Tag: Travel

Travelogues / Photologues: Stories of the road through my pen and camera.

Bangalore Goa Road Trip Day 2 – Murudeshwar and Gokarna

Bangalore Goa Road Trip Day 2 – Murudeshwar and Gokarna

This post is about day 2 of our Bangalore Goa road trip. You can also read about the first day of our Bangalore Goa Road Trip

Day 2 (27th Jan 2018): Bhatkal to Vagator via Murudeshwar and Gokarna

Despite sleeping for over 9 hours, I was feeling very tired when wifey woke me up at 06:30. I had no recollection of where we were and had never loved the bed more than in that moment. All I  wanted was to pull up the sheets and slide back into sweet slumber.

I looked at my wife as if asking, “Why are you bothering me, it’s a weekend, let me sleep”. And she looked at me like: “Get up you idiot, we’re going to be late. Don’t you remember where we are?”

Sweet Slumber
Ahhh. Let me sleep, woman.

With barely half the neurons firing, I got this brilliant idea of chucking the plan, getting breakfast and going straight back to sleep for another couple of hours. Thankfully, after some prodding by the missus, I got my brain working again and it soon occurred to me, how ridiculous my idea was. The complete Konkan highway lay ahead and I was thinking of sleeping. What a donut.

The plan for the day was to start “early” so that we can spend some time at Murudeshwar, then Gokarna and still reach North Goa by 2-3 PM. Like that was gonna work – read on.

We were already late per our plan – duh. I hastily got ready and we checked out by 07:20 AM. We decided to have breakfast before starting the drive for the day. The hotel has 2 restaurants: Royal Olive and Royal Athithya. Only the latter was open, so we went in and ordered all-time classic: masala dosa and tea. Nothing freshens me up like a typical south Indian breakfast.

There were no other customers and the staff was still setting everything up for the day. For a small town, we figured, it was still early for people to be crowding restaurants; not everyone lives in Bangalore you know…

Every once in a while, it feels good to be in such a place and enjoy the simple life. Slow down, and realize that people around you are not in a hurry, and you don’t need to be in either.

An old bridge
An old bridge

We spent a good 40 minutes finishing our breakfast. By 08:10, we came out and settled in the car, got some things arranged – water bottles, camera, snacks etc. and in another 5 minutes, we were on the road after a quick tire pressure check.

And off we go…

Our first stop for the day was the Murudeshwar temple. It was a mere 12 KM from our hotel and we reached the entrance in about 15 minutes.

Murudeshwar Temple Entrance
Murudeshwar Temple Entrance

The temple is about 2KM from this entrance on the highway. The road to the temple started out nice but deteriorated quickly. It’d be cheating to call the last 500 meters a road. To add to that, the parking in the temple compound was super crowded. Pictures:

Murudeshwar Temple

Typical of most tourist attractions in our country, stalls of all sorts – food, souvenirs, toys and whatnot had encroached the whole compound – especially the parking area. There was a full-sized bus parked on the approach road to the parking. Some of its occupants had set up a stove and were busy cooking on the side of the road. Dodging all this madness, we somehow managed to find a spot, parked the car and proceeded to the temple. Pictures:

While at the temple, we made video calls to our respective parents and showed them around. They couldn’t be happier – for one, they were earning all the “Punya” from the comfort of home, and two, their agnostic children were visiting a temple at long last.

You can never over-appreciate the pace at which technology progresses and the impact it has on common people’s lives. A mere 10 years ago, this would have been impossible to afford for a majority of people. Yet now, it seems so casual and natural. Thanks to Jio, other companies were forced to follow suit and provide half decent service for the prices they charge. I remember the time when calls to RCOM customer care, to deactivate the “service” that I had never activated in the first place, were somewhat of a weekly thing for me.

Well, nostalgia aside, we did not spend much time at the temple after facilitating “remote darshan” for our family, and soon came back to the parking lot. It seemed better than an hour earlier. We quickly started the car and drove towards the main highway. In no time, we were back on the highway and cruising at 80KM/h towards our next stop: Gokarna.

Drive through the beautiful Konkan region

The Konkan roads are a treat to drive on. Even though there was road work going on in patches all the way from Murudeshwar to a few KMs before Gokarna, we did not face any traffic jams / bad roads. The diversions were sufficiently wide and clearly marked and they always diverted to the opposite lane, which was super smooth and, again, wide enough for 2-way traffic.

We were thoroughly enjoying the smooth tarmac and the lovely morning breeze. We made a few stops along the way for photos or just to enjoy the surroundings. Some pictures below:

Murudeshwar – Gokarna Route

We were in no hurry to reach Gokarna – after all, this is what a road trip is all about, isn’t it? It’s about the journey and not the destination. Take your time, go slow and enjoy the scenery.

Along the way, I would find many sights or objects that would get my inner amateur photographer excited, but the driver in me would always come up with a reason to not stop: we’re going 80KM/h or there’s not enough space to park or noticed too late, we’re already a few meters ahead etc. Luckily for me, the home minister favors the ambitious photographer more than the monotonous driver and encouraged, or rather pressured me, to stop multiple times where I wanted photos. Not that anything uber-cool came out of this exercise – but hey, practice makes perfect right?

 

Magical Gokarna

We reached Gokarna town at about 12:00 PM. Like any seasoned traveler, we were just following GMaps and had navigated for the beach parking. But after entering the town, Maps went crazy and started rerouting every 10 seconds. And on each reroute, it’d direct us towards a new direction. I didn’t wanna get stuck on the thin-as-hair roads and cause a traffic jam in an unknown place. After spending a few minutes driving around, we spotted a bus stand and decided to follow other vehicles going in. We found some space outside the exit gate of the bus station where other cars were also parked. We decided to park there and headed to the beach on foot. The beach was about 1 kilometer from where we parked.

Gokarna Town

The walk to the beach was almost magical. The sights, the scents and the amalgamation of people from various cultures and backgrounds offer a unique sense of relaxation and peace that I’d never felt before. The weather wasn’t so friendly though, and we were sweating profusely by the time we reached the beach. We noticed there was a huge parking area near the beach. I was still happy though with our parking choice as the idea of tackling those narrow streets didn’t excite me.

Gokarna Beach

We spent some time at the beach taking photographs and just roaming around. Not before long, though, the hot sun forced us to retreat from the beach. It was 1 PM and we were starving. Quickly checked GMaps for nearby eateries and found one Hotel Mahalaxmi near the beach. It’s a small place run on the rooftop of a home. The setting is nice as it’s very near to the beach and you get the nice sea breeze cooling you off. I cannot say the same about the food or the service though.
Had a relaxed lunch, went back to the car and started for Goa at 02:10 PM. Here we were past 2 PM, just outside of Gokarna, when as per our plan, we should have been arriving in Goa by then. We had covered less than a 100 KMs in the last 6 hours. So, with no more stops planned till our destination, and missus trying to catch some zzz, I put my foot down and soon we were doing 80 KM/h on the speedo.
We reached Karnataka-Goa border by 03:15 PM. Missus woke up for the mandatory border picture and went back to sleep again.
Welcome to Goa (Karnataka - Goa Border)
Welcome to Goa (Karnataka – Goa Border)
This made me hopeful that we still might be able to reach our destination (Santonio Resorts, Vagator North Goa) before dark. Though Google maps seemed to disagree. We had covered about 70 KM in the last one hour and still had 112 KM to go. I estimated that we should be able to cover the remaining distance in 2 – 2.5 hours. Google Maps, however, was adamant that we’re gonna need more than 3.5 hours for the same.

The long haul…

As we kept going, the roads got narrower but still remained smooth and relatively devoid of traffic. The terrain though, was more hilly now, prompting a reduction in the average speed. We were on the Panvel – Kanniyakumari highway which passes through Palolem, Margao, Verna, and Panaji to reach North Goa.

It was all going fine till we reached Verna (Vasco Area) where we first encountered heavy city traffic on this trip. It was like Bangalore all over again. The seemingly endless queue of vehicles went several kilometers from Cortalim Bridge (that connects Verna to Panaji and) all the way through to the Mandovi bridge on the other end of Panaji and beyond. Seemed like we had chosen a particularly bad day to enter Goa. By the time we crossed the traffic and reached Vagator area, it was past 06:30 PM and the sun had already set.

Thankfully, GMaps navigated us correctly through some crazy-narrow streets to our resort but not before tackling some more traffic jams due to idiots being idiots. All things considered, it took us another 45-50 minutes to reach the resort, which was a very welcome sight after this tiresome driving session. Didn’t take any photos of the resort as it was dark and I was anyways too tired to do anything other than lie down for a quick nap.

No amount of driving on non-congested highways can quite equal the toll that a traffic jam takes on a driver. I can drive for hundreds of KMs non-stop and never break a sweat, but a 1-hour traffic jam? That’s a different game altogether.

After about an hour of rest, I felt better and we decided to explore the nearby area on foot and get dinner somewhere. After some exploring, we landed in Hotel Sri. Once again, very nice ambiance but super slow service. But, their food was simply amazing. Finger licking good.

Hotel Sri - Entrance
Hotel Sri – Entrance

 

Hotel Sri - Ambiance
Hotel Sri – Ambiance

 

After having a scrumptious meal, we headed straight back to the resort to get some much-needed sleep. Although we had planned it differently, this turned out to be a very good day in itself. We traveled at a comfortable pace, and more importantly, enjoyed the journey (except the traffic) rather than just rushing from point A to B.

We went to bed early considering some relatively early-morning activities we had planned for the next day. A visit to the Chapora Fort and the Vagator beach followed by some water sports at the Baga beach were on the cards. With these plans on our minds, we went to sleep and this marked the end of the second day.

Day’s Summary:
Total Distance Travelled: 273KM
Total Time including Breaks: 11.5 hours

Stay tuned for the next blog post detailing Day 3 of our trip. Follow this blog so you will not miss the post.

Bangalore Goa Road Trip (via Jog Falls, Bhatkal, Murudeshwar, Gokarna)

Bangalore Goa Road Trip (via Jog Falls, Bhatkal, Murudeshwar, Gokarna)

In January of 2018, I and wifey finally set out on our Goa Trip. We’ve been wanting to visit Goa for the past 5 years but the plan never came about. But this time, we finally decided that we’d visit Goa and do so on a road trip. Yay! So, here it goes the planning and execution of our Bangalore Goa Road Trip.

Palolem Beach, South Goa - Bangalore Goa Road Trip
Bangalore Goa Road Trip Preview – Palolem Beach, South Goa

We finalized the itinerary in November 2017 and made our hotel bookings. Since this was our longest road trip to date, and I am the only driver among the 2 of us, we decided to have a night-halt on the onward journey. So, our final itinerary looked something like this:

26th-Jan: Bangalore to Bhatkal (En-route visit Jog falls)
27th-Jan: Bhatkal to Vagator (North Goa) (En-route visit Murudeshwar, Gokarna)
28th-Jan: Spend the day at Vagator, Baga, and head to Palolem (South Goa) in the evening.
29th-Jan: Spend the day at Palolem just relaxing at the resort or explore the nearby area on foot.
30th-Jan: Start back from Palolem in the morning and reach Bangalore before 6 PM.

While planning the trip, we wanted our night halt on the onward journey to be around midway between Bangalore and Goa. That’s not how it turned out though as we couldn’t decide on such a place and finally settled for Bhatkal. There was no particular reason to choose Bhatkal except that it was on the coast and fit in with the overall theme of our trip which was sea, beaches, and the beautiful Konkan region.

The day before the trip:
I had planned to get everything ready well before the trip, but as usual, there were multiple things pending on my list on the night before the drive. The most important was to get the car ready. So, on the evening of 25th Jan, I popped the hood open and checked all the fluids and belts. And then took her out to get the tank topped up. Filled her up and got the air pressure checked in all four tires and the spare. As it turned out, the front left tire had a leak. I got the tire fixed and headed back home. Once home, I checked all the documents in the car and packed some essential things like snacks, charger, water bottles etc.


We had decided to leave early the next day as it was a 3-day weekend and we wanted to avoid the usual rush of Bangaloreans trying to get out of the city. We planned to leave between 04:30 and 5 AM, set the alarms and went to sleep. I follow a very strict policy of driving only during the day, thanks to the moronic drivers who are always on high beam with their fog-lamps on.

Day 1 (Bangalore to Bhatkal via Jog Falls):
I had trouble falling asleep just like I always have before a trip. Needless to say, we were late the next day. Got up at 5AM and got ready hastily, loaded the bags into the car and started our long journey. By now it was 05:45 AM and sunlight had crept up. We knew this meant long queues at the toll booths on our way out of Bangalore.

 

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We were starting from Electronic City and took the Nice Ring Road towards the Tumakuru highway. As expected, we were hit by heavy traffic going out of Bangalore on the Tumakuru highway toll. The queue of vehicles was about 2KM long, but it wasn’t due to the toll itself. There was an upturned lorry at a bend just before the toll booth, which was causing the bottleneck. Luckily, we found a small side road that bypassed the bend and we joined the main road just before the toll booth. Beyond that point, the roads opened up and the traffic was behind us and we were off.Some pictures:

We stopped for breakfast at around 08:40 AM at a place called Hotel Sai Palace about 172 KM into our trip. It’s a decent place, however, due to the long weekend, it was super crowded and finding a seat or getting service was an arduous task. Didn’t take many pictures here.

ODO Reading at Breakfast - Bangalore Goa Road Trip
ODO Reading at Breakfast

Finally, after spending 45 minutes where we had planned to finish in 20 minutes, we started again. The roads again, were very welcoming with only occasional traffic and smooth tarmac, with lovely views of green fields, ponds, and small hills all around us.

We continued on towards our next destination, which was Jog Falls. We traveled on the NH (Mumbai Highway) for another 4 hours and about 210 KMs, till Haveri, at which point, it was time to get off the NH and take on the slower State Highway to cross the ghat section. We decided to take this route towards Jog Falls.Right after getting off the NH, we stopped for a short break in a village and had fresh coconut water. It was refreshing. We also found a fuel station in the village and decided to tank up, given that the fuel gauge was below the 30% mark and we did not know if we’d find another fuel station for the next 200KM or so.

The ODO read:

397.3KM at 1:09PM - Bangalore Goa Road Trip
397.3KM at 1:09 PM

Started again after the fuel top-up. Beyond this point, as expected, our average speed went down drastically. The roads were alright, but there were just too many villages en-route and that meant a lot of speed bumps. So, we had to slow down quite often.We had also made the grave mistake of not stopping for lunch before getting off the NH. The SH stretch between Haveri-Jog Falls does not have any decent places to eat, at-least none that I could spot from the car. Thankfully, we had packed a lot of snacks and water for exactly this situation and it proved very useful.

Given the time of the year, we didn’t have high hopes of finding any water in the falls. We finally reached Jog Falls around 03:40 PM and as expected, it was completely dry save for a few small streams. By this time, we were very hungry and were desperately looking for a proper meal. Thankfully, Jog falls being a tourist spot, we found this (Prakruthi Yatri Nivas) restaurant near the viewpoint and decided to have lunch there. The place was nearly empty. The service was quick and the food tasty. After hours of munching on potato chips and sweet cake, it was nice to have a proper meal.

Prakruthi Yatri Nivas restaurant and lodge near Jog Falls viewpoint. - Bangalore Goa Road Trip
Prakruthi Yatri Nivas restaurant and lodge near Jog Falls viewpoint.

We started our journey again after spending some time in the restaurant’s backyard at 04:30 PM. We took this route towards our hotel The Royal Oak, Bhatkal as suggested by Google Maps.The route was very scenic as we passed through the Sharavati Valley Wildlife Sanctuary during the golden hour. At the same time, I was a little bit worried as the sun was setting and the thick jungle was already bringing in an early dusk. There was no traffic at all on this stretch of the road and it felt pretty spooky at times with all its twists and turns and not a single soul in sight. Still, we were not able to pick up speed as the road was very narrow and had a lot of blind curves.

Well, after about 2 hours of driving through the forest area, we finally arrived at Bhatkal. The hotel has a prominent building bang on Bhatkal Circle and we had no trouble finding it. They don’t seem to have covered parking available and we were asked to park in the open parking space available right in front of the hotel building.

The clock showed 06:40 PM and we had finally arrived at our final destination for the day after exactly 13 hours on the road. What a relief. We were tired and I was hungry. So we freshened up and ordered some tea and snacks and went straight to sleep by 8.30.

Our room at The Royal Oak, Bhatkal - Bangalore Goa Road Trip
Our room at The Royal Oak, Bhatkal

Day’s Summary:
Total Distance Travelled: 535KM
Total Time Taken: 13 hours

The next day was gonna be less taxing as we only had about 250KM of driving to do. Or so we thought.

Continue to Day 2 of Bangalore to Goa road trip. Subscribe to my blog so you will not miss new posts.

Travelogue: Bangalore to Munnar – A trip to God’s own country

Travelogue: Bangalore to Munnar – A trip to God’s own country

We visited Munnar during the 15th August long weekend in 2017. We were a group of 4; me and my wife along with a couple we’re friends with.
We hadn’t really done any detailed planning for this trip except booking our transportation and stay in Munnar. We just wanted to get away from the city hustle and bustle and the monotonic daily office schedule. So, we booked our train tickets and hotel stay 2 months in advance and started waiting for the Iday long weekend.

Finally, the day arrived. Our itinerary included taking a train from Bangalore to Aluva and from there traveling via road to Munnar. We had booked the Bangalore-Kanyakumari Express (16526) for travel on Friday (11-Aug-2017) night. We were boarding the train from KR Puram station in Bangalore. We arrived at the station at 7:30 PM, an hour before the scheduled arrival of the train. Soon after, it started pouring rain. The station was already jam packed, and when it started raining, people started crowding under the relatively small covered area on the platforms and the overhead bridge. We somehow managed to cross to our intended platform using the crowded overhead bridge. By the time the train arrived, we were completely drenched. We changed into dry clothes and settled onto our berths. We then had some tasty biryani, which we had ordered and before we left home, and went straight to sleep.

Saturday (12-Aug-2017)

The train takes a slightly longer route than the road route. The scheduled arrival of our train in Aluva was 6.50 AM, but it was running about 30 mins late. I woke up at 6.30 and was greeted by this beautiful first view of god’s own country.

God's Own Country - Beautiful Kerala

This was the first time I was visiting Kerala, and I was already mesmerized by the amount of green there. It was captivating, beautiful and lush and it was everywhere.

We arrived at Aluva at around 7.30 in the morning. We found a nice restaurant near the train station and had our breakfast there. The KSRTC bus stand is located about 300mts from the train station. By the time we reached the bus stand and enquired about the next bus to Munnar, it was 8.15. We were told the next bus is scheduled in 15 minutes. The bus arrived right on time and we boarded. It was a normal non-AC seater bus. The ticket to Munnar cost us Rs. 344 for 4 people = 86 per head.

And so the second leg of our journey started. The road was beautiful, with little traffic and beautiful homes on both sides. It took us approximately 4 hours to reach Munnar including two 10-minute breaks. We reached Munnar at 12.15PM. Here are some pics along the way.

Beautiful landscape on the way to Munnar from Aluva by bus.

 

Beautiful landscape on the way to Munnar from Aluva by bus.

 

Beautiful landscape on the way to Munnar from Aluva by bus.

 

 

Beautiful landscape on the way to Munnar from Aluva by bus.

 

Beautiful landscape on the way to Munnar from Aluva by bus.

We had booked our stay in Elysium Gardens Hill Resort (GMaps). We had selected this hotel mainly for its location. It is perched atop a small hill, around 1.2KM from the bus stand. We reached the hotel at around 12.45PM on Saturday.

Hotel Experience

After reaching the hotel, the check-in process was quick. They took copies of our IDs and then asked us to wait in the lobby till they get the rooms ready. We settled down in the lobby, tired from the almost 16 hour-long journey. Soon after, we were served the welcome drink – extra sweet strawberry milkshake.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long in the lobby and our rooms were ready in about 15-20 minutes. We checked into our rooms and then came the surprise: no hot water before 6:30 in the evening. Mind you, they have this hot water policy even when their check-in time is 12 PM. I discussed this with the staff, and they said they can give us hot water in buckets. Even the buckets they have in the bathroom and the ones they bring hot water in are very small – roughly half the size of a normal sized bucket we use at home.

I was already regretting my choice of stay. We got ready and headed down to the restaurant for some lunch. We were very hungry and tired also. As we entered the restaurant, we found another group of guests frowning over the restaurant staff. Apparently, they had been waiting for their order for over 40 minutes and still hadn’t been served. They started shouting at the staff and walked out. The restaurant manager mediated and got them to come back in the restaurant.

After witnessing all this drama, we were assured that it would take forever for our order to get served, but the manager assured us that they will get us our food in under 30 minutes. We did not want to wait so long, but none of us had the energy to walk at least 1.5KM to the nearest restaurant. So, we stayed put, and finally after 25 minutes, got our food. We finished lunch at 3.30 PM, a full hour after we entered the restaurant, not bad. We then decided to get back to our rooms and get some rest and then head out to Munnar town in the evening by around 5.30.

We had paid above Rs. 2400 per room per night for a balcony room. I have had better hotel experiences for lesser prices in the past. But, for 2400/night, you would expect better facilities than what is offered here. The hotel from our experience turned out to be pretty average.

Pros:

  • Clean rooms and bathroom.
  • Very good location.
  • Courteous staff.
  • Tasty food.

 

Cons:

  • Limited hot water supply – 6.30 to 10.30 in the morning and same time in the evening.
  • Even when the hot water supply is on, there is a lot of variation in the water temperature continuously.
  • Slower restaurant
  • No laundry facility – This could be a seasonal thing.
  • Patchy room service – although, I and my wife did not face any issues with room service, the couple we were traveling with did.
  • Extremely limited selection of TV channels in the room. They do not even have the basic set of channels subscribed. All Hindi/English movie channels I tried were not available.
  • No hair drier / bathroom slipper in the room.

We had some much-needed sleep after the lunch and woke up at 5.30 PM. We got ready for a walk to the town and left the hotel at 5.45 PM. Munnar town is a small area where major roads meet. There are multiple spice shops, “home-made” chocolate shops, restaurants and other regular stuff. We were looking for a travel agent to plan our next two days in Munnar.

Taxi Experience

We eventually found the Taxi Union’s office which is very near to the bus stand. We discussed with the person there in detail about the available packages. He explained that there are four possible directions to take while exploring Munnar.
1. Kochi Direction
2. Coimbatore Direction
3. Mandupetty Direction
4. Thekkady Direction

Each direction has several points and stretches anywhere from 35 KM to 65 KM. For our next day’s travel, we chose the Coimbatore direction, which ends at Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, about 65 KMs from Munnar. And for the third day, we booked the Mandupetty Direction which ends at Top Station View Point, about 35 KMs from Munnar. Each day’s travel cost us Rs. 1500 for a Toyota Etios car, so in total 3000 for 2 days. We paid 500 as advance and headed out for some shopping.

After a few hours of shopping, we had dinner in a Marwadi restaurant and headed back to our hotel at around 8.30 PM. We had a full day’s travel the next day, so we slept early. And that marked the end of our first day in Munnar.

I will be writing a separate post detailing our next two days, with many more pics and route and other important information. Stay tuned.

If this post helped you, don’t forget to share it with your friends on your favorite social media platform. Have a good day. 🙂