Friday, August 24, 2007

Mumbai - Jog Falls - Vitla (near Mangalore)

Pictures of the picturesque Jog Falls had beckoned. We responded by setting out at 0530hrs on Independence Day. The weather was perfect for a long drive and the highway – NH4 - was very supportive too.
Being a national holiday the traffic was very sparse, increasing my driving pleasure. Have always considered myself a very sedate driver, indulging in enjoying the scenery and firmly believing in the drive rather than the destination. Hence, I was rather surprised at the speed at which we reached Belgaum. We were there at 1300hrs, ready for lunch! Got off the exit and drove down to an old favorite – Ramdev International for a sumptuous South Indian thali. Surprises never cease! The two thalis cost Rs.60/- only! Got back onto the highway and soon were in Hubli, the place where I had intended to take a night halt, but as it was rather early, decided to move on to Sirsi and cut down on our drive time to Jog Falls next morning. The GQ was still under construction in places between Hubli and Harihar and it showed. As we handed over our toll pass at the Hubli check post, there was total chaos with plenty of diversions and total lack of signage. Whatever signage that existed was in Kannada only. Fortunately for me I was accompanied by my Kannada enabled wife:), without whom the journey would have been miserable! Soon we spotted a tiny cutoff for Mundgod and Sirsi. Somehow, I thought that the ‘road’ lacked the approach necessary for mighty Jog, so asked the chaiwala at the turning whether that road actually led anywhere. With great enthusiasm, he nodded vigorously and directed us to go ahead. Just then there was a passerby who had stopped by listening in to our conversation and with equal vigor he shook his head and told us not to take that route as the stretch between Mundgod and Sirsi was closed due damage by heavy rain. We were then redirected to go to Sirsi via Hangal.
This road was a single laned road right through to about 10kms from Sirsi where it broadened a bit to 1 and ½ lane. This drive was a drive down the ages where time is of no consequence. The pace is gentle and time just trickles.
Reached Sirsi around 1800hrs and checked in at Hotel Shivani (KSTDC approved). Got a huge room with a TV for under Rs.500/-. The staff at the Hotel was very friendly and courteous but the food was not. The weather was very pleasant. It had just rained so the aroma of wet soil lingered in the cool air. Since Jog was just an hour’s drive from Sirsi, we set out leisurely at 0730hrs. We were advised to visit Sri Marikamba Temple on the way and have breakfast in a restaurant just opposite the temple. The ‘Medu-Vadas’ were heavenly.
The winding road through the Jog forest all the way to Jog was soothing. Reached Jog in an hour and joined the long line of parked vehicles. The ‘falls’ were a bit of a downer as had anticipated real aggressively full falls. However, the views did offer plenty of photo-ops and the clouds floating by added to the charm.
Inspite of being warned of ‘bad roads’ set out towards Honnavar to take the coastal route to Mangalore. Reached Honnavar for lunch – again a sumptuous South Indian thali costing Rs.22/- each! That indeed was the last bright spot of the drive. The ‘highway’ NH17 from Honnavar right upto Mangalore is the pits –literally and figuratively! The drive was more like sailing on stormy seas in a canoe. Added to the bad roads were the trucks and buses raising dust as they tried to reach their destinations on schedule. Marvanthe beach was the reason for my decision to take the coastal route.
Even Marvanthe seemed to be teeming with trucks lined up on the road, as that was the only part of the highway that seemed in reasonably good condition and offered a breather to all the highway travelers. Reached Vitla at 2100hrs – happy to have finished with the nightmarish roads. Spent a couple of peaceful days unwinding and attended the Nag panchami puja at the Ananteshwar temple.
Distances travelled - Mumbai-Hubli (NH4 - superb road - part of GQ) - 589kms Hubli-Sirsi (via Hangal as Mundgod -Sirsi road was closed) single lane.- 124kms Sirsi-Jog (lovely forest 2laned road) - 60kms Jog-Honnavar (good road thru the dense forest) - 61kms Honnavar-Mangalore (NH17-nightmare) - 178kms - this road is the pits - literally and figuratively! Avoid it as far as possible. Mangalore-Vitla - tolerable after the nightmare - 45kms