The months of April-May had been very exciting, the entire nation abuzz with elections, exercising your vote was the coolest thing to do and everybody seemed to be talking only about the elections and results. Along with the elections came unexpected holidays on voting days and for people in Telangana, it was a bonanza of holidays starting from election day on April 30th, followed by May Day, a Friday which we could always take off and then the weekend. Who in their right travel mind would let go of 5 precious holidays?
Our planning started almost as soon as the election date was declared. We had plans to go on a Jyothirlinga tour to Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra or Coorg or Kanyakumari but finally zeroed in on an adventure sports vacation to Malvan and Dandeli.
Fervour for India !
The day began with a lot of enthusiasm, we were going to seal the course India was going to take in the next 5 years. Despite the excitement of our trip, as dutiful citizens, we made it a point to go out and vote, first thing in the morning. Elections, Cricket and travel, nothing seems to be bring out national feelings like these !
Having exercised our Fundamental Right, it was time to hit the road, our “Fundamental Duty” ! As per schedule, we were to start by 10 AM, drive to Kolhapur, visit the Mahalaxmi Temple and proceed to Malvan for the night. The route was Hyderabad-Gulbarga-Bijapur-Kolhapur-Malvan, a total of 700 kms. Though a longer route, the roads were supposedly better.
Our group waited just outside Hyderabad near the Chilkur crossroads, while two other cars were to join us. It was almost 9.30 AM, we had a most authentic Karam Dosa breakfast at a Dosa cart on the roadside. There was no sight of the other cars and so we had to while away our time clicking some aimless pictures like these.
It was another 2 hours before all 3 cars assembled, if the late comer was excused and even sympathised with, it was all because of the national fervour that was running high that day, we had to be considerate for someone who was delayed at the polling booth !
Our trip finally began around 11.30 AM, 2 Figos and a Verna set out on a journey that spanned across 3 states. We were way behind schedule and had no idea if we could make it in time to Kolhapur. We checked the internet for the temple timings at Kolhapur and were hopeful that we could reach there before the closing time of 10 PM.
Election fever seemed to be catching in on most parts of Telangana. As we passed through Parigi, we saw over crowded buses transporting people, probably, to polling booths and back.
We had double lane roads throughout but the conditions were good and it was a fun drive for most part.
New states, new boundaries
It was past lunch time when we neared the Karnataka border close to Gulbarga. The erstwhile Andhra-Karnataka border shall now read as the Telangana-Karnataka border. How we love these welcome boards at state borders. They carry with them the excitement of entering into a new territory at the border. It is also hilarious to see your mobile phones go berserk receiving welcoming messages from networks on either side of the border !
The roads were in great condition in this part of Karnataka, we reached Gulbarga well past lunch time. We had to stop there as people were almost famished. We found a small eating joint called Hotel Sukanya in Gulbarga. The South Indian thali was simple but when you are starving, any food is doubly tasty !
From Gulbarga, our journey continued without breaks till Bijapur, where we stopped for a cup of tea, it was past 5 PM. From the tea stall on the roadside, we could see the Gol Gumbaz dominating Bijapur’s skyline, a great view to go with your evening tea !
After 6 hours of journey, we had covered only half the distance. We had another 170 kms to reach our first destination, Kolhapur and another 150 kms from there to Malvan. Things didn’t look too promising but we decided to move on.
Lost in transit !
From Bijapur, we headed towards Kolhapur via Athani. The roads were still in good condition but it got narrower and steeper, we realised we were getting onto to a higher altitude, you can actually see the road in a upward incline.
It was dusk time and the roads were getting deserted, if it weren’t for 3 cars travelling together, the scene would have given us some jitters. It was also, probably, because we were venturing away from the familiar zone of South India.
By the time we reached Athani, it was 7 PM and our troubles started. The Verna’s headlights weren’t working. We still had some 100 kms to cover before we reached Kolhapur and we couldn’t afford to travel in the dark without headlights, tailing another car was not a wise thing to do at night. We found a mechanic shop at Athani, who could fix our problems. We had already lost half an hour and the Verna group asked us to keep going ahead, they were sure the problem would be fixed in 15 minutes and the Verna driver was sure he could catch up, he is used to driving at supersonic speeds !
Google Maps told us we had to take the road to Arag from Athani. We followed the Google Navigator religiously until our human navigator took his eye off the phone for a brief while. Out of the blue, the road suddenly disappeared and we found ourselves on a dirt track which looked more like a never ending trench, instead of heading straight at a crossroads to Miraj, we deviated into some unknown village road ! By the time, Google could re-navigate, we had shot off our route by a long way and we were literally lost in the middle of no man’s land !
Pitch darkness surrounded us, there was no road, no sight of a human or any kind of vegetation for miles together. Google Navigator, though, wouldn’t give up and insisted there was a road ahead. Though, most of us could read the Kannada script, thanks to our Telugu background, reading signboards became a problem in the darkness. We had no idea where we were and how far Arag was.
We rambled on the path that was big enough for a Figo to scrape through, if we had a flat tyre, there was no place to even place the car jack ! For the nth time, we had lost our way, this time in transit between Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Border blues !
Our phones buzzed after sometime to inform us that we had crossed over to Maharashtra. We had planned to take pictures of border arches and sign boards as proof of our grand entry to Maharashtra but at the point where we entered the state finding a sign board was asking for a miracle !
After what seemed like ages, we found someone on a motorbike, stopped him and enquired if there was a road ahead. The Marathi-Kannada mix that the man spoke was beyond our comprehension, all that we understood was the road was “ache” after some “chaar kilometer”, thank God for Hindi !
Reading the signboards in Maharashtra was easier because it was in Devanagari and most of us were familiar with Hindi, the difficult part was that the numerals were also in Devanagari. So though we knew the road would lead us to Arag, we had no idea how far it was ! Google Maps? What Google Maps when there were hardly any mobile signals !
With the feeble signals, we managed to call the group in the Verna and cautioned them to be attentive at the crossroads, we gave them the directions but true to the traditions of our group, they too lost their way and didn’t miss on the adventure !
Our woes finally ended when the trench like road joined the highway to Miraj, we were back in civilisation. The word “relief” never sounded so sweet !
In awe of Kolhapur !
In the entire process, we lost about 2 hours and by the time we reached Kolhapur, it was past 10 PM ! We had a wild idea of proceeding further to Malvan but you have to be sensible atleast once in our life and so we decided to stay back in Kolhapur for the night. We had come this far and we couldn’t go without visiting the Mahalaxmi Temple. The resort at Malvan kept calling us wondering why we hadn’t turned up yet, we had already booked accommodation for 2 nights there but had to cancel one.
As we approached Kolhapur, the first thing that struck us was the grand archway at the entrance of the city, excuse the hazy picture but we couldn’t do a better job from the windshield.
Until then, we had thought Kolhapur was some small town, popular for the Kolhapur Chappals. Kolhapur turned out to be a huge surprise – a big city and a rather modern one at that. We were impressed.
At 10.30 PM in the night, we went in search of food but most of them were closing down, people were getting cranky as hunger and sleep began to beat their patience. Someone had the genius idea of calling “Just Dial” for accommodation and hotels at Kolhapur. Promptly, the owner of Solanki Guest House responded, he came all the way to meet us, directed us to a nice hotel, Hotel International, which was still open close to midnight. We will remember the taste of the Kichdi at the hotel for the rest of our lives !
Kolhapur was preparing for the Maharashtra Day on May 1st and the roads were busy with celebrations. Being strangers in the city, we were a little wary of the loud celebrations and hurried over to Solanki Guest House for the night.
We had only planned for adventure sports but day 1 of our trip turned to be more adventurous. It started with breakfast in India’s brand new state, lunch in an ancient city of Karnataka and dinner in the “Great State” of the Marathas, we travelled across 3 states but our love for travel on our country’s roads was one !
– Don’t take your eye off Google Navigator especially when you are in a new place, even better, simply ask !
– Hyderabad-Gulbarga-Bijapur-Athani-Kolhapur seems the decent route to Kolhapur. We had neat roads until we lost our way. The one via Pandharpur is supposed to be in a rather bad condition and we can vouch for the not so great roads on the Zaheerabad highway. If you plan to travel to Gulbarga or Bijapur from Hyderabad, take the Parigi route.
– Gulbarga and Bijapur are about 3 hours apart, you could stop by for breaks here. If you are not in a hurry, visit the Gulbarga Fort and don’t miss the Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur.
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