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It’s fun to be crazy
sometimes always. Our road trip from Bangalore to Goa and back to Bangalore, in two days, to hunt for the best food joints was one such crazy travel experience.
The plan was to start the road trip early in the morning from Bangalore and end the day somewhere in South Goa. We checked for places to stay and realised there was no dearth of hotels in Goa. It was the off season (we did this Bangalore to Goa road trip in the month of March), so we had the flexibility to make a last-minute decision of where to stay for the night. We decided to stop wherever we would be at sunset.
We knew that the beautiful highways of Karnataka would make this road trip possible. However, we were still looking at a driving distance of 560 km from Bangalore to Goa, mostly near the South Goa beach of Palolem. An early morning start was a must, especially to get out of Bangalore before its famous traffic jams began.
There are a number of routes that we could have taken for this Bangalore to Goa road trip. You drive over the Ponda ghat and break your day in Mollem to visit the Dudhsagar waterfalls. You can take the Choral ghat for the Bangalore to Goa road trip, via Belgaum and enter North Goa directly if that’s where you are headed. Or you take a more coastal route and also visit Gokarna en route your Bangalore to Goa road trip.
However, time was a constraint for us on this trip. We wanted to be for lunch in Karwar and for the sunset on some beach in Goa, that was all we had decided for this Bangalore to Goa road trip. We just chose the shortest route that Goole Maps came up with at the time. Bangalore – Tumkur – Chitradurga – Davangere (NH 48) – Rannibennur bypass – Yellapur (first on state highway 6 followed by a brief stretch on NH 52) – Karwar (over the Arbail ghat) – Palolem.
Breakfast halt just outside of Bangalore on NH 48
Our first stop of the drive was at this series of roadside stalls around half an hour after we got on NH 48, the Bangalore-Pune highway. Set up under tarpaulin we could see the dosa tavas and idli steamers even from a distance. Clearly, it was a family activity. It was still early morning and the families we still preparing the first batch of idlis and wadas. It wasn’t too crowded yet, so they were also in the mood to chat.
We started with a round of the usual – steamed idlis and the luscious soft tatte idlis. By then the dosas were ready. We had the masala dosa and egg dosa, crisp on the outside, growing softer as they reached the centre, we were licking our fingers by the time we finished.
The family would wake up at 4 AM every day, finish the basic preparation, load the Maruti Omni with all the equipment and get here before the crack of dawn. By the time traffic on the highway started, they were ready to serve. We asked them if we could try our hand at making the dosa. They were happy to let me give it a shot. Amma’s daughter who could converse in English (we didn’t have any other common language since we didn’t speak Kannada), explained the process step-by-step. Well, what looked like a free-flowing batter in her hands, became patchy in mine. The first one was a disaster, but they insisted I try again. This one was better than the first, but still a far cry from the perfection that we had just devoured.
A sudden change of landscape once we get off the national highway, NH 48
Post breakfast it was normal order till we got off NH48 after the Bankapur Tollgate. The monotonous sight of vehicles zipping past on a well-laid Bangalore-Pune highway was broken by villages and tiny settlements. The usual Indian rural scenes of farms and cows were soon seen. Groups of old men were sitting around a peepal tree chatting. We thought it wise to ask for directions to Karwar before we got too far from the national highway. They ascertained we were in the correct direction, so we moved on.
The landscape changes further, from rural to wild
As we moved ahead along this state highway, villages turned to tribal settlements and farms turned to wild trees. The typical deciduous forests turning brown and crisp by the end of winter were all around. All our phones lost mobile networks. It was almost noon and the shadows were harsh and small. Mirages were appearing on the now-not-so-smooth narrow tar roads. This was the most challenging stretch of this Bangalore to Goa road trip – mainly because there was no way we could have asked for help, had we needed any.
For long patches, we drove without sighting any, let alone, a car, even a human. We did hear cicadas and robins and wondered whether any wildlife would be around. The stillness of the landscape was captivating. We were compelled to stop and just experience this quiet for a while. We hadn’t even gone 50 km off the Bangalore-Pune national highway. But what a world of difference this short distance had made!
An arch announcing a Tibetan settlement on the right surprised us. We hadn’t expected to find a monastery hidden somewhere in the remote forests of Karnataka. But thinking about it, it made sense. Buddhist cultures have flourished in the far off locations of Ladakh and Zanskar. By that logic, this middle of nowhere location in Karnataka then sounded perfect! We were starting to feel hungry already and not a dhaba was in sight. We skipped exploring this settlement for now. We crossed a slightly bigger town of Yellapur and then took the diversion towards Karwar, on the Hubli-Karwar highway.
Hitting the coast and the Arabian Sea at Karwar
It was now time for another complete change of landscape on this Bangalore to Goa road trip. We were crossing over the western ghats to the west coast. The forests of the Arbail ghat, at an altitude higher than the ones we just crossed, were still lush green. The air was cooler. The smooth well-laid roads returned, albeit they were now the typical winding roads you find in the western ghats. It was a pleasure being able to glide over the curves one after the other, through an evergreen thicket. We could imagine this to be a waterfall lined highway in the monsoon and made mental notes to make another road trip here when the rains arrived.
Palm trees announced that the ghat had almost ended. One last turn and we were directly on the coastal road. The Arabian sea presented itself in all its flourish. It was dotted with colourful fishermen boats bobbing with the waves near the coast lined with coconut trees, gently swaying in the afternoon breeze.
We had reached past 3 PM which meant most places had closed for lunch. It took time and effort but we were lucky to find a restaurant that served meals through the day. Coast means seafood and luckily fish was their speciality.
We ordered pomfret curry and fried surmai (kingfish). The owner was around. The lunch crowd had receded so he was relaxed to chat with us. The restaurant had been in his family for 3 generations.
His grandfather had started it after renovating what had then been a closed down courtroom. The building was over 100 years old and he showed us how they had kept the original beam structure the same. The rickety wooden stairs we had to climb to get to the loo, seemed to be the original one!
The most beautiful entry into South Goa at Palolem
It was a challenge staying awake after this hearty meal. But we knew we wouldn’t be driving for long as we could see the sun nearing the horizon.
We knew our Bangalore to Goa road trip was coming to an end when we entered the serene Goan hamlets. The entry into Goa through Karwar is probably the prettiest road in Goa. Coastal villages didn’t get purer than this. Coconut trees, water streams, tiled roofs, and bakeries – all in the middle of thick vegetation. This – is what comes to mind when one thinks of a beautiful life – abundant green nature.
We kept driving through this paradise until we got to Palolem. The sun was almost ready to set. We chose a hotel by the beach. Our cottage was in the middle of a lovely little garden and just next to it was the pathway to the beach. Part one of our road trip, from Bangalore to Goa was now done. We had to repeat the same in reverse the next day, but for now, we would soak n the cool beach vibes of Palolem.
Palolem Beach, our night halt for the Bangalore to Goa road trip
Quickly freshening up, we headed to the beach. There were hardly any people around. For a long while, the white sand getting pulled in by the foam of the waves and disappearing in the sea kept us arrested. We kept staring towards infinity till we couldn’t see anymore.
The beachside shacks were now becoming active, but thankfully not loud. The guy who ran the shack got us chairs facing the sea. He lit a small candle and put it into a dug up sand hole. A mild golden romantic glow surrounded us. He asked us for our drink and food preferences. We chose the sea bass in lemon butter marinade and tandoor roasted red snapper and a couple of drinks.
The drive had been a long one and we had the same one laid before us again tomorrow. But we couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing end to this day. We had experienced such a variety of landscapes and driven through some remote tribal regions. And now, we were by the sea with the sound of the waves giving a perfect background score to a delicious meal. Tomorrow’s drive would come tomorrow. Right now was the time to live the present moment.
Resuming the road trip back from Goa to Bangalore, early morning
The next day we woke up early but decided against starting the drive immediately. Instead, we went for a walk around the beach. And followed it with a big breakfast at the German bakery. Filled ourselves with croissants, omelettes, muesli, hash potato, cakes and coffee. The setting of this sweet little garden where we were seated in one of the small lanes of Palolem village was alluring and we didn’t want to leave. But we had to get real and start heading back.
The Sunday fish market at Karwar
We retraced the same route we had taken the previous day for our Bangalore to Goa road trip. But it being a Sunday, the sights we saw on the same roads were drastically different. While Karwar had been a quiet city in the afternoon yesterday, this morning it was buzzing with activity. Two-wheelers were parked along both sides of the road and there was a rush of people carrying bags or buckets.
This only meant one thing, the Sunday fish market was in session. The flurry of activity was typical of a fish market. Women were busy negotiating the prices of their fish. They would pass on the prawns to their daughter to devein and peel while the men would weigh and cut the fish.
Karwar was the biggest fish market in the vicinity and some restaurants from South Goa preferred buying their seafood stock from Karwar.
Hoping we weren’t reeking of fish, we moved ahead. Crossed over the Arbail ghat and prepared to drive on the desolate roads to Yellapur and beyond, till we reached the national highway, NH 48, again.
The Yellapur bazaar on Sunday on the Bangalore to Goa road trip
But a contrasting scene awaited us at Yellapur. The Sunday market was on. Fruits and vegetables, along with kitchenware like iron pans and earthen pots were in demand. What caught our attention though, was a whole range of herbal medicines. The locals of the Lamanai tribe had foraged the herbs and the seeds from the forest and were now selling it in this Sunday market. We asked them how they knew about all of this medicinal stuff. Everyone in their family had always known it, they said.
Another interesting set of people we met were the Siddis, Indians with an African origin. They looked every bit African but spoke fluent Marathi. We asked them if we could take their photos. While the women were ready to have their pictures taken, the man was suspicious. “If people from Mumbai are interested in our photos, they’re definitely on to something.” We let it go. There were way more vehicles than yesterday, everyone was either heading to or returning from the Sunday market.
The excitement of the market made us forget about the Tibetan settlement. We remembered only after we had got back on the national highway. That visit will now have to wait longer.
We had initially thought of stopping for the famous Davangere dosas on NH48. But we were still full from that massive breakfast we’d had. Instead, we drove on and caught a glorious sunset on the road.
Dinner halt at Tumakuru before entering Bangalore
It didn’t make sense to enter Bangalore in the evening traffic. We had an early dinner at a local favourite restaurant in Tumkur. They recommended we try their rice varieties. We ordered the tamarind rice, bisibele bhat and vermicelli.
It was almost 11 PM by the time we reached Bangalore and the city was still on the move. We treated ourselves to some dessert at Smores.
It had been a long tiring weekend. But the rewards of this long drive for this Bangalore to Goa road trip had been totally worth the effort!
We had seen the mountains and the sea, lush green as well as dry brown forests. We had visited the local markets. And we had feasted on some delicious fresh foods.
We had accomplished what we had set out to do – make a weekend road trip from Bangalore to Goa and back!
Tips for the Bangalore to Goa road trip
- Plan your timings to leave and return to Bangalore such that you avoid the city traffic. An early morning start is recommended.
- Download the map for your route of the Bangalore to Goa road trip in advance on your phone. The mobile network will be patchy or lost once you get off the national highway NH 48. A couple of routes could get confusing then.
- Carry enough water and snacks with you to avoid buying bottled water and junk food in plastic packets.
- If you are planning to have your lunch in Karwar, call the restaurant beforehand to find out if they would still be serving lunch by the time you reach. You don’t want to be “hangry” while driving on this road trip.
- If you are doing the Bangalore to Goa road trip in the monsoon, find out the condition of the western ghat you plan to cross. Also, make time for more halts in the monsoon as there will be several waterfalls along the way on the western ghats stretch of this road trip.
- If you love seafood, we recommend carrying an icebox, so you bring back some fish!