Just about 2-3 kms short of Belgaum city, I took a left toward Bellaghavi City, rather reluctantly leaving the superb expressway behind. Up to this point, our directions from a dear old colleague, a Goan local, had proved spot on. However, the general chaos and traffic and numerous intersections in the city proved confusing and we had to stop several times to ask for directions to the Amboli-Savantwaddi road. After a slight delay of around 10 minutes as we blundered around in search of the right turnoff, we finally found the right road and set off at a steady pace again, with Ducky at the wheel once more.
My holiday glee and general bonhomie was shaken as we overtook a bunch of rowdy college boys on bikes. One bike sped up and stayed slightly ahead as the pillion rider precariously tried to focus his camera-phone to snap a picture of me through the windshield. I instinctively slunk down in my seat, grateful for my super-dark tinted windows, while Ducky stepped on the gas and left the offenders behind in a haze of dust. However, I continued seething with rage and indignation, brooding over the harsh reality of eve-teasing in India. It is a menace that will never go away simply because the belief that women are nothing but sex objects, far inferior to men, is so deeply ingrained in the psyche of a vast majority of Indian men. I hope those boys contract severe piles and fistula.
Thankfully, the landscape along the Amboli-Savantwaddi road (state highway 121 in Maharashtra) restored my cheery spirits. We stopped briefly to take in the sight of strange fields of sunflowers. I had thus far believed and learned that sunflowers always faced the sun – however, this lot of sunflowers resolutely kept their bright faces turned in the opposite direction! I suppose they were afraid of getting tanned (another “horrific” calamity so deeply entrenched in the Indian quest for beauty and perfection)!
I curiously took in the sights of piles of cashew fruit being sold along the road and the Marathi style of tying a saree. I can’t imagine why India’s moral police is so up in arms over western clothes like jeans and t-shirts when women wearing the saree in this particular fashion flaunt so much of leg AND inner thigh! Hey, Muthalik, Maharashtra is your home state, isn’t it? Have you ever looked at women in your own backyard?
Once we passed Amboli, we began a climb through a ghat section toward Savantwaddi. The view was spectacular with lush greenery stretching for miles around us. Comical monkeys gazed with unabashed curiosity at our passing car – I gawked back equally shamelessly.
We stopped at Vithal Kamat for a spot of lunch. This restaurant was interesting in more ways than one. The “Malvani” thali was delicious, complete with a drink made of kokum and coconut called “Sol Kadi”. Of course, Ducky is famous for always wanting to order something completely incongruous to the place he is in and in trademark fashion, decided to order a Punjabi thali! I scowled and vetoed the idea immediately, so he settled for the Malvani thali as well and later (rather grudgingly) admitted it was good!
Vithal Kamat has the strangest restrooms! The entire place is built to be eco-friendly, but I thought the restrooms were taking things a tad too far. Each toilet has a door and two walls. That’s right, TWO walls. Where the third wall ought to have been, there is a thick green expanse of trees! I must confess it took me quite a while to convince my sphincter muscles to relax and “go”.
Vithal Kamat also had one of the most pleasant and genial watchmen I have seen. He greeted us with a wide welcoming grin, told us not to worry as he’d keep an eye on Slinky while we ate, and saw us off with a beaming smile and a wave as well. We handed him a generous tip, which he didn’t appear to be looking for in the first place, before setting off again.
From Savantwaddi, we crossed into Goa. A lone policeman at the border flagged us down and wanted to see the car documents. What Ducky showed him instead was his military I-Card and we were promptly flagged through. That military I-Card saved us a lot of time and money. Thanks to it we didn’t have to pay toll at any of the toll gates along the expressway, which saved us almost 500 bucks up and down.
After asking for directions to Mandrem, we finally arrived at Cuba Beach resort. This was one fun road trip, plenty of memories and plenty of people (hopefully) reeling from severe piles and fistula along the way. North Karnataka might just have a bountiful grape harvest this year (snigger).