Tag Archives: Arabian Sea

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

The Ultimate Guide to the Velas Turtle Festival-Part 0

 

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.

 

It was early February in 2018, when I heard about the Velas Turtle Festival.  When I put the place ‘Velas’ on Google Maps, I realised that this was a place that was closer to Bombay or Pune, and was not a place to easily get to if you were from the Southern Part of India, unless you boarded a west coast super fast express that would stop in Ratnagiri.

Pune to Velas-Google Maps Information
Pune to Velas-Google Maps Information

Why Velas?

I wanted to take Nandu there, and see for himself, in an organised program of how turtle conservation happens, and as has been the theme since last year, I have preferred to take him to places without Television, mobile networks and air conditioning to primarily connect with people and nature. As much as it is a lesson for him, I too need the detox of staying away from digital screens through the day.

What did I expect?

I had seen some blogs and videos written about the place. The rural setting interested me, but since this trip was to be made in my son’s summer holidays, I was slightly worried if staying in a village would be a problem. I knew that there were turtle hatchery sightings twice a day and a few sights nearby if one wanted to drive around during the day.

What was my itinerary?

Day One– I planned to fly into Pune on a Friday morning, and take a Zoomcar from Pune to drive my way to Velas through a state highway route and settle into the homestay on Friday evening. If possible, I wanted to make it in time for the evening sighting.

Day Two– I planned to see both the sightings and if possible make time to visit Anjarle Beach/Harihareshwar Beach/Bankot Fort  nearby(Fun-Fact, I did not do any of these)

Day Three– I wanted to have my breakfast and then pack off on a slow drive to Pune to meet a friend of mine by evening , so as to catch my late night flight back home. (Fun-Fact, I started only at 3 pm and reached Pune at 9 pm)

The details of what I did is coming up as separate posts. But before that here’s a quick photo and write up on what to expect

Things to Know, that I wish I had planned earlier

Right Route– The drive from Pune to Velas, was through the Tamhini Ghat road is on a State Highway that snakes its way through hills. It also has a few kilometres of pot holed roads, which means you drive at 20-30 km/hr on those stretches. The drive though is  180 kilometres, takes around 6 to 6.5 hours.  The better route from Pune is to drive through Lonavala. More distance and lesser times, since there are better roads to drive. The state transport buses keep coming at you on these roads, and you need to know, who’s the king of the jungle in these parts!

Bus Ride on Tamhini Ghat Road from Pune
Bus Ride on Tamhini Ghat Road from Pune

Scenic– I had to make quite a few stops, while driving around the serenely beautiful Mulshi Lake. In the monsoons this place is even more magical.

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

Slow Down– If you want to slow down and enjoy village life, you really should not try to pack in other attractions in a 3 day trip. I just found living in the homestay, visiting the turtle beach and playing in the sea, more than a handful. I did not make any other trips in this 3 day period at all. I ended up meeting a few people in the village to know more about their turtle conservation efforts.

Parking– The road to many of these homestay is a narrow one, and you need to park your car in a way that other vehicles, namely state transport buses can pass through. Its advisable to come early before the crowds and find your spot which is walkable from the homestay

The narrow roads to Velas Maharashtra
The narrow roads to Velas Maharashtra

Food–  I stayed at Milind’s homestay and the food and hospitality was so good, that eating food and talking with strangers and sleeping at night on the mud floor (with a bedding layer) were things that I really enjoyed. I did not really feel like leaving the place.

Delicious morning Poha at Milind Nijsure's Homestay-Velas (Maharashtra-India)
Delicious morning Poha at Milind Nijsure’s Homestay-Velas (Maharashtra-India)

Sleep– Lying down with strangers and a view of the stars has to rank as a great experience. In a village most people are in sync with nature and sleep by about 10 pm. You need to pack your Odomos and sleep in a full pant. Men sleep outside while women and children sleep inside (Mosquitoes can visit quite a few times)

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)

Turtles

Given these turtles are the star attraction and the possibility of seeing them is dependent on how many decide to come out of the eggs, it could be 0 turtles or a few that day. Always keep a couple of sessions more than required just in case.

Turtle Hatchery in Velas
Turtle Hatchery in Velas

There will be a steady crowd at these places especially on weekends, so you will have to find your quiet corner to watch the turtles. Make friends with the local administration people to get closer to the turtle within the admissible limits.

Turtles being let out into the sea-Velas (Maharashtra-India)
Turtles being let out into the sea-Velas (Maharashtra-India)

I will leave you with a few montages of what to expect on my trip. There’s a detailed 3 part video and series  coming up.

If you want to know the preparation I did to come to the Turtle Festival, please check my podcast below with Shama Parveen on her blog

 

 

 

 

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)]

Chilling in Agonda(Goa) -Part III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Honeymoon Island in Goa
Honeymoon Island in Goa

 

 

 

 

 

Vignettes of North Goa That You Didn’t Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel Photo Stories- Episode 1

How often do you dream of seeing an azure blue sea, as you travel beside it? I loved the thrills of being on the Galle-Colombo railway line in Sri Lanka, right beside the Indian Ocean. It was surreal and scary at the same time. It looked like the train was travelling on the ocean, since the height of the train window above the sea, was not so high. In India, I have been to Rameswaram, where the drive into Mandapam over the Pamban rail bridge is equally surreal but the height gives it away. The feeling is not quite the same as the train in Sri Lanka.

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The closest, I have been to seeing something at a similar level, though with very little water was on the rail line from Madgaon to Vasco in India, as the train nestles through Majorda, there emerges a little patch of beach, by which the lower tides of the Arabian Sea surface up near the railway line.

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Is there any railway line that you have seen lately, that you would like to share? Do let me know.