Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Chorla Ghat

Brian Mendonça

Having just two days to spare before we buzzed off to Bombay, we decided to drive to Belgaum.

What loomed in front of me was the spectre of negotiating the Chorla ghat enroute. Many travellers and drivers in the family spoke about it with great respect after they sped down the hills to be in sunny Goa, either from Pune or Mumbai.

I carefully allotted two days for my car to be serviced before the journey. We had already missed the earlier weekend because house guests backed out of driving a second car citing health reasons.

Like our earlier road trips to Malvan and Sawantwadi, I tried not to get stressed out before we started. At the worst we would turn back.

9 a.m. Sunday. Porvorim. The odometer showed 1,01,856. I made a mental note of the last four digits, viz 1856 -- one year before the first war of Independence, or the sepoy mutiny, in India. Would we? Wouldn’t we? After we all said a family prayer in the car, I shifted gears.

Queenie put on the GPS on her android phone. For destination we put ‘Sanman Deluxe Hotel.’ 113 kilometres lay before us. Projected time - 2 hours, 51 minutes. I had stayed at Sanman Hotel with mum and dad prior to 2004. Past Greenpark hotel the ‘aunty’ who gives directions on the Google app woke up. She began guiding us which roads and which turns to take.

Turning right at Karaswado, we moved up to ‘Bycoli’ as announced by the Google voice. With my baiko beside me, and my boy in the backseat, we moved past Bicholim and entered Sanquelim.  

And then the road started squirming and snarling like a snake in stupour. We were heading deep into the forest skirting the Mhadei wild life sanctuary. The tall trees on either side were so dense that one could not look through the foliage. Yes, we were climbing, but the roads were very good.

The pain in my right ankle was increasing. I feared I would not be able to drive any further. But we all kept positive during the journey by talking, joking and singing, ‘He’s got the whole world, in His hands.’

At 11-ish I pulled over to Shree Krishna Hotel, which was a dhaba for all practical purposes. My lower body was numb and heavy. I hobbled to the wash room, and splashed the icy, cool water on my face. We ordered omlet- pav and tea. My body felt lighter now.

I casually asked the lady serving us, where we were. She said we were near Kankumbi check post. The ghat was over. We had done it!

We resumed our journey towards Belgaum. The roads were wider now and flatter. Travelling leisurely we rolled in to Belgaum around Woodstock in 1969 on the odo. Lunch was at Ap-petite the restaurant at Hotel Eefa. Since we wanted to enjoy the pool we stayed at Hotel Sankam Residency, Airport Road, which really indulged us.*
*   Pix taken by Brian Mendonca at Hotel Shree Krishna, near Kankumbi, enroute to Belgaum from Goa on Sunday 13 May 2018. Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 20 May 2018.

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