Category Archives: Goa

Of Protecting Landscapes in a Forest

Have you ever thought about protecting and conserving nature, while you peer through your train window? Every new route unearthed means more green cover sacrificed and more animals displaced from their natural homes.

While Indian Railways help mankind transcend time and distances, it often comes at the cost of slicing through the heartland of where animals live in sync with nature. Add to it the railway hooter that rings while the train chugs through. How would it feel if your neighbor made a path through your house and made noise every time he used that path. It must be tough on the animals to find new homes constantly and having their environments being tampered with by mankind. Also the beauty of a landscape suffers, with an industrial flavour to the place, with the original landscape and green covers being affected.

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-2
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-2

Or so they that technology is making the world flat. That’s what Friedman and Nandan Nilekani say of Technology. It probably applies to the mountains that are made plateaus through railway line work, cutting through the homes of animals and landscapes. Seeing Industrial infrastructure is good, but we should try our best to preserve the beauty of landscapes and make the focus on increasing green cover for every edit we make to nature. Sounds like a deal?

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-1
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-1

Every time a tunnel is dug in India, it also uproots much of our animals and green cover. I wish we are able to help re create more green cover in a creative way so as to not displace landscapes through industrial infrastructure. This is about preserving existing nature and environment by having trains run only at specific times so that animals/environment is minimally affected, and we impose heavy fines on passengers from a train throwing plastic/waste in the fragile ecosystem that we have built trains and tunnels through

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-3
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-3

It just occurred to me, that as a traveller, I usually wonder why do people throw stuff when they know that this may never get cleaned. Would they do the same to their garden and pretend that plastics don’t exist? Why are trails littered with waste, tissues, plastic and food items. All it takes while hiking in these woods is to carry a huge plastic bag, and place your dump inside it and wait till you reach civilisation to put this in a garbage bin.

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-4
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-4

All of these photos are from a trip done in the monsoons at Goa’s Bhagwan Mahavir National Park, which is home to the beautiful trek in the woods to the Dudhsagar Waterfalls.

Travel Postcards #7

This edition of the Travel Postcard features Cola Beach in Goa.

“This series, called the Travel Postcards are basically the short story version of a single frame. Some tales are told between 2 sips of your juice. These are those tales. Not too long, Not too short, a little context, a little perspective and yes, they do act as a pill, that you can pop up for some travel inspiration”

Kola Beach(Goa) from above
Kola Beach(Goa) from above

Travel is about exploring and finding vistas. Sometimes you dont get a cookie, and at times you get a great surge of blood running through your veins, when you see a picturesque background. This was on the 1st of January 2017, when I decided to cross a little lagoon, holding my camera bag above my head, and hoping I dont drown. A little hill trek, a barren mud track trek with no directions and then to find this view from the hill! I was exploring Cola Beach on a trek from Agonda Beach, and this view totally made the hike worth it. I had put my son to sleep in the afternoon, and got a couple of hours to trek to a nearby place. Cola seemed like fun to do, and I ended up on the trek with some great visuals. That is the next series of articles coming up on KatchuTravels this February.

You can check earlier editions of the Travel Postcards right here

And Tripoto says ‘Happy New Year’

As I sit in a shack in Goa and type this, I am thrilled to announce that Tripoto, one of the premier travel blogging and planning platforms in India, has selected KatchuTravels in their “20 Best Tripoto Itineraries of 2016”. Do hop over #15 to view the article written here. This post talks about exploring the monsoons in Goa, through their rainforests in the Bhagwan Mahavir National Park. Looks like its entertained 23,000 people to get inspired to travel so far, so that feels heartening.

Here are a couple of images from the post.

 

Goan Rainforests in the Monsoons. Shot at Bhagwan Mahavir National Park
Goan Rainforests in the Monsoons. Shot at Bhagwan Mahavir National Park
Trekking through the railway tracks in Goa on the Dudhsagar Waterfalls Trail
Trekking through the railway tracks in Goa on the Dudhsagar Waterfalls Trail

Chilling in Agonda(Goa)-Part 4

Chilling has become synonymous with Goa over the years. So, I pick Agonda, a beach destination in Goa this winter to catch up on some peace, and work on some of my assignments in my swimming trunks from a beach view with a milkshake in hand. Sounds like a plan? Here’s Part 2 of “Chilling in Agonda”

After our time at Honeymoon beach in Part-3, where we did not get down, we proceeded to the next beach called Butterfly beach. Enroute was a small slowdown of the boat at a couple of rocks. Our Boatman suddenly got quizzical and asked me what that shape looked like, since I had a camera on my neck. I did not see any pattern emerging, and no amount of trigonometry or geometry could help me at that instant. I was torn between spotting dolphins on either sides, and his question kind off caught me off guard.

15259737_10154536190805860_6293820984201199382_o

And then when he went around the next rock, that looked like a turtle, and it turns out that when he asked me the question, he could see the second rock, while we could not based on our positions in the boat. A bird was perched on a spot where it wont be disturbed.

15259317_10154536191265860_5978215393978527770_o

Some of my friends on the boat were waiting for the ‘promised land’ to arrive. Kaustav was already relaxed and still looking out for dolphins that cared to say ‘hi’. None did. We met Kaustuv( A solo traveller from Pune), during a dinner at a restaurant in Agonda. Shyam, is a known friend, who lives in Bangalore, so it was easy to hop in for him, while Veeranna was holidaying with some known friends on the Hampi-Gokarna-Goa circuit, when I asked him to come over using a night train. He nearly got off at Loliem ( A station before Cancona), but could not find any trace of humans to ferry him, so he came 15 hours later, after having to go to Madgaon and then find his way to our cottage.

15288624_10154536187975860_3282224122314886965_o

And then we saw ButterFly Beach from the distance. It seemed to have deep tow, with a huge slope. It is not easy for non-swimmers to spend time in the water, purely because of the way the water swells, near the coast. The beach looked pristine though being surrounded by mountains. The only way to reach here is the boat, and that’s what Google will tell you. What Google may not tell you is that, there is a secret path from Agonda Village right into this beach. The locals were reluctant to talk about it, since it endangers their livelihood, but an auto-driver agreed that there was a path, but it was laden with cheetahs. Whether the Cheetah part was true, I am not sure, but it makes for a fascinating trek and discovery to Butterfly Beach.

15259358_10154536188975860_5792992056707178883_o

We spent time looking at the high cliffs surrounding the beach, and marvelling at the isolated patch of sand in the wilderness. Collecting Shells, watching the sky above, climbing the rocks to pose- ‘These are a few of our favourite things’, that we ended up doing in the 20 minutes that were there.

15272143_10154536190145860_8852468607439469474_o

While clicking photos for everyone, as is the rite of passage on any trip, I managed to click a decent one of myself, thanks to Veeranna. I thought the rocks in the background, with the coast being a level above made for a good frame.

15272052_10154536190000860_3937495489183090379_o

Kaustuv and Shyam, managed to find some peace up in the cliffs, but the boatman was’nt quite at peace with himself. He had another boat trip in 15 minutes, and we were about to mess with his next slot. So, I had to coordinate it and get the 4 of us back to the boat. A couple of more hours of lazing around, would have seemed the best thing to do on a beach like this. This beach is remote and there is nothing to eat, so its advisable to come were with food (and please bring a dustbin bag to put the waste inside and dispose at the right places on the mainland)

15259271_10154536189735860_7304095946222029089_o

It was 10 minutes to go, and Dinesh took off, seeing calls on his mobile.

15235916_10154536189170860_6744906987390848491_o

We just managed enough time for a quick selfie with all of us, while Dinesh was still speaking on the phone assuring his customer, that he was just around the curve of the beach. We were done! We were to go back and chill on the beach, have breakfast and start back home, with memories of a paradise called Agonda!

 

15259185_10154536201985860_423003809785924928_o

Chilling in Agonda(Goa) -Part III

Chilling has become synonymous with Goa over the years. So, I pick Agonda, a beach destination in Goa this winter to catch up on some peace, and work on some of my assignments in my swimming trunks from a beach view with a milkshake in hand. Sounds like a plan? Here’s Part 2 of “Chilling in Agonda”

Continued from Part-2. Check Part-1 here.

I happened to find out through Facebook-Nearby that a couple of my friends, were nearby. I chatted with them, and invited them to come over. What followed was a raucous dinner replete with tales from a converted local (Rahul), who runs a shack at Divine Guest House. Rahul-The shack manager was from Delhi, and was bored with his day job as a call center executive, and was enchanted by the coastline of Goa on a holiday, that he decided to stay back. He told us that he is looking to make 4X gains from his business of running a shack. He feels that though more tourists come to North Goa, there is higher competition between the hotels, so one doesn’t make as much money as in South Goa, where there are lesser tourists, but people who end up spending more. Rahul had spent 2 years at Palolem, and has just moved a beach above by moving to the peace of Agonda. I asked him what does he do for a break? He said there is no holiday for him. It’s 7-8 months of work, and then a 3 month holiday where he goes home and also plans his breaks. In Goa, when he gets time, he takes his 2-wheeler to explore smaller villages. One such place he told was about Cabo-De-Rama fort, which is usually deserted and so is the beach below. The local villages  do not want any restorative work at Cabo-De-Rama fearing for tourist invasion of their privacy.

Rahul Rana of Divine Beach Resort in Agonda giving us some local stories
Rahul Rana of Divine Beach Resort in Agonda giving us some local stories

After a couple of hours of lounging on the beach bed, taking in the moon-light, just as I was about to tread back to my room at Jardim-A-Mar, I noticed a couple from Bangalore trying to enliven things at the beach, by floating a lantern in the sky. The yellow light against the dark sky provided a great visual.

I went over and told my friends who were staying across 2 different places, that we would need to get to the other end of the beach and ask for Dinesh. We would need to start at 5:45 am. Having slept at 12 midnight, I kept an alarm for 5:30 am, just to check if I had all of the right material required for the boat trip. I needed charged batteries for low light shots on my SLR Camera, and my beach bag of items. I started with my friends and we went in 2 batches, in order of laziness

The beach was yet to be kissed by the sun, so the twilight was ruling the roost, and with the right combination of White Balance, a beautiful sight played out as we walked to find Dinesh, the boatman.

Agonda Beach in Goa, as viewed from the Arabian Sea
Agonda Beach in Goa, as viewed from the Arabian Sea

I called Dinesh, Dinesh called me, and this cycle happened a few times. I would wave out, he would wave out, but we still didnt see each other. I pointed out to shack names, tree formations, rock formations and still I could not spot him. But after a painful 15 minutes of searching, we spotted each other. We got into the boat, and settled into our positions as indicated. Dinesh was fuming. We started off on a bad note. The agreed 800 Rs for the boat was now 1600 Rs, and Dinesh said that we had delayed him, and he had an another appointment at 7:30 am, so he said he would shorten our trip. The morning was precious, and I let go of the bad vibes by focussing on the boat and the expanse of the Arabian Sea.

 

Aye Aye Captain- We sail to Sea. Agonda Beach in Goa
Aye Aye Captain- We sail to Sea. Agonda Beach in Goa

The sea had a few boats around, I could see layers of plastic floating in the sea. It pains to see educated people dump plastic into the sea. Why on earth would they even bring a disposable plastic on a boat. Like the Christina Aguilera number “I am in a genie in a Bottle”, I hoped a genie would come and clean all the plastic and make Goa beautiful all over again.

I am a genie in a bottle baby-Arabian Sea between Agonda and Palolem beach
I am a genie in a bottle baby-Arabian Sea between Agonda and Palolem beach

 

The main agenda was to go slowly in the waters to see if the dolphins came out for some fresh air and jumped in front of us. The more our boatman tried searching, they would get scared of us, and go away in another direction. But we did spot a couple of them. I thought it would be fun, if one could follow the dolphins, if I had a drone. That would not disturb them, and we could also get good footage of Dolphins.

Dolphin Spotting near Butterfly Island in GoaDolphin Spotting near Butterfly Island in Goa

The sun was shining in all its glory, and I was seeing how the wooden rudders sleekly cut through the waters, against the golden haze of the sun, so as to smoothly take on the might on the sea, scything like knife on butter.

 

And the Boat Sails on-Agonda to Butterfly Island
And the Boat Sails on-Agonda to Butterfly Island

Our first stop was Honeymoon Island. I was told couples could get off here and spend some time in privacy. But I would not recommend this place so much based on an outside visit, since there are so many boats that come here and the water tide is also high. Maybe I should try spending a day here to see if the disturbance is actually as high as I imagine, but it certainly is no Robinson Crusoe type island. I have earlier seen such facilities offered in Lakshadweep, where couples are taken to an island with packed lunch and are picked up in the evening. It makes it beautiful in Lakshadweep because of the peace in the islands, and also because of the regulated tourist traffic. Honeymoon Island- Add to Wishlist

Part-3 ends here, and in Part 4, we shall see Butterfly Island, Turtle Rocks and the route back to Agonda.

Honeymoon Island in Goa
Honeymoon Island in Goa

 

 

 

 

 

Chilling in Agonda(Goa)-Part II

Chilling has become synonymous with Goa over the years. So, I pick Agonda, a beach destination in Goa this winter to catch up on some peace, and work on some of my assignments in my swimming trunks from a beach view with a milkshake in hand. Sounds like a plan? Here’s Part 2 of “Chilling in Agonda”

Continuing from Part-1

After a heavy breakfast at Fatima, I looked around to see what’s there. I saw a little Goan place, that had the words Peace Love and Music, and had quite an interesting cosy scene in the evenings. That kind of a place, that seems just right with a few people for conversations over food. I have not tried it yet, but I plan to do it the next time, I am back at Agonda.

Peace, Love and Music in Agonda(Goa)
Peace, Love and Music in Agonda(Goa)

The big landmark in Agonda is the St Anne’s church there. The Church is bang in the middle of a T Shaped junction, which pretty much is what Agonda is all about. Its a small village, with some vegetation on the left and right of the church, which is parallel to the beach, and a road opposite the Church which leads into the road going to Khola, Chaudi and Palolem. This is the main bus stop and expect to find an ATM (HDFC) here and all the contacts for Auto’s and bikes on rent. It’s a small village so you are bound to bump into the same set of people. I met a couple of my facebook friends who were nearby and asked them to come over, and met a solo traveller from Pune over dinner. You’d see all of them in Part 3 of the Agonda Travellogue.

St Anne's Church in Agonda (Goa)
St Anne’s Church in Agonda (Goa)

I walked a little further into the village, since the HDFC ATM was not functioning. Goa is largely a cash based economy in the beach shacks, with very little connectivity in beaches that are not completely on the main tourist circuit. I was told there was an SBI ATM in the distance, but I could not spot any. I found a beautiful Goan house, surrounded by the trees, and stood admiring it. Maybe next time I visit Goa, I should find a place like this on AirBnB, which is a house tucked into the village, away from the hustle and bustle of the new age Goa.

Goan House in the Woods-Agonda(Goa)
Goan House in the Woods-Agonda(Goa)

For some body who is used to being stuck in a traffic jam in either Velachery, Jubilee Hills or Tin Factory every week, seeing this sight of a bike breezing through an empty road in Agonda’s main market road was such a pleasant sight. This side of South Goa, Palolem is the new Calangute/Baga with tons of day tourists and big cars crowding the entrance to the beach. Try staying in Agonda and visiting Palolem.

No Jams, No Honking! Shanti in Agonda-Goa
No Jams, No Honking! Shanti in Agonda-Goa

Meet Sudeep, our hotel go-to-man at Jardim-A-Mar who entertained us with some stories. Sudeep is a traveller from Nepal who believes life is a trip, and he loves the concept of staying away from home every 3-4 years at a different place. One way to understand people, cultures and the world, given that he is passionate about giving people a great experience. Sudeep told me to try out the early morning trip the next day to go see the Dolphins. So he gave me the number of Dinesh-7798215322, the boatman who would take me out.

Meet Sudeep from Jardim-A-Mar in Agonda-Goa
Meet Sudeep from Jardim-A-Mar in Agonda-Goa

I settled by the cafe for a lunch. Given that eating food on Goan beach shacks is easily a 2 hour relaxed affair, I sunk into the menu card at Jardim-a-Mar to find my friend and I, a Mushroom Masala and a Ceasar Salad. We being vegetarians, went for the familar fare, along with some cheesy fried bites and French Fries. The food and the ambience is relaxing and peaceful, and the crowd also an eclectic bunch of people, who seemed to be here for the quietness and stillness, as opposed to being a noisy bunch. The only hitch we had in our rooms, was that the fan was slow, and with a mosquito net the air circulation was not very strong. Beyond a point, it was endured and we slept. This however, was not solved during the time we were there, leaving a sore point on our otherwise relaxing trip at Jardim-A-Mar. The Wifi was painfully slow, but that is not something I expected from them on a beautiful beach in Goa, and that is largely a function of the infrastructure available in such remote areas. The available wifi is being shared between all the users, and so will end up being slower than 2G. So dont expect much from the Wifi. Agonda has very poor 3G connectivity on Airtel and Reliance Jio does not even show up here. Palolem’s main beach and even Cancona island has excellent Airtel 4G connectivity.

I went back to sitting on the beach, and playing in the waves, and saw the coastguards combing around Agonda. A couple of them from the beach, and one in the sea, who was zipping over from one side to the other. I would have loved to know a little more about them and their lives, but that’s for the next trip, since I had to get back to work on my laptop. I had promised myself, that I would get a huge chunk of pending personal work done on this trip.

The Lifeguards in action in Agonda Beach-Goa
The Lifeguards in action in Agonda Beach-Goa

A walk every now and then on the beach never hurts! Lesser footprints in the sand, means that this beach is mostly yours. I am hoping it stays that way.

Lesser footprints and even lesser digital footprints
Lesser footprints and even lesser digital footprints

And I’d love to show off my new beach slippers, bought for the trip! After a bike trek all the way outside the city to Decathlon, in the city I live, it was worth the effort to show off 🙂

Showing off my Tribord slippers at Agonda (Goa)
Showing off my Tribord slippers at Agonda (Goa)

Hold on for the third part, where I travel to the nearby butterfly island, honeymoon island and talk with the sea! Aye Aye Captain!

Chilling in Agonda(Goa)-Part 1

Chilling has become synonymous with Goa over the years. So, I pick Agonda, a beach destination in Goa this winter to catch up on some peace, and work on some of my assignments in my swimming trunks from a beach view with a milkshake in hand. Sounds like a plan?

When you go on a holiday, its always between that seemingly binary choice between a mountain and a beach. I love the hills, but there’s something in the sea and the sand that draws me. Over time, I have travelled well enough to transcend beyond the binary choice, in being able to pick a beach town, that is adorned by hills. Yes! A beach holiday by the hills for company. I’ve seen it in Arambol, Kerim, Cola, Agonda, Kudle, Paradise Beach over the years, by the Konkan sea side. This time, I pick one beach on that route and add a third dimension (Palm-Tree Garden) to make the sea-side romance even more irresistible.

Wake up to the sea view in Agonda (Goa)
Wake up to the sea view in Agonda (Goa)

Its 7 am. The sun’s rays are making its way through the thatched huts in equated installments. That’s how nature nudges you to wake up, after ensuring you sleep very well with the lullabye of the sea waves crashing against the shore. I take up the cue to maybe just check out and open the door. I am quite surprised that at 7 am, I have braved the morning chill, and have stepped out of my mosquito net bed to open the door. That transaction, back in the city would have come after 4 missed snooze alerts, and a lot of resolve to get to the door. I went and sat in the portico, and took in the scenery of the palm trees that was playing bouncer to the morning sun. Greenery everywhere, a blue sea in the distance, and a hammock was laid out between the palm trees. The morning was appetizing in a while. My inner self was checking twice to see, if there was any hooter or horn sound around. It was just the ruffling of leaves and the chill morning breeze that was playing cupid with the early warmth of the sun.  The folks at Jardim-A-Mar were not yet up, but they had planted enough trees for me to feel wanted and connected. Like a bank fixing an ATM for customer service, these guys had fixed these trees and some art installations that welcomed you as you walked across the resort.

Wake up! Chill out! Sussegaado!
Wake up! Chill out! Sussegaado!

Life was playing out one frame at a time. I liked the slowness of life that had the word ‘P E A C E’ all around the house. The sea was slowly retreating back from the beach, after a few hours of ‘making hay’ while the moon shone. The beach had become a little bigger and was sloping towards the sea. Its this little slope on a curved section of the beach that adds to the romance of a peaceful beach life.

Taking a sunrise walk along the expanse of Agonda Beach in Goa
Taking a sunrise walk along the expanse of Agonda Beach in Goa

I decided to take a walk and explore the curves of Agonda beach. The sun was shining through the palm trees, and painting a surreal picture of the place. It was like ‘Photoshop’ hour, where the actual scenery is assisted by external elements. This scene would be there for a few more minutes, and I decided to bask in the beauty of enjoying the sun’s rays. I walked in the water, trying to play if the water would come up to me. I saw it like a series, I won some and lost some, but when I lost, the chillness of the water would make me respect the warmth from the sun. The water from the sea and the sun, came together to make it an eventful morning for me.

Feeling the morning sun in Agonda (Goa)
Feeling the morning sun in Agonda (Goa)
Kissing is always a good way to start the day in Agonda (Goa)
Kissing is always a good way to start the day in Agonda (Goa)

I walked over to the side of the beach, and saw that the morning sun had settled. The morning walkers were out, doing the same routine as I was, but a digital camera lesser.

Since they had lesser distractions from technology, they decided to entertain themselves, by starting the day on a good note. Here’s wishing the couple a love filled day and a romantic life ahead. Seeing this was so nice to start the day, after having got used in the city to wake up to a newspaper that reports about war, deceit and crime. I really don’t see why Public Displays of affection are so frowned upon, in a world in search of peace and love.

 

Relaxing on Agonda Beach (Goa)
Relaxing on Agonda Beach (Goa)

A little further down the beach, a few folks were out to interact with the sea. A young girl in her yoga suit, curving her body to practising an asana, a boy in swimming trunks contemplating life, and a family that chose to enjoy the ‘out door’ pool by choosing to sit at the edge of where the waves were starting to hit the coast. Agonda was a different world away from all the party noise at Neptune Valley or Leopard Valley, which were the noisy party hotspots in this part of Goa.

While the breakfast was served at my restaurant, I decided to walk to the village to try and see what’s available for breakfast to get my fix of exploring the village. The beach was parallel to the road where the market was an it was just a walk across any of the coastal beach huts by the trees into the area adjoining the church, and I came by a little canal, that was surrounded by trees on both sides. I wondered how nature had designed these trees with just enough leaning and angle to sound so cool, and bring in so much greenery into the village.

To get to this place below, point your lat longs to 15.0415,73.9891

The backwaters in Agonda (Goa)
The backwaters in Agonda (Goa)

I settled on Fatima’s Corner for my breakfast. I had basically got a little bored of seeing menu’s that no way resemble an Indian menu, [though the food at my place (Jardim-A-Mar) was top-class and had an excellent menu, it was a little too expensive for a breakfast. The lunch there though was fabulous and that is reviewed in Part-2]. I settled for some Aloo Parathas, Banana Milkshake and Nutella laced pancake. Guess what, I was not done yet. I even managed some more place in my tummy over the course of a 2 hour breakfast. My morning had a oxymoronic feel from being eventful and peaceful at the same time! My Agonda holiday was going in the right direction.

A great place for an economical breakfast-Fatima's Corner in Agonda-Goa
A great place for an economical breakfast-Fatima’s Corner in Agonda-Goa

 

Do stay tuned to Part-2 coming up shortly!

 

For the Love of the Konkan!

I got off the bus, after a rather loud and unpleasant shriek by the conductor. I was in the Konkan railway heartland and “Udipi, Udipi, Udipi” was repeating right in my ear. I got up like the bus was on fire, and quickly swooped down, with my bag and slippers to get out of the bus. The conductor smiled and goaded the driver to move on, while I stood visibly shocked from his way of waking passengers on a sleeper bus. I was lucky that I had my bag all sorted, so I did not leave behind anything in the bus. I stretched my body and looked around the junction. It was morning already. I still had an hour before I boarded the morning passenger train from Mangalore that would stop at Udupi. I proceeded to walk over to the nearby Sri Krishna Temple, and take a walk around the temple town.

Kartik Kannan starting his trip at the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple
Kartik Kannan starting his trip at the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple

The temple had quite a stream of visitors, and the flower sellers were out in full numbers. I was taken in by the old-school throwback to the way place was. I looked around for some small eateries and found none near the temple complex, so walked a bit further back to the bus stand to find some ‘Udupi Restaurant’ that I have seen all along in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. I found one, but it was quite costly to find ‘Udupi Food’ in Udupi. After taking a quick parcel, and charging my phone, I took an auto to the Udupi Railway station which was about a couple of kilometres but since there is no real meter system, the auto person charges surge pricing always. 80 rs from the Udupi Bus stand to the Udupi Railway station, which is 60% more than the overall train ticket, I was about to buy that would traverse 200 kilometres across the Konkan Coast. Drat, That’s the thing with local transport in a tourist town!

Flower Seller at Udupi's Sri Krishna Temple
Flower Seller at Udupi’s Sri Krishna Temple

Once I reached Udupi’s Railway station, I proceeded to wait for the train, that never seemed to come. Then there is always this confusion on which direction I had to go, if the wrong direction train shows up at the right time. I had a train going to Kerala show up on the other platform, and then I realised that its not going towards Mumbai/Goa. I was on a ticket from Udupi to Madgaon, with the freedom of getting off anywhere I chose before Madgaon. That’s the carefree freedom a 50 Rupees ticket buys you.

Waiting at Udupi Railway Station
Waiting at Udupi Railway Station

One thing I noted at Udupi and with other stations on the Konkan Railway was that most stations seem to have a ramp that goes up on both sides, instead of steps. This is inclusive for old people as well as disabled people. I am not sure, if it was designed that way, but I could see these similarities in these small and scenic railway stations on the Konkan coastline.

Sloped walk way all over Konkan Railway Stations- Udupi Railway Station
Sloped walk way all over Konkan Railway Stations- Udupi Railway Station

All of the small stations on this stretch have shelters like the one below. It has a structure that means that each one sits facing each other, and the benches are pretty old school. I find this quite cool over the waiting rooms with power supply. There’s a sense of feeling special in these roofed shelters. Udupi is one of the bigger stations after Mangalore, and is a stop for the Rajdhani express. So planning your holiday works better if you are boarding your train at Mangalore Central/Mangalore Junction/Udipi. For the religiously inclined, the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple and the Kollur Moogambika Temple are your point of calls in this area.

The simplicity of railway shelters at Barkur Railway Station
The simplicity of railway shelters at Barkur Railway Station

 

The passenger trains find my fancy, as it slowly cuts across the length of Karnataka, transitioning into Goa amidst the scenic vistas outside the window. This train, that I board is called the Mangaluru-Madgaon Passenger (56640) and is usually very slow between Mangalore and Udupi, lazing its way around the first 70 kilometres. So if you miss the train at Mangalore(6:10 am), you can still catch a fast bus to Udupi and hope to catch the train there, which usually comes at 8:15 am(scheduled at 7:30 though). The train fills up between Udupi and Kundapura, so if you board at any point after Kundapura, your chances of getting a seat is usually dependent on someone getting off in a nearby village. In Udupi, you just have enough time to barge in and find the vacant location. If you do get a window seat, latch on to it like your life depends on it, since that is your passport to fantasy in immersing yourself in this rugged and serene landscape.

 

All aboard on the Mangaluru-Madgaon Passenger (56640)
All aboard on the Mangaluru-Madgaon Passenger (56640)

This is a relatively new route, and is not frequented much by people, except those travelling from these villages or from Mangalore to go towarsds Goa/Mumbai. The rail track was opened for general public from the 26th of January, 1998 as part of the then newly formed Konkan Railways headquartered at Navi Mumbai, with 738 kilometres of rail connecting Mangalore and Mumbai through Goa. Pre 1998, People n Mangalore had to find a bus to Bangalore, and a train from there connecting to Davenegere-Hubli-Belgaum(Belagavi now)-Pune-Mumbai. Go down to the bottom of the post to see some links/resources talking about the history of the Konkan Railways and some early travellogues maintained.

The train slowly stops at Kundapura. I chuckle knowing that Hyderabad has a place called Kondapur, which is similar in pronunciation but world’s apart when it comes to beauty and peace. The train stops for a couple of minutes, and I walk down to check if there is something I can munch on. I am done with morning Idlis, and its well past 9 am now, and my stomach has its urges every now and then. I only find Lays and aerated drinks, which I dont drink. I would love to have tender coconut available, but I manage with a mango drink for the journey.

The railway stations are small, and have a a sense of memories. With 1 book shop,  1 waiting room, 1 food stall,  there are limited places to walk to and you register elements of the railway station better.

Minimalistic Railway stations on the Konkan Line- Stoppage at Kundapura
Minimalistic Railway stations on the Konkan Line- Stoppage at Kundapura

Once you are in the train, the greens around the railway track will consume you. The greens in the paddy fields, the greens in the palm trees lining the rivers that flow into the Arabian Sea, the greens of the little hills that the train cuts through. The greens basically talk to you, drawing you to think that keeping your face to the rail window was a full time activity. The real value of the rail ticket is the window seat, from which you will see how similar landscapes are in a place where eating customs and languages change.

The Konkan Greens outside the window!
The Konkan Greens outside the window!

If you have not got the window seat, another alternative could be the seat on the door of the compartment, which opens up a wider range of vision. Attempt this only when the train slows down or is going slowly. It is dangerous to sit near the door.

Footboard Seat on the Konkan Railways
Footboard Seat on the Konkan Railways

The villages by the Konkan, make you sitback and take notice as the palm trees, besides the greens mesmerize you into wanting to be part of the landscape. You keep building so many postcards in the mind, that at one point, you just want to keep coming back to visit this stretch. A camera helps you recconect to frames of what you saw while on the move, and helps you in planning the next trip. Imagine lagoons, tunnels, mountains, farms, paddy fields, quaint villages just keeping on repeating as the train chugs its way through the rugged landscape.

When the sun colours the green golden!
When the sun colours the green golden!

 

As the train passes through beautiful lagoons, you look at those little patches of green amidst the blue and marvel at the colour contrast. What if you could own on of these? Would you retire peacefully? I almost feel like saying yes, but my home loan EMI pops up like satan with a spear, and I get back to dreamily looking at the scenes outside the window. There are roads that cut through greenery, there are people walking on stretches where the morning rays of the sun merge with the green of the paddy and give it a golden glow and I wonder should I pull the chain and just wander into these villages and see them.

Lovely Lagoons by the Konkan Railway
Lovely Lagoons by the Konkan Railway

 

I am stuck to these blue horizontal bars, with my eyes looking at the villages outside. I keep taking my ‘commercial breaks’ by having conversations with passengers on the train. One thing about these second class compartments, and especially the ones where long distance train tickets cost less than a hundred rupees is that people are bound to speak to you, share their lives, their thoughts and even their food. In my case, after learning that I am a photographer, a couple of people asked me to take the window seats. I am indebted to them, as they parted with their window seats. They were middle aged men from a factory in Erode in Tamil Nadu, and were on a bachelor trip to Goa, and were excited about their first trip to Goa. The added fact that I speak Tamil in an unfamilar terrain across the Konkan, also gave me brownie points.

Grab that windows seat!
Grab that windows seat!

 

Every time a lagoon came, I’d freeze. I’d freeze since the frame was stunning. When you encounter a huge waterbody after seeing dense trees all around, all of a sudden your space in front of your eyes increases to take in the enormity of a tiny train trudging through the Konkan railway. The senses freeze and allow you to ‘screenshot’ the image into your mind, in the limited time that the trees get back into the frame. This was like your energy booster in the middle of a long journey. Every now and then, you manage to get back to the window, even though you see nondescript villages pass by, just for the fear of missing out scenery like this.

Freeze Please! Konkan Railway gem on display
Freeze Please! Konkan Railway gem on display

Villages pass by with orangish Paths, covering whatever is left of the road, being garlanded by tall palm trees. It looks like the tree is the parents and they are chaperoning the village from getting urbanized. They are doing a good job at it. Reddish brown tiles, and Green cover all around makes you feel like stress, urgency and a fast pace don’t really have a standing here. An old man walks along the mud path, like he must have for all these years, with a smile. Somebody in the train is playing ‘Malare’ on their bluetooth speaker, as the train ambles through Kundapura and Senapura.  The world seems more beautiful, with a mellifluos song, sung in sync with scenery that is shouting at you to look at it with its wares.

Scenic Rural Roads by the railway track in Karnataka
Scenic Rural Roads by the railway track in Karnataka

 

Seeing Trucks piggy bank on Rail wagons, made me google a bit to understand what this was. I found out that this was part of an Indian Railways scheme called ‘Roll-On-Roll-Off’, which was introduced in January 1999, a year after the Konkan Railways was open commercially.  This scheme helps decongest roads, as the trucks now travel on the rail network, resulting in a savings of 750 lakh litres of diesel fuel. The RO-RO concept was flagged off earlier this year in Bihar

Rail On Rail Off Scheme on the Konkan Railway
Rail On Rail Off Scheme on the Konkan Railway

 

Soon after crossing the mighty Sharavati river, Honnavar shows up. Its one of the bigger stations on this rail network, but a look at the local villages doesnt suggest that anything is any different. I wonder if the local economies and entertainment revolve around the arrival and departure of the infrequent trains at these stations. Bombay,but not quite Bombay, as latter has people’s life revolving around more frequent trains that is a maddening rush, but these stations along the Konkan, have a pretty laidback approach to life. I spot a little school near the railway track, and each time the train hoots through the treacherous terrain, the kids quite love the attention, and wave out to us. Simple joys and pleasures of life that have been numbed by living in an insecure city life. I question, why the damn life in a city, and why not a life earning enough to be peaceful and be grounded and connected to nature. The Home Loan EMI devil stares at me. I regret even posting the question and get back to engaging my senses with nature.

Serene views of a waterbody on the Konkan Railway route
Serene views of a waterbody on the Konkan Railway route

The names of the stations are in a shade of yellow, against the dusted white walls. It’s like the stations had a uniform.  The Konkan railways have numbered portions of the stations, with a white board showing the coach number. Since they have limited trains passing through, the vendors and the TT know exactly which coach stops. Maybe ‘Google Now’ can next tell me, to walk a 127 steps to the general compartment. Maybe in a few years on the Konkan Railway! The picket fences are the identity of the Konkan Railway, in the midst of the little greenery that surrounds it on the station. When I approached Murdeshwar, I could spot the giant Shiva statue right on the beach, from the railway track. This little village also has some Scuba Diving options near the temple complex.

Konkan's own style picket fences
Konkan’s own style picket fences

As the train moves on, the paddy fields are swathed over large expanses. There is so much open space, and it mildly manages to open up my constipated mind. Cattle has places to graze, children have places to play, the animals have a localized water body to quench their thirst and this is the normal world, we urban citizens seem to have moved away from. There are workers in the field waving at us, the children are playing cricket by a dilapidated wall for a pavilion, and the train keeps passing through vistas of endless greenery, lagoons and tunnels. Harwada shows up, out of the blue. I thought it was a stop for a signal, it turned out to be a railway station with no sign of a platform or maybe I didnt look harder.

Stopping by Harwada Railway Station in Karnataka. Wait is there even a platform here?
Stopping by Harwada Railway Station in Karnataka. Wait is there even a platform here?

The train passes through Harwada, and goes towards Loliem. Yes, a railway station that starts with LOL, which basically has a beautiful view of the Arabian sea meeting the Talpona River, near Xandrem beach. Once the beach names end with a ‘drem’ you know that the Konkan Railways has stepped into the wonderland called Goa. Loliem is the first station from the southern side.

Where the Arabian Sea meets the Talpona River in Goa
Where the Arabian Sea meets the Talpona River in Goa

The train ambles its way to the Cancon district, housing a railway station called Cancona. This railway station is where you get off to see the curvy palm linings of Palolem and the peaceful Agonda, Khola and Gajlibaga beaches in Goa. The railway station is scenic and is surrounded by hills. The station has autos and taxis that schedule their movement based on incoming/outgoing trains.

August-2008, my friend and I vacated our shack at Palolem during the monsoons, as it was dull, and a friend of ours called us to Candolim, so we went to Cancona station at 10 in the night to catch a train to Thivim. As soon as the autorikshaw left us, it started raining cats and dogs, and there was no one at the station, except the person manning the ticket counter. There was no way we could go back even if we wanted, since the station was in the midst of a mini forest amidst the hills. Since we were to only buy an unreserved ticket, my friend and I started to postpone buying our ticket for the midnight train. When we walked up to the ticket counter, we found out to our dismay that the train coming now was going in the opposite direction and our train was scheduled only early in the morning at 7 am. We had nothing to do at the station. We had a couple of hours of laptop battery, so we were watching a movie, sitting uncomfortably on the rocky chairs, while the mosquitoes sucked all the blood from two vegetarian tee-totallers, for a difference given the usual alcohol laced blood it must be used to stocking up on. We woke up groggy eyed, to see patriotic songs being played. It was India’s 61’st Independence day, and the station master was busy with preparations for the Independence day function. We got up, and feltwe had missed that 7 am train, and then we realised that the train was late, owing to the monsoon. We waved to the station master and went back to boarding our train, with memories of spending an independence day at a quaint railway station

An autorikshaw ferries passengers from Canacona Railway station in Goa
An autorikshaw ferries passengers from Canacona Railway station in Goa

The Kadamba bus stand as seen as from the Cancona railway station. Its about a brisk 15 minute walk to get to civilisation to Chaudi market. I liked what I saw, and felt that this was a good time to get off and explore something in these parts of the woods. So as all good things come to an end, my Konkan rail experience ends here.

The view of the Kadamba Bus station at Chaudi near Canacona Railway Station in Goa
The view of the Kadamba Bus station at Chaudi near Canacona Railway Station in Goa

 

Important Notes and External Links



Getting on this train

From Chennai– Board the Lalbagh express at 1535 hours and reach Krishnarajapuram in Bangalore by 9 pm. Uber your way to Hebbal to board the 22:00 Udupi bound bus, which goes through Mangalore. The train at Mangalore starts at 6:10 am, and arrives in Udupi at 7:30 am. So get off accordingly to go and board the train.

From Bangalore– If possible get on the 2015 KSRTC bus from Majestic Bus stand, and get down in Udupi at 5 in the morning. You would have enough time to refresh and board the train at 7:30 am.

From Hyderabad– Your only real chance is to board the bus from Hyderabad to Gokarna and then catch the train from Gokarna Road railway station, where a significant part of the journey is missed on the Konkan Railway route. Its easier to reach Goa than Gokarna, so that stat is a bummer, but you really dont want to miss this train journey.


Konkan Railway Reference Map- Use this map for planning where to get off in between or just planning your journey. Original Image here, but a short portion of it is shown below for consumption

Konkan Railway Map
Konkan Railway Map

Travel Postcards-03

This edition of the Travel Postcards features a little village, by the northernmost beach in Goa. That little village that no one told you about. That little village, that is nestled in the middle of nowhere, like a bermuda triangle between the intersection of the Arabian Sea, The Terekhol river, and a little sleepy village.

“This series, called the Travel Postcards are basically the short story version of a single frame. Some tales are told between 2 sips of your juice. These are those tales. Not too long, Not too short, a little context, a little perspective and yes, they do act as a pill, that you can pop up for some travel inspiration”

It has an ancient fort (Fort Tiracol), which is now converted into a luxury hotel. Once you get to the Hotel, you will come across the rooms, which are named after each day of the week, and when you get to the eating area, you will have a beautiful view of Kerim Village by the palm trees and the beautiful curves of the Kerim beach. Even if you cant stay here, you can hop over on the free ferry from Kerim, to the Terekhol side, and walk up to the fort on an ascent. You could also chose to go via an auto, but that kills the charm of such a beautiful place. Get there at a Leisure walk, until the bright orange of the fort welcomes you.

Terekhol Fort in Goa
Terekhol Fort in Goa

You would be drive through this palm tree laden path to arrive at Kerim’s jetty. Its a scenic drive from Arambol Village or Pernem Railway station to come here to cross over to the other side. Kerim is away from the noise of Punjabi music blaring, away from noisy tourists and most importantly far away from any kind of populist ride like the Banana boat rides or water scooters. It makes the beach and the village a lesser attraction, but that’s where the charm of Kerim lies. Away from it all, so that you discover yourself and the that 3 letter word called G O A.

Palm Trees lining Kerim Village
Palm Trees lining Kerim Village

To know more about this place, keep visiting this space for a longer piece on Fort Tiracol. Till then, spread the love and let the travellers know about Terekhol. It doesnt cost much!

Goan Monsoon Musings-Part 1

The alarm rang at 7 am as planned, the snooze button was activated (not as planned) and I went back to sleep. I heard the sounds of droplets of water falling hard outside the floor of my hotel. It was raining hard. I was in the midst of the Goa n monsoon, and there was no escaping from the fury of the Goan Monsoon. The sea was raging too. I could hear the waves, as it crashed on the whatever was left off the coast of Sernabatim in Goa. I was at Furtardo’s Beach Café, which was perched on a slightly elevated platform, with the beach having been eroded. So the waves basically hit against the hotel wall, and I was that close to the monsoon’s fury. I stepped out of my room, and opened the door, and the main area was just fine. The fury had not swallowed my room. The beach shack’s garden, was glowing green all over, fresh from the rains.

Main Reception at Furtardo's Beach House in Sernabatim-Goa
Main Reception at Furtardo’s Beach House in Sernabatim-Goa

Umbrella clad, I stepped out to the beach below me. The rain had abated a bit, though the winds were strong. There were a handful of people on the beach, presumably locals who were maybe at their daily walks, suggesting that everything is normal. The coconut trees, were trembling and could not quite mask the calmness of the locals. The weather felt beautiful.

 

Winds and Rain-Goan Monsoon at Sernabatim Beach
Winds and Rain-Goan Monsoon at Sernabatim Beach

An hour and many droplets later, I was on the road. I had made my plans for the day to get outdoors and drive through the Goan monsoon. There’s a special charm to Goa in the monsoons. Its as if the whole state is painted with grey skies and green grass all over. If you had to fall in love, make love, or rekindle your vows towards a relationship, Goa in the monsoons is when you come. A little walk through Sernabatim village maybe.

As soon as I started walking, the sun chose to make a guest appearance. The paddy fields seemed to have 2 shades of green, gleaming in the morning sun. It was beautiful. The different shades were due to different sets of farming efforts maybe since there was a boundary in between separating the plots. But 2 shades of green was maybe all I needed to ramble along.

 

wsf-goajul-sernabatimvillage2-ver2-normal

wsf-goajul-sernabatimvillage4

 

The roads were empty. No Tourists, Just the locals, Just the way Goa functions normally, and I was put right in that situation. I saw a diminutive uncle, taking his wife on a cycle, amidst the tall trees and wet roads. For a village, these were pretty sturdy roads. I have lived in Bombay, Bangalore and Chennai, and at the first sign of rains in a remote colony, the roads disintegrate. There was just the odd puddle of rain water stagnating but the villages were pristine and un touched by all the tourism.

wsf-goajul-sernabatimvillage6

wsf-goajul-sernabatimvillage7-bw

I quite loved the colourful houses, complementing the contrast that the monsoon brings to Goa. On the red bricks, that anyway dominate most homes in the Konkan belt, you are bound to see moss and off shoots of plants, as borders between the house and the roads. Weak borders at that, which could fall anytime.

 

wsf-goajul-sernabatimvillage8

If the houses, were not enough for color, the Goan vehicles too oozed off some quirky colours. I saw a greenish Bajaj scooter, over looking a Honda Activa parked in the distance. It was about 9 am, and I see a Goan youth, cozying up in the little space that is there as seats, to lazily read the morning news. It’s a working day for most part of India, but Goa is as relaxed as ever. It’s an alternate reality in Goa, which does good job of convincing people that life is ‘better in goa’(Like those T shirts).

wsf-goajul-sernabatimvillage9

 

I come across a Goan Taxi stand, which is basically a shed, that was built in the middle of nowhere. The wall is basically their ‘Amul Advertisement type medium’ to let the world know that they could call these folks for a taxi. The Taxi union in Goa, I hear is very strong. They have not allowed private radio taxis/app based businesses to set shop in Goa, which protects local establishments, but works out not so well for travellers.

wsf-goajul-sernabatimvillage3

More coming in the second edition!

 

 

Travel Postcards-01

This edition features a beautiful little hippie village near the extreme north end of Goa called the Arambol Sweet Lake Beach (Kalacha). This featured prominently in the beginning and end scenes of the 2011 Bollywood flick titled “Dum Maro Dum”

“This series, called the Travel Postcards are basically the short story version of a single frame. Some tales are told between 2 sips of your juice. These are those tales. Not too long, Not too short, a little context, a little perspective and yes, they do act as a pill, that you can pop up for some travel inspiration”

 

 

Camping in Goa (Arambol Sweet Lake)
Camping in Goa (Arambol Sweet Lake)

This photo was taken at 10 in the night at this beach in Goa, called Arambol. The beach is sandwiched between a Sweet Water Lake, Mountains and the Sea. Telephone signals havent made it here, and nor have hotels. So it means, there are patches of Goa, that still have a pristine rustic look, and out of bounds for tourists. Arambol-Sweet Lake beach, or the Kalacha Beach is a beautiful beach that you could look forward to camp at in the night without any interference. You do have a few basic shacks that go upto INR 1000 a night during high season, and upto 200-300 a night in the normal season. This beach is best avoided in the off season, as its off the traveller circuit, as everything here is normally empty in the monsoons. Couple of fun things to do on this beach, and that will come shortly on a post that will be hyperlinked from here. For now tata!

Finding Love and Warmth in Arambol-Goa

My hands are for some reason, not very comfortable to type. I am sitting by the side of the big rocks that adorn the extreme end of the beach. My hands are having minute layers of sand on them, which for some reason are not going off. I wash off the sand with water, and then use my towel, which, I later figure is dirtier than my hand. I turn to my shorts, and its setting the barometer for sand higher than the towel. My hands are still muddy. I give up the phone, and take a look at the scenery that surrounds me.

Tented at Arambol
Tented at Arambol

 

 

My tent stares at me from a distance, as I have been away from it. Its pretty warm out here, and for some reason, I haven’t been getting any wind my side. I decided to go a little further between the rocks, as it gave me some shade.

 

There’s a helper who is ferrying food and beer to travellers laying out at the beach beds at the other end of the beach. There are travellers running on top of the hill and jumping off it, only to paraglide over the beach.

 

I decide to try the second option, and walk over to Mohinder, who’s been at it for most part of the day, flying guests over the Arambol landscape. He says 1200, and after some bargaining, helping him find more people, we settle at 1000 per trip. I am escorted up a hill, and I am asked to wear the flying equipment, tying the ropes to my body. I will have Mohinder behind me, who will do the manouevering for directions, while I play passenger. Ok, run to the count of 3, he says. I don’t believe the parachute will take off. I actually don’t. I run half heartily on the cliff and Mohinder asks me to jump, with a little bit of the runway still preserved. My legs are in the air, slightly above the rocks and in 2 seconds, I was over the cliff and flying in the air. That moment was surreal. I was flying and gaining some ascent, and saw the world from above.8907_10151340467875860_509716593_n

 

The ocean was endless and it just showed how visually powerful is a body with no ends. The Arabian sea on one side, the green hills on the other, A beautiful beach below, and it felt so relaxing staring at this scenery. The scenery was accompanied by pin drop silence. I was paragliding into the sunset and moon rise, and I spent those 15-20 minutes up in the air when the sun and moon exchange duties and take over.

37081_10151340466545860_524376450_n

28773_10151340470915860_445612545_n

It also made me briefly feel immortal. Its not a bad thing to feel, when in Goa.

1989_10151340478870860_1371613500_n

Until, I was brought down to earth. The warmth I had on me, from the evening sun, was a very different and comfortable feeling that was handed down. I had one of the most memorable and tranquil experiences, experiencing silence on the top.

 

313908_10151345747750860_54813213_n

My pilot (Mohinder) ensured that I got off with a minimal thud, when we land. I was exuding with warmth when I got down to soak in another view in fading light.

 

165036_10151349466580860_732571454_n

I saw a young couple kissing passionetly on the beach. I wasn’t sure whether I could go and ask them, since that would ruin the moment.  The moment was sublime, since the couple did not quite worry about who were around. They were basically creating their own world, with a scenic beach and just them in the scene. So much of passion as the twilight took over from the sun. Maybe finding love and warmth on a beach, should now be a life goal. Maybe!