Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Mumbai-Dandeli-Yana roadtrip: in the lap of nature...

Did a fabulous 5 day trip from Mumbai – Dandeli – Karwar – Mumbai, visiting Yana and Gokarna inbetween. In all, covered 1,600 kms. So here goes…
(Don't mind the team-bhp logos on the snaps - had originally posted the travelogue on team-bhp.com here.)

Preparation: team-bhp, google maps and a lot of route tips, special thanks to ampere and ravi bhat
Equipment: i20 Asta that has done 30,000 kms, camera and a crazy mind that thinks the idea of a relaxing holiday is to drive 300 kms everyday

The idea of the trip started with a wish to visit Yana (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yana,_India). During the route planning, decided to stay at Old Magazine House, Ganeshgudi in Dandeli forest and another stop at Karwar. To make the drive more relaxed, divided it into two parts: Part 1 was to drive to OMH, spend a couple of nights and then on to Karwar, spend a night and cover Gokarna and Yana either before or after. Plan was to drive down from Karwar to Mumbai in one stretch, so that the trip would take only 4 days. A rather amusing incident changed those plans and ended up spending 5 days!

For the first part of the drive from Mumbai to OMH-Ganeshgudi, decided to take the NH4 upto Belgaum and then turn off into the Khanapur Road. The route was: Mumbai – Belgaum – Khanapur – Ramanagara – Ganeshgudi. Mumbai-Belgaum was on NH 4. Mumbai - Dandeli - Yana: A fabulous road trip-omh.jpgHaving driven on NH4 before, and experienced the traffic on Pune – Satara – Kohlapur and in order to reach OMH well in time, decided to get an early start, at 3.00 AM. It was only me and my wife, who is also an excellent navigator. I was so excited about the drive that I could not sleep at all the previous night!

So off we started at 3.20 AM and in no time hit the Mumbai – Pune Expressway. Having very little highway driving experience in the dark, I kept the speed to a reasonable 80 kph. This stretch as always was a breeze. The road got progressively bad after Pune and the stretch upto Satara surprisingly had several potholes. Thanks to the early start, we completely avoided the nasty two wheeler traffic on that stretch. By the time we reached Satara, it was already light and the speed thereafter shot up to 90 – 100 kph on an average. The only bottleneck was the small ghat road after Satara where for some unknown reason, there was a massive traffic jam. Vehicles had stopped for almost a kilometer. It cleared up after about 20 minutes or so and we lost that much time. Decided to take a breakfast stop before Kolhapur. Last time we had stopped at a Food Mall in a defunct Reliance petrol pump about 35 kms before Satara that was decent, so decided to stop at the same place. We were there by 8.45 AM. Unfortunately, the food was pathetic and we had to cancel the order. Stepped into Sai International – a self service style restaurant a couple of hundred meteres away and was surprised by the excellent food and spotlessly clean toilets (they have an attendant who hands you liquid soap and tissues, full five-star ishtyle!). Had a good fill of idli, vada, dosa etc., though I prefer to eat light on long drives and we were back on the road by 9.45. We then crossed the border into Karnataka. If the NH 4 in Maharashtra is good, in Karnataka it becomes spectacular. It is 6 laned, with tall shrubs on the divider, wide service roads along the entire length that prevents most local traffic spilling onto the GQ and what a road! Forget potholes, there are no bumps either! Such a pleasure to drive.

Before Belgaum we got off the GQ and turned into Old PB Road / College Road, onto Rani Chennamma Circle and onward to the Khanapur Road. Tanked up on fuel after RC Circle and was surprised to have clocked a mileage of 20 kmpl! The road upto Khanapur was good, but between Khanapur and Ramanagara it was quite bad – lots of potholes, pretty deep ones and big stones lying on the road. But it was not a very long stretch and after Ramanagara, the road again became excellent. After Khanapur the Dandeli forest starts and what a dense forest it is! The scenery is fantastic and in some parts, the road runs close to the Supa Dam backwaters. Didn’t stop much here, but here are some pics of the excellent road, dense forest and a snapshot of the backwaters.
Name:  IMG_0519.JPG
Views: 2353
Size:  30.0 KB
Name:  IMG_0524.JPG
Views: 2372
Size:  49.3 KB
We reached OMH by about 1.30 PM and had informed the resort people in advance of our late arrival and to keep lunch ready for us.

OMH is a jungle resort run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts, managed by the Department of Tourism, Government of Karnataka. The place is a bit innocuous, and one has to drive atleast 200 – 300 mts on a gravelly stretch from the road to reach the resort. Nestled literally in the middle of the forest, the place is a treat! Lush forests all around, chirping birds everywhere (this is a spot frequented by serious birdwatchers), excellent service. The place has no TVs, no room service, no AC, and not much ambience in the rooms. But then again, if this is what you want, better stay at home or at a 5-star right! We fell in love with the place immediately. Here are some images of the resort.
Name:  IMG_0528.JPG
Views: 2278
Size:  46.4 KB
Had a heavy meal of the freshest, tastiest and healthiest stuff. Caught a quick nap and explored the place. The place is fabulous – they only have 4 – 5 cottages and one dormitory. Being the middle of the week, there was only one other room occupied. Also, there is mobile network only in one small square in front of the kitchen which we promptly labeled ‘The Networking Square’! Of course, it was such a joy not to be disturbed by calls all the while! Incidentally, a tree fell on some electric pole nearby and there was no power supply for 24 hours! They used to run the generator for preparing and serving lunch, dinner, breakfast only! That again was great – the peace, the quiet, the sounds of the forest, the pitch dark of the forest… a fantastic experience!

We got up early the next morning to go birdwatching. Inspite of this not being the peak of the birding season, spotted about 40 different species of birds, the Great Malabar Squirrel, a viper etc., Some pics (not very good quality, to my great grief) attached.

Name:  bird 1a.JPG
Views: 2271
Size:  52.1 KB
Name:  bird 2.JPG
Views: 2246
Size:  26.0 KB
Name:  bird 2a.JPG
Views: 2241
Size:  49.7 KB
Unfortunately the water from the Supa dam was not yet released, so we couldn’t do white water rafting. Also, due to the SC ban on tiger tourism, we couldn’t do any jungle safaris to spot the big mammals: elephant, leopard, deer etc., This was a real dampener, but we decided to enjoy the forest instead. The ban though was lifted a day after we returned and hope to do another trip for the safaris 

So instead of the safari, we did a coracle boat ride in the Kali river (I think) and spotted a large group of Great Indian Hornbill and a variety of other water birds. Name:  hornbill 1.JPG
Views: 2272
Size:  44.9 KBWe also went on a trek into the forest, where we came across a bear hole, this giant spider and reached the top of a hillock to get this fabulous view of the Supa Dam backwaters. The place is so beautiful we didn’t feel like coming back.
Name:  Spider.JPG
Views: 2211
Size:  70.5 KB
Name:  sunset.JPG
Views: 2208
Size:  22.6 KB
Name:  tree.JPG
Views: 2191
Size:  31.7 KB
I must say the staff at OMH are fabulous: based on our breakfast order the first day, they immediately understood our preferences (for eg., I don’t like onion in my omelette) and got exactly what we wanted the next day without even asking! Such service is expected in high end resorts, but in one managed by the Govt., wow! They also helped us to plan our route to Karwar: they made enquiries with local drivers and advised that the route via Anshi was patched up and very good, except for a 3 – 4 km stretch. We decided to follow their advice.

The next day we did more birdwatching and then it was time to head towards Karwar. Based on the advice of the OMH staff, we took the Ganeshgudi – Joida – Kumbharwada – Anshi – Kadra – Sadashivgad – Karwar route. The drive is about 100 kms and most of it is through the densest forest imaginable. This is the same Dandakaranya mentioned in our epics – forests so thick that sunlight does not touch the ground! And it was true! In several stretches, the canopy of dense trees prevented sunlight from reaching the ground! We were very hopeful of spotting a leopard or atleast an elephant, but could only spot a huge cobra leisurely crossing the road! The road itself is in very good condition except fo the the 6 km stretch between Kumbharwada and Anshi where there is literally no road, there are only rocks and stones on the road. Few pics here.
Name:  anshi road.JPG
Views: 2213
Size:  40.8 KB
Drove into Karwar and I made a foolish mistake! We were booked at the Devbagh Beach Resort again managed by the Jungle Lodges. Due to some incorrect directions I received, I drove right onto the beach! About 200 metres on the sand and I realized I made a mistake. Stopped the car, called the resort for futher directions and by then, the wheels of the car had sunk into the sand. Put the car in reverse but to no avail! Only ended up digging up myself deeper. I was now in deep trouble. Literally! A couple of fisherfolk tried pushing the car, but it would not budge. Tried to put wooden planks but that didn’t help either! By then, lost mobile signal also! Had to run a couple of kilometers, get directions as to where exactly I was – if I don’t know where I am, how do I ask for directions on how to get where I wanted to go! Called the resort for help and asked them to send a jeep with rope. It took them almost 30 minutes to come – that’s when I realized I was way off! They had brought a Scorpio with 4 staff members. Took them to the beach where I had left the car and my wife guarding the car! When I reached there, I was shocked! My wife had managed to attract the sympathy of the village folk, who thought what a stupid husband she must have, to drive a car on the beach! Anyway, the resort is also connected by the beach and two staff members had come to assist from that route. Very thoughtfully, they brought a bottle of water since it was quite hot! What service! Again, completely unexpected from a Govt. run enterprise, but hats off! So, it turns out that by the time I came back, the village fold brought a contraption that is used to drag the boats on to the beach. A rope is tied to the car and it wound around a pillar fixed to a platform that that has a long lever. Four men turn the lever, the rope winds around the pillar and the pulley effect (horizontal) gives great torque that managed to drag the car back quite a bit. The Scorpio then came to rescue and pulled the car rest of the way out. Unfortunately, my efforts to pull the car back in reverse in the first instance dug it in so deep that the bottom of the car banged against the sand. Had to get that fixed and I lost one day.

We drove to the ferry point in the staff Scorpio and reached the resort. Again, the place is out of the world. Imagine a long beach, lined with a pine forest and cottages in this picturesque setting. The place is excellent and ambience much better than OMH. Name:  devbagh resort.JPG
Views: 2183
Size:  41.6 KBName:  devbagh resort 2.JPG
Views: 2177
Size:  41.1 KBThey have AC (need to, can get quite warm), but no TV. But who’s complaining! They have not yet started water sports, so spent a lot of time on the beach and also hired a cab to visit Gokarna temple. We had lost so much time that we thought we may have to skip Yana. This was sad, since that was to be the highlight of the entire trip. The next morning we went dolphin spotting and saw lots of dolphins, some of them jumping out of the water. Managed to get some decent shots of these amazing animals as well as my first decent shot of an eagle in flight. Some pics here.
Name:  dolphin.JPG
Views: 2163
Size:  31.9 KB
Name:  eagle.JPG
Views: 2150
Size:  21.4 KB

It took some time for us to collect the car, almost afternoon, basic servicing done and we knew we had lost time and there was no way I could reach Mumbai the same day. We either could halt in Karwar one more night or start driving and stop either at Belgaum or Kolhapur. Decided to do Yana on the way and what a good decision! We got route tips from the resort staff and they suggested we go on the Yellapur road. I was also told that some part of the road is not very good, but an i20 could handle it. So off we went, first on the Panvel – Kanyakumari road, turned off 5 kms before Ankola into the Hubli via Yellapur road. After about 20 -25 kms we reached Mastikatte. After 2 kms, there is a bus stop and a road leading to the right. Turned right here, crossed a bridge and came to the Hosakambi forest check post. Turned left here and simply followed the signboards (kudos to the Govt. for putting up lots of clear, unambiguous signboards) to Yana. Name:  yana good road.JPG
Views: 2165
Size:  40.6 KB The last stretch of the ghat road (about 4 – 6 kms) is a nightmare. Name:  yana bad road.JPG
Views: 2170
Size:  47.1 KBName:  Yana forest road.JPG
Views: 2200
Size:  53.3 KBThe road is narrow, a little more than single lane road, very very steep, and absolutely no road. Only loose stones, dirt, gravel all over. My brave Berry (that’s what I call my car) managed to pull through without a scratch and we reached Yana. What a sight! It is simply out of this world and straight out of Lord of the Rings! It is almost like staring at Sauron’s tower at Mordor! We explored the place well and however long we stared at the place, it was not enough! Truly spellbinding! Some pics here.
Name:  Yana 1.JPG
Views: 2168
Size:  44.3 KB
Name:  Yana 2.JPG
Views: 2140
Size:  44.0 KB
Name:  Yana 3.JPG
Views: 2114
Size:  28.2 KB
It was now time to head back home. We backtracked upto the Yellapur road, drove on Yellapur road. Stopped at a Shanbag restaurant before Yellapur for a quick snack. We were planning to take the route via Haliyal directly to Belgaum, but were advised that the road has lots of speedbreakers for 50 kms, so go via Hubli bypass onto NH4. Decided to do that. The road passed through the fringes of the forest and we saw another large cobra crossing the road! There were also signboards warning of wild elephants crossing, but unfortunately, did not spot any. The Hubli bypass is a nightmare of a road, narrow and in extremely bad condition for almost the entire 20 -25 km stretch. By the time we were on NH4 it was already very dark. Drove on the GQ in the dark, but thanks to the good road quality, could do decent speed of 100 kph. Thought I will drive all the way to Mumbai at night, but it was too stressful. So decided to stop at Belgaum. A quick internet search revealed that Hotel Ramdev on the Old PG Road just off the NH 4 is good – thanks to Tripadvisor! Stopped there, got a good room and had a good rest. Started at 6.45 the next morning, stopped at our favourite Sai International for a late breakfast and we were at home in Mumbai by 2.30 PM, for lunch! What a trip that was!
Attached Thumbnails
Mumbai - Dandeli - Yana: A fabulous road trip-yana.jpg

Attached Images


Anonymous said...

Awesome! Are there other resorts inside Dandeli apart from Old Magazine House?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aji said...

Stumbled upon your blog when I was looking for info regarding Ganeshgudi. I've been there before for trekking and birdwatching but never driven there. Going by your blog, it's certainly worth the drive. I think I'll go for it this November or December. Thanks a lot for this informative piece.

Raksha Varma said...

Excellent Post! Rejoice life during holidays through Dandeli Resorts; located in Uttara Kannada, Karnataka state.