Category Archives: Beachlife

You Know What We Did This Summer? | Temple Bay Tales | Part 5

This is the fifth in series of my trip to Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram. I challenged a North Indian friend, who said there’s nothing to do near Chennai in the summers. I told him I could transform his life through experiences on a Saturday and Sunday. Lets dive in to the series! If you have landed directly here, Read Part-4Part 3Part 2Part-1 and Part-0 for context!

Watch the Video series here

Labyrinthine Temple Bay

We wanted to proceed to the spa, late evening to check if we could pick a treatment. The resort is very big and at times labyrinthine to navigate, and we got slightly off path, where I went to the helipad, and then found my way to the Ayur Spa

Ola/Uber’s App Please

Since the resort is so big, we are at times, dependent on the ‘Buggy’ [electric vehicle that ferries guests]. One needs to pick a buggy by waving to a driver, if they are around, or call from the room phone or nearest centre to request for a buggy. An app like Uber/Ola for this could be too much, but it maybe a nifty feature to have a resort app to pass recommendations on activities around, and booking a buggy based on location. If you are not in a hurry like I was, the resort is a beautiful location amidst all the greenery and gardens to walk across from one place to the other

Bodhi Spa

Once we were at the Spa, we decided to check, what would be better for us. I loved the walkway which was a rectangular perimeter walkway with the centre being open to sky, and having plants and flowing water there. Flowing water has this ability to appeal to the mind to mute off your thoughts and stay still. The grey buddha statue there in the centre, just added to the feeling of time standing still on an edge. The Bodhi Spa in-charge, took us to a room, overlooking water falling on some stones, and introduced us to some of the treatments and therapy chambers (interestingly named after Indian plants like Thulasi and Ashwagandha). Since Tej was exhausted, he opted for a deep-tissue Mandara massage

Discussing treatments with the Spa Manager (Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay)
Discussing treatments with the Spa Manager (Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay)

I went to the Ayurveda side and saw the card, and opted for the Shirodhara oil massage. I loved the feeling of warm scented oil dripping on my forehead, building calmness in the mind and body, one drop at a time! The index of a good massage is how they are able to softly exert pressure on the right parts of the body, and be able to get your mind and body to meet in silence.  I slept during the course of the massage and went back to sleep more, after a quick pasta dinner over room service! For all the activity we did, the spa was quite the way to end the day

Zorb Attack!
Zorbing in the Pool
Zorbing in the Pool

In the morning, after a pleasant night’s sleep, by the bay of the bengal, we woke up and hit the beach, and then came down to the swimming pool in our shorts to the zorbing place by the pool. The Orb is a transparent plastic ball, within which you roll on water.

We were to get in through the hole, and then pace our steps in a synchronised manner, so that we would be able to move the orb in the water, but guess what- we struggled to get it moving. If one of us, paced a step early or late, we would both fall down, while the orb would rotate. More on all the fun inside the Orb, you should watch the video embedded in the post.

Wrap Up!

That makes it a wrap for our series! I hope you enjoyed it.

 

You Know What We Did This Summer? | Temple Bay Tales | Part 4

This is the fourth in series of my trip to Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram. I challenged a North Indian friend, who said there’s nothing to do near Chennai in the summers. I told him I could transform his life through experiences on a Saturday and Sunday. Lets dive in to the series! If you have landed directly here, Read Part 3Part 2Part-1 and Part-0 for context!

Here’s the video story


If you want to read up stuff, here goes the blog post below

In Search of the Surfs in Mahabalipuram!

Tej walked out to the beach, eager to get himself acquainted with Surfing. He upped his swag with his dark glasses and shorts, intently feeling the wind as he made his way. Balaji, our guide from the resort, explained to Tej about certain precautions to take care. Tej could communicate well with Balaji, since they bonded well when we started with cycling.

Surfing in Mahabalipuram
Surfing in Mahabalipuram

Tej was asked to lie on the surf board with the head focussed towards the sea and in line with the surf board.  After the wave has been caught, the surfer has to use his hands, keeping it close to his chest, to pop up the body and suddenly stand on the surf board and maintain that position until the wave knocks him over (Beginners will keep getting knocked off)

Basic Surfing Lessons in Mahabalipuram
Basic Surfing Lessons in Mahabalipuram

Surfboard tied/strapped to the leg, Tej made his way into the sea. Watch the video to know more on how it went!

Lunch by the Beach with Chef Mike

Post all of the water activities, we were invited for lunch by Chef Mike, who asked us if we were okay to learn a bit of cooking. We thought this may be fun, so we went ahead and agreed. I donned the Apron and the hat, and saw how Chef Mike went about his business grilling vegetables, and marinating sea food (which was appetising to Tej). It was fun trying to observe a part of the food being cooked on the beach, by the view of the sea in their new revamped Wharf 2.0 restaurant.

Cooking with Chef Mike in Mahabalipuram
Cooking with Chef Mike in Mahabalipuram

In the initial few minutes most of my attention went to the disturbing effect the wind had on the apron, which made it fly, and I as using my hands to quell it down, just like Marilyn Monroe did to her skirt. Comical

My conversation with Chef Mike was on how different are the reactions from the customers when it comes to ordering, since a Menu card can only bring out so much, as opposed to the rich wealth of magic that a chef can customise for guests.  He said that a lot of foreigners coming to India usually go by the ‘Catch of the day’ while Indians usually go for predictable food options like breads/roti. ‘Catch of the day’ usually is a Prawn plus mashed potatoes and Indian flavours like lemon garlic. The chef was very welcoming and showed us his kitchen and sat down with us as we faced the sea, talking about cooking and travelling.

Tej and I sat and gorged on some Paneer Tikkas and a couple of mocktails. One of the mocktails had more ice than drink in it, but the other one was compensating enough. After enough paneer and liquids had filled the stomach, it was time to head out a bit in the evening to go out into the city.

Sculpting in Mahabalipuram

We went to Mahabalipuram town to and explore Mahabalipuram’s sculpting scene by meeting Murugan, who was a sculptor who studied in the little town. Murugan was originally from Bhavani (near Erode in Tamil Nadu).  He told us that business demand for sculpting work was down in the last 2 years.  He manages to eke time out for commercial work as well as creative work. As we sit and talk, I notice various heads of famous yesteryear people. There’s a head of MGR (Kollywood actor and former chief minister of Tamil Nadu) and a head of M.G. Gandhi (India’s iconic freedom leader). I also figure out that Murugan’s body of work includes an impressive stint as one of the sculptors for the Adiyogi statue in Coimbatore, which was inaugurated by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev in his Isha Yoga complex.

If you have read this far, there’s more in the video to know and sensorily feel the described experience.

To experience the same like we did, do sign up for the Summer Chillers program, and experience life’s finer moments packed into a weekend that could otherwise be spent waking up late ordering on Zomato, and getting stuck on a traffic jam. Is the choice not clear?

You Know What We Did This Summer? | Temple Bay Tales | Part 3

This is the third in series of my trip to Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram. I challenged a North Indian friend, who said there’s nothing to do near Chennai in the summers. I told him I could transform his life through experiences on a Saturday and Sunday. Lets dive in to the series! If you have landed directly here, Read Part 2Part-1 and Part-0 for context!

Here’s the video story

SCUBA Tales

Did you know that SCUBA was an acronym for Self-Contained-Underwater-Breathing-Apparatus? I had learnt this while taking my first diving lesson way back in Bangaram Island in Lakshadweep in 2009. I retained absolutely nothing from that dive as I would find out

 

SCUBA Basics at Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay-Mahabalipuram
SCUBA Basics at Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay-Mahabalipuram
Breathing Routine Change

To get into the water, I first had to wear the SCUBA Pro skin jacket. It needs someone to zip you from behind, and it feels quite tight. Black dress on a summer day in Chennai is not the recipe for relaxation at all, but I was to step in to the pool in just a few minutes. Rishabh from Temple Adventures was there to teach me the basics of SCUBA Diving. I had to put on an oxygen cylinder on my back, and a mask that had some space for my nose, and a little attachment that went in my mouth, having to tightly bite it. I now had to breathe in through the mouth and exhale out through my nose. It took a while to even set this in motion. It was even tougher trying to balance my legs as there are fins that are on your legs. That made me look extremely clumsy as i tried to balance myself, with an oxygen cylinder on my back. But with a little bit of patience, all is indeed well!

Lessons Underwater

My first lessons were around communicating the signs properly in water, now made famous as part of common folklore since Bollywood addressed this in 2011 with the feature film ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’

SCUBA Signs under water
SCUBA Signs under water

The next lessons were around clearing water that gets fogged up in the mask surrounding the nose, when water finds its way inside. The other basic lesson was around moving your hands in a way that you reach out for an extension that connects to your mouth, through which you breathe. This extension is connected to the Oxygen cylinder. You need to keep it an angle, else the air/oxygen gets released and wasted.

Deep Blue

Though it was bewitching inside, I could not quite breathe easily or swim easily. That’s when I asked the instructor if someone could dive without the cylinder. He spoke about free diving, and said that he could hold his breath for about 4 minutes inside the water.

Swimming in the pool
Swimming in the pool

I also learnt in my conversation with the instructor that Koh Tao is probably not the best place to go for SCUBA Open water dive courses, as there has been such a huge influx of tourists, that you are more likely to see humans than fishes there! i briefly thought about doing an Open water dive course, during my trip to Thailand last year around the Full Moon Party, but chose to rest after exploring town and Songkaran in Ko Tao

Summer Chillers

If you want to experience the same, as i did, do pick this package called the Summer Chillers, and learn a new way of life under water at Radisson Blur Resort Temple Bay, near Chennai.

You Know What We Did This Summer? | Temple Bay Tales | Part 2

This is the second in series of my trip to Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram. I challenged a North Indian friend, who said there’s nothing to do near Chennai in the summers. I told him I could transform his life through experiences on a Saturday and Sunday. Lets dive in to the series! If you have landed directly here, Read Part-1 and Part-0 for context!

Getting to Breakfast

Soon after we finished cycling, we went over and had our breakfast at the Water’s edge cafe. It was a good spread, but we were late and needed to finish it before they close. One thing we observed was that due to the searing heat, seats near the glass area were less air-conditioned than the ones inoculated from the heat. The summer is usually un-relenting for a body that is not used to such heat, and we had to find a cozy corner where the effect of the sun, does not eat into the air-conditioning.  I had a couple of fruit juices along with Idli/Dosa and bread for my breakfast.

All Terrain Vehicle Ride

I had told Tej about the ATV ride at the beach, and we wanted to go and try it out. Both of us were excited about speeding in the sand, and turning at angle, throwing mud in the air. Some primal things as a kid, stay in our memory and pop up while outdoors like our wish lists.

Tej kicking up a dust storm with the ATV Ride
Tej kicking up a dust storm with the ATV Ride
Things to be Aware
  • These ATV machines need a strong grip to get used to. That may take about 5 minutes as the hands bonds with the controls. My ATV seemed to be inclined to curve right as opposed to go straight.
  • Tej was a little stronger than me, and he loved the ride on the sand. He went quite fast on the sand, and won the competition to ride better! But hey, never forget to have fun!
Tej driving the ATV at Mahabalipuram
Tej driving the ATV at Mahabalipuram
  • Secondly, the real fear is when you drive fast, what if you lose control and get into the sea. If the ATV gets into the sea, it will be a problem, as such devices/cars are not supposed to be in salt water, while they can otherwise be driven on wet sand.
The Ride

Do watch and check how our ATV Ride went!

 

You Know What We Did This Summer? | Temple Bay Tales | Episode 1

This is the first in series of my trip to Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram. I challenged a North Indian friend, who said there’s nothing to do near Chennai in the summers. I told him I could transform his life through experiences on a Saturday and Sunday. Lets dive in to the series!

Reaching Temple Bay

I really did not expect Tej to take a flight and come here, but he did. I  took him from the airport right to Mahabalipuram, through the scenic East Coast road, after pondering a bit over driving on Old Mahabalipuram Road, getting lost around Medavakkam and Sholinghanallur. We finally veered off the junction at Mahabalipuram, and I found the resort, standing tall like a colossus. It was easier to discover it a few years back, since it was the only quality resort back then, but now quite a few other hotels have sprung up on the East Coast Road, but none of the hotels have as much space and tranquility as Temple Bay. I know this since, I have been to most of the hotels on the ECR stretch, during Alumni meets organised by my B-School

Garlanded and Well Rested

We entered Mahabalipuram soon enough and were garlanded by the staff, and were taken on a tour of the facilities, before we were shown our room. The garlands were made of a beautifully ornate collection of sea shells.

Looks like the hotel was also hosting a North India wedding, as the hotel seemed full, and also the ‘Buggy Rides’ were available only a few minutes later, since guests were being ferried in large numbers.

Sea Side Vibes

The hotel being next to the sea, had a steady stream of fresh breeze coming and were nature cooled by all the spread of greenery all around. Our room was closer to the pool side restaurant, so we had a bit of walking to do to get to the sea.  We briefly went to the sea side, and found a bunch of people playing cricket. After sitting for a while, we went back to the cycling and activities point for our first activity, as part of the Summer Chillers program that we had signed up for, was cycling from the resort to the Shore temple

Beach side cricket! CSK Anyone?
Beach side cricket! CSK Anyone?

 

We decided to skip breakfast, and do the ride first and then come back for the breakfast. That way we enjoy what we eat and can really relax in after some body activity!

Tej and I prepare to cycle to the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram
Tej and I prepare to cycle to the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram

Cycling seemed like a connect with child hood, and there was enough breeze for it not to feel like it was tiring. We crossed the beautiful round-about within the resort, and soon arrived at the gates of the resort, before we were stopped by the security.

Cycling from Temple Bay to Shore Temple
Cycling from Temple Bay to Shore Temple

We told them that we were guests and this was part of the program, and then they let us ride out of the resort. It impressed me that they took the security of guests as very important, checking everyone who came in or went out.  I will leave you with the sensory experience of what I have told so far on video, so that you can visually join us on our trip, or decide to copy the same things for your own trip!

Get your own trip!

Ask for the Summer Chillers program, to do the same things like we did. What more did we do? Do watch the rest of the series

 

You Know What We Did This Summer? | Temple Bay Tales | Trailer

A few weeks before, a friend of mine from Delhi, had reached out to me, and was asking about some place he could travel from Delhi over a weekend. His whole point was to travel out on a Friday and return to work on a Monday and be amazed in those 2 days.

Learning SCUBA basics in the Pool!
Learning SCUBA basics in the Pool!

Delhi’tes have the mountains above them, but don’t really have a beach. I knew if I could customise a nice beach experience with some activities, he’d probably go back feeling excited.

The beautiful Eastern Coast near Chennai
The beautiful Eastern Coast near Chennai

I told him to not worry so much, and told him I will keep him in air-conditioned comfort by the beach, and in a largely sylvan environment of greenery. My aim was to give him a bunch of experiences that only a sea town could provide and over just a weekend. So I met him on a Friday night at the Chennai airport and drove him down in my car to go show him that “Summers can be fun around Chennai’s coastline”

Cycling from Temple Bay to Shore Temple
Cycling from Temple Bay to Shore Temple

Presenting our next travel series titled ” You Know What We did This Summer? | Temple Bay Tales”, where I take my Delhi friend Tej to a series of activities where we rough up on the sand in an ATV, defy gravity in a Zorb, attain zen state over Shirodhara, Do some diving under water, Try sea side surfing in the morning, cycle our way to the shore temple and enjoy some sea side mocktails, learning how to fry veggies and fishes! All of this in a 48 hour weekend at Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay (as part of their Summer Chillers program)! I am sure when Tej landed in Delhi, he must have landed a little heavier thanks to the memories he gathered from the weekend!

Tej tries out the ATV ride at Mahabs
Tej tries out the ATV ride at Mahabs
Tej and I prepare to cycle to the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram
Tej and I prepare to cycle to the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram
Tej and I enjoying an evening of mocktails and food by 'The Wharf'
Tej and I enjoying an evening of mocktails and food by ‘The Wharf’

Here’s the trailer! The main series premieres from May 16th  in a 5 episode all month long on Katchutravels! Let me know how you found it!

The Ultimate Guide To the Velas Turtle Festival-Part 2

The Velas Turtle Festival is one of India’s premier destinations (apart from Orissa) for viewing the Olive ridley turtles hatch and head to the sea. The conducive environment created on the beach, helps female turtles trust and leave its eggs on this beach for it to hatch. The turtle conservation program also helps in everyone in this area being aligned to preserving and conserving turtles. It’s also India’s first formal program to stay in villages with the locals and then watch the turtles head out into the sea from the observatory.

This is Part 2. If you have come here directly, there was a Part-1 and a Part-0 too. Do have a look at the series before you start this.

Here’s an option if you are feeling lazy to thumb through the post in images.

  • The post and the video will have different content though the end story is the same.
  • The post talks about my experience and thoughts, while the video has the most important elements captured on camera from various angles
  • Only the video has elements on the history of the Velas Turtle Festival in an interview with Hemant Saldurkar- The organiser of the festival.
  • If I were you, I would watch the video and read further to let the mind check if what you imagined is the same as what I have written about to get a complete picture of what to expect if you are planning a trip to Velas.
Post Dinner on Day 1

I had a very fulfilling dinner, and also noticed that Nandu had eaten a little more than he does at home. I felt satisfied that he had adjusted to the place and was feeling comfortable.

After watching the documentary, he kept running around the house with some of the other kids, and at some point, he was forced to sleep, since the lights were switched off for everyone to sleep.

Some of the folks from Travel Trikon travel group, were playing some game sitting in a circle. I was ready to sleep, since it was beyond my sleeping time at 2130 back home.

Mats out on the mud flooring at Milind's Homestay-Velas Village (Maharashtra)
Mats out on the mud flooring at Milind’s Homestay-Velas Village (Maharashtra)

I was sleeping next to the biker couple from Mumbai, who kept getting up showing some signs of discomfort. I later realised that some of the mosquitoes were troubling them. I had slept with my jeans pant and did not have a problem as such luckily. The house had about 20 people sleeping in the portico of the house, by the mud floor. My only requirement, getting up, was to make sure my devices were charged and I could walk and find my slippers to either go drink water or to to the toilet, which was behind the house. I seemed to have a peaceful sleep, except for getting up a few times and finding my throat showing signs of catching cold. I just prayed and went back to sleep, hoping I would not fall ill.

In such places, under the stars and in a community environment, I tend to sleep deep, but I am also very cognisant of what is happening around me. I woke up without the need to switch my alarm on. I had woken up at about 5 am, after sleeping at 11 pm the pevious night, well rested and ready for the day ahead. It helps to wake up early when you have 2 toilets and 50 people who may compete for it. As soon as I was done with my ablutions, a state transport bus blared its horns and brought the morning load of tourists from Mumbai before the break of dawn. I just had to get my son to use the toilet before the queue started to build.

Milind and his helpers started serving tea, while a large portion of people were still asleep. Some of the portico lights were on. It was already 6 am. I hurried into packing my bag for the morning jaunt, which I heard was around 2 kilometres of walk to the Turtle hatchery.

Walking to the Hatchery

If I had known, that I could take my car and park it there, I would have taken the offer, but the lure of walking slowly through town and keeping an eye out for absorbing the beauty of the town at the crack of dawn. Walking with us were a couple of bird watchers, who were telling Nandu on what to observe. Nandu looked like he was listening and then proceeded to shift his attention elsewhere.

We were walking without actually knowing the route. There were a bunch of people also walking, but each of us without knowing the route managed to just copy each other and we reached a point, where there was a bridge.

If you had a car, you would park here, and get down from the bridge by the steps and then walk on a pathway to the beach.

The Parking spot on the bridge
The Parking spot on the bridge

This is a kilometre of walk with barren land on one side, and mangroves on the other.

Long Walk from the car park to the Turtle Hatchery at Velas Beach [Maharashtra-India]
Long Walk from the car park to the Turtle Hatchery at Velas Beach [Maharashtra-India]
After about 40 minutes we reached the beach, just in time for the morning hatchery procedures. I saw a team of 3-4 people who had gone near the sea to erect temporary structures which serves as boundary. I heard the team was a new team in place, since the earlier organiser Mr Upadhyay had moved to Anjarle (a village 2 hours away) to set up a new turtle hatchery there. The new team had taken a little more time than usual, is what I heard and they made their way back to the hatchery.

Morning Turtle Hatchery

As I settled around a corner, the organisers went in the hatchery, which is covered by a wire mesh on all 4 sides. It was like they went into a ring/den to communicate with their brethren. The crowd was gnawing at the wire mesh, trying to somehow not get a human or a wire in our view to see the turtle. It was here for these fleeting moments that the organisers felt like people with super powers. They come and do this twice a day, and at some point, I don’t even think they are having this thought that they have more access than the commoners. It’s their job and livelihood while the rest of us are here for amusing and entertaining our boorish selves.

With every basket they lift, there is either a chorus of disappointment or joy depending on whether a turtle made its way up in the soil to the top of the beach sand under the basket or whether it did not.

The Turtle Run

Once the turtles have hatched, then the organisers quickly wind up proceedings at the hatchery. They let each of the baby turtles get on to a bag, which is placed inside a basket and they transport them to the portion of the beach where they had erected the temporary chained boundaries.  The tourists watch them getting inside the sea.

Semi circular line for watching the Turtles go to sea!
Semi circular line for watching the Turtles go to sea!

The turtles are under intense scrutiny, as scores of SLR totting photographers are bending backwards to get the right angle, while some parents are doing a live video call with their brethren back home. That serves a mild reminder that 4G signals probably come at the beachThe experience ends with that, until it re- starts in the evening, which I enjoyed even more since more turtles came about

Google Maps- That Thing Turtles Don’t Use

The interesting thing to note is that years later, the turtles (if they are alive) find their way back to the same beach of their birth. I’ve heard that fascinating story to be amazed on how the turtles can find their way to exactly the same beach. The turtles use the invisible lines of the magnetic field. Humans at sea would probably use a compass or Google Maps to navigate their way, but turtles don’t need any navigation help. It is the same magnetic field signature that each place retains, which also helps the turtle find its way home. Here is a mathematical paper and article explaining the turtle movement according to the magnetic field.

We Make Babies, Not Family

I found it a little deviant behaviour, that a turtle lays its eggs and does not stay for its babies birthing or does not even know its babies, since it just seems to come and lay eggs. I am not sure a turtle ever can identify who its family are. Can it? If you know something about it, do comment.

Evening Run at the Hatchery

Our evening run was more fruitful. For one it was relaxed. We had seen turtles in the morning, so there was not this angst that this may be our last session (since we still had a session the next morning). This time, owing to the heat, Nandu and I drove in the car, and parked it some distance away from the parking spot, and walked our way to the hatchery.

The feeling when a turtle shows up when the basket is lifted is pure sense of elation. Its as if we are communally celebrating the birth of every turtle we see.

When Nandu got bored, he decided to jump into the sea!
When Nandu got bored, he decided to jump into the sea!

Once the turtles are taken into the wetter part of the beach, closer to the sea, it seems that the turtles have this pressure to go run and perform, but they don’t quite care about their new found celebrity status.

Turtles-Celebrity Life at Birth
Turtles-Celebrity Life at Birth
Turtle Finding its way into the sea!
Turtle Finding its way into the sea!
Sunset at Velas
Sunset at Velas

As the sun gave way to the moon, and the chill evening breeze started during our walk back, I could not help think of a perfect song for the evening mood

“Yeh Raatein Yeh Mausam, Nadi Ka Kinara, Yeh Chanchal Hawa”

“Yeh Kya Baat Hain, Aaj Ki Chandni Mein, Ki Hum Who Gaye”

Nandu holding a mobile light against his face, as we walk back under the full moon light to our parking spot
Nandu holding a mobile light against his face, as we walk back under the full moon light to our parking spot

By the time, we made our way back to car park, Nandu and I were tired. The walk also felt longer due to the number of people ahead of us and the fact that we were walking slowly, owing to a huge group in front of us. As we made our way to the car park, we noticed that a villager, had set up a mobile bhelpuri stall catering to the hunger pangs of the mass of tourists. Saturday evenings are probably the most crowded evenings in a week, during the season. I was tempted to try it out, but I realised I had not taken my purse, since I had worn my swimming trunks to the beach, knowing Nandu might jump into the waters, and I need to be around to have a safety watch around him. No Bhelpuri, but in a few minutes we would have the divine dinner, that was waiting for us at Milind’s home stay.

The Ultimate Guide To the Velas Turtle Festival-Part 1

The Velas Turtle Festival is one of India’s premier destinations (apart from Orissa) for viewing the Olive ridley turtles hatch and head to the sea. The conducive environment created on the beach, helps female turtles trust and leave its eggs on this beach for it to hatch. The turtle conservation program also helps in everyone in this area being aligned to preserving and conserving turtles. It’s also India’s first formal program to stay in villages with the locals and then watch the turtles head out into the sea from the observatory.

Day-1

Here’s an option- if you are feeling lazy to thumb through the post in images, here’s a link to the Vlog.

  • The post and the video will have different content though the end story is the same.
  • The post talks about my experience and thoughts, while the video has the most important elements captured on camera from various angles
  • Only the video has elements on the history of the Velas Turtle Festival in an interview with Milind Nijsure ( who runs the homestay)
  • If I were you, I would watch the video and read further to let the mind check if what you imagined is the same as what I have written about to get a complete picture of what to expect if you are planning a trip to Velas.
Zoom Car Economics

I booked a Zoomcar from Pune to get things started, after flying in earlier in the morning. Zoomcar has a pretty good procedure for renting its cars right from the Pune Airport(Extra 180 Rs as opposed to picking up the car from their Viman Nagar workshop). I remember taking a slow video of the car just to have an idea of dents (if any). I got an old Maruti Swift, as part of their compact car stable. Pune to Velas was about 190 kilometres. I did some calculation that I veer off a bit on day 2, and about 100 extra kilometres, I would roughly drive for about 500 kilometres. As a result I chose their base plan (8800 INR for 310 kms and INR 12 for every extra kilometre) as opposed to their other plan of INR 12400 for 620 kilomtres. I ended up doing 410 kilometres on the 3 day round trip, amounting to an extra 100 km(1200 INR) at the time of returning the vehicle. This included the cost of fuel (Diesel) which I never had to fill. I was told by Zoomcar staff, that their weekend prices are higher. If I had done this trip on a weekday, it would have cost me half. Point noted.  Additionally Zoomcar had a fine of 2500 everytime, you crossed 120 kmph. I thought it was a good scheme to make people drive their cars safer.

Feedback for Zoomcar– I ended up getting an old, and slightly dirty car. The air in the tyres looked suspect, as there was one part of the front tire that looked like a lump. A car mechanic, on the highway asked me to go slow, since that lump was suspect. The last thing I want is worry on a 3 day trip with flights out of Pune. Otherwise, the car was in good working condition.

The Drive

Once I reached Wakad, I had two options. I could either drive halfway to Mumbai and take a U Turn on a highway near Imagica Water Park, or I could take a left from Wakad (Outer Pune) on the state highway through the Tamhini Ghats. I chose the latter owing to a single road going almost all of the way till a village 30 km before Velas. I drove at about 30-70 kmph speed, owing to the fact that either the roads were small-potholed or these were curvy ascending paths into the hills.

The Mulshi Lake near Tamhini Ghat-Maharashtra
The Mulshi Lake near Tamhini Ghat-Maharashtra

The drive through Tamhini Ghats is beautiful, and I am told that in the monsoons, its even more beautiful. The Mulshi lake is one big lake, that takes a while to traverse, and there were signs advising people not to step into the marshy exteriors of the lake owing to snakes/crocodiles in the vicinity.  I stopped a few times, as I felt sleepy on the highway and for once, I stopped owing to the beautiful view of the sun’s rays on the Arabian sea. This was near Harihareshwar, viewed from a hill drive!

Beautiful View of the Konkan Coast-Harihareshwar
Beautiful View of the Konkan Coast-Harihareshwar

 

So after  about 4 ‘Chai’ breaks, I called Milind Nijsure (The Homestay owner at Velas), to ask about the route. Thank god, I did. I figured out that there is another Velas beach called Velas Agar which was the wrong place that I was heading towards. He asked me to find my way to Bagmandala- a ferry port

On my way to Bagmandala, I discovered that for large parts of these coastal tracts there were muslim settlements. I found that strange, since I thought coastal places, back in the days were invaded by westerners, and as a result Christianity on the coast got introduced in India. I don’t quite know, how so many people from a Muslim background came here. It would be interesting to know how they peregrinated here. In case you know, please do leave a comment!

Bagmandala Ferry Run
View of the Bagmandala ferry through my car
View of the Bagmandala ferry through my car

We had to slowly meander our way through a potholed road to arrive at the Bagmandala ferry. I went and purchased tickets. Rs 150 for loading the car into the ferry, and Rs 6 for each person. The view was beautiful but the impending action was scary. I had to do a reverse, and get down the slope to get into the ferry, and I had developed a neck strain from sleeping in a bad position on the morning flight, so I asked the ferry guy, if I could not do the reverse and drive into the ferry. He smiled and said, then I would have to do a reverse up the slope at the Velas/Bankot side of the ferry. I agreed, trying to postpone the inevitable. I thought, let me enjoy the ferry ride atleast. My friends Mehul and Ashfaq from Mumbai had recommended the ferry. As soon as I had parked the car inside the ferry, I was asked to come and sandwich the car between 2 heavy vehicles. Behind me was another heavy vehcile.  Checkmate! Stuck in the car for the rest of the ferry journey with no view, except that off the 3 heavy vehicles around me.

Jammed on all sides in the Bagmandala Ferry
Jammed on all sides in the Bagmandala Ferry
Vehicles behind me and front of me in the Bagmandala Ferry
Vehicles behind me and front of me in the Bagmandala Ferry

On the return journey, after a 10 minute ferry ride, I had my toughest test. Reversing the car on an incline upwards. Murphy’s law  will make sure that there will be one irritant person on a bike who does not move an inch, despite the honking. Those few moments tested my patience as a driver.

On the Road to Velas

The road post that is a small road, with inclines into a small town at Bankot, and from there on a mud road on the lower part of the cliff, overlooking the Arabian Sea. I got a lorry coming in the opposite direction, and I again had to go reverse down an incline and turn left, so as to allow the lorry to pass by. The local heavy vehicle drivers, don’t like giving way to other tourist cars. Maybe its a racial thing, with the bigger the size of your vehicle, the bigger is your ego while on the road. I struggled to get up on the road again, despite going on first gear, as the vehicle did not get enough momentum to go up and it went going down. I asked for help, and a couple of locals, helped put a stone behind my back tyre, so that helped me go up. Thank god for small mercies!

We then passed the sea, and it was beautiful driving past the sea on one side, as we slowly rode on whatever was left on the path.

View of the route by the sea to Velas Village (from the car)
View of the route by the sea to Velas Village (from the car)
Aerial View of the route by the sea to Velas Village
Aerial View of the route by the sea to Velas Village

We reached Milind’s house in a short while, but we did stop a few times. The GPS went kaput after a while, due to a lag, and I was not exactly sure of Milind’s house, since once you enter the village, the road is small, and you have no room for a U turn, unless you go some distance, and there are vehicles constantly on the move, so it could mean developing some patience.

Home! Home! Home!
Reaching Milind's House-Velas Village
Reaching Milind’s House-Velas Village

I felt a chest thumping ‘Yabba Dabba Do’, as soon as Milind confirmed his house. I had to park it temporarily at an angle in front of Milind’s car, until a state transport bus came by and thundered for it to be removed. The best parking spots were behind and they were all taken. I had an instant connection with Milind’s house, owing to the mud flooring, and a portico. I went there and marked a portion of the portico, near the hay area to keep my slippers and luggage.

Milind's House Portico. My Luggage is right beside the hay
Milind’s House Portico. My Luggage is right beside the hay

Nandu found a few kids, and started to run around the house through all its rooms creating noise all around the house. This is exactly the kind of vacation I wanted. It was unravelling layer by layer and I was happy with what I saw. No AC, No room television (Milind has a TV with a Tata sky connection, but that’s more so to show documentary of the turtle conservation to people in the evening), No mobile signals. It was probably my 5th trip in less than 18 months with these parameters. (The previous ones being Flying Elephants in Andamans, Jagale Homestay in Coorg, Manveer’s Kitchen in Agonda(Goa), Sandeep’s homestay in Kerim-Terekhol(Goa) and now at Velas

Documentary Screening at Milind’s Home

Every evening when guests are there, Milind switches on his TV and plays a documentary on the Velas Turtle Conservation. It helps build context with the tourists that the focus of their trip is eco tourism and not enjoyment tourism. Out of the videos screened, i found parts of it on Youtube done by Shivani Mulekar and Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra

Documentary Screening at Milind Nijsure's house
Documentary Screening at Milind Nijsure’s house

I happened to meet a biker couple (Apoorv and Jennifer) and was speaking with them about the festival. Apoorv had already been in the evening to the beach, and was showing me some fabulous clicks of crabs on his SLR. I had reached Velas and missed the evening turtle hatchery session.

Life was beautiful and content! Dinner was starting to be served!

Dinner being served at Velas (Maharashtra-India)
Dinner being served at Velas (Maharashtra-India)

To read Part-2 head here

Picking your homestay
  1. I stayed at Milind Nijsure’s homestay, and it cost me around 3300 for 2 adults and a child- including stay and food (2 dinner, 2 Breakfast, 2 Lunches) from a Friday evening to Sunday Afternoon (3 pm).

You could call Milind at +91-8149753863 to plan your stay. He has dormitory rooms or separate rooms.

2.  I had visited the homes of Hemant and Sawant. You could book their homestay by calling the following numbers

Hemant/Priyanka Bhole- +91-9763795605

Sawant- (Number to be added)

Landline numbers of other homestay owners

Name Contact No. (Velas STD Code: 02350)
Mrs. Kavita Bagkar 220682
Ms. Priyanka Bhole 220689
Mr. Swapnil Dhareepkar 220562
Mr. Prakash Joshi 220570
Mr. Santosh Joshi 220511
Mr. Abhijit Kulabkar 220694
(M) 8975939484
Mr. Sham Kulabkar 220594
Mr. Siddhesh Kulabkar 220695/8446848540
Mr. Omkar Nijasure 220329 / 28 / 25

83083 60387

Mr. Milind Nijsure 220629/9421188487
Mr. Sameer Padlekar 220693/8652541817
Mr. Mandar Palshetkar 220674
Ms. Namrata Palshetkar 220674/9702400085/

8655891918

Mr. Nandkishor Patil 220561
Mr. Surendra Patil 220351/9225144816/

8805483264

Mr. Subodh Saldurkar 8975633185/7743830532
Mr. Amol soman 220279/9403574183
Mr. Ameya Srivardhankar 220543/673468839/9922534184/7350414759
Mr. Mohan Upadhye 220304/8975622778/

8983767388

Mr. Avinash Yadav 220545
 These members serve pure vegetarian food

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

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

Eavesdropping on Trails

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staying in Cola Beach

Cola Beach has a few beach huts facing the sea, on the hill. The two most noted ones are Cola Beach Resort and Blue Lagoon Resort. Most prices are above 6000 INR a night. It’s seen as a place for couples who come here to mate in the anonymity that a few places like this in Goa can offer. If you are looking for private stretches of sand to sunbathe or to just lie down without being troubled by hawkers or gawkers, this is the place to be.

Don’t go and tell everyone about this place. There are way too many Indians who spoil beaches in Goa, coming with an alcohol bottle in hand, in search of the mythical nude beach that exists on google searches. They come, gawk and stare at people in beach beds in frustration of not finding what they come for.

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

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

Getting to Cola Beach

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

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

Other Media on Cola Beach

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

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

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

Things to do in Agonda (Near Cola)

If you are looking to know more about Agonda itself and what one can do around, do refer my earlier travelogue on Agonda

Part-1(Where I wake up to couples kissing and settle down in Jar-dim-a-Mar)

Part-2 (Where I take a walk around Agonda beach’s structures and characters)

Part-3 (Where I take a morning boat in the Arabian see and spot dolphins and check out Honeymoon Island)

Part-4 (Where I relax in the ‘Castaway’ comforts of Butterfly Island)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round and Round in Agonda!

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

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

Right Road? Check Again and Again

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Legend of Cabo De Rama

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

I wonder when Rama would have come. Did he come here with Sita or did he backpack alone with Lakshman? Given Goa is close to Hampi(which is next door to Kishkinta where Sugreeva, Vaali and Hanuman lived), I am surmising that Rama must have come here while searching for Sita on his trip from Panchavati to Rameswaram enroute Sri Lanka, since the sequence is North to South. Any one has an alternate version?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Literature on the Fort

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

Wikipedia has an interesting art caricature of the fort from 1886

Staying near Cabo-De-Rama

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Exploring South Goa-Part 3-Sadolxem AND Galjibaga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rajbag Beach to Talpona Beach
Rajbag Beach to Talpona Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exploring South Goa-Part 2- The Space And The Road to Talpona

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’

Nandu running about in 'Manveer's Kitchen'
Nandu running about in ‘Manveer’s Kitchen’

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.

Nandu playing around with the water fountain at 'The Space' in Goa
Nandu playing around with the water fountain at ‘The Space’ in Goa
The Space(Devbag) has an Old-Goa rustic and chic look to it
The Space(Devbag) has an Old-Goa rustic and chic look to it
Flea Market like items at 'The Space'-Goa
Flea Market like items at ‘The Space’-Goa

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.

Nandu 'brunching' at 'The-Space(Goa)'
Nandu ‘brunching’ at ‘The-Space(Goa)’

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

The Mudpath to South Goa
The Mudpath to South Goa

Why Talpona?

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.

Gajjibaga as seen from the Passenger train to Cancona
Gajjibaga as seen from the Passenger train to Cancona
Galjibaga Beach-Google Map
Galjibaga Beach-Google Map

Finding Rajbaga

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 road between Rajbaga beach and 'The Lalit' Hotel
The road between Rajbaga beach and ‘The Lalit’ Hotel

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.

The road to Rajbaga Beach (South Goa-India)
The road to Rajbaga Beach (South Goa-India)
Opposite the beach are the lawns of the 'Lalit Golf and Spa Resort'
Opposite the beach are the lawns of the ‘Lalit Golf and Spa Resort’

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

As with any beach, Nandu keeps jumping around!
As with any beach, Nandu keeps jumping around!

So far we have driven from Agonda to Rajbag beach. The following part will have the drive through Talpona to Galjibaga.

Rajbagh Beach in South Goa- Map
Rajbagh Beach in South Goa- Map picked from Google Maps

 

Exploring South Goa-Part 1- Manveer’s Kitchen

Since the moment, I looked  up a beach place in South Goa, on AirBnb, my son was excited that we were going to be spending a weekend in Goa by the beach. I went over to the nearby Decathlon store to buy a swimming trunk and a float for my son, who quite loves spending time in the water. I had wanted a place that would be on the beach, and still be a little world cocooned from the honks and noise of Goa’s streets. After a lot of research, Google Maps and speaking to hotels, I arrived at Manveer’s kitchen, a place mid-way between a little homestay and a beach shack- in Agonda Beach.

Agonda is a place that still is not yet on the tourist’s radar. Crowds throng Calangue in the north, Baina and Colva in the center and Palolem in the South. Agonda is a couple of beaches above Palolem and comes with its own anonymity and village life, far removed from the tourist traps. It has a few beautiful beaches, if you care to explore on a 2 wheeler on its Northern (Cabo De Rama) and Southern sides (Talpona, Galjibaga, Rajbaga)

The streets of Agonda Village in South Goa (India)
The streets of Agonda Village in South Goa (India)

We arrived at Manveer’s place, after haggling with an auto driver from Cancona railway station over how much we should give him. The extra few metres that the auto drove were measured in an imaginary meter before an exorbitant number was put in front of me. Not wanting to spoil my holiday, I smiled and paid him an amount that was midway between what he quoted and what I felt was the price. I went mid-way on the price because of the 4 bags of lugagge that stared at me. Luggage is often the last resort of a taxi/auto to increase fares.

The house opens out on the road, which has a small backyard meant for parking vehicles. It leads into a narrow lane which has a couple of rooms and a store room, after which it leads to the beach, going through a little nursery.

View of Agonda beach from our door at Manveer's Kitchen (South Goa-India)
View of Agonda beach from our door at Manveer’s Kitchen (South Goa-India)

The little place, exuded a sense of Goan calm that only palm trees by the beach can give, and we proceeded to pack our luggage into our room and head out to the reception which was on the beach. Manveer and his wife Vinnie manage the place, while their son Manny keeps adorably crawling around. My little son, found his wingman in Manny as they started playing with the sand and toys. I rested on the beach easy-chair and ordered french fries with cheese and Lasagne, to slowly transition into a late afternoon.

The rooms were simple, but comfortable and the fact that there was so much greenery around made it a great pick for me. I am told that this is one of the few permanent structures in the monsoons as most resorts close down.

Greenzone at Manveer's in Agonda (Goa-India)
Greenzone at Manveer’s in Agonda (Goa-India)

Sleeping to the sound of the waves by the beach in Goa is an activity, and I was enjoying till the sunset, post which I went in to my room, and organised my items. On any trip one of the first things that make me comfortable is to make sure all devices are charged, and most of my items that I intend to use are in my see-able vicinity, and are easy to pack it back in when I intend to leave the place. I breathed easy post the sunset, and walked in to a halogen lit reception eating area, which was looking beautiful in the night. I met one of the hotel staffs, who helped me speak to a local bike renting shop, where I got a 2 wheeler the next day for trips to Galjibaga and Cabo De Rama.

The eating area at Manveer's Kitchen
The eating area at Manveer’s Kitchen

I woke up the next day, and took Nandu along the expanse of the beach, where he would stop every few metres and collect shells. He felt the water was still a little on the colder side to get in.

Winter morning hues in Agonda Beach (Goa-India)
Winter morning hues in Agonda Beach (Goa-India)

We waited for the morning sun to warm up the beach a little before we got in. In between Nandu decided to warm up by jumping around and loosening up on the beach. Our morning had well and truly begun and we dunked into the morning waves, shedding our inhibitions and fears that the winter can create when you need to take a bath in cold water!

Read more in Parts-2 and 3 coming up soon.

Nandu posing at Agonda Beach
Nandu posing at Agonda Beach
Nandu jumping around at Agonda
Nandu jumping around at Agonda

Reaching Manveer’s Kitchen

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 private bus, which goes through Mangalore. The passenger 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 to arrive at Cancona

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 to arrive at Cancona

From Hyderabad– Board the bus to Panjim and then take a taxi to Agonda, which is about 100 kilometres. If you want to cut down costs, you could board the local train at Karmali (Near Panjim) that goes via Madgaon to Canacona.

Your other 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.

The only reason I am reccomending a train to reach Canacona is due to the bewitching Konkan lagoons and landscapes

From Canacona railway station, its about 10-12 kilometres and about 200-250 by Auto from the railway station. You could instead also walk up a kilometre to the Chaudi bus stand, visible from the railway station and board the local bus to the Agona Church, from where Manveer’s is a half kilomere jaunt away.

If you are travelling by Air to Goa’s airport, its an hour from there by a taxi, or if you want to cut costs, you could board a train from the nearby Vasco/Dabolim railway station to Madgaon and from there to Canacona. Train tickets come at 1/100th the cost of your taxi ride

 

New Trailer Out- ‘The Surf Trail’

Our little documentary on the Covelong Surf Festival is all set to release in November. The festival was conducted in August, and was getting sewn up in the edit room all this long. Here’s a little trailer and a couple of images. Let us know how you found it!

Monsoon and Surfs in Covelong
Monsoon and Surfs in Covelong

Jonty Rhodes surfing at Covelong-Tamil NaduJonty Rhodes surfing at Covelong-Tamil Nadu

Surfer cuts through the waves at the Covelong Surf Festival 2016
Surfer cuts through the waves at the Covelong Surf Festival 2016
Surfing has its hits and misses
Surfing has its hits and misses

 

The Surf Trail- A Sneek Peak

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

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

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

 

Exploring Andamans-Part 11-Wrapping Up Havelock

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

No Snooze Required

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

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

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

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

Getting Philosophical staring at Sunrises at Kalapathar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

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

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

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

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 10-Sunset at Radhanagar Beach

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

Wandering Around The Forests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

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

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

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

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 9- Two Wheeler Ride to Radhanagar Beach

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

After a day spent playing at the beach, we ate our lunch and rested at our cottage. At about 3 pm, I decided to look out for the reception person, who I then realized was in the restaurant, based on the little sign that I saw at the reception. The restaurant and reception are about 100-150 metres away in the route to the village at this side of the island. The reception person was from the island of Rangat, further north in the Andaman Islands, and had come to Havelock Island in search of work. I wanted to check with him, if there was any bus service to the jetty, from where I could take another bus to Radhanagar Beach. I had seen the jeep service, which functions like a share-auto service every 45 minutes from Kalapathar Village. Buses/Public transport are the best ways of integrating with the local people, without the airs of being an outsider. The joys of slow rides, with stops in surreal places, helps you understand and assimilate what life in these place could be. It’s a series of jigsaw puzzles that only travelling in public transport can unlock about a place.

I was told, renting a scooty would be a better option owing to the less frequent bus timings and with a couple of hours left for sunset the best option to go and come back would be a scooty. In a while, I had walked over to Beach Number-3 which is a couple of kilometres away. As I walked there, I saw that Airtel’s signals were still not active till the place where I found the 2-wheeler rental shop. My phone was coming to life, and the SMS’s were starting to flood in impatiently to the point when my phone was confused on how to ping and notify me at that instant when the sound can be for one message, but 2 messages decided to come in at that instant.

Reception of Flying Elephants(Andamans-India)
Reception of Flying Elephants(Andamans-India)

After I got the vehicle, I quickly went and packed my beach kit for the evening, and at 3 pm it started to look like 5:30 pm and I thought it was already dark, and I should rush. We walked across the lush expanse of our pathway in our resort and set off on a journey on our 2-wheeler to Havelock Island.

Walking the beautiful paths to the reception-Flying Elephants Resort at Kalapathar(Havelock Island-Andamans-India)
Walking the beautiful paths to the reception-Flying Elephants Resort at Kalapathar(Havelock Island-Andamans-India)

As we started to drive on the 2 wheeler, we did not realize that the route to Radhanagar Beach was actually quite long. 16 kilometres on a route dotted with little hills, mud paved roads, little roads and some roads right through scenic beaches and hills for company.

Rented a 2 wheeler to drive around Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
Rented a 2 wheeler to drive around Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

As I started out on my 2 wheeler, I felt a sense of inclusiveness that the little village had towards me. It felt as if the little patch of sand, the trees flanking the hills, the black roads were traveling with me with a hospitable look, trying to tell me that I was about to have a great experience driving through the woods. The roads leading till Vijaynagar had very few people on either sides of the road, and I happen to see people only in the stretch between Vijaynagar and Govind Nagar, as a clutch of resorts passed by. I went inside a Dive Resort (Doongi Dives) to check, if there were slots for a dive the day after. I found that the rooms in the resort had a Television and the resort had Wifi. It actually felt like, I had been transported back to the rigors of civilisation, and I was feeling like I had just woken up after a beautiful dream. After 15 minutes of wait, I realised that there were no slots on the next days’ morning rides to the nearby islands for dives. I also realised that I had started to take a liking for the quiet life of the forest, away from telephone signals, Wi-fi, People, Television and Air-conditioning. I was waiting to get back to my ‘dream state’ post the trip to Radhanagar, which was probably going to be the most crowded place on this island.

Driving through the Woods-Havelock Island
Driving through the Woods-Havelock Island

The roads are modest, are there are bends and curves as the road meanders its way part into the jungle and suddenly opens out on the right with vistas of a beautiful blue sea by a white sand beach, often interrupted by huge broken roots of trees. Can a ‘Castaway’ type patch of sand co-exist with all the modern trappings of civilisation? It seemed so.

The forests thinned after a while, with open fields on my left. On these fields every few metres were small tea-shops. The coconut trees and the betel trees were lying in unison, creating a surreal green cover that you drive through. The sun was playing hide and seek, every now and then prompting me to drive faster to be in time for the evening sun-set show, but the bad roads ahead slowed me down.

The beautiful fields of Havelock near Beach number 3
The beautiful fields of Havelock near Beach number 3

As I was driving like a little speck on a giant green canvas, I felt so connected to the place, curious at every turn on what my senses would take in. I was driving along the only patch of road on my way to Radhanagar, and beyond a point I just trusted the open road to take me to some place magical. The thing with such soul stirring scenery is that you start discovering a new-younger-at-heart side of you. I was not afraid of getting lost, since the possibility of getting something new as an experience was also there and what’s the point of coming to a pristine island and not being able to explore at your own pace. All that really matters is you leave the place with a smile, being able to be transported to the place, when you are back in the constipated city lives, stuck in a traffic jam and lost in thoughts. Driving through pristine scenery has some kind of therapeutic powers and the more the roads became rugged and difficult to ride with the muddy paths, I knew that nature would compensate me with something more surreal and visceral. How right I was!

I arrived at Radhanagar Beach Number 7 (That’s how beaches in the Andamans are called for some reason, by a number), and the giant Mahua forests greeted me. The sky was not visible from the normal line of sight, since the trees were tall and you only saw the greenery around and the beautiful complementing colour of the blue sea in the background. Such a view immideately has music playing in your ears, your body feels pregnant with excitement of connecting to something as primal as nature. You wish you were part of this place, and this place is part of you. There is so much of love and vibes between your mind and the environment that takes place, if you can observe in silence. Since I had been here in 2008, I knew that I could choose to walk right into the forests that open out into the beach, avoiding the crowds that throng the fringes of the beach, just to get back to connecting with the pristine environment.

The Mahua woods of Radhanagar Beach
The Mahua woods of Radhanagar Beach

As I came out of the forest, I showed my son some games that were going on, and I am glad that he observed something about how nice it is to be playing in a place that has so many colors. The beach cricket was doused in a background of an impending sunset layer of light pink, while the beach volleyball was bathed in a army of green leaves and white sand. Nandu saw new colors that his set of sketch pens could not produce. I felt that being one with nature and seeing such surreal scenery has a way of calming your mind down, and you are just curious to know how so much beauty is around us and we still choose the life that gets clogged in polluted roads, traffic jams and ugly waste lying around (all for some percieved pot of gold at the end of the rainbow)

Children playing cricket at Radhanagar Beach-Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
Children playing cricket at Radhanagar Beach-Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

I spent the next few minutes just basking the silence in the woods and looking at that shade of green. There was something magical about staring into the shades of green. It looked like the brighter green was doing the marketing and was doing it very well. It had ‘acquired a lead’ and I was going through their ‘sales funnel’

Paradise-Beach Number 7-Havelock Island
Paradise-Beach Number 7-Havelock Island

 

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

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

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

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

There are no international flights from Port Blair yet.

Exploring Andamans-Part 8-Nandu’s Day Out

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 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 , Part-6 and Part-7

Nandu and I enjoyed our time on the beach. Time was passing by slowly looking at the open sea, admiring the freshness of the experience by the sea. We ran on the beach, choosing which pebble to pick and throw into the sea, and observed that some pebbles were smoother than the shells that lay washed ashore. Before we went off for lunch, we stared at the sea, and I was telling Nandu that we are in many ways tied to the ocean and that is probably why we keep getting so attracted to the sea and that is where we will go once the eternity of a lifetime passes. I am not sure, he understood anything, but kids have a way to process information and retrieve it contextually on demand.

Nandu’s Lesson #1- For a calming day out, always trust the sea, and some time by the beach is always fun

Nandu was fascinated by the Go-Pro Camera that I was using, and I thought its a good idea to hand over the camera to him, since it was easy to photograph. I told Nandu to use the voice function that just required some one to say ‘Go-Pro Take a Photo’. Nandu lapped it up and went about clicking photos. I gave him a little task to get a peep into what he observes, and asked him to click upto 10 pictures of the things he likes.

These are a few of what Nandu came up with

  1. There was a little dog at the restaurant and at Parvati’s house that Nandu used to play with. It looked like he was on Nandu’s ‘LIKE LIST’.
The little dog at Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)
The little dog at Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)

Nandu’s Lesson #2- In a new place, mix with the villagers and the local and understand their life. Nandu made himself comfortable in Parvati’s shop by relaxing on the hammock and playing with their dog.

Nandu chilling in a hammock at Parvati's store near Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)
Nandu chilling in a hammock at Parvati’s store near Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)

2) Kaushik from the Flying Elephants Team made us our breakfast and lunch. Nandu spent time sitting in the kitchen with him observing him make food. Since he fed Nandu well, Kaushik made it to Nandu’s ‘LIKE LIST’

Nandu developed an attachment to Kaushik-who cooked for us at Flying Elephants (Andaman Islands-India)
Nandu developed an attachment to Kaushik-who cooked for us at Flying Elephants (Andaman Islands-India)

3) Our Hotel room had some bird art made with paint. Nandu seemed to like it.

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

4) Nandu liked the portico where we were sitting and spending most of our time at the resort.

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

5) Nandu loved running, and he liked the pathway that connected our hut to the reception. So that made it to his ‘Like List’

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

6) I am not quite sure, if I influenced Nandu, but he seemed to also like this view of the open greenery from our windows.

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

7) And as a last item, he loved his little beach kit

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

Nandu’s Lesson #3- If you have a camera in hand, and an easy one at that, its very rewarding trying to document what captures his fancy. A camera helps you freeze moments that you can take back home [Despite daddy doing that for a living]

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

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

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

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

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 7-Beach Bumming at Kalapathar

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 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 and Part-6

The sun had made its way, by the time my monologue with the greens around had ended. The little world at Kalapathar was now the shared responsibility of other people and I. I woke up in the dawn, with a powerful feeling that darkness has that makes you feel that you own the trees, twigs, paths and nature. The sun had found its way through the crevices that the leaves and trees had hidden the beach from, and the golden hour was looking beautiful. The rain brought happiness, and the sunshine too brought happiness, and the transition was never noticed as the focus was just on the beautiful. It was like 2 people standing on a rug, and the rug was pulled without either of the legs getting affected. Rain or Shine, the beauty of nature was something I was sold on.

The sun cometh! The monsoon makes way for the sun-Kalapathar Village in Havelock Island( Andamans-India)
The sun cometh! The monsoon makes way for the sun-Kalapathar Village in Havelock Island( Andamans-India)

I sat on the beach, and kept my eye frame of reference as one of the sea shells and kept staring at it, while the waves kept crashing nearby. I read somewhere that sea shells bring good luck, and I only wished that I have a peaceful holiday and looked at the waves going in and out, leading to a rythm. I did this for a few minutes before the sun’s rays on my body got a little too warm for my city bred comfort. Every time I stare at the sea, I am in a state of trance trying to comprehend the world and the way it was created.

The sea shells out to sun bathing-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
The sea shells out to sun bathing-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

The leaves were welcoming the morning sun, and the golden shade on the sea confirmed that today was out to be a sunny start to the day despite the seemingly monsoon laced dawn. The dewy freshness of the morning was replaced by the sun’s healing warmth. If ever the plants were depressed by the rains, they were washing themselves in the bath of the earliest sunshine. The Andamans anyway has sunlight coming much earlier than the mainland, so the plants get to get light on their body earlier and quicker.

The sun's rays illuminate the plants on Kalapathar Beach(Havelock Islands in Andamans-India)
The sun’s rays illuminate the plants on Kalapathar Beach(Havelock Islands in Andamans-India)

I went back to my room to read a book on my kindle cloud reader on my mac. I was relaxing by the room, staring at the forest that the end of the hotel path opened out to. I went to the nearby petty shop run by a localite and sat on her mud floor trying to make conversations with Parvati who runs the shop. It was almost an hour of conversations as I sipped 2 glasses of tea. I figured out that Parvati’s parents had come here in 1961/71 when India moved all of the Bangladeshi immigrants from Kolkata to the Andaman Islands, giving them land. Parvati has grown in Havelock, and speaks Bengali which is the dominant language in the Andaman Islands. The ‘modified modern natives’ of the islands are bengali speaking Bangladeshi’s who have been living here for over 6 decades. The local tribes of the Andamans now live in North Sentinel Islands, which still remains out of tourist bounds.

I bought some chocolates for Nandu, who by then had woken up and walked over to the shop. Nandu quickly took the chocolates and asked me to come to the beach.  We went with our beach bucket and found a spot to perch ourselves.

'Working from Home'-View out from my room at Flying Elephants-Andamans
‘Working from Home’-View out from my room at Flying Elephants-Andamans

Nandu’s Lesson #1- The sea is a beautiful place to spend time, even though its warm, and we never do this in the city. Whenever it feels warm, apply sun cream lotion and take a dunk into the sea.

Nandu’s Lesson #2- Youtube is a great place to learn art, but there’s no place quite like the beach and mother nature to pick random twigs, sand. shells and the sea water to learn about elements and art work. There is life beyond Youtube and a 100 MBPS internet connection!

Nandu’s Lesson #3- Life is always better with Sandy shoes. He had no restriction on how dirty he could be while he was playing.

This part of the beach had very less waves, and one could walk into the water for quite a distance. I was anyway following Nandu wherever we went, so there was no danger from the sea. We decided to try our hand at carving some sand art from some of the templates we had. I seemed to have made an airplane and a car from the template we had. Nandu screamed in joy and appreciated that I had done it so well. I was gleaming in joy. My day had been made, since my little son came over and hugged me around the beach art. I took him for an extra ride in the water doing ‘Uppu Mootai’ where i would act like a crawling tortoise and Nandu would sit on my back and we would walk on the ocean floor. A few more flip flops in water, and our stomachs became empty enough.We just had enough energy to walk across to the restaurant at Flying Elephants.

 

Beach Therapy making sand art at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Island in Andamans-India
Beach Therapy making sand art at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Island in Andamans-India

There was no clock or watch needed at the Andaman Islands since we were in sync with nature. We thought it must be about 3 pm, but we realised that it was just about 12:30. There was something about the Andamans that made you start early and feel very productive with a lot of time still lying to use. For some reason, if you lose an hour in the morning  you keep searching for that the whole day and never seem to find that extra one hour.  But now that we were at sea, it seemed like planet Earth’s most potent way to remedy for stress. Being connected to nature in these couple of days, made me cringe and feel a little immature for needing a mobile alarm clock for me to wake up to.

Motion on the Beach-Sand art for an airplane and car-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island-India
Motion on the Beach-Sand art for an airplane and car-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island-India

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

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

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

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

There are no international flights from Port Blair.