Monsoon Drive Experience

What started off on a whim on Twitter after seeing Abhinav’s blog post turned into a conversation and eventually a plan was made over a beer at Toit. I’d always dreamed of driving along the Indian coast, specially after my experience of driving from SF to LA along US 1. The monsoon was just the perfect time for such a drive.

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Day 1 – Nagarhole, Kalpetta

I picked up Abhinav from his place and we left Bangalore by 7am. We drove through the lush green Nagarhole forest and stopped every time we spotted any wildlife. The moment we crossed into Kerala, the roads got even better. As we approached Kalpetta, the winding roads, perfectly laid and painted, were an absolute pleasure to drive on. We stayed at a homestay called Four Seasons run by a lovely lady and explored a few places around Kalpetta that day like the Pookode lake.

Entering Nagarhole #monsoondrive

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Shot on Nexus 4 – First drops of rain

 

Shot on Nexus 4
Shot on Nexus 4 – Pookode Lake, Kalpetta, Kerala

 

Shot on Nexus 4 - Sipping on hot coffee while it pours in the background. Pookode lake
Shot on Nexus 4 – Sipping on hot coffee while it pours in the background. Pookode lake

 

Shot on Nexus 4 - Winding roads in Wayanad
Shot on Nexus 4 – Winding roads in Wayanad

 

Day 2 – Kalpetta, Kannur

The day began with some lovely Appam and bird watching. Sat in the balcony watching the 15 minute cycle of rain and birds flitting from one tree to another. After checking out from our homestay, we drove to Chembra peak. It was a long drive up to the top, or rather the base. Winding roads, incessant rains and lush green tea estates presented us with numerous photo ops. We stopped at a couple of places on our way up. The walk from the parking to the watchtower was incredible. The panoramic view of the valleys and hills around was breathtaking. We decided to spend some time and shoot a few time-lapse sequences of the clouds drifting over the hills.

We then went to Banasurasagar Dam after lunch at CFC –  Crispy Fried Chicken. A km of walk in the rain from the parking area to the dam, just like the previous place, was fun. It is the 2nd largest earth dam in Asia. Didn’t get too much of an opportunity to do time lapses as it poured every few minutes and by the time we left, it was around 5pm.

Our next destination was Kannur. The roads again were brilliant for the most part, while some parts were waterlogged. Every small town seemed to have a mandatory mosque and/or church. Drive in the ghats was brilliant as the roads were superb. Once it got dark, and we moved away from the Ghats, the roads got patchy in some places, the traffic slowed us down and night driving tired me out. After having reached Kannur, I was hoping to get to our place, recommended by our previous host, and crash immediately. But it took us an eternity to find the place. We finally managed to reach by 10, had dinner and watched torrential downpour and heavy winds blowing in from the sea, until midnight.

Tea estates around the Chembra peak area
Tea estates around the Chembra peak area

 

Stream

 

 

Crispy Fried Chicken. They have branches!
Crispy Fried Chicken. They have branches!

 

Shot on Nexus 4 - Vertical panorama of the Banasura Sagar Dam.
Shot on Nexus 4 – Vertical panorama of the Banasura Sagar Dam.

 

 

Day 3 – Kannur, Muzhapilangad beach, Bekal fort

After breakfast, a cold water shower, and a passing storm captured on time lapse, we headed up towards Marvanthe in Karnataka. Our first stop was Muzhapilangad, Asia’s 2nd largest drive beach, a good 5kms stretch on which you can drive. I’d never done anything like this before, and it was quite an experience. As we were driving up and down the beach we could see a massive storm approaching the land and the waves got closer and closer and at one point going under the car. I managed to tear my flip flops from one of the receding waves while we were on the beach and I’d managed to soak my shoes on the first day, not a smart thing to do by not carrying weather proof shoes. I was now without any footwear and had to drive barefoot for a little while. Our next stop wasn’t a planned one but turned out to be fun.

We decided to stop at Bekal fort (you might recognize this place from Mani Ratnam’s Bombay). We walked up a watchtower hoping to get a good view of the coastline and the fort. Looking at the clouds we estimated it would take another 15 minutes for the rain clouds to pass over us, enough time to go check out the next couple of viewing spots. The next thing we know we’re stuck on this tower with blistering winds and heavy downpour for 10 minutes. I had to hurriedly put everything underneath the rain jacket and take shelter behind the wall from those winds. We were crouched behind the wall into a ball waiting for the rains to stop. When the rain gods were done I was soaked. Thankfully the camera and other things remained dry. When it subsided, we walked through the rest of the fort. Even if we had time we couldn’t have gone down to the beach below the fort because of the high tide.

It was 6pm by the time we left Bekal, and we reached Mangalore in 2 hours. Refueled the car and our stomachs and decided to push on through to reach Marvanthe. Driving on a single lane highway with buses using 6 headlights, all on high beam, can make it very difficult to drive. We finally got to our destination by 11pm with Abhinav taking over the wheel after dinner. Thankfully it wasn’t too hard to find unlike the last place. The roads weren’t as good as they were on day 1, but Kerala still had better roads overall. Almost every town/village we passed through in Kerala had to have a mandatory mosque and church. Also, kids on the street play football! Didn’t see a single cricket game that you generally see when you drive through the other parts of the country.

Waking up to this view in Kannur
Waking up to this view in Kannur
Our resort/homestay was right on the beach
Our resort/homestay was right on the beach in Kannur

 

Muzhapilangad beach
Shot on Nexus 4 – Kerala countryside

 

Looking through fort wall into the sea at Bekal Fort

 

Day 4 – Marvanthe, Karwar

Spent the first half of the day lazying and walking around on the beach & the resort. The sea was rough to get in, but we kept ourselves busy with our cameras. The rain storms kept coming every hour. By the time we left the waves had reached the gate of the resort. The drive started after lunch. A stretch of about a km of the national highway runs right next to the sea, with fresh water running on the right, possibly the only such sight on a national highway in India. The roads were again surprisingly very good, except for about 10 km of bad stretch. It poured nonstop all the way upto karwar incredibly. The roads leading into Karwar are beautiful. Hills in the backdrop, tributaries running into the ocean on your left and lush green paddy fields at the foothills. The place we found while doing a quick search on our way turned out to be quite nice. It was located on a hill overlooking the Kali river bridge and the estuary.

Turtle Bay Beach Resort, Marvanthe
Shot on Nexus 4 – Turtle Bay Beach Resort, Marvanthe

 

Marvanthe Beach
Shot on Nexus 4- Marvanthe Beach

 

Marvanthe again!
Shot on Nexus 4 – Marvanthe again!

 

Packed up for the monsoon. Marvanthe, Karnataka
Shot on Nexus 4- Packed up for the monsoon. Marvanthe, Karnataka

 

Day 5 – Karwar, Hubli, Bangalore

I woke up very early to see if I could get some good shots of the bridge from our balcony. It was amazing to watch the rain clouds drift in from the sea and the bridge disappear almost completely in that heavy downpour. Since the place we were staying at was an old fort located on a hill, it had a good view of the surrounding areas. We went to one such viewpoint and managed a few shots before it started to pour again.

By now it was time to get ready and leave. We had our breakfast and decided to drive 10 kms further north and cross into Goa, for two reasons: We could tick off Goa on the list and most importantly to refuel at a whopping Rs.54.83 per litre. On our way back passing through Karwar we stopped for a quick walk through a warship memorial. The road to Hubli where we planned to have lunch, was again to my surprise, fantastic. After lunch, it was the straight line stretches of NH4 and we began to see some blue sky for the first time in 5 days.

 

Kali River Bridge, Karwar. That's not mist! It's the rain storm moving inland from the sea.
Shot on Nexus 4- Kali River Bridge, Karwar. That’s not mist! It’s the rain storm moving inland from the sea.
View of the bridge after the storm passed. Karwar
Shot on Nexus 4 – View of the bridge after the storm passed. Karwar
Navy Warship Museum, Karwar

 

Inside the warship engine room. Karwar
Shot on Nexus 4- Inside the warship engine room. Karwar
Next time I go to Goa, I'm going to bring back fuel in Fenny bottles.
Next time I go to Goa, I’m going to bring back fuel in Fenny bottles.

As you would’ve noticed by now, a lot of images on this trip were taken on my phone (Google Nexus 4, with the help of gorillapod and some photojojo lenses). It acted as my secondary camera during the trip and I was quite amazed at how well it could capture images. Chase Jarvis is right when he says “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You.” Abhinav and me also took quite a few timelapse sequences during the trip. I stiched some of it together and made a video out of it. Take a look!

And here’s Abhinav’s video from the trip

 

 

 

 

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