I am woken up at 5:30 AM by JKB’s father. He is hinting all that time that I stay back for the day at their house. Of course, I can’t.
I take a quick bath because it is difficult to stay long in the bathroom. For those not accustomed to bathrooms in the Malnad region, let me explain. The bathrooms over there have large copper vessels in which they heat water. The unburnt timber fills the bathroom with smoke, which chokes the bather and literally drives him/her to tears!
Auntie has already prepared dosas for me. Holigae (obbattu) is also ready. I savour two and eat as many as five dosas I will need the energy…
After thanking, I take leave of JKB’s parents. It is already 6:40. The late sunrise means that my day is that much shorter.
I have about 190 kms more to go to reach Panajim, the capital of Goa state. The air is chill. I am trying to pedal at a good speed. On my left is the railway track, on the right are pools of water and straight ahead is the nice straight road. Oh, joy! The scenary is especially nice near the Aghanashini river. Several kids nearby try to sell me flowers and I end up consoling them with snaps.
Nearing Gokarna, the road is starting to become hilly. I bypass Gokarna because I had already visited the place before. After Gokarna, the scenary is breathtaking. There is a long bridge, a river flowing underneath, lots of trees. It’s the colour scheme of the whole place which is amazing.
I see some two cyclists coming downhill, helmet and all. I say hi, but they are in no mood to stop. Golden opportunity missed
Continuing, I hope to stop at Ankola for a quick bite. To my dismay, it turns out to be not on the highway. This is one bane of NH17 - you don’t get anything easily here. Just after Ankola cross, I see a board “Kamat Upchar - 2 kms”. You can imagine my state. Meanwhile, a couple of kids are running behind me, calling me a foreigner. I take off my helmet and reveal my true colours. They seem a bit disappointed. I chat with them for a while, show them the GPS, the route I took, etc.
In a few minutes, I reach the Kamat hotel and promptly order idly vada. An extra plate of idly is quickly washed away with orange juice. Time to move on.
The road hasn’t eased out. My “breakfast” hasn’t fired me up. My pace has been slow till now and is showing no signs of improving. Panaji is still atleast 130 kms away.
Before Karwar, I reach Project Sea Bird, the naval base. I attach many memories to this place. Harsha, Priya, Esha - remember the beach trek ? I saw the place where we got down from the lorry, the place where we haggled with the security guards of project seabird, the starting point of the trek, the lone island…
The view of the naval base from the hilltops is particularly good. Unfortunately, photography is disallowed. I meet two naval cadets and ask them whether they have seen Google Earth. Both shake their heads. I can’t help wondering about the archiac rules of the establishment.
Slowly and surely, my cycle reaches Karwar. A glass of pure orange juice partly cools my parched lips. It is lunch time at Vivekanandanagar, a short distance from Karwar. The fare at the Udupi hotel is average at best. The ambience is destroyed by the noisy crows and the kid chasing them around. After lunch, I have dozed off in my chair.
I get up after about 15 minutes of slumber and start off again. There is a pain in my right leg post lunch. Now I realise why I dozed off. It must have been the fatigue.
I reach Polem, the Karnataka Goa border at around 4:00 PM. I can’t help but notice the strong linguistic demarcation along the Karnataka Goa border. None of the three policemen manning the Goa side of the border know any kannada at all. Initially, I am tempted to think that Goans are linguistic zealots. In a few kilometers, I reach a hotel where not a soul knows kannada. It is clear that very few of kannada speaking people exist on the Goan side. Good job of partitioning, I am tempted to say. That ought to be the reason why we don’t have a Karnataka Goa border dispute
Goa is a tippler’s paradise. Infact, the first shop that I see in Goa is a “Bar and Rest”. Vijay Mallya seems good at keeping the booze flowing in Goa.
I stop for a water break and watch some cricket. India are 206/6 and at the crease is Irfan Pathan. He is not an allrounder, let me remind you . The hilliness of the road has only increased in Goa and that spells woe for me. My next stop is Kankone, about 25 kms away. Kankone is a taluk headquater. In case you didn’t know, Goa has no districts, only taluks. I’ve been observing a lot of motorcyclists on the road. I presume they are all heading back to Panjim.
The Goans seem to take their sundays very seriously. Lots of shops seem to be closed. Quite possible that they open in the evening. I go inside a hotel and there is hardly anything to eat except _one_ puff.
After Kankone, the going is tough. It is dusk by the time I reach Kankone. The locals tell me that a ghat starts just after Kankone. It is here that I decide that there is no way that I can reach Panajim today. Panaji is 70 kms from here and would need 6 hours atleast. I don’t want to cycle till tomorrow! A safe bet is Margoa, around 40 kms away. At the base of the Karmal ghat is a hotel. I buy a litre water bottle as an insurance, just in case I don’t get anything else later on. It is a struggle to get uphill, with pain spreading to my left leg as well. You can guess how glad I would have been when I reached the summit. There was more reason to cheer - a gaadi hotel. The gaadi walla tells me that omlet sambar is his speciality. I jokingly enquire whether the sambar has fish (more of a joke about the goan liking for fish). With a smiling face, he replies that it is chicken. When the item really comes, it has all the looks of a non-veg dish. Turns out that is actually has chicken! I finally eat a double omlet, few bananas and two teas. For some strange reason, bananas are costly in Goa and the coastal belt of Uttara Kannada as well. Small bananas here cost anywhere between Rs 1.50 to Rs 2.00, with the seller pocketing a margin of 50 paise on each.
My hunger temporarily satisfied, I turn my attention to the pending task of cycling downhill. This is the fun part. However, given the night conditions, the descent is a technically challenging ride requiring a fair amount of concentration. Unknown to the common motorist, harmless looking cycles can be moving at rates of 40 km/ht or more. As I see it, the problems with riding a cycle downhill at high speed are : a. Incoming lights blind you ( 4 wheelers blind less when compared to 2 wheelers). b. The brakes of my cycle aren’t designed for high speeds. So here is what happened. I was happily coasting downhill and a car overtook me. Nothing unusual. A second later, a jeep coming in the opposite direction thought it fit to overtake. The car braked. I jammed the brakes for life. The car didn’t come to a complete halt and that saved me…
At the end of the slope, I am still 20 kms away from Margoa. I am guaranteed to reach, so I start taking all sort of breaks. I also stop once and try my hand at some night photography. It is 11:00 PM when I reach Margoa. The Udupi hotel on the main road is closing down. I goto the railway station road and settle at hotel Raviraja. 400 rupees a day for a crappy room! Checkout time 12 noon. This is the “season”.
So tired am I that I have dropped asleep on my bed without even dinner.