Sunday, November 21, 2004

A vacation most perfect

Back today to work after a really long vacation (11 days). Went to my native, Sawantwadi and Goa. It was awesome holiday. We left on Friday night by Konkan Kanya (a train on the engineering marvel that is Konkan Railway). But couldnt get to see any of the engineering or natural marvel as we travelled by night (while coming as well). Anyway, Sawantwadi looks almost the same. Except, now the town part can actually be called a town. The Sawantwadi Road Station is quite far from the main town. So there are no major signs of development in the town. But, yes, houses are mushrooming here and there and I could see some apartments as well. Still the place has its old world charm and going there certainly sets the time back a score.

While in Sawantwadi, we went to Kotkamte (grandfather's hometown), Vasanti (old caretaker's hometown) and Aunt's home in Kankanvli (for BHau BHij). It was great driving in the car.Konkan still retains its pristine beauty and as it still not ravaged by rampaging tourists. Still it can do with some tourist influx.

On Monday, we were off to Goa. Stayed in Panji (Mom's bank guest house - Hotel Mayfair). Accom and location was good. Right in the city center. Again, Panji seems to have grown leaps and bounds, though cant exactly remember, coz last time I was there was more than 10 years ago. City is very crowded, but the infrastructure is good. Loads and loads of foreign and desi (esp Gujju) tourists going the tried and trusted Goa way. But, Goa more than lives upto the expectations. The roads are wide and pot-hole free. Unruly development is largely not seen. Across the Mandovi, we can still see lush greenery. And Mandovi itself resembles a gentle river.

Making Panji as our base, we went to offer prayers to the indigenous Gods of Goa, Mangeshi, Nageshi and Shanta Durga. There a ferry from Marcela to Dincholim and we were at Maye Lake. Again, great ambience with the lake ensconsed within verdant trees. You leave Maye lake (which is a highly frequented tourist spot) and again there no civlization for some 1/2 hour ( driving towards Panji). We took Chordan ferry and were back at Panji.

Next morning was a visit to Fort Aguada. Agauda means water source in Portugese and thats what it was when the Portugese riles Goa. It location is breth-taking, but the fort less so. The light house has been reconstructed rather well, but inside the fort, there is not much info. No signs as well of the million gallons of water tank, which was supposed to the higlight of the fort. A nice recreation of that period would go immense good to this naturally breath-taking fort.

Calangute beach is just 1/2 drive from Fort Aguada and God! was it busy. Tourists were swarming all over the place. Still was amazed at how clear the water was. So many foreign tourists again, but most were fat or old. Didnt really ogle at the fit and bold ones anyway. I was happy to have a nice times. Still funny to see, Indian women not ready to shed their coyness and dressed from head to toe even in water. Most were just watching others have fun anyway. Dad, carrying the weight of the world with him, was not prone to drop it along the beach and join in the fun. We (me and sis) speed-boated as well (Rs. 150) and then back in the water for some more time. Got too tired of splashing around in the water and decided it was time to leave.

Had a quick change of clothes and we were off to Mapusa. There we visited the local market, which is huge and bought some madiya. This is a local root, which grows about 1/2 a meter long, the leaves are like alu (of the aluwadi fame). It tastes like suran, but just a bit soft. You can make vegetable or slap it with rawa masala and fry. Uncle also gave us other roots and herbs. One was churan, chini, karande and something I forget. It almost looked like the ingredients of some youth potion.

Next day, we were off to Dudhsagar(Milky Ocean) waterfalls. It is quite close to Karnataka border and took us about 2.5 hours to drive. Dudhsagar waterfalls are right in the middle of a wild-life sanctuary, though there is hardly any wild life. We had to park our car at the village outside the sactuary and take a jeep ride. The jeep ride is just coz, in the forest, we had to cross three huge streams and numerous small ones. Mahindra Jeep would only stand upto the challenge. Its a dirt road but the ride is worth it. The waterfall is not that wide, but it forms a small pool where it meets the ground and the setting - water cascading from about 300 meters, a railway track cutting it halfway in its fall and the pool right in the midst of dense forest - is just awesome. The pool was deep in places and it was good that there were life guards around. I and sis stayed around the fringes of the fall.

On the way back, we visited a Shiva temple at Tambdi Surla. It stood stark against the lush forest, with a brook lapping at its feet. It is made of soap stone which is black in color and is largely preserved in its original form. I caught up with a member of the Bird-Seekers club, who were out there bird-watching. Interesting to note what pursuits drive people. She was an old lady in her late 60s from Devon, England. Her legs wont keep her good company, so she was watching the telescopes, while the other members watched the birds.

Anyway, from there on, it was back to Phonda (via Bhondla Sanctuary route), to Panji and to Sawantwadi. A perfectly nice vacation.
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