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Sunday, 24 March 2013

My Trust With Goa- Travellers are going to love this!

In case you have read the title correctly it's “My trust with Goa” and not “My tryst with Goa” ideally saying it should have been tryst but the trust lead me to it. I am writing the below travelogue so that I remember what were the places that we had visited, the mistakes that we committed and it will also act as a guide for me and my friends for a visit to Goa.

Our Goa journey started on a chilly night in Bangalore on 27th of October 2011. This was my first trip where we had not planned ahead. Me and my friend Lokesh decided to go Goa without collecting any prior information on the places to visit or to stay. Though this is not the right approach, we were either busy or too lazy to collect any information.

We decided to meet at the railway station and then caught a train to Hubli. This was the preferred junction as we were told that there are many buses going towards Goa from Hubli. We arrived in Hubli early morning the next day and went to the city's old bus stand, from there we were told that buses would leave from the Hosa bus stand (Hosa means new in Kannada). On arriving there we got to know that the first bus to Goa leaves at 8:00 am. Since we had arrived in Hubli at 6:00 am we had around two hours to kill. There we got to know that there were many private buses leaving from the old bus stand before 8:00 am. We decided to stay back at the new bus stand and catch the 8'o clock government bus.

The bus to Goa departed on the schedule time and then headed towards Dharwar. Here another realization stuck us that we could have taken the train to Dharwar and then taken the bus. In the bus we met a guy named Satyendra a native of Hubli and working in Accenture, Bangalore. He was headed to Goa to visit a temple with his mom. Since the bus was going to two different locations in Goa, one was Ponda and the other Panaji (capital city of Goa), we inquired Satyendra for the best place to stay. He gave us the suggestion of going to Margaon a small town which was at a distance of 14 Km from Ponda. He told us that Margaon has a railway station and all the buses pass through the city so it is well connected. Panaji though being the capital does not have a railway station. The other major towns that had were Mapusa and Vasco. His other reason for recommending Magaon was that it was cheaper compared to Panaji.

The bus journey was quite exhaustive as the roads were in a very bad condition. Also there were huge lines of truck stretched for more than 20 Km to deposit Magnesia ore on to the ships waiting at the port. These ores were then exported to other countries. Since these trucks occupied half the road the bus moved in a slow place. We arrived Ponda at 3:00 PM. The length of the journey was 195 Km from Hubli, the bus had taken double the time to cover it. We decided that we would take the train on our return journey.

From Ponda we immediately got a bus to Margaon. Margaon was at a decent distance of 15 Km from there. It is a silent town in central Goa and has not much to offer in terms of tourism. At Margaon we booked a hotel named Milan residency for Rs 400 for both of us. This was at the heart of the Market and on station road, this meant that we were staying close to the railway station. This was the first best decision we had taken as we got to know later that the hotels were cheaper than Panaji.

As we were exhausted we decided to hire a bike for two days. Since we were at the hotel at 4:00 PM the guy Mario who gave us the bike charged us for the entire day. Normally the bike hiring time is from 8:00am – 8:00 am. This was the second best decision we had taken. The bike was not only a comfortable means of transport but also cheap and faster. On the second day of our journey we also found that it was the best way to get through the traffic of Goa, more on that I will tell you later. The bike rental cost us Rs 500 for two days (Rs 250/day)

On that day we visited the Colva beach which was at a distance of 7 Km from Margaon. After reaching there we played in the sea waters. We enjoyed playing but we were disappointed by the end of the day, the beach had nothing new to offer. There were very few folks on the beach, as we had collected no information about Goa and our knowledge about it was minimal, we assumed that we had come to Goa at the wrong time. We headed back to Margaon for a quick bite. There we found that restaurant food costs are a bit on the higher side and I being a vegetarian it's bit difficult to get my quota of chappatis. We decided to go back to Colva and see if we could see the night parties of Goa that everyone spoke about, again we were disappointed as we could not find any. We decided to head back to the hotel. On our way back we stopped at a road side chatwala and had one of the best bhelpuri and masala puri chats. The taste was so good that we decided to go back to him the next day. Anyway after arriving at the hotel we slept with a heavy heart feeling that this was not what we had expected. How wrong were we. The next day changed out entire perception of Goa.

We headed to Panaji the next day. It is at a distance of around 35 Km from Margaon. Since the roads of Goa are well laid and there is very less traffic on the highway we were able to drive at quite good speed. The skies were clear with clouds in between, the climate was humid but the fast pace of the bike kept us cool. The bike ride was great as we crossed two mountains and passed green fields. We stopped as we wished. Once on the top we could see the valley below and enjoyed the scenery. We arrived in Panaji within 40 minutes. The journey elevated our spirits and the best was yet to come.

At Panaji we decided to refuel, though the bike gave a good mileage we decided not to take our chances. At the refilling station we got to know that they were out of petrol as the stocks had not arrived. One of the guys at the station recommended us to buy a cruise ticket. The cruise was a 40 minute ride on river Mondovi and the time of cruise was 8:45 PM. We were told to book it now as it would be difficult to get them later. The cost of the tickets were Rs 150 each we decided to go for it. This was the third best decision taken.

We had our breakfast there and decided to head towards old Goa. Though Panaji had it's own beach we decided to give it a miss. At Panaji there is a junction that leads to different location. We had traveled from Margaon to Panaji on NH 17. On NH17 at that junction taking a right leads to the city of Panaji, one leads to Old Goa and continuing forward leads to Calangute which had the famous baga beach.

We went on the route towards old Goa which was at a distance of 10 Km. The best part of this ride was that the river and the road were side by side, there were no barricades. The beauty of driving on that road cannot be explained. As we were moving towards old Goa we came across a boat that was ferrying cars and bikes to the other side of the river. We met a guy there who incidentally was a doctor. He said that there is a small village on the other side and that bikes could cross the river for free. As we heard the word free we wanted to try it out. We drove our bikes on the boat and parked it there, in the next 10 minutes the boat had taken us to the other bank. On the boat we found an auto in which two church sister's were there. We spoke to them and they recommended a few churches that can be visited in old Goa. Once we alighted our bike we realized that the village was quite inside and we were low on fuel, but the empty road and the greenery tempted us to drive along. We could drive the bike at full speed without worrying for any traffic or rules. We went a few Kilometers inside and then headed back to the boat to take us back.

Once back on the main road we continued our Journey towards old Goa. Here we stopped to see the “St. Francis of Assisi” church and Museum. Here we clicked many photos which have been uploaded. At Old Goa our refueling worries were put to rest as we found a refilling station having petrol.

From there we headed towards Baga, for which we had to come back to Panaji and continue on NH17 highway. Calangute was at a distance of 17 Km from Panaji junction. It was a 25 min ride from there. At Calangute we came across a junction where the right led to Baga and the left to a fort named Aguada. We decided to check the fort first. As we neared the fort which was atop a hill, we found that there were two junctions again one leading towards a jail and the other towards the fort. We again decided to go see the jail. The road to the jail was the end of the road. The jail was quite old and was on the shores of the sea. From the top we could see that there were rocks below so if anyone tried to escape the jail by the sea it will be difficult. Here we got to know that there were still prisoners in the jail and that we were not allowed to go inside. We turned our bike back and went towards the fort. On the way atop the hill we could see the entire sea and dark clouds far away, we again stopped our bike and clicked few photos.

As we reached the fort the dark clouds were upon us and the wind turned cold. The fort was amazing we could see the entire ocean and the various ships of different shapes and sizes. From this fort one could see to far away distances and warn of approaching danger or enemies in the olden times. As we were enjoying the fort it started raining. We decided to soak ourselves in the rain rather than running for cover. It rained for a few minutes and then the cloud parted. We saw a complete twin rainbow from one corner to the other. I was tempted to test the fable where it says that you find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Here there were two.

From the fort we went to a small nearby beach where we clicked our last set of photos and headed to Baga. Why last set of photos? Well read on. As we neared Baga we found a huge pile up of cars stuck in the traffic. There we got to know that during the month of December the traffic is so bad that people park there cars in between and walk three to four Kilometers to reach the beach. We realized that October is the best time to visit. Again thanks to our bike we could reach the beach within 15 minutes. Later we got to know on our return journey from a friend that we met on a train that he had taken the bus to Baga on that day and it consumed 1.5 hours just to cover distance of 5 Km.

After reaching Baga we got the full blow of Goa. This was the place to be, the place everyone talks about, the crowd the sea water, everything was amazing. Here is where we committed the mistake of taking our camera, purse and mobile phones in water enclosed in a plastic cover. The previous day this idea had worked without any problems but it failed this time. Though the phones recovered the camera stopped working. Anyway we did enjoy our time at the beach.

The night life was just beginning to start and with the crowd there we wanted to stay back. Since we had our cruise tickets we headed back to Panaji.

We arrived at Panaji and had enough time to have our dinner and head for the cruise. One of Lokesh slipper's had broken into two so he threw it away and was walking barefooted. The boarding on the cruise ship did take some time as the crowd was more. The cruise ship was a small one which had three decks. The upper open deck where few folk dances program was arranged. The middle deck where there were refreshments and the lower deck with an A/C Discotheque. On the ship we met a family who had a 1.5 year old boy. Lokesh enjoyed playing with him. We watched him dance and he played his best moves. It was fun seeing him, we also spent some time in the Discotheque. After the journey we got down and headed back to Margaon. On arriving we decided to go back to Colva beach, we stayed there till 1 am in the night. The sky was cloudy and there was lightning in between that would light the entire sea. The scene was pretty scary and gave us both the chills. As we walked on the beach we came across a group of fisherman trying to push a fishing boat into the sea. Seeing them pushing we also joined them and helped them push it into the water. We watched as the boat moved into the darkness with it's single beacon of red light. The light grew fainter until the sea darkness consumed it. We both watched the dark sea, enjoying the end of the trip and each hoping to visit it once again and see the places that we missed.

Still we had the third day before we caught a train to Dharwar to attend our friend Rashmi's marriage.

Before that I would like to highlight in points some places we missed

1. Basilica Church: Location – Old Goa. This church has the Mummy of St. Xavier whose story I had read as a kid, it was a must visit

2. Anjuna Beach: Location – Baga Beach. Baga Beach is a collection of many beaches and this was one of the prominent ones.

3. Anjuna Flea Market: Location - Calangute. In this market Foreigners sell many items including electronic ones for very cheap prices. The products are well maintained as per the information given.

4. Caranzol: Location – Central Goa. Also has a station. This place is a small piece of Russia in India. As the Indian government has given permission to buy land to the Russians for some time.

5. Also we should have gone to Panaji on the first day and stayed for the night there, not in a hotel but outside so that we could have seen the night life.

The next day we had the Rani Chennama Express to Dharwar at 3:50 PM. We got up late since it was a tiring day previously. We had our breakfast bough new slippers for Lokesh in the market and still we had time to kill. We got to know one of the theaters was playing the latest blockbuster movie Ra.One and that theater was at a walkable distance. The price of the ticket was just Rs 50. We got to know that since Goa had the liberty of being a tax free state there were no entertainment taxes. The theater was age old and there were many broken seats in between. After watching the movie we realized that Rs 50 was too much more for a movie without any script. The movie ended by 3:00 PM.

We reached the station well on time and it arrived on time as well. The confusing part here was that the train was going towards Delhi and when we inquired the station TT we got to know that it was a combination of two trains. The front part would go to Delhi and the back part to Bangalore via Dharwar. At a junction called Londa the trains were separated and the remaining bogies were attached to the oncoming Rani Chenamma from Kolhapur.

On the train we met a guy from Microsoft and one from Yokogawa. For those working in the Bangalore Infosys Campus would know this company is adjacent to it. We discussed our experiences of stay in Goa, they gave their own valuable inputs on what we missed and how much we covered. As the train left Margaon and crossed the Goa border into Karnataka, we witnessed the beautiful scenery of the mountains. The train crossed through many tunnels. The best part of this journey was the waterfall DoodhSagar. This waterfall is special as the train passes underneath it showering it with water. We watched it with awe as it passed by and hoped that we could get down. This is possible as there is a station near by but that would require us to get down and wait for the next train which would be at the next day. As the darkness descended we reached Londa where the trains were separated and the entire thing consumed an hour and half. As Dharwad station approached we bid goodbye to our two friends that we made on the train, hoping to meet them once again. As we left we looked back at the train that slowly moved out and hoped someday we will come back again and have the adventures that we missed.


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