Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dandeli and Goa - Part 2

GOA (11th to 14th Feb 2010)
Click here for Part 1
We left Dandeli at around 4:00 PM and took the NH4A through Ramnagar, Mollem, Ponda to Panjim. The roads are quite good but there is considerable lorry traffic. The travel is best remembered for the imaginary creation of a film story and narration of the same by Nagu and Benda. Nagu morphed into the award winning director Nagarathnam, and Marky in to the 6 pack long haired hero. The story told spontaneously for almost 30 minutes was creativity and limitless innovation at its best. The intentional humor put into the story had us in constant laughter, and even the drinks and hectic rafting in the morning could not make us sleep, atleast most of us. On the way we started calling up places to stay near Anjuna beach.

Mackey has an extraordinary talent of making calls; he has a great voice and coupled with courtesy and exceptional telephone etiquette, makes it really difficult for people not to be helpful during calls. He worked his magic and we were assured of a room at Hotel Sunshine an affiliate of Villa Anjuna, you could say almost on Anjuna beach which is usually lent out only to foreigners.

We got a feel of Goa as soon as we got close to the Anjuna beach, our Innova entering the narrow roads leading to the beach with shacks and familiar shops on both the sides, their sales mostly done for the day at about 9 PM. We did quick freshening up in the room before hitting the beach. The beach was quite with very few people outside, most of them preferring to sit and have few drinks in the beachside shacks, with the beautiful view of the beach and fond memories for company.
A shack can be described as a restaurant, usually with an open view of the beach/sea which is typical of Goa, something like a pub with open air and view. We walked the entire stretch of the beach, admiring the live music played in one of the shacks, before deciding to quench our thirst lightly in one of the shacks on the beach with a beautiful view. We went to another shack called Moonstar restaurant for dinner just few meters from our room. This shack has good food with moderate pricing and beautiful view of the sea. We also shared a few more beers here and became quite friendly with the guy named Roshan from Himachal Pradesh who was managing the shack/restaurant, a very nice and polite man, although he did tell us a white lie that chicken cost more then 300 rupees per kg in Goa.

The next day 12th Feb was a beautiful day, I was awakened in the morning by Benda and Nagu, and we three went for walk on the beach to stretch our legs or should I say our minds. We saw a foreigner with an amazing body juggling 3-4 wooden dumbbells at a time, as usual disturbed by few Indian men trying to do the same at his discomfort; this again reminded us of another interesting but difficult way of building good physique. We moved on to savor the beautiful sight of sun rays kissing the sand and water, creating ripples of glistening silver, soothing our minds and body. By the time we reached back to the room most of the others were up, and we decided to start the day with a little bit of ‘cheers’, the combination of Bacardi WR with the Jamaican breezer, too good to resist even at the odd hour.

It would be fair to say that by the time we reached for breakfast in our parent hotel Vila Anjuna, we were in good mood, and the breakfast with the view of the swimming pool was quite an experience. It was interesting to note a lot of foreigners on the beds next to the swimming pool, relaxing and having a few sips soaking in the sun. It looked like they had no plans for the day or for that matter next couple of days, it also felt little odd that they were doing this by a pool and not the beach. (A hotel with a swimming pool could be availed anywhere, why come to Goa and do it)

One of the best beaches in Goa is the Arambhol beach, about 30 odd kms from Panjim to the north. This beach is unique because if you walk about a kilometer to the sweet water lake, you will find an extraordinary setting with the serene beach on one side and a natural lake with a hilly background on the other, separated only by a few meters of sand and few temporary beds and Umbrellas. The path to the sweet water lake is also beautiful along the slope of a hill lined with small shops, and providing beautiful views of the sea and the shore filled with rocks.

We decided to take couple beds right in the middle, and ordered a few beers and also sea food, before venturing to the sea to play with the strong waves, it was fun to wait and jump towards the bigger waves, leaving yourself to be tossed around harmlessly. After a while we decided to enjoy the fresh water and moved on to the lake, also shifting our beds and umbrella, to more convenient location by the lake. We all enjoyed playing in the clear green water, which was about 10-12 feet at the deep at the centre, with just 15-20 meters wide at the place we were playing. After swimming for a while, a couple of us decided to play beach ball (with the plastic bat and ball) with a young boy who had seemingly run out of partners. Couple of our others had gone to check out if we could place some orders for food only to return as the hotel guys were having their lunch.

The events which unfolded in the next 3-5 minutes was horrendous and astonishing, one of our friends who was playing in the water ventured a little deep into the water only to be startled to realize his legs were not touching the ground and he was being pushed deeper into the water by his own mass, he grabbed the hand of other friend, who could not support his weight for too long and had to leave his hand, when he felt he was also getting sucked into the water. Soon the friends returning from the hotel spotted them and one of them ventured to help only to be pulled into the deeper waters and in many senses lot of trouble. Things were a little out of hand by the time I realized that someone was literally shouting my name for help, I immediately threw the bat aside and jumped into water and got behind our friend who started all the trouble (Sorry buddy I had to mention atleast so much), with 3-4 heavy pushes from the deeper side I was able to shove him to a place were he could stand and be helped by others. (My experience in Dandeli with Mark helping my reflexes to make the correct decision of swimming around and pushing the friend to the shore instead of giving the helping hand, which could have resulted me also being pulled to the water)

I was about to climb up to the shore, being a little shaken from the experience when others told me that one of other friends were still in the water, I went back to help him and to my comfort saw a very white body of a foreigner pushing him towards me and the shore, and then my friend put his arm around me and we both swam the couple of meters to the safety. I still think my friends were extremely lucky, that we all worked as a group and we can not thank the foreigner enough for his timely help.

On a personal front, I will never be able to forget the expression of relief on the face of my friends (After I gave the first push and when the other put his hand across my shoulders), as I realize it now, it would have been one of most significant help I provided for my close friends, and the expression of their confidence in me, to be able to help them providing me with supreme sensation of accomplishment, easily pushing aside my greatest triumphs on the football field.

We were definitely shaken but not beaten by the events, as we continued with a couple of drinks on the beds with snacks/lunch, some of us even managing to take a quick nap, discussing a thing or two about football and Formula 1 with the 2 Russian couples on our adjacent beds. By the time we left we had spent close to 5 eventful hours in the place and we managed to see a couple of other beaches, notably the one with a view and access to the fort where the Hindi movie Dil Chahta Hain was shot, before reaching Baga.

We spent a while there in the beach, seeing the huge crowd in their frenzy to enjoy the last minutes of the day, and others trying their hand at the water sports and other facilities available here. We did contemplate drinking in one of the shacks here named St. Anthony’s, which was highly recommended by the brother of our friend, finally deciding to skip it and do something near the now comfortable Anjuna.

We came back to the room and sat outside for our ‘drink’ session the snacks being provided from the Moonstar shack, we continued the session in the Moonstar shack when the crowd became less and we had our favorite table available, we also had our late dinner here and went for small walk before retiring to the rooms for a sound sleep.

We got up a little late on 13th morning and by the time we had checked out and reached a moderate looking hotel for breakfast we were famished. We had heavy breakfast few selecting the goan style NV and others Aloo Parata. Our next destination was Fort Aguada, a well-preserved Portuguese fort standing on Sinquerim beach, overlooking the vast expanses of Arabian Sea. Built in 1612 it was once the grandstand of 79 cannons with a moat around the fort providing additional protection. Inside the fort stand the 4-storey lighthouse, erected in 1864 and the oldest of its kind in Asia. Built on the mouth of river Mandovi, it was strategically located and was the chief defense of Portuguese against the Dutch and Marathas. There are amazing views of the beach and the sea from different locations in the fort.


Next we visited and offered our prayers at the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. The body is preserved in a casket and is placed on the right side at a height of about 15 feet for public viewing.
The church is more than 400 years old and is located in Old Goa about 10 km from Panjim. The church also holds paintings with scenes taken from the life of St. Francis Xavier. We also visited another church which is located across the street which also has a museum attached to it.

We had a late but good fish curry lunch from Margoa, before reaching Palolem Beach by around 4:00 PM. The beach is largely unspoiled and is about one mile long and is crescent-shaped enabling one to view the whole beach from either end. Both ends of the beach consist of rocks jutting out into the sea, providing beautiful scenery. As soon as we reached Palolem, we were approached by a local man extending help to locate a good place for us to stay. He took us to the hotel, which had a number of wooden cabins standing on stone pillars, along the beach. We settled for 2 comfortable looking and relatively new cabins, and were quite thrilled by the unique accommodation which had attached bathroom and a small verandah outside each cabin. I thought at the cost of 1000 rupees a cabin it was really cool and provided us with a different experience. The man also helped us get in touch with a boatman who agreed to take us to the Honey Moon beach and Butterfly beach for 700 rupees. The butterfly beach was decided as one place we were not going to miss as I had heard and read a lot about it, and seen pictures of it had which had captivated my imagination for quite a while.
The boat ride provided quite a thrill as we were able to spot a few dolphins, occasionally jumping to provide us with the mesmerizing view of their silky grey and white skin, and showing off their skill of smooth and effortless swimming. The boat was moving against the waves, tossing around and splashes of water hitting us, making it little uncomfortable for all and especially for Deepsy who was sitting in the front, his back taking quite a beating. Benda was also not very pleased and said that they could have made the trip much more pleasurable if they had provided us with lifeboats, which I think would be very good idea to make the people comfortable. All were quite for a while, a friend also saying a little prayer for safety, I for some reason was not worried at all and even offered to sit in the front where Deepsy was sitting on the way back. However in a little while we got used to the tossing of the boat, and the splashes of water, or should we just say we were so lost in the beautiful surrounding that we forgot about everything else.

Soon we sighted the Butterfly beach and what a sight it was to see the beautiful, unspoilt and secluded beach, surrounded by hills with the clearance of just about 20-25 meters. It was like the Mother Nature had embraced this place much a like a shell, protecting it, opening a very little for her beloved people to enjoy and admire the pearl. We did not get down in the beach but went very close to get the complete view of this enchanting place, admiring nature at its very best.

Just a few meters away from this, we saw one more isolated gem of a beach, slightly wider but equally beautiful, for some strange reason called as the honey moon beach. We got down here and there were only handful of other visitors in this beach. The beach is surrounded by wilderness with a few boulders mostly along the end’s creating beautiful sight for the eye to behold. We did not realize the racing time with the fading light adding a sweet calmness, to the already peaceful surrounding, prompting us to lose ourselves in the serenity of the place. The boat ride to see the beaches and dolphins is a must if you go to Palolem, however the ride can be little intimidating and you may have to think twice especially if you have children accompanying you.
We spent an hour or two walking along the streets leading to the beach, which are lined with shops selling a variety of things like clothes, sweets, caps etc. One thing that we noticed here was that T-shirts were quite cheap and they had a lot of designs, more interestingly they had designs which were stitched apart from the usual printed ones. They had huge choice of stitched designs from the logo’s of Foreign football clubs (Including Chelsea and Arsenal), Om and different signs, animals etc. We picked up a few T-shirts for our children and also managed to buy cashew nuts and the famed Bibinca sweet (A Goan Speciality) to take home, notably being the only purchase we did.

We got back to our rooms by around 8:30. There was a Kerala Ayurvedic Massage centre in the place we were staying and couple of my friends enjoyed the relaxing Massage. There was a good shack/restaurant right in front of our cabin and we decided to spend the evening there having the right “spirits” as luck would have it they allowed us to have our own drinks, on the condition that we buy the snacks and food from there and also pay a little extra money for their cooperation. We had a glorious session here, recollecting and discussing the events of the trip apart from the usual gyan, some of us continuing the celebrations till around 2 in the morning. I also remember talking to some Swedish travelers, who were in the same state like us, about football before we finally called it a day.

The next day (same morning to most of us) we left the hotel by around 9 AM and started our long journey back to Bangalore. We had stopped for a few drinks and lunch in Haveri and for night snacks in hotel Kamat in the outskirts before reaching by around 9 PM. This trip will remain very close to our hearts as we had a wonderful time, the rafting, the boating, the shacks and the sessions, the beaches etc. bringing a smile of satisfaction whenever we recollect the experience. It also taught us to be really careful with water and understand the calmness of the water in a lake or the sea can be very deceptive. On a personal note I felt we were much more dignified in our consumption of the ‘liquids’, quite unlike the usual men only trips (especially in the college days), I just hope that it is not the signs of aging.

1 comment:

Priya Sri said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first
comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep
visiting this blog very often. I am an massage centers in chennai.
I feel great after reading this information. Please make update I will be regular rss to this site.
kerala ayurvedic massage in chennai