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Shiradi Ghats dirt track

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Infrastructure

Some ten days back, I accompanied my brother to Mangalore, in his car, essentially to attend a family function. The drive out of Bangalore, on a Friday afternoon, was fairly smooth, once we were on the elevated expressway. The signages are still not quite proper, leading to our missing the turning to Hassan (onto NH-48) at Nelamangala, and the resulting detour and half hour time wastage.

Thereafter, the drive on the NH-48, which has been made into a four-lane highway (tolling booths have come up, and expected to become functional soon) upto Chanarayapatana so far (work is progressing beyond too, though slowly), was again fairly smooth. After Chanarayapatana, it is still the old road, though in OK condition, allowing for some 50 km average speed.

However, it is some 10 km after Saklespur, as you start the climb on to the Shiradi Ghats, that you come up on the worst stretch of road (actually, I can't call it that) that one can ever possibly encounter in one's life. I have experienced the VOLVO test track in their factory premises - this beats it hollow. And, it goes on for a good 40km or so (almost upto Uppinangady), which, if you can cover in 2 hours, without much damage to your vehicle, you should be happy (In fact, we came upon a KSRTC bus that had broken down, just after traversing this stretch, with the passengers hanging around on the roadside, looking helpless. This is one time I won't blame KSRTC's maintenance team :))) ). Thereafter, the road turns fairly smooth again (though the four-laning has yet to start on this tretch), all the way to Mangalore.

Just last week, I read the following in the ToI (for the full report, click here), which possibly explains the state of the road:

Rules say that six-wheeler trucks can carry 10 tonnes, but overload up to 20 tonne. For 10-wheelers, 16 tonne is permitted, but nearly 40 tonne is carried, and for 12-wheelers, 21 tonne is permitted, but drivers overload up to 50 tonne.

But then, I had thought the iron ore transportation, which was indulging in such mis-use, had stopped from some six months back. And, the huge LPG bullet trucks, many of which can be seen plying this route, are all multi-axled. So, why haven't the repairs been taken up, yet? Waiting for the monsoons to get over? But, then again, the North-East monsoons are not supposed to be that intense over the Western Ghats, right?

Or, is it that Sri Sadananda Gowda is taking the Sullia (his home constituency) route on his frequent visits to Mangalore? But, I was told that wasn't much better, either, besides being far more circuitous. Or, is he choosing the aerial route?

One other matter, though - Like Sachin Tendulkar had described sometime back (on one of his frequent trips to Kukke Subramanya temple - just off this route), this is amongst the most picturesque routes I have travelled on, passing through amongst the densest stretch of forests in the world. And, if not for the dust kicked up by the grinding traffic, I wouldn't have minded the 2 hours going through them.

Muralidhar Rao

Comments

Arun's picture

NH 48 was once...

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A decade ago, NH 48 and Mys-Bangalore state highway (then a two-lane road with complete tree cover) were rated amongst the best highways in India.  I remember NH48 was rated for quality of road, engineering and the pleasure of driving through the forests.  

Connectivity to Mangalore has been a problem for the last few years.

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