Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Roadtrip to Goa

4 guys, Verna diesel, NH17 - perfect ingredients for a Goa trip. After getting ditched by 2 of
them, Ashok and me decided that we gotta hit Goa, just two us!!! After a heavy breakfast at one
of the famous idli hotels near Tumkur, the sun started blazing torridly but Verna's cooling
mechnaism kept us cool and comfortable. High school memoirs, playful pranks, music critiques and pee-breaks made our journey a very lively and joyous. After a cheap meal at Haveri the tarmac ahead was so smooth and less curvy that speed did not fall below 100. The limpid twilight of Palolem beach welcomed us, Ashok tried his best to reach before sunset but we lost the race. Nevertheless my camera captured few neat shots in the dusky faint light. We rented a shack (Rs. 300 per day for two bedded shack), dumped the bags and set out for a stroll. Slothfully we walked along the shore and then hit the narrow streets in the town that had many restaurants, shops selling books, bikinis, wines and works of art. We settled down in one of the beach side restaurant, dined over pegs of whiskey. There were not many fishes and the price of the available one was beyond our budget, we had to satiate our epicurean desires by mutton chilli fry, dal and roti. I wanted to get drenched in the water due to rapturous feeling of whiskey, I slept on shore and the wind driven waves caressed and cooled me. It was late, we got back to shack and hit the sack.

Mornings are the most precious time and favorite for my camera. She wanted to have a look at
the beach and I ambled on the shore to fulfill her wish. I could get shots of the locals, the boats,
the beach, the sand, the palms, the stray dogs...everything mildly touched by sunlight. The sun
rapidly reached higher and it was time to savour the beach. Our aquatic pleasures lasted for
about an hour and a half - swimming, sun basking, ogling at bikini clad babes, chasing the stray
We started our journey towards North Goa. We just had a glimpse of Colva beach near Margao, there was cacophony of fat aunties shouting at their kids; uncles with huge and dark tummies; shrill scream of girls in wet chudidhars playing in beach; men pestering tourists to para sail or speed boat. We spent not more than a couple of minutes at Colva, our car was now heading towards Calangute.
Without wasting much time we checked into Park Avenue, the hotel which I had stayed during my previous visit. A decent hotel with swimming pool - charge Rs. 800 for an AC room having two beds, TV, refrigerator and attached toilet. We had a very sumptuous lunch at Infantaria - fish curry rice, biriyani. Fish curry rice was extremely delicious with one fish in the curry and another fried and placed on white rice, biriyani was rich is spices and tasted yummy. I've not tried out all the restaurants in Calangute, but my hunch says that this is the THE BEST. Simple, neat and tidy ambience, gentle mannered attendants, tasty food and mouthwatering desserts make them the best.
After a tiny siesta we strolled to beach, as usual, there was a mad crowd - desi females in sarees, chudidars and jeans all wet and salty, men in their VIP frenchies and Poomer undies flaunting their flabby tummies and holy threads on them, kids scaring lights out their parents, unthinking and careless dogs being beaten by some, being lured by some others. I enjoyed the high waves while Ashok was disappointed by the tea he got on the shore - a tiny tea bag inside a big glass of lukewarm milk. We were so inclined to have dinner at Infantaria that we gave no second thought about where to have dinner. In no time we were ordering fish and chips (the attendant's suggestion), roti and dhal makhani at Infantaria. Food was, as expected, awesome.
We walked to Bagha beach, gulped a cold breezer on the beach, watched the artists perform adventurous firework and walked towards Titos. As we tried to enter, the watchman with his most impudent gesture said "Couples only". We then walked back to room and had a sound sleep.

Idli-sambar and tea at shri-sagar restaurant, just opposite to where we stayed, fueled us for the day's activities. We south Indians are quite particular about our breakfast, nothing works out like Idli-sambar or dose.
We drove to Old Goa, about 10 km from Panjim. Like others we visited Basilica of Bom Jesus which holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. Unfortunately using tripod was not allowed and it was considerably dark inside for photographing. There was an art exhibition on the first floor which featured photographs of the church and paintings depicting life of St. Francis Xavier and few sculptures of various biggies in Christendom. I was quite disappointed when a huge crowd of people went upto ticket counter and turned away when they realized that they had to pay for the exhibition - ticket price Rs. 2!!!
The scorching heat made us a bit tired and thirsty. We visited the Archaeological Survey of India museum that had great relics and ruins dug out by ASI at various locations in Goa. That was the place where we found the true face of Goa, untouched and unscathed by Portuguese, there were Hindu stone carvings of various gods and temples, artistic flower vases and fruit baskets again carved out of stones. First floor had beautiful paintings of Portuguese viceroys starting from Afonso de Albuquerque, the first viceroy.
We were hungrier, thirstier and more exhausted. We came to Infantaria and had spicy mouthwatering Nizam-e-machli fry with roti and dhal.
Anguna, the rockiest of all beaches I've seen, was our sojourn en route Vagator beach. The red soft rocks on the beach are a good subject for photographing, provided you go in the morning or evening.
Vagator beach is another crowded beach, it has a rocky part as well as a sandy part. Its more commercialized too, there are oodles of shops selling ice creams, cucumber, hats and other sundries near the beach. Famous Chapora fort is visible from the beach, which was our next destination.
As we reversed our car and was about to start, a young man stops us and knocks the windowpane of the car. When Ashok lowers the glass, he asks "Bachelor or family?" Ashok says "Bachelor". He gladly asks "Massage chahiye kya? Foreigner lady, gori massage?" Ashok says "NO", raises the glass and we take leave. This massage thingy is widely prevalent in Goa these days. Beware!!!
We bought some wine on the way and head to Chapora fort. Ashok started gasping for breath as we started to climb and he felt the effort was worth once we reached the top. A beautifully placed fort overlooking Vagator beach on one side, a triangular piece of land stretching from the fort like a tongue to the sea on the second, beach transforming to Chapora river on the third side. We spent a couple of hours there photographing, sipping port wine and trying to communicate with a Russian photographer. He was a panorama expert and was kind enough to lend his B+W polarizer for me to use. There were lots of couples in their romantic world, a bunch of Northies...sorts of Aamir Khans and Rani Mukherjees...fighting over returning to hotel or watching the sunset. We started descending when the light was in a fuzzy state between twilight and darkness.
We thought of trying a different place for dinner and had a tuna fish tandoori fry, roti and chicken hyderabadi with beer at Krishna bar and restaurant, facing our hotel. First of all it took more than half hour to get the food and on top of that fish was a bit too hard and chicken hyderabadi burnt my mouth and brought tears in my eyes. No where closer to the food we had in Infantaria.
We decided to sleep early, as we entered our hotel, we spotted two lonely women sipping champagne. Ashok got a brilliant idea to invite them for Titos, where we were prohibited the previous day. We sat adjacent to their table and in the exuberance I ordered two pots of tea - two guys, almost middle of the night, for the sake of inviting two girls for pub, had to drink five cups of masala tea. Yeah...despite knowing that a pot of tea is two and half cups, I ordered!!! Later we realized they were not lonely females but had some sort of acquaintance with the hotel owner. Then comes a cheap gang of Northie boys...one of them, flaunting his systema skeletale said "areey yaar mei to SIMRAN-OFF ESPRITE ke saath piyunga.....tu kya piyega?" We felt its all their show and left for sleeping.

We woke up in the wee hours of the morning and drove to Aguada fort. Despite fort being locked and letting down, we found many peafowls and other interesting birds enroute. Unfortunately they were far beyond my 200mm lens, so no record of what we saw there. It was almost like a small nature trip, both of us were pleased.
We packed and checked out of the hotel, had dosa and tea at Shrisagar and drove the sedan towards Arambol beach, which is farther north. Its about an hours drive from Calangute along the green coastal belt.
Without any second thought, we rented a couple of beach beds shaded by a beach umbrella (costs Rs.100, no time limit). In turns we entered the beach, since one had to take care of camera and valuables. We found many interesting people on the beach. A bunch of sloshed out uncles from Mahrashtra who reckoned Arambol to be a naked beach, a happy Goan family with cute kids, peddlers selling colorful stuff to foreigners, junkies of the west, baywatch babes sorts, bunch of horny southies. Kingfisher kept us cool despite scorching sun. We finished lunch at one of the beach side restaurants....roti, dal and mixed veg manchurian.
Hired a room and had a nap. A cup of tea prepared us for the Tiracol fort journey. We passed through many hindu dominated regions, we found many tulsi pots and temples on the way. We had to cross a ferry to reach Tiracol. The Russian whom we met the previous day had greatly raised our expectations about the fort, but it failed to live up to that. The fort is now turned to a hotel, open for public, has a church inside and gives a very European feel, but no where closer to the majesty and picturesqueness of Chapora fort.
We went to Redi beach next. It is located in the state of Maharashtra and the road leading to that is very narrow, crowded and quite intimidating too. Redi beach is highly secluded and least crowded with clean waters and white sand. The sun was smiling his way down, almost on the verge. A distant ship's smoke on the horizon (Ring any bells???). Clicked few shots and drove back to Arambol.
We sat on one of the beach side restaurants, had shark tandoor, roti and dhal fry over a few pegs of whiskey. The Russian photographer joined us for dinner, I shot him thousands of questions about Russian history, politics, geography, food and what not, with his broken English he patiently answered them.
Post dinner we had encounters with people who were completely stoned and entertained us bigtime. We ditched the room which we had booked and slept in one of those shacks where we had our dinner.

Woke up early, had a healthy breakfast consisting parata, curd, lassi, fruits and tea and kickstarted our journey at 9. Bought few alcohol bottles for carrying back at Mapusa. The traffic moved at snail pace; it was almost noon when we crossed the border. We thought of having some change in life and decided to take a different route Karwar - Ankola - Gokarna - Honnavar - Gersoppa - Taalguppa - Shimoga - Bhadravati - Tumkur - Bangalore. Stopped at the outskirts of Gokarna for lunch, stopped at Jog for few clicks, stopped at Bhadravathi for snacks and tea and reached home by half past one in the night. Yeah our journey from Bhadravathi was slowed down by a great extent due to darkness, road repairs and Indian's road sense.
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