Saturday, 31 August 2013

Mumbai to Goa – ‘Iron Maiden’ lullaby sends Aari to sleep

We started our drive back to Goa from Vasai at 6 AM- We had to cover 621 kilometres of unpredictable Indian roads.  We did not plan any over night stops, but we were prepared for a stay at Kholapur, incase of any inordinate and unexpected delays.  The drive until Nerul was all fine and then we came across a massive traffic jam between Nerul and Belapur; we covered about 3 Kilometres in 1 hour.  It turned out that a truck had broken down at a narrow bottleneck  and 2 cranes were employed to remove it.
Our hopes of reaching Goa by sunset were fading by the minute. By about 0900 we reached the Pune express highway and ate our breakfast at one of the food courts. The place was pretty crowded but the delay in breakfast gave us a much wanted break. The road on Pune Expressway, except in the Ghat sections is pretty much good. We reached Pune in good time, and that brightened our prospects of reaching Goa by the day.

This is our 9th drive from or to Goa and Mumbai, and we prefer a Hotel Called Sai International for our Lunch breaks. The food is good- the service very fast and courteous. The best part are the wash rooms, which are maintained spick, span and in hygienic condition.  Only a handful of Indian restaurants can claim this. Most of the restaurants on highways , which have a nice ambience in the eating section have a pretty miserable washroom.  Sai International, which comes after crossing Satara Bypass and about 20 kilometres prior Kolapur, has always been our pick for lunch.

We completed lunch at about 0230 PM and continued our drive. The Road until Satara is pretty much ok, with potholes that pop in now and then. After Satara all the way until Nipani, the roads are worth their toll price.

At  Nipani we took a turn to Goa, and again the road until Sindhurg was pretty much good. There are potholes at many places, but nothing that will rattle your bones. At Sindhurg we stopped for Chai and fresh corn. I had my Cuppa and shared a corn with Aari. When I was eating my share of the corn a monkey landed on the car top and extended his hands asking for the corn. I refused to give in and he showed me his teeth and threated me with a harsh sound. I gave in to his audacity, and timidly handed over the corn to him. He proudly sat on top of Zeita and munched the corn to his fill.

The road at Sindhurg is pretty bad, but the lovely scenery makes up for all the shake-rattle and roll. As the Sindhurd Ghat came to an end, the playlist on the cars music system (which plays songs on a strict alphabetical order, arranged by bands) started playing Iron Maiden. Aari, after a bit of tapping to the beats of ‘Holy Smoke’, soon fell asleep.  Bruce Dickinson’s  ‘air-raid siren’ voice, seemed like soothing lullaby to her- and she says she does not like rock music!!

We reached Goa, by 0530 PM and reached home at 0645 PM, just in time to see the twilight fade away. It was a lovely drive and despite the monsoons, one can complete the Mumbai- Goa drive within day-light hours of a single day.

Zeita was dirty at the end of the drive- gave her a nice 2 hour bath today- the drive did not tire me much, but the washing sure sapped off all the energy.  

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Two nights of sedentary living at 'Hidden Village'

Two men and two and a half women decided to drive to and spend 2 nights at ‘Hidden Village’. A rustic getaway, about 80 kilometres from Vasai.  Aari, I, Bosco (Zeita’s godfather), Neelam and Aurelia (Bosco’s and Neelam’s child and our godchild) left at about 12 PM via Biwandi (as drawn on the map). 

The traffic at Biwandi was chaotic at best. We were left gasping for driving space and breathing air and it was a relief getting off Biwandi. We reached Hidden village at 3PM, most of this time, between 12 to 3 was spent watching the exhausts of trucks at Biwandi. The road, where we take the detour off Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway all the way upto Mumbai- Nashik highway is scarred with potholes. There are lengths of good sections too, but they just don’t ring enough good bells because of their bad cousins. 

Hidden village, like the name suggests is quite hidden-just the kind of place to get away from the maddening city life.  We lazed in our cottage for a few hours and later that night, Aari and I decided to play footsie in the games room. I got the better of her, one of the few times I get one-up with her. 

The next morning, Aari and I decided to take another stroll and meet the farm animals. The goats were delighted to see us and even more delighted when they realised that we were there to pamper them. 

Seeing all the attention the goats received, a female Turkey arrived from nowhere, and started displaying her plumage. She came slowly towards Aari and stood next to her feet. I then sat down and began petting the bird- it was more than delighted. A few minutes into the petting I realised the colour of wattle, changed from white to red. We then continued our walk and the Turkey kept following us.

The next day too, the same ritual continued. This time I engaged in some heavy petting, knowing that it was our last day there. A few minutes into the petting, we spotted 2 male Turkeys giving us some dirty looks.

We decided to continue walking and the female turkey continued sitting in the place where I had last petted her. When we were about 20 meters from the place, one of the male Turkey, mounted the female and copulated with her. Such lazy birds these males turned out to be, I did all the pampering and cajoling and the males just arrived to give the finishing touches. What’s the Turkey world come upto!!

Aari and I also met a flock of geese. At one time they surrounded me and in geese language asked me to feed them bamboo shoots. After a small lecture on geese etiquettes, I plucked a few shoots of the bamboo to feed the birds. 

The birds that were behind me, were quite annoyed that I was ignoring them and not feeding them. To get my attention, they began pulling my short-pants!! Hey come-on give a man his privacy, bird brains.

Hidden village has a lovely pool, which is fed by water, from a nearby spring. I love water and wanted to take a plunge, right on arrival. Aari though was reluctant to have me go for a swim. To know why, we need to take a bit of detour from this hidden village story.
In April this year, I was throwing a stone tied with a string on our tamarind tree. When the stone would get entwined on any branch of the tree, I would shake the tamarinds down. After three days of throwing, my shoulder was really tired. I persisted throwing the stone higher and higher and finally, one fine third day my shoulder dislocated. I gave one look at my mangled shoulder and intelligently put it back in its right place.  Aari and I then decided to consult an orthopedician , who after closely looking at my 1.5 tesla shoulder MRI, decided that I should not swim for “6 months” (Aari thinks he said “for life”!!!). So back at hidden village, Aari was against me going for a swim. But how could I resist water! Taking a cue from the turkey, I did a little pampering dance of my own and managed to get the green light. Aari accompanied me to the swim and kept a hawks eye vigil on me. After 1 hours’ worth of swim, I had proudly gone against the doctor’s diktat.   

We spent two blissful nights and returned back to the maddening crowds of the city. For the return trip we decided to give Biwandi a miss and drove via Thane instead; a good 20 extra kilometers, but much lesser potholes and more disciplined traffic . The return journey took us nearly the same time as the onward journey, but was a pleasure to drive and hardly any truck exhaust pipes to look at. I recommend this route to any one intending on a similar sojourn or drive. 

Bye and have a lovely day- Thank you

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Day 2- Kolhapur to Pune via waterfall country.

We started our day from Maratha Regency at about 9AM. The security personnel at the hotel offered Aari a flower just before departure.  The next pit stop of Pune was only 250 kms away or about 4 hours’ drive. We decided impromptu to take a detour and explore a place called Warandh Ghat. After checking out from our hotel, we quickly joined the NH4 and headed towards Pune. 

About 185 Kms from Kolhapur, we took a detour on the road that leads to Mahad. The road until this detour is very good, a couple of toll booths were the only time the brakes were used (figuratively speaking).  We planned to drive about 66 Kms on this road, that heads towards Mahad. The road itself is filled with many small craters but the hills around are simply breath-taking.

We drove, enjoying the waterfalls that were littered all along the drive. We stopped at some of them to wet our feet and for some photo shoots. 

Once we reached the ghat, we stopped there for a breath-taking  scene. It then started to rain, and it rained very heavily- the rain was so heavy, that Aari categorised it as raining cats dogs and monkeys. As we retuned back, the heavy downpour continued and we spotted many new waterfalls too. It was a truly romantic drive in all sense. 

We returned back to NH 4 after a 4 hours scenic drive . NH4 from Satara all the way until Pune is filled with diversions. Flyover construction work is in progress and these diversions are in pretty bad shape. We counted about 6 diversions until Pune, but thankfully we did not lose much time here. 

We reached Hotel Ginger at Pimpri at about 7 PM, and had a relaxing sleep after a truly wonderful buffet dinner. 
A small glimpse of the drive in the ghats, with impromptu commentary by Aari.

Map of day 2 drive.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Day 1 - Goa to Kolhapur

We started our drive at 7 in the morning; luggage was loaded the previous day itself. Three minutes into the drive, we got a call from home that one bag was left back! Despite all the checklists we somehow manage to goof up. The roads of Goa, though narrow are smoother than most Indian roads and at 7 in the morning they are ruled by the cattle.

It was a lovely drive on NH 17, all the way until Sawantwadi. Once we reached this sleepy town, we halted for breakfast at a restaurant called ‘Mango 2’. I remembered that this restaurant was once called Vithal Kamath, even as early as five months ago. On asking the waiter, he said that the management was changed three months ago. The food was good, but the restrooms were dirty as ever. Vithal Kamath’s maintain clean restrooms, a service provided by very few Indian restaurant’s. 

From Sawantwadi until Nipani, is all state highway. The roads all the way until Nipani were good, a few potholes here and there do exist, but nothing that Zeita could not handle.  The high point of this section is a small ghat at Sindhurg. We stopped there for about 45 minutes, ate a hot roasted corn cob. Though it was not the freshest, like anything hot that tastes awesome on a cold day, this corn too tasted top notch!

The place has a lot of monkeys, and it was fun watching and learning a few monkey tricks and teaching the monkey’s a few of our own.  There is a waterfall here, with steps leading up in it and if you are the one who loves to take risks and don’t mind breaking a few bones, then a walk up the stairs is not a bad idea. The water will not only drench you, but can even throw you off your feet.

This monkey had a few tricks up his simian sleeve- eating bread and relieving himself was one among them.

Highway patrol.

A part of this state highway is in Karnataka, while the majority section lies within Maharashtra. The last time we were here, in March of this year, the Karnataka section was cobble stones and rubble; it was as bad as it could get. Now however the road is as smooth as a road should be, better than most of the highways in fact. It was a pleasure to glide along the road, with lush green enveloping you from all sides.

 Aari keeping a close watch on me- lest that I wander and get lost!

After Nipani, it is NH 4, also called the Pune-Bangalore highway. The road until Kolhapur is in great shape, and on a weekday sparsely populated by traffic. We reached Kolhapur by 0130 PM, and my GPS navigator, showed the way right up to the hotel. But I could not find it, and went about randomly driving in the crowded Kolhapur market, to be led right back to the same location after about 1 hour of hectic manoeuvring. This time I was wise enough to make enquiries with the locals, who kindly directed me there.  

A few reluctant goats, who felt they had the same right of way as Zeita! 

NH4 - Until Kolhapur is somewhat like this- despite the monsoons.

Road signage, taken over by moss.  

Some of the many waterfalls that dotted the route 

Hmmm...looks like me !

The hotel reception greeted me warmly, and I managed to prove my Indian citizenship (see yesterday’s post for the full story) beyond doubt, now they wanted to prove that Aari and I were married!! Amazingly, Aari carries a copy of our marriage certificate and producing it palliated any doubts, that I had randomly picked Aari from somewhere off the road.  We went to our rooms, freshened up and headed to the restaurant for lunch. The lady at the reception questioned if we were heading for breakfast. I looked at her and wondered if people of Kolhapur eat their breakfast at 3PM. I politely replied that we were heading for lunch.  We had a lovely lunch, and spent the rest of the day in our room, planning our future endeavours.