December 2016 saw us heading to Singapore for New Years eve, where we spent a memorable holiday on the cruise liner, 'Mariner of the seas'. We were at Changi airport, waiting for our return flight to board when the kids proclaimed 'we want to go by car on our next holiday. A Plane is very boring!' I just stared back, pleasantly surprised just short of being flabbergasted - What more could one ask for! This was like a dream come true. In an age where 'image' is everything, and the boasting rights of where you last vacationed trumps all other considerations, here were 2 kids that wanted a domestic holiday, traveling by road, eating at nondescript joints and generally roughing it out, rather than flying to some exotic or not so exotic 'foreign' destination! I guess one may as well enjoy it while it lasts.
So as decided, next December we resumed our annual road trips across India. This time we headed towards the salubrious climes of Chikmagalur. Coorg is the preferred destination of most people visiting 'coffee - country', but nothing comes close to the beauty of Chikmagalur. On the one hand, it is largely 'undiscovered' with not too many people heading there, and as a consequence not too many resorts to choose from either. Secondly, at 3000 to 4000 feet, it is at a higher altitude than Coorg, making for better weather. Consequently, the vegetation seems denser, and of course it houses the Chandra Drona forests, adding to the foliage and natural beauty of the place. Having visited both places, I would choose Chikmagalur over Coorg anyday.
Heading along NH 47 from Mumbai, we drove 670 kms to get to the town of Haveri. Compared to our visit on these same roads 4 years back, there was a world of difference - the roads were way better, with the national highway being one long 4 - laned ribbon all the way from Pune to Davanagere. Pretty much every small town and village could be bypassed using the network of flyovers and we made an average speed of 84KMPH, as compared to 67KMPH a couple of years back. Compound that with the mileage a truck does, and the savings on time & fuel are staggering! With a night's halt at Hubli, we resumed our journey next morning at 0500Hrs, and got off the NH 47 at Haveri , taking SH 169 for a further 233 Kms to get to our destination, Villa Urvinkhan. While the state highway is a 2 laned road for the most part, it is pretty well paved and easily navigable. Other than a stray tractor, 2 - wheeler or bullock - cart, there isn't much traffic you encounter en route, and it is a joy to drive on. After a 100Kms or so the fields gave way to the Chandra Drona forests on either side, and even the stray vehicle wasn't to be seen. By now the road had reduced to a single track, mud in most places, and the car was in it's elements. We'd upgraded from the Yeti to a Pajero Sport, and driving it on these mud tracks was great fun!