Drive to Pune could have been much simpler catching one of the smoothest Bangalore-Pune highway. But, in summer of 2014, with elections in-swing, I preferred to have a long detour through konkan coast, and would say it was worth.
BANGALORE-PUNE HIGHWAY STRETCH 1:
We started at 4.45 am, from our home in marathahalli, preferred to take drive through city rather than little bustling outer-ring road. Within an hour, we were crossing Tumkur. Yanavi (four yrs) and Ipsha (Two years) got up much early, but excited like never, jumping around in back-seat of my Swift Dzire. Tumkur to Chitradurga-Rannebennur-Davanagere was smooth almost eight-lane highway drive at 120-140 km/hr, with little scenary around, except a long row of windmills through the journey.
COUNTRYSIDE DRIVE (KARNATAKA)
We had to descend from highway at Haveri, on to a rough patch, rather winding and potholed roads through villages, manoevring cattles, and mud-laden roads towards Sirsi. We were driving at speed not higher than 40-50 km/hr till we reached Sirsi. It became a hilly road soon, and one of the best drives of the journey, traversing through Jog Falls region, we were driving on winding hilly roads. We were forced to take stop-overs to catch glimpses of awesome nature as we descended from the hills. Soon, we could see glimpses of vast Arabian sea, as we were heading towards Gokarna.
Gokarna, a small coastal village in north-west tip of karnataka, is a scenic beauty. We straightway headed to Om beach, which is shaped exactly like ‘Om’ symbol. Clean, serene, yet magnificent beach I would say. Namaste cafe on beachside is a delight, not in its cuisine, but the environ. We spent some time jumping around the coral reefs, and took a boat to see other beaches around. ‘Paradise beach’ was a man-made paradise inhabited by few junkies and sadhus in trance. But, boat-ride after having a heavy meal in Namaste cafe, in bright sunny and humid day, took a toll on me, and probably I had a heat-stroke. Soon, I was lying almost unconscious on beach. My kids were sprinkling water on my face, till I got some relief and made my way to car parking upstairs.
Around 2.30 pm, we left for Karwar. Coastal highway called ‘Edapally-Panvel’ highway is a delight for driving. I wished I could have driven all the way from kerala to Maharasthra along the coast. Little busy it is, but a smooth some 60 km drive to Karwar.
Karwar, one of the famous ports in India, and a navy base, is another pleasant place to spend the night. People talked about some navy museum, which came in the way, and looked similar to HAL museum, seemingly boring. We just drove along the beach, had few stop-overs and headed to a good resort ‘Tarang resort’. Place was close to the beach, but we were too tired, and preferred to relax along poolside, had an okay dinner, and slept off.
It was not on our cards, but we were so close to goa, it was tempting to have a detour, and we took it. We started around 8 AM, and within an hour, we were at goa check post. Goa served as excellent re-fuelling station, as petrol was damn cheap there. Have been to goa earlier, but south goa was an unexplored territory. South goa is the most serene aspect of goa, with a traffic-free scenic drive. It looked like a cluster of villages imbued with goan culture. We didn’t take any stop-overs, just drove along winding roads through south goa. Beaches of goa may be world famous, but its the country-side which seemed more beautiful and soothing in hot summer.
Then, came the most scenic and exciting stretch of whole journey. A drive on goa-hubli stretch, through deep forest along the outskirts of Dandeli forest, and winding roads along hills, was an extreme delight. We took stop-overs in forest, on the hills, and along sparsely populated countryside.
BANGALORE-PUNE HIGHWAY (STRETCH 2)
Things become usual, after reaching Hubli. We merged into same boring Bangalore-Pune highway. Only relief was gear-shift, as I was back to driving 120-130 km/hr, and very soon was nearing Kolhapur. Kolhapur-Satara-Pune becomes little busy and closer to Pune, it almost turns into a bustling city traffic.
Pune, I have visited, rather spent 6 gruelling years in medical school some 11 years back. It has transformed from a serene yet lively town to a bustling crowded city. Koregaon park, an out-of-place locality, is overtaken by huge infra-developments in its surrounding, yet it has maintained its old charm. Deja-vu strikes as I spent morning in German Bakery, had lunch at Dario’s. B J Medical college, my alma-mater is still reminescent of old glorious days, and I was able to locate my old tea-joint ‘Hira Moti’ still intact, with eversmiling ‘Chandu Seth’ welcoming me. Good family time at Pune and hitting back to bangalore after spending close to a week.
Some 850 km stretch of almost smooth drive can take you back to Bangalore in 10 hours. Boring drive, and negotiating through busy evening traffic through bangalore city, finally took some 14 hours to reach home.