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Old 21st October 2012, 19:32   #1
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Default Return to Sun Surf Sand but no Sorpotel - Goa!

It has been 2 years since the last trip. Regular viewers of National Geographic might have seen the great migration in the Savanhas when the wildebeest start starring eastwards (or maybe westwards) and then for no apparent reason starts the migration stampede. While I am not suggesting that I have any resemblance to the gentle wildebeest, my feelings were resembling them for sure. Once in a while when I found myself staring in a westerly direction at nothingness for no apparent reason did the prognosis become clear. After all if one looks at a map of India and trace a line from Bangalore, the city that has adopted me in a north by northwesterly direction, one lands up in Goa before falling into the Arabian Sea.

It was clear that the time had come for the annual migration or maybe pilgrimage to be more accurate.

The process for choosing a vacation has been well documented in the earlier part of my chronicles

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...-sorpotel.html (Love Story - Sun Surf Sand and Sorpotel) .

Readers would recall that there is a long research phase, collecting information, having a family meeting and taking democratic opinions and then deciding on a place, This time we decided to improve the process somewhat by eliminating most of the steps and directly deciding on the pilgrimage center. You would recall my wife has some dreams of visiting Gods own country sometime and has been promised that it would happen but sadly it was not to be this year. Sometime back we decided to follow the great management gurus and “Stop thinking local and start thinking global”. Some exotic venues (Maldives, Sri Lanka... ) did flit across the mind but at the end of the day it was obvious that why go anywhere if Goa is almost next door? After all we go there almost every year at the same time, stay at the same place eat the same food at the same places - so why try something new when the time tried method is the safest. So Goa it was. The next step was the usual debate of road, rail air. Now the train booking seemed to needed to be planned a year in advance to get tickets and a paucity of the exchequer made flying a little bit unattractive. So it settled down to driving down with Lucia our trust steed (Honda City) for whom this would be the 4th trip Goa.

The reader who had never visited Goa might ask as to why this fascination for Goa? I have waxed eloquently on this subject in my last travelogue and think the following photos might explain pictorially what words cannot express.

Note that this story will take some time to relate as and when I get time so please have patience and keep your comments coming in.

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Last edited by deepak_misra : 24th October 2012 at 22:40.
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Old 22nd October 2012, 22:01   #2
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Default D-DAY 13th October Friday

Morning, 2:50. There was no need of the alarm since the body clock seemed far more efficient. We woke up and tried to do the last minute preparation that should have been done days prior to today which included rounding up suitcases, phones, chargers and so on. A few cups of tea, coffee and biscuits and we managed to set sail at 4:45 AM. Proof that Bangalore is becoming a metropolis was clear from the traffic on the road at that early hour. I had the logs from my 2010 trip and it seemed that we were making okay time in spite of a short losing the way in Yeshwantpur on account of the metro construction. A small halt at CCD around Tumkur set us back by 20 minutes and we struggled to make up this lost time. One good thing about maintaining trip logs is that it gives a benchmark and a target to chase.

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The scrouge of Indian Highways

Nitty gritty details about the trip would be boring for the readers and I will restrict myself to the interesting bits. Somewhere on the way I see a red Lancer whizzing past me. What was noteworthy was the team BHP sticker on the rear bumper. It seemed like the social thing to do to exchange pleasantries with the occupants but the speed at which they were travelling made this a bit daunting. Lucia is a bit of an aging aristocrat and did not seemed inclined to rev up the RPMS to gear up to the chase but I did manage to ultimately catch up with the car. The fellow bhp-ian occupants were no doubt bewildered by our actions when I did pull up and did actually roll down the window. It is difficult to exchange small talk with a car that is going along with you at 120 KMPH but I did shout BHP twice with a ?? appended, and the thumbs up from them in return makes me believe that they did understand. After a short time we reached the windmills. One can relate the sight of the windmills to the feelings that the sailors of yore would have felt when they crossed the Cape of good hope. The windmills were like a beacon and after the customary photos we went on.

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Customary photo of Windmills


With no breaks we soon reached Hubli soon. Now this is the crucial decision point where one turns towards Ankola or proceeds towards Belgaum depending on whether one wants to go to South or North Goa. Based on the recommendations from HVK I proceeded towards Belgaum and saw the best roads I am seeing after a long time. Some stretches were actually concreted and Lucia could reach 150 though the normal cruising was at a confortable 120. Now the problem came up after Belgaum once I realized that I had overshot the point where one turns towards Sawantadi . I did what I should done long before viz: consult Uncle Google navigation. I did so and was advised to turn into the city. Now to be technically correct, I should refer to her as Aunt Google since the directions came from a very disembodied voice clearly female. I was still not clear if we were on the right track and saw a police man who seemed friendly since he was waving at me. I waved back and pulled over to greet him and ask him the way, but before I could start, he informed me that I was doing 61 in a 40 km speed limit area. From long experience it is quite pointless to argue with the majesty of the law. There are some people who proceed with an ingraining look while others plead innocence raising their hands to heavan as confirmation. The most practical thing to do is to pull out the wallet and pay up what is demanded. I do that and chat with the sub-inspector who was making the chalans. We hit it off well in a few seconds which was proven by the fact that he did not ask for my license and made an erroneous entry for the car number. Rs. 300/- poorer, I tried to maximize the ROI by asking him the way. Our friendship was tested a bit when he tried to send me on the Khanpur road which had been vetoed by Team-BHP-ians. I attribute this transgression to ignorance, and not malice, and moved on following the parting advise from my new friend to follow the speed limit for 5 kms. Believe me that it is next to impossible 40 on a relatively empty road and it was with some relief that I crossed the town.

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Belgaum has some nice wooded areas and parks

Aunt Google suddenly ASKED me to turn left and I did a sharp turn to port. The road seemed a bit suspicious on account of its condition and complete lack of traffic. After 15 kms when I sighted a human and checked it was clear that Aunt Googe had been up to some mischief. The road did lead to Goa but was not the Sawantwadi route which had been recommended by bhp-ians. We had already crossed the point of no return and decided to move on. The road started getting worse and for a short time non existent when we suddenly saw a valley between hills. It is a bit difficult to describe the scene, but it looked a bit like Jurrasic Park minus the dinosaurs. The glare of the sun made it difficult to read my phone and I could not figure out where we were. (Checking after my return I see that this was SH 130) We sailed on nevertheless through breath taking scenery and started descending after some time through steep roads. The descend was steep and there were scores of cars that had packed up on the ascend from oveeheating.

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Lucia

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Beautiful Scenery

Before we knew it we were at the border. There were stern warnings on signboards that one needed to register at the bordergate but the excise official was sleeping soundly on his chair and it seemed a shame to disturb him. I had a feeling that he would not object too strongly about us unregistered traveller and with a clear conscience we crossed the border and were in Goa.

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Goa

Some instructions to Aunt Google made her point us to Siolim which was our headquarters for the next 2 days. Aunt Google is quite amazing and spared me the hassles of asking for directions (and mitigated the risk of getting wrong ones). After meeting some friends for dinner we retired for the day quite tired.

Last edited by deepak_misra : 24th October 2012 at 22:38.
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Old 23rd October 2012, 22:17   #3
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Default Sunday 14th

After waking up there was no need to waste time in deciding what to do. What does one do in Goa after breakfast? Rush to the sea, of course.
Many of us would have learnt in school by the great poet John Masefield


I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.


To be technically correct most of the ingredients were missing. The sea was far from lonely, the bright sun masked out the stars and Lucia could hardly be classified as a tall ship. However with sufficient imagination one can adapt local environment to the poem.

There were too many options of beaches to choose from and we selected the one which was closest – Morjim. This beach like every beach in Goa is a nice one with a river flowing into the sea. The first shock on reaching the beach was the complete absence of shacks. It seemed that the season had not yet begun. The other pleasant surprise was the scarcity of people and we managed a good swim. The tide had started receding and an hour or two of heavy swimming had digested the breakfast and got us ready for lunch.




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Morjim



There was a strong recommendation from some friends to try Souza Lobo on Calangute beach and we headed there. The place is right on the beach and like Lucia seems to be an elderly aristocrat who has seen and experienced a lot. My usual order of Vindalo was a disaster with the chef overdoing the vinegar which left a strong taste in the mouth and just did not go away. The orders from the family was prawn curry rice and crab curry rice. The food (minus vindalo) could have been termed “okay” and the ambience was certainly A+. What was nice in seeing the hordes and hordes of tourists thronging the beach. Souza Lobo provided a healthy distance to admire the sea.



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What was once crab curry and prawn curry



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Calangute Beach from Souza Lobo





Lunch over, there was a strong demand from my children for shopping and we around Calangute in the hot afternoon making some meaningless purchases at exorbitant prices. With a combination of sulks and glares I managed to steer all away from the shops to the car and in a short time we were back in Siolim. Dinner was takeaway of Chinese rice and chicken (something which is next to impossible to go wrong and I was proven correct) and after a late dinner was time to crash out.

Some old houses around Siolim

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Remo Fernades stays next to this church

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Old 24th October 2012, 09:45   #4
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Default Monday 15th

This was the day to shift base from North to South Goa.
The plan was to leave Siolim after breakfast, which was modified to leave after a short swim, which got modified to before lunch, which then changed to after lunch and finally settled to evening after tea. The morning plan was to go to Vagator which we reached without difficulty but Vagator has two stretches separated by a “Dome of the Rock”. We tried the larger stretch first but it seemed quite dirty and decided to shift to little Vagator. To reach this place one needs to do some serious rock climbing and trekking. The swimming area was around 100 meters with rocks all around. There was a complete lack of people and there was some trepidation in swimming here, we took a quick decision to abandon Vagator. It might have been nice if there were some people and the beach was not so dirty and decided to add swimming in vagator to our overgrowing to do list.



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Different views of Vagator



After some vacillating, we decided to go to Baga which is reasonably close. Baga has the plus point of being one of the more beautiful beaches in Goa with the negative of the hordes of tourists who congregate there.
We managed to avoid the people and swum a bit away. The river flows into the sea here and for some reason the water was full of fishes both live and dead ones. The water was wonderful warm on the surface with cold currents at the bottom. I undertook the usual therapy of floating in the water till I reached an advanced meditative stage of the mind being empty. There were some distractions in the form of fishes who suddenly brushed past. This empty mind state comes about quite frequently without the effort of meditation but this is a separate entry by itself. An hour of therapy and we plonked ourselves in the local landmark Brittos, gorging on French fries and observing people on the beach.


We reluctantly tore ourselves from Baga and headed home. After a lunch we headed to Benaulim South Goa which was our headquarters for the next 4 days. The high way from north to south is quite busy and 2 lane and an encounter with a cow that suddenly jumped across the road divider landed in us having a dent on the bumper which become loose enough to look like it would fall.
The car was a source of worry and after setting up base in Benaulim we decided that it was far better to worry in a beach side shack then worry at home. Decision taken we headed towards Johncy’s on Benaulim beach to do a bit of worrying. Johncy is a shack right on the beach and due to it beeing off season seemed to be very thinly populated. I am used to seeing it overflowing with people and seeing it to empty seemed strange. The taste of the Vindaloo from the previous day was still strong if such a thing is possible and I decided to risk a Chinese chopsuey. This came out okay, as did the permanent order of prawn curry rice. Chopsuey is very difficult to classify as good or bad and if one adds sufficient crispy noodles all taste gets masked and it makes no difference.


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Chopsuey from secret receipes of the master chefs


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Maybe the senses perceive it better without light ?


The evening was quite still on the beach and the crowds were less. A leisurely dinner and we headed back to retire for the day. One more day over.
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Old 24th October 2012, 12:37   #5
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Default Tuesday 16th

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Size:  253.6 KBIt is now 4 days since we are back from vacation and things have got a bit blurred. I don’t remember the day by day account. As usual we did not have anytime to do anything besides eat and swim so there is nothing beyond this to write about beyond eating and swimming.
As I mentioned, our HQ was the small village of Benaulim. This has been our regular haunt on every visit and there is no reason why we chose this place except for the fact that we have always stayed here. I have described benaulim in my last trip report:

=======

Benaulim is what western comics and books of the past where men were men would be called a “one horse town” There is a main cross called Maria Hall though that might not be the official name. The road west goes to the beach, the road east goes towards Margaon. The road north towards Colva and the road south towards Varca where many of the 5 star resorts are located.

AND

There is a bus stop and a small ledge where there are always between 2-5 people sitting. When we first saw this a few years back there seems to be always 5 people sitting and hence it got christened the Panchayat. The Panchayat members don’t seem to know the concept of time. They seem so contended just sitting and chatting with each other or staring at nothingness. It always makes me wonder on what sort of problems they might be having, if at all and if so do they worry about their problems. I have also been tempted to just go there and sit myself but am worried that I might be accused of usurping the Panchayat.

=====

The Panchayat is normally in session except when it becomes too hot and is siesta time. Benaulim has been changing over the years and visiting after 2 years makes the changes very evident. Maria Cross seems to have a lot of hoardings now. The village used to boast of one supermarket called Kadars but Kadar now has competition with another shop just across the road. There is a German bakery now and a big medical store. The medical store did not have Disprin when we went there which would give you an idea about life in Benaulim. The medical store was a lifeline in terms of supplying antacids and digestives as an antidote for the copious amount of food consumed. There are far more apartments coming up and I wonder how soon the old goa will become the new goa which will be indistibuishable from all other tourist spots. Signs of the waning tourism industry is showing itself to Goa scholars like me and I will write more about this.

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Furtado - Westside View

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Benaulim - Different Views


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A new addition to Benaulim


The advantage of Benaulim is that it is small enough where you know every shop keeper and yet large enough to feel that you are not in some outpost. There are sufficient beaches nearby which have some life while at the same time don’t have the hordes of people.
A day starts with my wife going for her 6 kms run. I spend all my energy on excersizing my brains pondering on the mysteries of life and don’t have sufficient energy for walking let alone running. ON the return she comes armed with fresh Pav bread. You have 2 varieties one the soft one and the other the Kadak Pav. Kadak pav has to be had immediately else it becomes stale. Having generous blobs of butter and hiding the butter by skilfully placing some ham gives you all the energy needed for a day at the beach. Sasuages are a nice accompaniment. A light breakfast of 6-7 pavs per head and we were ready for the beach.
We first had to attend to the car and went over to Oliver place in Margaon. Oliver owns a 150 year old mansion and has a garage within the complex. I saw 2 porsches and one landrover parked there. Lucia with a falling out bumper looked a bit out of place but Olivers men managed to get her up in no time. With worries over our first port of call was Serabatim. This beach is very close to Benaulim and is devoid of the crowds. The tide was receding at this late hour and the beach was always relaxing. Furtados shack is right on the beach and like the rest of the shacks seemed empty. We did manage to get a few snacks and 2 complimentary fried fishes. One can sit on the verandah there and gaze at the sea without knowing that the clock is turning

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Furtado

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Remains of Lunch


I needed to maximize my ROI in Goa and thought it a waste of time having a siesta. Dropping the family my daughter accompanied me for a walk in the beach. At 3:00 PM, with a blazing sun it seemed a fool hardy thing to do, but we did manage a nice walk upand doen the beach and realized that moving around in an airconditioned car would be more uplifting.

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An afternoon walk


A most pitiful sight of children returning from school was a bit traumatic for us to handle. It is obvious that children do need to go to school in Goa as anywhere else but this never registers. The distress was too much and we decided to head back home.


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School kids


BY now all were exhausted and it was decided to have a home cooked gourmet dish of Maggi which helped sooth the tired stomach.

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Secret recipe handed down from generation to generation

Last edited by moralfibre : 27th October 2012 at 09:27.
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Old 24th October 2012, 19:49   #6
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Default Wednesday the 17th

The maggi was a very good antidote for a harassed and overworked stomach. Maybe skipping the potato chips, puffs and other snacks would have helped more.

First some random photos


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Benaulim Beach


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Mass grave of Jelly fishes


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View from the living roon



The idea was to leave a bit early to catch the high tide. We set out towards our favourite Sernabatim but got engrossed in conversation and missed the turn. Decided to proceed ahead and not turn back and reached Betalbatim beach. Betalbatim beach does not have any shacks and is not that easy to reach and is hence less crowded. Few tourists from nearby resorts were there.

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Abandoned Castle on the beach

The digestive system was still taxed and a repeat dose of Maggi was what was required. Finishing the Maggi we decided to head towards Anjuna flea market. It is a good 2 hours drive from Benaulim and we visisted our friends in Arpora and then moved towards the market. Aunt google did get a bit confused and misdirected us, but we did finally reach after a harrowing 100 meters drive over a culvert. I personally abhor such markets but deferred to the majority opinion and tried to stay as long as possible with poor grace. That the season had not started was evident that we were not jostled around and could move comparatively freely. It soon got hot and we started our long drive back to Benaulim. Goa highways get crowded in the evenings and the drive is quite strenuous.


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Anjuna Beach



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Flea Market



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Chapel near Arpora



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Sunset on the drive back



No one was in a mood to drive and we went down to benaulim beach to Rafaels which was a beach shack which seemed to have been done up in the recent past. Food was quite good with one grilled fish, the ubiquitous prawn curry. The fish was very well done and a surprise starter was the cheese garlic Naan which one gets all over Goa.
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Old 24th October 2012, 21:24   #7
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Default Thursday the 18th

The travelogue is slowly sapping all my time. It would have been to type this out on a daily basis and trying to recollect all from memory is tiring. The morning is the usual routine of ultra low calorie breakfast of Pav, sausages and ham.

We are finally doing something new by going to an unexplored beach Majorda. For some reason we have not checked this beach in our various visits to Goa and today seems to be a good one.


The drive is through Betalbatim which has a lot of old houses with history. If you have an outlook guide to Goa, there is a chapter on heritage walks and I would highly reccomend this walk. It is not known how long this houses will survive progress. Some photographs below will give you an idea. The outlook book gives the history of many of the houses.

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Old Houses on the Benaulim - Betalbatim road

There are some shacks here which specialize in ripping off as much as they can from tourists who escaped being ripped from the star hotels nearby. After loosing some negotiations with them, we head towards the other side of the beach. The swim is stressful on account of the mass graveyard of Jelly fish. One has to keep watching while swimming for jelly fish both dead and alive. None of us have had the experience of being stung by jelly fish but have been told by reliable sources that it can be quite painful.

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We soon give up on the swim and head to an untried restaurant called Zeboop by the sea. This is strategically located at a slight elevation with a clear view of the beach. The food is definitely among the best we have tasted this trip. The friendly waiter informs us in a conspiratol tone that Sandeep Patil and Mohinder Amarnath are sitting in a corner table. Children dont know who they are and since we are preoccupied with the lunch we decide to dispense with thre formalities of making small talk with them. I see the waiter going around with the same conspiratoral look and wonder if he is informing them about our prescence or that of the 2 great cricketers.

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Zeboop by the sea

After a slow and enjoyable lunch we head back for a siesta and plan the evening trip to Colva. Now colva is a beach best avoided. It is the Calangute of the south and attracts people 24x7. The beach thus is very dirty and crowded. There is the annual festival going on which attracts people like magnets and elder daughter and wife head to see the roadside stalls while younger daughter and I head to watch the sunset on the beach and do some philosophing and pondering. There are some nice eating joints around the beach which we have not tried for a long time. We however decide to give it a miss and go through the dense crowds past the church back home. The church area looks very lively with the church itself lit up.

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Colva Hordes

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Evening on Colva Beach

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Colva Shops selling trinkets at exorbitant prices

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Church lit up

Dinner is at Fiplees, a place we try to visit once a season. They have live music frequently but today sadly is not the day. There is a DJ playing to a large crowd of students some of whom seem to be in school and celebrating someones party. The signature dish in Fiplees is the ginger honey pork , something I have not seen anywhere else. Dinner over, we walk to 50 weeks back home conclucing the penultimate day in Goa

Last edited by deepak_misra : 24th October 2012 at 22:33.
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Old 24th October 2012, 22:30   #8
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Morning scence in Benaulim



Depression sets in as we realize that this is going to be the last day in Goa. There is an ache in the heart as we head to Sernabatim. There is again an over abundance of jelly fish and we set camp in an untried shack called Xaviers. We were the only customers for most of the time and kept alternating between having snacks and swimming. The waves are quite high and it is a pleasure swimming but the thought that this is the last day still occupies the mind.



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Sernabatim Beach



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Xaviers Beach Shack


A quick snack of Chineese and I decide to have the last dip in the sea. It is low tide and the water is too far off and shallow. I abandon the swim and we head home for the customary siesta and the planning for the return. The first step is in sprucing up Lucia who has accumulated tons and tons of dust and dirt. This accomplished we decide to make the final trip to Benaulim beach. We realize that Bulu and Majoj (refer the last travelogue from 2010) have not been seen and wonder if they have just packed up and left or on vacation till the season starts. We start walking towards Varca. Sunset is the best time to walk with the sky changing colour very rapidly and the combination of the purple haze, reflection in the water and the calm water soothing the mind. One can keep staring at the sea indefinitely and wonder at the vastness and mystery of nature and the whole cycle of day and night, high tide and low tide, summer and winter. All this happens, I think as I stare at the sea, every wave a different pattern and amplitude. This is my religion, I conclude. As dusk starts, we proceed back with a heavy heart thinking of the mundane activities we will start in a short time as we leave this paradise and get back to routine.


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Beach view



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Just stare at this long enough and all your worries will vanish





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As the sun sets


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Colours change as darkness sets in



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Benaulim in the darkness



For dinner we head back to Zeboop at the sea since this was the best food we did have. We get an even better table from the last visit and stare at the quarter moon and its reflection in the water. The waiter chats with us and informs us that he is from Chatisgarh which is a real long way from home. As he earns his daily bread does he see Goa in the same way as we do ? Does he get homesick ? The answer seems to be No to both. Most of the people in the service industry in Goa seem to be from outside the state and have adapted fast.

Our holiday is almost over and we leave tomorrow morning.
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Old 25th October 2012, 09:39   #9
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 26th October 2012, 22:40   #10
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Short and quick read it was. The castle reminds me of the Twin Tower from Lord of the Rings!!

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