughout the route, we were especially perturbed by private vehicles that travelled in two extremes, either they were too slow or too fast.
~ Vehicles and two wheelers traversing on the wrong side of the road also proved to be harrowing. One is used to encountering them in the city but one thinks that they would have more respect for the rules of the road on a National Highway!
~ There was a dearth of roadside eating joints and we ended up going hungry for long hours, eventually eating at local eateries in the small towns that dot the route.
We chose the sturdy Mahindra XUV 500 for our trip and the car didn’t let us down once. Strong, a car that grabs the road and stays on it through the potholes and the numerous diversions that jump at you, a great drive and spacious, we would recommend it as a companion for many future drives.
To us, any trip that we undertake, however thrilling or arduous, adventurous or painful, happy or unsatisfactory always has a ‘Saving Grace’.
On our 5 day touch-and-go road trip from Pune to Kerala and back the saving grace was undoubtedly the breathtaking and heartstoppingly gorgeous topography of our beautiful country!
From meandering roads on mountains, hills and forests to the straight stretches along the Arabian Sea, there wasn’t a fraction of the 1800 kms we drove that wasn’t a photographer’s dream come true! Dark, rain-laden clouds, thundering and roaring, that would gather up in a moment and unleash their gift, was nothing short of poetry in action!