Tag Archives: Coastal Life

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

This is the second in series of my trip to GRT 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 | 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 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 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

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 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

 

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

 

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.

#TheBeachTrail2017- Part-III-Discovering Chaloklum, Mae Haad and the Full Moon Party

The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the third post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-1, Part-2, and Part-4

After our adventures the previous day, we discovered we had a lot of fuel still left in our bikes, so we decided to drive a lot more on our next trip. We could go east or go extreme North. As we were choosing Abhi told us that he wanted to be closer to the waterfall trail, so that he could go for a quick dip, so we decided on 2 other beaches called Chaloklum and Mae Haad.

I preferred to play pillion to do all the filming and be ready to focus on places to capture/experience from the road and also be the one coordinating between Vikram over the directions. The 4G signals were very good in Thailand, so most of our communication would be over Whatsapp video calling, as we would frequently lose each other, blame it on having different interests in gazing at nature’s bounty every few kilometres.

 

2 wheelers for rental in Koh Phangan
2 wheelers for rental in Koh Phangan

As we made our way down the valley from Haad-Rin, we chanced upon a cafe on the hill, which had a beautiful view. The place, by itself had a greek feel to it, with white and blue paint, resembling Santorini, and having a few chairs for guests. The view of the sea changing colours as the day went by is quite an activity to occupy yourself. We had done that a couple of days back in Coco Huts, so we were itching to go back to the beaches, after the previous day was spent with waterfalls.

Viewpoint Cafe- True To its Name
Viewpoint Cafe- True To its Name

We were back on the scenic highway, that had a few more miles to clock, post Paradise Waterfalls, and this highway was starting to look beautiful at a point, when we had the green canopy of the trees on either sides, and in the distance the sea emerged on the top. The wind hitting our hair, music in our ears made us part of a new world, to which we had just gained entry. This whole island of Koh Phangan, was famous only for the Full-Moon-Party, and there were so many sides to this beautiful island, if only people cared to explore beyond the ‘Songserm Buckets’. This scene reminded us of the famous yesteryear classic “Country Roads, Take Me Home”, where heaven was waiting for us at the end of the road, and our new home for the day was the beach life that was awaiting us at Chaloklum

Country Roads- Take Me Home
Country Roads- Take Me Home

The heat during the day reduced, thanks to an involuntary gathering of some Cumulo-Nimbus clouds over the island, and the weather turned overcast and love was in the air, due to the cool winds. We decided to survey the place, after parking our bikes to wander around the bay. The only choices our brains had to make, was to go left or right. We went right, because it curved and something exciting looked like being around the corner.

Overcast Day at Chaloklum Bay
Overcast Day at Chaloklum Bay

I hoped we will find some desolate beach, where I could be ‘ship wrecked’ for a couple of hours. The good thing which such stress free exploratory trips, is that fantasy can run wild, and that means that brain is all in order and corporate life has not had any adverse impact on it.

The Wide expanse of Chaloklum Bay
The Wide expanse of Chaloklum Bay

Once we were at Chaloklum bay, we looked around, and wanted to explore the right end of the beach. The beach was having a long curve, and we realised that we had a lot of distance to cover. Each of us ambled at our own pace, before we perched at a corner of the beach, which ended in a lagoon, which got deeper as you set your legs further with soft soil. Every time you took a step, inside the water, a fish would probably see an explosion of sand particles. I decided to lay on my back, with the water covering me till my neck, while I paddled about, feeling the sun on my watered back. It was a strange feeling of heat and cool at the same time. I wondered what next. Should I go to the other side? It was glowing in green from the afternoon heat, and since there was a port of sorts there (where you get the boats to Bottle Beach, which you could also go via a forest trek), we thought there would be too many people.

The Greens of Chaloklum Bay
The Greens of Chaloklum Bay

We saw a tyre partially buried in sand, and saw a little paradise on the other side of the lagoon. Endless trees dotting the foothills of a little mountain, having a little patch of sand, not having any human settlement or commerce. It seemed like our ‘Robinson Crusoe’ moment at finding a patch of paradise, to spend an afternoon. The lagoon was deep, and could not be navigated by our limited knowledge of swimming. My friends, said they wanted to go back and maybe explore the other side. I could not quite resist the option of getting to the other side, but I had to do it safely. As Paulo Coelho says in the Alchemist-When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” and so, I find a boat coming my way. Since the lagoon is not really far to cross over, the boat-man is confused, as to why I wanted to go over to the other side. He says there is nothing that side, and he wont come back. I would have to walk 5 kilometres through the hilly path down to the Chaloklum village. I say yes, looking at the oppurtunity to be ‘quasi-marooned’ for a while.

 

A tyre buried in the sand at Chaloklum-Koh Phangan
A tyre buried in the sand at Chaloklum-Koh Phangan

A minute later, I find myself on the other side of the lagoon. My friends wave away, and one heads for the Paradise waterfall, while the other just wants lunch somewhere by the sea. I go and find myself on a remote part of the bay, and enjoy my silence. I lay on the water as, small waves come and go in a rythmic motion, lulling me into a peaceful mid-day siesta with my head in water. For a good part of the next 45 minutes, I was in a blissful sense of peace, closing my eyes, and while head got gently massaged by the movement of waters in a rythm. I wake up after, closing my eyes for a long time, and look at the beautiful blue skies, and its a wonderful feeling of happiness as you transition from a dark background to a bluish sky. It’s a kind of a visual orgamic high that lasts for a few fleeting seconds, and its gone, as your eyes adjust to the new light.It is a working day in India, and I chose to send this photo to my friends who are at work, right after lunch. I am reasonably succesful in transmitting ‘Vitamin-J’ to the rest of the world, connected virtually on Whatsapp (Note- 4G in Thailand is present in the remotest parts of the country),

Shaking a leg to the sound of water's music
Shaking a leg to the sound of water’s music

I woke up, and trudge through the forest to find a lady and her son, who are there in a car to meet a therapist. They are done with their work, and they were heading back, so I manage to get a lift uptil the local 7/11 store, from where I hop over to the local food store, where I gorge quickly on a bowl of Pad Thai, waiting for Vikram to turn up, while a mellifluos tune from an old lady singing a Thai tune catches my ears.

I hop over to the next beach on our 2 wheeler, and go there to catch a beautiful sunset. The sunset always works like an agony aunt of sorts, as there is something in the orangish sky and sea changing colours to blue over a sunset, as the stillness of the sea, makes me ask the questions to myself, that usually get lost in the hum-drum of daily life. A sunset makes me notionally wiser, as long as I can jot down what my mind tells me.

A beautiful sunset at Mae Haad-Koh Ma (Koh Phangan)
A beautiful sunset at Mae Haad-Koh Ma (Koh Phangan)

Post the sunset, we were heading to the full moon party, back near our hostel. To know how our day went and our time at the Full Moon Party, do catch the documentary which traces what we did in detail between the photos. Here’s- Part 3 of our documentary

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

Look out for cheap flights to Bangkok which starts at about 10,000 INR from Chennai to Bangkok. From Bangkok you could directly fly to Koh Samui through Bangkok Airways, but since its a private airport, fares are usually high. You could alternatively fly to Surat Thani from Bangkok, which has direct connections from the airport to the pier and to Koh Phangan/Ko Samui.You could take the train from Bangkok (Hualamphong Station) to Chumphon or Surat Thani, and head to the respective piers in those cities to catch a ferry to Koh Phangan . Alternatively you could fly to Bangkok, and book a Lomprayah Bus + Ferry ticket directly from Bangkok to Koh Phangan

The Lankan Beach Cure-Part 1

This little series explores Sri Lanka through its beaches. A day out at the beach along the Dehivala-Galle line shows up some beautiful sights. Join in me in my experiences in Sri Lanka

Seize The Day

I woke up very pleasantly, with the chill morning breeze which waded through my windows. It was a happy kind of a feeling, considering the fact that I was forced to remove my shirt a few hours back, on account of sweating in the night in my hostel room. The fact that sweating of the night had given way to a breezy day, felt nice. There were subliminal signals given to the brain to go and wake up and seize the day. ‘SEIZE THE DAY’- or so I thought, until my host at the Adikaram Sea View hostel told me that it was Poya day and I should not expect to find any shops open in Colombo. I quicky had the last pieces of milk bread in the fridge, by firing them up in the toaster. Some Bread, Butter and Jam later, I found myself running across the little lane from the hostel to the beach. It felt like a bolt of freedom crashing against the waves of the Indian Ocean, a welcome respite from the fan cooled 300 INR a night hostel room.

178175_10151225876885860_634378433_o

The morning walk by the sea, showed me the beautiful Colombo skyline , which was near empty, as whole of the city was observing Poya day. One day of the month (Full Moon day). The locals visit temples, avoid meat and alcohol and businesses and banks are closed. So I decided to walk to the other side of the beach.

 

204477_10151225636200860_29977909_o

I saw a bottle kept upside down right into the beach. I marked my spot and kept my spectacles near it, to go into the sea and feel the waves. After lounging for a while in the waters in my near myopic blinded state, I came out and saw a bunch of kids, using the bottle as a stump at the bowlers end. My spectacles lay buried in the footmarks that the bowlers had created.

209055_10151224524290860_397091311_o

They had quite a bit of southpaws trying to clobber balls into the ocean. Deep Midwicket usually between 2 waves and more often than not could not quite go after balls that came his way. The stumps on both the ends were just objects put into the mud. The Lankans were playing Cricket the Carribean way. Shirtless and full tosses by the sea.

55111_10151224527365860_1147092524_o

Then I saw order restored. I finally saw a right hander coming into bat. Kalu and Sanath maybe! Or maybe I was old, trying to come with Kalu and Sanath, in the times of Mahela, Sanga and Dilshan. After a while, staying at the beach, between the oscillating rain and bright sun, made me search for a place I could sit and watch the beach cricket from.

193175_10151225626790860_1026574656_o

Given its a beach, the most natural protection from the weather was behind the bushes. I found one amidst the greens and settled there. The bushes were at the far end of the beach and were closer to the village that was separated by the railway track that led to Dehiwala station and Mount Lavinia. This is the same railway line that connects Colombo to Galle, with amazing vistas of the sea right by the railway track.