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Old 11th November 2009, 10:58   #31
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Default Day 6 and 7

The next day, we decided to check out the breakfast at Alidia's. It was good, but nothing special, so with Lilas around the corner, we were not going to do that again. Not having eaten a great deal found us at Infantaria, the place on the Baga strip that spells value for money. How about 6 beers for Rs 100?! It was too early in the morning for that though, so the Infantaria breakfast was all we could handle, with the inevitable bebinca to take back to eat in the cottage.

Calangute now has a world class boutique ( read - expensive ) hotel, Pousade Touma that has the Copper bowl restaurant. Having heard of the Goan cuisine on offer there, that was the lunch destination of choice, once we found that Cafe Chocolatti at Candolim was not open, for some reason I couldn't figure out. It took us some time to find the hotel, for one that is so expensive - rooms from Rs 12000 a night up - it is very quiet about where it is located. We found the place after some searching, and once inside, we discovered that we were the only guests, with zero occupancy on the day. We were still served an excellent meal - even something as simple as prawn curry rice was very well made. And this was the one place where it was possible to get the local bread - poe - that goes best with the local cuisine. The complex of the hotel is beautifully conceived, built and maintained, and the construction allows for the interior spaces to be breezy and cool, surrounded by a lovely garden. It would be a great place for dinner, I am sure, but I wanted to check out one of the early names in Goa for fine dining by the beach, Fiesta, opposite Titos, and again, a ten minute walk from Alidia.
Fiesta seems to the place to be in the area, and to be seen in, and it was very crowded and busy. Good food, again, but we were too full to check out the desserts. And with the garden and the crowd there was very little air moving, so it got steamy. That's when I decided to ask our final destination in the hills if they could take us a day earlier, to get out of the sauna in Goa.
The next day, we were back to Lilas for a scrumptious breakfast before driving to Vasco to see how much the place has changed in 30 years, where I started my working life in 1978. And other than more cars, and more crowds, much of the place is just the way it was then, down to the hotel/lodge where I stayed for over a year! I guess no tourists go there, and other than the port and Goa shipyard, which was there even then, nothing new has come there. My old haunts and the first bars and pubs I visited all those years ago, and learnt to eat fish for the first time Almeidas and Monteiros are still the same. I remember eating my first steak there, at Almeidas, as dingy looking now as then, wondering when one stops chewing and just does the swallow part. I later learnt that he served very good meat. A full meal with a few glasses of feni was for ten/fifteen rupees, if I may take the risk of sounding like my father did when I was young. Of course, he spoke about what eight annas fetched in his days.
Nostalgia trip over, Panjim and Ritz classic beckoned. On the way, I recorded some of the images because I wanted to see if I can get just how very green everything is, with the monsoon just about over. The attached pictures do not quite do it justice. The bridge in the picture is the one over the Zuari river, connecting Vasco/Margao to Panjim. When I first came to Goa, the first span was just about coming up, having taken a few years, and a few collapsed attempts to do so. Staying in Vasco and commuting to Panjim at times, one always took the ferry that berthed alongside the bridge construction. I remember thinking that perhaps I will get to see the bridge complete before it was time for me to leave. When I left four years later, the bridge had spanned just about half the river and the incomplete work remained a part of the daily scenery of the commute across the river. Unlike others in Goa, to its credit, or more appropriately to the builders, this one never fell down once constructed. My memory is of seeing Gammon India boards at the construction site.
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0202.jpg
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0206.jpg
Panjim was looking spruced up after the rains with many places freshly painted, unlike my last visit to the city in July 2007, when I thought it looked dilapidated. I had never eaten at the Ritz, and the food was excellent. VFM for the most part, though we did lash out on a huge lobster that set us back by almost a thousand rupees. But it was more than a bellyful, and it is not often that one gets to do that where lobsters are concerned.
Panjim also means a visit to Mr Bakers by the side of the big church to buy some very good bebinca and dodol. I had read about their cashew drops, like meringues, but smaller and nuttier. Not knowing better, we bought just the one packet - big mistake, that we realized a day later !
I had saved the best for the last - dinner at Bomra's at Candolim. "Arguably the best Burmese restaurant in the world" go the reviews. I am not sure how many of these there are to start with, with the cuisine not so well known, but the food is excellent. And presented in a way that does it justice. Subtly spiced, so it may not be for all tastes, but if that goes down well, it is brilliant. Veggie, Fish, Pork, it doesn't matter what you select. The aubergine salad starter may translate as baingan bharta, but is subtly flavored and very different in texture as well. The idea was to round off the meal with the signature dessert, warm chocolate fondant, but we were too full to extend our meal to that sin. And it is a wonder what a little well placed light can do to a garden in a whitewashed cottage by night, the same place that will look stark and shabby by day. A feature of all the fine dining places in Goa and it is no wonder they all are open for dinner only. Anyway, most people spend the day on the beach or in beach shacks.
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Old 11th November 2009, 11:19   #32
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Default Day 8 and 9

Our last leg was a stay at the Wildernest resort and we left Baga at 8 am in the direction of Mapusa, thence to Bicholim, Sankhali, and up the Chorla Ghat on the highway to Belgaum. As picturesque a drive as most drives in Goa are, with roads that may be narrow at times, but usually well surfaced.
Wildernest is a resort that is located in the hills at the border of Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka, very close to the end of the climb up the ghat. Enroute is a reservoir nestling among the forested hills, just after a short climb.
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0214.jpg
Before reaching Wildernest, on the left is the gate of Swapnagandha resort, a sister resort, of more recent vintage than the six year old Wildernest. A kilometer further is the entrance to Wildernest, where the car was parked for a transfer by Jeep on a forest road to the resort. The Gypsy would have made the trip, regular cars will not, but the management prefers to not have any cars parked at the resort proper. Fair enough is the sense one gets on experiencing the resort.
Wildernest is the kind of jungle resort that many places in India aspire to be, or claim to be, but miserably fail to be. It is truly world class in how it has been designed, constructed and in the way it is managed. It is not as much in the jungle as it would like to be, in terms of wildlife, and the tiger, and even the leopard is very much of a rare thing. But that apart, it is a very good retreat with superb service standards, with service that is quiet, and not showy in any way. The food is as good as I have eaten anywhere, including at home. Made with fresh produce, local recipes and locally learned skills, by locals working there, it is rustic food served in a very clean environment that goes very well with the ambience. And with a bar at the side that one can loll around at for as long as one wants.
A word about the location the cars are parked by the entrance, in Goa, while the resort itself is in Maharashtra, the state border runs through the resort. And the main road that runs past, gets into Karnataka in a few minutes. The staff are a mix of people that live in all three states.
Time to let the picture do the talking because we got in on a Saturday, a day earlier, we were given a forest view room for the first night. The room has large glass areas on all sides to see the forest while remaining on the other side from its contents! The room was very well fitted out, and everything worked, down to the gas geysers.
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0218.jpg
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0221.jpg
Looking out from the resort into the valley at the head of the Mandovi river, a waterfall on the right that gets dry only by February.
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0228.jpg
The bar and the dining area, everything made of natural materials, nothing is in faux fiberglass.
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0240.jpg
The infinity pool to swim in, fed by spring water, so no chlorine, looking over the valley into all of Goa state and on the far horizon, the Arabian sea. At night in the distance the Aguada lighthouse beam still circles its continuous presence like a small but distinctly seen beacon. The onset of the recent rains is visible in the cloud cover that began just the day we reached Wildernest.
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0245.jpg
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0246.jpg
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0249.jpg

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 13th November 2009 at 10:02.
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Old 11th November 2009, 12:02   #33
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WOWWOWWW amazing! west coast never fails to amuse me...

Very nice pictures and write-up!

Btw what was he "tarrif for "Wildernest" had plans to visit this place couple of years back...
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Old 11th November 2009, 12:12   #34
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Great pictures and nice reviews of everything Sawyer...making me want to head to Konkan asap (might not be possible this weekend looking at the cyclone!)

As for Wildernest, I have to agree. It is probably the best managed property I have stayed at (not that I often haunt the 5 starred resort varieties) but this is comfort and rustic-ness combined beautifully. The food and the bar (+ the staff) are the best!

I visited it right during the peak of monsoon a year ago so you probably missed all the blood-sucking in your trip which we had going on during then
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Old 11th November 2009, 12:26   #35
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Amazing pictures and narration, Sawyer. I've stayed in Goa for 2 years (did my MBA there) and travelled around most of this state on a motorcycle. Your mention of Ritz and Mr Bakers brought up excellent memories of the seafood and patties respectively that we used to hog on at these places.

Can write a book on the delightful collection of food available in Goa

OT - As for the Gypsy, why do you intend on keeping it stock? If highway travels are to be frequent on this one, why not go for suspension mods? You'll find enough threads on the topic, including one of mine.

Last edited by predatorwheelz : 11th November 2009 at 12:28. Reason: Gypsy talk
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Old 11th November 2009, 12:51   #36
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Lovely pics Sawyer. You have captured the mood of the places very nicely.

As for the King, its looking majestic. Does it now come with power steering? Does the hard top version come with AC?
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Old 11th November 2009, 20:29   #37
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Another teaser? Hmm. no clue where, but have a feeling it is a pic to show us, whose fossils, our petrol comes from.

Last edited by neofromcapone : 11th November 2009 at 20:30. Reason: typo
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Old 11th November 2009, 21:36   #38
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On the second day we were given the booked valley view room. More pictures of the room and the views. The first picture captures the newer sister resort on the left, lower down the road, that looks out directly at the waterfall. It is built with less of ups and downs inside, so it is easier for older people to manage the internal movements that need be done on foot. And a picture looking out of the room to the climb down to the door, late at night.
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0272.jpg
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0293.jpg
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0298.jpg
And then a few random shots – one of the addition to the bar menu that looks good to check out, the main menu is on smaller bottles on either end of the bar. The dining silver was arranged in different patterns each day, by the time I realized that, it was already the day we were leaving, so I got just the one shot.
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0304.jpg
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0305.jpg
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0307.jpg
I must comment on the superb tasting omelet pav for breakfast, among other things. I haven’t tasted better anywhere else in the world! We had a friendly bartender, mixing up kokum vodka cocktails, and slicing salted raw mango from the summer gone by and it was a pleasure to talk to him and to the rest of the staff, led apparently by Sushma. All local, all intent on providing quality service, and proficient in what they did. And able to communicate in Marathi, Konkani and English equally comfortably. They are the vibrant heartbeat and the soul of the place, and it shows.
It had spattered a little on our last day, but no more than the odd drop, but the night before we were to leave it had increased to a drizzle, leading in to the cyclonic weather that is lashing the coast as I write this from home in Pune.

Last edited by Sawyer : 11th November 2009 at 21:40.
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Old 11th November 2009, 22:02   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naren_gs1 View Post
- Did you not try snorkelling while in Malvan? Dolphins?
No, that's for another trip, lunch times were spent at Chaitanya which is also the best time to go snorkeling!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mpower View Post
Nice. How does the Gypsy do on the highways. Can be quite a jumping jack at high speeds.
On NH4 the Gypsy makes good speed, as fast as I am confident of driving an SUV in India, 100kmph. Feels stable until the road undulates when your back feels the kick of the bucking leaf springs.
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Originally Posted by Ramsagar View Post
wow a nice travelogue. How abt the mileage you achieved during the whole run.
13 km to the litre over the 1400 kms.
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Originally Posted by lohithrao View Post
Btw what was he "tarrif for "Wildernest" had plans to visit this place couple of years back...
Rs 7000 per couple per night at the valley view rooms, Rs 6000 for forest view. All but the bar tab is included in the price.
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Originally Posted by Abhay View Post
As for Wildernest, I have to agree. It is probably the best managed property I have stayed at (not that I often haunt the 5 starred resort varieties) but this is comfort and rustic-ness combined beautifully. The food and the bar (+ the staff) are the best!

I visited it right during the peak of monsoon a year ago so you probably missed all the blood-sucking in your trip which we had going on during then
No leeches this time around, although we were prepared for them. In the monsoon it would look a different place with its own charms, but the views would be fog/cloud bound, I imagine.
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Originally Posted by predatorwheelz View Post

OT - As for the Gypsy, why do you intend on keeping it stock? If highway travels are to be frequent on this one, why not go for suspension mods? You'll find enough threads on the topic, including one of mine.
I plan to install the CFLs at the rear soon, will stick to OE set up in the front. Any other thoughts to sort out the ride?
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Originally Posted by Saurabh M View Post
As for the King, its looking majestic. Does it now come with power steering? Does the hard top version come with AC?
Neither version has either AC or power steering. That is why the replacement yokos are stock sized.
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Old 11th November 2009, 22:09   #40
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Default The drive back - Wildernest to Pune

For years now, I have experienced a drop off, as in off a cliff, in the quality of roads as soon as one enters Karnataka from any direction that I have done so. And though Belgaum and NH4 are just another 60 kms further on, it is still a three-hour drive on terrible roads to get there. Or so I was told by the staff. We therefore decided to get to Kolhapur the roundabout way, back down to Sawantwadi, but instead of climbing up to Amboli which I have done often, I thought of going further north on NH 17, and getting to Kolhapur via Phondaghat and Radhanagari, places I had never seen. With the cloud cover in place all day, the drive that began at 9 30 am at Wildernest ended in Pune at 8 pm, with no imposition cast on it by the sun. The entire drive up until good old NH4 was very scenic, and the last picture of the trip is on the climb up from Phondaghat enroute to Radhanagari.
Back from a ten day break in konkan/goa in the Gypsy-img_0313.jpg
From there, once the ghat is over, to Kolhapur the roads are in bad shape, which meant that it took us all the time up to 3.30 pm to enter Kolhapur, and after a wrong turn and a few stops for questions, crawled out of it by 4 pm to come on to NH 4, with some relief about the surface it presents for the most part, that one doesn’t mind the tolls along the highway!
But a better way for Pune folks that want to go to just Wildernest is to drive to Belgaum, park the car at the owner’s house there and he will make arrangements to transfer you by road – the same lousy road - to the resort, for a total travel time of about 8 hours. Were it not for the cloud cover I guess I would have rued my decision to take the longer road back to Pune, the charms of Radhanagari notwithstanding. Coming from Goa the drive is very good, just a couple of hours from Panjim, or the airport.

Last edited by Sawyer : 11th November 2009 at 22:12.
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Old 12th November 2009, 07:34   #41
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I've stayed in Goa for 2 years (did my MBA there) and travelled around most of this state on a motorcycle.
I know exactly what it is like to do that - I was there for 4 years, studying/working/playing - some of the best years of my life till now - but my time started in 1978, when the place was a lot more like the other parts of the Konkan, with a Portuguese twist. I rode a Yezdi those days, and the bike is one I still have a soft corner for. Bullet proof, other than breaking clutch cables that took me less than ten minutes to replace on the road, it took me to all parts of the state at all times in all weather. Including a ride at 2 am, under the influence to a considerable degree, from Mangor in Vasco to Porvorim north of Panjim. I can't remember how we got across the Zuari river, the bike and I and an intrepid colleague for pillion, come to think of it. Not something I would recommend or ever try, but back then, we were immortal! And lucky.

Last edited by Sawyer : 12th November 2009 at 07:43.
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Old 12th November 2009, 08:17   #42
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Default Assorted pictures that did not make the first cut

All pictures are from a Canon D10 all weather camera that can be taken into the sea up to a depth of 10 metres, and is shock proof for a fall of up to 3 feet. Point and shoot camera size sensor of course, so given all of this, it turns out to be a pretty capable picture taker as well. I haven't done any post picture editing/processing to any of the images, btw. I was into photography in a big way until the time digital cameras came on to the scene when it struck me that with all of that tech, any fool can take a good picture, so what's the point of the hobby. Another lesson learnt is that the best camera to have is the one you use, and this one is better than my SLR for just that reason. The SLR takes great pics once one gets around to taking it on such trips and then, taking it out of its protective armor! Which I am often too lazy to do.
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Old 12th November 2009, 08:28   #43
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More pix, with a last set to follow.
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Old 12th November 2009, 08:50   #44
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There will be another last set, some of the pix need to be sized down.
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Old 12th November 2009, 09:05   #45
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Nicely narrated and informative travalogue. Your pictures of Goa too are stunning and evocative. Goa is certainly is on my radar for one of my next trips.
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