Thursday, February 14, 2013

8 Jan 13 - Mangalore to Ratnagiri

The early start and the good roads augured well. I made steady progress, without any stress, up to Honavar. I decided to have breakfast at the Kamat Hotel, where the items where just getting ready. Idlis and sweet kesari were readily available. Dosas would take time. Four idlis, sweet kesari and coffee met the demands of my hunger, for the time being.

Refreshed by a liberal splash of water in my eyes, I slowly picked up speed and reached the outskirts of Karwar quite easily. Suddenly, the traffic slowed and there was a serpentine queue of vehicles ahead of me. A cursory inspection of the area convinced me that a major accident had taken place further up the road. However, soon the traffic started up and I snaked past the accident spot. I was lucky to have been detained only for a short while, for the restoration process was almost complete as I reached the end of the queue. I love Karwar. I had been pained to see her desecration when the iron ore export business was at its height between 2006 and 11. The port and the city changed color, as it were. With the mining ban in place Karwar has regained some of its lost lustre. I found some time to snap a few pictures of the port and the museum.

The 300 plus kms drive from Karwar to Ratnagiri via Panaji and Sawantwadi was quite enjoyable. It was a relaxed drive and I got to Ratnagiri by 4 pm – had done 600 kms in less than 12 hours of unhurried driving; comparison with the experience of the previous day brought light tears into my eyes. Accommodation was arranged in the Konkan Railway Corporation GH by B.P Tayal, the MD of KRCL, a batch mate in the Railways. I had stayed there a few times in the past and hence, found my way to the GH quite easily. The GH was in for a major overhaul. Major work was underway and there was dust all over. The MD’s Camp Office was ready after the re-jig and I was allotted the luxurious room with a beautiful view of the hills and breathtaking greenery. I relaxed and vowed to be well rested for the long drive ahead for tomorrow. However, I had to fix the GPS tracker that went off line on arrival at Ratnagiri. Between the GPS tracker device provider, VAG Tunes and the data service provider, Idea we tried to understand what was wrong. In the end, I was told that the balance for making calls was below the limit and could be the potential source of trouble. I could not fathom why I needed a call balance to fetch data. Anyway, I decided to rest those doubts till I got back to Cochin and arranged to top up the call balance. The tracker started functioning almost immediately.

While I was deciding on unpacking the luggage and getting into night clothes I had a call from Jose Tharakan, an erstwhile colleague in DP World Cochin. He had come to know of my travel through Facebook and wanted me have lunch with him the next day in Mumbai. Although it would mean a detour and extra time I accepted the offer. Old friends and good food are irresistible. The Personnel Officer of KRCL, Ratnagiri dropped by to confirm if all was well. During the conversation I discovered that the Regional Manager at Ratnagiri is George, an old friend of many years. In a short while George dropped in and conversation turned from my trip to the improvement in KRCLs fortunes in Ratnagiri and the leadership provided by the MD. I politely refused his invitation to dinner, wanting to get in as much rest as possible. However, my defenses weakened when Commander Amit Sanyal joined the group. I wanted information on the coastal road from Mumbai to Mangalore, which I would have to traverse on the Coastal Expedition. George said that Amit, a Naval Officer in charge of the NCC Unit in Ratnagiri, would be the best person to supply the required data, as he had recently reconnoitered the route. The voluble Amit and the amiable George had me agreeing to dine out, after Amit had supplied me valuable info on the route from Mumbai to Mangalore via Alibaug, Murud, Shrivardhan, Ratnagiri, Vijayadurg and Malvan. We went to Amit’s residence and he promptly poured out a drink. It was after he had done that I became aware that he given up drinks a few years back – and what prompted him to do that is the stuff we see in movies. And, George is a teetotaler. After a few drinks I was taken to Hotel Ratna Sagar, a lovely Bhate beach front property. The food was excellent and the company even better. The night wore on and I forgot the long road ahead the next day in such affectionate and erudite company.

I said the goodbyes with a heavy heart – a short time is enough to make good friends if you approach a relationship with an open mind. I scheduled to meet George again on the 29th of January, when on my way back home and thanked him for the lovely evening; I should say night. I did not have much left of it to sleep!

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