Sunday, November 6, 2011

Goa, September 2009

Durba and I had spent a week in Goa in end-September, 2009. It was the Durga Puja week. We boarded the 8047 Amaravathi Express from Howrah on the night of September 24 (the night of Sasthi). Oh, the discomfort a couple has to endure on a 40 hr railway journey if allotted seats away from each other! Well, we did manage in the end. But suffering the old and badly maintained 2A coach through two nights and a day and a half was another ordeal, which was to revisit us on the way back, when we boarded the 8048 Amaravathi from Madgaon. Ome may ask why then did we opt for the railway journey and this particular train? Well, I wouldn’t deny that we were constrained by our budget in considering flight travel. But, there happened to be another reason as well. There is a stretch of the Western Ghats through which the Amaravathi Express passes on the last leg of its journey from Karnataka to Goa. On this stretch, lies the Dudhsagar, one of India’s highest waterfalls, a sight to watch as it cascades down hundreds of feet right onto the railway track. Well, almost, that is! It is especially awesome to watch if one happens to be passing through in the middle of the monsoons. We thought we would take this opportunity to experience the Dudhsagar, and the Braganza Ghats (as the Western Ghats are known as in this stretch).
From Goa, September 2009
From Goa, September 2009
Apart from the customary sunset at Miramar, the walk from Calangute to Baga, and the visit to Old Goa, Dona Paula and Colva, this tour is memorable for:
The train journeys through Dudhsagar and Braganza Ghats – The Ghat section lies between Castle Rock in Karntaka and Kulem in Goa. 8047 reached Castle Rock at 11-20 hrs. 8048 reached Kulem at 8-20 hrs. The windows of our fit-to-be-condemned 2A coach on both the journeys were stained to the point of being opaque. We caught the entire section standing in the doorway, which we had occupied early enough, gaining from our prior homework. There was this dilemma about which side to stand on. Travelling in to Goa, Dudhsagar falls on the left. To catch another glimpse of it after one has actually passed underneath the falls, one has to move to the right hand side doorways, as the train takes a horseshoe curve downhill afterwards. It’s a a beautiful journey through a dense forest, and is dotted with tunnels and characterized by steep curves. One should not miss it if travelling on the Amaravathi into or out of Goa. It totally redeemed the long journey to and fro between Kolkata to Madgaon. Below there are two movie clips of 90 seconds each of the up and down journeys through the Ghats.

View Braganza Ghats, Madgaon in a larger map

Chapora Fort – We have all seen it in Dil Chahta Hai. There are no ruins here. Just a grassy hilltop with a peripheral wall. But the views all round are superb. I remember looking at the mouth of the Chapora River far below and wishing we could take a boat upstream.
From Goa, September 2009
Palolem – Reminded me of the Caribbean beaches seen on TV and the net. It was raining and we were trying to get to the small island that lies just across the beach at one end. We had to wade across a narrow stream to reach the island. Though the water was not deep, there was a very strong current. We didn’t make it to the island in the end. One had to swim across a small channel. Some of the Israelis/Russians who had come in a group were trying it out. We visited the Agonda beach close to Palolem. I do not remember any other instance of being on a beach all by ourselves. Well, it was drizzling throughout…
Lunch at the Hospedaria Venite – This is a quaint old restaurant on the 31st January Road in Panjim. The food was very good, as were the interiors. The floor is apparently made of planks salvaged from old shipwrecks.
From Goa, September 2009
The food in general – Will never forget the amazing sea food, the Recheados, the squid rings, the fried fish and shrimps, and the liquor.
We also remember the tour for the incessant rain which marked its second half. Goa is lovely in the rains, no doubt. But then, what had started as a drizzle turned in to a deluge! We cancelled our plans for a day journey to Mumbai on the Konkan Railway, and from there onwards to Howrah, opting instead for the direct journey back on Amaravathi Express, for which we had another set of tickets. Had it been the next day, we may just as well have got stranded in Goa! A terrible flood had inundated large swathes of Karnataka, cutting off the Goa line altogether. We saw glimpses of it on our journey - floodwaters rushing across a level crossing near Bellary station, cattle fleeing in droves, people crowding into the sleeper coaches of our train which probably was the only passing through that day.

Tour Itinerary
Sept 24 – Boarded Amaravathi Express at Howrah. Departure sometime close to midnight.
Sept 25 – On train.
Sept 26 – Close to noon crossed the Braganza Ghats and Dudhsagar Falls. Arrived Madgaon around 2 in the afternoon. Stay at the Miramar address of Goa Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. (GTDC).
Sept 27 – Morning visit to Old Goa by public bus. After lunch took free ferry across Mandovi from Panjim to Betim. Boarded public bus to Calangute from Betim. Walk from Calangute to Baga. Returned to Miramar for the night.
Sept 28 – Rented a car for the day. Morning visit to Dona Paula. Then in and around Panjim. Lunch at the Hospedaria Venite. Post-lunch to Chapora fort. Then long drive in the evening to Colva. Night at GTDC Colva.
Sept 29 – Long morning walk on the beach from Colva to Benaulim and beyond. Raining constantly. Night stay at GTDC Colva.
Sept 30 – Rented a car for the day. Travelled to Palolem. Spent entire day there. Dropped in at Agonda on the way back. Returned to Colva at night.
Oct 1 – Boarded Amaravathi Express from Madgaon in the morning for long journey back to Howrah. Experienced the rain drenched Braganza Ghats and the Dudhsagar in full glory from the train.
Oct 2 – Arrived at Howrah at 10-30 in the night. Train thankfully on time!
Tour Album

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