Road Trip: 6,000 Kilometres, 7 States, 2 Plates Of Kolhapuri Chicken And 1 Orange

Padubidri beach near Mangaluru in Karnataka. It is India's newest "Blue Flag" category beach.

A short highway drive some days ago led to this blog post.

Three of us drove down from Delhi to Udaipur, then Udaipur to Mumbai and then Mumbai to a beach in north Goa, where we reached a bit tired at night but still found the time to pop open some beers to call it a day. Days later, we drove onwards to a town near Mangaluru to see the beaches.

No one gives a sherbet these days, so this post will omit annoyances like scenery, sunset, the mountains-are-calling and I-love-travel nonsense.

Mangaluru-Goa highway.

My mother, three years away from turning 70, for a long time knows some nuts and bolts have come loose in my head. She is used to hearing unexpected things from people about me. When word reached her that I have decided to drive down south thousands of kilometres with some people from Delhi, with the possibility that I may drive back home alone for a few thousand kilometres more, she tried to change my mind.

"No, no, no," she said on the phone at night, far away from Imphal. "It's very dangerous. What if you get hurt in an accident, or worse?"

"Accidents happen all the time," I said. "But we will be fine," I told her, not entirely sure about that. Got to tell you, who can predict the future? After a while she agreed she would be cool about it.

Mothers are like that. But they will let you go eventually. They know that you, too, have been collecting years.

The Delhi to Udaipur drive took 14 hours with a lot of coffee breaks.

After a good night's rest of eight hours, we set out for Udaipur from Delhi at 6 in the morning. A lab in Jaipur, a city that falls on our route, agreed to take samples for COVID-19 test. Any cop at state borders could ask for an RT-PCR report even if you are fully vaccinated. Whatever the cop says is final when you are travelling by road, so we decided to be well-prepared. The only chai-paani I like is the one I have myself.

Surathkal, a beautiful beach town near Mangaluru, Karnataka.

We reached Udaipur at 9 pm. For dinner, we ordered red hot Rajasthani mutton laal maas, which was hot but not red. Maybe the dim lights in the rooftop restaurant should take the blame for the confusion over food colour. Anyway, this drive across seven states - Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka - opened up infinite possibilities of tasting the best food in each state.

The national highways for the most part were good. Gujarat has excellent state highways.

The next morning we entered the Gujarat border at 10 am. A police officer stopped us to check documents and asked, "Carrying any daaru?" We said no, of course, and he let us through.

Next came the Godhra bypass, a state highway with a super smooth surface and proper markings that made driving quite fun. The state highways in Gujarat are better than some national highways. There is no argument on this.

We particularly liked the Canacona to Karwar stretch while going from Goa to Karnataka.

Baroda, Surat and hunger followed soon. We drove past dhaba after dhaba with "only veg" and "pure veg only" signboards, until we found one with a poster that showed an omelette. This place had gone full retard on eggs with a menu of some 20 egg dishes - egg keema, egg kebab, vegetable egg, to name a few.

Over 13 hours of driving put us right on the doorstep of Navi Mumbai. Pushing and fighting your way inside a coach in Delhi's busy Rajiv Chowk metro station is way easier than entering Mumbai during evening rush hour traffic.

Tunnel on Mumbai-Pune expressway.

Ghat section on Mumbai-Pune expressway.

There are two main routes from Mumbai to Goa. The first is a twisty old highway that passes through ghat roads, and the second is a straight run on the plains via Pune and Kolhapur. Many prefer the second route because why not? The old highway is full of potholes, back pain and feelings about taking a U-turn for home ASAP.

We stopped at Kolhapur bypass for Kolhapuri chicken. The waiter walked out from the kitchen holding a bowl of red hot chunky chicken pieces. This time the chicken was indeed red and hot. See for yourself in the photo below.

Kolhapuri chicken. Call the fire department.

The road from Nipani in Karnataka all the way to the Goa border is narrow. But it was on this stretch that we liked stopping for tea and filter coffee the most.

We reached Goa at night on Day 3 after we drove out from Delhi.

Goa's own famous King's Beer is now known as Peoples Beer. Same company, same magic.

This bend is just a kilometre from the Karnataka-Goa border, after which Amboli ghat starts.

Some days later we prepped for the ride to our next destination - Surathkal, a clean, green and quiet beach town 20 km from Mangaluru in Karnataka.

Fish thaali in Karwar, on the Karnataka-Goa border, and filter coffee in Udupi really charged up the drive to Surathkal, where we reached in no time and stayed at a friend's house, just a 10-minute walk from a white, sandy beach.

We chilled at Surathkal for two days, visited Mangaluru and enjoyed ghee roast chicken and gadbad ice-cream.

Chicken ghee roast at Mangaluru's famous Shetty Lunch Home.

Ghee roast fish at Shetty Lunch Home.

Fish at a highway dhaba near Udupi.

Coastal fish thaali at a dhaba near Udupi. The kokum juice was excellent.

Another fish thaali at a dhaba on the Karnataka-Goa border in Karwar.

Padubidri beach.

Padubidri beach from another angle.

Can't get enough of Padubidri beach.

When the time to return home came, a small but not an entirely unexpected problem presented itself like magic. See, I drove down with two friends all the way from Delhi, but they flew back to attend a wedding. A stern message came from home that either I find someone to ride shotgun on the return leg, or I give the car to Agarwal Packers and Movers and fly back. I cannot drive back alone, the serious people at home said.

Surathkal at sunset.

Can't get enough of Surathkal too.

Beautiful coastal Karnataka.

On the way to Mangaluru.

The only person who came to mind was an old friend from school, who in Class 12 taught me how to drive a motorcycle wrong and wreck it. By now we go back a quarter of a century. I dialled him and presented the plan - he would fly down to Goa, stay for a day, and drive back with me to Delhi with a night's stop each in Mumbai and Udaipur. "You can eat anything you like, stop anywhere you like," I told him. It did the trick. He took a flight to Goa within 24 hours with only a small backpack.

Morjim beach, Goa.

Unknown road. Can't remember this place. By this time the drive was engrossing.

Udaipur or Godhra bypass? Can't remember.

The return leg did not play out any different than how we had come. We took the same routes, but backwards. Again, the Godhra bypass state highway had excellent reflective markings for night drive. The Rajasthan-Gujarat border near Udaipur had similar safety features. These two stretches helped a lot in improving night driving skills.

Sharab, mind it.

That's all people. And about that orange, I forgot where I had kept it for the entire trip. When I finally reached home, it tumbled out from the magazine holder of the front seat.

Fin.

Not washed for 15 days. Call it the fashionable road trip look.

The fine print

Vehicle: Maruti Suzuki Ignis K12 petrol, tyres upsized by 20 mm to 195/60/R15

Total toll cost: Rs 5,210 (as per FASTag statement)

Total fuel cost: Rs 28,000 (approximate)

Best roads: Udaipur to Gujarat border, Udaipur-Jaipur highway, Godhra bypass, Mumbai-Pune expressway, Udupi to Surathkal highway

Worst roads: 30 km from Amboli ghat to north Goa border, exit from Navi Mumbai to Thane, Gurgaon-Jaipur highway (road surface is relatively smooth, but it's really bad for night driving due to absence of lane markings on the road; you can get blinded with oncoming headlights and not find directional help since the white lines on the road are missing)

Recommended dhabas and restaurants: Shree Mahalaxmi Seafood Restaurant, Kolhapur bypass; Shetty Lunch Home, Mangaluru; Cafe de Voyage, Margao; Laxmi Family Restaurant and Bar, Morjim.

Thanks to Ira, Jayashree, Munmun, Stella, Rajib, Smitha and Jayant for the company during the road trip and taking these photos.

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Comments

  1. That's one hell of a road trip. Love the pictures, especially the Thalis

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's no way to treat a good orange. Or Ignis.

    Beautiful pictures and equally beautiful pictures! You do seem to have had a nice time.

    ReplyDelete

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