02:15 am, National Highway 63, around 15 kilometers before Hubli…
A Mahindra Bolero screeched to a stand-still on the other side of the road. As we got out of the vehicle, I could see 2 burly guys in white shirts holding something that looked like a hockey stick. My skin went pale and I could feel a cold chill pass through my spine. Scared to death, but the first thing I thought of? ‘Finally, the “blog” incident I needed for this trip!’
Two days earlier…
This was going to be my third Goa trip in 6 months. But I was always thrilled by Goa’s atmosphere, moreover we were driving and it was my first chance to try the Scorpio. So I could safely say that I was all excited in anticipation.
For the onward journey, we had taken a rather unconventional route from Bangalore, via Belgaum into Maharashtra (Sawantwadi) and then to Goa. The roads were narrow and mountainous after we crossed the Maharashtra border. But it was decently maintained and had low traffic with the added plus of a scenic drive through the villages and mountains. We reached Goa by about 10. The next two days was spent on experiencing the things that you come to Goa for – the beaches and the booze! My co-travelers were also much luckier than me with the casinos and managed to win around 5k!
But the real adventure started after we left Goa. We took the more standard route back, via Karwar and Hubli. Somewhere on the forest roads towards Hubli, after Yellapur, our headlights started to dim out. We first thought the battery had gone weak and then realized that the alternator had burnt out. The electrical systems in the car started failing one by one and finally our headlights were gone and we were left with just one feeble park-light. There were no big settlements before reaching Hubli, which was still around 50-60 kms away. It was already 11PM and our best chance would have been to get to Hubli somehow and find a mechanic there. So we stuck to the first truck we could find with a proper enough backlight and tailed along with it, with no lights of our own at all.
After a few kilometers of tagging along, the truck driver in front of us stopped as he realized that we were in trouble. He came to have a look but there was nothing he could fix. Hubli was still 25 km away and the driver told us to keep following him, and that he’ll guide us to Hubli. So we went along. 10 km ahead and our engine cut off. There was not enough power to even drive the control unit of the engine. :( Tough luck. The same technology that is bread and butter for me via Bosch, made us get stuck in the middle of nowhere.
We asked the truck driver to carry on, since there was nothing more he could do. We pushed the car to the side of the road and tried in vain to reach everyone (the limited few) whom we knew of, in Hubli. We called up the Hubli traffic police and informed them of our situation. But they couldn’t do anything either till morning. We couldn’t even lock the car, because the battery didn’t have enough power to roll the car windows back up. We were basically stuck; without food or water till morning which was still 8 hours away. So we set up camp inside the car. The mood was still ok, with everyone joking about all that happened. Then came the Bolero; just after 2 o’clock while we were still sitting and chatting.
The two big guys rushed towards us and asked me something in Kannada. I told him I don’t understand the language very well. He gave me a cold stare, and then proceeded to go through all of our luggage. We (atleast me) were still scared to speak much. Suddenly as the Bolero moved to cross the road into our side, I noticed a green board with the lettering ‘Police’. I breathed a big sigh of relief! They asked us a lot of questions and still looked very intimidating. They told us that the road is not very safe, but what could we do – we cannot abandon the car there and go. They told us to stay there at our own risk and then get a mechanic in the morning. Then they took away 3 bottles of port wine that we had bought in Goa telling that it wasn’t legal (my @#%#)! But loosing a bit of wine was way better than what I had thought would happen initially; so it wasn’t that bad ;). We were terribly disappointed by the attitude they showed to us; though. Not even showing a hint of helpfulness.
After this incident I guess we all started to get tense. Only then we started to realize how much of a risk we were taking staying at that place. There were too many what-ifs running through my mind. *What if the an overtaking truck knock us off the highway? What if a group of thugs come and beat us up? * etc etc. I couldn’t sleep for even a bit, till the sun came back out.
Morning came as a relief of all of us. Ranjith suggested that we push start the vehicle. It didn’t seem a great idea to me; since the engine could cut off while running at any moment the battery dies out. But we decided to try and then limp ahead to Hubli some 15 more kilometers ahead. We pulled out all the equipment that could take away even a milliamp of power – the horn, the music system, the brake-light, the indicators – everything, leaving the engine control unit all the bits of power it could get to make the engine running for atleast 30 minutes. We push started the car and went as fast as we could to Hubli. And we made it! 8.30 am and we were finally back in civilization and in the Hubli railway station parking lot. We got a mechanic to repair our alternator. It took us 5 or 6 more hours; but finally we had the car repaired; all roaring to go. No worries left, we reached Bangalore, just before midnight.
All’s well that ends well! :)
Map of the route we took. Marker ‘F’ is approximately the place we got stuck.
Goa photos coming soon!