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Notes on the Geography of Peninsular India: Karnataka Road Trip

The pictures in this group come from a trip originating in Goa, climbing up to Hubli, bearing north to Bijapur, and returning. The focus here is not on the main attractions--Badami, Pattadakal, and Bijapur itself--but on the scenery along the way.

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Peninsular India: Karnataka Road Trip picture 1

The Western Ghats--the range separating Goa from the Deccan Plateau of the interior--are less rugged here than at Mahabaleshwar. Call them good-sized hills.

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Most of the traffic is trucks. Any guesses why they're backed up?

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The answer lies before you. The few cars in the lineup had all clustered at the head of the line.

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The border with Karnataka. The view is back down toward Goa.

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Karnataka is surprisingly energetic about posting signs to tourist attractions.

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We've come up to Londa, the first settlement in Karnataka. The road through to Hubli, straight ahead, is impassible, but there's no warning sign. Still, India being India, if you stop for a moment you'll be warned away and told to take the road to the left, which will send you on a loop 50 kilometers longer but getting you where you want to go.

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The hills are flattening out. Farmers are helping by manually levelling the land.

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The road runs here on a pond-forming bund built to catch irrigation water.

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This is the good road! It's being improved, which is why it's so rough. We're at Bidi, a town on that loop intended to get us to Hubli.

Peninsular India: Karnataka Road Trip picture 10

We've made it to NH4, which runs from Bombay to Madras, or Mumbai to Chennai if you prefer. It's not all four-laned, but it's coming along. The sign indicates the distance to Belgaum, here called Belagaavi in the same way that Bombay is Mumbai. Does make travelling a little tricky.

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A courthouse in grand isolation along the highway. If judges can wear wigs, then courthouses may as well dress up as Greek temples.

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We've rolled into Hubli. You'll have to be in a receptive humor for a little while, because the following pictures make a point. Here's a Tata Motors dealership.

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Fiat.

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Honda.

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Chevy/Opel.

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Hyundai.

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Toyota. Tell me you're not surprised by this auto row! Tell me this is what you expect to find in an Indian city you've never heard of. Liar, liar, pants on fire!

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The main drag out of Hubli. We're going to stop just for a moment.

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We've stopped for this, one of the major ventures bringing organized retail to India. The store is small, and by no means a supermarket by international standards, but it has packaged produce and a wide array of cooking ingredients--just not a lot of prepared food.

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Roads, roads, roads. India has every kind. Here's one stretch in need of an upgrade, unless you're content to dawdle.

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Another, narrow but with a good surface. Watch the thorns on the mesquite! They're wicked.

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Road under construction. Forget cones and flashing lights. The white rocks are OK in daylight.

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No paint to mark the unfinished lane? No problem. Thorn branches will do.

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Amazing, isn't it? One day, Virginia, India's highways will all (or mostly) look like this.

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We can go 50 miles an hour, unheard of in British India.

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There's a downside to that.

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Just south of Bijapur, we cross a railroad track with a long, long tangent, stretching to the very horizon. India seeks to improve transportation across the board, not just roads.

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The crossing gates are still manually controlled, however.

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The countryside between Hubli and Bijapur is mostly like this. Before the monsoon, at least, it's dry, flat, and hot. Call it sorghum country, unless you can find irrigation water.

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Sorghum straw is worked into barn-shaped stacks, plastered for protection against summer rain.

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Occasionally, there's a river, although they're so dammed up that most of the year the unponded sections have little water and less current.

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Here's the tail of the Almati Reservoir on the Krishna River.

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There's plenty of livestock, beginning with goats smart enough to seek out some shade.

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They're driven back and forth on the highways.

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Dogs accompany them, as well as goatherds.

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Driven in the heat of the day, they can get pretty warm.

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There are plenty of cattle, too--and those of working age are expected to ignore the sun.

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Trotting along at a good clip.

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Breaktime.

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Onions are shifted from a bullock cart to a truck.

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Loggers at work.

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They'll skid lengths into place, then lever them up onto a cart.

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They weren't thrilled by the camera, which raised the question of whether they were legally entitled to cut down the roadside trees.

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Instead of hand axes and saws the men are using an electric chainsaw powered by a portable generator.

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Man in charge.

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Speaking of electricity, here we are at Nargund, where the breeze atop a solitary mountain has been captured.


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