With the road being in good shape, I was cruising at 90+Kmph for minutes at a stretch. Somewhere after Ankola, the road became a pure two-laned one with no signs of four-laning work anywhere. Still, the road was well-maintained and scenic and keeping the needle above 80 wasn’t a problem, save for the occasional stray animal or person loitering around aimlessly on the road. Quite a few villages lie along the highway on this stretch and it goes without saying that one needs to exercise caution while driving or riding down this road. Entry into Karwar town is marked by an abrupt change in landscape from a winding hill road to a view of the Karwar Port on the left hand side, followed by the magnificent Karwar beach.
The Naval base can also be seen just before Karwar. Being mid-day, the traffic in Karwar was manageable. Stopped beside the beach but didn’t get off the bike, with a complete disregard for the scenic beauty that was on offer. “One for the return trip”, I told myself. That didn’t happen either. There’s a decommissioned warship museum on public exhibit at the Karwar beach. Could see quite a few people at the entrance, perhaps a must visit place if one is exploring Karwar. Four-laning work was in full swing after Karwar and the lane that was open for traffic was wide and smooth. This continued all the way upto the Karnataka-Goa border. It was around 12:30 by the time I reached the border check-post and crossed over into Goa state. Welcome to Goa…
Now if you’ve been to Goa, you know how the roads there are. Smooth, well marked out and scenic, albeit narrow and with intermittent twists and turns. Traffic was minimal and this ensured that I could maintain speeds in the range of 80-90Kmph for the most part, slowing down for that occasional oncoming truck or bus. Realizing that I was well ahead of my scheduled 15:00 hours arrival at Margao, I took it easy and kept ambling along at 50-60, taking in the scenic vistas and the rural charm that this tiny state has to offer. Managed to grab quite a few eyeballs all thanks to the strange contraption attached to my helmet. The only place where I had to really slow down was within town limits of prominent places such as Cancona. With many impatient motorists battling it out for supremacy, I chose the calmer way out and gave way to each one of them rash drivers.
There were quite a few narrow misses that I witnessed here, one including a foreign tourist on a rented scooter who veered onto the path of a speeding Zen, who was driving all over the place; left lane, opposite lane, off-the-road, everywhere. Had it not been for the last minute slamming of the brakes by the driver of the Zen, the rider would’ve been eating asphalt and dirt for lunch, and the driver, punches and slaps from onlookers. With a couple of breaks in between, I munched up the miles at a steady pace and entered the Karmal Ghat section and oh boy, is it a treat for riders. Numerous twisties with silky smooth roads and negligible traffic; time for some knee scraping? Maybe not. With the stock Eurogrip rubber, you best bet I wouldn’t dare to attempt anything as such and risk it in the middle of nowhere.
On the approach to Margao city, the traffic density increased and soon, I found myself crawling in bumper to bumper traffic heading into the heart of Margao. It took a good 30 minutes or so for me to cover the last 10 kilometers to reach Malbhat, where my hotel was located. Hotel Panchsheel it was. A decent place, especially when you take into account the off-season prices. Parking is a complete mess however. Anyway, checked in at 14:10 and after freshening up, went out in search of grub. So home-to-hotel time taken was 7 hours 50 minutes with several breaks thrown in! Not bad for a first timer and with single-laned roads for a majority of the route.
Now due to the excitement of the ride, I had completely forgotten to have breakfast or tea or any edible stuff for that matter, save for a couple of sips of water! You read that right. Nothing. This is something that you should total avoid doing. It was a rookie mistake and I’ve realized it of late. Never skip breakfast while on a long ride. Walked into a restaurant near the Gandhi market area and had a plate of Chicken Biriyani and a cold drink before rushing back to my room and crashing for a good 2-3 hours. By the time I woke up, it was well past 18:00 and since it was too late to ride anywhere, I went back to dreamland again, only to wake up a couple of hours later for dinner. It was the same Chicken Biriyani for dinner as well, albeit from a different restaurant.
Back at the hotel, it was lights off by 21:00. Slept well and woke up at 06:00, it was still dark outside. By 07:00, I was downstairs, cranking my bike. The jovial room service guy shouted at the top of his voice from the fourth floor: “You came back now?” “Nah, I’m heading out now”, I replied. “Good morning then! Have a nice day!”, he said. Don’t know what made him think that I was out all night and had returned just then! Anyway, first thing to do was to feed my bike. Headed to a HP outlet on the highway and filled the tank to the brim. It took in 11 something liters, and the price difference when compared to Mangalore was surprising! A difference of 16 rupees!!! No wonder Goa is a paradise for bikers. Also realized that I had managed to get 37KMPL from my bike inspite of revving it hard on the highway. Impressed?
Being the morning rush hour, encountered heavy traffic at quite a few places, especially at Panaji. The road from Margao to Panaji is picturesque; I know my vlog isn’t gonna do any justice to it but anyway. Headed straight to Dona Paula and since it was to early in the day, the tourist count was almost nil. I was the only one at the jetty until a few groups showed up over the course of the next half an hour or so. Having been to Goa before, I was least interested in visiting the beaches, and consequently focused more on riding around and enjoying the charm of Goa rather than hitting the beaches and whiling away time, which was already in short supply. Next destination was Old Goa, and one can’t miss the magnificent Old Goa church when in Goa- that’s exactly where I headed.
One thing that I noticed while in Goa was the presence of cops everywhere; both traffic and general. Though there were no interceptor vans in sight, I always kept my speed in check so as to not get into any trouble. The ride to Old Goa was through some picturesque roads, with some of them running right next to the Mandovi river. As scenic as it is, I shudder to think what would happen to riders if God forbid, a bike was to crash into the insignificantly short guard wall. Encountered quite a few ferry points along the way. Goa has a complex network of ferry routes and these are generally the quickest means to get across the Mandovi or Zuari rivers, if one wants to hop from one village to another on the banks of either of those rivers.
Approaching Old Goa, I couldn’t quite figure out where the parking lot was for visitors to the churches and went around in circles before finding one, right beside the Basilica of Bom Jesus. There was just one other bike and a couple of cars parked there but the place was under the watchful eyes of a security guard whose curious eyes just couldn’t get off my helmet-mounted camera. There weren’t many people inside the premises either. However, a mass(religious proceeding) was going on at the basilica and entry was apparently restricted to devotees for the time being. Although it wouldn’t be a problem for me to get past the lady guarding the door, I chose otherwise since I’d been there before for a mass, during an earlier visit.
Saw quite a few foreign tourists draping shawls around their waists before entering either of the two churches. Short clothes are strictly prohibited just like any other place of religious significance, which I think is a fair deal. Walked over to the Se Cathedral, where the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier are preserved. The exposition of these relics takes place once every 10 years which attracts a large inflow of tourists and devotees from all over the globe. The casket is otherwise placed on a pedestal which is elevated and thus, doesn’t give a clear view of the same. This church was bustling when compared to the previous one and there were quite a few people who had no clue what they were there for and kept asking the guards/staff about some “body” which seemed funny to me.
Spent about half an hour exploring the place and then headed back to the former cathedral to start my ride back to the hotel. As I said earlier, I wasn’t interested in beaches and forts, having been there during earlier trips. With an impending long ride back home the following day, I didn’t want to stretch myself by riding too much either, so headed back to the hotel, had lunch on the way, and slept for an hour or so. There was dense traffic over the Zuari bridge and it took quite some time to get past those slow moving vehicles. Back at the hotel, woke up at around 16:00 hours and headed out to explore whatever places I could. One particular place of interest to me was the Cortalim Jetty, on the banks of the Mandovi River.
Rode along the NH66 to reach the place just in time to see a train rumbling over the magnificent bridge. Ferries sailed in and out of the ferry terminal while fishermen sorted out their nets at the harbor, where I was perched on a short wall overlooking the river. A decked up cruise vessel was awaiting a contingent of tourists as I sat there whiling away time. Just before sunset, started off towards Colva beach, but got lost in the maze of street roads and when I finally did reach the place, it was dark. Foreigners were aplenty at Colva, and so were Indian tourists. Pretty crowded place.
With the clock having ticked past 19:30, I rushed back to the hotel, and while trying to park my bike under a staircase, accidentally broke the right side rear view mirror. Some quick thinking and I fixed it in place with a piece of 3M tape that came with my SJCAM action camera. Headed out for dinner and had a veg thali for a change. The food was… Meh! All said and done, I crashed onto the bed at 21:30, only to wake up at 05:30 the next morning, and headed downstairs for the check out, only to find the guys at the reception snoring away to glory. Woke up one of the attendants and handed over the keys. There was no check-out process per se, but he was kind enough to move the haphazardly parked rental bikes out of my way and opened the gates for me.
Lubed the chain of my bike outside the hotel premises and by 06:30, I hit the road, but not before stopping at a tea stall outside Margao railway station for a hot cup of tea and a couple of vada pavs. Maintained a steady pace and owing to the thin traffic on the roads, entered Karnataka state by 08:00. Stopped near the Kali river to click some pics and then it was a non-stop run ‘til Murudeshwar, where I stopped for a break.
Traffic at Kumta was the only roadblock so far. Zipped along at 90-100Kmph where the roads permitted and by the time I entered Bhatkal, both my bike as well as my body were low on resources. Refueled at a gas station outside Bhatkal town and I literally wanted to cry seeing the price difference when compared to Goa. 9 something liters in, 700 odd rupees out. Skipped having anything for the time being and rode on till Kundapura, and as soon as I entered the four-laned stretch, stopped at a roadside hotel for breakfast, a very late one at that. The time then was 12:00. Parathas and a delicious veg curry with some almost stale coconut chutney was downed along with a bottle of Sprite and I was back on the road again.
This being the home stretch, I maintained a steady 90-100kmph throughout, barring a few intersections. Crossed Udupi at around 12:30 and by 13:10, I was galloping past Surathkal. As the distance to home dropped to single digit kilometers, memories from the preceding 2 days started flashing across my mind. How the ride started with random roadblock thoughts questioning my sanity to embark on this ride in the first place, to returning back home with that feeling of elation at having successfully conquered the roads on what is considered to be the most unsafe of all vehicles by the ignorant bunch. This ride made me realize just what I’m capable of, and where my limits are. I made some rookie mistakes and I've learnt my lessons. I remember cursing myself on day one when I started getting a sharp upper back ache after covering about 200 odd kilometers and I really, really wanted to just get back home and crash on my bed, but somehow dismissing those tangential thoughts and continuing on my quest to conquer the roads of Goa. And did I make the right decision then, now that I sit back and think about it? Hell yeah!
Thanks for reading folks! Do watch the videos and leave your feedback on ‘em! That’ll really help me to improve. Videos/Vlogs from this ride: