Monday, May 05, 2008

West Coast Wonders

On May 2, 2008, Sridhar Joshi and I boarded the Mangalore Mail at Chennai Central. We intended to travel on the Mangalore -Yeshwanthpur Express the next evening. This train uses the newly converted line that passes through the wonderful Shirali - Subrahmanya ghats dead at night. Unfortunately there was no day train through this wonderful section that climbs high into the mountains and lush green forests before descending to Sakleshpur and thence to Hassan. But a night journey through this section is equally interesting. We could have travelled the route in reverse direction (Bangalore City to Mangalore Central) but we also wanted to experience the wonderful North Kerala and Konkan Karnataka section too. So we first went to Mangalore. I could not take any pictures of the ghats in Subrahmanya due to the darkness but I have some wonderful memories of the West Coast that I reproduce here. With this trip, I have practically covered all the railway in Kerala except for a small spur line to Guruvayoor.

5:30 AM and we had already cleared Shoranur Jn and chugging towards Kozhikode. This is the first station where I woke up. A cheerful little town called Pattambi.

Kuttipuram station was on a wonderful curve.

No idea which river is this but the scene of such serene waters dotted by palms early in the morning made my day.

Preparing for his catch. He and his boat are surely a good catch for my camera from the speeding and jerking train.

Short of Kozhikode, our train came to a grinding halt after crossing the home signal of a small station ahead. The linesman by the tracks was waving a red flag to inform the driver of a rail fracture he had noticed. Soon a big curious crowd materialised by the locomotive wondering if there was an accident. The crowd was dangerously blocking the down line.

It took a big and nasty honk from this diesel loco to scatter the onlookers. It was hauling a train of oil tankers in the opposite direction. Soon the section engineer arrived and cleared our train with a 5kmph speed restriction over the fractured portion of the tracks. The guard stayed behind until all the coaches safely cleared the portion, observing the troubled spot closely. A few trains are going to be delayed today before the fracture is repaired.

Kozhikode! We had a breakfast of bland dosas and blander sambhar here.

Post Kozhikode the scenery continued. But this is the scene before Kozhikode of the Kadalundi river. It was the same river into which four coaches of the same train I was travelling (Mangalore Mail towards Chennai) had derailed and fallen in 2001. The river is a beautiful one with all those palms and little boats.

Kerala is one heck of a ride by a train. It never fails to grab the continuous attention of anyone throughout its length.

The sea!!! As we were approaching the borders of Kerala and Karnataka the lush coconut plantations on the left side suddenly gave way to these lagoons by the sea. I had never imagined that our train would run so close to the sea shore! West coast is truly amazing and I have just started to see it.

Bekal fort built more than 300 years ago juts out into the sea. Our train is closest to the sea here. The fort annexed by Tipu Sultan's father Hyder Ali in the 18th century has no palaces. This impressive fort was purely meant for defence. It was made famous with Manirathnam's 'Bombay' which contained a song picturised here. A small station also named Bekal serves as its rail head.

Closer to Bekal we could hear the roar of the waves above the clatter of the train's wheels. Looks like someone is hell bent on killing the aesthetics of the fort with those resort huts. There are a couple of other resorts close to the railway here.

An esturarine river just before it met the sea.

Kerala- Karnataka border (Kasargod) and we could barely miss the gay psychedelic coloured buses moving around.

The Arabian Sea gave us company all along till Mangalore. Backwaters like these were appearing along our way.

We were again back into the backwater plus coconut lagoon territory every now and then.

Scenes played out along the tracks including neat and tiled houses like this one. Every house along the tracks in Kerala seemed to have these mangalore tiles and each house was aesthetically designed like an independent cottage or bungalow with its own orchard. I was amazed at the respect for space and privacy in these parts after living in the ghettos of Chennai and Bangalore!

Finally we are close to Mangalore. But before that we had a small treat of the Nethravati river across which lay a railway bridge that brought us into Mangalore.

A motorised fishing boat in the Nethravati is busy catching the main course of lunch and dinner menu of these parts.

Chimneys of the "Mangalore "tile factories of the old days.

Mangalore is promising to be a beautiful city.

There could not be a better sight than this upon entering a city. The English styled building of the Commonwealth Tile Factory of Mangalore.

One last look at those wonderful chimneys.

Timber yard within the factory. Wonder what they do with this floating timber.

Mangalore at last!

Early morning between Mysore and Bangalore. Our train halts at Hannakere for a crossing.The opposite way is already cleared for the incoming train Look at the undulating terrain., The tracks dip and rise so sharply.

A patient vigil for the incoming train in the quiet early morning hour.

Ajmer- Mysore express crossing us with great speed from the oppositer direction.The twin diesel locomotives are working furiously to maintain speed on this undulating set of tracks.