This is a series on exploring South Goa, and continues from Part-1
After a slow and heavy breakfast, I proceeded to the beach bed, to ponder on where should I drive to today. Agonda’s palms had a great breeze but the internet signals were yet to make its inroads into this village. Like most remote places, it has a BSNL internet connection which was probably 1 MBPS shared between the whole community of guests, so I gave up on the internet especially at a time when everyone was awake.
By the time, I got ready filling in fuel and buying sun-cream for the trip, Nandu was as usual running amok within the home we were staying. He had taken a liking to Manny’s toys and was running all over the sand, and falling and jumping in the sand. Whichever advert person said ‘Daag Achhe Hain’
I roughly knew that from Agonda, I had to get to a state highway that would connect me to Rajbaga, Talpona and then Galjibaga. It was not more than 15-20 kilometres on what would be part road-part mud path.
It felt good to not depend on technology and ask humans to explore a part of Goa, I had not previously been to. I decided that I had almost the whole of the day, and I was in no hurry to rush through my trip.
The options I had were to go right from the resort and head to the sweet water lake in Agonda, Go left and reach the little hill on the left, Go north to Cabo De Rama and Majorda, or Go south and explore. I had heard about turtle hatching in Galjibaga, but found nothing on my internet research so decided that it piqued me enough to just go and land up there.
I started driving through the little road that connects to the Agonda church where one has to turn left to follow the palms all the way to the entrance of Leopard Valley (South Goa’s niche open air party destination apart from Palolem’s Neptune Point). I passed through Fatima’s shop, which I earmarked from my previous trip to Agonda, telling my family that we must come here for our lunch.
The road that I was driving through had the late morning sun shine down, making me sweat more as I drove ahead. After ambling slowly for about 5 kilometres, we stopped at a place that exuded hippy vibes and looked colourful. I thought it may be okay to fill in on a little brunch, as we end up relaxing a bit and looking around the place.
Brunch at ‘The Space’
It looked like it was an artsy place, with a higher price point for their vegan brunch dishes. The place had an aura of a close knit community that held classes in a rustic but chic old Goan home. The place welcomed people with an art installation, that had water flowing, and the sound of water flowing has a very calming effect on the vibes of a place. Nandu, was attracted to the water fountain almost immideately after we ordered our food, which came about 45 minutes later. Goan service is pretty Sussegaad and laid back as expected.
We waited for our brunch and desert to dig in slowly, until the bill came. I still did not have any Airtel signal, and proceeded to ask people on Galjibaga which very few people had probably heard of. I revised my next statement to which is the road that takes me into south of Palolem, to which I had a long winded answer. I assumed I understood what I heard and discarded whatever was said, since a minute later I was more confused than I was clear.
After meandering a bit, I finally found the mud road, which I presumed was the path. I had on my plans the following beaches. Rajbaga, Talpona and Galjibaga
Why this route you may ask? When I had come from the passenger train that stopped at Cancona, an image of a beautiful place passed me when Goa had been entered. This view stayed in my mind. I later figured out that this was the Galjibag river that cuts across the turtle beach. I did not see any tourist on the beach from about 200 metres, when the train passes this view. I wanted to see if such pristine beaches exist, and if so can Nandu and I play running and catching on the whole beach. So a beach had been spotted from the train. The point now was to be able to get between the trees and see the train track from there. Would it be possible to locate? Lets find out.
I started driving, though a little unsure about where I was heading, and after a couple of wrong routes, I found the road to Rajbaga beach. The beach looked like it had some height between the point where the beach was and the point where the waters started, since the beach sloped down. There were shacks at the centre of the beach serving food and having beach toys for children. It looked like a beach that was meant for the guests of the ‘Lalit Hotel’ as there were very little people on the beach. There are only some 4-5 other hotels/homestays nearby, so this was not a beach on the popular circuit.
The greens on the sides, were so beautiful. The greens get amplified by the winter sun into a greenish yellow tinge, and when there is some morning chill still left in the air, the mind percieves this as the ‘promised land’ that the travel magazines left you to find for yourself.
We had some french fries, spent some time in the beach, bought some baloons and beach toys for Nandu before we checked his energy levels for the remaining part of the trip. He seemed exuberant and all ready to get on the road to Galjibaga. More coming up in Part-3
If you have directly landed here, please check Part-1
So far we have driven from Agonda to Rajbag beach. The following part will have the drive through Talpona to Galjibaga.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Villages pass by with orangish Paths, covering whatever is left of the road, being garlanded by tall palm trees. It looks like the tree is the parents and they are chaperoning the village from getting urbanized. They are doing a good job at it. Reddish brown tiles, and Green cover all around makes you feel like stress, urgency and a fast pace don’t really have a standing here. An old man walks along the mud path, like he must have for all these years, with a smile. Somebody in the train is playing ‘Malare’ on their bluetooth speaker, as the train ambles through Kundapura and Senapura. The world seems more beautiful, with a mellifluos song, sung in sync with scenery that is shouting at you to look at it with its wares.
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
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.
The names of the stations are in a shade of yellow, against the dusted white walls. It’s like the stations had a uniform. The Konkan railways have numbered portions of the stations, with a white board showing the coach number. Since they have limited trains passing through, the vendors and the TT know exactly which coach stops. Maybe ‘Google Now’ can next tell me, to walk a 127 steps to the general compartment. Maybe in a few years on the Konkan Railway! The picket fences are the identity of the Konkan Railway, in the midst of the little greenery that surrounds it on the station. When I approached Murdeshwar, I could spot the giant Shiva statue right on the beach, from the railway track. This little village also has some Scuba Diving options near the temple complex.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
How often do you dream of seeing an azure blue sea, as you travel beside it? I loved the thrills of being on the Galle-Colombo railway line in Sri Lanka, right beside the Indian Ocean. It was surreal and scary at the same time. It looked like the train was travelling on the ocean, since the height of the train window above the sea, was not so high. In India, I have been to Rameswaram, where the drive into Mandapam over the Pamban rail bridge is equally surreal but the height gives it away. The feeling is not quite the same as the train in Sri Lanka.
The closest, I have been to seeing something at a similar level, though with very little water was on the rail line from Madgaon to Vasco in India, as the train nestles through Majorda, there emerges a little patch of beach, by which the lower tides of the Arabian Sea surface up near the railway line.
Is there any railway line that you have seen lately, that you would like to share? Do let me know.
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