SA-ite 2: Nice ghat roads…..Wah Wah…..fresh clean air…..Wah Wah…..Kingfish and Kingfisher…..Nice ‘sights’…..sleeping by the sea under the night sky..boat rides to see dolphins…Wah Wah Wah!!
The Western Ghats were calling us again and 6 of us..Peter, Madan, Anand, Sandeep, Binoy and Kevin..decided to go on a road trip through some of the best regions in South India. Viva la Goa!! What better place to ease your tensed nerves and take a laid back, high-spirited holiday, than the little paradise called Goa on the Western coast of India. Pristine beaches, delectable seafood, fine wines, unparalleled scenery, good roads, hospitable Konkani people…
Day 1 saw us waking up at 4:30 and packing the Sumo. Peter had generously fixed a luggage rack on top and most of the luggage went up there, thus leaving us to stretch our legs and have a very comfortable journey. A 7-hour drive took us short of Bangalore where trouble was brewing in the form of rioting. A lot of buses had been stoned and there was glass everywhere. We somehow managed to bypass the trouble and landed up in Sandeep’s house..a big new beautiful villa on a hill, where his mother had cooked us a huge meal. We refreshed ourselves and enjoyed the large spread. We then thanked his mum and continued to Shimoga. We reached Shimoga at 10:30 PM and had dinner and hired a single room to wash and freshen up. That done, we were faced with the choice of either sticking to our original plan of camping there or the newly cooked plan of driving the whole night and reaching Goa at sunrise. A vote was taken and the spirit of the group showed up when it was unanimous in favour of carrying on.
Night driving through the Ghats is an experience one has to go through to feel the rush. Words cannot explain it well enough. Winding roads, huge trees, and clear star-lit skies. We reached Jog falls at around 12 in the night. Staring at the sheer drop there with just a near-full moons light is kinda eerie and once again, the sheer power of nature overcame us with its proportions.
We continued on our journey past state borders and checkposts with their leery cops. One such checkpost was the venue for a hilarious incident. A corrupt, sneering cop tried to make a fast buck by troubling us for vehicle papers and even on being shown that everything was in order would not let us go. We too were determined not to pay up and finally one of us [Identity protected on request] pretended to be a high-ranking cop’s son and fired the daylights out of that guy. The witless creature was so terrified that he literally lay prostrate on the ground and begged at our feet to forgive him. After warning him sternly we proceeded from there. We could contain our laughter only about 50 meters from the checkpost and burst out laughing at the trick we had pulled on him and how the big bully turned into a whimpering coward when we stood up for ourselves. There is a lesson to be learnt here.
We did arrive in Goa for the sunrise and checked into two simple rooms. Sandeep, Binoy and Madan took one room and Peter, Anand and Kevin took the other. This was to be our base for two nights. The stay here was rather interesting and we played cricket, drank sugarcane juice [enough to fill a water tanker], watched movies on the laptop, made sandwiches, ogled at the pretty creatures of Goa, all in/from this modest place we stayed in – Libra lodge on Benaulim beach in Margao, Goa. The rent was a mere 250 Rs for a double room. The second night we drove down to Panjim and from there to the famous beaches of North Goa. We beach-hopped from party to party till we settled down to have dinner at a seaside restaurant on Baga beach. Surprisingly, the food was not too expensive and the menu was very exciting. We stuck to seafood and one item finds special mention here – A huge kingfish in butter-garlic sauce. Anand still has dreams about this one – a king fish swimming in beer.
We drove back all the way to Benaulim in the night and hit the sack. It didn’t take much to fall asleep and correct me if I’m wrong but I think a couple of us did not even make it to the bed and were found sleeping half-way from the Sumo to the house. The next day we decided to make something out of the day and we hired Bullets – Our target, the famous DudhSagar falls. These big, heavy, noisy, brutish bikes are somewhat of a legend in India and a huge hit with the tourists in Goa. They are the local version of the Harley-Davidson and come in various shapes and colours. It took a while and lot of asking around to find three of these fine bikes. Some of us were riding these for the first time but a few runs around the block sorted that out. We then drove these bikes like veterans, getting a lot of stares and Peter kept us entertained with his stunts on the bike [Look Mama no hands!!]. Madan [who sat with Peter] will vouch for this with his wild-eyed stare and the couple of heart attacks he survived.
We reached the start of the forest and after a rather exorbitant camera and entry fees, we proceeded onto a dirt track. Riding these vehicles on rough roads like that takes some skill and I must say we all did very well indeed to stay from falling and breaking down in the middle of streams etc. We reached the waterfall, which formed a natural pool at the base. This place is out of the world and the rail-bridge, waterfall, pool, trees, rocks – the combination is simply awesome. Peter and Binoy enjoyed the swim whereas the rest of us remained content in just fooling around on the fringes since none of knew horizontal swimming. The kind we knew would take us vertical….in short straight down…..and the depth being 20 feet in the center, that was a risk we were definitely not taking.
We reached back thoroughly tired and after returning the bikes went for a quiet dinner at Colva beach. PinaColadas washed down with fish, fries and biryani. We bought ourselves some T-Shirts there and drove back to our rooms. The next morning saw us saying bye to Benaulim and we proceeded to Gokarna, the place we had initially intended to spend time. On the way we stopped at Palolem beach and while Peter was contended swimming and diving for pearls, the rest of us took a catamaran ride into the sea to see dolphins..seeing the land disappear fast like that as the 100 HP motor thrust us further into the sea was kinda intimidating at first but the sight of dolphins in the water made that all vanish. The nice boatman took us around to show hidden beaches and the true sights of Goa. Some of us considered the option of smuggling as a career at this stage.
Gokarna started as a disappointment since we had heard about this place from someone who had been there 7 years ago. Unfortunately the place had been commercialized and had lost its natural charm and the promise of total seclusion. Nevertheless, we found a somewhat isolated spot, pitched the tents here [High up on the beach as the Tsunami had left its fears in our mind] and after wolfing down a packed dinner, we indulged ourselves in some rough games of football and flying disc. We imagined ourselves to be pupils of the Jonty Rhodes school of dance and threw ourselves all around the place. Our badly hurting bones are testimony to this.
We even found a nice German/Russian [??] friend in a girl called Anna who invited herself to talk to us and spent some 45 minutes in a Cultural exchange. Binoy, Peter and Madan cursed themselves for retiring early to bed as Sandeep, Kevin and Anand enjoyed chatting with her. After she left, we fell asleep looking at the stars and talking. We could hear the sound of distant drums in the background being played by foreigners on a high!!
The next morning we cleaned up the vehicle and packed up all our stuff neatly. We then drove down to Udupi and after lunch at a town near Manipal, we continued into the Ghats on our way back towards Bangalore. Our vehicle lost its horn here and while it was being repaired at a local garage, we played some cricket and had some tea and bananas. We again drove through the night and reached Chennai at 9:00 AM on Republic day. Our bodies were tired but our minds were refreshed having taking a wonderful break from the monotony of our daily routine.
6 people who started of knowing each other were now bonded for life by a trip that took them through 2500 km of this wonderful country. They ate, laughed, partied and traveled together. They shared common experiences. All it took was 6 days of their life to leave them enriched with the essence of this journey and their common friendship forever.
There will be more such trips. The invitation is open to all our friends in this office. Do join in sometime. We understand, you perhaps don’t find time and you have other priorities. The catch is, you probably never will, unless you consciously make time for yourself. Take a trip away from your work, from the things you do daily, spend time with yourself. You’ll come back with a much fresher, happier and receptive mind.
Three cheers to the SA Spirit. Hip Hip Hurray!!
Image library: Peter