24th January Southern Goa
We re-start our Overland Adventure, leaving family behind and head to Goa’s southern beaches for a few days of rest and relaxation. The journey to Agonda beach does not take long. As we arrive we head straight to the camp we had found earlier at the end of the beach.
Today there is no guard on duty, so it’s free! We pull up and find a nice spot overlooking the sea with probably the best views we’ve had in India and the cheapest too.
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Martin is dying for a swim so heads off into the sea to return an hour or so later, while I catch up on some reading. The temperature is rising steadily, it’s up to 36C and its not even midday yet.
We chat with a couple of over landers who have driven their huge truck from Germany, and a few others who seem to be permanent residents!
In the evening we are feeling a little lazy, so decide not to cook, and head to a local restaurant instead.
We drive over to Patnem beach as we have heard that it’s the best beach in the area. Looking for accommodation, we find everywhere is over-priced. We eventually find somewhere within our budget, a cottage room.
We head to the beach, where Martin swims three miles to a rocky cove and back, to burn off the extra weight he has put on since being in Goa!
Lunch is a pad thai in another local restaurant. Later we take a walk down to the beach and watch the sunset. Patnem beach is peaceful and picturesque.
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Later I go to have a shower, finding a frog in the bathroom, and then a couple more. Martin has a hard time capturing them, as they are jumping all round the room. When he releases them, they just jump back towards the door again.
26th January Karnataka-Patnem to Hampi
We leave Patnem and head 220miles to Hampi. The road (NH17) takes us about 50 miles until we reach the NH63, and we start to head inland (176miles), leaving Goa and entering the state of Karnataka. As we go through police and customs at the state border, the first policeman pulls us over but when he realises that we only speak English, he quickly waves us through. The road takes us directly along beautiful and deserted stretches of sands, blue water and pretty coves.
The road is great, mostly car free for miles, and we are able to pick up some speed, a rare thing in India, driving through thick green forest to reach a place called Majati. As we enter the huge town of Hubli, we are directed onto a one way system but get lost and go round a few times until we manage to get back onto the NH63. The road takes us through dense jungle territory where troops of monkeys line the sides of the roads. As we emerge from the forest, we reach a high plain at 600m of crop fields that stretch all the way to the horizon, and continue for hundreds of miles. The roads have many hidden speed bumps, with no signs or markings, which are made even more hazardous when cars in front of us have no break lights, and suddenly stop while doing 60mph!
We approach a car in the right hand line that has broken down in the middle of the road. A bus behind it is flashing his lights and driving at approximately 80mph- we can only interpret this as he’s coming through, so slam on the brakes, narrowly missing it; buses here are a law unto themselves, with little care or regard for others.
We drive for another 50 miles, passing some buffalo cooling off in the water, their huge heads just visible above the surface.
As we turn a tight corner I feel the rear wheel slide out, it feels like a flat tyre so we stop and it is. We used OKO tyre sealant before we left, however this time it does not seem to work; the liquid is just sprayed around the wheel arch.
I think it’s not too bad- we can just change the tyre and get going again… Unfortunately the locking wheel nut won’t come loose. A couple of truckers stop to help. They don’t really understand how it works and start bashing the locking nut with a large hammer and then try to pry if off with a hammer and chisel. Eventually, they completely knacker the nut, leaving the little thread inside. Realising what they’ve done they quickly get back in their truck and leave us to deal with it. We are not sure what to do at this point as the sun is going down; the hole is too big to re-inflate and it is a 20km journey to the nearest town.
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I have one last go with a hammer and chisel and mange to move it slightly; a few more bangs, some on the chisel, a few on my hand, and it is loose. We finally manage to change the tyre and get moving again.
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It’s now completely dark; the road has no lights or lines. In addition to this, all the on-coming traffic have their full beams on, which makes driving really hazardous. We are run off the road quite a few times by crazy bus drivers overtaking; despite giving them plenty of warning and flashing our lights, they are intent on continuing to overtake.
We reach the next town where we find a tyre repair shop but unfortunately they don’t seem very experienced, and after two hours do not manage to repair the tyre.
We continue on to Hampi in the dark, and have our first glimpse of huge boulders and temples. We have difficulty finding accommodation with parking. We try to get to Mowgli guest house, on the other side of the river, in Virupspur Gaddi. However, local rickshaw drivers tell us it not possible to drive to the other side so we head to Hospet, a 15km drive away. When we arrive, a local kindly lets us follow him on his bike to a hotel. By this time it has gone 10 and we have a late dinner in the hotel restaurant.
27th January Hampi
Hampi is a World Heritage site and at one point in time, one of the largest Hindu empires in India. In the 10th century, it was a bustling metropolis , but in 1565, the city was destroyed by invading sultanates, from which it never recovered.
In the morning a rickshaw driver takes us to a repair shop which has the tools and 28 years of experience in fixing tubeless tyres. Fifteen minutes later, the tyre is fixed and we are on our way.
We arrive at Mowgli Guest house; having looked at Google maps, worked out that there is a bridge north of Hampi where we can cross over. We reach the point where the bridge is meant to be (at Anegondi) but are told by the police we are not able to cross the river here. We continue north to the next bridge at Kampil and eventually reach the guest house 50km later, only to find there is a direct road from Hospet which is only 10km.
Being peak season and with a three day festival taking place, the guest houses try to overcharge us. It’s three times the normal amount, so we decide to go elsewhere, eventually settling with a basic hut, in secluded paddy fields near the river for 400rp per night.
The restaurant at the complex is filled with hippies and accompanying relaxed trance music is being played. There are a few American rock climbers here also as Hampi is one of India’s main rock climbing focal points.
In the afternoon, we head down to the river to find a small overloaded boat to take us to the other side for 15rp. The views of the river are fantastic, it could quite easily be a scene out of Apocalypse Now.
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We walk around Hampi bazaar, and visit Virupaksha Temple, one of the oldest buildings in the city. As we walk to the bazaar we spot a troop of monkeys ripping the seats in a rickshaw to pieces. Intricately designed temples are set high on a hilltop, Hemakuta Hill, surrounded by smooth rock, and we get great views of the temple below.
We are told the last boat this evening is at 6pm, so head back for dinner in the local restaurant.
Crossing fields along the banks of the river, we take the boat over to the other side. To our surprise, on reaching the bank, we spot a group of elephants being washed in the river in the early morning sunshine, and another being walked down steep steps with three men sitting on top of it, ushering it down.
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We start walking towards the Royal Centre but decide to hire a rickshaw for the day when we realise how hot it is, and how many km’s we would have to walk. We visit the main sites within the centre, including the Lotus Mahal and elephant stables.
As we approach Hampi bazaar on our way back, there are monkeys jumping across the rooftops. Some of them stop and growl at passersby, exposing their sharp teeth.
Later, we drive to the other side to Hampi’s Boulders, and visit Hanuman Temple, 570 steps up Anjanadri Hill. Many believe this is the birth place of the Hindu Monkey God. Even old men and women are making their way up the steep steps, some even overtaking us while muttering prayers under their breath (or possibly saying ‘I wish those foreigners would get out of my way’). The views from the top are fantastic, a unique landscape of huge brown rock and stone boulders strewn among paddy fields and palm trees.
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On the way back down, we have fresh coconut water, expertly cut open with a huge machete!
29th January Hampi to Mangalore
We wake up at 6:30 to start our journey to Mangalore. Our GPS says the route is 320miles but given the average speed in India is about 30mph, it may take us 10 hours to reach our destination!
The sun is rising and hot air balloons are scattered in the mornings azure skies.
We decide to turn off the NH63 as the road is too bad-there are deep potholes everywhere and we cannot pick up any speed. We head towards Mariyamanahali; this seems to have been a good idea as it is now a lot smoother and there are even white lines on the road! The road continues like this, but there are bumps which are hard to see.
We head towards Derangere. It is noticeably cooler in the morning, just 18C as we are driving at 600m.
Martin stops to secure a piece of metal in front of the radiator which had broken due to all the sudden bumps we had been hitting, and is immediately surrounded by lots of inquisitive schoolgirls, peering at the car and inspecting his handiwork!
As we continue, we notice there is lots of wheat in the road, presumably so it is broken down by cars driving over it. We are back in the jungle, just below the town of Shimoga and ascend to 790m. Arrive at Kudremukh National Park, where we are given a pass to drive through dense jungle. Sign reads-Drive slow. Watch for snakes.
Once we reach the end of the park, we descend 700m back down to sea-level.
Along the way, we have numerous near-misses, today the majority of which seem to be caused by people on their phones whilst driving.
We reach Mangalore around 4pm, Martin is shattered, and his first port of call is the beer fridge!
30th January Mangalore to Kozhikode
We drive down the coast along the NH17 towards the secluded beaches of Kannur and the beach at Costa Malabari, passing small wooden boats lined up along the shoreline.
Crossing several bridges along the river, we are surrounded by lush tropical forests and palm tree lined beaches, passing village after village along our route.
We drive down through narrow forest roads to find a guesthouse, where the roof rack gets stuck on some low hanging cables. There is a loud screech as some branches are pulled down; the cables are completely tangled around the roof rack and gas cylinder and have to climb up onto the roof rack to untangle them. We hope we have not cut off anyone’s power or telephone lines! We finally find a group of small guest houses by the beach but the prices are too high, equivalent to that of a good hotel room, so we decide to drive on to Kozhikode.
Stuck in a traffic jam, a bus suddenly screeches to a halt just in front of our car, trying to barge his way in. Unfortunately there’s not much we can do but let him go in front of us. He then stops, blocking the road in both directions for about five minutes letting passengers on and off. We finally over -take the bus further down the road when he stops again. A few minutes later, we see him hurtling down the other side of the road, over-taking, blasting his horn. With no regard for on- coming traffic, he careers through the town until a truck gets in his way, so he just forces another car of the road and pulls back onto our side of the highway. We overtake one another for many miles, but every time we see him in our mirror, its make our stomachs turn. At some point he will crash, whether it’s today or tomorrow, and will not only kill himself, but some passengers and others too.
Once we reach Kozhikode (also known as Calicut) we find some hotels. They are all way over budget but have no choice but to settle for one. At least we’ll have a good night’s sleep.
We drive towards Alleppey and the Keralan backwaters, a 150 mile drive. As we drive through the town of Kozhikode we spot a Toyota Garage and pull in, in the hope they will fix our gear box. Luckily the mechanics here are much more knowledgeable than those in Goa. We also ask them to change the engine oil, properly fix our flat tyre and carry out some welding.
We wait patiently as they try to fix the fault, which takes around 5 hours. We are treated to a free lunch at the hotel across the road, eventually leaving at 4pm.
With darkness approaching, we are faced with a 150 mile journey in the dark. From our experience over the last few days, the journey will be agonising. We eventually reach Alleppey after 6 ½ hours of hazardous driving. We’re not sure what’s worse, cars with their full beams on or cars with no lights at all. We have had so many near misses tonight, it’s an experience we won’t ever forget and one we would not like to repeat!
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Martin & Nicole