I anticipated the day’s drive to be stress free and smooth, as I had done this stretch quite a few times in the past. I also decided to leave later than is usual, at 5 am. Access to the highway NH48 was neither far nor difficult. Normally it is a nightmare to leave a city because of poor sign posting. However, nowadays with the assistance of navigation systems, that problem has been more or less eliminated. I have seen terrible traffic snarls near the Khambatki ghat, a mountain pass through the Sahyadri range on the NH4. Early in the morning the pass is generally free.
The sight of the Suvarna Vidhan Soudha just off the highway near Belgaum made me get out of the car to take in. Apparently the Vidhan Soudha was built at a cost of nearly Rs. 500 crores to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Karnataka formation day. Belgaum district has been in the centre of a border dispute between the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka since long. In order to spike any further dispute the Karnataka Government undertook this extravaganza by acquiring 127 acres of land from farmers. The question uppermost on most minds is: Was it required to bleed the exchequer for one sitting of the Assembly here every year? Is our democracy so devoid of accountability?
I was famished by the time I reached the Kamat Upachar outlet beyond Sira at 3 pm. After fueling at the outlet beside the Upachar I had a leisurely snack of dosa and coffee. It was just another 150 km to the Keys Hotel on the Hosur Road. The transit from NH48 to NH44 via the NICE road was a beauty. The bypass has considerably speeded up the movement from one link to the other. Finally, just before 6 pm I reached the Keys Hotel and was lodged in a comfortable room. The day spanned 882 km in under 12 hours of driving. Rains, sometimes quite heavy, had slowed progress before noon. But the most irritating factor was the 17 toll plazas I had to navigate by shelling out Rs. 1,111 as toll fee. It is not the fee per se that is the irritant; it is suffering serpentine queues and quite often some boorish car owners try to impress the toll clerk with their ID to seek exemption from payment of toll fee. Why anyone should be exempted from payment is beyond comprehension when all those who are exempted, as per the list displayed at toll plazas, are those who are eligible for reimbursement of expenses while on duty. If they are not on duty they must pay. Anyway, the toll plazas must go, in the interest of saving fuel, time and management cost.
However, the more important thing that occupied my mind was that the fourth corner will come up tomorrow when I reach Kanyakumari.