COVID-19 has literally put roadblocks in our life. Come to think of it. Everyone wants to break free from the home prison shackles and go out and explore the world around us. Now, people are dying to just get away 100km from their homes. We are no exception. One fine day, a couple of my friends suggested that we take the all too obvious Goa road trip. This wasn’t a well-planned bit but was done over dinner. The date decided was just 24 hours away. However, as fate will have it, we had to shelve the plans as the Maharashtra government decided to enforce restrictions on travel to Goa. COVID-19 negative results have to be furnished at the entrance and even while returning, checks have to be done by the passengers themselves. We decided to skip this as it will be too tedious for a full house.
There were 12 people in all and out of this, nine were adults. So the alternative suggestion was to go to Gokarna in Karnataka. While Mumbai-Goa was less than 600km, the trip to Gokarna came at the expense of additional kilometres. However, the gang was quite gung-ho about doing this and we started our journey in a petrol Honda Mobilio and a BS6 diesel Toyota Innova Crysta. Contrary to all drives that begin early morning, we decided to start at night. The traffic is usually low during these times and we were planning to make a good headway and cross borders before daylight. Things went according to plan and we set out at 11pm. Mention must be made of the fact that the 7-seater Innova we had was the preferred choice for co-passengers. Its spacious seats, welcoming interior and chilled airconditioning system were quite appreciated.
While the Innova Crysta with all its seats up, doesn’t have too much luggage space, it still didn’t disappoint as we were able to put in two big bags and a couple of small ones. The Innova is so comfortable and has less body roll. Due to this, the passengers in the backseat never felt motion sickness. We encountered a bit of traffic before entering the Mumbai-Pune expressway but that was already accounted for. Thereon it was smooth sailing on the e-way, with the Innova Crysta’s LED lower beam proving to be a boon of speeds up to 80kmph. If you’re planning to go any faster than this, the high beams have to be brought into the picture.
Just after the first toll from Mumbai side, comes Lonavala. Here, you have a steep incline and curves that trucks usually struggle to take. One will find trucks hogging all the lanes here. A bit of caution must be exercised here as the overzealous truck drivers will not allow you any space to overtake. Once past this, the roads smoothen out until you exit Pune toll. If you plan to take a break, it is advisable to use the food court as well as fuel pumps after both the toll crossings. These come just 500m after the toll and are fairly crowded even at 2am.
The roads towards Kolhapur are a tad bad in shape. The Innova though remained unfazed with six people on board. One thing is that the Innova is not as fuel efficient as the smaller Mobilio was. Its 55 litre fuel tank gives a range of slightly less than 460km – 10-11kmpl overall. At the same time, one more thing to take in heed is that the BS6 diesel Innova Crysta needs AdBlue to be filled. The service centres as well as the owner’s manual will tell you about the quantity and interval. In case you forget, the multi-information display does let you know. The warning indicator sign came up on our return journey and as is evident from the image, we had more than 2,300km to go before filling it up. Once the vehicle runs out of AdBlue, the engine will stop working.
Luckily enough, all petrol pumps these days stock AdBlue and it is easy to procure one. The Innova’s AdBlue compartment is located under the hood, closer to the windscreen washer fluid reservoir. While we aren’t sure of the quantity, AdBlue might cost you less than Rs 1,000. This aside, the car performed flawlessly. Be it holding people, their luggage or even cruising at triple digit speeds or executing quick overtakes.
We stayed at Nimmu House, closer to the Main Beach. The place is clean and has hot water provision in the room. The food isn’t great but you can always get edibles from outside and eat in the room. Around Nimmu House, you will find the 4th century Mahabaleshwar temple. Unfortunately, they don’t allow pictures to be clicked but it is a beautiful temple. A word of caution for the ladies. They don’t allow jeans or skirts. You need to wear Indian attire. Moreover, you only get vegetarian food around the temple. Try the local energy drink called as Kombucha. The beaches are clean and if you want to visit the nearby Kudle beach or Om, then you can always hire a boat. They will charge you Rs 650 per person but its worth. You will also see dolphins as well as jelly fish. We camped at Om Beach for lunch and here the food is decent but expensive as well. Mention must also be made of Zostel and the adjacent restaurant, Mantra – lip smacking food at the latter including meat.
After Gokarna, we headed to Murudeshwar. Before that, there was a stop at Honnavar. This place is located closer to the seaside again and is approximately 80km from Gokarna. The roads are 90 per cent of the time good but sometimes broken patches too are encountered. We stopped at a friend’s place for lunch. For this, we had to park the cars on the shore, take a boat and head to her place. We were served homemade vegetarian food – everyone ended up overeating and licking their fingers. Post this, the next destination was Murudeshwar – barely 30km from where we were. Here we stopped at Aryana guest house and took the bigger two rooms to accommodate all 12 of us. Aryana was undergoing some renovation and hence the place was a bit messy. You though have to contend with their hot water only for two hours in the morning policy.
However, the view outside the room is nothing short of breathtaking. Not only do you have an almost clean beach but also there is the Murudeshwara temple with its giant Lord Shiva statue. It seems the diety is presiding over the mighty sea. A quick visit to the temple is a must and at the same time, there are no restrictions on the clothes one needs to wear here. Rs 10 will take you the top floor of the tower next to the temple. From here you can see the ocean as far as the eyes can look. There are good vegetarian hotels around the temple. 500 metres away, you will get decent non-veg food as well.
On the return journey, we decided to not drive through the night and instead halt at Kolhapur. We also took a quick detour to Belgaum and bought the local sweet kunda as well as Mishra pedha. Both these products, without refrigeration are good for 10-15 days. On the way to Kolhapur, we stopped and had dinner at one of the roadside dhabas. After entering Kolhapur, it is easy to find accommodation and they are open to bargaining as well. The journey continued next day to Mumbai with a halt at Lonavala for some delicious lunch at Mommy’s Kitchen. The entire crew was not only rejuvenated but also ready to take on the grinds of work-from-home starting the next day. this much-needed trip is something we will recommend to those looking to venture out of their homes and doing it safely at the same time. The total cost per person came to about Rs 9,000 including fuel, toll, food and other tidbits.
Points to be noted include the fact that it is always good to have your vehicle papers in order. Also, having a mask on at all times is recommended. Carry your own sanitiser bottles as well. There was no police checking of any sort though and no COVID-19 certificates were asked for as well. So, if you were planning Goa, we reckon you try Gokarna or better still Tarkarli. The journey to the latter is something we are keen to undertake soon. Hey boss, my distant relative is unwell. Please grant a leave for 3-4 days.
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