Saturday, 14 September 2013

The feel of Goa in Monsoon - Part 1

This time it's not purely about the "Curry" but more of "Stories" or a travel diary with mention of food that we had during the travel. I have been postponing this for long but finally I am going to write down my about the small vacation we took in the first week of June.

Beautiful Orchid in Hotel Premises


Before we began...

Every year we target mid June to wander off somewhere for a couple of days. Usually is is a good time for vacation as the first showers of monsoon would kiss the Western Ghats by then and the Summer heat would have died down; the "off-season" would have begun - the perfect time to get some solitude while on vacation.  I get two special offs this month coupled with two more leave days and Saturday-Sunday combined we easily chalk out a five day gateaway.

I have been in Maharashtra for past 7 years and my husband for almost 8 years but none of us had visited Goa yet. Last year we had gone to Chorla Ghats which is in the border of Goa-Karnataka, but that was not what Goa is known for. So this year we decided to do away with the enigma that Goa was.

Both of us do not love crowd, solitude and nature is what we seek. Goa is known for its hip and happening lifestyle, colorful crowd, nightlife and food. Since we were only interested in the "food" part of it so Monsoon was the best time to visit Goa. The thought of getting the entire beach at our disposal indeed sounded romantic.

The Hotel...

Just like the destination the Hotel also matter a lot for us. And after the benchmark Wildernest had set last year it was difficult to compromise on something less than it . A search of Eco Lodges hardly returned a handful of names, most of which were advertised as Yoga and meditation camps. The one single resort that qualified as an eco lodging was that of Stonewater Eco Resort in South Goa. The pictures on trip advisor and on their brochure looked pretty pleasing. The resort was very close to the station as well which was an added advantage.

When we asked a colleague of my husband about South Goa he advised us not to stay there as there was not much happening in South Goa and North Goa was where all the action was. He feared we may get bored with the monotonous atmosphere there. That was a solid reason to go for South Goa and we were all set.

The Journey begins...

We boarded the Goa Express on the D-day. Unfortunately this time we didn't get good berths, one was side upper and other was inside upper. I got to share the lower seat with two Goanese women, one of whom was as grouchy and snobbish one could imagine. She was hardly ready to let me share the lower beth, but when I demanded that since I had the upper berth so I could share the lower berth while sitting, she made a tiny clearing for me to sit. All the 4.5 hours that we sat she held onto her trolley bag on her lap and complained of how stiff her legs were getting but was not ready to keep the bag on the floor. I didnt care much and tried to concentrate on the scenery outside. Miss Grouchy continued to drone in her made up "Aussie ascent" about her life in Australia and never missed a chance to show off. The constant fight to keep her bum from encroaching my tiny seating space and the monotonous monologue was getting on my nerves but I didnt want to miss the scenery outside just because of Miss Grouchy. Thank god soon the dinner was served and post dinner I quickly made my bed on the  upper berth and made myself comfortable.

Miss Grouchy's friend made her bed in the middle berth inside and Miss Grouchy went to bed with her precious trolley bag under her legs. It was a big bag and I was wondering how the both would fit together in that lean berth. The friend tried to convince her the same but failed. After a while when everyone was lying down we heard some Ohhhs and ahhhhs, I peeked from my berth and saw Miss Grouchy was not able to move in her berth because of the bag; finally her friend convinced her to keep it on the floor. So the fun ended there itself and we went to bed.


***** Day 1 *****
Nothing else happened during the night and we reached Vasco Da Gama station at 6:45 AM. 15 minutes late from the actual time of arrival. While entering Mormugaon we witnessed a patch of rocky beach dotted beautifully with slender palm trees. The waves were huge and as it crashed on the shore it looked pretty. The morning sun was pretty in the backdrop.

We had the Hotel send a car to pick us up from the station. A certain Mr. Riyaz chauffeured us to the hotel. He seemed quite an informed person and extended warmth in his talks. We dove through the port city, the city was still asleep with handful of people starting on their daily chores here and there. We drew cash from the ATM as there was no ATM facility near the resort. We queried about the beach that we saw from train and came to know that it was Bogmalo beach, the most famous beach out there. On way we got a glimpse of the Dabolim Airport, a new wing was also under construction. We left the airport behind us and moved ahead.  The road forked at Dabolim bus stand and we took a right turn. We passed through a market area, ladies were selling the fresh catch of the day. We drove ahead through dense foliage on either side of the roads and dotted with Big mansions, the one which are known as row-houses in Pune. We saw a lot of posh gyms on way. Population was scarce once we left the market area, a few houses here and there. After sometime the road became a bit bumpy and marked with potholes. The fresh rains had filled the potholes making them bumpier. It was unusual that there was no sign boards to indicate the existence of our resort anywhere on the road. We wandered how anyone coming for the first time in their own vehicle would find this place at all.  We noticed the cows grazing on the road side looked pretty malnutritioned, we could see their rib cage. This left us wondering with so much greenery around why was the situation of the animal so bad?


The Estate...
 Soon we reached the gates to the Karma Estate which housed the resort. From the reception area the resort looks like an idyllic sleepy hamlet nestled in a cove overlooking a tiny fishing village. The view from the reception area terrace is breathtaking, its like standing on a hillock and looking down at the tiny little cottages lined up in the nook and corner of the mountain steps opening up into the restless sea.The road inside the resort  slithers down to the wooden houses that stand against the backdrop of a cosy cove with a panoramic view of the entire Colva-Cavelossim coastline. Its a moment you will cherish definitely. The reception area itself is very pretty, tastefully done ethnic decor, paintings of 'velhe' (old) Goa by the famous cartoonist  on sale, large glass windows all around letting in the fresh air from the sea, orchids entangled in the wooden steps leading to the cottages. There was a freshness to everything around.

We completed the necessary formalities at the frontdesk. They asked for our identity proofs which was a good thing. The lady at the reception was a sharp contrast to Mr. Riyaz and was not at all handy with any information. Everything we asked with too much enthu to know about the place was replied with a "dont know" look. So we simply stopped asking her. Riyaz had provided his phone number and could be contacted anytime we needed anything.

View from Restaurant


The Cottage...
 The resort no doubt has an earthy feel to it, but not enough to match the marks of Wildernest. Here you see nature but it feels manicured and not natural, which is a big minus for a resort claiming to be built around nature.  A bit of disappointment for us, as our mind was constantly comparing it with Wildernest. Warm colours, old Goanese sculptures, wooden cottages tucked inside shrubs, stone walkways impart it a shabby-chic look and feel.


Every cottage had its own seating area. We were given a cottage whose sit out area view of the sea was blocked by thick shrubs all around. Also it was a bit far away from the reception area. So we asked for a cottage which was near to the pool area with an unrestricted view of the sea face. There was hardly any occupancy in the resort so we thought we would easily get a different cottage. And we did. We got Cottage number 17. 16-19 numbered cottages are the ones with best view of the sea and near to the pool. The room interiors had the same warm of earthy colors with all the modern amenities like an LCD tv, minifridge, water heater, bathtub were there. I loved the corner table, the intrinsic carvings on it was totally awesome. Also the delicate white curtain on the wooden doors reminded me of some colonial time decor I have seen in films. A clever mix of modern facilities and old world charm.




The patio had fans and lounge chairs and overlooked the mesmerizing view of the Arabian Sea. This was a perfect sunset point as well. All that we needed was a chilled glass of Mojito and we could spend the entire day lounging there itself.

By the way wherever we go we make some animal friends, this place was no different. There were a few dogs running about the property. I had some biscuits and offered it to one of them. Little did I know that he would become a regular at our cottage :)

Activities...

We had planned to take a quick nap and then freshen up. But the devastating news of the Uttarakhand floods had us hooked to the television. It was pretty bad and scary from the initial pictures that came. The rains were pretty heavy this year throughout the country. As we were watching the news a heavy downpour started and we watched the landscape being bathed in the morning showers. We then saw the movie Udaan for sometime before we went for a bath and freshened up.

Restaurant
We had meanwhile called the frontdesk to arrange a bike for us. The lady seemed clueless as usual so we called Riyaz who assured us to take care of it. After this there were a couple of calls bothways to decide on which bike to rent. My husband preferred a Honda or Hero make but the person had Bajaj only. Finally  we reluctantly decided on CD-Delux. My husband had a long face as he was expecting an R15 or any other sports bike. But at least something was better than nothing.

We went for breakfast to the restaurant after freshening up. The restaurant area looked deserted with only a single person waiting to take order. Not much variety available. So we ordered toasted bread, omelet and coffee. The restaurant area reminded me of Florida hotels, especially the woody feel to the hanging decor. Loved them. While the food was being prepared we roamed around the area. There was a couple of sculptures here and there of fishermen selling fish, some hens and other birds. We saw two kittens playing around.
Whether the resort has any visitors or not the number of staffs tending to the resort was really eye catching. Everywhere we saw cleaning staffs moving around.



After breakfast we walked to the reception area. The bike was supposed to be delivered there. When we reached the reception area there was no bike. We called up the person who said he will be there shortly. that shortly was definitely not short. After almost 45 minutes when there wasn't any sign of the bike we called again. This time the man came with the bike but forgot to bring the helmet. So then my husband went with him to get the helmet. Again a long wait for me. His shop was a KM away but when my husband didnt return even in half an hour I was worried. When he finally came, there was another story regarding choosing helmets. Seems like the helmets were in such bad condition that one had worm infestation in it which only was detected when my husband had put it on! He said that he was afraid that there were still worms crawling on his body. After a thorough scan of worms he finally put on the helmet and we started out for Bogmallo Beach - our first destination in Goa.

Bogmalo Beach...

 It is situated in a small bay with around a mile of curving sandy beach which is generally very quiet. On one side is the 5 star Bogmalo Beach resort. The beach is  lined with small shops of artifacts and shacks offering tasty local food. The beach looked deserted except a couple of men and lifeguards. We liked the beach for its peaceful surroundings and huge waves. The waves crashing on the rock at a distance was a enjoyable watch. We walked the length of the beach and took a few snaps. Fortunately the sun wasn't very sharp and there was a light drizzle. It was high tide time and the lifeguards were re-arranging the the flags which marked the limit till which one should venture at the beach.

It was already lunch time and we were very hungry, the paltry breakfast didnt hold for long.I had read reviews previously about which was a good food shack and Bogmalo and zeroed in on Full Moon restaurant. Though the restaurant was also deserted I decided to bank on the positive reviews about this place. We were here for seafood and when we looked at the right hand side of the menu our mind went on a overdrive on what to order. The prices were totally dirt cheap considering the amount and quality of food. We ordered some fish fries, buttered prawn starter, a crab meal for me and a kingfish meal for my husband.

As we waited for our lunch to arrive, we enjoyed the balmy sea breeze on a humid afternoon. Soon a H-U-G-E dog arrived on the premises. It royally walked into the shack and went to the farthest corner and lied down. When I say huge it means pretty huge, never seen such a big dog, seemed like a cross breed and it was panting like crazy. It was no doubt the restaurant owners dog. We felt sorry for the chap, with its Eskimo like fur how did it survive in this humid weather was a big question. Seemed like the frequent visitors to this shack were well acquainted with the dog. We saw framed pictures of the dog in its younger days with some Hollywood actor whose name I failed to recall.

Our food arrived pretty soon and I cannot even explain how good the fare was. The fried fish had the right kind of bite to it, the butter prawns were delectable and the crab curry was something to die for - The size was huge and yet the juices of the gravy had totally melted into the meat inside. They charged Rs. 180 only for the crab meal which is unimaginable in Pune. The Kingfish curry tasted equally royale and we decided to have lunch everyday at this shack. The heart desired more of this mouthwatering fare but we were filled to the brim so we decided to leave.

Crab Curry & Kingfish Curry

We came back to the resort for a quick post lunch nap and decided to do the near by other beaches in the evening.

Other beaches nearby...

We had planned to visit nearby beaches that day. We took the NH 17B and drove along it hoping to come across any interesting beach. We knew about Hollant which was pretty near to Bogmalo but decided to visit it while returning.

 NH 17B takes you further down to North Goa. We decided to ride along till we felt like. The ride was quite smooth,Arabian Sea was following us on the side. We rode for about 1 hour in the forward direction and saw the arrow which indicated Majorda Beach. We travelled along the indicated road but even after 10 minutes when we didnt come across any beach we started asking the locals regarding the distance, which they said was another 7 kms nearly. Dusk was already setting so we decided not to proceed as the road to the beach was very lonely and dense foliage on either sides. Afterall its better to be safe than sorry in Goa.

We went to Hollant beach on our way back. Just like other beaches in South Goa this one also is a rocky beach.It occupies the coastal strip of a small but deeply etched into the land Arabian Sea bay, and the South Goa coastline contouring in this place the form of a right angle.It is thus both a sunrise and sunset point and attracts crowds. We saw many people fishing with their fishing rods. We also saw fishermen rounding off their catch in the sea.A vast esplanade divides the coast into two parts: the western part is called Issorcim. A picturesque road among the lush tropical plants leads to the beach. We walked to the tip of the beach which had a small cross built. Two local guys were preparing the bait. They climbed down the steep stones and into the sea to catch fish. We thought of enjoying the view for couple of minutes more but soon a rowdy maharashtrian gang of boys infiltrated the area and both of us went back from the place.

Back to the resort...

We came back to the resort and then went to the beachfront of the resort. One has to cross the fishing village to reach the rocky beach. The Santarem cove is beautiful really. I liked it more because of its rocky facet. The air was also much cooler than the usual balmy breeze near the sea. The patch is totally rocky with a hint of sand here and there. We saw a few families playing in the water far away, one or two fishermen catching fish, a group of boys on a flat rocky patch enjoying the crashing waves and a boat of fishermen venturing into the sea. We walked leisurely across the beach to where the families were bathing. It was a long walk. The sandy areas of the beach had accumulation of shells brought by the waves. There were shells of all sizes, shapes and colours which brought the child inside my husband and he began to examine them with the glee of a 6 year old. The high tide was soon approaching and the size of the waves became huge. The resort lights started to come up in ones and twos making the area look magical, seemed like fireflies have lit the area. The restaurant area had bright festoons which gave a festive look. We kept on walking and enjoying the ambience. The family had started to return by the time we reached there. It was a patch of flat rock where the waves were crashing with a thunder. We would go to the edge of the rocks and as soon as a big wave approached move back and watch it crash. Occasionally a wave would catch us surprisingly and drench us. There were crabs all around these rocks which were rock colored which helped them camouflage with ease. It was very difficult to spot them on the rocks and only when something wiggled we could understand it was a crab.

Hollant Beach


There were holes inside some rocks wherein small fishes and sea animals would be caught brought in by the waves. Sometimes they would be again washed to the sea by the waves or stayed there to die till water drains. We saw some of them and threw them back into sea.

As it was getting dark we decided to return to the cottage. It had been a long day and we have had quite a bit of excitement.

The dinner... 

It was almost dinner time and we were really hungry after all this running around the rocks. We decided to have food in the cozy room than go out, so we asked for the menu card to be given in the room. Soon heavy rains started. Lucky for us the whole day was dry.
The Menu Card of Stone Water Resort

Serradura
We had a Rs. 1000 meal voucher per day or two. We had to mix and match fish and chicken items because the price was sky rocketing. We also ordered Serra Dura a Portuguese specialty dessert. The meal portions were miniscule compared to the prices and it barely satiated our hunger. Moreover the prices mentioned in the menu was not inclusive of tax and VAT so the bill came to some 1141, we had to pay anything above the voucher amount. They also charged us for the water, and only mineral water was available in the resort; normal water was not provided.

The saving grace was the dessert. It was a very easy dish made out of a layer of Milkmaid and a layer of crumbled marie biscuit. Husband loved it while I felt it was okayish.

We were pretty tired by the end of dinner. So we called it a day and soon felt asleep.

To be Continued...
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