A Travellerspoint blog

Re-discovering Goa: Beyond the Usual Booze & Babes...

sunny 26 °C

Platform no 5 of the station was fully crowded as we slowly elbowed our way forward pulling along our suitcase. The time was 8.30 pm. It was humid and hoards of people were scampering across the platform, anxiously waiting for the next train, while a few hungry souls simply munching along hot snacks at an all-side open snack bar. Space being a a luxury commodity in Mumbai is perhaps best amplified here. Everywhere there were people of all shades and hues. Being the eve of the festive Maharashtrain Ganpati festival, everyone seems to be heading home bag & baggage.

Stopping by at a vendor selling snacks, literally squeezing my head between two persons munching snacks, I asked, "Is the Dadar Ten Express coming in this platform?". "You want to go to Dadar, take the fast train from Platform 4," pat came the reply. "No dear, I'm asking about Dadar Ten Express, will it come in this platform, as there has been no announcement or display of any sort?" I reiterated my question again patiently as I got a push from behind. "What express?" he inquired as if he has heard the name of the train for the first time in his life, amidst his continuous chores, this time serving a plateful of pakodas to a girl alongside. The person next to him in the counter added to my relief, "Yes, Dadar Ten Express, the weekly super-fast train, it would come in this platform, you can check the coach position in that board," pointing towards the rear of platform.

Thanking him, we moved towards the board, wherein a number of reservation lists could be seen dangling along, some torn, some illegible. But the challenge was to get near the board, which was as if a crowded hive. Some - as disciplined Indians (I mean undisciplined), that we all are - have taken off the the loose reservation sheets in their hand pulling it away from the board itself, trying hard to see their names. And, once unable to see through their names they simply let go of the sheet and the next person trying to grab the same and repeating the process all over again.

The result, in a few minutes - most of the sheets were in tattered state scattered across the floor below. Luckily, I could see one sheet still hanging along strong, yes, the coach position sheet of the various trains due to arrive in this platform. Barely managing to squeeze through I spotted our AC 2 tire position as the 11th coach from the engine in the list. Being successful, the next task was where will coach no 11 position itself in the platform. Finally, to our relief, the electronic panel hanging all across the platform unexpectedly lighted up and showed our train number and coach position A-1.

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Soon, our train arrived around 9.10 pm. Quickly, we boarded, the stoppage being just 2 minutes and we chugged away with anticipation of a good unwinding trip to Goa. Making ourselves comfortable we munched our home made ham-sandwiches topped with boiled potatoes & tomatoes. Wasting no more time, tired that we both were, after attending office the full week, and, of course not to forget the 'railway station jostling', we crashed into our comfortable sleeper beds.

Laid-back World

Woke up early morning after a good night sleep; thankfully this train did not have any vendors selling their wares. Around 6.45 am, it halted into a quaint station and quickly I boarded down and got ourselves 2 refreshing cup of tea. By 7.30 am we reached Thivim Station, the penultimate station before Madgoan, Goa, the station till which we had our reservations.

The day before as I was browsing through information of Goa, I noticed that as we had booked our stay in Villa Goesa, situated in North Goa, it would be nearer if we boarded down at Thivim rather than Madgaon. As such, as the train screeched to a halt in Thivim, we boarded down. It was a small station set within its own slow pace - a clear feeling of a laid-back village as we hired an a cab and moved along. One thing we have notice each time we are out of fast-paced Mumbai, time as if comes to a halt and trots at a far slower pace.

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We drove past many a sleepy villages of Goa, perhaps still in slumber after that long night party. We could clearly taste the balmy salty air brush across our faces. We directly headed to North Goa and checked into this exclusive property Villa Goesa, situated along the hot and happening Calangute-Baga beach stretch. One aspect we always try in our travels is to avoid staying in the typical 'hotel-hotel' types and Villa Goesa fitted our requirement perfectly.

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It was a well spread out sea-front beach resort will cute tasteful done cottages amidst a lush green canopy and a paved path through a green patch leads one to its own private beach - Cobra Vaddo. The suite where we were placed was a colonial Portuguese architecture - a stand-alone bungalow having its its own private sitting area nearer to the beach.

Driving the Thar All the Way

After relaxing a while sipping a hot beverage in the exclusive settings of the resort, we decide to go exploring. This time we consciously decided not to hire the usual cab to be driven around by a driver like tourists. Instead, we decided to drive ourselves and get the 'being local' feel. Our first choice was an open Gypsy but as the tourist season had not set in full swing yet, the Goa administration do not allow open Gypsy to be plied. As such, we settled ourselves to hire a 4x4 Mahindra Thar which the resort manager arranged for us to drive around for the next couple of days.

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It was swanky new vehicle and tanking up we made our way towards Aguada Fort. En-route, we stopped by at Fisherman's Cove for breakfast. A few tables across we could see a familiar face sitting with a lady sipping a mug of coffee. "Hey have seen this guys somewhere, looks like Chetan Bhagat," I asked Mitali. "Yes, it is him only," she replied. Well, well perhaps Chetan Bhagat's next novel would be set in the backdrop of Goa...

Had read some very good review of Fisherman's Cove and the well-spread out English breakfast with ham, beacon, baked beans, eggs, and the crispy toasts did live up to the expectation. The aromatic coffee to wash down the king-sized breakfast was awesome.

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Charged up, ignited the engine and set cruising along. Had not driven the Thar earlier and have to say it was an awesome experience - real smooth unlike its rough & rustic look. Soon, we passed by the the estuary of the river Mandovi, with many a fishing boats swaying along. We halted and soaked a while in the quiet environment.

Re-visiting History all over Again

Thereafter, we drove up-hill on the the traffic-less smooth road and stopped at the St Lawerence church, which I had read offered great views. Despite us visiting this area near the Aguada Fort many a times earlier, we never did ventured into this bye-gone era church soaked in history.

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In the year 1630, Count of Linhares, Viceroy Dom Miguel de Noronha decided to build the Church of St. Lawrence as soon as the Fort Aguada was completed. The importance of Panjim as the future capital was clearly foreseen by him as he built a causeway from Panjim to Ribander. The church was built at a near distance from the citadel of the fort in order to prevent any enemy getting too close. The founding and completion of the church is recorded in contemporary inscriptions above the arch of the porch. It was completed in 1643 and attained parish status in 1688.

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The huge campus of St Lawrence church, encloses a group of buildings with an extended courtyard. Internally, the tiny church inside has the only altar dedicated to St. Lawrence. The church was to honour St Lawrence. St Lawrence is shown holding a ship in one hand and is rightfully known as the Patron Saint of Sailors. His statue is encased in a glass case.

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The tiny church behind has limited seating arrangements, hence wide concrete benches can be seen in the porch which makes a convenient and pleasant place for worship. The pillars are decorated with inscriptions from the life incidents of St. Lawrence and his martyrdom.

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Having said our prayer to the holy spirit, in this ancient church, which stood as a testimony to many a rise and fall of the mighty Portuguese rule, we soaked in the views outside. The Aguada Fort could be seen at a distance and wide sea beyond. After a thorough rendezvous we drove ahead and seeing lots of tourist thronging along the Aguada Fort, we skipped it having explored it twice earlier, and, instead, drove to the next door Lighthouse of Fort Aguada.

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Fort Aguada was constructed in 1613 to guard against the Dutch and the Marathas. It was a reference point for the vessels coming from Europe at that time. This old Portuguese fort stands on the beach south of Candolim, at the shore of the Mandovi River. Fort Aguada was the most prized and crucial fort of Portuguese.

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A freshwater spring within the fort provided water supply to the ships that used to stop by. "Aguada" means water and this is how the fort got its name christened. Crews of passing ships would often visit to fill in their fresh water stores. On the fort stood the Portuguese lighthouse, erected in 1864 and the oldest of its kind in Asia.

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This fort is divided in two segments: the upper part acted as fort and watering station, while the lower part served as a safe berth for Portuguese ships. Whereas the upper part has a moat, underground water storage chamber, gunpowder room, light house and bastions, it also has a secret escape passage to use during time of war and emergency. The lighthouse at initial stage is used to emit light once in 7 minutes. In 1834 it was changed to emit light creating an eclipse every 30 seconds, however it was abandoned in 1976.

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We climbed up the lone lighthouse from within it flight of stairs and the last bit of the ascent was a bit tricky. We had to climb up a huge open virtical iron staircase but the climb was worth the effort since the moment we reached the top, the views was mind-boggling. On one side we could see the Fort in the backdrop of the sea beyond and on the other side was the the full stretch of the North Goa beaches all on a line.

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As there were none exploring the lighthouse, as they were all busy exploring the fort, we had it all to ourselves. After sitting for a long time on this ancient lighthouse tower, which might has guided countless ships in many a dark nights, we reluctantly boarded the stairs down carefully.

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Thereafter, we drove to the nearby scenic Sinquerim beach. The palm fringes of the Sinquerim beach was frolicking in the afternoon breeze as the waves were splashing by in anticipation of the rising tide. The blue waters of the clean Sinquerim beach in the backdrop of the post-monsoon greenery all around was soothing to the eye as a few lone boats were rocking along the waves.

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As the noon heat was inching higher, the lemonade vendor, having its stall strategically by the beach, was making brisk business. We too quenched our thirst after exploring the remnants of the Sinquerim fort situated amidst the left edge of the beach.

The Night Never Sleeps

Moving ahead Mitali did some bit of shopping and after that we made our way back to the resort and rested. Late afternoon, picking up the camera we made our way to the Cobra Vaddo beach behind our resort to simply laze around. It was an isolated beach in contrast to the crowded Baga and Calungute to its each side. It was a soulful experience to simply watch the waves crashing by on the beach and the sun gradually transforming from a golden hue to orange, and finally pinkish-purple as it majestically set beneath the sea.

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Dusk soon set giving birth to an infinite star-studded sky above. With a thought that nature truly has it own unique way of transforming as we human too witness our lives constantly evolving, I trotted back to the resort contemplating.

They say the night never sleeps in Goa, and, true to its spirit, after washing away the grains of sands with a warm bath, we drove out late evening towards the Baga stretch and made ourselves comfortable for a relaxed dinner at The Cavala. The atmosphere inside the restaurant was abuzz with one rocking number after the other being played. The DJ as if knew our taste, from the Doors to the Beatles, from Bob Marleys to the Jeff Becks, from the Carpenters to the BonyMs, from Police to the Lobos, they played it all. The golden tiger prawns in white garlic sauce, and the tasty roasted pork with boiled veggies was delicious and filling. Late into the night after a round of capuccino, we made it back to Villa Goesa and crashed.

Offbeat Locations Waited for Us

Woke up late next morning. After lazily freshening up, we had a late breakfast at the nearby Cafe Infantaria. The fresh fluffy crossest, the tasty cheese cakes, the crispy tarts all made a great combination. Cafe Infantaria is a good value-for-money joint with gourmet pretensions, while being really down-to-earth. Each time we are in Goa we never miss hitting this place. Filled up, we moved out for the day. The Thar jeep has been giving us excellent company and giving it a full throttle we surged south-bound on the highway.

With did not have any destination as such but wanted to cover a few offbeat locations. Had read about St Jantico Island - off the coast near the Dambolim airport - and the serene white-sand beach of Bogmalo. Had never visited earlier and as such following the highway we drove across and diverted at the Panaji-Vasco highway.

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Driving a little further we took a small bridge connecting it to St Jantico Island - located in the Mormugao bay. It had a own old-world charm as we parked our vehicle and explored around. The old Portuguese-styled mansions set around the small island was not in the best of state. Though dilapidated, we could understand, they stood still perhaps telling many a tales of a rich bye-gone past. The St Jantico Church was the most profound structure in the island overlooking the wide open bay. Rusty old abandoned ships that must have travelled around the world in its hey days stood anchored in the bay groaning and cranking.

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The adventurers in us wished to trek up the narrow lone path going through the old houses to the higher reaches of the island where I had read had an excellent viewpoint and also a natural spring. But a local advised us that the road beyond is closed and it is full of overgrown shrubs and vegetation, requesting us not to venture in. Turned down, we sat by the bay and witnessed a mother and child setting up a few crab traps as we soaked in solitude. Nature's bounty just across their home is all we thought and moved ahead.

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Asking for direction we headed moved past the airport road and took a diversion moving up towards Bogmalo. Passing by some sleepy countryside adorned with many a cute cottages & villa, we reached the beautiful Bagmalo beach. It was a small beach with low rock faces on the one side and the open white sands spread all across. It was a deserted beach and we had the whole beach to ourselves.

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Two shacks situated adjacent was all but empty and on enquiry they informed that only beer is available, no food. 'Wow' is all we thought - catering to only the thirsty souls not the hungry souls! After spending sometime in serene Bogmalo, we moved out towards Vasco. The roads were smooth and we reached Vasco late afternoon. We visited the a church in Vasco and we were hungry by then. Being a Sunday afternoon, most of the shops of Vasco was closed and we really had to hunt for a food joint. Just as we were giving up, saw a roadside snack joint loudly written "Chinese Available".

Venturing through the half-open shutter we discovered that the three souls inside, not Chinese for sure, were gearing up the noodles, fried rice, etc for a 'supposedly' busy Sunday evening. "Yes, can I help you," a voice from behind the small kitchen counter asked. "Yes, we are very hungry which item can you serve quickly," I pleaded at once. "Well, we are yet to fully open, but since you are saying that you are hungry, I can quickly toss some chicken noodles, would you all be fine?" popping his head out of the serving counter. "Absolutely fine, we are starved," was my reply as we saw him quickly working out the dish and within minutes he served us the most delicious noodles that I recall having. Maybe, the hunger made it so tasty and we had it to our belly's content. Thanking him started our drive back to North Goa.

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The late noon sun reflecting in the blue waters was creating a dazzling effect as we passed by the Panaji bridge and got back to our resort. Mitali was tired by then and decided to rest while I straightaway headed back to the beach behind our resort to watch the calm waves in the backdrop of an awesome golden sunset. I sat on the beach alone till the sky was filled up with starts all around. That night we decided not to venture out anywhere and ordered from the resort restaurant itself some juicy tiger prawn biriyani which we relished in the comforts of our room.

Exploring the Far North

Woke up early next morning and took a long walk on the serene beach as a cool refreshing breeze constantly kept brushing across my face. The sound of each crashing waves creating a momentary whitish foam on the sands on each stroke, reminded me how momentary our lives are too, yet, we keep loathing all about "I, me, and myself" forgetting that like the disappearing foams, we too would one day disappear into oblivion.

With this thought I walked back. After freshening up, a strong cup of coffee geared us up and drove out with the intention of exploring the extreme north of Goa till it touches the borders of Maharashtra. Having mostly explored the South Goa in our earlier trips till Cannacona, this time around we wanted to visit the elusive Arambol beach and further ahead Fort Tiracol.

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As we winded up and drove across the single lane road away from the Goa's commercialization, we could actually feel the laid-back environment that Goa was once known for. Portuguese architectural influence could be clearly seen in the structures as we passed by many a serene villages.

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We stopped in between in a non-discrete village square and relished some local freshly baked egg patties and some not so good tea. It was a vintage shack, with a mom-son duo joining hands serving one and all.

Arambol - the new hippie haven

Driving ahead through the curvy road passing by some lush green paddy fields, we entered Arambol. Once a sleepy fishing village called Harmal, Arambol beach has become the newest hippie sign-post. They say that Baga, Calangute, Anjuna are passe now, and, Arambol is the 'The Haven'. We could see many Russians cafes as we drove the last patch approaching the beach. The lane being narrow, I decided to park the jeep before it would become a problem for me to reverse later.

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As we walked by the lane we could see lines of stalls on both sides selling the usual items ranging from shells, to scarfs, from caps to sun glasses. The ones that stood out were the Tattoo parlors and the usual money-exchangers. A few steps ahead out popped the awesome clean beach.

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Many foreigners were seen idling by the two beach shacks enjoying the views. We realized soon we were perhaps the only Indian that morning in the Arambol beach since for the usual tourist-tourist types it would be - what Arambol, where in Goa - a sure miss. We decided not to venture into the waters and simply sit by one of the shack and enjoy a late breakfast in this awesome setting.

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We ordered some pork chilly and bread. Wow, the baked pork chilly was delicious and the bread were fresh & filling. I washed it down with a Tuborg pint, Mitali did so with a fresh orange drink. After chilling out in the beach for a couple hours we decided to move ahead.

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Northern Tip of Goa - historic Fort Tiracol

Making a few inquiring on the directions to Fort Tiracol, we soon hit the roads full throttle. The Mahindra Thar has been an awesome driving experience all this while.

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The drive was smooth as we passed by some lush forest patch snaking up the serpentine uphill road. Finally, we reached the highest point of the hill and we could see the signboard 'Welcome to Fort Tiracol'.

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Located on the northern tip of Goa at the mouth of the Tiracol River, Fort Tiracol can be reached by a ferry from Querim, 42 km North of Panaji. The name probably originated from the Marathi language 'tir-khol' meaning "steep river-bank".

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The fort was originally built by Maharaja Khem Sawant Bhonsle, the Raja of Sawantwadi, in the 17th century. The site chosen was a hillock on the Northern (right) bank of the river, which gave a commanding view of the Arabian sea. The Bhonsles of Sawantwadi kept a sizeable fleet of native vessels which sheltered in the Tiracol River. The fort initially consisted of 12 guns, a barrack and a chapel.

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In 1746, the Portuguese under the 44th Viceroy of Goa, Pedro Miguel de Almeida Portugal e Vasconcelos, conde de Assumar, marquis de Alorna, waged war against the Raja of Sawantwadi. On 16th November, 1746, de Almeida brought the Portuguese fleet up to the River Kaisuva, waged a fierce maritime engagement against the naval forces of the Raja of Sawantwadi and the Portuguese defeated the Sawantwadi forces decisively. Several skirmishes on land followed and Fort Tiracol was finally surrendered on 23 November 1746 to the Portuguese.

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The fort became an important part of Portuguese maritime defense and was extensively revamped up in 1764. It remained in Portuguese control till December 1961 when the last of Portuguese territorial positions in the subcontinent were forcibly annexed by India.

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A Church for the Holy Trinity was constructed in the fort courtyard by de Almeida after he captured it. This later became the century old Church of St. Anthony.

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Fort Tiracol has been converted into a hotel, the Fort Tiracol Heritage, but during the time we visited, the lease of the hotel had ended and it was on a closed state though it campus was open for public viewing.

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The view of the Arabian Sea from the fort was mesmerizing and one can clearly witness the confluence of the Tiracol river with the Arabian sea. After thoroughly exploring this ancient fort totally soaked in history for a couple of hours we moved out.

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The Last Eventful Hours

We took a alternate route while coming back and en-route we drove through some beautiful beach stretches that meandered along the road. Moving a few kilometers ahead we came across a beautiful lotus filled pond adjacent to the highway and we observed a flock of wild ducks for some time. We also saw a huge flock of fish eagles.

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After that wild encounter we passed by the beautiful Ashwem beach and stopped by at the sands of Mandrem beach. It was a deserted beach stretch except two life guards lazing around. The nearby beach resort was yet to be operational. We soaked in quite a while in the serene Mandrem beach sipping some coconut water.

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Thereafter, we continued ahead and decided to visit Panaji and further ahead Miramar and Dona Paula in central Goa. The late noon sun was at its best yet the cool sea breeze kept us comfortable as we drove along the highway again. Stopped by at the Panaji market and bought some local cashew nuts that Goa is famous for at a good bargain.

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Further, we moved ahead and explored Dona Paula. Recalled our last visit here and similar to last time, this time too it was crowded with the usual tourists.

This place is christened after Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior, a historical figure in Portuguese India. She was the daughter of the Portuguese Viceroy of Jaffnapatnam, in Sri Lanka. She and her family arrived in Goa in 1644 and she married a Fidalgo from Spain in 1656. Her husband was Dom Antonio Souto Maior. The Santo Maiors were an extremely affluent family and had huge entire properties all around Dona Paula. She died on December 16, 1682.

Dona Paula was a woman of charity and is known to have helped the villagers and worked a lot for their betterment. As such after her death, the villagers decided to re-name the village as Dona Paula. Earlier, the village was known as Oddavell.

There is a local myth that Dona Paula entombed in the Cabo Chapel, the residence of the Governor of Goa and is supposed to be seen emerging from the moonlit waves wearing only a pearl necklace.

After a brief stopover, we moved along and made our way back to Baga beach in North Goa to witnessed yet another heavenly sunset.

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After Mitali did some bit of shopping in Baga we drove back to our resort. The long-drive through the whole day was awesome but by now we were feeling a bit tired. A warm bubble bath was rejuvenating for us both.

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For dinner we we decided to hit the fabulous Brittos, in Baga as a last night dinner. The pork vindaloo was excellent as always. Packing up quickly we hit the bed since we have to catch an early morning flight the next day.

The cab guy picked us up at early morning at 5 am from Villa Goesa and dropped us at the Dambolim airport by 6 am. As our flight took-off we recalled the last three eventful days as we went about re-discovering Goa in an all new perspective - beyond the usual booze and babes that Goa is more known for...

Posted by sabyasachi 05.12.2013 08:30 Archived in India Tagged goa villa_goesa_resort st_jantico_island arambol_beach mendrem_beach fort_tiracol dona_paula_beach baga_beach brittos cavala infantaria_cafe_goa fisherman's_cove_goa Comments (0)

Sleepy Coorg: Off Coffee, Cardamom, Pepper & Pork - Part I

The year 2011 was approaching a gradual end. Yet another year set to conclude, another about to be born. The cycle continues…

semi-overcast 15 °C

"Hey, we are in the last week of 2011, don't you think we should go for a short year-end trip somewhere, to come back rejuvenated for a long year of work ahead?" I asked my wife Mitali over the dinner table, adding "I have a pending casual leave along with three official holidays to end the year."

"Yeah, I also think we should go out, since I too wish to utilize the three pending casual leaves that I have, which otherwise would get lapsed," she replied adding, "but why do we every-time decide to go on a holiday at such a short notice? Being the peak holiday season do you think we would get any accommodation and importantly, confirmed tickets and hotel bookings. It is understood that everywhere prices would be unnecessarily jacked up."

"That undoubtedly is true madam, but the important task would be to decide where to head for considering the season. And, I'm sure you would wish not to be in a place that is crowded with people. Also, it should not be that far that we keep travelling all four days but it should also not be too near that we would not feel that we have actually come on a holiday," I added.

Our discussion concluded with the agreement that I would, as usual, carry out some serious on-line research the next day and come up with a couple of choice along with the feasibility of securing tickets and accommodation.

Reaching office bit early and wrapping up the usual morning official chores of replying to mails, asking for project status, and the usual follow up with the agencies, I started hunting for some off-beat getaways. Sticking to our decided parameters that it should not be too far yet not too near, I finally zeroed down on a couple of destinations. The first choice was a secluded hill station Amboli, in Maharashtra, some 700 odd kms from Mumbai. Immediately, I checked by calling the few listed resorts/home-stays but only to be disappointed since all were booked to capacity.

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Coffee Up Close

My second choice was a bit further away from Mumbai, a destination that we had always on our must visit list. The destination - Kodagu - more popularly known as Coorg, situated within the highlands of the India's Western Ghats in the state of Karnakata. Browsing through countless sites detailing information of Coorg, it made me keener than ever to go exploring. It was as if I could instantly smell the aroma of this coffee country.

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Coffee Country

My first challenge however was to zero down on a preferable choice of stay. Mostly, whenever we go visiting a new place we tend to seek our stay a bit away from the main hustle-and-bustle, ideally, a secluded hideaway, which is not the typical 'hotel-hotel' type. Home-stays are preferred but again how good or bad becomes difficult to gauge by merely looking at the pictures and the usual testimonials of the place listed in their respective websites.

Soon, I realized that there are countless listed home-stays in different price ranges all across Coorg, but one among them looked off-beat to me and it was as if 'love at first sight'. The name of the place too sounded uncommon - Jade Hills. Called them up and one Mr Prasanna received my call. On my enquiry he informed me that he would be able to offer us a cottage for Rs 4,000/- per day basis with complimentary breakfast. The actual rate that the website mentioned was Rs 3,000. I insisted that since we plan to stay 3 nights, whether he would be willing to offer us some discounts.

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Jade Hills - Entry to Paradise

Mr Prasanna informed that since it is high-season the best he could offer was Rs 11,000/- for 3 nights stay. I too thought it is the best bargain we could have perhaps secured at this last minute. Importantly, considering the serene virtual ambiance that Jade Hills depicted, as I browsed through, I agreed. However, I informed him that I would confirm the next day provided I manage to secure confirmed tickets to Mangalore. From Mangalore, Medikeri, the district headquarters of Coorg is a 4 hours drive, situated at a height of 1525 meters.

My next task was to secure 2 confirmed tickets on the Mastyagandha Super Fast Express, the best train, timing-wise to us for the overnight journey. Mahendra, my dependable travel agent perhaps realized seeing my number flashing on his mobile screen that Sabya must have again decided to visit somewhere at the last minute, and, without me inquiring, he asked, "tickets to where, Sabya?" "Yeah you got it right. Pls arrange 2 tickets to Mangalore to and fro, the dates being 28th Dec and 1st Jan". "It will be done" was his confident reply and I knew from my earlier experiences that it will actually be done.

Reached office early on 28th December and after wrapping up as fast as I could, left for home by 1 pm, after sending a short mail to my boss that I'll be leaving office early. Gulping a quick lunch we took a taxi and made our way to the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Station of Kurla. Placing our bags in our allotted berths of the 3 AC Coach, we anxiously waited for our journey to commence. After a delayed start of about 20 mins, we started chugging out at 3.40 pm towards Mangalore. Not much action happened in the journey and I kept glued to Ruskin Bond's The Kashmiri Storyteller.

Having an early dinner of some packed mutton biriyani and pickles, that we cooked at home the previous day, we called it a night. I woke up early the next morning excited. It was still dark. Dawn was yet to break in. Standing along the door holding the long steel railings, the cool air breezing past my face was very welcoming. Soon, from the chugging train, I could see the warm sun rising through some scattered clouds in the eastern horizon amidst a golden glow. The feeling was very fresh as I kept gazing the pretty landscapes we were passing by.

Finally, at 7.45 am the train chugged to a final halt in the Platform 4 of Mangalore Central station. Straightaway, we hired an auto and took off to the KRSTC (Karnataka State Roadways Transport Corporation) bus depot some 7 kms away. Lines of buses were parked inside the bus depot ready to depart to its respective destination. On inquiry, we discovered that a swanky Volvo is just about to depart to Mysore via our destination Medikari. We were lucky to get 2 tickets. We boarded and set off to Coorg at 8.15 am.

The drive initially was pretty decent but as the kilometers progressed, we realized that we are in for a real bumpy ride ahead. The road is being enlarged and work was going on full swing. Dumpers, rollers, burnt fume of tar accompanied us throughout the journey. I recall reading somewhere that this road a few months back was closed for traffic.

The road to Coorg truly was a back-breaker. Entering the somewhat hilly terrain we snaked through the lush tropical forest road. Certain sections saw huge plantation of betel nut and coconut grooves. The ambiance was rustic, the views, superb. We passed by the small townships of Puttur, Sulia and a few others till the bus, finally to our relief, reached Medikeri at about 1 pm.

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Jade Hills

Boarding down we hired a vehicle and made our way towards Jade Hills. Situated at a distance of about 8 kms, Jade Hills truly was a serene isolated property perched atop a lush hill. Set amidst a manicured garden we fell in love with Jade Hills the moment we approached the serpentine path meandering through the lush foliage from its very gate.

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Bloom

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Tiny Tot

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Colourful

Colorful flowers greeted us all the way to the top through the curved pathway. Arun, the caretaker welcomed us with a refreshing cup of coffee as our bags were placed in our allotted cottage, set in seclusion.

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Our Secluded Cottage

The main bungalow of Jade Hills has two rooms on the either side of a living-cum-dining room, with a cozy fire-place, extending all the way to a semi-open kitchen. Towards the right side of the bungalow a pathway makes to an exclusive cottage where we stayed and yet another pathway going downhill to one more cottage with two rooms. The fact that the owners of Jade Hills are architects become aptly visible by the way this property has been aesthetically done both externally as well as internally.

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Pillars of Strength

The richly-carved wooden doors and windows, as we were informed, were salvaged ones from old Coorg homes, placed en-block. The exterior wall of burnt orange laterite blocks along with five stand alone pillars in the open portico provides an old charm yet contemporary feel to the bungalow. The well laid out interiors with antique furniture, four poster beds set amidst colorful upholstery gave it a very warm feel. The high ceilings laid over long wooden beams over which the Mangalori-style roof of clay tiles was as if the top-up icing.

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Another Angle

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Free Spirit
The view from Jade Hill too was unobstructed and all around the horizon were the rolling blue hills of the Western Ghats. As a quick lunch was being prepared for us we made ourselves comfortable at the strategically located gazebo soaking in the panoramic view of the lush greenery all around. We thanked ourselves for our decision to choose Jade Hills as we look forward for a 3 nights stay.

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Room with a View

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Gazebo - views unlimited

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Relaxed Surroundings

Having a sumptuous hot lunch we rested till late afternoon. I had read that sunset of Coorg was a treat to the eyes and how true it turned. Sipping a hot cup of coffee, we witnessed an amazing sunset. But the best part was the wonderful array of colors spreading across the skyline that followed the sunset. The refraction of the last sun-rays over the few scattered clouds created a plethora of hues ranging from yellow to orange to red to golden. It gave a feeling as if a master painter was elegantly stroking across his brush through the wide canvas of a deep blue sky. It undoubtedly touched our very soul to its very core. A soothing calm was felt inside.

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Sunset from our Cottage

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Magical - Out of the World

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Mesmerizing - Simply Speechless

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Dusk Sets In

As dusk set in Arun came up and inquired what would we prefer for dinner. As they say the feel of a place is best understood by its local palate, and, we as good travelers always try tingling our taste buds by trying out local delicacies. I had read somewhere that Coorg is a pork-eater's capital in India and the authentic Pandhi Pork is a must try. Recalling this, I inquired to Arun if he would manage to treat us this unique Coorgi dish. He gave a slimy smile and nodded. From his mischievous smile I realized Arun's Pandhi Pork would be tasty.

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Chilled Out

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By the Door

As expected, over the dinner table that late evening, we relished one of the tastiest pork dishes we ever had. It was a semi-dry-fried golden brown dish and the tasty pork pieces simply melted in our mouth. Arun prepared an elaborate six-course meal which concluded with some sweet semolina kheer. Each dish was tastefully laid out and we relished it thoroughly appreciating Arun's magical hand.

Next morning we woke up early and as decided upon the previous evening, Ganesh, the errand boy of Jade Hills, accompanied us on a wilderness trekking trail. The cool morning breeze brushing across our faces was welcoming. Initially, we walked a bit down-hill and soon we were literally walking through a lush forest path laden in mist.

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Wilderness Trail

We continued for about a kilometer when we entered a huge Coffee plantation wherein lines-upon-lines of coffee bushes with plentiful green and red coffee berries were literally hanging across each branch. This truly is Coffee Country. We took a closer look at the berries. Ganesh explained that each berry has two beans inside the outer covering, which, after it is dried, is roasted, curled and grounded to finally end up in the aromatic cup of coffee that we all relish.

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Hike within a Coffee Estate

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Lush Green

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Coffee Cherries

Along-side the coffee bushes, we witnessed many creeper type plants, with a heart-shaped leaves curling upwards in most of the adjourning shade trees growing in the estate. "This is pepper plant sir," Ganesh pointed out to our amazement and on a closer observation we saw countless green peeper pods hanging out from within each leaf. Biting a few raw peppers we felt its aromatic pungency hitting straight in our tongue. Thereafter, we reached a clearing wherein millions of coffee berries were being sun-dried in a paved ground and alongside stood a concrete structure where the earlier dried berries are stocked to be transported later to the factories.

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In the Millions - Coffee Cherries - sundried

After our rendezvous amidst the Coffee estate, Ganesh suggested we take a down-hill trail. Ahead, we could hear a roaring sound as we carefully balanced our way down. The path was very steep and at some portions that we simply had to slide down in a controlled momentum aiming to grab a tree or a branch to stop us slip further.

We noticed many a fern sort of plants growing aplenty adjacent to our path. "These are cardamom plants," Ganesh informed us to our amazement as we wondered how rich this plantation was, assorted with coffee and pricey spices. Finally, we reached a small clearing and up ahead we saw a majestic waterfall in full gusto.

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Roaring Waters

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Cascading Down

As we were at a much higher angle we could see how the whitish water was snaking down-hill through many a rocks and boulders. Ganesh informed that it is this falls that finally ends over a steep cliff for the world to know as the famous Abby Falls of Cororg.

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Soaking A While

We sat there for some time soaking in the silence which was being broken by the gushing sound of the waters. Capturing a few pictures we started our way back to Jade Hills. We estimated we must have trekked about 4-5 kms on this wilderness trail.

To be continued...

Posted by sabyasachi 28.01.2012 22:14 Archived in India Tagged coorg jade_hills medikeri coorg_coffee kodagu coorg_karnataka Comments (0)

Blue Seas, Golden Sunsets & Mile-long Beaches of Konkan

Sun-kissed clean white sand beaches of the Konkan region would surely allure any sea-lover...

sunny 30 °C

Diwali 2011 was an unusually quiet affair. With none of our usual last-minute travel plans falling into place this year, we decided to stay home and while-away our holidays. Adhering ourselves to the umpteen requests coming in from all possible quarters for a noise-free, eco-friendly celebrations, we too limited ourselves to a few sparklers and lesser crackers. Like any holidays - the anticipation of which perhaps gives one more pleasure than the actual holiday itself - this one too came and gone away quickly. We realized it only when we were back to the same mundane home-office-office-home grind.

A hectic week followed, and, by Friday evening we both (Mitali & Myself) were like two restless fishes out of water gasping for some fresh air - to breathe, to live.

Debating over the probable week-end destination, we came to the consensus to go exploring along the serene Konkan coast. As it was just a short two-day week-end affair, we had to settle in for a destination that cannot be too far yet should at least be a 4-5 hours pleasurable drive. Hectically, made a couple of calls to check reservations and was disappointed not to get any in the desired categories. However, was finally relived to get a few affirmations. Over the dinner table we decided to hit the road at the crack of dawn early next morning.

With anticipation of lazing around in one of the numerous mile-long sun-kissed white sand beaches of the Konkan coast, we started out at 6.15 am. Dawn was slowing breaking in as I reset my mile-o-meter, igniting the engine and we drove off. Our target was to cover an offbeat trio-destination in the Konkan coast - Diveagar, Shrivardhan & Harihareshwar.

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Smooth Ride Scenic Drive

Driving through the truck-infested Mumbai-Goa National Highway 17 starting from Vashi onwards was painful at times. By 7.20 am we crossed Panvel. We decided to have our first pit-stop at the Vithal Kamath Restaurant. We had our fill with some tasty piping hot Upma served with some thick coconut chutney and culminating with a refreshing cup of tea. Thereafter, we snaked through the serpentine road through the lush Phansad Bird Sanctuary at Karnala.

As it was early morning the mist-filled air gushing through the rolled-down window was truly refreshing. We drove past the semi-urban small settlements of Nagothane and Pen till we reached Wadkhal naka. The road straight proceeds towards Kashid, Alibagh, and Murud. We, however, taking the left diversion, continued towards Mangaon on the NH 17. As it was a two-lane highway one has to apply the right judgment while over-taking in this literally-tiny traffic-filled road, since any miscalculation is not something we wished for.

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Autumn Look on the Lonesome Highway

Crossing by Inderpur we reached Mangaon around 9.30 am where we took the right diversion entering the State Highway 97 towards Mhasala. We stopped for a cup of tea in a street-side shack and the tea-seller informed us that the road till Diveagar was smooth. As rightly informed, the road from Mangaon was an enchanting drive.

Driving ahead a couple of kilometers, the road surged up-hill and the sun-burnt yellowish fall look of the vegetation, amidst the back-drop of some lush trees and shrubs were a sight to behold. Driving through the rolling hills was a smooth pleasure except a few bumps now and then.

Land of the Golden Ganesh

Crossing the narrow road of Mashala township, we took a right diversion towards Diveagar. Soon, we could smell the salty, balmy air to realize that the sea could not very far away as we continued snaking up -hill and down-hill. Dotted with betel nut and coconut grooves gave in a rustic village feel as we entered Diveagar.

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Rustic Feel

Diveagar is a nondescript small hamlet which rose to prominence when on the auspicious day of Sankashti Chaturthi, 17th November, 1997; an old lady discovered an ancient buried chest while she was digging in her backyard to plant some coconut trees.

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Off Coconuts & Betelnuts

On opening the chest she discovered an ancient half-statue of Lord Ganesh made of pure gold along-with some ornaments. The villager gathered and they considered it a lucky charm and placed the deity in their local temple. They re-christened the temple as Suvarna (golden) Ganesh Temple. Diveagar incidentally was the ancient capital of the Shilahar kings.

We took the narrow lone single-lane metal road and proceeded to locate Dhanaraj Cottages. A signboard giving direction helped and soon we checked in. The first enquiry we made was "how far is the beach?" "It is just five minutes from here," replied the manager. Placing our bags we immediately rushed towards the beach.

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Wide Angle

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Anchored...

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A Walk Within...

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Ready for a Beach Ride

Moving through a patch of Saru & Palm trees, through an opening, we could see the beach. Venturing in we realized that it was a 4-5 kilometer long virgin beach. As far as our eye could see it stretched along with the virgin deep blue sea in the backdrop. The waves splashing across the beach was so tempting that it could not hold us anymore. Soon I plunged in...

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Couldn't Resist Anymore

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Plunged...

It was a secluded beach, with a few limited souls, making the experience totally personal, unlike the crowded beaches of Goa. Some locals, half a kilometer away was providing some para-sailing experience to the desired few. Adventurous Mitali seeing that could not stop herself and soon she was soaring high into the air strapped in the para-sailing suit.

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Colours of Life

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Strapped - Ready to Soar

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Airborne

"Oh what and experience," was all that she said as she landed back on the ground with a thud. Being in the beach and not sipping some fresh coconut water would not have completed the experience - we did indulged thoroughly.

Tasty Khana of Local Khanawals

Thereafter, as the noon heat started soaring, we thought we go back for lunch in one of the many "khanawals" we saw while approaching the beach. "Khanawals", unlike restaurant, are basically an extension of local homes offering home-made Konkani sea-food delights. In most of the front courtyards, one would notice small signboards announcing the name of the particular khanawals.

One just has to walk in and it is preferred that you make a prior order so that the food is cooked fresh in their kitchen and dished out. We soon entered a quiet khanawal but as we did not make any prior order were little apprehensive whether we would be served. But to our delight, our host, an elderly lady agreed that she would prepare our lunch and we should be back in an hour's time. Placing our order we walked back to our cottage for a bath and returned fresh for the much anticipated Konkani home-cooked meal.

Soon, we were gorging on a spicy Konkani lunch including fresh surmai and pomfret fries. After that sumptuous meal we returned back and picking up Ruskin Bond's The Blue Umbrella, kept reading till it took me to a deep slumber.

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Waiting to Gallop

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Serene

Late afternoon we returned to the beach again and waited for the sunset. As the sun gradually came down, we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunset that we ever saw. Felt a calm feeling in my inner self.

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Oh so Beautiful

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Calm Within

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Time Stood Still

Thereafter, we explored the nearby beautiful Roopnarayan temple - an ancient stone temple - currently witnessing a make-over.

The Bard to Sing no More

As dusk set in we returned. Switching on the TV we got shocked to see a news-flash that legendary Assamese versatile son of the soil - the bard, the singer, the composer, the lyricist, the film-maker, the music director, the writer, the editor - Dr Bhupen Hazarika has passed away. Instantly, we recall meeting him last in the Mumbai airport that wintry January morning a couple of years back when I introduced myself as being the son of his university-days' friend.

"Sisir's son, oh my goodness" he uttered, as I bowed, touching his feet and took his blessings. "Is he still practicing law?" he inquired. I could clearly observe his facial expression change when I mentioned that dad has passed way. Both studied together in the Kashi Hindu University (Benaras Hindu University) and shared a close-bonding witnessing and jamming quite a few musical evening back then at Kashi. They even resided in the same hostel as well. But as it happens in many cases, time drifted them apart to different directions.

Thereafter, we kept ourselves glued to the TV watching the footage floating in. Being in the sea coast, it made us remniscent of his famous song Sagor Sangom. Around 10 pm we reluctantly moved towards the dining area and had a quiet Konkani dinner and called it a night.

Frolicking Dolphins Dancing Away

We woke up fresh early next morning as dawn was slowly breaking up. The chirping of the birds in the betel nut groove wherein our cottage was located was very welcoming. We freshened up fast and rushed towards the beach since we were promised by a local the previous evening to take us on his speed boat for some dolphin spotting in the sea.

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Getting Set

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Speed Thrills

We boarded up the 6-seater boat wearing the mandated life-jackets and off we speeded away. We did not had to go far, as we soon saw to our amazement the first grayish-whitish dolphin popping out its snout soon to disappear within.

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Apprehensive

We were told that it is after the monsoons, around the month of October-November, dolphins appear in the costal water of the Konkan region and we thanked our stars for being fortune of our trip timing.

The driver stalled the engine and soon we spotted another one though for just a few seconds. We all were getting excited as we started scanning the water to be fortunate to see more. We anxiously waited for the next 10-15 minutes when suddenly up ahead about 100 meters away yet one popped to disappear immediately.

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Free Spirit

Thereafter, we moved to another spot but were not that lucky. It was however an experience that was totally 'out of the world' and we thoroughly relished.

Scenic Drive, Smooth Ride

Returning back, having a tasty breakfast misel paw and poha we checked out of our cottage and started towards Shrivardhan. The lonesome road from Diveagar to Shrivardhan was undoubtedly one of the most scenic that we have perhaps have driven through till date in Maharashtra.

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Distances

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Curves & Turns

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Speechless

Flanked by high hills on one side and the open blue sea dotted with coconut palms swaying through long isolated beaches, we stopped countless time, passing by many sleepy fishing villages, as we snaked up and down the serpentine coastal road to soak in the breathtaking landscape both in our minds as well in our lens.

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Serene Coastlines

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Mesmerizing

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Sea Fishes - Sun Dried

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Coastal Beauty

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Fishing Community - All Afloat

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Long Shot

Each turn seem to be prettier than the last and this mesmerizing views continued till we nearly entered Shrivardhan.

Shrivardhan is today home to the Peshwa Smarak, a memorial that memorializes the contribution, life, and times of the Peshwas. The Bhat family of Shrivardhan served as the Peshwas or Prime Ministers of the Maratha kings and supervised a period that witnessed the greatest expansion of the Maratha Empire.

We halted at a road-side shack and had some chilled local kokum juice and inquired about the direction to the ancient Jiwaneshwar Temple. We took the approach road towards the beach and soon, we located the temple. Jiwaneshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and we were amazed to see the inner intricately-carved wooden pillars inside the temple.

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Carved so Real

These pillars that originally stood inside Shaniwarwada Fort in Pune, the seat of the Peshwas until 1818, were later installed in this holy temple. Inside the inner sanctum was a huge Shiva lingam, which can be approached through a small door. Paying our obeisance to the Lord we moved out. We also visited another temple Somjai temple believed to have been established by Augusta Muni, an ancient sage.

Kashi of the South

Thereafter, we moved towards holy Harihareshwar christened also as the Kashi of the South. The road again from Shrivardhan onwards was a scenic drive through lines of Saru trees and open beaches. As we approached Harihareshwar the road inclined up-hill and soon we saw a huge congregation of people, with parked cars, buses. We realized being a Sunday, many people has turned out to visit the famous, twin Kalbhairab and Shiva temple. We too parked our vehicle and started out on foot.

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Kalbhairav Temple - Harihareshwar

We walked through lines of small shops selling from puja items to hundred other items, including sweets, shoes, garments, sun-glasses etc. This ancient temple was witnessing a huge footfall yet a serene calm was felt by us despite being amidst a sea of humanity. Situated just adjacent to the sea-coast, it has two temples one after the other. Bowing our heads we sat inside for sometime seeking blessings. The view of the open sea from the temple is also truly amazing.

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Driving Through a Lush Patch

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Docks of Baghmandalam Beach

Thereafter we made our way outside Harihareshwar and moved towards the white sands of Baghmandla Beach. From here we saw many huge ships, ferrying people with vehicles on board, towards Bankot. At Bankot one can visit the ruins of the Bankot Fort. As we had to return back to Mumbai, we decided to give Bankot Fort a miss and drove back to Harihareshwar MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) resort.

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Relaxed as we waitied for the Konkani Lunch

Perched atop a hill and set within a huge area overlooking the open sea, this MTDC resort has perhaps the best location among many of the MTDC resorts we visited including, Ganpatipule, Karla, Malshejghat, Bordi, Panchgani, Panhala, among others. The open dining area in the form of two open round shacks, at the cliff-edge, the roofs covered with palm leaves would leave anyone spell bound with the view it offers. Down below is the rocky beach beyond which the open sea extends wide.

We were hungry by now and decided to have a big sea-food spread for lunch including tiger-prawn tawa fry, pomfret fry, surmai curry and rice. We gorged on the tasty Konkani delight to our satisfaction. Stomach satisfied we reluctantly made our way back towards Mumbai.

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Amazingly Beautiful

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Utterly Scenic

This short but activity-packed trip charged us up totally.

We promised ourselves soon to be back again to explore further the scenic Konkan coast...

How to Reach
Harihareshwar is approximately 250 kms form Mumbai. Driving out from Mumbai, take the Mumbai-Goa National Highway 17 and drive along passing by Panvel, Nagothane, Pen till Wadkhal Naka. Continue on the NH 17 till Mangaon. From Mangoan, after crossing ST Bus stand take the State Highway 97 towards Mhasala. Cross Mashala and take right to Diveagar and left road goes towards Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar.

Posted by sabyasachi 19.11.2011 22:21 Archived in India Tagged konkan_coast explore_konkan mtdc_harihareshwar kashi_of_the_south dr_bhupen_hazarika beneras_hindu_university khanwals_of_diveagar shrivardhan_ suvarna_ganesh white_sand_beaches_of_konkan_co konkan_golden_ganesh harihareshwar_diveagar Comments (2)

From Bore-day to Bordi: Walking on a Tranquil Paradise!

sunny 28 °C

“Bordi (bore-day), what the heck is that…must be some boring place as the name itself indicates,” I commented upon hearing my wife’s suggestion about the weekend getaway from Mumbai on my birthday, luckily coinciding on a Friday. “It’s just two and a half hour’s away, and I have heard that it is one hell of a peaceful beach-side place” – a paradise of serenity & quietness.

The “Birthday Boy” in me was quiet excited that joyous Friday, as I reached office well before time, with only one intention on my mind – to wrap up as quickly as possible and hitting the road to Bordi. Closing up on all the unfinished assignments, I made my way back home well before noon to undertake the birthday ride of the year.

Valentine, my Valentine
Just as I was approaching the last turning towards home, my cell phone rang and lo, the name flashing in the Caller ID was of my boss. I picked up and was taken a little aback by the question he was asking – “What is the spelling of Valentine?” Well, well I spelled out “V-A-L-E-N-T-I-N-E,” pondering why the hell he was asking this question.

“The spelling is appearing wrongly on our website, by the way where you are?” he added. “Well boss, I told you yesterday, it is my birthday today and I wrapped early as I am moving out of town. No deliveries due on my part today.”

“Ok, ok, now who do I follow up to get the correction done, who should I sent the mail to?” his bombardment of questions followed. I replied in utter disgust, “Pallavi is the person, please ask her to do the change, she’ll get it done.” He just uttered a distasteful “all right” and the line snapped. I wondered, wow what a way to be greeted on your “birthday,” he did not even wished me on my all important day. Consoled myself by thinking that it is “my professional boss in his professional colours…nothing personal” and there is no point seeking unnecessary expectation. Life moves on with or without his wishes…

My wife, Mitali, opening the door, and seeing my long face asked, “What’s wrong?” I just replied, “I am fine, let’s get out of town my dear VALENTINE” to her utter dismay. Picking up the rucksack, we trudged through the traffic on the Western Express Highway as we made our way towards the Borivali Railway station.

Rampage on the Rails
Boarding the empty reserved compartment, we thought we had the entire bogey all to ourselves, as the train chugged ahead. Little did we anticipate that in the next stations, hoards of people would aboard on a rampage into the reserved bogey, of course, without proper reservation - as if it was a “free for all” seat arrangement. The privacy that we had experienced since the past half-an-hour came to a grinding halt, but the train chugged ahead again, with young & old alike surrounding/standing all over us.

As we moved on, the landscape outside the window kept changing. Habitation started getting sparse, and range after range of the green Aravalli mountains drape the backdrop of a scintillating blue sky. The view was simply awesome. Crossing a few stations, we reached Dahanu, where we boarded down. We trotted outside the station and realized that there were no cabs here; three-wheeler auto rikshaws are the order of the day.

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Stillness Calms our Heart
The distance from Dahanu to Bordi is 17 kms and as our auto rikshaw traversed the beach front road ahead, the sight was simply mesmerizing. The road from Dahanu to Bordi moves along side the sea, and as each waves splashed across the bay, it was as if our spirits soared higher. With line upon lines of pine groves alongside the beach, to give us company, it seemed a unique blend of lush green vegetation and the deep blue sea.

Ahead on the road, we passed by many a small fishing village and we realized we were deep inside “chickoo country”. There were hardly any vehicles plying on the road and the “stillness and quietness” was felt immediately, as we passed countless chickoo orchards, with sweet ripe chickoos hanging in the branches just waiting, as if to be plucked by any hungry passerby.

Entering Bordi, we headed straight to the MTDC Tent resort. We had not done any prior reservation and were just hopeful that we would get accommodation – as usual coming as unplanned as ever. Initially, when I heard about tent accommodation, I had visualized tents as in the ones that we had earlier stayed in jungle safari camps.

Live Life, Tent Type
As the manager of the resort scampered through that huge guest register, I could not miss the anticipation in Mitali’s face, “if or not” we’ll get accommodation here. Raising his head, he asked, “What type of accommodation you would prefer.” “Undoubtedly tent type,” but would “like to have look first.”

As the waiter-cum-receptionist took us inside the resort, passing through the portico, we were simply bowled out to see five to six well-furnished, cute wooden floored AC tents, in the backdrop of the quiet sea behind. Soon, we gave our nod to the best sea-view cottage – the waves were just a few meters away and we moved in. Elegantly-paneled with French windows, the view outside was invigorating.

Refreshing ourselves with a fresh cup of hot masala tea, we simply did not wanted to stay indoor anymore. It was already late into the afternoon and with the clear sky above, we anticipated a nice beach sunset ahead. We hit straight into the sea and after some initial merrymaking amidst the waves, trotted back to the beach and just sat still.

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Sun, Shine & Stars for Company
As each waves came crashing into the beach we were spellbound at the quietness and stillness of this amazing place. It was a deserted beach all along, with shrieks of a few local kids playing a ball game, breaking the silence once in a while.

As the sun gradually started diving down the sky, as if to be engulfed by the deep wide sea, the golden-silvery hue that it created reflecting in the water, indeed made us just capture each passing moments in our minds as well as on our camera.

With the cool breeze brushing across us, dusk started setting in soon. We just kept sitting out there quietly gazing at the sea, till we saw the sky getting gradually filling up with countless silvery-white dots stretching till the horizon – a starlit night undoubtedly! Away from the smog of the city, in this serene and calm atmosphere, we could not stop star gazing till late into the night. In fact, we witnessed such a star-studded night sky after a long time for sure.

Refreshing ourselves with a shower in our tented accommodation, we geared ourselves for the night ahead. Chilling out late into the night with quite a few rounds of chilled beer accompanied by some spicy Malvani chicken my birthday with my VALENTINE, turned out special this year.

Setting Shop on the Road
After a late breakfast next morning, we moved out of the resort. Trotting a few hundreds of meters into the main road towards the town center, we realized it was the market day – weekly hutt – with all sorts of makeshift stalls, displaying items ranging from fancy linen to dry ginger, from tiger prawns to bangles. All the fishing villages within the periphery of Bordi set shop every Saturday on both side of the main road and do brisk business.

Loitering for some time viewing at the amazing variety of items on display, we hired an auto rikshaw and ventured away into the country side. The quiet meandering road, passing through huge chickoo plantation farms was indeed a charming experience. We stopped a few occasion and started plucking chickoo right from the hanging branches adjacent to the road.

Peek Inside an Adavasi Home
Going a few odd miles ahead, we came to a railway crossing and our auto driver cum guide informed us that we are entering Adivasi (local tribal people) area. The level crossing gate was down as we waited anxiously for the train to pass by. We passed many simple Adivasi villages with cheerful children waving at us all the way, till we reached the scenic Asuwali Dam.

The dam was idyllically located with lush green mountains ranges covering it from all sides. The gushing stream of water flowing down from the dam in a serpentine manner into the valley below provided a scintillating view. The still water of the tranquil lake on the other hand was simply heavenly. We just sat there for a couple of hours at peace with Mother Nature.

Coming down the hill, we ventured into an Adivasi house and were amazed at the simplicity of life here. Unlike us, their needs are small and expectations smaller still. They mainly work in the numerous chickoo orchards for their livelihood.

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On inquiry about local handicrafts & arts, they proudly took us into their home and showed us some sort of wall art they create during marriages and other festive occasions. It is locally called Chawak. It has intricate motifs of trees, leaves and animal forms. Surely, it clearly signifies and quantifies how much role Mother Nature has in their lives.

The medium they use to make Chawak is simple rice powder. “Wow,” was all we could say and immediately captured it into the camera. Coming back we took a different route and made our way to Hotel Hill Zill for sumptuous lunch with lip smacking deep fried macarel fish and mutton dry fry.

Rock on the Docks
The next morning we ventured out beyond Bordi towards docks of Umbergaon. We crossed the Maharastra-Gujarat border point, with countless Parsi bunglows dotting the landscape on both the side of the road. However, most of these age-old elegant bunglows with huge entry gates seemed abandoned.

Going further we came across the famous Fire Temple of Umbergoan. Entry to non-Parsi is restricted here. We had to be satisfied by capturing the temple architecture – with symbolic horse-like structure guarding the temple – in our camera and moved on.

Umbergaon is a port township, and it is said that majority of the Persian entered into the Indian mainland through this port centuries ago. The Parsi influence is very much evident in this area be it food habits or building architecture.

Passing by a magnificent light house, we visualized how many countless ships from far flung countries, it might have had directed ashore down the ages when Umbergaon was a full-fledge dock.

The port was hustling-bustling with activities of the fisher folks. Loads of the fresh morning catch were being downloaded and packed into boxes to be dispatched to Mumbai and other places. We were amazed to see 6 to 7 feet long slender snake type fishes – locally called Kut fish. We could not stop ourselves to take a sail boat ride as it glided through the calm sea smoothly.

Caught in the Studio of Time
After spending about an hour we took the road back to Bordi. On the way back we stopped at the famous Vindavan Studio wherein shooting of all mythological TV serials including Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan, Mahabharat etc were shot. The sets on display were splendid, as well as the actors in their costume best. We were lucky to witness a shooting scene of the TV serial Ravana being aired currently on Start Plus.

After that mythological trip, we came back and reached Bordi for a sumptuous lunch at the resort. Post lunch, we made our way back to Dahanu and spent some quiet moments at Daharu beach till it was time for us to reluctantly say “adieu” to this tranquil paradise.

As the train chugged back to Mumbai, we contemplated the evening bumper-to-bumper traffic of the chaotic city ahead, totally in contrast to the calm and serenity that we had experience in this quiet place called Bordi.

Posted by sabyasachi 17:34 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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