CoffeeGudda @ Chikmagalur: a travellogue

Yay! Travellogue time again :D

Yea, so I “tripped” again. This time, not with the husband / family, but with colleagues! After joining this company, there were two trips planned, both of which I backed out of — them both being weekend trips, and it being impossible for me to sleep without my daily night quota of the husband’s hugs and kisses :D

This time, however, when the trip was planned itself, I was told that the previous trips were cancelled because I backed out at the last minute, causing a chain of backing-out! :D So, after much confusion and tantrums (me saying ‘don’t wanna go’, husband saying ‘go, have fun’), I gave in and said OK. I had no clue what I bargained for!

Anyway, after work on a Friday night, 14 of us set off to Chikmagalur, a hill station in south-west Karnataka. We left by about 12 am and reached Coffeegudda, the homestay we book for ourselves, by about 7.30 – 8.00 am.

And was the place awesome! After all the speculations of the place’s existence, we were all mighty pleased. And I say this, because when we Googled “Coffeegudda”, nothing turned up!! And of course, if it’s not on Google, it just does not exist, right? :D

But well, it did exist, actually! Tucked away peacefully, even beyond Google’s reach!

Well, the place is rather new, and the guys are yet to make a website of their own. All they have now are a few pages of CoffeeGudda hosted on wix.com, a free website builder ;) So, I suppose this post of mine would be CoffeeGudda’s first official mention on any website! Yay! ;)

CoffeeGudda: 16 acres of one of the most well maintained coffee and betel nut estates in Chikmagalur! A pretty homestay, mouth-watering food, fantastic hospitality, warm people, awesome surroundings, a gentle stream that meanders by and a waterfall of its own!! How much more can one ask for!?

Yes, you read that right! A huge, amazing, natural private waterfall!

An awesome suspension bridge takes one from the road to the homestay, over a serene, delightfully lovely stream that gurgles along happily beneath. The mood-setter for the vacationer ;) I swear it’ll set your mood. We were all wide awake from our seconds-ago groggy state the minute we saw the stream ;) The bridge ends where the gate is and a pathway starts. Lined on both sides by majestically tall betel nut trees, the pathway keeps you in its mysterious clutches for quite a while before it hands you over to the homestay.

View of the suspension bridge

The betel nut trees that stood majestic and tall :)

Where the pathway leads to the homestay...and you see...

...CoffeeGudda, the homestay!

CoffeeGudda, the homestay. Another view: of the three rooms, the swing chair and the serenity :)

Where we ate and drank. The little, thatched dining centre :)

Day 1 began with all of us freshening up and heading for some breakfast to the lil’ thatched shed. :) Hot idlis with some real yummy sambar and coconut chutney. Anyone who can make a sambar that yummm can make any damn food the most tastiest way! :) Oh and some very nice kesari too :)

And then, we set off to the “private” waterfall. I asked them how high it is, but they weren’t sure! Imagine having one’s own waterfall and not even bothering to know its height. Sigh! Life is very partial to some :D

The foot of the waterfall. Technically ;)

The trek up to the falls... (pic courtesy: a colleague)

We trekked up to the water fall from below — and it was a tough job! We had to climb up huge boulders, duck under fallen trees at places, cling on to ropes and pull ourselves up at others, get bruised and grazed on the shrubbery around…but when we did reach up, it was worth all the effort!

The waterfall...in all its glory. :) And the IBMers, in all theirs :D

With such force it came tumbling down the rocks...

Standing there under all that force was awesome.

It was magical. There was just the water, greens, birds and us. It was truly magical! And standing there under all that force was awesome. It gave a lovely massage — water therapy — that washed away all our weariness, all the strained muscles, all the tiredness. It was just splendid. And I guess the BEST part of it all was its being exclusive to us. There were no mad crowds, no litter, no lack of cleanliness. The place was spotlessly clean :)

After spending about 2-3 hours there, we were on our way back. the trek down was tougher. We had to almost slip down the slops on the sides of the boulders, hanging on to just one rope for support! :D It was sexy! :D

We were all tired and again went for our baths and freshening up. Lunch waited. A real spread that was. Chappathis, two kids of chicken curry, egg roast, rice, sambar, rasam, beetroot subzi, cabbage sabzi, curds, pickles…and all of that in ABUNDANCE! We all ate to our tummies’ fill and praised the cook to no end! :D In fact, we were all surprised they served so much; we only expected a humble meal!

After lunch, while some of them went off to snore, a few of us sensible ones set off to chill by the stream. I swear! I haven’t done anything that “wow” in quite sometime. The time we spent at the stream was so amazing, we yearned to extend the trip and stay on for another day :D I personally wished I could just stay there forever, and tell the husband and parents and Pumbaa to come over with all the clothes and furniture :D

Bridge across the river Quay...er er...the stream yay!

Gently flowed the water, gurgling, giggling and swirling...

And we chilled out in its coolness...

Miss it soooo much!

By about 6.30, we headed back to our rooms, freshened up (again!!) and sat around a campfire to enjoy the clear night! The temperature had dipped, and   the fire began dying out, one of us would rush to get more firewood! :D

The campfire that kept us going way into the night...

After anthaksharis and ghost stories and dappankuths and more dancing, we had some yummy dinner. After which, we all split into groups, each doing their own thing. Some sat by and drank; some had pep talks, we played rummy :D I had sprained my neck as we trekked down the falls, and by night, it was horrid. I could barely move my neck :( There was another trekking planned the next day, and i was almost sure i wouldn’t make it. And that added to the pain :( :( :(

Came morning, and I woke up hoping I was alright. but no. Could still barely move the neck. There was game of badminton in progress, and while i badly wanted to join in, I was in no state to play.

Early morning badminton

A few concerned ones said I better stay back…but well, even if I didn’t trek, the neck wasn’t fine. Might as well trek, I said. And off we went. How can I ever say no to trekking? And well, it was just in a tea estate (or so we thought!). Now how bad can that get!? So, once again, while a few losers slept, 9 of us set off. A bus took us halfway, and then we were to get on to one of those open jeeps that resembles the ones that carry cattle :D

We were in for a major surprise. Turned out we were not actually headed to a tea estate, but was going to trek down an insane mountain range and trek up another!! We were headed to Horanadu and beyond!

Horanadu...scenic, isn't it?

The cattle jeep took us cattle, crossing little jungles and streams and coming out on to rough roads with the sun above us, scorching!

The little jungles, all of which had streams flowing across the roads! Sexy it was!

The roads were worse than it looks heer. At points, it bordered on scary!

With us almost dangling all over the jeep. My neck was becoming worse that I ever imagined it would…but the scenery was soo good, I was clicking away like crazy :D [reached home to find the ugliest bruise I got from all that banging onto the jeep railings! sigh. Lesson: never click way while on an open jeep on bad roads! :D] And when I almost started wondering if I made a stupid mistake, deciding to come, we left the rough roads to reach the zenith of the mountain!

The zenith of the mountain: Gaaligudda!

And the views took our breaths away!

Gaaligudda: the best trekking I've ever done! How many colours and textures do you see? :)

Painting or picture?

The open jeep that took us cattle to Gaaligudda

View from the top. That little piece of green down there was a field we crossed while in the bus, even before we got on to the jeep! Which shows that we came up quite a height!

This has been by far my toughest trekking experience! Mainly because of the incline. It was almost an 80 degree slope downwards — with NOTHING to support you climb down: no boulders, no sturdy rocks, no plants, nothing! In fact, to add to all the scariness, here was a lot of loose gravel! And nothing to even break a fall if one of us were to go tumbling down!

Except three of us, the rest were all plain scared to move an inch down. But the fact that our jeep had left us there and had gone all the way to the top of another mountain where it would meet us again, left us all with no choice but to trudge down. There was a guide who helped three guys. And two other guys and I helped down the other three girls. The scariest part was that if the person we were supporting were to lose footing, she’d take us along too!

See that white spot towards the left of the pic? Draw an imaginary line up from the words "Draw an" here and you'll find it :D That was our jeep, waiting there for us to climb this slope down, climb the other one up and reach there!

And let me tell you, the slope isn’t as easy as it looks on the pics!

The group inching down slowly, carefully...

And that, is when I, for the first time in front of the colleagues, loudly and clearly yelled “F***!” :D I and the girl I was helping down had made headway and reached what looked like the bottom first. I turned around, clicked a pic and was just putting back the lens cover when I heard a shout from above. We both looked back to see a rock tumbling down right at us! My greatest fear was that it’d bring along more loose rocks and gravel. if that happened, we both would surely have reached the foot of the mountain in no time! As the rock passed us by in mere inches, I looked up sheepishly to yell out a “Sorry”! :D They pulled my leg all day for that! :D

As we trekked further down and finally did reach the foot, we heard a lovely gurgling sound. “Water!! Waterfall, more like it”, we all yelled and rushed forward to find this little beauty nestled among some rocks and dense green!

The beautiful stream that takes origin from the foot of a lovely waterfall!

The cute "little" water fall which proved size does NOT matter, water does! :D

No. It just looks small. When we got under it, it was almost double our size. yet, the water came down with such force, that when we leaned against the rocks and went completely into the water, it was like we were deep under the sea! Awesome, splendid and fantastic it was!

The first two to get into the ice water :) Just for perspective.

We spent about half an hour frolicking there. The water was icy cold and getting people in was a huge challenge :D But with the effort of our official “water splasher”, we all were in, finally! Had a fab time. Though we wished to remain in for longer, we had to leave back to Bangalore by 1.30…and it was already 11. we had just another hour to climb back, another to reach the homestay and a half more to have lunch, pack up and leave!

Heaving, panting and almost dying, we trekked back. trekking in wet clothes, that too UP a mountain, is not a good idea at all :D Yet, we did it, every now turning around to catch the wonderful painting Nature painted. When we finally caught a glimpse of the jeep, extra adrenaline pumped and we all almost ran up! And we were on our way back to CoffeeGudda :)

A beautiful tree we saw on the way back :)

The way back from Gaaligudda, to CoffeeGudda

The tea estate we "thought" we were going to; shot from the bus :D

The stream near CoffeeGudda...where we idles the previous evening, and where the losers who didnt come trekking idled while we trekked :D

While this trip definitely gets NO points for being a fab one by all respects, CoffeeGudda definitely gets it for being a real ‘getaway’, for yummy food, for a private waterfall (I still can’t believe the awesome luck of those ppl!) and the best trekking I ever did!

We bade goodbye to the homestay owners and left content, loaded with packs of CoffeeGudda-Chikmagalur coffee powder! :)

CoffeeGudda rocks! :)

ETA: Here is the link of CoffeeGudda’s very own website :)

Goa :) so aah! – a travellogue: part 5

Well, after loads of parasailing fun on Day 3 @ Goa and more breathtaking moments on the same Day 3 @ Goa, we were ready to bid adieu to Old Goa. On our way back, we had planned to take a walk through the streets of Panaji, visit the Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception Church, and see some typical Goan houses!

Being New Year eve, the streets were all lit up, and the road leading to the church, in particular, was beautiful :)

The road leading to Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception Church, Panaji

One of the first churches built in Goa, it was the landmark for sailors to offer thanks for a safe anchoring. It was initially built in 1541 and later re-built in 1619.

The bell we see and hear today at this church was brought from the belfry tower of the St Augustine Complex of Old Goa in 1871. Apparently, it is the second largest bell in the world!

The church is truly beautiful at night.

The Christmas crib in front of the church...

The God family ;)

View from the Church

After sitting around on the benches built on the pavement in the centre of the road, for about 10 mins, we set off for a walk to see Goan houses. While most of them resembles the houses back home in Kerala — with their red soil roof tiles and open verandahs and pretty houses with coconut trees in the yards — we did get to see some very typical Goan homes too…

A Goan home...

A Goan home...

A Goan home...

A Goan home...

A Goan home...and my fav of the lot :)

A Goan home...

After we had enough of Goan houses, we set off for another drive down the road connecting the Mandovi Bridge to the Miramar Beach. Pretty pretty buildings, clean clean pavements and a smooth smooth road!

On the way back, we stopped to see some really beautiful cruise ships floating on the Mandovi.

The wide, wide, really wide walkway that runs in between the road and the river :)

Them cruise boats and ships on the Mandovi...

The Casino Carnival -- the best there was on the Mandovi from where we stood

Well, that was a New Year eve well spent and enjoyed: but it wasn’t over yet. We had one more thing to celebrate — the brother’s birthday. Well, he has a birthday that the whole world celebrates along with us and him on 31 December :)

We planned to dine at Martin’s Corner, a restaurant located in Betal Bhim, off Colva — and made famous by the media, and by the stars that include the Bachchans, Sachin Tendulkar, Lucky Ali, Bipasha and John… The husband had seen the place reviewed on TV and had to HAD to go there :D I called up to reserve seats, and was told there’d be no entry for Pumbaa. There! That was the end of my appreciation for the place. Stupid, stupid Martin. What Goan is he, if he can’t accept a friendly Lab inside? Bah!!

Anyways, we went, bought food, bought a cake too — and went back to one place where Pumbaa HAD entry: the apartment ;)

“]

...hogged on all the typically Goan food Martin sent home...

…and sat around for another hour or so chit-chatting and reliving Goa and the lights and sights around, and went off to sleep. We were due to start our return journey the next morning.

We packed, gave away the cash and the keys to the apartment owner, and set off to Bangalore.

Bangalore to Goa is about 580km (about 9 hours), and we hoped to be home in about 11 hours, considering Pumbaa breaks ;)

The way back to Bangalore was simply amazing!! Awesome views and awesome roads!

A shepherd with his friends on a sugarcane field...

The roads...

The countryside...

The 'thadaakam's...

and the roads again!

With roads like this, Pumbaa being a non-fussy darling and us going at super fast speed, we were sure we’d actually be able to make it n 9 hours!

Pumbaa in the car (sorry about such a badly done collage -- but this is the third time I'm "saving draft" and losing all the individually uploaded pics, I'm so fed up!)

But well, 2011 had other plans for us! By about 6p.m., we were short of fuel in the car. We were on the lookout for petrol bunks, but there were few! And of the very few there were, NONE accepted credit cards! We were shocked! We went on for quite a while and finally HAD to stop and fill petrol, in spite of not accepting cards! We filled about 5litres, and after dropping Pumbaa, me and the husband there, my dad and bro went to find an ATM centre. They found none for a long time; and the one that they found had a faulty machine. It was pathetic!

On the way from Kerala to Goa, there were ATMs and petrol stations that accepted cards ALL THE WAY till we left Kerala. Here, none. Not a single ATM for miles and miles. We were actually stranded on the highway for about an hour and half: till they finally found one, took cash and came back to fill the rest of the petrol and pay for it :( :( :(

We reached back home at about 1 a.m.!!!

Anyways, excluding the drives both ways, we had an awesome trip :) Such a fab time, that we’ve decided Goa is THE place we’ll settle in :D I’m so not done with Goa: it’s one place i’d love to go back to, again and again. And, again!

Goa :) so aah! – a travellogue: part 4

On the way back from Old Goa on Day 2 @ Goa, we had spotted what looked like some ruins atop a hillside to our left. The brother had rented a bike and rode alongside the car, giving more room in the car for Pumbaa to spread his legs :D

He told us to go on to Panaji, and said he’ll ride up the hill, take a look and be back. He clicked a few snaps, showed it to me and I was in despair that we had missed it! And my face had this downward curve :( which the husband, as always, decided to twist upward :)

And thus, to our new list for Day 3 @ Goa—which was planned to be a foot tour of the Panaji city post parasailing at Colva Beach and a dinner at Martin’s Corner to celebrate the brother’s birthday—was added The Ruins of St Augustine Complex, Old Goa.

So now, this in itself would be a whole part of the travellogue, because it was so stunning a place, I personally think it was the very highlight of our trip! Er er…actually, I’m a little confused between giving “The Highlight Of The Trip” award to parasailing or the ruins :D

Anyway, though the husband commented in passing the previous night that we’d go see the ruins the next day, I neither took it seriously, nor remembered it by next morning. So, when we suddenly took a detour on our way to Panaji to a direction that a board screamed out “Old Goa”, I was surprised.

The oh-so-sexy road to Holy Hill, Old Goa

And when I saw the towering, ominous looking, in-ruins belfry of god-knows-what, surprise turned to pure AWE! I almost threw off the mobile phone, grabbed the camera and jumped off the car!

Heavenly rays throwing light up on God's once-up-on-a-time abode

Oh my God. Don’t you think this is an amazing sight!? The sky was an amazing blue, with the bright clouds covering up a sun struggling to come out! And nothing else in the frame…not even a bird, but just a 46-metre-high colossal belfry tower of a church built 408 years ago! Yes, a full four-hundred-and-eight years ago!

This massive tower, the St Augustine’s tower, is one of the four towers that once stood at the site—the only remaining part of what was once one of Goa’s largest building—the Augustinian Monastery.

The 46 metere high belfry tower

Friars of the Augustinian Order arrived in Goa in 1572 and built a small convent on Holy Hill. The convent had three storeys, with two really huge stone staircases that led upstairs. The convent had two cloisters, many corridors, pillars, galleries and halls with numerous rooms, a refractory, guesthouse and a spacious infirmary. It also had vast dormitories, numerous cells and other structures (all of which are now in ruins).

View of the complex from the entry gate.

Interiors of the church...

The convent was later enlarged, in 1602, to become a complex–one that housed this colossal belfry tower, eight chapels, four altars and the extensive convent. The tower faces the east and was built of laterite, like most parts of the complex, and formed part of the Church of St Augustine.

One of the eight chapels

The altar...now the occasional seat of the lone guard

The building was completed between 1597 and 1602. Though the name of the designer of this magnificent piece of construction is not known, he is thought to have been Italian. And when it was completed in 1602, the grand Nossa Senhora da Graca Church was worthy of recognition for being one of the three great Augustinian churches in the Iberian world—the other two being the Basilica of the Escorial in Spain and the St Vincente de Fora in Lisbon.

The tower...and the church interiors

On entering the church, one gets a glimpse of a regal, grand retable of the high altar—with its large gilt tabernacle safeguarded within an arch, through a screen of arched piers. Vestiges of these piers supported a spacious choir which easily could have accommodated a large number of Augustinian monks; most of these vestiges were visible until recently.

One of the many inscriptions on the walls...

One more...and this time, a little more elaborate and wonderful!

Inscriptions on the floor...

The repressive policies of the Portuguese government resulted in the eviction of many religious orders from Goa…which led to its abandonment in 1835. The church fell into neglect and the vault collapsed in 1842, accelerating the church’s demise! The body of the church was soon destroyed as per government orders, but the facade remained intact.

The very, very, verrrrry pretty wall carvings

A slab of fine carving

The convent area

Another chapel, only a bit more complete that the rest

A partially cordoned off area...

The dilapidated interiors...

That's dad on the phone...does that put the size of the place in perspective?

Now if THAT didn't, this should! They on the right bottom corner are my dad, mom, husband and Pumbaa ;)

The tower’s huge bell was moved initially to Fort Aguada and later, in 1871, to the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Panjim: where it still tolls!!! The facade and half of the tower fell in 1931 and more parts gave way in 1938.

The nave of the Church now stare up at the sky, from where God probably looks down fondly at his long-ago royal abode! The nape is open to the sky, under whose dilapidated yet lovely arches, local folk sometimes gather for a talk.

We stood around too…for almost an hour and half. Just walking around the place took us way back in time. And we murmured over and over again, “This place is just out of this world!”. As the day wore on, and dusk approached, the place grew more ominous, more quiet, more chilling. Thrilling nevertheless.

Ruins of St Augustine Complex, Holy Hill, Old Goa.I have only one word for it. Magnificent.

.

P.S. That I was watching the movie Day After Tomorrow as I was typing this out, did NOT help much, except add to the ominosity :D

Goa :) so aah! – a travellogue: part 3

Disclaimer: I drafted this post a day after I published the previous one — but well, all the pics were in my brother’s camera and he left the transfer cord at his friend’s place in Kochi. I waited and waited for two weeks before I got it couriered by him. So, here the post is with the pictures…

After many things ancient in Goa—Fort Aguada and Old Goa on Day 2 @ Goa—we had decided to keep aside Day 3 @ Goa for the modern :D And on top of the list for the day was parasailing!

A few weeks prior to the vacation—after making the list I forgot to take along—I happened to read a blog called Passion For Road Trips. The author, Subu (who i recently discovered is a much-admired and much-respected friend of my friend!! — small world, huh!?), had been on a recent trip to Goa and had a fab travellogue put up on his blog. From my research for the list, and reading through this blog, I had made up my mind to go for parasailing, scooterboat ride and something called a banana ride.

But after spending all that time at the Colva Beach on Day 1 @ Goa, I had decided that the scooterboat ride was too bumpy for my already bummed spine; and that the banana ride was not all that interesting—except that at one point of time, you’ll be toppled over into the sea and then have to climb back on to the banana-shaped floater which is pulled into the sea and back to the beach by another boat.

But parasailing…it looked awesome, exciting and was sure set the adrenaline soaring. The day we went to Colva Beach, we were approached by guides who offered to take us parasailing for Rs 800 per couple. We bargained, saying it wouldn’t be more than Rs 150 :D :P Finally, they brought it down to Rs 500 per couple, but we still did not give in: the main reason being that I’d come to the beach in a skirt :D

Anyways, 31 December in Goa—for that matter, at any place—is a costly affair…and parasailing was no different :( Once again, we were at Colva Beach, bargaining with guides who refused to reduce it even by a penny beyond Rs 800. The final one who came to us quoted Rs 800 as well…and to him I said in a voice filled with despair and disappointment “it was 600 when we came yesterday…this is unfair”, blah blah. When he saw me sulking, he relented and agreed for Rs 600. I was then chided for having blurted out 600 instead of 500 (or even 400!)…but well, I just wanted to parasail, no matter what :D In fact, I’d still have gone ahead and done it even if they stuck to Rs 800!

So, we finally agreed for Rs 600 and waited in queue to be the next for sail! :D The rides were coming to an end for the mid-day break and we were the last ones in queue.

As the couple in front was strapped, buckled and then sailed away, a million butterflies came to life in my tummy and I had second thoughts! The parachute went up to such a terrifying height…there was the sea below…and I didn’t even know to swim—as if it would help at all. Was I still sure I wanted to go in? I turned around to look at the husband and ask if we should back out…he wasn’t very interested in it in the first place.

:) :) :) :) :) Almost about to parasail! :) :) :) :) :)

But alas…when I did turn around to ask, there were two guides on both sides, strapping a life jacket and buckling it up, strapping us both together on to another buckle, the other end of which was fastened to the boat—and before I could say “hey”, we were moving! At 12.45 pm, on a sunny scorching New Year’s eve-noon, we were parasailing!

Up above the world so high... -- pic courtesy: my bro

Almost about to land -- pic courtesy: my bro

A parachute -- a pic I took ;)

It was one of the best things I’ve done in life. The take off was as smooth as one could imagine it to be…there was no air rushing up against or out of me…and the feeling of being in flight, like a bird, was spellbinding. I really and honestly CANNOT describe it. To have to do it to know it.

And the sight! Oh my god, the sight from up there cannot be described! Perhaps if I were a poet, I could have done some justice. But well, I honestly think (and I repeat!) if you really want to know, you must try it someday!

As we sailed up, I began howling like how we do on one of those giant wheels at the theme parks. But I stopped it as soon as I started it: because it was so calm, it was soooo calm and smooth, I realised there was no NEED to howl or scream or even break the silence. All we both did then was gush…. “Oh, wow…look how…” “Ah…this is just…” “Awww…how small those people…”

The vast expanse of the sea beneath, the endless blue sky above, and a wonderful, wonderful sight of the shore, with palm trees lining one side and the virgin white beach seeming to be covered with people the size of mere ants!

Oh my god. I’m still getting goose bumps as I write this! The husband, who had to literally be begged to join for the adventure, was the one who perhaps loved it more that I did! He was glad he did it; it was thaaaaat good. (See, this is why you should TRY things out, darling! ;))

Again, being one of the last ones in queue, we had a pretty much shorter ride than the ones who went before us…we seemed to have gone up and touched back ground in a matter of 30 seconds. But it was worth every penny we spent!

Happy, content and satisfied of having had a wonderful trip so far, we headed back home to change, have lunch and head to Panaji!

I had no clue that an awesome sight awaited me—one that would leave me as breathless as this one did. Day 3 @ Goa had just begun! :)

Goa :) so aah! – a travellogue: part 2

Please note: photograph overdoseload. Please wait for the pics to load completely :D

After a lovely time at Colva Beach on Day 1 @ Goa, we were up and about early on Day 2. Old Goa and Fort Aguada were on the new list…and I thought if we could finish them off a bit early, there would be enough time to squeeze in a beach visit too :D

But alas, lil’ Pumbaa had his own plans. All that beach sand he ate up last evening had to be shat out, didn’t it!? Oh my gosh. The room was a mess. It did not stink, it did not even look ewww. It was just beach sand, but in a shade of brown than the plain white sand we saw at the beach :D So, while I sweated out the cleaning process, Pumbaa now beach-sand free, strolled royally out on the terrace :P

We’d bragged soooo much about the charm of Goa to Mom, that she seemed a tad disappointed in Madgaon. Though she agreed it was Kerala-like and was nice enough, she did not get the “Goan” feel yet. I could only console her with “Just wait till we reach Panaji and Old Goa and Fort Aguada and all, Amma…you’ll love it!” :) Well, she began loving it even as we began approaching Panaji ;)

The Fatorda Circle

The Fatorda Circle, Fatorda, Madgaon

Road to Panaji

An iron ore barge steaming on over the Zuari River while 2- and 4-wheelers line the Zuari Bridge. If only an aircraft passed through the frame then! :P

The Mandovi Bridge over the Mandovi River, viewed from the road to Old Goa

So we drove on, crossed the Mandovi Bridge and drove on towards Old Goa.

Old Goa, constructed  originally by the Bijapur Sultans in 15th Century A.D. served as the capital of Portuguese India. In 18th Century, malaria and cholera epidemics ravaged the city, and it was then abandoned by the Viceroy, who moved to Pangim (now, Panjim/Panaji).This abandoned Goa then came to be known as “Old Goa”. All that remains of Old Goa are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The road to Old Goa is beautiful, though narrow. For quite a distance, the Mandovi river flows along with us on the left, giving us typical rivery views…

The road to Old Goa

Dredgers, barges and ferrys on the Mandovi River, seen from the road to Old Goa

Like all tourists to Old Goa, we also went first to the Basilica of Bom Jesus. Over 400 years old, this is one of the oldest churches, not just in Goa, but in India. The marble is inlaid with precious stones. Apart from the elaborate gilded altars, the interior of the church is simple.

The crowds that thronged the Basilica of Bom Jesus

Basilica of Bom Jesus

The main altar at the Basilica of Bom Jesus

The whole back wall, and the facade, is designed with numerous carving of pillars and friezes, all gild in pure gold. Above the altar and tabernacle stands a giant statue of St Ignatius of Loyola in priestly vestments, nearly three metres high. His gaze is fixed on the medallion containing the holy letters IHS, the first letters of the Holy Name of Jesus. Above the monogram of Jesus is the holy trinity—the father, son and the holy spirit.

On the left of the main altar

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Basilica holds the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier, a pioneering Roman Catholic Missionary who was influential in the spreading and upkeep of Catholicism in India. Hi relics are kept in a silver casket, elevated inside the  Basilica and are brought to ground level when the Archbishop of Goa e Damão decides so. It is usually done every ten years. The last time that happened was in 2004, and was open to public for a whole month.

The silver casket holding the body of St Francis Xavier

Also within the Basilica

Also within the Basilica

Also within the Basilica

Also within the Basilica

Also within the Basilica

Also within the Basilica, in celebration of Christmas

Also within the Basilica

Also within the Basilica

The majestic trees within the campus of the Basilica of Bom Jesus

The archways that say a thousand tales (pic courtesy: Jaya, my best friend)

The Basilica of Bom Jesus...the side facing the Church of St Assissi

On the other side of the Basilica is the Church of St Francis of Assisi built in 1661.Here’s some info on the church, as seen on the plaque beside it.

“The three tier facade have octagonal towers on each side and in the central niche there is a statue of St Michael. The main entrance is decorated with circular pilasters and rosette band. The central nave is barrel-vaulted while the crossing is rib-vaulted which supports the choir. The internal buttress walls, separating the chapels and supporting the gallery on top, have frescoes showing floral designs. Above the tabernacle in the main altar is a large statue of St Francis of Assisi and Jesus on the cross, statues of St Peter and St Paul are seen below. The adjoining walls of nave retain painted panels depicting scenes from the life of St Francis of Assisi.”

The Church of St Francis of Assisi, built in 1661

The Church of St Francis of Assisi, built in 1661

Another much visited site is the Se Cathedral, the oldest and most celebrated religious building in Goa and one of the largest churches in Asia. We did not go in there :D Pumbaa would be made to wait outside all these places, and I really didn’t think that was fair to him ;)

By now, Mom had changed her opinion. Goa was definitely beautiful and lovely, and Old Goa, especially so! :) We stopped for ice creams, licked them clean and then was ready to head to our next destination: Fort Aguada.

On the way, we also decided to stop over at Mapusa, near Calangute. Mapusa, also pronounced Mapsa by the locals, is the main market town in northern Goa.

An interesting idea for a "wedding car"! Caught on cam on the way to Mapusa.

The road from Panaji to Mapusa

The reason we went to Mapusa was to see the house where the husband stayed at while he was with SBI. We always used to say we must buy that house and the fields on both sides, demolish it and build our dream house right there :) It was a lovely place.

This time however, we were disappointed to see the surroundings heaped with trash :(

We also dropped in at Shama Medicals, to see the owner Uzma, a dear friend in Goa. We also met her daughter, who is super cute :) After a 10-minute chat and a few clicks, we were on our way to Fort Aguada.

Fort Aguada.

The water tank and the lighthouse at Fort Aguada

Constructed in 1612 to guard against the Dutch and the Marathas, this magnificent  piece of architecture also served as a reference point for vessels coming from Europe at that time. it was once the grandstand of 79 cannons, with a moat around the fort that  protected it.

The view from the fort. So pristine!

Standing on the beach, south of Candolim, at the shore of the Mandovi river, the fort was once home to a freshwater spring that provided water to the ship inmates who used to stop by.

Another sea view

Aguada means water…and that’s how the fort got its name. Crews of passing ships would often stop by to replenish their fresh water stock.

The fort also houses a 4-storey Portuguese lighthouse that is the oldest of its kind in Asia: built in 1864.

The lighthouse at Fort Aguada

The Aguada prison is also close by, and is still functional, used by the Goan Police.

The sprawling bungalow of a diamond merchant, Jimmy Kardeka, where many Bollywood films were apparently shot. Constructed on one side of the hill without disturbing the natural geographical incline, the bungalow is estimated to be about 70 crore INR (as sourced from the web and from the blog Passion for Road Trips). I initially thought it was the Vivanta by Taj :D till I read his blog!

Father, Son and the Aguada Fort :D

We walked all around Fort Aguada and both dad and mom loved the place too. Dad had come here long back, sometime during the late 70s…but he definitely had no memories of seeing the lighthouse there :D We took a lot many more pics and then as the closing time fast approached (5.30 pm) and the sun began its descend, we also filed out. Pumbaa was tired (and refused to walk anymore, which explains why he’s in the Father’s hands :D) and hungry, and we decided to stop at a fancy restaurant we’d spotted on the way to the Fort, to fuel up.

Sweet Chilli.

Sweet Chilli

A garden-style Goan restaurant, made to resemble a beach shack, this is a fab place to hang out. Yummy food, totally affordable rates and a most pleasing ambiance. And it being the Xmas season, it was all beautifully lit up too :) :) :)

The best part was the acceptance of Pumbaa without hesitation, and my heart immediately warmed to the place ;)

Pumbaa after his fill...at Sweet Chilli :)

The reception-cum-bar...and the friendly waiter who even played with Pumbaa :)

The walkway into the restaurant

After a sumptuous dinner, we all filed back into the car and drove back to Panaji. We also decided to take a quick tour of Panaji City, for the parents’ sake. And it was only 7.00 by then. Ample time for a city drive before heading back to Madgaon.

We drove right from one end of Panaji to the other…and finally ended up near Miramar Beach. The husband could not quite miss the shine in my eyes, and we stopped over for some nice beach time :)

We alighted opposite the Club Tennis sports facility centre and walked to the Miramar beach.

Clube Tennis De Gaspar Dias

The Miramar Circle...as I call it

Beach volleyball :)

It was a breezy, cool, lovely night, and we spotted a few guys enjoying beach volleyball. We enjoyed at the beach for another half hour and then went back to Madgaon, to sleep away the tiredness and better savour the day through possible dolby digital colour dreams ;)

Our Day 3 @ Goa, also the bro’s birthday, was to be spent mostly at the beach and in Panjim/Panaji city.

Goa :) so aah! – a travellogue: part 1

Goa has always been a much-loved place—for both the husband and for me. He used to work there, for SBI Life Insurance during 2006-07, and I’ve been there with my best friend and bro then. And we all had had such an amazing time!So, the love for Goa has always been unconditional. I’ve seen the place in sunshine, drizzles, rains and heavy rains :D And it’s always been unbelievably WOW. ;)

So, every time we plan a trip, the first option that I put forward is Goa. But it would never happen, and would always get postponed to “some other time”. Till December 2010: and for that, I owe all thanks to Pumbaa. If it weren’t for him, we’d have spent it at Delhi instead (we settled for Goa since it was a place we could drive up to, taking Pumbaa along :)). And Goa on a New Year Eve had been my dream! :) So, the mere thought was exciting.

The 4-day Goa plan, like always, was jinxed initially. We tried a lot of hotels/resorts/home stays.

  • If there were rooms available, they wouldn’t allow pets.
  • If pets were allowed, there were no rooms.
  • And if there were rooms and they allowed pets, then it was way over budget :D

The cheapest we could find was Rs 5500 a day for a single room (which meant Rs 11000 a day for the 5 of us!)—and they wouldn’t allow pets. I had slipped into despair and was almost giving up when the husband’s ex-colleague told us he rents out his 2BHK flat at Margao/Madgaon, the cultural capital of Goa, for Rs 3500 a day. Whoooopiiieee! An entire flat for just Rs 3500 a day was like an impossible deal! :) So, the excitement that had dwindled down came back with double the force!

28 dawned early for us: we were up and about by 4.30am…and waved our goodbyes by 5.30am. Pumbaa, once again, took advantage of the space benefit and promptly snored off. He seemed to realise the luxury would be on offer only for an hour or so ;) We stopped at Guruvayur, picked up dad and mom, and were on our way to GO AAAAHHH !!!!!!! :)

KTDC's Motel Aaram...where we stopped for lunch :)

Now, one mistake you should ALWAYS avoid during a trip—especially a road trip—is miscalculation of time and distances :D For some reason, we all seemed to silently agree that Kochi-Goa is equivalent to B’lore-Kochi. So, another 14 hours, at the max, thought we. And expected to reach Goa by about 8.00 – 9.00pm. Boy, were we wrong!

Kochi to Goa by road is about 850km! Plus add Pumbaa-breaks, food breaks, bio breaks :P  The roads were terrible till we enteredTamil Nadu…and returned back to the terribleness as soon as we left Tamil Nadu :D

The NH 17—the 7th longest highway in India with 1,296 km—connects Edapally (Kochi) to Panvel (Mumbai) and passes through almost all of nature’s topographical thrills: hills, forests, rivers, and streams generally flowing westwards towards Arabian sea. Most of the region has the never-tire-of-scenery coconut trees dotted paddy fields and arecanut gardens. But the road makes up for all this wonder, by being horrid: it’s uneven with bumps, curves, steep rises and narrow paths. And being a region with heavy rainfall, the potholes are omnipresent!

The NH 17

And well, we decided to go to Goa direct from Kochi instead of coming back to Bangalore, for two reasons: 1) it was simply the most sensible thing to do :D…and 2) the route in famous for its beauty as it touches the Arabian sea at Thalassery (Kerala), and at Maravanthe (Karnataka) where it runs in between the sea and the river…like these, for instance:

A shot of the Arabian Sea that ran parallel to the NH...between Thalassery and Mahe (where I got out for a click, and Pumbaa for a pee :D)

NH 17, with the Arabian Sea on one side and the Sauparnika River on the other...at Maravanthe (pic courtesy: Wikipedia)

In spite of all this, to catch this amazing scene in the pic above, we still took this road. But   our miscalculation, we’d reached these points post 7.30pm! :D We had no clue where there was sea or where the river :D

Narrow roads and the lorry traffic ensured we go at a relatively low pace, for a highway! And by the time we could actually pick up speed, we had reached one of the WORST roads we’ve experienced in life. And there were ABSOLUTELY NO sign boards warning us of dug up roads ahead! The first time, we almost flew! :D And from there on, we went at a snail’s pace for another hour.

Long story short: we reached Madgaon/Margao–our place of stay–at about 2.00am! Tired, sleepy and still feeling all bumpy! I don’t remember anyone getting freshened up or anything. Even Pumbaa decided to cut the frolic and hit bed :D

Day 1 @ Goa dawned late :D and we all were rather lazy. By about 12pm, we were ready to leave. But, to where?

“Ah, I know! I’ve made a complete list of all the places I want to visit. Let me find that out.”, said I, and rummaged through all my bags. Typically Priya, I’d forgotten to take the list, apparently. I cursed out loud and tried to access the internet through the husband’s mobile phone. No internet connectivity. I grumbled a few swears and was downed in despair.

Anyways, once it was apparent we were “listless” and didn’t know where to go, we headed out to the nearest beach from Madgaon, the Colva Beach. 4 km west pf Margao, Colva is a lovely beach with about 20 km of palm fringed virgin white sands! Being the new year season, it was brimming with people and activities.

Couples parasailing at Colva Beach

Guarding the life of the beach...the people ;)

Just an interesting something...

Pumbaa and the Sea

The lovely Colva Beach

Pumbaa had a lovely time at the beach. He couldn’t, for the life of him figure out why the water kept coming at him (and he kept running away) and why it kept running away when he chased it ;). As always, he revelled in all the “ooh”s and “cho chweet”s and “oh-so-cute”s from the other beach lovers ;) He seemed to think he’d never get another chance like that, and ate up quite a bit of the beach sand! :D

I had decided I must go parasailing, and kept bargaining for a good rate. but well, it being the peak season, they refused to bring it down beyond 500 per couple. Plus, I was wearing a top and skirt, and didn’t want to end up worse that Raima Sen in the movie Honeymoon Travels :D So, I gave up the idea for the day, willing myself to return the next day.

We left the beach and headed home by about 7pm, shopped for dinner and reached home exhilarated. Beaches do that to me :D The apartment was a huge one, with two huge bedrooms, a living room, a huge kitchen, one small open balcony, a bigger, closed balcony and an amazing terrace area! (Had meant to click pics, but at that moment, the cam settings gave me trouble and by the time I sorted it out, I forgot what I’d intended to do! It was only after reaching Bangalore that I realised I did not have a single pic of the place :D :D)

I did another round of searching-for-the-list, but was unsuccessful. We decided to go to the nearest internet cafe and figure out. But its Goa, folks. People don’t stay “at work” for longer than necessary…and everything closes by 7—especially during this season of rejoicing. They’d rather be home, and spend quality time with family and “spirit”, than watch someone trying to search ‘places to visit” in Goa :D

And of course, having been to Goa multiple times, and the husband having lived there for close to a year, it wasn’t like we didn’t know the place well…but my non-existent list had many beaches to be visited! :(

Anyways, “listless” still, we decided to go to Old Goa and Fort Aguada on Day 2 @ Goa.

the prelude to a travellogue

Christmas-New year vacations are meant to be spent at places where its spirit is celebrated with fervour and joy.

And what better place than…GOA! :)

The plan was a Bangalore-Kochi-Goa-Bangalore drive in the Punto, with the six of us: Dad, Mom, Bro, Pumbaa, the husband and I.

The two weeks at office before 24 Dec was a real pain. There was a load of work to complete—what with so many people taking vacations, the US team completely off, and having to ensure things reach the right people on time—yet, I just couldn’t concentrate well or contain the excitement! :D

We set off to Kochi on 24 Dec early morning. The plan was to leave at 4.30 am, but we actually left only an hour later. And even then, Bangalore was so completely enveloped in fog that we could only roll along the road and could not take advantage of the traffic free time :S

It was Pumbaa’s first ever long-distance car journey, and the poor thing could just NOT adjust. Usually, when we take him somewhere, there’d only be the two of us…or one or both the parents. There never were five people, and he always had space to curl up on the back seat. This time around, space wasn’t a luxury—though it was, for us, it wasn’t for him! He kept shifting laps and finally would sleep on one. He’d wake up at the next hump, shift laps again and sleep on one. This was an endless affair till we finally dropped off my parents at Trichur. [From there, they took a train to Thiruvananthapuram and then went to Guruvayur a day later, from where we picked them up again on our way to Goa.]

We had a packed car—apart from the people and the pup :D It would be my first Christmas with the in-laws (though it’s my third Xmas after the wedding :D), and we’d packed quite a few gifts too. Plus, there were a few from the sister-in-law as well, to be handed over to the parents.

Our X'mas tree...and the Xmas gifts waiting to be opened by the in-laws!

But more than all that, was the food we carried! Go anywhere with Mom, and she makes sure there is breakfast, lunch and dinner (and if possible next day’s food too :P) packed along! And this time, Mom decided to save the food expense at Goa by cooking at least two meals at the apartment (where we were to stay at Goa) and carried the electric rice cooker and some vessels too!! In fact, she packed idlis and dry coconut chutney for breakfast and evening snack on the way, and fried rice for lunch on the way (which she cooked and carried in the rice cooker itself!) :D And of course, some beef pickle, salads and what not :D These only added to poor Pumbaa’s misery, for he could smell delicious stuff, but couldn’t figure out where it was stashed away! :D

Bangalore-Kochi by road is 530km (about 10 hours usually) but we took about 13.5 hours! We had to stop just too many times to let little Pumbaa relieve himself, and of course, had to have longer than usual breakfast and lunch breaks: because while the others ate, someone had to hold on to Pumbaa!

The lunch break ;)

Anyway, we dropped off Mom and Dad at Trichur railways station by about 4.30pm, had a super late lunch of fried rice, and was on our way to Kochi. Pumbaa was the most happy, for now he had all of the backseat to himself, after he pushed me to one corner :D
Tired, sleepy and exhausted, we touched base at Kochi by about 7.00pm. I was ready to hit the bed right away, but of course, that’s not a possibility!

We introduced Pumbaa to the in-laws. Daddy loved him and immediately cuddled him, but Mamma was a bit hesitant: she HATES dogs :D But of course, Pumbaa being the charmer he is, won over her heart in a matter of seconds, though she didn’t let it out :P The in-laws usually live a timetable life and have their dinner by 8.30 and hit the bed by 10. I being (almost dead) super tired, had high hopes of that happening, but NO! It’s not every day they get to see us in flesh and have long talks. So the already stretched day stretched over till about 11.30, when we actually could go to bed—and that too, AFTER getting orders that we were to attend the 6.30 am Christmas Mass the next morn. Like that would happen at all! :D

Of course, we didn’t get up at 6.30. In fact, we didn’t even get up at 9.30! :D By about 10, we sheepishly came out expecting chidings and frown faces, but they were dears about it! :) All we got were a Christmas cake and tiny cups of wine! :) The presents were unveiled and they loved it all. The one that excited them the most was the web cam: we bought it especially since all of us—their son, daughter, their spouses and their grandchildren—were in Bangalore, and they could only always talk over phone. Now, they could see too! We immediately had the sister-in-law and family come on screen, and had a good time ;)

From the Santa's basket ;)

The same day afternoon, we went over to Mamma’s ancestral home in Pala.

The Moozhayil house...amidst green, more green and some more green!

All her siblings had come with family, and it was a riot. Pumbaa turned out to be the star and won over all hearts :D In fact, he was cuddled and cuddled so much that the poor thing, exhausted, slept blissfully through an hour of crackers!

The entire family celebrating...

We reached back the next evening and certain bank issues kept us busy all of 27th.

I couldn’t wait for 28 to dawn: Goa beckoned with all its might ;)