Tag Archives: Road Trip

The Ultimate Guide To the Velas Turtle Festival-Part 1

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

Day-1

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

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

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

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

The Drive

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Road to Velas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documentary Screening at Milind’s Home

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

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

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

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

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

To read Part-2 head here

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

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

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

Hemant/Priyanka Bhole- +91-9763795605

Sawant- (Number to be added)

Landline numbers of other homestay owners

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

83083 60387

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

8655891918

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

8805483264

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

8983767388

Mr. Avinash Yadav 220545
 These members serve pure vegetarian food

Exploring South Goa-Part- 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)]

#TheBeachTrail2017-Part 1-Settling in Koh Phangan

This episode talks about settling into our comfort zone at Koh Phangan on Day 1 of our trip. 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 first post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-2Part-3 and Part-4

Once you are on sea, there is a sense of calm in your body. Your blood doesn’t run haywire, as it does back in the city. The kind of calm, that you have not felt or seen. The mountains and the sea seem constant, they dont move. There’s nothing that’s vying for your attention. Your mind is not having to be at many places and act like its at one place. Your mind is still, your body is still, you are still (despite the fact that you are moving on a constantly moving sea) and that takes some getting used to, and if you are like me, most of that emotion ends in being transported to you to a world where you dream, despite being amidst paradise in reality.

Siesta on the Gulf of Thailand
Siesta on the Gulf of Thailand

A journey on a little ferry/ship in the afternoon sun, was about testing 2 contrasting feelings on our skin. We wanted the soft warmth of the afternoon sun on an alternating overcast and sunny day, and the winds on our face. We got both, while we were perched in our seat. The only bummer really was, you could not quite move on the top deck of the ferry, once it picked speed. You would shake and lose balance while trying to move, and if you did find balance the strong wind would knock you down. The whole afternoon was spent either sitting on one of the seats, or sitting on the floor. We did have some inventive travellers who started to create a party of their own, by drinking against the direction of the wind, protecting their plastic cups with their hats. It was fun trying to see if they would spill the ‘Songserm’ whisky on themselves. They fought with the wind, and with every plastic cup downed, they would be inebriated to repeat the act more. One of my friends on the trip, joined in and did this until his hat flew right into the sea.

 

Colorful People on the Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Phangan
Colorful People on the Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Phangan

The wind hitting everyone’s faces and hair brought a beautiful sense of everyone being disheveled by the time we reached our first island stop. Wind is again like rain, it looks beautiful when seen for a fleeting second, but it can get irritating when the wind/rain bring their kin/kith along for a prolonged session. I was grateful to providence to be feeling such sensations, and to know that the a full week lay ahead before my flight descends into Chennai’s sweaty air.

 

Windy Day from Chumphon to Koh Phangan
Windy Day from Chumphon to Koh Phangan

We reached Koh Phangan, and were forewarned about the expensive taxis. We attempted to bargain with the ‘Songthaew’ [Shared Taxi Vans with an open back] and decided that with our luggage, we were better off to just pick a proper shared taxi that allowed us to reach our hostel. We decided that we will anyway be spending our time on the road, exploring places. It was better we stayed at some place closer to the vibe and energy of the island in the evenings, while we spend the day exploring. We were to get to Haad-Rin area to our hostel, which shared a small lane, across a small lake and had a grassy outback path to the sun-rise beach (Haad Rin Noi).

 

Jaya Hostel Road at Haad-Rin-Koh Phangan
Jaya Hostel Road at Haad-Rin-Koh Phangan

One of the things with landing in a place, is to walk around and observe what the place has. We also had some research planned on what would be the things we would explore on the island, since we had booked our return flights and booked accommodation for about 4 of the 8 nights, thinking we will figure the rest based on what we discover. We calmed our excited nerves by walking down the road that led to the beach, reminding ourselves that we were on a budget, and we stick to our fruit diet for the trip to minimise costs and stay hydrated in Tropical Koh Phangan.

Fruits at Haad-Rin
Fruits at Haad-Rin

We walked over to the beach, ambling about the Westernization of what used to be a quiet little Thai Town. Haad-Rin is pretty much like Calangute today, which we knew, but we were able to get cheaper hostels only in this part of the town, after a search on Hostel booking sites. As we made our way to the beach, we noticed people playing there trying to get under a rope of fire. Some of them sane, and some of them inebriated with a Chang beer in hand. As people get through below, the level gets tougher and from them only the fittest survive it. What was interesting was the camaraderie that was building up between strangers at the fire place, and that was very heart warming. I ended up knowing some of my to-be-hostel mates from the evening. We had just warmed up to the vibes of Koh Phangan

Fire Dancing in Koh Phangan
Fire Dancing in Koh Phangan

We have made a documentary on our adventures till we reached Koh Phangan. Watch Part-1 of our documentary below.

 

On a Road Trip to Coorg with Family-Part 1

This series features a road trip in Karnataka to Coorg with my family. A year back, I had made the drive to Pavita’s place, after getting fried in the Tamil Nadu sun, as my car’s AC unit collapsed 3 hours into the trip from Chennai. 16 hours after we started from Chennai, I reached Pavita’s place at midnight and I had Bing Maps for directions, and it required Pavita to drive down to where we were to finally go and reach her estate. This time it was far more relaxed. Read on to know how to get “Relaxomorphins” at Jagale Home Stay.

The purpose of a road trip is to amble and see sights on both sides of the road, and to reach the destination feeling relaxed, so that you could unwind even more. This time, I decided to break my journey and stop the night over in Sravanabelagola (around 200kms from Bangalore and about 90 kms from Coorg), and then proceed at my own pace to reach Pavita’s place [Jagale Home Stay] The good thing about a drive is one gets to see beautiful views of the real rustic India. I  end up stop over at places that don’t probably make it to a map, unless you zoom in on the map. I was even more ecstatic stopping every now and then, since my son soaked all the sights and said “Appa, I love tripping”!

Driving to Coorg (Karnataka)
Driving to Coorg (Karnataka)

The road was alluring as the left and right seemed to converged upon a patch of tar that was not visible as the trees came in the way. Cars on either side meant, that we were competing with the long weekend crowd that was there. I still did not succumb to the thought of rushing through the roads, before I have more cars sharing space on the road. That’s the half the stress on a road trip reduced.

I decided to test Google Map’s skills, by not selecting the path that it suggested. I took a long winding route, and was amply rewarded with pot holes, mud roads and extremely slow speeds. That trio you need to endure before you find picture postcard worthy places staring out of the car window. Yes, one more stop, but this was worth it. A beautiful little railway station, behind a canopy of palm trees and paddy fields. The sun was out and the greens and the blues had a brilliant contrast which made the scene even more beautiful.

The scenic village of Hampapura
The scenic village of Hampapura

Any Road trip requires some change of weather, for you to be suddenly take notice of the smell of the monsoon or the fact that the sun has taken a break. This time the weather cooled a bit, and it became overcast. I thought the monsoons were done in Karnataka for this time of the year, but it showed up. I thought it was a good time for a break to wake up my son, who had fallen asleep to the swings of the air conditioner. This was closer to some settlement and there was a tea shop around. Cooler monsoon weather and Indian Chai have a bond that lightens up any driver on the road to take a break.

Srirangapatna’s cloudy hues of grey and green!
Srirangapatna’s cloudy hues of grey and green!

My son spotted some marigold’s on the other side, and I said, lets go and explore. The yellow marigold flowers were planted in a disciplined manner which had patterns of planting, and between them were wet patches which my son duly went and jumped on. I know the detergent ads say “Daag Ache Hain” but as a parent on a road trip with family, my heart skips a beat after seeing my son playing around in the wet mud, dirtying his shoes and clothes.

Marigolds in Srirangapatna
Marigolds in Srirangapatna
Getting Naughty in Mud
Getting Naughty in Mud

 

The long winding roads, and a confused sun, means we have a very different light staring down at us, as we try and find our way to the little town of Nittur which is like the mathematical concept of limits. The more you drive, you still think its nearby and a couple of turns away, but it still has not been reached. The view of the road from the top of the curve makes it exciting to look at. I go and stop my car, and wait for another car to drive into my frame. A few more cares fit in, while I go back and chew some gum. They say it makes you stay awake on such drives. But with a lens dangling around my neck, and such beautiful sights en route, I am always alert and ready to capture a slice of nature to take back as memoirs that will lighten up Facebook’s servers and the ‘J’ meters of those who decided to stay back home for the long weekend.

The Long Sloping Road to Coorg
The Long Sloping Road to Coorg

To be continued in Part-2

Contacting Jagale Home Stay

You can reach Pavita, who runs this along with her husband. She is reachable on email at pavita (dot) ramesh (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Reaching Jagale Home Stay

Jagale Home Stay (Geo Coordinates)about 90-100 kilometres from Mysore, 250 kms from Bangalore, and around 600 kms from Chennai. This is just behind Wayanad, so Wayanad is about 30 minutes split across by the Nagarhole National Reserve, which starts just behind the home stay. Go here for great food and relaxation in the plantations.