Long weekends are God’s greatest way of making up for the jokes He plays on mankind and when God decides to be nice, can mere mortals be far behind in making the full use of it? That is the philosophy of this group, we come from the great lineage of the Indian Software Engineer who is an expert in engineering long weekends, who has mastered the art of optimum utilisation of declared and optional holidays. Sneak out a day or two in the middle of the week so that it extends to the weekend and lo, we have a long weekend !
This year, 2nd October fell on a Tuesday and the possible long weekend sightings happened very early, all you needed was to nick the Monday in between. A long weekend calls for the ritual of road travel, “where to?” was the question.
Hyderabad, is a great place to take off from for road trips. Though unlike Pune/Bangalore/Chennai, Hyderabad has limited weekend getaways, for road trips of 3-4 days, Hyderabad is strategically located. Most places of interest are around 1000 kms radius and the city is closer to the North-South, East-West corridors, which means some of the best highways in the country are easily accessible from Hyderabad.
So, for the 2nd October road trip, Karnataka was the Chosen One. The idea began from a simple trip to Badami/Pattadakkal which paved the way to Gokarna/Murudeshwar, which finally ended way beyond where it was intended, the original idea of Badami long forgotten. Blame it on Google Maps which makes you believe that it really is a small world !
The final map read – Hyderabad – Hospet – Jog Falls – Kodachadri – Kollur Mookambika – Agumbe – Sringeri – Udupi – Murudeshwar – Gokarna in 4 1/2 days ! This region is referred to as the Malanadu (The land of hills) because it stretches across the Western Ghats right upto the Coastal Karnataka.
On Thursday, 28th September 2012, the journey began to Malanadu:
Month long planning – Check
3 Ford Figos (high time Ford recognised our service for being their brand ambassadors) – Check
12 travel enthusiasts – Check
Route Maps & Travel Plan – Check
Crunchies & munchies – Check
Colas from the office refrigerator – Check
The cars were dragging their backs on the road, thanks to the baggage and their very “healthy” owners who occupied the cars.
The journey began at 4.00 PM against the scheduled time of departure of 3 PM, they call it Hyderabad Standard Time for a reason ! Starting from Gachibowli, the first stop for the night was planned at Hospet.
The ORR and NH 44 have now become our trusted travel buddies, most of the trips have been on this amazing Highway. To reach Hospet, one can either take the Hyderabad-Mahbubnagar-Raichur-Hospet route or if you are the kind who has a love affair with NH44, you can go on further upto Itikyal and then head on to Manvi-Gangawati-Hospet. We took the second route for obvious reasons, i.e to hold on to the NH44 for that much more longer, though it was a longer route.
The drive upto Itikyal was a dream as usual, the traffic was heavier than normal and took us a little more than 2 hours to reach Itikyal. The moment we took the deviation from Itikyal, we were roused from our dream world and the famed Indian roads gave us a reality check. Indian roads when they go bad, they go really bad ! You are left searching for the road amidst potholes is an easy way to describe them. The cars groaned, the drivers sighed, the passengers complained but the road refused to listen, it was like driving in a long pot hole with a pinch of road in between ! And so, we drove on, half tired, half sleepy, half annoyed but holding on to the excitement, peppered with the Hindi and Telugu hits of the 60s, welcome tea and car cleaning breaks.
Google Maps is the Bible of every road traveler, a world before Google Maps seems to have never existed and we wonder at the plight of the travelers of the pre-Google days. Google Maps has made a traveler’s life that much more easy. Yet, it has its own limitations like any technology does and there are times when you have to take the help of a human to find your way. But most often, we resort to it only when it is too late. Following Google Maps, we found overselves in a no man’s land somewhere near Mantralayam. After some crispies and colas, our minds began to work and we checked with some local men who guided us to take the route to Manvi and from there to Gangawati and Hospet. The much needed break didn’t change the road conditions in anyway, we were only to realise later that this was going to be the constant element of the trip.
At around 10 PM, we found a dhaba near Manvi and stopped for dinner. The eerie dhaba had limited options but the food was so good that the tiredness of the journey seemed forgotten, atleast for the moment. Several rotis, dal, tomato curry, biriyani later, we were raring to go until it stuck us that we still had a long way to go before we reached Hospet and the road continued to be unforgiving. Our time estimations went for a toss and we were still hovering around Gangawati well past midnight with Hospet 50 kms away. Every kilometer down was cheered and finally, the light at the end of the tunnel was sighted around 2 AM, 4 hours behind schedule !
Hotel Shanbhag, our pitstop for the night was more than what we could have asked for and without any delays we tucked in for the night, too tired to even register the distance and time we spent travelling. It was only the beginning !