NH66: Like driving in city traffic for 300 kilometres

…the drive from Mangalore to Guruvayur. The distance is about 330 kilometres. Normally, this would mean a road time of around 7 hours. But for NH66, some recalibration would be necessary. I estimated the journey time to be 12 hours

A law graduate in Kerala went on an indefinite hunger strike at Swagathamadu, near Kottakkal in Kerala, in the first week of April protesting against the Malappuram Kottakkal National Highway bypass project. Shabeena claims that the project will cause the loss of close to 30 acres of paddy fields and over 85 houses. At the same time, she alleges, the road has been planned in such a way that the interests of commercial establishments are not affected.

This highway is the NH66 (former NH17), which runs from Panvel in Maharashtra to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu via Goa, Karnataka and Kerala.

In a densely-populated place like Kerala, there is no way that you can expand anything without someone or something getting affected. Kerala may be designated a State, but I find it is more of a large city stretching over 600 kilometres end-to-end.

I wonder if it is possible to cover this distance in one day. In Karnataka, you can go from Bengaluru to Belagavi, a distance of 500 kilometres, in 7 hours.
I tried half this distance from Mangalore to Guruvayur. I had been on this stretch a few times, but never more than 60 kilometres before turning back to Mangalore. I had heard that the road is narrow, and my brief incursions into Kerala had given me a good idea of what to expect further south.

At the same time, the road runs by the Arabian Sea once it enters Goa. This is one of the biggest attractions of NH66. There are several places where all that stands between the road and the sea is sand. You can simply stop and get your feet wet in the warm water.

But don’t be surprised to see a minor traffic jam on getting back to your parked vehicle, at least in Kerala. The road really is narrow.

This is what I learnt on the drive from Mangalore to Guruvayur. The distance is about 330 kilometres. Normally, this would mean a road time of around 7 hours. But for NH66, some recalibration would be necessary. I estimated the journey time to be 12 hours. This is not just because of driving on a two-lane road, but also accounting for stoppages. You would have to take a break on such a long journey.

I started at 6 AM. At that time, there were few vehicles on the road. The four-lane stretch from Mangalore to Talapady on the Kerala border was deceptive. Once I crossed Talapady, the road was spacious till Kumble. After that, it was inconsistent where width is concerned. But, the drive till Kasargod was smooth compared to what came later. Possibly, because traffic was light. And, there were few people around. It appeared that people in Kerala are late risers.

I could not find any good option for breakfast. Restaurants had not opened for the day. The only option was biscuit and tea at a roadside eatery. Eventually, I found a nice eatery that was small, but offered a hearty breakfast of puttu and kadala curry.

Breakfast stop

Once that was out of the way, it came down to tackling the traffic on the highway. By around 9 AM, Kerala seemed to be fully awake and on the road. Travel was reduced to a crawl most of the time. All it took was one truck or a bus. Actually, even a slow-moving car can do the job. And, there were plenty of such cars and bikes.

It’s not as if you can admire the scenery either cos of the heavy traffic.

At Bekal, I was very tempted to take a break and go look at the famous fort, but held back because it would result in me driving at night to reach Guruvayur. The popularity of the fort and beach have spawned a small-size hotel industry. Even the Taj Group and The Lalit Group have properties in this village.

There are several restaurants from this point onwards.

A Sharjah at Kunjippalli Shopping Centre, Azhiyur

Notably, quality of the road is good throughout. So, it is just the traffic and pedestrians who you need to be careful about.

Regarding the width of the road, at one point, there was just enough space for a bus. I did not take a photograph. It came as a surprise and there was no way I could have taken a picture in the midst of the traffic. Also, it’s not as if I could have stopped some place immediately after this narrowest point to take a picture. Cos stopping could block traffic. And, we are talking of a National Highway here.

I reached Guruvayur around 7 PM. That’s about 13 hours on the road to cover 330 kilometres.

The accommodation

Chandana Inn is about 400 metres from the temple complex. They do not have a restaurant, but can get you meals, snacks and juice on request. The location helps if you want to go to the temple early in the morning when it is still dark.

Chandana Inn offers a spacious room with a sitout (in pic)

Author: Dhiraj Shetty

I am a journalist based in Bengaluru. Every day, every moment, each one of us sees a different aspect of our home, the planet Earth, and its people. Sharing them enables others to indulge in our point of view. Star of Nowhere is my blog about my view of some interesting developments in the world. Could be on any development that piques my curiosity. Centre of South is about my experiences in travel and food. I relish local food and conversations with people in places I visit. I share some of my travel stories and about the food I try. Yea... I guess sometimes people do wonder why is this chap clicking pics of his meal! I would be happy to offer tips or guidance in south India. Most visitors to India are drawn by the Taj Mahal, which is one of the wonders of the world, and the forts of Rajasthan. I invite you to look beyond these two places, at south India. I will be writing about the interesting places in this highly developed part of India, where the people are better educated, enjoy a better standard of living as compared to the rest of India, have built a reliable network of roads and transport services, and can count on state-of-the-art healthcare infrastructure. South India is safer than any other part of India, and the gateway to south India is Bengaluru (aka Bangalore). Where do you want to go in south India? I would be happy to be of service to fellow travellers

One thought on “NH66: Like driving in city traffic for 300 kilometres”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.