Travelogue


I am a big fan of unplanned journeys. Just pack up a little backpack with three pairs of clothes, some bare essentials, a camera and binoculars and Im ready to go anywhere. No travel books, no maps just my communication skills and a little money. Last weekend was probably the most wet, exciting, energizing and hangover-ing weekend of my life. Ive been to Goa before, but this time it seemed that it was an altogether different Goa. Having already seen in the tourist friendly central and North Goa, I wanted to try out the lesser explored and lesser known South Goa this time. Bumped into Palolem Beach and trust me it is by far the most beautiful beach I have seen till date. I started off from Mumbai by bus (though I would suggest you take a train, will save time) and reached Palolem at 4:00 am in the morning, dead tired having lost all hopes of finding a place to stay. Much to my surprise I found a very nice beach cottage (courtesy Armando and Dillon of the Getaway campsite) right on the beach and as I reached my cottage, I

00am in Palolem Beach

felt that there was hardly any need for it, the sight was absolutely amazing. At 4:00 am in the morning, I reclined on a couch on the beach with a pint of beer in hand watching the beautiful almost-full moon and the sea. If I could describe the sight, I would probably be a fairly good writer.

I spent the entire night, whatever was left of it, on the beach itself, went into the cottage in the morning which was also fairly well equipped and to my logic very cheap costing me less than 150 bucks a night. At seven in the morning, I saw a couple of dolphins in the sea at a little distance from the shore. It was a terrific sight. Like I said, this is a relatively less known beach and thus you will find very few people on the beach and unlike other beaches of Goa this is an isolated beach, unconnected to other beaches and has no sporting activities, so if you’r looking for a peaceful weekend with your folks this is the place to be. Palolem is around 55 km from Panjim and you can reach there by reaching Margaon and from there takingbeach shacks another bus to Palolem. Once you reach Palolem find your way to the beach and then look for a beach hut or shack, they are very reasonable and its a experience worth taking. You do not need any advance booking or anything.
South Goa is a fairly good place to enjoy, very different from the northern tourist friendly Goa. It has an air of Portuguese culture which is easily visible in the architecture and food. You can also see places around Palolem like Margaon, which is a fairly old town, has a very old church and some really good sea food restaurants. Kovlam beach is close to Margaon and is worth visiting once. I would advise against taking bikes/mopeds for rent, they are usually in a very bad condition and will tire you because of the distances. Its better to travel by sate bus transport, which is fairly fast and comfortable.

In Palolem you will not find any Pizza huts and McDonnalds, so do try the local Goan fish curries and sea shell delicacies. I wanted to take some photographs but as soon as the food was served I forgot all about my camera and realized that I had to take some pics only after I had finished all on the table. Do try the local fenny, its an alcohol made from cashews and coconut, the one from the cashews is mild but the one made from coconut is damn devilish. I drank a little coconut fenny neat and felt like someone punched me in the nose !

Chill out in palolemYou can plan your visit depending upon where you are coming from. If you are coming from Mumbai side, you can stay in Palolem chill out the weekend and then leave via north Goa after seeing some really nice places like Aguada Fort and Basilica of Bom Jesus in Panjim. You can also see the night flea market of Arpora. If you are coming from Karnataka, you can plan your stay in North Goa for a few days and then come to South Goa for at least one night and then return back. Palolem Beach is the best place to rejuvenate and chill out.

For more details you can mail me ujj[AT]mutiny.in

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tejamurthy.jpg

Ten months ago, a friend of mine told me about a friend of his, Teja Murthy, who had gone trekking with friends and went missing. Teja, I later learnt from team mates, had taken our entire team for Rock climbing the year before I joined, as part of a team building activity. There was a lot of talk about how it was unbelievable that these experts from a group of professional trekkers called ‘Safe Outdoors’ could go missing in the forest. This was a topic of discussion among my friends for a week or so. It was all forgotten until last week an article from the Vijay Times caught my attention. It was titled ‘A Trek to Nowhere’. 

After 10 months of agonising wait of their families, the skeletons of Teja and two of his fellow trekkers were found at Aramane Gudda in Shiradi Forest area of the Western Ghats. The three trekkers, Teja Murthy, Vasanth Kumar and Bhaskar Babu parked their Maruti van next to a tea stall at Chamundeshwari temple in Gundya and set out on yet another adventurous trek to explore a new route, not knowing that it would be their last. The police say, heavy rainfall, attack by wild animals ,starvation or improper navigation could have caused the death of the trekkers. The skeletons of the trekkers were identified by the accessories they were wearing and by ATM cards.

The route that the trekkers opted has always been regarded as one of the most difficult places to trek due to the Steep gorges, slippery paths and mist covered ambience that characterise the Aramane Gudda region of the Western Ghats. Some of the most dangerous and hence exciting routes in Karnataka are:

  • The Muttodi Forest area.
  • The Shiradi Ghat area.
  • Kumaraparvata and Narasimhaparvata.
  • Dandeli.
  • Kudremukh.

Trekking is one of the main recreational activities that is popular, equally among the young and the old, in Bangalore. Many treks are regularly organised to the famous trek routes time and again. Now, the fun way to spend the weekend or a team building activity can also end in a disaster if the required attention is not paid.

Some of the Dos and Don’ts for Trekkers are :  

  • Take a permit from the forest department.
  • Hire experienced guides.
  • Take maps issued by survey organisations.
  • Carry plenty of dry fruits and cereals.
  • Take first aid for snake or insect bites.
  • Take small weapons like pocket knife and machete.
  • Avoid taking radio, walkman or any other noisy instrument which could attract wild animals.

Trek safe!!

A legendary ship, the first aircraft carrier of Indian Navy, now a naval museum.

The INS Vikrant

It was with a sense of awe that I stood on its decks. I knew the aircraft carrier was huge but it was only when I stood there that I got a sense of it. We had gone there the previous Sunday, a whole bunch of us cousins. It is not open to the public every day…only on specific days (like Navy week) and sundays. Usually when one is living in the same city one usually neglects to see the important places…and this museum is certainly important – from the historical point of view. In fact when I stood there it almost seemed as if the history would rise up and consume me. The liberation of Goa in December 1961. The Indo-Pak war of 1971. Vikrant earning two Mahavir Chakras and 12 Vir Chakras. I had heard the stories from my dad and my uncles (all service officers) but this was the first time that I actually saw the ship first hand.

The museum, which was opened to the public a few years ago has beautiful black and white photographs with descriptions of air operations and landings as well as exhibits on the 1971 war. The ship’s forward engine room displays the propulsion system powered by huge steam turbines and technically inclined people would find this very interesting. There are aircraft on display here too, the very ones like Sea Hawk and Chetak helicopters, which have taken off and landed in action from the Vikrant’s flight deck. Besides there are also submarine models, diving equipment, bombs and mines which are on exhibit. Plus on certain specific days (Navy Week) a documentary film is screened. People are also drawn to the flat, expansive length and breadth of the flight deck, deck-landing mirrors costing crores each, a giant hanger lift which can lift hundreds of persons at one time, the ski jump arrangement and arresting gear on the flight deck. And for a bit of shopping, there is a curio shop which sells mementoes like caps with the Vikrant logo (Rs 60- each), key chains (Rs 25 each) and even large coffee mugs (Rs 120- each). And yeah, a cafe where you can have a bite on tables shaped like propellers! We didn’t visit the cafe, but it sure sounded like fun! Well, the musuem happens to be a big hit with families and children. School visits are common. Entry tickets are Rs 40/- each, for adults and a half ticket for children under 14. There is extra charge for carrying a camera.

Vikrant (Sanskrit vikrānta = “stepped beyond”, i.e. “courageous”, “victorious”) was India’s only carrier for over two decades. It has an interesting history and you can read news reports about how she was procured and what she did during the war here and here and get some more information from this Bharat Rakshak site.

The great ship has traveled or rather, steamed, a total of 4,99,066 nautical miles, about 15 times around the world. Interestingly, the carrier might be preserved for posterity – the only wartime constructed British aircraft carrier to be under possible preservation.

The ship is docked near the Gateway of India, at the naval docks and entry is through the ‘Tiger Gate.” If you are in Mumbai, check it out.

An update: February 28th was a big day on board the Vikrant. The soundtrack of an upcoming film, 1971: The Prisioners of War was released on board the Vikrant. The film is about 54 missing POW’s and stars Manoj Bajpai. Vice Admiral Sangram Singh Byce (quoted in the TOI) said about the film:

No country can claim to be a nation unless it honours its war heroes. I congratulate the makers of the film for accomplishing this noble aim.

The TOI report also goes on to report that the invite for the event, sent from the office of the commander-in-chief, Western Naval Command, is in the form of a handwritten postcard sent by Major Ashok Suri to his father, RS Suri, from a jail in Pakistan.  

Update 2: Due to the valued contribution of one of the commentators who went to Tiger Gate I am adding this:
1. INS Vikrant is not open for Civilians except on the last weeks of November & December.
2. If you still wish to go, you would require a special pass which can be arranged provided you know any employee working inside.

Cross-posted here.

Ganesh

I understand Lord Ganesha is known by 108 different names. I wrote ‘I understand’ because I did some ‘google’ing and found this. Why my sudden interest in Lord Ganesha? Its because I happened to spot him dancing in Ireland, but was unable to answer some of the questions my Irish friends asked regarding him. Yes, Don’t go back up 2 lines and check if you read it right, it was ‘I happened to spot him dancing’. Surprised?? Well, he was also playing Uileann pipes some time later and No, I haven’t been drinking too much of Guinness. Oh Yes, speaking of Guinness, his beloved vehicle, the ‘mosik’(mouse), was playing an instrument and enjoying a pint of Guinness.

Ok, I know you must be wondering if I’ve totally lost it. I haven’t. I did spot Ganeshji, doing all that I claimed he was at….Victoria’s way.

Victoria’s Way is Irelands largest and most spectacular  Sculpture Park. Spread out over 22 acres, it contains 14 major black granite sculptures. The theme of Victoria’s Way is the hero’s Journey, whereby the sculptures show stages of the path to self-completion and ultimate happiness. There is a meditation path for the spiritually inclined and a philosophic maze unique in Europe.Built as a place of recluse, the park,Victoria’s Way, is inspired by all that is spiritual in the modern sense of the word. So the Ganesha sculpture is seen playing Uileann pipes or even dancing, at times. The park offers a wonderful blend of the modern and the traditional.

Read on about Victorias way, the man behind the sculptors under ‘leisure’ section here and about who else you can spot at the Park and how to get there.

Amritha Express (Trivandrum to Palakkad)
February 2, 2007

Thiruvananthapuram station

Let the picture tell you a story.

A passenger complained to the station guard but got a cold response and an ‘assurance‘ that it won’t break when the train is on the move. The fan was swinging when the train was on the move and the people in the lower berths could hardly sleep. Thankfully, it didn’t break (as promised by the guard) untill I reached Thrissur. I don’t know what happened afterwards.

I agree its not too much fun to go on an expedition with five geeks, for whom the normal conversational topics lie in a small subset comprising the web 2.0 and VLSI designing and the language utilized for communication is one of C, C sharp and JAVA but a place like Udaipur receiving a record rainfall, pretty much loosens them up, and I must add, I had quite a time!

The lake palace hotel built in marble in the middle of the Fateh Sagar lake, costs more than 1 lakh Rs fr one night and includes a private swimming pool.Udaipur stands for grandeur, for grandiloquence, for audacity of the Maharanas and for our brilliantly thriving tourism industry. It greets its guests with a touch of royalty and you soon begin to feel the I_belong_here thing, though it never lasts and is not meant to last, for such pomp is a luxury for the filthy rich, for humble program writers like us, a look at the Lake Palace (Hotel!) is an experience enough. According to a popular local joke, jinke baap kamate hain woh yahan aate hain, the Lake Palace Hotel is meant only for people whose fathers earn (a lot!). A private swimming pool and a lady for body massage are a few benefits you pay 2500$ for one night in this white magnificence. Its like a floating hotel in one of the seven man made lakes in and around Udaipur.
July-August is the best time to visit Udaipur. It was even better for us lucky-dudes this year as Udaipur received a record rainfall in the last twelve years. Water from the lakes was flowing in some parts of the city but the efficient drainage system prevented what could have been a major bunk by six engineering students. If its not raining enough one might as well be using his four wheeler to cross the lake to reach the Lake Palace Hotel (minus the lake of course) as we heard was the case last year, but this year the water was upto the road mark.

The Diwane-Khas in the City Palace of Maharaja Uda

Nimach Mata is the local Goddess popular in parts of Rajasthan. An 800m trek is the way to her darshan. We cursed our way up but the view from the top is absolutely ravishing. A doctor even gave my suttebaaz friend a few hints to healthy living. All so worth it..
View from the Nimach Mata Temple
Some 65 km from Udaipur is Nathdwara, the Haweli of Shrinathji, the most important deity of the Gujarati community. The trip to the place is one of its kind, through the clouds, up and down, narrow roads, cute curves, all too beautiful. We planned our trip in such a way that we reach Nathdwara a day before Janmashtami (birthday of Lord Krishna) as the place becomes very crowded on that day. On the way to Nathdwara one can also see Eklingji a 700AD temple complex consisting over 100 temples.

There are a lot of things to see and a lot of history to cover in Udaipur. Typical time would be a week but we were five days short of a week so some popular places around Udaipur like Haldighati and Kumbhalgarh fort each associated with their legends, but we did enough for a couple of days. Visiting a place like Udaipur should not be tourism for Indians, it should be an important part of bringing up your children of telling them about what we were and where we are now. History books do not do justice to Diwane-Khas and Diwane-Am, theyr just too gorgeous to be written on paper by mortals.
Photos by Ujj. For more travel info write to ujj@mutiny.in