Monday, 23 September 2013

Mangalore to Coorg – and I enjoyed the leeches suck my blood.

If you have a death wish, visit Mangalore- the traffic here is so chaotic that one may blindfold himself and still drive much better. Drivers and riders in Mangalore lack road etiquette and are oblivious of any traffic rules. The bus drivers top the pecking order of bad driving, with horns blaring at jet level decibels; it’s as if rest of the traffic is theirs to roll over. The two wheelers thankfully can’t go over or below a vehicle, else they would have done that too. It will be a challenge not to see someone drive in the wrong lane at super-fast speed. We started our trip from this maddening city at 0630 AM towards Coorg on the 10th of September.

 The roads connecting Mangalore and Coorg,

We had booked a cottage at Kabbe holidays- a homestay far away from the maddening city life. The roads from Mangalore to Sullia are pretty good, and then we had  25 kms of crater ridden road to deal with. I would probably have preferred driving on the moon, than in Sullia. The moment we enter the district of Coorg, the roads are carpet again. The road is quite undulating all the way till Madikeri and the scenic greenery is jaw dropping beautiful.

We reached Kabbe Holidays at about 1 PM and had lunch there. We were pleasantly surprised at the beautifully laid out cottages and the lovely scenic view their offered, right from the luxury of our beds. 

 We spent the remainder of the day, listening to the call of the birds and staring into the serene horizon.
Dinner was enlightening with our host, Dilip- realising that Aari was Gluten Intolerant he taught us to make fluffy rice chapatis, rice cake and a couple of other rice delicacies. After a lip smacking dinner, we did what we do best- sleep
The next day, Dilip, Praveen (another guest at the place) and myself went on a trek to a nearby hill. The trek was quite short, but to my unexercised bulky body- quite a challenge. The trek was quite beautiful, with fog rolling down the hill and clearing up frequently. 

The moment we reached the peak, we saw 5 wild elephants about 750 mtrs from where we were. We decided to brave a few thorny bushes and sneak a wee bit closer to the pack. During this process we lost sight of the elephants and rolling fog further reduced visibility. At this moment we heard a loud trumpet of one of the elephants and we decided to rush back to our safe point. Out here I fell into a small pit and thankfully the tall grass, cushioned my fall. I looked at my camera lens and thankfully it was all right. I hauled myself outside the pit and realised that scores of leeches were desperately trying to get into my skin. Not minding the leeches, I continued my rush towards the safe place. Once back into open ground, I started the laborious task of plucking out the leeches- it was quite exhilarating to be sucked so professionally- no pain and no clots.

Once back into our cottages, I was quite excited to rattle out my story to Aari and see her get jealous.
In the afternoon, we went to a nearby waterfall. Aari and I had seen quite many waterfalls this month and quite expectedly, more than the waterfall I was happy to see the frogs that resided there.

They were mating frogs and singles looking at the mating frogs.  Since I had carried my tripod, I decided to get a few long exposure shots of the waterfall anyway.

In the evening, Aari and I had a nice romantic walk in the fog covered walkway of the nearby hill. The blanket of fog providing us a nice cloak of privacy. We also enjoyed speaking and befriending a few friendly local people and they were truly warm towards us.

The morning of our departure, Aari and I decided to wake up early morning, brave the cold and do some bird watching. It was a truly rewarding experience. Other than the common birds like the bulbuls, cuckoo’s and drongo’s we spotted Velvet fronted nuthatch, Grey hornbill, wagtails, whiteeye, scarlet minivet, laughing thrush and a busy golden back woodpecker.
 Knock knock.
Who's there?
VFN who?
Velvet Fronted Nuthatch
A scarlet Minivet sets the forest on fire..,
With mom,dad and our new found friends Srivani and Praveen.

We had a heavy dosa laden breakfast and started our drive back to Mangalore at 10AM. We had a pitstop at Madikeri for some wild honey and reached Mangalore at 3PM. We somehow felt that the roads were wee better on our return trip that during the onward journey.  All in all it was a never to be forgotten experience, one that we would love to relive again.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Goa to Mangalore and back- From the highway to the cow-way.

Aari, I and Zeita drove from Goa to Mangalore on the 5th of September and returned back on the 19th of September.  We started both our trips at 0630 AM, reached Mangalore at 0430 PM while the return journey took us half an hour less.
We had scattered rains during both our drives and also clear skies and dry weather at some places.

Our drive started on a nice comical note, when Aari noticed this spelling challenged bus. ("Mother Mary")

The entire Goa- Mangalore drive was on NH 17, and this section of the highway is pretty good. It’s mostly a 2 lane highway; except from Udupi to Mangalore where large sections have been made into a 4 lane and work is underway for the remaining part.

NH 17 in South Goa is well maintained but is narrow as a gully. Patience and good mannered driving of the locals probably keeps the highway from getting blocked despite the heavy traffic.
When Mangalore bound we had our breakfast at Udupi Café, in Karwar. The entire restaurant was served by one overworked waiter and certainly one can give this place a miss- Unless compelled by the stomach to act otherwise.
From Canacona to Mangalore, the roads are filled with cows- creating not only a nuisance, but also a driving hazard.  It’s surprising to note that nothing has been done to curtail this cow menace. If we saw a vehicle in front of us suddenly veer from its path, we came to accept that it was dodging a cow. Vehicles suddenly braking to stop hitting a crazy cow are quite common occurrences.  We also spotted a person trying to clear a dead cow from the road, making me wonder how many injuries and deaths are caused on this highway by cows every day.

An additional hazard sign required- Jay walking cows.

"It's time to replace the truck in the hazard board with a cow ". NH 17 by itself is filled with hazard zones and when it was not the cow we had an occasional elephant too!!

The highway from Goa to Mangalore is in good condition, despite the monsoons. The only section that is filled with pothole is a 10 Km section between Bhatkal and Honnavar and a 2 KM section north side of Kundapura.  The road is really bad here and potholes as deep as a swimming pool.

Between Udupi and Mangalore, the highway is four lane. Unfortunately many people here are unaware of lane driving and also have very bad road etiquettes. Signalling during lane change is completely absent and driving between two lanes is pretty common. But the greatest danger is vehicles coming from the opposite direction on the fast lane that we were driving on!!!  They drive with their headlights on in such a casual manner, oblivious to the danger they are causing by their self-created traffic rules.
Traffic rules in Karnataka are poorly enforced and  rarely followed.
We had our Lunch when going to Mangalore in Udupi at Hotel Sharada International . Good place- with average to good food and reasonably priced too.  Enroute to Goa, we had our breakfast at Parijata in Kundapura. We had to take a 1 km detour off the highway, into the Kundapura main road to reach this place.  The breakfast is had standing, but the service is fast- hence we were able to gobble down and back into the drive in 15 minutes flat.  Lunch was gluttoned at Café Tato at Margao. The place is on the highway and serves tasty food – super fast. They have a separate non-veg section, and we saw a large and decent crowd that thronged the place.
One of the most scenic section of the drive is at Maravanthe, where the highway is flanked by the Maravanthe beach on one side and a river on another. 

Milestones in Goa show the distance to Mangalore 50 Kms less than the actual 400 kms , but this gets rectified once in Karnataka.
There is a toll booth in Karnataka, which charges 5 Rs toll; while in Goa, Non-Goa registered cars have to pay 250 Rs to enter Goa.

Despite being a 2 lane highway, the drive is truly lovely. Green trees create a covered canopy for a large section of the drive.  Overall, the 400 kms can be comfortably covered in 8 hours,