Today, I went on a drive along National Highway 50, a road that stretches between Mangalore in Karnataka to Solapur in Maharashtra, a total of 691 km. Although a national highway, several stretches of it are narrow and dangerous. Proposals to widen a part of it that passes through Karkala, Moodabidri, Koppa, Sringeri, and Thirtahalli have met opposition from the forest department.
I just drove through Kudupu, Vamanjoor, Kettikal, Gurupura, and Polali. At Polali, I turned round and drove back home. I crossed the Gurupura Bridge twice and, whenever I did so, I could feel my heart fluttering in my throat. The beautiful Gurupura River (also called River Phalguni) flowed serenely under the bridge, but I did not have the courage to even look at it.
During the monsoons of 1998, Kettikal, a hilly and lovely place in Vamanjoor, close to Gurupura Bridge, witnessed a terrible landslide, which destroyed several houses on the hilltop and attracted the attention of politicians and media people. It also attracted the attention of a team of National Institute of Technology (NITK) researchers who presented a paper on it at the International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering (2008). No vehicles were allowed on the Gurupura Bridge immediately after this landslide, and people were requested to take the roundabout route through Kaikamba, Bajpe, and Maravoor.
A report in The Canara Times informed me that I am not the only person who is terrified of Gurupura Bridge. The local people are also terrified that it may collapse any time. Constructed in 1923, it is one of the oldest bridges in Mangalore. The local people have been clamoring for a new bridge from the past several years, but nobody is listening to them.
The bridge is the only direct link between Mangalore and Moodabidri and, if anything happens to it, a lot of people will be inconvenienced. Currently, the bridge is in a sorry state as its railings have been stolen by scrap traders and its pillars are in a dilapidated state. In brief, the bridge is simply crying for repair and maintenance even as the traffic just flows over it and the River Phalguni serenely flows below.
I just did not have the courage to take a photo of the bridge. The road was too narrow and there were too many vehicles around. However, I did stop a kilometer or two away, at beautiful Kettikal in Vamanjoor, and took a few photos of the hills and the entrance to Shri Amrutheshwara Temple.
One of these days, I am going to visit this temple.