Day 3 : Vadodara – Panvel (Mumbai)
Vadodara – Bharuch – Surat – Valsad -Manor – Panvel (Mumbai)
Till this point of our trip, weather was on our side but on the morning of Day 3 things started chnaging. When we left Vadodara, it was raining but mildly. I was little worried because driving speed goes down in rain but not much because we had cover around 450 Kms and according to all the sources, the road ahead was pretty good.
Turned out that this information was a little stale and the whole road was dug up as there was road widening work going on between Vadodara and Surat. As this route is full of industries, there were lot of trucks on the road. These trucks were generally the long ones (16-18 wheelers) and among these, construction work and rain were adding more trouble for us to drive at some decent speed.
We were doing really bad and were probably covering just 35-40 Kms/hr or maybe less. This was because of diversions, pot holes and continuous rain. Road was better on some stretches but those stretches did not last long. We took our breakfast break around 10am. We were driving from last 4.5 hours and had not even crossed Surat which is around 150 Kms from Vadodara.
We took a 1/2 hour break at a deserted GTDC restaurant and then we were back on road. We were still not worried because of rain as it looked pretty in the morning. Also, the GTDC guy confirmed that road was bad till Surat only. Very soon we reached a place where we saw a toll gate and the road became better. We were leaving Surat city behind and continuing on NH-8 for Mumbai.
Road after Surat
The quality of road charged us and now we were driving at a good speed. Sometimes rain gods got so furious that we were not able to see any thing (despite wipers’ running at full speed) but it was for couple of minutes here and there and then speed of rain again became tolerable. Road was good and we were managing decent speed of about 100kms in 1 hr. We had left behind Vapi and Daman & Dadar Nagar Haveli in some time. Road condition was good after Surat and other than rain, every thing else was working fine for us. I think rain & widening work together took some extra time in out journey but it will be a better road after widening and will take less time to reach Mumbai from Vadodara.
After a while, it started raining continuously. I mean it actually started raining with full force. I had a misconception about rain and used to think that if its raining and you are driving at 60-70 km/hr or more, you can cross that area quite fast and get out of rain as you leave the clouds behind. I was wrong. Leave being out of rain, we were literally waiting for the moment for force of rain to come down but it was the same from last 1/2 hr.
Very soon things started getting worse. Pot-holes on road started getting bigger because of trucks that can easily run over making them deeper and wider. Maruti Esteem has very low ground clearance to bear these bigger pot holes and it started hitting at the base. Initially pot-holes were at some distance and if you run over it with speed it hurts you more/less depending on its size. Sometimes because of low visibility, we hit the base of the car really hard in bigger pot holes. We were very worried about the whole situation. We could not even see whether any thing was damaged because of continuous blow at the base of our car. It was raining very badly, still with full force.
We could not go to any mechanic to get the car checked as petrol pumps/shops were all deserted/closed because of rains. The car was still moving but we were not sure for how long could it take all this. Since we had no resort, we consoled ourselves and thought of moving on assuming that nothing has happened to car or even if it had happened, lets reach our stop as quickly as we can so that we can arrange for a fix. We tried not to think of the worst and continue with what we had, as that was the only option at this point.
We were still around 100 kms from Mumbai. And the original plan of reaching quickly was not working as road condition and weather were against us. It was full of pot holes till the point of our visibility. It will not be an exaggeration if i say that some times for crossing 300-500 meters we were just crossing pot-holes, no road at all. Obviously we did not want to hit our car again at the base so were driving really slow.
Very soon we could see trees, which were below the highway, half or more than half submerged in water. We could see that all the areas which are on the way and below the level of highway were getting drowned. Believe me, it was not an easy moment, being just two people (husband & wife), driving a car already hit in its bottom umpteen times and it was still raining with full force. We did not take any pictures as it was raining hard and that was the last thing on our mind.
Slowly and steadily we were heading towards our destination and thanking our stars that the car was still running. We had to reach our resort in Panvel so we needed to take a diversion from NH-8 few kilometers before Mumbai. Tried to ask few people at a petrol pump and they confirmed that the diversion for Panvel is few kilometers ahead.
Actually around big cities and suburbs, you can reach a place through many routes. In desperation, we choose the the first turn towards Panvel to get off the road. This diversion reached Panvel via Bhiwandi, Thane and we took it without thinking twice because of the situation and later realized our mistake. This route turned out to be quite long and congested.
Took diversion toward Panvel
I learned in my return journey that we should’ve taken Ghodbandar Road and then NH-4 from Thane which would have taken us to Panvel directly.
I am not really very sure how many kilometers we drove extra and what path we took to finally reach our destination, Shalom Resort which was almost outside Panvel (on NH-17), but we took around 4.5 hours to reach Panvel from the diversion point.
Lost some where near Navi Mumbai
We reached the resort around 7pm, tired, exhausted and low on spirits and it was still raining, though with slightly less force. We checked into our room and tried to settle-in.
After having some snacks and tea, we started contacting back home. Brother from Vadodara told that it is raining since morning there and it’s almost flood like situation. Father from Lucknow said that it is also raining from last two-three days in Goa and it is in the news.
We were not in a condition to decide anything and were really confused and depressed with the situation. We decided not to continue to Goa and stay in this resort and probably go back after couple of days once the weather gets better. Going towards Goa was not an option for us at that time as it was only the two of us, weather was bad, car was injured and we almost had no information about the road ahead. After the incorrect information on Vadodara-Surat stretch, we did not really trust the details that we had.
It was a really long day. I still thank god that we reached the resort safely. Had a sound sleep thanks to the long drive and rest of struggle during the day.
Day 4 : Panvel – Goa
Panvel – Mahad – Poladpur – Chiplun – Rajapur – Kudal- Panaji – Cavelossim
We got up relatively late in the morning around 8am, as no travel was on the agenda.
Last night, it was almost certain that we’d abandon the trip and wait for the weather to settle down before we go back. But somewhere inside us we wanted to reach Goa. Also, there was a feeling that all the pain taken in coming so far will get wasted. Both of us were a little scared and were not able to make up our minds. Our heart longed to continue the journey, but the mind stopped us.
In the morning – View from our Resort at Panvel
The weather outside was cloudy but there was no rain and it cheered me up. I browsed the resort and it was really pleasant out there. It gave me some energy and I dialed one of my friends in Mumbai. We talked about the whole journey, he ensured me that road from Panvel (Mumbai) to Goa is great and we will not face any problems but left the final decision to me.
Then I called our resort in Goa to confirm about weather there and they were also positive about it. Final positive breeze came from the person who was at reception in our resort. He ensured us that the road is good and there is nothing to worry. He also gave us contact of another resort at Chiplun (owned by the this resort’s proprietor). Chiplun is 250 Kms from Panvel (on way to Goa) and he suggested that if we have come so far, we should at least give it a try and stay in Chiplun if we find it difficult to continue to Goa.
We were 560 Kms far from Panaji and it was around 9am. We had to make up our mind quickly and I became positive after talking to my better half. We knew it is going to be difficult but we both somewhere in our mind and heart wanted to reach our destination.
I checked the car’s bottom and nothing seemed to be serious. Checked air in all wheels. Ordered little heavy breakfast and had it quickly. Checked-out and got back on the road.
We started at 10:30am from the resort and initially faced some traffic near Pen (a place near Panvel on NH-17). Traffic was obvious because the of office hours and by this time every body was on road specially near towns. We were not making good progress. Road was OK and had some bad patches because of rain in last few days. We were about to reach Alibag and took left turn on NH17 leaving Alibag behind in few minutes.
Road after Alibag
Road quality became better after that turn and we started driving on comfortable speed. In the first hour of our driving we had not made any good progress but after that we used all opportunities to cover up the backlog. Roads were really very good as mentioned by my friend over phone call but the road (NH-17) has so many turns that one needs to really take care while driving.
You become really occupied while driving on NH-17 and special care should be taken in rainy season. There are straight stretches as well which allow you to speed up little bit and we were using them completely. Sky was full of clouds and off and on we were facing mild to heavy rain on our route.
While planning we were a bit skeptical about taking NH-17 for going from Mumbai to Goa and were planning to take NH-4 via Pune to Goa. Thanks to Cuckoo (another ghumakkar) for clearing my confusion about this. It is a beautiful road which goes through lot of scenic places between Mumbai and Goa. Chiplun, Mahabaleshwar, Kudal are some of the places on this road which are weekend destinations from Mumbai. Full marks to NH-17 for its surface quality and overall greenery and non-highway type traffic and route.
Actually NH-17 goes through the Konkan region and Western ghats which makes is so special. The Western Ghats also known as the Sahyadri mountains, is a mountain range along the western side of India. The range starts near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, south of the River Tapti, and runs approximately 1600 km through Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala ending at Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India.
NH -4 (Mumbai – Chennai, another part of Golden quadrilateral) also passes through western ghats but as it is much more wide, straight and maintained, these attributes make it highway type road with highway type traffic, whereas on NH-17 you can experience little interior feeling and serpentine roads with ascent & descent often while driving.
We did not stop for lunch because we had difficult task in our hand to reach Goa by some decent time by evening/night and also because we had a heavy breakfast little late. We took a break around 3pm. I am not sure about the place but it was as beautiful as the complete route we were seeing since morning. We had some snacks/food packed from our resort in Panvel and tea in this short break and then continued on our way to Goa. According to my calculations we were doing fine and were 80kms from Panaji at 6pm just after crossing Kudal. It started becoming dark by that time so we took fuel and checked air pressure in our car.
“Panaji – 80 Kms” seemed to be quite achievable in next few hours and we were OK with the overall situation. One miss that we made in all our anxiety was that we had not counted extra kilometers to our resort in Cavelossim (South Goa) from Panaji which was quite significant in night, around 50 Kms. We started feeling darkness of this route in next few minutes and because of no divider our speed started suffering. Road was turning fast and with no light around, it was difficult to drive. Rain had also not stopped fully and was mild at that time. We were doing really bad in terms of speed because of many things happening together, rain, wiper, vapours on the wind screen, could not open windows because of rain, no light, no divider and road was little hilly and turning fast.
Both of us were quite stressed at that time and were concentrating on driving only. The final thing which came in our route to increase our stress level was a group of newly made trucks. These were the long trucks without body which made them more dangerous (as there were no clear cut structure and lights on them). I guess they were 8-10 in number and were difficult to overtake because of their number and as they were all going together and the road wasn’t wide enough. We wasted a lot of time just being behind them and finally got rid of them near a town where they slowed down.
We reached Panaji around 10pm because of our poor performance in last few hours. We started asking for directions our resort and realized that we had to go another 50kms. Visibility was little better as we were now inside Goa.
It took us another 2 hours to find the resort (Hathi Mahal) as there was almost no one on the road due to the rainy night. Finallly we reached there around 12 in the night. I was feeling like a winner despite all that we’d faced from begining of our trip. The guard there suddenly noticed the UP-16 number of our car and inquired about our journey, which further pepped us up.
We started in morning in some different frame of mind but I will suggest an early morning start if you are driving from Mumbai to Goa and try to reach before dark. Take good care while driving uphill – downhill and avoid hasty overtakes while driving (wait for signals from vehicles ahead).
As we reached there, my wife took charge of check-in and I was unloading all the luggage. We called our families in Delhi/Vadodara and informed them of our safe landing. Suddenly I realized that one of the tyres of our car looked flat. I checked closely and it was punctured. Thank God it happened when we reached our destination. I tried replacing it with the standby but found that it was also gone. One good thing about tubeless tyres is that they do not get flat if you continue driving even after a puncture. The momment you stop, they deflate.
As I was traveling with air pump and puncture fixing kit for tubeless tyres, I could fix it (I fixed one of the tyres next morning) but for that time we used air pump to create some minimal pressure in tyre and parked the car.
Day 4 was complete. We were happy that we’d finally made it and went to sleep after having Maggie/Bread in our dinner (We could not get any thing to eat in resort because it was too late but we had a kitchen in our apartment there).
Green all around
Day 5 and Day 6 were spent in Goa only. We spent some time to get our car ready for the return journey and had it serviced at a Maruti Service station in Fatorda near Margaon.
Since it was an off season there wasn’t much activity in Goa. We visited few beaches like Mobor, Leela, Colva – most of them were dessereted because of rains. Had local food in the beach shacks at Colva and Margaon.
At Leela beach
All in all, Goa looked green and beautiful washed in rain, with very little crowd. Return journey started 2 days later, I will cover that in next post.