Dil Chahta Hai – Pune to Goa

It’s everyone’s dream to just wake up in the morning throw some clothes into a bag and jump into the driver’s seat to drive to Goa. And just so you know, turning this into reality isn’t all that tough. All you need is a map, a co-driver and some good radar to help you make the 12 hour drive.

The latter by itself is a grand way to spend a day. As you make your way past verdant countryside, shimmering lakes, rolling hills and miles and miles of open space, you feel that you can just go on… without stopping. If only to get a great big bite of freedom. Wind in your face, dream destination in your mind, this lethal combination is all you need… besides your chutney sandwiches and Bisleri.

We decided to leave early in the morning to avoid night driving on the highway. And the west coast route is the right one to choose for a day drive – scenic, winding and mostly empty! But for a patch of local village roads to connect to the highway, the stretches are great and any driver’s dream. And if you do get hot under the collar, all you have to do is stop by a waterfall and get drenched a la Mandakini. Some intrepid travelers have tried scaling the rocks but that by itself is a separate stroke of luck and if reaching Goa by night is part of your agenda you can keep this fun for another time round.

You can stop for lunch at Chiplun where you can get a taste of authentic and yummy concoctions that range from spicy fish curry to vegetarian thalis that never seem to end, to a deep pink drink made of kokum, which is simply irresistible. You see fellow travelers there along with pics of big time celebs on the walls, who have also sat at the same table as you and licked their fingers clean.

As you ride on, sleep comes quick, courtesy the heavy lunch, but soon enough the sights and sounds make you come alive again. If you’re in mood for a hot steaming cuppa chai, you can stop by any dhaaba on the way. They instantly know that you are the weary traveler, and ask if you want the ‘botal-ka-paani’. They dust out that old tray and bring the hot brew to your car as well! (Tip: It is good to stretch a bit before you take off again. And switch drivers every 200 km or so)

You do get a lot of interesting locals to spot and if you’re game you can spend some time chatting with them about the stories they have to tell. These funny monkeys are quite whacky and if wild is part of your itinerary then you can take out pictures standing next to them. Some won’t want to leave you after that and who can blame them? After all, it isn’t everyday that they get to enjoy their 15 minutes of fame.

The photography buffs amongst us will be delighted at the wide angled shots they can get of the deep valleys that are a deadly drop and the deep red mud that just makes everything seem richer. As you near Goa, you can just feel the air come alive with magic. White washed churches, paddy fields, thick mangroves all greet you with a lazy wave. The palm trees and sleepy villages are the perfect sight for the tired weary traveler. All this can be dissipated with a glass of wine or some of the local feni…but that depends how courageous you are. Port wine is known to induce high levels of feel good hormones!!

Leaving Goa is one of the toughest things to do, especially when you know that you are getting back to ‘the grind’. We took the busy road home. Imagine climbing up the winding roads in the still of the night where the only light in a radius of one kilometer is from your vehicle. I would have loved that, but my fellow travelers thought that it reminded them of the perfect backdrop for a horror movie. I cursed Ram Gopal Varma, while braking the Scorpio to give way for a truck that was trying to overtake another one. Out here, it IS a wild, wild world after all!

Tips for the traveler

  • Travel with people you like
  • Carry water and sandwiches and good music
  • Stop only for taking pictures
  • Do not pop head out of the window when you see a valley below
  • Do not try rock climbing if you slip down easily
  • If you are a teetotaller, be sorry. Very sorry!

Vehicle checklist

  • Check your vehicle’s lights (don’t forget the four blinkers)
  • Top up the oil, brake fluid, coolant
  • Keep the right tyre pressure including the spare wheel.
  • Make sure you carry the jack and toolkit
  • A flashlight can be very handy, also carry a road map.