Wednesday, January 28, 2009

'Twas time to Goa

...this past weekend, with very little planning. If I ignore the fact that I had arranged for my mom to come there from Bangalore by train a couple of days before and stay on after we left (which included booking a bus ticket and then canceling it and then booking the train tickets). And also the fact that my uncle wanted to join us but had to let it pass, because he had to report to work, which is why my aunt could tag along. Her son was supposed to join us, but declined at the last moment (although he wanted us to pay for his fuel so that he could ride his bike alongside us; bugger). Anyway, we surfaced calmly from all that confusion and hit the road at 2:00 pm on Friday.

We were to follow our neighbor M, who has a home in Goa that he visits frequently. The dude being an ex-airforce person, was probably finding it difficult to restrain himself at ground speed. Which is what I offer as explanation for his Hyundai Getz (1086 cc) being unfollowable by our Maruti Alto (796). Or it could be that his is the Prime make (1341 cc) which is way beyond what we can dream of beating. (Of course I want a better car now! Not larger, just better. Something like Maruti Estillo would do--although I hated its shape initially.) The bugger would hit the brake in traffic and then zoom away in microseconds while we only kept hoping that our little car would pick up enough speed in time to spot him while he navigates the next turn. We didn't see him for about 150-200 kms, which is a little less than half the journey.

To spice things up a bit, I dropped hubby's phone while we made the first halt for tea. Someone spotted that, picked up the phone and rang the last dialed number. It turned out to be my aunt's who was with us. We didn't mind waiting for half an hour for the blessed soul to come by and hand the phone over to us. Hubby was fuming, a tad mildly, but all was soon forgotten, because we HAD TO keep M in sight. Soon after the sunset we left the highway and turned to the villages-and-ghats section of the road. It was pitch dark in a few minutes, and the absence of street lights made it even more difficult. But that was for M, not for us. All we had to do was switch off our brains and pursue him. I was struggling to not let any other vehicle come in between us, because if we missed him for about 4 seconds and he took a turn before we saw him, we'd be lost in the wilderness for good. The network coverage wasn't too good obviously, so he couldn't reach us if he noticed that we were no longer at his tail.

M must have been zooming past 90 kmph on those treacherous roads, because I often had to push beyond 80 to keep up with him. However, I was enjoying the ordeal thoroughly, and so were hubby and my aunt. We were entertaining ourselves with stories and jokes about other people, because we didn't have to give a dang about whether we were going in the right direction. M was our God at the moment. Anyway. We reached Vasco, our destination, around 10:45 pm, and had to part ways because M's home was in a slightly different direction. I went ahead for about 3 kms and noticed a certain building that made me jump. I had no visual memory, but the name struck me as something I heard from my childhood stories that my aunts keep narrating every few months. I immediately knew where we were and where we had to go. In another 20 minutes we were home, luggage and all.

We spent the night at our old landlord's place (where I lived as a child). It was a bad night for me, because the mosquitoes attacked me like they were my soulmates from a past life. What else could it be? They left the rest of the people in the house alone! Grrr.

So. Morning dawned and we had some more conversations with our host about our memorable stay there, more than two decades back. It mostly consisted of my pranks and how I thought I ruled the place. We then headed out to explore whatever we could, without being baked in the sun. Here are some pictures...

A small island, a few hundred feet from the main road that exits Vasco.

A common view around the shoreline villages.

Another larger island, about a kilometer away from the previous one.

This was connected by road, possibly built by the Portuguese missionaries (notice the church to the right), which is being restored now. This is also where we had our first and only interaction with a local drunkard. He approached us asking if we wanted to go see the church. The stench was overwhelming, and his became more aggressive by the minute. We had to shoo him away. He followed us all the way back to our car that was parked on the main road!

We headed to Old Goa, looking for the church where St. Francis Xavier's remains are located. We found a spot to park, but the first thing we noticed was a Wax Museum nearby. It's created and owned by a software engineer as a hobby. With no other funding, it is managed by the owner himself (I wonder how), possibly with the money that comes in through exhibitions (which means expenses to move the statues between cities) and sales of candles and other stuff.

A nice map of the world heritage site where the centuries old churches are located.

The statue of St. Francis Xavier inside.

From the pews. Hordes of tourists were thronging in, and I was enraged at the way people were behaving. A lot like what MM wrote in this post. Seriously, all that is expected of you in a church is silence and respect, if you can't give that, why bother entering a place of worship?

The atrium of the church, which was turned into a beautiful little garden with very cute sprinklers. I mean the sprinklers were okay, but their jets flew out beautifully. Notice the large bell at the top--no access to it now.

The flowering trees outside the church. There was a little market beyond, where I bought some cute bracelets. Beside it was a restaurant, which was full of people and almost void of stewards. We reluctantly ordered some food, because we didn't know where we could get anything edible before we ran out of energy. After a painfully long wait, we ate whatever was served, without thinking much. All the while, I was trying to suppress my embarrassment caused by my mom staring are the almost bare foreigners and young locals. It was so hot outside, I wish I'd lose some clothes too.

After lunch, we headed to this district called Ponda, which houses the Mangeshi temple. Mom and aunt went ahead to the main temple, while and a hubby sat in the cool shade of another small adjacent temple. The journey was interesting. We missed a turn just before every destination, and had to turn back a few hundred meters to reach the correct spot. But it was fun! We even had sugarcane juice before we went to the wax museum!

Once the temple visit was done, we headed southwards to find the Colva beach. We had bought a map as soon as we headed out in the morning, and were doing a great job of navigating with its help, except for spots that weren't marked clearly. It was the best me and hubby ever coordinated at driving.

As we entered the Colva beach...

A closer look.

The speedboat was towing paragliders and zoomed away.

Hubs and I were sooooooo excited, and we jumped at the opportunity to do some paragliding. The sun ahd gone down by the time we went up, so we couldn't get a great view, but it was fun. That's me returning from the flight.

A fleeting parachute.

We walked along the shallow coast for a while, ignoring the life gaurds' announcements asking everyone to stay clear of the waters past sunset. Then we lay on the sand for a bit, while mom and aunt had a little nap. We were exhausted by the time we reached home, but we all enjoyed the Baskin' and Robbins ice-cream we took along for our host.

Hubs and I woke up at 5:00 the next morning, changed and rushed to the nearest beach--Bogmalo. It was still dark, and we tentatively stepped into the water, a bit scared when waves crashed loudly and unexpectedly. We were surprised at the warmth of the water and then spent the next hour or so walking in knee-deep water along the shore. Once the sun came up and lit the waters and people started trickling in, we locked the car keys into our finger rings and dived in. To put it in hubs' words, for the next hour or so, we were experiencing weightlessness. That lasted only until the moment we decided to walk out of the water. Then, we were almost drooped with the weight of the seawater in an on us. Needless to say, I involuntarily gulped in a few sips of water through my nose when a couple of unexpected waves pulled me in. The fun part was the feeling of being pushed and pulled by the huge waves--this particular beach was deeper than Colva--you just had to walk in about 7 or 8 feet to be fully immersed.

When we felt a bit satisfied with all the soaking and sinking, and it was time to return, we dried ourselves by the car. Hubby changed in a lonely spot, but I was too impatient to change. So I warpped the front seat with plastic and drove us home. We had to rush through bath and breakfast so we could move on to the next destination: Panaji. Our next hosts were the landlady's son and his family. They live in a prime area of Goa's capital amidst bungalows of politicians and rich people in general. Their own bungalow is pretty well done. I'd posted one of its pictures earlier. Upon reaching there, we spent a while indoors, chit-chatting, and then left for the Dona Paula beach.

It was a bad decision. It was sweltering hot outside, and we spent 20 minutes finding a space to park. To top it, there was no direct access to the water. People could only walk up and down a ramp. As soon as I parked, I bathed in the sunscreen lotion, but I think it had an adverse effect. I felt my skin burning more than ever. Nevertheless, the little market distracted me, and I ended up buying a couple of trousers.

The view on one side of the beach... there were lots of speedboat riders.

The pier with the tiny market on it. It must look lovely in the evenings with all those lights on.

The other side of the pier... so calm, and void of people!

We learned from that experience and headed straight home, abandoning the plan to visit another beach before lunch. It felt so nice to change into cooler clothes and spread out on the sofas and watch TV for while. After a while we had lunch and then napped. It was 5:30 pm by the time we freshned up, had tea, changed and stepped out again. Not such a good time to leave, because it took us about an hour to reach the next beach: Vagator. Our host led us through roads where we saw signposts for almost all north-Goa beaches but went towards none. We thought he was about to take us back home after showing only the signposts. That's when we turned in to the parking lot of the Vagator beach.

This one was shallow, like Colva, and we'd reached there a few minutes after sunset. With no enthusiasm left for clicking pictures, all we did was walk amidst knee-deep water. Then we stood rooted to a spot for a long time, trying to see how long it would take for us to be sucked into the earth, due to the sand beneath our feet being carried away with each wave. In about 1o minutes I was a foot underground. Then, for a while, I let people go their own way and stole a few minutes for myself to talk to the powers that be--for a safe trip so far, a comfortable stay, and the great time hubby was having.

We decided to dine outside, and went to the Delhi Durbar restaurant on M. G. Road. (I just looked it up. We're just not ready to go beyond M. G., C. S., J. N., and I. G., are we? [Only Indians will understand what I'm talking about; if you are one, and if you don't, well, I can simply conclude that you were extremely poor at History. :P]) The food was okay and our hosts were urging us to have more, all the while stuffing themselves. That was the only point where I had to control my sarcasm and not point out how they really needed to eat less, and leave us alone--as it is we are carrying an average teenager's extra weight as a couple (meaning, between me and hubs, we have about 25-30 kilos extra).

Anyway, I also picked up a bottle of port wine (Vini Cola) for a friend, before we turn to go back home. On the way, we made a pit stop at Miramar beach, just to fill up our quota of beaches, and because the night air was so tempting. It was another couple of hours before we actually got to sleep. There was a lot of confusion of who would sleep where, because the house had only two bedrooms and there were 11 of us. We ended the bedlam by taking over the hosts' master bedroom because that would help us wake up early the next day without diturbing the others.

Republic day (Jan 26) dawned without any feeling that remotely resembled what it used to be 20 years ago, and it has been so ever since I finished school. We were ready in time, but spent a few minutes longer bidding farewell to our hosts. I was in a hurry to get us out of the city and onto the highway as soon as possible. Our target was to cross half the distance by noon or earlier. We wasted about 20 kms (and 30 mins) looking for a petrol pump, but that didn't deter us from achieving the target. The drive was almost as good as the one where we followed M. Aunt and hubby took turns sleeping in the backseat, while I enjoyed my time behind the wheel.

We stopped only once, at the Amboli ghat, for breakfast--wada paav, kaanda bhaji, and chai. Here's how the moutainside on our right looked.

Here's the valley on the other side. The roads were winding and steep, and there was average oncoming traffic. I noticed all vehicles from MH01 through MH15, except MH05, and then some (those are registration number prefixes for the Maharashtra state, where each series represents about 259974 vehicles)!

We crossed a distance of about 460 kms in 8 hours. Luckily, we noticed a Mc Donald's drive-in on the highway and picked our lunch from there. I was stuffing my face with a Mc Veggie, fries, and coke, while speeding between 90-110 kmph--not an ideal thing to do, but then I was never a good girl. It was good to have a fun and confident-in-me aunt and a cool as a cucumber (read who-isn't-crazy-about-driving-and-prefers-his-comforting-pillows) husband, who never bothered me even once with such lame instructions as "slow down" or "watch out" or "don't overtake." Bless their souls! The even switched seats (aunt moved to the backseat and my almost-6-ft hubby moved to the passenger seat beside me) inside the 4 ft tall car, while I was speeding at 80 kmph on the highway!! They totally rock.

Special note to hubby: mmmmmmmuuuuuuuuuuuaaaaaaahhhh!!


i-me-moi said...

NH 17 mmuaaaaaaah :)

simplypallu said...

NH 17 A and B was what we used in Goa. To reach Nippani and back we used NH 4, which is equally mmuaaaah :)

Martin said...

The hotels in Bangalore have slashed their tariffs by 20% following the global inflation and recession and the recent Mumbai terror attacks. The cancellation rates have increased considerably in the upmarket and budget Bangalore hotels, and the trend is not showing any improvement. The hospitality industry of one of the most booming cities of the nation has seen a major slump in the reservations and the cancellations have increased by a whopping 20%. Under such circumstances the hospitality bigwigs are in a tricky situation as they vouch to go for advanced and state-of-the-art security measures. The only matter to be happy about is that the hospitality industry can now enjoy all the expart benefits. The debate over beefing up of the security measures continues to shake the authorities and the industry owners as the security arrangements can’t go beyond a certain point. Pertaining to this rule, the hotels will always remain vulnerable to such attacks. However, the budget hotels in Bangalore have something to preen about as they are still witnessing both business and budget travelers and also the ones who have become apprehensive of putting up at a five star.

simplypallu said...

Err, Martin, how does your comment pertain to this post? Oh, right, you're a spammer. I've got to go switch that word verification on.