Category Archives: India Travel

Exploring South Goa-Part-5-The Rough Trek to The Private Secret Beach-Cola

This is a series on exploring South Goa keeping Agonda as the base. Part-1 talks about arriving at the village of Agonda, Part-2 talks about ‘The Space’ and RajBaga Beach. Part-3  talks about the little village of Sadolxem (where a scene from the Bollywood Movie ‘Dear Zindagi’ was filmed) and Galjibaga. In Part 4, we explored the nearby Cabo-De Rama Fort. In Part-5 we explore the secret private beach of Cola hidden in by the hills in South Goa.

Eavesdropping on Trails

I was mixing the butter and jam on either sides of my bread toast, when I heard a conversation, that Cola Beach was nearby. I proceeded to ask them if it was walkable from here. The staff of Manveer’s kitchen got into a conversation on some trails from here. The first trail they spoke about was a forest trail to Butterfly Island (which could have leapoards for company) and it seemed like a day long trip. I anyway did not have so much time. I had a train to catch back to Mangalore at 4 pm, and my window was a 2 hour window when Nandu would go to sleep post the heavy brunch. The other option was to trek to Cola Beach, but the challenge was to get past a swelling lagoon at high tide to the other side, and trek from there. Option 2 sounded better, but the challenge was in mapping my legs properly across the swelling sea-meeting-lagoon place as high tide was fast approaching.

Crossing over at high tide [South Goa-India]
Crossing over at high tide [South Goa-India]
Crossing the Sea-Lagoon at while the high tide swells

I took one of the staff for company to the point near the sea meeting the lagoon, after Nandu fell asleep with my mother. I needed the staff to make sure, I was able to pick the right angle to walk in the water, and I had some help just incase the water level went too high. The locals know this place and the right path across 2 landmasses based on the time of the day [and the tide]. I had to diagonally walk with my camera bag on the top of my head, which also had my phone. I only wore my swimming trunks and had a towel on my head to give the camera bag some more height above the water. Its scary to try this alone, and its advisable to do it in the lowest of tides and not during the high tide OR get the help of a local to know how to cross the path.

The little beach at the end after the Agonda Lagoon has a series of steps, that are tough to spot. Its a very dry part of the forest that needs you to patiently trek up for about 10 minutes. You will see Chattai Beach huts on your left as the jungle path merges with a dry plateau on the top of the hill.

Forest roads to reach a plateau on top [South Goa-India]
Forest roads to reach a plateau on top [South Goa-India]
Leaving behind Agonda

Agonda Beach’s huts and Manveer’s kitchen were small midgets as seen from the top. I proceeded to dry myself and find the path to Cola.

 

 

30 minutes later, I leave behind Agonda Beach from the forest leading to Cola [South Goa-India]
As I keep walking along, I am not quite sure on the route to be taken. These are not roads, but just mud paths on a mountain. I follow my instructions to the tee, by keeping an eye out on the directional west, where the sea has to be there.  I wander for about 15 minutes, which feels like 45 because I dont carrry a water bottle, and its very warm at this time of the day, burning my skin. It feels like a binary chart where I encounter 2 paths and I take the one I think feels right, with the hope that I can trace my path back like in the fable ‘Hansel and Gretel’

After 20 minutes, the sights are still the same [South Goa-India]
After 20 minutes, the sights are still the same [South Goa-India]
The Trek to Nowhere

The arid landscape can make you doubt your path taken, and it feels uncomfortable since there are no humans on this path. Atleast if there was a dog, I can trust it and follow it. I was wondering if this was the problem of city dwellers that we need re-affirmation and clear directions when we are in an exploration mode. The locals who stay here, somehow find their path without too much of fuss. Their estimate of ‘half-hour’ can be very different for people not from this place.

Searing heat, Mud Paths and wild outgrowth on a trek! [South Goa-India]
Searing heat, Mud Paths and wild outgrowth on a trek! [South Goa-India]
After a lot of binary decisions on which path to take, I felt the need for drinking water. I had none, and there was no shop around for the limited horizon that I could see. I was trying to see, if some music or sounds of humans talking could help lead me, but I found no one for company. I gave myself another 15 minutes, before I will wind up this exploration, and go back to the hotel for lunch.

Left or Right? No signs or humans here [Agonda to Cola Trek-South Goa-India]
Left or Right? No signs or humans here [Agonda to Cola Trek-South Goa-India]
In about 10 minutes, I found the plateau giving way to views of the sea. I was happy that the sea was around. In the distance, I saw what seemed like a Maruti 800. I went closer and found out that vehicles including autos manage to come uptil this place for dropping guests who stay on Cola Beach. The guests have to trek their way down to finding paradise. I found a car with a bottle of water, and I literally felt the water going down my parched throat right inside my body. I was viewing that in slow motion, as the water rejuvenated every strand of my food pipe right into my burgeoning belly.

Finally signs of the sea start to come in [South Goa-India]
Finally signs of the sea start to come in [South Goa-India]
I figured out from the taxi driver, that I need not have laboured so much with the high tide, as there was another walking path into the forest from Agonda Beach. Google Maps also points to that path, but Agonda having very little Airtel signals meant that I was not really using my phone in this place.

The alternate route from Agonda to Cola by Walk [South Goa-India]
The alternate route from Agonda to Cola by Walk [South Goa-India]
Paradise Found- Cola Beach

Fe Fi Fo Fum- Is that a Beach? [Cola Village-South Goa-India]
Fe Fi Fo Fum- Is that a Beach? [Cola Village-South Goa-India]
As soon as I saw the beach from above, there was excitement brewing up in my body. The wind from the sea on the hill top, the colour of the sea that was stretching the hazy horizon, and the anticipation of being part of paradise, made me take in the sights and feel happy for having made the little trek. The sea and I have our conversations, and I was ready for yet another patch of sand seen differently.

Cola felt like Paradise. The Paradise that stalks you on Facebook and Travel magazines, seductively drawing you by its palms and waterbodies. As a photographer-traveller, this sight of a patch of sand that would qualify as a badly moulded quadrilateral having water on its either long sides, surrounded by the green palms slanting in the distance. The trees were leaning and wanting to stretch out to you, welcoming you to the place. You wonder many things at that very moment. You see yourself in the fresh water lagoon, as a respite from the searing sun, you see yourself frolicking by the Arabian sea, as each wave brings with it an energy that you willingly surrender to as it pushes you to the coast. You are not there yet, but mentally you are already in the water. The body craves for being in sync with the mind, and I rush, pacing my steps down the hill faster.

First Visions of Cola Beach- Paradise Found [South Goa-India]
First Visions of Cola Beach- Paradise Found [South Goa-India]
A clearer vision of the beauty of Cola Beach from the hills [South Goa-India]
A clearer vision of the beauty of Cola Beach from the hills [South Goa-India]
A small beach shack on the hill in Cola Beach [South Goa-India]
A small beach shack on the hill in Cola Beach [South Goa-India]
I spot a beautiful shack, as I make my way down, and I pause a bit to feel what kind of a view that would be to wake up to. In off-season this patch of paradise could be lesser than the money I pay in surge-pricing on my Uber commute for a week. I mentally make the math and make a note to come back here in that precise cottage. Desire has a strange way to come back later in your life!

I leave you with some images of the beach, the lagoon that runs deep into the woods. I was not able to click any more inside the resort as its a private resort, and most day-trippers are rudely turned away by the staff of the resort. The scenes inside the resort as the lagoon meanders its way is even more beautiful, but sadly its a view that only people who opt to stay here can have. But till then, have a look at a slice of paradise.

Pick Your Blues in Cola [South Goa-India]
Pick Your Blues in Cola [South Goa-India]
I feel like jumping right into the lagoon! [Cola beach in South Goa-India]
I feel like jumping right into the lagoon! [Cola beach in South Goa-India]

The thin patch of sand between the sea and the lagoon at Cola Beach [South Goa-India]
The thin patch of sand between the sea and the lagoon at Cola Beach [South Goa-India]
Canoeing in the meandering lagoons of Cola [South Goa-India]
Canoeing in the meandering lagoons of Cola [South Goa-India]

The meandering lagoon at Cola Beach [South Goa-India]
The meandering lagoon at Cola Beach [South Goa-India]

The beautiful Cola Village with the lagoon running deep inside the village [South Goa-India]
The beautiful Cola Village with the lagoon running deep inside the village [South Goa-India]
As they say 'Its better in Goa'- View of the Cola Lagoon in South Goa[India]
As they say ‘Its better in Goa’- View of the Cola Lagoon in South Goa[India]
Just the right place to sway in a hammock to the afternoon breeze [Cola Village in South Goa-India]
Just the right place to sway in a hammock to the afternoon breeze [Cola Village in South Goa-India]

Staying in Cola Beach

Cola Beach has a few beach huts facing the sea, on the hill. The two most noted ones are Cola Beach Resort and Blue Lagoon Resort. Most prices are above 6000 INR a night. It’s seen as a place for couples who come here to mate in the anonymity that a few places like this in Goa can offer. If you are looking for private stretches of sand to sunbathe or to just lie down without being troubled by hawkers or gawkers, this is the place to be. While Goa has seen lesser nude beaches since the 60’s, this place could allow you to not worry about inhibitions of buttoning up, since outsiders are not allowed inside the resort with their prying cameras.

The Dwarka Eco Beach Resort is a good option to stay, apart from the Blue Lagoon Resort and the Cola Beach Resort (which also has exclusive tented properties). You can rest of the smaller properties on Cola here

Do keep in mind that unless you are staying here, you cannot have access by the sides of the palms inside the resort area. The folks here who run these huts are haughty and rude, and it can leave behind a trace of anger in paradise. I hear that this area has a lot of insects at night, but this is paradise so there are some compromises to be made.

Getting to Cola Beach

If you are coming from north Goa or Panjim or Majorda, all roads converge at Assolna and then to Betul, where you pass the Mayfair resort and you stop at Khola/Cola Village. Its a bumpy kilometre of walking from there after leaving your Car/Bike at the village in some of the open spaces there. Its necessary to have fit people in your group, otherwise it might be tough to get here. The trek by itself is not very steep, but its more exertion than a normal city walk in the plains.

If you are coming from Agonda, Palolem or even more south Goa, you need to come to the lagoon near Agonda to Cola’s hill top where you keep your vehicles and come down in a mountain trek to the beach, like I did

Other Media on Cola Beach

Sankara Subramaniam talks about how one jump from the little sandbar could take you either in the lagoon or the Arabian Sea.

Rachel Jones, from the popular blog ‘Hippie in Heels’ talks about her experience as a digital nomad, who heard about snakes in the vicinity, and also the fact that Wifi and Air conditioning are non-working entities, which can kind of put a huge road block for digital nomads looking to work from a location.

A blogger mentions that day-trippers can see the place, by opting for the INR 300 per hour paddling in the canoe. I wish I had known that.

 

Exploring South Goa-Part- 4-Cabo De Rama Fort

This is a series on exploring South Goa keeping Agonda as the base. Part-1 talks about arriving at the village of Agonda, Part-2 talks about ‘The Space’ and RajBaga Beach. Part-3  talks about the little village of Sadolxem (where a scene from the Bollywood Movie ‘Dear Zindagi’ was filmed) and Galjibaga. In Part 4, we explore the nearby Cabo-De Rama Fort

The Route Map of the trip. From Manveer's Kitchen to Cabo De Rama Fort (South Goa-India)
The Route Map of the trip. From Manveer’s Kitchen to Cabo De Rama Fort (South Goa-India)

I woke up early, and spent some time by the sea collecting some shells, and asked Nandu if he would be interested in joining me for a 2 wheeler ride across to an old fort.

High-5 with the shells! Agonda Beach at Sunrise!
High-5 with the shells! Agonda Beach at Sunrise!

After an early breakfast at ‘Manveer’s Kitchen’, I started at about 8 am to find my way to the Cabo De Rama Fort. From Part-2 and 3, the only thing I had learnt is to not hope for 3G or 4G signals in the forests leading to my destination. I was back to finding humans and asking them the route. The only hitch was that it was winter in Goa, and there would be very few people up at 8 am on the road, and the place where I was going to was even more sparse, so there was a little challenge.

The morning most still hanging around at Agonda
The morning most still hanging around at Agonda

Round and Round in Agonda!

It was about 20 minutes since we started, and we felt that we must maybe be nearing Cabo De Rama, when we saw the sceneries unfolding in front of me with tall trees interrupting the misty view of the sleepy village on my right. I turned to my left and saw a little patch that seemed like a lagoon and sweet water lake. The patch was beautiful, but it triggered a little feeling that seemed to suggest that this was familiar. I saw a man and a boat that I remembered from a walk I did to Agonda’s northern part of the beach which ended in a similar lagoon. I realised that I had biked my way through Agonda’s villages to come back to the same beach. I realised that the road, where Manveer’s kitchen was, it leads right to this point. There was no need to follow the route that I had to taken. Point noted.

Back to Agonda beach after half an hour?
Back to Agonda beach after half an hour?
The round about to avoid at Agonda Beach (South Goa-India)
The round about to avoid at Agonda Beach (South Goa-India)- Courtesy Google Maps.

Right Road? Check Again and Again

I started to observe where we were, asked a person for help, and he said just go straight. I was starting to hit the hills, and the roads were really narrow for a hill route, and that meant I had to go slow on the rented 2 wheeler. The roads had this white marker on the sides of the road, surrounded by the green cover, which seemed magical (owing to the colour contrast) to stare at while driving. The forest was quiet and our vehicle was the only noise in this landscape, as the greens gave way to a more barren brown in a matter of 5 minutes, as the hills undulated to plains that swerved and curved on the road to nowhere.

The barren landscapes of dried grass were reflecting off the morning sun, making the place look very bright, and very surreal owing to the nature of the place. There were 2 more humans, apart from us each walking along the road. I wondered, if their lives involved walking through these plains every day, due to the lack of public transport. There was only a single house in the distance, and it seemed like a very nice place to go for a quiet holiday, but alas I don’t seem to know enough friends who have their homes in the Konkan hinterlands. As much as the place made me feel good, I was hoping that no bear or leopard was around to take a walk since no humans were around.

I kept a watch on my left every now and then to see if a beach view or the sea was visible, just to be sure that I was following the right path. You could not go wrong if there was just this single road, but I always have this feeling that I need to check every few minutes on the road. Having to check every few minutes, was more out of a fear psychosis that I had, and that meant a host of things. I had to get down from the bike, hold on tight to my 5 year old to prevent any sudden run on the road, hope for a human nearby to arrive as I walk a bit to check which side to go.

 

The curvy road into the woods enroute to Cabo De Rama [South Goa-India]
The curvy road into the woods enroute to Cabo De Rama [South Goa-India]

The Barren Landscapes beyond Agonda leading to Khola Village[South Goa-India]
The Barren Landscapes beyond Agonda leading to Khola Village[South Goa-India]
The road in a while, opened out on the left to a huge valley view, but there was no sign of a beach, or the sea. I wondered looking at the green expanse, if a road even existed here. I remember seeing on Google Maps, that there would be a beach through the woods down called ‘Kakolem’ but I did not find any road going down on the road, except the one I came on. Maybe I did not see it clearly. I followed the road curving to the left.

Trees, Endless Greenery in Cola Village [South Goa-India]
Trees, Endless Greenery in Cola Village [South Goa-India]
The small road was dotted with similar looking tiled houses that had a banana tree and a little gutter running on the sides, with a special laterite red brick partially forming a wall. it seemed to say, ‘you are always welcome, these walls are only a formality to make it look like a border’.

 

The slow and idyllic pace of life in South Goa's villages near Cabo De Rama [South India-Goa]
The slow and idyllic pace of life in South Goa’s villages near Cabo De Rama [South India-Goa]
The rugged landscape leading to Cabo-De-Rama Fort (South Goa-India)
The rugged landscape leading to Cabo-De-Rama Fort (South Goa-India)

After 20 minutes of ambling, we passed a school and came to a point where it looked like plains, when you see the mist-covered mountain in the distance, but the truth was that this was also a hill, but a plain on the top of the hill. There was one house and a hotel that seemed to be closed over the entire expanse. My son was questioning me if we were anywhere near to the fort, and I had no answer on where we were. I off-roaded the bike on the last patch of the road, to see if I could meet some human in the fields and ask them if there was a fort nearby. I was told that this area was indeed Cabo-De-Rama. If I went to my left, the fort would show up in a while, and if I went right and if my knees had the energy to trek down the mountain it would lead to the Cabo-De-Rama Beach.

Morning Mist, Sunrise and Quiet Goan Villages! [Cola Village near Cabo De Rama Beach(South Goa-India]
Morning Mist, Sunrise and Quiet Goan Villages! [Cola Village near Cabo De Rama Beach(South Goa-India]
Off-roading for Directions at Cola Village near Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]
Off-roading for Directions at Cola Village near Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]

Wires? Civilisation must be close by. Cabo-De-Rama Fort was probably nearing (South Goa-India)
Wires? Civilisation must be close by. Cabo-De-Rama Fort was probably nearing (South Goa-India)

After 10 more minutes of fervently on the look out for a fort, I finally struck gold, and found the fort to my right. The fort had an iron turnstile, that seemed to stare at me saying “I have no clue why I am needed here”,  as the place by itself had no visitors and there would probably never be crowds in what seemed a quiet and sleepy village on a hill adjoining the Arabian sea.

Outside the entrance of the Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]
Outside the entrance of the Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]
It had become a little past 9, when I entered, but there was no guard at the place. I wondered if the place was a neglected site, which lovers and people with spurious chemicals frequented to be away from the prying eye of the local community. For now, I only saw a huge door that had a small opening through which I had to pass, and the fort seemed a little trek away, before which I had a church in the path leading to the fort.

The gates of Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]
The gates of Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]
A church inside a fort- It happens Only in Goa [St Anthony's Church in Cabo De Rama Fort-South Goa-India]
A church inside a fort- It happens Only in Goa [St Anthony’s Church in Cabo De Rama Fort-South Goa-India]

Inside Cabo De Rama Fort (South Goa-India)
Inside Cabo De Rama Fort (South Goa-India)

The Legend of Cabo De Rama

The place that I was standing on, had changed enough hands. Legend says that King Rama and Queen Sita had made it here during their 14 year exile from Ayodhya. I am not quite sure a fort was there then, but that’s the little bit about Rama’s little legacy here.

The Portugese came here and then fought with a Hindu ruler called Soonda in 1763, and then took over the place. Wikipedia has an artist’s rendition of the fort They put cannons and guns inside the place, and also established a little chapel inside the place, which is why probably there was a church on my way in.

Back in the times the British or the Portugese were very focussed on their life’s goals. Travel and explore a new land, kill the ruling kings and destroy peace and occupy the area and make money off the local people and resources, father a few kids on the coast to forget about them, and then build a church to forcibly convert people to Christianity.

The good part about them, is that they leave behind some very nicely constructed colorful buildings, which we Indians lap up in the name of tourism. There is a sense of disappointment that I had that the place I was in, had seen so much bloodshed. Maybe not just this place, but every other place which was part of the colonial rule of the West has probably seen it.

 

The Cabo De Rama Fort is home to some wild growth due to neglect-[South Goa-India]
The Cabo De Rama Fort is home to some wild growth due to neglect-[South Goa-India]

We walked through the bushy outgrown twigs and creepers, and reached the top of the fort, where apart from us, there was only a swan, which was perched over the fort. Any time, ready to fly away. What a nomadic life they lead, I thought.

Their sense of home is a few twigs and nest, and they perigrinate from one place to another, trusting mother earth to provide. I sometimes feel we humans have gone a little ahead down the road, mother earth wanted them to. I for one, feel I have lost the connect to the planet with work in the big cities, that I keep travelling to. Maybe I need to slow down and observe how much of the environment am I observing.

The only living person at the Cabo De Rama fort this morning!
The only living person at the Cabo De Rama fort this morning!

Nandu was still energetic and posing for my pictures at the fort. He looked at the beach far away, and sat on the cannon which was positioned in the centre of the upper reaches of the fort.

There was a little hole through which you could see the beach from there. I earmarked that beach and the beach I never found (Kakolem) for a separate trip with Nandu, where we come camp, and try to cook food for ourselves at the beach, having a local assist us. I saw it as some way of connecting with nature, instead of taking a selfie and rushing through a trip. I’ve got a 3-man and a 2-man tent, which I hopefully can use.

Maybe some plans later for 2018. But till then, I look wide and far at the horizon between the merging blues of the sky and the sea, as the wind gently brushes me. It’s a beautiful sight and a very calming effect to stare the Arabian sea.

I leave you with some more images of the fort, and we meet again for part 5, where I take you to Cola Beach, which is one of those pristine places, hidden by mountains and has a calming view of a lagoon and sea separated by stretches of sand, overlooking chopped away mountains.

Till then, if you liked what you saw, do spread the word and share it.

Other Literature on the Fort

Navhind Times carries a lovely article, which is a historian’s attempt to tell you more about the fort

Wikipedia has an interesting art caricature of the fort from 1886

Staying near Cabo-De-Rama

‘The Cape’ is an option that costs anywhere between INR 12,000 to 18,000 a night, and looks breathtakingly beautiful to spend lazy days by the sea.

Agonda/Betul- 24 Kilometres Away- You could choose this as the base and do a day trip to Cabo-De-Rama. I have stayed in Manveer’s Kitchen and Jardim-a-Mar on Agonda, and both places are beautiful havens in the woods by the beach (for about 3,000-4500 INR a night during peak season and lesser in other seasons)

Nandu is never shy of posing at places
Nandu is never shy of posing at places

 

So did Rama camp here with Sita? Cabo De Rama Fort in South Goa-India
So did Rama camp here with Sita? Cabo De Rama Fort in South Goa-India

 

No Swings and Merry Go Rounds at this fort? [Cabo De Rama in South Goa-India]
No Swings and Merry Go Rounds at this fort? [Cabo De Rama in South Goa-India]
The view of Arabian Sea from the Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]

The view of Arabian Sea from the Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]

Fe Fi Fo Fum- Is that a secret beach? Cabo De Rama Beach as seen from Cabo De Rama Fort's hole (South Goa-India)
Fe Fi Fo Fum- Is that a secret beach? Cabo De Rama Beach as seen from Cabo De Rama Fort’s hole (South Goa-India)

 

Cabo De Rama Beach in the distance [South Goa-India]
Cabo De Rama Beach in the distance [South Goa-India]
 
Cabo De Rama Beach looks like Paradise [South Goa-India]
Cabo De Rama Beach looks like Paradise [South Goa-India]

Nandu starting to indicate that its maybe time to head back (Cabo De Rama Fort in South Goa-India)
Nandu starting to indicate that its maybe time to head back (Cabo De Rama Fort in South Goa-India) 
And the trip is over! Back to Agonda!
And the trip is over! Back to Agonda!
All happy endings must have a Chocolate Milkshake [Fatima's in Agonda-(South Goa)]
All happy endings must have a Chocolate Milkshake [Fatima’s in Agonda-(South Goa)]

Exploring South Goa-Part 3-Sadolxem AND Galjibaga

This is a series on exploring South Goa keeping Agonda as the base. Part-1 talks about arriving at the village of Agonda, Part-2 talks about ‘The Space’ and RajBaga Beach. Welcome to Part-3 which talks about Sadolxem and Galjibaga

One last look at Rajbaga beach, and we proceeded to the parking lot of the beach, and it took a while to find our bike, since most of the rental bikes look similar and it turned out that someone had moved our bikes to a different spot. We started out asking people, the road to Talpona and set off.

Leaving the Huts at Rajbaga (South Goa)
Leaving the Huts at Rajbaga (South Goa)

The lawns of the Lalit-Intercontinental hotel was on our left and we saw a bunch of swans/white birds on the golf course. The image of the gold course, next to the sea made it look perfect. Sculpted greens by the sea has a relaxing effect on our humankind. While the beach was quiet, it did not have a vibe of its own like Arambol, but the beach had people coming due to the Lalit Hotel by the beach.

Swan on the lawns of the Lalit-Intercontinental Golf Course. We passed them on a bike parallel to the course!
Swan on the lawns of the Lalit-Intercontinental Golf Course. We passed them on a bike parallel to the course!

We set off on the 2 wheeler, driving at a speed of 30 km/hr, cruising slowly on the mud roads, stopping every now and then to ask for directions. We came by a beautiful lagoon that had a meandering river flanked on the sides by the Konkan image of trees slanting and in a dancing pose by the river. Slanting Coconut Trees, Greens, pristine beaches- All of them subliminally talk to our brain asking them to slow down. I got down near a small bridge in Sadolxem village to stare at the lagoon.

The Galjibag river that opens out into the Arabian Sea (South Goa-India)
The Talpona river that opens out into the Arabian Sea (South Goa-India)

The Sadolxem village was split into 2 parts by the bridge over the Talpona river and it looked like the Goan grapevine that passes over to other parts of the world had missed this place in their update and I hoped this part of Goa would stay as pristine as it is.

As we looked further at the bridge, there was something it did to draw my attention. It looked similar to a place that I had seen in a recent movie. It looked like the place in the title song of “Dear Zindagi” that comes between seconds 37-43 when Alia Bhatt crosses a bridge on a cycle waving off to kids on a boat beneath the bridge. How did I connect that scene to this place? Well, I am biased towards Goa. This was my 26th trip, and whenever I see an Indian movie shot in Goa, the only thing my mind tries to decipher is where was that place and that has stayed on. I figured out I was right, when I came back to better bandwith at the end of the trip. Here is the video of the same.

After sitting and looking at the views of the talpona lagoon, we looked over the bridge to find that the place was dilapitated and the bridge was rusty and looked old. It created a vintage charm, but it also made it look a little scary, as it was uncared for. There is place only for one 4-wheeler at a time. There are mini traffic jams created when a few cars come this side, but that is the only semblance this place may have to city life.

The Greens and Blues of Sadolxem, by the sides of the Talpona River (South Goa-India)
The Greens and Blues of Sadolxem, by the sides of the Talpona River (South Goa-India)

On the end of the bridge towards the Talpona side, we noticed that there was a small shack serving lunch and possibly having rooms also. I am not sure these rooms are online, but if ever you land up in the season, I am sure you will have some place to rest or have a lunch by the lagoon (This place does not show in Google Maps though)

The Sadolxem Bridge- One of the shooting spots of 'Dear Zindagi'
The Sadolxem Bridge- One of the shooting spots of ‘Dear Zindagi’

From there we crossed the bridge and turned right and slowly went along and saw a beautiful view of a beach jutting out on the sea. We stopped by and went and saw the view, and we noticed that it was someone’s house at the end of the river emptying the sea. They asked us if we wanted some water, and we sat at their porch asking them about this place and drinking water. I told them, that they were blessed to be waking up to such views, and smiled and requested them that I’d like to spend a few minutes at their porch.

The end stretches of Rajbaga Beach (South Goa-India)
The end stretches of Rajbaga Beach (South Goa-India)

In conversations with them, I was told that the stretch was actually Rajbaga beach only. It looked like it was a very long stretch, but I had travelled so much of a distance from the middle of Rajbaga only to find that the beach I had left was just next to me.

Rajbag Beach to Talpona Beach
Rajbag Beach to Talpona Beach

Nandu and I decided, to play a little game. I told Nandu that he should aim to throw stones in the sea and aim for the landmass. After many misses Nandu gave up, realising that what may seem near is not always near.

Nandu trying to throw stones from Talpona to the little piece of sand in Rajbaga (South Goa-India)
Nandu trying to throw stones from Talpona to the little piece of sand in Rajbaga (South Goa-India)

The local’s house was also the ferry point, for getting to the Rajbaga side. There was no boat around, but we recognised that it was a ferry point and moved on skimming Talpona beach on a road parallel to the beach.

Ambling at the porch of a Goan Home in Talpona (South Goa-India)
Ambling at the porch of a Goan Home in Talpona (South Goa-India)

Galjibaga was a little tough to find, because the route is not straight but through a series of turns which always causes you to ponder, if you are on the right track. Another thing I learnt is that if a local says its 5 minutes away, its probably thrice as far. After some questioning and idling around we arrived at Galjibaga. A few vehicles were parked near a small shack that was serving food. The beach had a few goverment officials who were here on duty as this was a beach for turtle hatching. I asked them, if we could see the turtles at some spot, and he looked at me, as if I was gleefully waiting to eat up the turtles. He said that the turtles come in the early morning and go back. I was disappointed to know that, since I was leaving back tomorrow, and it maybe another 6-12 months before I come back. I had brought Nandu to this beach to make him see turtles. The lack of any research on the internet also meant, I could not find out the exact time of when to come and see turtles. I decided to walk to the point where I saw from the train,across the river meeting sea. I knew the point was around somewhere.

The tall trees at the entrance of Galjibaga Beach (South Goa-India)
The tall trees at the entrance of Galjibaga Beach (South Goa-India)

The beach was in its low-tide avatar which meant endless metres of clean sand and very less people on the beach. The beach for the first 200 metres did not have much of a wave, since the water was retreating. Nandu wanted to collect shells and run on the beach. I said we would play ‘running and catching’ right after he has enough shells. The beach also had life guards, who were spottable by their red-yellow uniform on the beach.

Endless sands with no disturbance! Galjibag Beach-Goa
Endless sands with no disturbance! Galjibag Beach-Goa
Nandu spending time collecting shells at Galjibag beach (South-Goa in India)
Nandu spending time collecting shells at Galjibag beach (South-Goa in India)

There was a sense of freedom that Nandu had once he had collected enough shells as he proceeded to run. Today’s kids have lesser open spaces to run and play, and I loved it that Nandu was running around. I was curious if he would be able to run the full length of the beach.

The joy of finding space to run at Galjibag Beach-Goa
The joy of finding space to run at Galjibag Beach-Goa

As we were running we came to the point on the beach, where the river meets the sea, and we saw in the distance the Konkan Railway line, from which I had seen this point a day back. The place opened out to a lagoon-beach of sorts with receding waters, and it was perfect to lay out your beach umbrella and get lost in your book. I bookmarked this place to come back with my tent. I have this little fantasy of opening up a tent at the most beautiful places on the planet and telling my son, that the world is yours, you dont need to waste your money on EMI’s for land/house when you can pitch a tent and make that place yours for a few hours/days. The world has far too many spots to see, rather than being stuck to a single home.

That point where I saw from the train. I was back to the same point-Galjibaga Beach
That point where I saw from the train. I was back to the same point-Galjibaga Beach

After playing around and exploring Galjibaga by walk, we decided to get started to our hotel in Agonda. This time it took us less than half an hour to get back without any stoppages. We lay on the sand back at Agonda, to savour a beautiful sunset. Nandu found Manny to play with, and he had a great-but-tiring day.

Nandu and Manny [Kid of Manveer] at Agonda Beach
Nandu and Manny [Kid of Manveer] at Agonda Beach
Coming home to a beautiful sunset at Manveer's Kitchen in Agonda
Coming home to a beautiful sunset at Manveer’s Kitchen in Agonda

The Surf Trail- A Sneek Peak

Earlier this year, I had travelled to the Covelong Surf, Music and Yoga festival to Covelong(A small town between Chennai and Mahabalipuram), to cover the festival. I have covered the festival previously writing on this blog and on Cafe Chennai of the 2016 festival. I thought travelling to the 2017 festival, I should experiment with video for my story telling. I leave you with some images and a small trailer on what to expect

Here is a trailer of the documentary that is about to release in November 2017.

Wet Weather and Swelling Surfs
Wet Weather and Swelling Surfs
Water, Water, Not Me
Water, Water, Not Me
Jonty Rhodes surfing at Covelong-Tamil Nadu
Jonty Rhodes surfing at Covelong-Tamil Nadu
Surfing has its hits and misses
Surfing has its hits and misses
Yoga, Music and discussions by the Yogashala at Covelong
Yoga, Music and discussions by the Yogashala at Covelong

 

Exploring Andamans-Part 12-Philanthropy at Port Blair

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check out the previous parts at Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 ,  Part-6 , Part-7  Part-8 , Part 9 , Part 10 and Part-11

We  reached the Havelock Jetty at about 3 pm. I had to move my family first to the Jetty, and then go back and hand the bike at Beach Number 3, and walk it back, to be in time for the 4:30 pm Makruzz Ferry. I had enough time to go and make some more sand castles, but Kalapathar the village was a dream away. I was in a state of chaos, near the market, seeing human civilization teeming with complaints and memories of how their trip went. There was a long line of impatient tourists who were eager on boarding the Makkruzz.

We were going to miss playing our sand sculptures
We were going to miss playing our sand sculptures

I showed Nandu the bus, which I had taken him the previous day on a short trip between Radhanagar Beach and Beach Number 3. It is an under-rated mode of transport but easily the least hassle free mode.  Most tickets are priced at less than Rs 10, and you have a beautiful ride through the little villages and towns.

Public Transport in Havelock- Inexpensive and Easy
Public Transport in Havelock- Inexpensive and Easy

Since there were big queues and I had no hurry to stand in the line for the ship, I decided to take Nandu to the beach area below the Havelock Jetty. We were collecting some sea-shells and remarking on how different the colour of the sea was here.

Nandu while waiting at the Pier in Havelock
Nandu while waiting at the Pier in Havelock

Once we got into our ship, Nandu loved the air-conditioning that he was back to after a 4 day break. He was jumping all over the seats and loved the wide seats and table that set me back by about 1500 Rs per person [and you cant get to the deck since its prohibited].Nandu was back to air-conditioning again, when we went back to the Ritz Hotel again in Port Blair on our return there.

Nandu loving his window seat in the AC deck of the Makruzz Private Ferry from Havelock to PortBlair
Nandu loving his window seat in the AC deck of the Makruzz Private Ferry from Havelock to PortBlair
Sun shining on a patch of the Andaman Sea- as seen from the ship
Sun shining on a patch of the Andaman Sea- as seen from the ship

We spent some time outlining history at the Cellular Jail next morning, which was open despite being a Monday [ when its usually closed]. It seems so contrasting that a place with so much bad energy like the Cellular Jail is in the most beautiful of all places. While nature meant this to be a paradise, the humans made this hell for a while when the British were ruling India.

Nandu running around the Cellular Jail
Nandu running around the Cellular Jail

Nandu’s next lessons in the Andamans came around food

Nandu’s Lesson #1- Food in the Andamans is expensive as it costs money to bring vegetables from the mainland. As a random act of kindness, I decided to buy food from a local idli/vada seller on the road, thereby giving him business, and then went ahead to the main market to pick people to give a packet of food. Nandu basically learnt not to waste food, and to be in a position to help the local people by feeding them a meal. Maybe too early for him, but feeding people is a way of thanking the world what it’s bestowed upon you!

Philanthrophy in Port Blair- Feeding underpriveleged at Aberdeen Bazaar
Philanthrophy in Port Blair- Feeding underpriveleged at Aberdeen Bazaar
Feeding underpriveleged people in Port Blair-Aberdeen Bazaar
Feeding underprivileged people in Port Blair-Aberdeen Bazaar
After 5 days, a Responsible Traveller sitting on loads of memories (and memory cards)
After 5 days, a Responsible Traveller sitting on loads of memories (and memory cards)

With that we come to an end of a beautiful trip, made even sweeter for me, since I was able to teach my son the importance of #ResponsibleTravelForKids. I hope to go speak at various schools in Southern India as part of letting children being able to learn more on their next holiday. We have a responsibility in bringing up the next generation of kids aligned to our planet earth, and what better way to do it than to spread the word

We stayed at ‘Hotel Ritz’, a small hotel by the Tamil Sangam in the Phoenix Bay area in Port Blair (Kalapathar Village). Rooms cost about 1500 Rs per night for Air-Conditioned rooms. This is the cheapest Air-Con room hotel that I saw in Phoenix Bay. There are better hotels nearby, but Air-con rooms come at much higher prices, for very little amenities.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 11-Wrapping Up Havelock

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check out the previous parts at Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 ,  Part-6 , Part-7  Part-8 , Part 9 and Part 10

No Snooze Required

Sleeping at 9 pm amidst the sound of nature usually means, you wake up refreshed when nature needs you to wake up. To add to this, I don’t stare at my mobile, when I wake up, since there are no mobile signals to invade my phone. It’s just a brick, that I don’t need to see, since there are beautiful sights to wake up to. It’s a very different feeling coming from the city to get accustomed to.

Today was our last day at Kalapathar Beach. We had formed a bond with the sea and the beach and it was going to be a little tough to not wake up to stunning scenery. We would leave by the evening private ferry to Port Blair and spend the night there, before boarding our air plane to Chennai the next afternoon.

It was as if nature had programmed me, that I almost sleepwalked over to the beach, through the little forest roads. The light had started to set in, though the sun was probably yet to rise (which I would find out later).

Sunrise at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Islands(India)
Sunrise at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Islands(India)

Getting Philosophical staring at Sunrises at Kalapathar

The one remarkable thing that I got about the sunrise, was that it rarely defines itself to be a function of the previous day’s sunset. The sunrise and sunset are independent events, and that’s probably the little lesson I take back this morning, starting at yet another golden light formation in the waters that stretch to the make-believe horizon.

Also another thought that crossed my mind was that sunrises are not yet commoditized like religion [Pay per view or pay for faster line], in the sense that it is for everyone, and it is for us mortals to make best use of the time between the 2 golden hours in the day. Nature does not differentiate and gives the same feeling to every soul, irrespective of the financial worth of the person.

Sunrise at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Islands [Andamans-India]
Sunrise at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Islands [Andamans-India]
Throwback to the 1990’s

I came back on the little jungle path to Parvati’s petty shop for morning tea, after lounging on the wet yet fine morning sand on the beach. The sun was out, and I heard a little radio set playing ” Jaane Jigar Jaane Mann” belting out Kumar Sanu numbers one by one. It added to that virtual 1990’s feel about the place. There was no hurry for people to get where they were. People were smiling and ambled about slowly and with the radio music playing, I felt a strange sense of relaxation of a content world. I was in paradise this moment, but I was about to get out of it and it was a tough pill to swallow, just as Kumar Sanu gave way to Kishore Kumar on the radio.

A cyclist ambling down the road inside Kalapathar Village
A cyclist ambling down the road inside Kalapathar Village

A little while later, I walked down to the beach with Nandu, and I saw the most beautiful colours of the sea. Kalapathar beach has magic in it and somewhere within it is an ‘Asian Paints Blue shade card’ that keeps changing.

Feeling The Blues- Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
Feeling The Blues- Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

Quite the perfect place to send out some emails and follow ups that would eventually be sent when I am able to get connected to a 4G/Wifi connection back on the mainland, but I could get used to working with such a view.

Nandu sat next to me with his usual drill of reading books by the sea, just like the previous day.

We spotted a fisherman in a perfectly coloured blue sea, by the Kalapathar Beach. The sea creates a sort of longing that makes you make ‘one final dunk’ where you think you will end up being part of that blue, and take it back with you. It’s thankfully enough we take back memories, only to come back again.

There was a little moment when the laptop was reflecting the sea behind, and I sensed that we really dont need a screensaver on a laptop. It was a surreal moment for me, trying to capture it.

I checked out from the hotel, and bade goodbye to the hotel staff, who were part of my life for the last couple of days. I could stay back here for a day, but the hotel staff and Kumar-my driver from the first day in Port Blair, advised me to come to Port Blair a day in advance, since the sea can turn grumpy and its always good to have buffer.

One Last Look at Flying Elephants
One Last Look at Flying Elephants

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 10-Sunset at Radhanagar Beach

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out.  Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 , Part-6 , Part-7 , Part 8 and Part-9

Wandering Around The Forests

I sat on the beach to stare at the beauty that was around me. The beach at Radhanagar has 2 worlds. One world is the beach and the other world is the Mahua tress adjoining the beach that leads into a forest of sorts, within which the ‘Barefoot Resort’ is situated. I look from left to right, and its full of greenery all around interspersed with shades of tall brown.

It felt like being in the first row of a cinema theatre as my neck strained at an obtuse angle to look at the tall trees inviting my awe. I could choose to get lost in the woods, but we are too close to civilisation. Nevertherless with no humans around, I try to feel like Forrest Gump and go walk through the forest like it is some paradise that I have discovered.

The Mahua Forests of Radhanagar Beach-7 in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
The Mahua Forests of Radhanagar Beach-7 in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

I could chose any path to go through the woods, as there were no right paths to wander.  The only restriction I had was for to be right there for the sunset, as I had some lessons about the sunset to tell my little son.

Wandering into the forests can be fun at Radhanagar Beach
Wandering into the forests can be fun at Radhanagar Beach

As I wandered through the forest, I came to the entrance of the beach where my family was waiting for me. This part of the beach has been modified and enroached upon by the local authorities over the course of the last 10 years since my last visit in 2008. It looks like some trees have been cut down, but the good part is that the beach has not commercially been used like in Baga/Calangute [Goa], but more beautifully blended into its natural environment.

There are facilities for the tourists to come and change clothes, sit down, play in a swing, lights on trees, rest houses for some respite from the sun. These are made from the trees and have a beautiful/rustic feel about it, without any compromise on the quality

Radhanagar Beach- Commoditized beautifully for Tourists
Radhanagar Beach- Commoditized beautifully for Tourists

The beach has a dense cover of green, which acts as a great backdrop to lunge back to if you have made a beeline to the sea. The beaches, despite being the most populated beach in the Andaman Islands, are clean and have well maintained facilities, which is quite the departure from any of the beaches on the mainland. Lets help Andamans stay that way.

A game of volleyball by the beach for burning calories in Paradise [Radhanagar Beach in Havelock Island-Andamans in India]
A game of volleyball by the beach for burning calories in Paradise [Radhanagar Beach in Havelock Island-Andamans in India]
The beautiful and serene Radhanagar Beach in Havelock Island [Andamans-India]
The beautiful and serene Radhanagar Beach in Havelock Island [Andamans-India]
Chasing Sunsets

Moving over to the next most important event this evening, I take my son to wet his legs in the sea, and sit there observing the disappearing sun over the course of the evening.

Nandu’s Lesson #1: Whenever you feel disappointed, go and observe the skies change colours in the evening. The skies change colour to show you how to find beauty in the hum-drum of life. A place that was boring by afternoon is now lit up and decked up. Sunset’s are nature’s own way to connect make us connect to their rythm and then getting back to working on our dreams.

It was a wonderful world where infinitely many things seem possible, when the sun is casting its spell. A moment when anything can happen and where possibilities come out to lay within the dreams of a common man.

 

The whole place was covered in a shade of gold. Maybe this is the gold we humans should chase instead of the metal. The world would probably be a far more peaceful place. The sun coloured the whole place with its pallete and then chose to silently dissapear behind the hills.

My son understands that the sun will set here, and not near our cottage on the eastern side of the island. I was expecting him to say lets catch the sunset at our cottage, but he did not.

It was beautiful to watch children run about in glee, trying to unconsciously get into the frame of the setting sun’s reflection which was now a straight line of orange in a an area where darkness had started to dominate.

It was 5:30 pm and it was time to head back to catch some dinner and get some sleep. I bought some Jhal-Mudi and samosas on the beach, apart from some tea from the local stalls, before we boarded our 2 wheeler to get back home. The last bus was slowly gathering people, including my Jhal-Mudi vendor to scurry in time to get on the last bus.  There is a beautiful sense of orderliness that shows up in the Andamans.

Radhanagar beach retains its sense of beauty and isolation post sunset, when the world that descends here find their way back to their resorts.

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 2-Wandering in Wandoor

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Part-0 and Part-1 have been passed and we are on Part-2 here.

Usually kids are used to an air-conditioned existence or an existence that doesn’t have them roaming out in a sunny day. My son was no exception. While he was playing with the cat [from Part-1], he got used used to the bliss of being in the shade of the long trees by the beach. I asked him to come out and join me in the sea where we would be at the fringes and feel the water. Nandu initially was grimacing at the thought of coming over to the beach, and then I told him he could go back if it was too hot. Nandu walked with me, and initially felt the water was too cold. I told him to trust nature and that the best swimming pool is indeed the sea. Kids take a while to listen in, but once they feel convinced, they literally take to the next activity like a fish takes to water. So off we went from the shade of the trees and benches to the new world of the sea!

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Once he had crossed the chasm of the warm sand into the waters, a little more cajoling and coaxing was required to make him realize the bliss that the waters of the sea could be on a warm tropical day. He then sheepishly turned around and told me that the waters are beautiful to be spending time in. This part of the beach in Wandoor was chosen as there were very little waves and the water was more or less very calm. With kids, its important to pick the right beaches to travel and make them familiar about the sea, and experience nature by respecting it.

Nandu initially ignored one part of the beach, saying its rocky and dirty and was jumping near it. I went near that side of the beach and noticed that these were basically not dirt but sea weeds and some fishes. I told Nandu that these are homes of the fishes and we are visitors here. We must behave like visitors and not act like we own the place. He sheepishly smiled and went aside nearby and played a little more calmly.

Nandu’s Lesson-1 : Respect the natural environment of animals when travelling to their place. It’s their home and we are visitors.

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In a while, Nandu had realised that the feeling of frolicking in the sea was bliss. The water was clear and he could see fishes in the water. Nandu could slowly start to feel what paradise looks like. First it was peaceful frolicking and then it turned to splashing water and jumping. The joy of being a child could never be truer.

Nandu’s Lesson-2 Trust Nature and learn that the best way to cool off is in a sea! No water getting wasted 🙂

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Nandu also spotted a lot of sea-shells by the beach. He asked me how do these sea shells are formed? I told him that these shells are usually skeletal remains of sea animals, after the death of those animals. Nandu probed a bit further, asking me where was blood on the skeleton and whether this was the skeletal remains of an electric eel. Where do his questions come from, I wonder? Electric eel was the most random reference I have heard. But with my limited knowledge, I answered some questions and let him explore the sea, and go back to the trees to re-apply sun-screen lotion.

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The beach hardly had any visitors. The few people who were out were changing their clothes under a bamboo rest and change place built by the beach. The ones who come to the beach, bring with them plastic waterbottles which they sometimes forget and throw it by the beach.

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After playing for a long time in the waters, we were getting hungry. There is some thing about bathing, that creates and opens up pathways in your stomach to be all clear for food intake. We decided to cool off, dry ourselves under the cool confines of the majestic trees of the Loha Barrack Sanctuary. We heard that the sanctuary is otherwise famous for crocodile conservation and was set up in 1983. I heard from my driver that turtles share the space with crocodiles in the environment of the sanctuary. This beautiful place, I heard has camping facilities too, but that’s probably for a much longer trip. Wikitravel lists a camping place, if you are interested.

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The beach had small strands of plastic even on the nets nearby. I showed Nandu that even that small plastic when it is blown away by wind can get into the sea, and a sea-animal could think of that as food and swallow it. The plastic goes inside the animal’s body and wreaks havoc. So for the next 10 minutes, Nandu went about collecting plastic along with his search for sea-shells and kept it in the bin at the beginning of the beach.

Lesson 3- Plastic does not work for the environment, nor for animals. We need to make sure that this is not there anywhere on a beach. If some one throws plastic on a beach, we should politely request them to use the dustbin.

Plastic-The-Killer is all around- Shot at Wandoor Beach (Andaman Islands-India)
Plastic-The-Killer is all around- Shot at Wandoor Beach (Andaman Islands-India)
Saying NO to plastics at Wandoor (Andaman Islands-India)
Saying NO to plastics at Wandoor (Andaman Islands-India)

And so we started on our way back to the airport, to pick up my dad. I only wish I had booked my dad on an earlier flight, we all could have boarded the afternoon ferry to Havelock Island and we could get to paradise on Kalapathar Beach. I had anyway kept the folks at Flying Elephant Resort informed that I would mostly land only on the second day, as I knew I would have problems coordinating my dad’s flight timing and the ferry to Havelock. For now, I was driving back to Port Blair, from the Loha Barrack Sanctuary for the much anticipated lunch at ‘Annapurna’, [ I had been here 8 years back for a quiet dinner]

Check out the previous part OR the next part

Exploring Andamans-Part 1-PortBlair to Wandoor

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 and Part-2 here

 

Once we landed in Port Blair, I waited for our luggage at the conveyor belt. The airport was small, and I spent some time at the Andamans Tourism desk, while waiting for the bags to arrive. The trip, as among other trips, despite the fact that I was with family, was only partially planned. For now, I had told the folks at Flying Elephants, that I was coming to Havelock the next day, but the whole of day-1 had to be spent in Port Blair, since my father was coming by a different flight in the afternoon, meaning that I had to wait in Port Blair, and I could not be on the afternoon ferry to Havelock that day.

 

Bandwith Bummer

I thought I’d wait to check for rooms on a travel app, and I strangely found that the internet was virtually non existent in Port Blair. First bummer on the trip. Andamans has very slow 2G, and the only 3G signals are that of BSNL, which again is sporadic. Reliance Jio was yet to come here as of April-May 2017. I went out and decided to take a taxi to find a hotel and also be able to book tickets on the ferry between Port Blair and Havelock, since the online ticket booking websites of Green Ocean and Makruzz did not work at the time, I was traveling. I met a taxi driver called Kumar (who can be reached at +91-9933283384) from the pre-paid taxi centre. I told him in Hindi to help me find an air-conditioned room for a family of 4, and also help me with booking tickets for the ferry to Havelock. I reccomend using Kumar’s services, as he is aware of each place that can be reached by car on the island, and can tell you stories of places. Andamans does not have self-drive car rentals, since there are very few service centres on the island.

Ferry Blues

Port Blair has 3 ferries to Havelock Island, up from the single Goverment ferry it had, when I had been there in 2008 April. The other 2 ferries added were Green Ocean and Makruzz. Kumar helped me to go each of these centres and help me book tickets. Green Ocean accepted only cash, while Makruzz accepted Credit Card payments. If I were to reccomend these ferries, here are my observations.

I go on a ferry to feel the wind on my face and hair, and stare at the sea and the mountains by the sea. I would not really look beyond this. I hate to have restrictions of any kind on my strolling on the ship to photograph. The Government ferry works the best for such travel. The ticket window usually opens 3-4 days before, and is not online for non-islanders to book. So you need to either have a local go and spend time in a queue and book it, or come here with enough time in hand to go and book it. That’s what makes it tough. Most of us city dwellers, love predictability and our air-conditioning, and there are 2 private services to cater for it. The Makruzz is very comfortable and comes with 3 levels of seats, with the highest costing about 1500 Rs per seat. You cant get on the deck, as the Makruzz is small, and has a rule that makes all people, be inside the air-conditioned area. The Green Ocean combines best of both the worlds. While ‘take off’ and ‘landing’ you are not supposed to be on the deck, but you can be on the deck in the time between that, apart from enjoying the air-conditioning inside the ship’s closed seat areas. There is a little documentary that plays from the TV’s inside the seating area where Tom Alter takes you through the beauty of the Andaman. This is also found in Youtube here.

I signed up with Kumar on 2 driving assignments. He would first drive us to Wandoor, we would spend some time on the beach, and then come back to the airport, pick up my dad, have lunch at Annapurna and then head out to catch the sunset at Munda Pahad Beach (Chidiya Tapu). 1300 Rs, each way for each of the trips. Nandu’s lessons were ripe and ready to be learnt. As a first, we quickly settled on a basic air-conditioned room in Phoenix Bay Jetty near the Tamil and Malayalam association at a place called the Ritz Hotel. Not a great place to stay, but very functional. Small pathways, but reasonably okay rooms with air conditioning, heater and television, if you are looking to stay just to board the next day’s ferry.

Missing Mainland

Wandoor is a little beach town around 25 kilometres from Port Blair in a South West Direction. As we were on the drive to Wandoor, Kumar pointed out on my left to little pools of water, which were actually created during the 2004 Tsunami and the water has since then stayed on these fields. We passed via scores of betel nut plantations which seemed to stretch across the length of the journey even as the music that played on the car shifted from Kumar Sanu to Illayaraja. The island seems to have 2 major languages (Bengali and Tamil) spoken, representative of the migrants who have shifted here from the mainland, and has little communities with a similar name as in the mainland. We passed Ranchi Basti and Mallapuram, as we made our way into Wandoor (also a name inspired from a town in Kerala).

Nandu’s Lessons

Cat by the beach at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Cat by the beach at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Nandu spotted a little cat by the beach, which came around us as we sat there to drink some water from our water bottle. We sensed that cat was thirsty and offered it some water. Nandu was sitting next to the cat and was playing with it. He also offered it water to drink and then let some of his bread on the floor for the cat to eat. The summer was about to end. The lesson here was to let Nandu know that, if the cat stayed there for longer than usual, we should not do anything to drive it away, since this is a forest and these are the homes of animals, and we are here to visit and then go away. I asked him to look at whether the cat had the food offered, and if it left the bread an hour later, we should throw the food into the litter bin. One of the biggest problems with virgin places are that people bring food and plastic, and then throw them away, asking “who’s watching?”. Nature is always watching, and knows the problems such behaviour entails.

 

Birds welcoming us at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Birds welcoming us at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Nandu saw very tall trees around, and loved the whole sense of space around him. He was happy and started to loudly exclaim with excitement and run around. I looked at him, and asked him to be joyful, but not shout so loudly so as to disturb the environment. He had a look at the birds and observed the surroundings for a whole 15 seconds (a sense of achievment to make kids observe silence), listening to the chirping of birds and the leaves covering the sun’s light coming inside the forest.

Nandu wonderstruck by the tall trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Nandu wonderstruck by the tall trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Since it was our first day of our holiday, and we were spending the day on the road, I was worried if Nandu would get tired and sleep off or he would start to ask for Cartoons on TV. So far so good. I had not brought his colouring books

 

 

Clear Sky between the Trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Clear Sky between the Trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Postcards from Wandoor

As the first part of this series ends, I leave you with a few postcards from the serene beach of Wandoor, which is the alighting point for trips to the Mahatma Gandhi National Park and Jolly Buoy Island (snorkelling). One needs to go to the tourism office, a day prior to get permission slips to visit Jolly Buoy Island or find a travel agent to do all the paper work for you. Since our trip was just planned on the go, we were not able to find our way to either of the places, where a little ferry leaves at fixed timings. If I had more time on the island, I would have probably taken a bus which would have cost less than 20 Rs from Port Blair to Wandoor. Maybe that’s for later this year. There are a couple of small restaurants near the beach, which we did not go to. We were getting ready for our lunch at Annapurna which was very expensive for a simple Thali meal. Most meals are expensive in the Andamans, because the food is brought from the mainland.

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Made for quiet afternoon siesta
Made for quiet afternoon siesta-Wandoor in Andaman Islands

 

Silhouttes at Wandoor
Silhouttes at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

 

Our Host-Kumar resting by the woods at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Our Host-Kumar resting by the woods at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

 

Check out the previous part OR the next part

 

 

 

Exploring Andamans- Part 0

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series.

Summer Holidays-The 90’s– Back when I was in school, it was that time when I used to sit at home and watch Prime Sports for its live cricket feed of the ending New Zealand season from 3 am to 10 am, the matches in Sharjah from 11 am to 7 pm, and the beginning of the Carribean Cricket season from 7 pm to late night. Whenever possible, I used to find my sleep in between, because the privilege of watching cricket live and very clearly (as DD’s coverage back then in the early 90’s was poor), was too much to resist. I did this from 1994 to 1996, where the English county season also got added to the mix with Shaun Pollock taking a hat trick on debut.  I was completely addicted to watching Cricket on TV. Those were my luxuries. My world was the little room in our house in Adyar in Chennai, adorned on the 4 walls with posters of cricketers, pulled and cut out from the Sportstar Magazines.

It changed from 1997. On February 18th 1997, my school’s travel/nature club announced that they were having a nature camp trek in the summer holidays in Himachal Pradesh for about a little over 2 weeks in the Bara Bangal range, and it was priced at Rs 3800. My parents felt, I am better off going away on travelling rather than gorging on cricket in front of the television. I was also interested, since it involved going to New Delhi after 7 years. I used to previously live in New Delhi, and it felt like a trip back home, and I knew I had a love affair with staring out of the train windows looking at the scenery changing slowly. On that trip in May, I realised how important practical knowledge of first aid is since I injured myself when I fell off a mountain. I also realised that you need to respect nature and understood the importance of responsible travel where you dont throw plastic wrappers into the wild and dont play loud music in the woods. It got me interested about travel, and about the importance of maintaining our environment around us. That was the clear focus, as the cricket clearly went to the background. I still would borrow transistors from the camp’s cooks to listen to bits of hindi commentary of the on going Independence Cup back then. But Nathan Astle, Saeed Anwar, Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya remained figments of imagination when the transistor would boom to life, as my primary points of interest were the tall trees and the flowing Uhl river, in the lap of nature, disconnected for most parts from the world.

Cut back to 2016

I was with my son on a beach in Goa for New Year. My 4 year old son was happy staying inside the air-conditioned place, and was asking for POGO channel to entertain himself. He would not feel like walking on the beaches, and stayed away from the sun, and would shy away from enjoying nature or even observing it. I decided that I needed to take him to a place which was cut away from telephone networks, television, air-conditioning and the usual things he would find at home. A place that would shake his senses up about what his definition of the world was. After a bit of search and deciding between Lakshadweep and Andamans, I decided on the latter based on the costs of flying to and staying there. After a couple of friends reccomended a place, I looked up the Flying Elephants resort tucked away in the woods of arguably the most beautiful, but under-rated beach of Kalapathar

It’s often the easier path taken, when you take a 5 year old to a world of luxury and holidays. Watching cartoons on TV, staying in air con rooms all day guzzling the hotel’s wifi. There is a whole generation at risk that could just miss the beauty of nature because as parents we choose the easier path. I decided to take my son to parts of India to mingle socially with people on holiday, and understand responsible travel. 

We had an early morning flight from Chennai which strangely got pre-poned from 8:30 am to 6:30 am. I had chosen the 8:30 am flight purely because it becomes very tough to wake a 5 year old at 4 am to get him ready for such an early flight. There was no way I could cancel the air plane due to very limited flights between Chennai and Port Blair. We chose Go-Air and Jet Airways for our flights which ideally be flights landing in Port Blair before noon and leaving Port Blair as the last flight out in the afternoon. That works best if you plan to head over to the islands of Neil and Havelock right after/before your flights.

Flying across the Indian Ocean
Flying across the Indian Ocean

We chose to spend a day in Port-Blair and just go walking around, since our tickets to Havelock Island (Kalapathar Beach) were for the next morning. More on that coming up in the subsequent posts.

Monsoon Weather in Port Blair
Monsoon Weather in Port Blair

Do stay tuned to the upcoming parts all through July. If you have a young kid, you should come back for more on how you can entertain a kid and teach them early lessons on sustainable and responsible travel. Here are the themes I agreed upon for Nandu to be learnt

When you go into the forest, you are going into the homes of animals. We should respect them and peacefully-co exist without harming or driving them away. Be a traveller and not a tourist who thinks he/she is the ‘privileged one’.

 

Re-fill your water in a water bottle, and do not buy plastic bottled water. Helps any place do away with the problem of waste and helps kid develop immunity by drinking water the way the locals of a place drink it.

 

 Throw plastic out of the sea, when you see it, and collect them and put them in a dust bin

 

Nature can be the best way to entertain yourself. Observe the trees and plants around and ask questions on why things are the way they are

 

Go stay with the locals who cook for you, or who run shops to get an idea of their lives. It helps you appreciate what they have in their world, and what you have in your world.

 

Develop patience, by sitting a full day out at the beach, and knowing that the mind can be entertained by just reading a book by the sea, making castles,playing in the sea and just resting on the sand.

Here’s a sneak preview on what to expect in 3 images in the next few parts!

Nandu enjoying with glee abandon at Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island.
Nandu enjoying with glee abandon at Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island.

 

Paradise at Flying Elephant Resort in Kalapathar-Havelock Islands
Paradise at Flying Elephant Resort in Kalapathar-Havelock Islands

 

 

Reading books by the beach can be fun!
Reading books by the beach can be fun!

Check out the next part

 

What’s Your Poison…err…Tea?

What?

There is a Tea Festival, happening at JW Marriot Hotel on the 18th and 19th of March 2017. The festival is to make people aware of the beauty and aroma around Tea and to discuss the possibilities of Tea based Tourism. Maybe I will have a few more places to visit over a cuppa tea

Who?

This is being hosted by Susmita Das Gupta, Entreprenuer of ‘The Smart Ideas’ and a passionate Tea enthusiast, who has conducted many tea tasting and tea meet up sessions.

When?

18th and 19th March. From 11 am to 8 pm on the weekend.

Why?

Katchutravels is interested in understanding the possibilities around tea tourism. Also the next time, I travel to a hill station, I’d love to know more about the leaves and the various varieties of tea, which is right now limited to the ‘dip-tea’ that I have.  I will be covering the event in its entirety. Do look out for regular updates on our Facebook and Twitter Handles.

But the raison-d’etre of the festival is that India is actually the largest exporters of the various varieties of tea, which has been commercially produced in India since 1820 (and being around from 750 BC), so we have a reason to celebrate

‘Katchutravels’, is happy to be displaying travel images at a Photo Exhibition [running as part of the Tea Festival] scheduled at 11 am on the 18th and it runs till 8 pm on Sunday.

Photography Exhibition at the Tea Festival-JW MarriotPhotography Exhibition at the Tea Festival-JW Marriot

How?

There are interesting tea workshops through which people, would be able to understand the intricacies of Tea and its impact on health. Here are some of the ones I plan to attend. Though you should know that these are priced moderately between Rs 650-850 which can be booked on Eventshigh hosted by Celebri-Tea folks!

  • 18th March- 12 pm- Know your Tea Workshop
  • 18th March- 2 pm- A Journey to Rediscover Tea
  • 18th March- 3:30 pm- Tea and Health
  • 19th March- 112 pm – Tea Appreciation Workshop
  • 19th March- 2 pm- Tea and Chocolate Pairing.

PS

Interesting to note that 3 artists whom I admire a lot, were also Tea Lovers! Kishore Da, Sachin Tendulkar and Bob Marley

Tea Festival India
Tea Festival India

#TravellerStories-07- Of Free House-Boat Stays and Other Tales

This edition of the #TravellerStories features Athmanathan , who once took a one way ticket from Singapore to Nepal to take out 4 months to discover himself. Athma is a Banker who lives in Mumbai.

Why the need for such a series like TravellerStories? We hear so many travel stories, but we’d be able to appreciate the travel stories at a relative level, only when these same questions are put to people at different place, we’d probably have a sense of awe towards how geography and history places a bias on our thinking. So these are nice postcards that you want to quickly rummage through, over an evening snack. Yes, just meant over tea and biscuits.

A) Where are you from and what do you do for a living?

I am from a lot of places! I normally use Y = random (‘Pune’,’Trivandrum’,’Pondicherry’) to answer the question of where I am from. I work in a Bank. I know that seems old school in the world of startups and digital/tech companies. I convince myself to believe that ‘I build forward looking numbers for the most important banking institution in the world, the US FED’

B) What’s the most cliched thing that outsiders say or feel about your city/country?

‘India is curry country’. While I don’t disagree in total, I believe that people should travel once to form their own opinions . I never travel to any country with a bias.

C) What’s that one dish travellers should try out at your city and where?

Any South Indian dish at either ‘Madras Cafe’ or ‘Ram Ashray’ in Matunga in Bombay (Now called Mumbai).

D) Reg exploring places outside your city, which is your favourite place (and why)?

The Canadian Arctic. Solitude like nowhere else in the world (‘world’ refers to my limited understanding of the places where normal travelers can venture into). I have spent 2-3 days without meeting another human being – that has never happened anywhere else on my travels.

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E) Of all your travels on work, which city charmed you the most and why?

Montreal. Beautiful city, Warm hearted French Canadians who enjoy life to the fullest.

F) What is the craziest thing you have ever done while travelling?

Landed in Srinagar at 10PM with no accommodation, no plan and absolutely no research. I was chased by a few travel agents when I got down from the bus. I started walking randomly in some direction. After 15-20 mins, the road got dark. One of the travel agents was persistent – he chased me for almost a km despite my refusals all along. He caught my bluff – I was walking in a direction where there were no hotels. As it turns out, I ended up bunking in a spare bed in his house – a house boat ! I couldnt afford any of his house boat options – so, he just lent me a spare bed in his room. Ashfaq, a nice warm hearted guy, was once of the nicest people I have met in Kashmir.

On a Road Trip to Coorg with Family-Part 4

This series features a road trip in Karnataka to Coorg with my family.  Read on to know how a trip to the nearby Nagarhole National Reserve went during our stay at Jagale Home Stay. in Part 4 of this series. Read the earlier parts here (Part-3Part-2 and Part-1)

After dinner, I sat at the newly created porch to read a couple of my magazines on my Jio Phone. I was full after having more desserts than my actual dinner. My stomach was still smarting from an invasion of Apple Walnut dessert cake and Papaya Halwa. I was listening to stories on how each of we inmates spent our day. My son was still running around like an energiser bunny all around the house, with his new friends (kids from our adjacent room). He had not quite gone out of the estate, so I made some plans on where to go the next morning. My neighbour Vaibhav and I decided to take our families to Nagarhole in the morning, and then we would leave. It was our last day in Coorg, so I thought I’d go out and have something nearby and easier to go. Nagarhole and Balele were not more than 20 minutes of drive from our estate, so they were easier to plan. We agreed to wake up at 5:15 am and drive to the national park so as to be there at the entrance by 6 am.

We were there by 5:45 am. The skies were still undecided on turning orange. The twilight skies were paused on blue for a while with a silhouhette view of the under-exposed trees.

The entrance to the Nagarhole National Park in Coorg
The entrance to the Nagarhole National Park in Coorg

With still some time to go, I get inside the national park, and sign the register and enter the car name and registration number, and I go and sit back in the car. I spot some tall trees in the distance and wonder how beautiful it would be to have a house in the foothills, adjacent to a national park. The morning twilight was now starting to fold up.

A home near Nagarhole National Reserve. Quite a place to have a house
A home near Nagarhole National Reserve. Quite a place to have a house

We drove through the national park, and it was damp and chill, as we drove through the forest with trees on both sides. It was in a way surreal since there was an organised road bisecting the wilderness that was present on both sides. We saw some spotted deers inside the forest as we drove on. By the time, we reached the ticket counter, there was quite a crowd early in the morning lining up to buy tickets for the morning safari. We were priveleged to watch the morning sun, light up the damp greens, through the vertical trees that boxed with the sun’s rays to prevent its entry.

Sunrise in Nagarhole National Park
Sunrise in Nagarhole National Park

Once we bought the tickets, there was some clamour for tickets and window seats. Having an SLR on your neck dangling ensured that I had some respect and when people had to chose between sitting at the window seat and offering me one, they gave me the benefit of the doubt. I was happy and chose a good seat on the left.

On the Nagarhole National Park Safari
On the Nagarhole National Park Safari

The bus would veer off the road path and get into the mud path. They seemed to have a trail which they would follow and would stop when an animal came by. There was something in the way the driver drove or the vibes I got from the forest that morning, that told me, I was not going to see any tiger today. And, boy was I right or what!

On the Nagarhole Safari Trail
On the Nagarhole Safari Trail

I just some buffalos and some more spotted deers. Oh yes a Peacock also. Not quite what I really wanted to see on a forest Safari after waking up at 5 am.

Bulffalo in NagarHole
Buffalo in NagarHole

 

Peacock with Spotted Deer
Peacock with Spotted Deer

It got to a point where we saw so many spotted deer in the forest, that it stopped being funny anymore. Tigers probably needed more patience, and would not probably show up so easily. I noticed that there were smaller vehicles that took a different route, and were charged more. Had I known that there’s a surge pricing for spotting tigers, I might have signed up.

 

Spotted Deers in Nagarhole
Spotted Deers in Nagarhole

After a disappointing morning, I came back to the homestay, and decided to rest a bit. A sumptuous breakfast happened, where I developed a special love for the idlis that were cooked that morning. Goodbyes were a bit tough to say to Pavita and Ramesh, and too the special set of inmates who were extended family for the last 3 days. Each of us proceeded one after another away from Jagale, and we were the last to leave. We soaked in a bit more of the place, and slowly drove out of our ‘home’ to find our home back in the urban jungle. Maybe this trip was what I needed to plan for a house in the jungle or by the beach. Paying EMI’s for similar looking ugly houses in the city, wasn’t my idea of a great life, but sometimes you need to get into the gutter to clean up stuff. I had a life to sort out back in the city, and as you guessed it the return journey always doesnt carry the same air of expectation as your onward journey. You wish you could be home in just a jiffy, but you need to brave a long journey. That’s life! When we passed by the gates of Pavita’s estate and briefly paused, it looked like the gates were open, and we would soon be back. I proceed on my return trip with a smile. The mood wasn’t that bad afterall!

And We were Back!
And We were Back!

Contacting Jagale Home Stay

You can reach Pavita, who runs this along with her husband Ramesh. She is reachable on email at pavita (dot) ramesh (at) gmail (dot) com. She usually charges around INR 2000 per adult per day. Kids usually come in free. Go here for the great food, the family like atmosphere and the amazing greenery around the place.

Reaching Jagale Home Stay

Jagale Home Stay (Geo Coordinates)about 90-100 kilometres from Mysore, 250 kms from Bangalore, and around 600 kms from Chennai. This is just behind Wayanad, so Wayanad is about 30 minutes split across by the Nagarhole National Reserve, which starts just behind the home stay.

On a Road Trip to Coorg with Family-Part 3

This series features a road trip in Karnataka to Coorg with my family.  Read on to know how to get “Relaxomorphins” at Jagale Home Stay. in Part 3 of this series. Read the earlier parts here (Part-2 and Part-1)

I woke up at 5:15 am, but I kept postponing getting up, and finally when the clock was closer to 6, I woke up with a start, with the real fear of missing the sunrise. There was little time to take my camera, measure the light, check the frame and tripod. I took out my S7 edge and quickly captured the rising sun, which was lighting up the mist in the air around the estate. It was surreal for that fleeting instant, where a silhouette of the plantations was starting to look beautiful on the phone than in front of me. I walked on the chill mud barefoot, recovering from the moist mist attack, from the light of the morning sun. The sun’s rays just had enough warmth that made you enjoy the warmth amidst the winter chill. Coming from Chennai, I had never professed a love for the sun, beating down on my face, but Coorg made me see reason in the sun. No Sun cream, No Slippers, No sweaters. Primal heat amidst the tropical greens was how I spent my morning.

Wake up to a Coorgi Morning
Wake up to a Coorgi Morning

I walked around with music in my ears, pockets in my hand, wanting to explore what lay on either sides of the house entrance gate. I decided to veer right and found myself amidst tall trees. The orangish mud and the dark green coffee leaves seemed to present enough contrast to not notice the mist that still lingered in the distance. There was something imposing about these tall trees, that made you wonder what a tiny speck you are. I saw some birds flying in the distance, and wondered what a view they would have of the estate, and maybe thought its worthwhile to think about buying a drone to capture better views and shots.

 

Pathways adjacent to Jagale Homestay
Pathways adjacent to Jagale Homestay

I walked a little more and saw webs spun by spiders along the route. If I had my son on this walk, I am sure, he would have added that Spiderman must be just around the corner and he would have asked me to help him search for Spiderman.

Spiders Web at Coorg
Spiders Web at Coorg

The morning was fresh and tender and the growing sun was slowly warming up the place, and the spider’s web were around plants and flowers. It was like the spiders were making a statement, that they own this place. They had earmarked their territories through their concentric patterns, and were carefully looking at human intruders who were coming in to their territory.

I just followed the trail and walked where the forest took me. Ramesh had told me that a couple of times, there were animal attacks, so that played like a repeating track slowing me down with every step I took. The workers on the farm were yet to start work, so I did not want to get too lost in the woods, but I loved the feeling of being alone in the woods early in the morning. There is an affinity that early mornings and I have developed over the years. A sleeping and dark world gets illuminated into a fresh new start, and its never too late to make a fresh start. The sun and nature do this every 24 hours. Maybe these are the cues we need to take from nature.

Just as I was walking and thinking that I was alone, I saw a bunch of workers walk past me. They seemed from India’s eastern corners by dialect, and were walking with a need to get somewhere. I could not imagine walking fast with targets to reach in these woods. The green and red contrast already had so many ‘relaxomorphins’ in the estate, that I was busy collecting ‘Pokemon Go type Relaxomorphins’ with every step that I took.

Workers walking through Coorg's Jagale HomeStay
Workers walking through Coorg’s Jagale HomeStay

I went back and went towards the gates, to go and explore the other side of the coffee estate. I found a cute little school, which was probably the school for the village, though I hear from Pavita that there are residential schools in Gonikoppal, the nearest town to Jagale village. The school had a rusted and discolored iron gate in predictable state of dis repair, while the school had a beautiful old world simple charm that I had not seen in a while.

School in Jagale Estate-Coorg
School in Jagale Estate-Coorg

I had not seen tiled roofs in a while, and seeing it in a school made me wonder about the modern day schools housed in spaces that are claustrophobic. I liked the space that the school had for children to play. Walls with an India flag, paintings on walls, and very different non-corporate feel to a school certainly did all it could to rewind back a few years when simplicity was more a part of our DNA. It was a bit like Jagale’s school never really aged after the 80’s. With more facilities like a Reliance Jio SIM card that provides fast internet access and information to everyone living in rural areas, I am really interested in how schools in smaller towns disseminate information from a mobile phone connected to fast internet. Jio’s signals had not made it yet to this village at the time of travelling, but it probably should change a bunch of things in how people get information about their world. Right now, the revolution is probably limited to having a DTH dish in each house to stay connected to what the world is doing.

School in Jagale Estate-Coorg
School in Jagale Estate-Coorg

 

A little further down the school is a narrow road with more mud and less traces of tar, that just about fits a 4 wheeler. That road leads to a little lake and paddy fields, and on that path stay the local helps who are employed by Pavita.

View of the Paddy Fields
View of the Paddy Fields

 

One of the local help ladies is about 70, but she doesn’t quite look her age, as she seemed younger with black hair and a few shades of grey, and seemed physically a little stronger than most women I decide not to take her portrait, but observe her. Her face looks a lot different from the local Kodavas community here. Pavita, informed me that she was from Assam, and had moved here some 50 years back.The previous night, she came inside the compound and was washing dishes, while she was blabbering and wavering about, and then she was helped to her house by Pavita in her car. Pavita tells me that locals who stay in these houses take their wages weekly, and the day they get their money, they go out to the wine shop about 5 kilometres away in Nittur and drink till they roll over. They live a care free life and don’t worry on savings and planning. I also hear that these locals are so connected to their surroundings that they trust nature more than doctors. Once this old lady had a cut in the head and came to work bleeding and even did work. On asking what happened, the lady replied that she had a small fight in her neighborhood and some other lady attacked her. Aggression and brawn rule, and if some injury happens, they let it stay like that. Interesting titbits from the local lives of people in this village, that I got to hear thanks to Pavita.

 

I came back to the house and sat by the other side of the house, which opens into a sitting area that has glass sheets above and some magazines on the table are laid out, which are mostly Readers Digest and Good Housekeeping. It’s a beautiful place to sit by the cushioned chairs and sip your tea/coffee as you let the morning transition into afternoon, with little signs accompanying because of the salubrious weather in Coorg. The only alarm you get for lunch is when your stomach suddenly feels it needs more nourishment. But your lunch here is mostly delayed because of all that lovely food that goes into your stomach during breakfast. Akki Rotis, Idlis, Dosas, Uthappam with the sambhar and chutneys to boot. Lunch was still a light year away, since my stomach was still processing the morning eating riot. This holiday was about relaxing, eating and taking walks at your own pace.

Jagale Home Stay in Coorg
Jagale Home Stay in Coorg

After another round of a heavy lunch, Its time for decisions. Should I go to Pavita’s mezzanine floor to read magazines with the backdrop of a Buddha on a yellow colorful wall, or should I go to sleep in my room? I chose the former, because it has a variety of rare magazines and books from the 70’s and 80’s. I settle against the wall and ask my son to pick a book to read, but he gives up after a while and makes me close my reading session.

The Library of Sorts-Mezzanine Floor-Jagale Home Stay, Coorg
The Library of Sorts-Mezzanine Floor

He takes me down to the foosball table below to engage in some games attempting to score goals, and post that spots a trampoline lying in the corner. He jumps on that in joy and also decides that he will play badminton that way jumping on the trampoline.

Trampoline Fun
Trampoline Fun

Jumping badminton is a new variant that I learn today. My son does this till its tea time, and all his energy levels are expended and promptly goes off to sleep.

Jumping Badminton or Readying for a Smash
Jumping Badminton or Readying for a Smash

 

The house in-mates chose to spend their time going to nearby places. The Indigo flight captain’s family chose to travel on both the days to the Golden Temple Monastery and to Thala Kaveri. The other set of people have gone to Nagarhole for the afternoon safari. I along with another family chose to spend our holiday doing nothing except for a few walks around the estate. We save Nagarhole for our last day, by going on a morning safari and then we’d leave back to our homes by 11 am. But that’s for tomorrow.

 

Pavita comes around and asks us if we are ready for some snacks and tea, and I say yes. So I went over to the chairs near the foosball table and sat with Pavita and Ramesh. I feel that it must be tough to have guests at your place, but Pavita and Ramesh both manage their time well by having time to themselves and at the same time, managing to spend time with people who stay at their place. It almost felt like we were staying at a relatives place away from the city, who were allowing us our space and at the same time cared about us. Pavita’s rooms are tastefully done up with her choice of wood, bedspreads, curtains and bathroom accessories, without giving a feel of a luxury place that’s disconnected from nature. I spend a couple of hours with Ramesh talking about cricket, parenting and ask him about Kodava festivals, of which they seem to have 3 main festivals in the year, the most important one being where they chase wild boars, re-emphasising their identity as the warrior clan. Its dinner time already and I am expecting a lavish feast to belch burps into the clear night sky as all the folks gather for another long discussion. I could get used to this pace of life!

 

To be continued in Part-4

Contacting Jagale Home Stay

You can reach Pavita, who runs this along with her husband Ramesh. She is reachable on email at pavita (dot) ramesh (at) gmail (dot) com.

Reaching Jagale Home Stay

Jagale Home Stay (Geo Coordinates)about 90-100 kilometres from Mysore, 250 kms from Bangalore, and around 600 kms from Chennai. This is just behind Wayanad, so Wayanad is about 30 minutes split across by the Nagarhole National Reserve, which starts just behind the home stay. Go here for great food and relaxation in the plantations.

On a Road Trip to Coorg with Family-Part 2

This series features a road trip in Karnataka to Coorg with my family. This is the second in the series, continued from Part-1

The Greens of Jagale Estate
The Greens of Jagale Estate

We reached Jagale at 5 in the evening, driving through Hunsur and Nittur. The presence of the greens of the crops, has such a soothing effect on your holiday. No Horns, No vehicles in the distance, and I was already loving the quietness of the place. This little estate was called Jagale, and the only problem was that all houses had the name of Jagale by their gates, and this time I trusted Google maps to help me find the place. I saw Pavita’s husband, Ramesh walking in the distance with his dogs and I waved out to him, as we slowly ambled along the lane going in to their house to see the familiar place.

Entrance of Jagale HomeStay
Entrance of Jagale HomeStay

As soon as I saw the view of her house, I knew I was in familiar territory. My son loved the open space, and my family loved the idea of taking a break. There are about 3 rooms in the main house, and a couple of other rooms in the adjacent block. I had last time stayed in the terrace of the main block, but this time, I was given the rooms in the adjacent block. The food however was served in the main block, and that was our window to get to know all the guests who had come over, and that is the secret sauce of a place like this, which we would get to know over the course of the next 3 days.

Main Block of Jagale Homestay
Main Block of Jagale Homestay

The main block house has outer borders on two sides, filled with chairs, hammock, books, a foosball table and an area with chairs covered by glass sheets. Both these sides are accompanied by flowers and a mini garden of sorts, though there is a bigger garden around the house. The first border is where you go to relax and do nothing. I loved the hammock while my son loved the foosball table, which was just enough for his smaller frame. In no time, the sun set and it was already 8 pm, which was time for dinner at the main table.

At the dinner table at Jagale Homestay
At the dinner table at Jagale Homestay

I had a couple from Bangalore with their kids, an Indigo pilot, a lawyer from Bangalore over the table, and that’s when we started exchanging stories on our lives. This is the best part of the homestay experience, where you meet new people and they become a part of your lives over a weekend, apart from the hosting couple. Pavita’s speciality at her house is the pork she makes, which gets her loyal repeat guests. Given we are vegetarian, we  are satiated every time we come to the table to eat, with delectable fare spread consisting of the usual Sambhar, rasam, stew and spinach curry for the first evening. She used the vegetables available in her own garden and every meal was a 3 course meal at her place, which left us feeling full and relaxed. Pavita has a couple of full time cooks, who help her with the round-the-clock cooking, and keeping the guests fall in love with the primal instincts of nature and food. Your body discovers “RelaxoMorphins” out of nowhere, thanks to bland city life that you lead!

The Homestay Family at Jagale
The Homestay Family at Jagale

The kids curled up on the sofa while we were having dinner to watch television, and it was so nice watching them at ease, while we went about our dinner. Pavita’s place has a Tata Sky connection, but no wired internet connection at the time of the writer going there, partly because BSNL provides very patchy service. Reliance Jio signals don’t come anywhere within a 10 kilometre range, and Airtel has a meek 2G signal which is just enough to send Whatsapp messages slightly delayed. So, if you have any plans of working from Jagale Estate, please focus only on offline work that may not require an internet connection. I was looking forward to connecting with nature and not so much with the world-wide-web, and in a while I went to sleep with the evening chill and the warmth inside the room, having a plan to wake up before sunrise for the next day.

 

 

To Be continued in Part-3

Contacting Jagale Home Stay

You can reach Pavita, who runs this along with her husband. She is reachable on email at pavita (dot) ramesh (at) gmail (dot) com.

Reaching Jagale Home Stay

Jagale Home Stay (Geo Coordinates)about 90-100 kilometres from Mysore, 250 kms from Bangalore, and around 600 kms from Chennai. This is just behind Wayanad, so Wayanad is about 30 minutes split across by the Nagarhole National Reserve, which starts just behind the home stay. Go here for great food and relaxation in the plantations.

On a Road Trip to Coorg with Family-Part 1

This series features a road trip in Karnataka to Coorg with my family. A year back, I had made the drive to Pavita’s place, after getting fried in the Tamil Nadu sun, as my car’s AC unit collapsed 3 hours into the trip from Chennai. 16 hours after we started from Chennai, I reached Pavita’s place at midnight and I had Bing Maps for directions, and it required Pavita to drive down to where we were to finally go and reach her estate. This time it was far more relaxed. Read on to know how to get “Relaxomorphins” at Jagale Home Stay.

The purpose of a road trip is to amble and see sights on both sides of the road, and to reach the destination feeling relaxed, so that you could unwind even more. This time, I decided to break my journey and stop the night over in Sravanabelagola (around 200kms from Bangalore and about 90 kms from Coorg), and then proceed at my own pace to reach Pavita’s place [Jagale Home Stay] The good thing about a drive is one gets to see beautiful views of the real rustic India. I  end up stop over at places that don’t probably make it to a map, unless you zoom in on the map. I was even more ecstatic stopping every now and then, since my son soaked all the sights and said “Appa, I love tripping”!

Driving to Coorg (Karnataka)
Driving to Coorg (Karnataka)

The road was alluring as the left and right seemed to converged upon a patch of tar that was not visible as the trees came in the way. Cars on either side meant, that we were competing with the long weekend crowd that was there. I still did not succumb to the thought of rushing through the roads, before I have more cars sharing space on the road. That’s the half the stress on a road trip reduced.

I decided to test Google Map’s skills, by not selecting the path that it suggested. I took a long winding route, and was amply rewarded with pot holes, mud roads and extremely slow speeds. That trio you need to endure before you find picture postcard worthy places staring out of the car window. Yes, one more stop, but this was worth it. A beautiful little railway station, behind a canopy of palm trees and paddy fields. The sun was out and the greens and the blues had a brilliant contrast which made the scene even more beautiful.

The scenic village of Hampapura
The scenic village of Hampapura

Any Road trip requires some change of weather, for you to be suddenly take notice of the smell of the monsoon or the fact that the sun has taken a break. This time the weather cooled a bit, and it became overcast. I thought the monsoons were done in Karnataka for this time of the year, but it showed up. I thought it was a good time for a break to wake up my son, who had fallen asleep to the swings of the air conditioner. This was closer to some settlement and there was a tea shop around. Cooler monsoon weather and Indian Chai have a bond that lightens up any driver on the road to take a break.

Srirangapatna’s cloudy hues of grey and green!
Srirangapatna’s cloudy hues of grey and green!

My son spotted some marigold’s on the other side, and I said, lets go and explore. The yellow marigold flowers were planted in a disciplined manner which had patterns of planting, and between them were wet patches which my son duly went and jumped on. I know the detergent ads say “Daag Ache Hain” but as a parent on a road trip with family, my heart skips a beat after seeing my son playing around in the wet mud, dirtying his shoes and clothes.

Marigolds in Srirangapatna
Marigolds in Srirangapatna
Getting Naughty in Mud
Getting Naughty in Mud

 

The long winding roads, and a confused sun, means we have a very different light staring down at us, as we try and find our way to the little town of Nittur which is like the mathematical concept of limits. The more you drive, you still think its nearby and a couple of turns away, but it still has not been reached. The view of the road from the top of the curve makes it exciting to look at. I go and stop my car, and wait for another car to drive into my frame. A few more cares fit in, while I go back and chew some gum. They say it makes you stay awake on such drives. But with a lens dangling around my neck, and such beautiful sights en route, I am always alert and ready to capture a slice of nature to take back as memoirs that will lighten up Facebook’s servers and the ‘J’ meters of those who decided to stay back home for the long weekend.

The Long Sloping Road to Coorg
The Long Sloping Road to Coorg

To be continued in Part-2

Contacting Jagale Home Stay

You can reach Pavita, who runs this along with her husband. She is reachable on email at pavita (dot) ramesh (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Reaching Jagale Home Stay

Jagale Home Stay (Geo Coordinates)about 90-100 kilometres from Mysore, 250 kms from Bangalore, and around 600 kms from Chennai. This is just behind Wayanad, so Wayanad is about 30 minutes split across by the Nagarhole National Reserve, which starts just behind the home stay. Go here for great food and relaxation in the plantations. 

 

In search of Moksha-The MahaKumbha Mela Experience-Part 1

I realized its been 4 years, since I had been to the Maha Kumbha Mela. I thought I’d share a little interview that a popular english Radio Channel called Chennai Live 104.8 FM. I have modified the interview by mixing the audio with my images to visually keep the viewer engaged. The next post coming up tells the story in text and images. So keep your eyes open, while you spend your Sunday watching this!

Naga Babas blessing people at the Mahakumbh Mela in Allahabad
Naga Babas blessing people at the Mahakumbh Mela in Allahabad

Travel Post Cards- Series #6

Its interesting to see how a city’s looks and roads can change in the monsoon season. The Konkan coast has a raging sea of brown and is green all around on land, while the east coast of India is more susceptible to cyclones coming its way and changing the way the city looks. Trees are uprooted, roads are swallowed by stagnant water, the land is enroached by the sea, electricity takes a break and the city starts to look a little different. Here are a few clicks from the savage Chennai rains of the 2015. So this series of the postcards is about how different cities can look due to a changing season!

“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”

Traffic Jams during rains in Chennai
Traffic Jams during rains in Chennai
Whatever remains of the Marina Beach in Chennai
Whatever remains of the Marina Beach in Chennai

Do you have any thoughts on how different your living space looks? Do let us know.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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

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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!

 

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