Having tasted blood once (see my write up “Mumbai to Bangalore and back by car” posted on 04-06-2009) my wife and I were thirsty for more. So more than three years later,we decided to drive down to Bangalore again during Diwali 2011.
But this time we wanted to do something different and different we did!
Firstly, we decided that instead of my old war horse– the Mahindra Scorpio featured in my earlier write up—we will ride the delicate but new Honda Civic Automatic with cruise control. Secondly we decided that instead of going straight to Bangalore we will go to South Goa Canacona) first, to Bangalore from there and then back to Mumbai. Thirdly, this time we were equipped with GPS via the 3G network of the new Samsung Galaxy SII.
Research on Goggle maps threw up more than one route up to Canacona. We decided to take the route via the tried and tested NH 4 up to Belgaum and then NH 4A instead of crossing over onto NH 17 via Nipani, Amboli ghat and Sawantwadi since we were headed to South Goa and not to Panaji or North Goa.
On Saturday 22-10-2011at about 1.30 pmwe started off, our first destination being Satara where, after covering 279Kms we spent the night in a not so good hotel by the NH 4, though I must say that the room was reasonably clean. On the way, after leaving the Mumbai-Pune Expressway we tested the GPS to check how accurately it pin-pointed the landmarks by the Highway.
The next morning (23-10-2011) we left at 8 am and stopped for breakfast at the now familiar MacDonald’s, Kolhapur. Once we crossed the interstate border, the quality of the NH 4 improved dramatically. By 11 am we were approaching Belgaum. Luckily we did not miss the small and faded sign signalling an exit on to NH 4A. We went off the main Highway, crossed it through the under pass and then drove on to the adjoining service road past the land marks indicated by the
GPS. We drove through the city following the GPS pointer and looking around for
the various shops, petrol pumps, colleges, restaurants, banks etc. as fairly accurately depicted in the map on the mobile screen. Amazing technology indeed!!! No need to get lost and then ask your way around!!
NH 4A heads from Belgaumto Panaji. I had just over half a tank of Petrol. I did not think it necessary to refuel in Belgaum. As we drove away from Belgaum the highway became narrow. As we went further the highway passed through thick jungle on both sides of the highway. As per the Goggle map route we were to continue on NH 4A for about 63Kms and then take a short cut by cutting across from one point on NH 4A to another via SH 30 to avoid a looping NH 4A and save about 40Kms. We stopped at the junction of NH 4A and what appeared to us a very narrow street in poor condition. It turned out to be the mouth of SH 30. Alas GPS cannot indicate the condition of the road so we had to ask. A young English speaking boy from the village advised us not to take SH 30 as it was a very rough road. We thus continued on NH 4A. Now with no hope of taking the short cut we had to cover a longer distance. The highway was narrow and deserted and passed through thick jungle and mountains. There were frequent rough patches of road. Progress was slow. GPS was not functioning as we were out of the 3G network coverage. With nothing around we kept going in the hope that we will come across some petrol pump or a restaurant—nothing. Traffic was sparse. One rarely saw a vehicle passing by. There were no petrol pumps or any other place where one could stop for a quick bite. Though I did not run out of fuel, the fuel gauge was definitely moving downward slowly and steadily, it was really scary to be driving through that long and deserted highway without any sign of a petrol pump. You always feel you have missed a turn somewhere far behind and are heading the wrong way or worse still–nowhere. We were following the sign for Panaji as there were none for our destination. We were aware that the highway headed up north-west toward Panaji and that at some point we had to go off NH 4A in order to head towards South Goa. But where was that point??? No signs of it coming up any time soon. Finally we crossed in to Goa and reached Dudhsagar Resorts. We stopped there and called our Hotel in Canacona. The travel desk gave us some directions which though complicated at least gave us the assurance that we were on the right track. Immediately thereafter we ran into a Police Check post where they checked and entered details of the Driving License, Car number, make, number of persons travelling etc. I gathered some details of the route from the policemen and accordingly turned left immediately thereafter toward Curchorem-Sanvordem road. It turned out to be a long winded drive through scenic forest roads.
After several turns passing through small villages and asking on the way at long last we sighted the narrow NH 17 and turned left onto it toward Canacona. We reached the huge and luxurious Intercontinental Lalit Goa Resort at about 5 pm and checked in after a 9 hour drive from Satara. In retrospect, despite the slow progress, we actually thought we enjoyed the drive through the generous greenery and the suspense which lingered for the better part of the day. We had covered a total of 654Kms.
We enjoyed the stay and the beach which is almost part of the Resort for 2 days.
At last there was a petrol pump. I got the almost empty tank filled up and at an adjoining
service station got the car washed.
Then on 26-10-2011(Diwali day) we left at 8 amafter breakfast and headed towards Karwar on NH 17. The highway is narrow but devoid of much traffic. While passing through Karwar we stopped briefly to take pictures of the beautiful blue sky.
We then headed further on NH 17 for another 40Kms before reaching the Junction of NH 17 & NH 63 known as Baleguli cross road. We turned left onto NH 63 which turned out to be a good smooth highway. According to Goggle Maps we were supposed to drive on NH 63 for about 45Kms up to Yellapur and then take a short cut onto SH 6 which cuts across south-eastwards and after passing through Mundgod joins NH 4
at Bankapur just before Haveri. This way we would save on going all the way up north-east to Hubli and then drive downwards on NH 4 towards Haveri and hence save at least one hour. We had asked the Lalit hotel’s travel desk to enquire with taxi drivers as to the condition of SH 6 (Yellapur to Bankapur). Taxi drivers suggested we should take the longer route and avoid SH 6. We were keen to save on time so as to reach Bangalore before the evening city traffic got dense. So when we reached Yellapur we enquired with a motorcyclist, a petrol station owner, an auto rickshaw driver and a local bystander near the Yellapur bus station. All of them were confident
that we could easily take the shorter route and save one hour. So we embarked upon what turned out to be a 67Kms long very narrow SH 6 passing through dense green forest on both sides throwing up small villages occasionally. At one point a huge bamboo tree had collapsed across the highway but had been cut just enough to permit an ST Bus to pass. In order to let the bus pass I had to get off the highway, carefully into soft earth (it was raining every evening at that time).
In 5 hours, we had covered only 202Kms. At about 1 pmwe stopped for lunch and then we joined NH 4 at the Bankapur toll plaza. Our Honda Civic, which had made slow but steady progress
till then was glad to see the broad, smooth and divided highway of the golden quadrilateral (NH 4) again. It simply took off and touched speeds of 125KMph, albeit briefly, and was eager for more but I was not in favour of pushing it further for reasons which I will mention a little later . The automatic transmission and the cruise control were of great help and the car performed
perfectly in all conditions. In 2009 the road between Haveri and Chitradurga was under construction. This time, much to our relief it was complete. At couple of places Toll plazas were constructed but not yet operational (probablywaiting to be inaugurated!!). We reached Tumkur by 4-30 pm and although I missed the newly constructed 8 Km long elevated highway we reached our destination at Yelahanka on NH 7 (Bangalore-Hyderabad) at 6 pm. We had covered the last 360Kms in about 5 hours, including almost an hour and a half spent in travelling through traffic as we neared our destination from Tumkur. In all we had driven 562Kms from Lalit Goa Resort to Yelahanka in 10 hours.
In Bangalorewe relaxed for a couple of days and celebrated Diwali with relatives. We also drove to Nandi Hill in a relative’s Toyota Innova.
On the way back to Mumbai we started at about 12 noonon Sunday 30-10-2011. I made it a point to get onto the elevated highway which I had missed on the way to Bangalore. After covering 407Kms we reached Hubli at about 6 pm, took the exit and drove through the city to Dharwad
where we stayed overnight at the same Travel Inn where we had stayed in 2009. While cruising on the highway in the afternoon I had checked the reading for the fuel average and was pleasantly surprised to find that the vehicle was returning an average of 17.3 Km per litre!!
On the next day,31-10-2011we left Dharwad at7 amand reached Mumbai at4.45 pm covering 581kms.
NH 4 is a smooth & beautiful highway, more so in Karnataka then in Maharashtra. But as on most Indian Roads there are lurking dangers. Firstly, the plants grown on the median are tall and thick enough to hide pedestrians & cattle who may suddenly step on to the highway in an attempt to cross the highway. Secondly, invariably one finds vehicles driving down the wrong side of the highway in the first lane. You are suddenly confronted with glaring headlights approaching you in the first lane. This includes small, medium and large size vehicles. It also includes bullock carts
which have no headlights to flash. Also trucks driving in the correct direction, drive in both lanes compelling you to slow down and zig-zag through the gaps that they leave in both lanes. This compels you to brake cancelling your cruise control and when it happens too often you are discouraged to use the cruise control facility. As a result, though one can achieve high speeds,
one cannot feel very secure to maintain such speeds.
We concluded a great & memorable trip by car without any hitch. We covered 2231Kms (single handed driving), paid toll of Rs. 1335/- to and fro and used 168.5 litres of petrol. The automatic Honda Civic returned an overall average of 13.8Kmpl.