Category Archives: India Travel

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 ūüôā

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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]

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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

 

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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 Рhe chased me for almost a km despite my refusals all along. He caught my bluff РI 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 Рa house boat ! I couldnt afford any of his house boat options Рso, 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-3, Part-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 ‚ÄúRelaxomorphins‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs place, after getting fried in the Tamil Nadu sun, as my car‚Äôs AC unit collapsed 3 hours into the trip from Chennai. 16 hours after we started from Chennai, I reached Pavita‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôt 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 ‚ÄúAppa, I love tripping‚ÄĚ!

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‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄúDaag Ache Hain‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs servers and the ‚ÄėJ‚Äô 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!

‚ÄúThis 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‚ÄĚ

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‚Äôs Part 2 of ‚ÄúChilling in Agonda‚ÄĚ

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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Chilling in Agonda(Goa) -Part III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Honeymoon Island in Goa
Honeymoon Island in Goa

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Postcards #5

This edition of the Travel Postcards takes you to Coorg in Karnataka.

‚ÄúThis 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‚ÄĚ

It’s 6:15 in the morning. That’s what the clock says. It’s chill and dark, and there’s no reason to get up. Maybe I could go out there and capture the sunrise, waiting for it to come. Maybe!

I snooze the alarm, hoping to get up in the next 120 seconds. Just that 1 second was not 1 second in that comfortable state of sleep that I was. A sudden premonition of a missed sunrise, woke me up with a start, and when I looked around, the windows had light passing through, and I had overslept. I quickly opened the door and took out my phone (S7 Edge), and saw this scene outside the house. I immideately snapped. I did not have the time, for taking my SLR Camera out of my bag, fix the right lens, and wait for a frame. The frame was outside the door, and said a fleeting goodbye before the sun chose to go higher! I thanked providence for the oppurtunity and went back to sleep next to my son.

Behind me was the Nagarhole National Park, and in front of me was a coffee estate in a little village called Balele. In the midst of nature, I was staying at Jagale Home stay, pristine for its location, food and its wonderful hosts Pavita and Ramesh. Do read Part-1, Part-2, Part-3 and Part-4 of the stay

Waking up to a Coorgi morning at Jagale Home Stay
Waking up to a Coorgi morning at Jagale Home Stay

After a while, I got up, the scene was normal but not surreal, but I learnt that it maybe worth it to get up early on holiday. Learn more about the trip to Coorg in Karnataka later this month.

A splending morning at Jagale Home Stay in Coorg
A splending morning at Jagale Home Stay in Coorg

Chilling in Agonda(Goa)-Part II

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

Continuing from Part-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chilling in Agonda(Goa)-Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Do stay tuned to Part-2 coming up shortly!

 

For the Love of the Konkan!

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting at Udupi Railway Station
Waiting at Udupi Railway Station

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Grab that windows seat!
Grab that windows seat!

 

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

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

Villages pass by with orangish Paths, covering whatever is left of the road, being garlanded by tall palm trees. It looks like the tree is the parents and they are chaperoning the village from getting urbanized. They are doing a good job at it. Reddish brown tiles, and Green cover all around makes you feel like stress, urgency and a fast pace don‚Äôt really have a standing here. An old man walks along the mud path, like he must have for all these years, with a smile. Somebody in the train is playing ‚ÄėMalare‚Äô on their bluetooth speaker, as the train ambles through Kundapura and Senapura. ¬†The world seems more beautiful, with a mellifluos song, sung in sync with scenery that is shouting at you to look at it with its wares.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Important Notes and External Links



Getting on this train

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

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

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


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

Konkan Railway Map
Konkan Railway Map

Vignettes of North Goa That You Didn’t Know

There is always a sense of excitement when a trip is planned to North Goa, that never seems to die down with time. Goa to me means a melange of experiences across every village. In North Goa, over time, I have learnt to avoid Calangute and Baga, and seek greener pastures to discovering the Konkan Coastline that houses Goa. I have developed a sense of awe and peace for the northern most part of North Goa, and this photo story exactly talks about a few vignettes of North Goa, that your friends did not tell you about.

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That place, which required a passport before the 1960’s to enter! *

That place, which feels like a trip to a paradise, without using a passport

That place that Lonely Planet said ‘Indians visit to escape India’

Usually when people say that the best place to visit in Goa is ‘North Goa’, what they really mean is that stretch between Candolim and Baga, with Calangute sandwiching it. Goa is best explored a little further north of Goa post the Siolim Bridge, if you are driving down, and post Thivim station if you are travelling on Indian Railways.

Hat Tip- Travel on Indian Railways. Its cheaper, quicker and more exciting to travel from the South all the way to the north. This would be from Loliem/Cancona from the South to Pernem in the north.

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If you did the road, the first point of call is the Morjim-Aswem-Mandrem stretch.This stretch of the beach has a few rocks by the beaches, but is extremely safe for swimming, as there are very moderate currents. The villages in this stretch are extremely scenic, and are often meant for postcards to be sent on Facebook back to your friends. If you want a secluded stretch with privacy, pick the huts at Otter Creek.¬†I havent stayed there but I find it alluring to shed some currency on my card to reserve my stay there. The travel version of ruminating over an “Add to Wishlist”

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If you head further north to the extreme, you will come across a colourful hotel, that stays on a little hill overlooking the Arabian Sea. You need to get off the jetty at Kerim, and take the ferry to Tiracol village (named that way as the Terekhol river over looks it). The goverment ferry takes passengers free and charges for the vehicles, while the private ferry is smaller and quicker but charges quite a hefty sum. It is so peaceful trying to go on the ferry and floating slowly on the water. That is so ‘sussegado’, feeling the sun on your face, and taking in the pretty sights of the palm trees dotting on Kerim Beach.

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Once you reach the other side, you need to walk up a couple of kilometres or take an auto rikshaw up the hillock to reach the place. This is a heritage hotel called ‘Fort Tiracol’, and has 7 rooms, each named after a day of the week. A review on Trip Advisor says ‘Friday’ is the best room. ¬†If you are already staying elsewhere, you can always go there for the view and come back feeling energised. Walk up to the lounge on the terrace and sit there and soak up the views!

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This is the view of the Arabian sea, meeting the Terekhol River by the side of the Kerim Beach. I remember staying on Kerim beach in 2009. It is one of the quiet beaches in Goa, and I hope it has stayed that way. The mountains shown in the picture usually have paragliders jumping off to fly over this valley. The other side of the mountain has the Sweet lake beach and the main town of Arambol Beach. If you trek from Kerim, Arambol is 4 kilometres and a scenic 45 minute trek, and if you chose to flash your motored vehicle, its a steep 19 kilometres through scenic forests.

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When you come over to the other side to Arambol beach, you have just landed on a paradise, that is crowded but presents a beautiful experience to the eclectic traveller. Workshops, Music, Yoga and a serene beach. This is my favourite beach in Goa. Arambol to me represents a state of the mind, and is so different from the rest of the beaches, even though its very far away. This photo was taken from a hut right at the entrance of Arambol beach through the sloping market road in a place called 21 Coconuts inn meant for backpackers.

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Between Arambol and Kerim, if you trek the jungles, you will find a plateau which houses a couple of meditation communities called the Banyan and Mango Tree. You will also find a bunch of people enjoying the privacy by smoking marijuana.I had trekked once at 6 am to capture shots of the early morning sunrise, and I found this person smoking up at sunrise. I usually stay away from smokers, since I am allergic to cigarette smoke, but I saw lovely ambient light on this person, so I decided to brave it and take his shot. He saw that I was going on taking photos after requesting for him, so he decided that I should end up giving a ‘Dakshina’. One Laptop please he said, and I could not even ask him “Dude, What are you smoking”?

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As I proceeded down back to the beach, I saw a shack owner who had come to brush his teeth amidst nature. How privileged ae those who get to brush or bathe amidst nature like this. I loved it back in 1997 and 2004, when I was doing this daily on long treks in Himachal Pradesh. As I soak in that feeling, I am thinking when should I plan my next trip to this side of the world.

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*- Read this fascinating read on how Goa required a passport to enter back in the times by Scroll.in

#TravellerStories-03-Of Happy Pizzas and Other Stories!

Let’s meet Nikhilesh Murthy¬†who is third on this series called ¬†#TravellerStories. He’s¬†a traveller from Bangalore in India¬†¬†who blogs at about lifestyle and culture¬†in various places.¬†He is a marketer for an IT company in Bangalore. In this episode, we throw a few questions at him and find out what he likes and doesn’t.

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.

Nikhilesh Murthy saying Cheers!
Nikhilesh Murthy saying Cheers!

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

For all practical purposes, I am a “Bangalorean”. While my roots are in Tanjore in Tamil Nadu, I only go there once a year to visit the family deity. I work in the marketing department of an IT company and am responsible for one of their technology functions. When I’m not doing that, I’m busy attending music shows or trying out new food at places across the city. I make it a point to take a few weeks off every six months and go travelling, some times on my own, sometimes thanks to work.

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

Most folks I’ve met are always surprised as to how I can speak English so clearly (and many times better than them). They also get surprised when I talk about world politics, western music, etc and don’t know too much about fixing computers.¬†Many folks also get a bit shocked when I talk about bands like Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters, Black Keys ¬†and musicians like Miles Davis or Jack White because their assumption is that we all listen only to “Indian¬†music”, which is either Punjabi music ( an opinion of folks from the UK and Canada) or Bollywood music.¬†I also enjoy living in hostels and travelling solo. So many of the local folk find it odd that I’m not sticking to the general impression they have that Indians (like the Chinese) travel in large groups and are quite loud. I wouldn’t completely blame them for that stereotype.

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

I always encourage folks to try out the famous masala dosa in Bengaluru. I’ve taken a handful of foreign friends to the Airlines Hotel ( but CTR in Malleswaram is the best). And they love that along with the vada. They find “the savoury peppery donut” quite fascinating.

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

I don’t think there is a single place as such that comes to mind. So many options – Mysore, Mangalore, Coorg, Chikmaglur just to name a few. Each of these are very different from the urban jungle of Bengaluru. Less traffic, more polite folks, a lot of nature to discover. And not to forget, great food. Just try the pandi curry (pork curry) in the average Coorg household or the ghee roast in a Mangalorean house to know what an array of flavours we have to offer.

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

I was in love with New York for the longest time, but a trip to New Orleans changed all that. The culture and vibe of the city is very unlike any other US city I’ve been to. There’s jazz and blues at every corner; come night time, the bands play on the streets and people dance away. Not to forget the cajun styled food which offers familiar Indian flavours yet is completely different. The architecture of the old French and Spanish styled streets make for beautiful pictures. I was fortunate to be in the city during the French Quarter music festival. It was an experience like no other and is now the benchmark for what a music festival should be.

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

Most of these stories are best shared over a cold brew. To name one, ¬†I would have to say that during my recent trip to Cambodia, eating a pizza topped with some unmentionable organic elements, which led to some embarrassing situations once the good stuff kicked in, was not one of the brightest ideas I’ve had.

Nikhilesh Murthy in Cambodia, trying to cover a sunrise at Angkor VatNikhilesh Murthy in Cambodia, trying to cover a sunrise at Angkor Vat

If you would like to be featured and tell your stories that may be of interest to the traveller community, do write in to us at Kartik@katchutravels.com