Saturday, February 18, 2012

Trip to Tarkarli Beach, Malvan and Sindhudurg Fort : December 2011

My trip to Tarkarli beach was long overdue and in an effort to reduce the backlog  in  my long pending list of ‘must see places, I planned the trip in mid-December 2011 with my family. To save time in travelling, we decided to travel by an overnight train to Kudal on the Konkan Railway which is the nearest railway station for reaching Tarkarli beach.

Day-1  : Rajya Rani Express reached  Kudal on its scheduled time at 10.00 am.  There were plenty of autos in the queue outside the railway station but cars/ SUVs were conspicuous by their absence.  We engaged two autos for a 30 kms drive to Tarkarli via Malvan (@Rs.400/-) The road was fairly good  with gradual climbs in some patches of ghat section which were covered with dense forest. It took about one hour to reach Malvan. A left turn immediately after Malvan Bus Stand  took us on Malvan-Tarkarli road and in about 10 minutes, we were in MTDC Resort.

Later, I was told by MTDC Manager that  cars/SUVs can be hired from Kudal Bus Stand which is about 2 kms from railway station. Alternatively, there are regular bus services from Kudal Bus Stand  for  Tarkarli and beyond.

We checked in MTDC’s Tarkarli Beach Resort (Konkani Houses -  Rs.1500/- non-AC, and Rs.2000/- for AC). The rooms were large and clean. The AC rooms were just opposite the beach. We took lunch at MTDC’s restaurant (Rs.100/- for vegetarian thali and Rs.180/- for non-vegetarian thali).  The evening was spent on the beach  which was just a few steps away from our rooms. Surprisingly, even at 5.00 p.m., there were hardly any visitors. The beach slope was gentle and sea water was clean enough to see the snails floating on the sea bed.  We even saw a live star fish which came with the waves. We were on the beach until we watched a spectacular sun set, thanks to the clear sky.  We had dinner at the restaurant for which we had placed order in advance out of their  ala carte menu.

There were many home stays and eating options  on Malvan-Tarkarli Road, some of which are beach facing but not as close to the beach as MTDC Resort.  I understand that they are cheaper than MTDC Resort.  

Day-2: In the previous day, we had fixed up with a boat man  for a boat ride  which included dolphin sighting and other sight-seeing places such as Nivati Beach, confluence of Karli river with Arabian Sea and Sunami Island (Rs.1700/- for a four hour ride). Normally, boats are available from Tarkarli village which is about 1 km walk on the beach. But the boatman offered  to bring his boat on the beach in front of our Konkani House.

The boatman came with his boat sharp at 7.00 a.m as promised. The boat sailed towards southern (Devbag beach) side. In  about one hour of boat ride passing by the sides of Tarkarli village, Devbag village and beach and Niwati beach, we did not spot any dolphin activities.  The explanation given by our boatman was that due to high wind velocity, dolphins do not venture to come out above the sea water level. We got down at a secluded Niwati beach which is nestled between two hillocks one of  which is called the golden hill as it glows in golden colour when sunrays fall on it. In fact this beach was not visible until we passed by the golden hillock.    There was no one on the beach except 4 dogs who welcomed us by wagging their tails expecting some eatables from us which we obliged.  The location of this small beach is superb with its north and south side concealed by two hillocks and eastern side surrounded by back water. Beyond the backwater was a hamlet which was partly hidden by the dense coconut and areca nut plantations.

After spending about 30 minutes on the beach, we boarded the boat for our next destination, the Sunami Island  beach. This island has emerged in 2004 after Sunami waves hit the coast. The lagoon type island is not more than 500m long and 200m wide. A local villager told us that prior to 2004, this place used to be under water at least by 3-4 feet even during the low tide. After the sunami wave hit the coast, it has turned into an island during low tide but gets submerged  by 2-3 feet during high tide. Location of Sunami Island beach is superb surrounded by Karli river on its west and south sides and back water of Karli river  on its east and north side.

There is a tea/snacks stall set up by an enterprising  person from a nearby village located on the other side of the back water. The food items are prepared in the village house and brought here in casseroles by boat. There are water sports facility like water scooter, mechanised boating, rowing boats and Liquid Force. We spent about one hour on this beach doing water scooter and Liquid Force boating.  While walking on this beach, one gets a feeling as if  walking on a form.

On our return trip to MTDC, we passed through the confluence of Karli river with Arabian Sea. At this point, a part of Devbag beach looks like a ledge moving into the sea.  Devbag beach appears to be the most beautiful of all the adjunct beaches in this area.

As we were returning to MTDC, we saw some movements of dolphins opposite Devbag village. Our boatman stopped the boat for some time so as not to disturb the dolphins.  After spending about 15 minutes in standstill and not seeing further movements from dolphins, we started our boat to move on.  Suddenly, we saw to our left,  two giant brown colour dolphins jumping above the sea water. They did that twice but thereafter it was quite for long time. It was so sudden that there was no time to shot the event. We returned to MTDC by 11.00 a.m.

We had not planned for snorkelling while in Tarkarli  as none of us had  attempted it so far. But the way our boatman explained how it would be conducted for novices like us, we agreed. He said that his brother who  was an accredited guide for snorkelling  would take us in his snorkelling boat  to the snorkelling point which was about 5-6 kms from the beach.The charge was Rs.300/- per person with a minimum of 4 persons. 

After about one hour of rest in our room, we boarded the snorkelling boat which was docked at Tarkarli beach.  The snorkelling  point   was nothing   but a group of small hillocks in the sea around which snorkelling was conducted.  It took about 20 minutes to reach the point. By the time we reached, one group had already completed their snorkelling and we were the only persons at this point to do snorkelling. The guide took us one by one for a 15-20 minutes  round with in the vicinity of rocky patches. The entire snorkelling route was not more than 6-7 feet deep where we could see some rocky and reef like bases on which many marine lives could be seen swimming.  For me,  15-20 minutes of snorkelling was the limit after which I felt tired. It was a good experience though I don’t think that I will do it again. We return to MTDC resort by 2.00 p.m. and after bath we had late lunch at the MTDC restaurant. In the evening, we spent our time at the beach  witnessing once again  the sunset in a clear sky.

Some pictures of Tarkarli beach and around below :

MTDC's boat shaped Reception Office off Tarkarli beach.

A beach view hut of MTDC's Tarkarli beach Resort

MTDC's beach facing Konkani Houses at Tarkarli beach.

MTDC's beach facing Konkani Houses at Tarkarli beach.

Towards Malvan side from Tarkarli beach.

Fishermen push a boat into the sea off Tarkarli beach.

Crows in 'conference' at Tarkarli beach.

One of the crows from 'conference' flies to 'watch' sunset at Tarkarli beach

Silhouette of children against the background of the sunset at Tarkarli beach.

Boatman came on the beach in front of our Konkani House to pick us up for a boat ride and dolphin sightings

As sun rises, a fishing boat proceeding towards mid sea from Tarakarli village.

Early morning sun rays on this hill located near Nivati beach reminded me of  Hollywood film Meckaenna's Gold(1969).

Nivati Beach. This is situated between Devbag and Bhogwe beaches and  secluded by two hillocks on its both sides.  On the left of the beach is sea shore and on the right is backwater.

Devbag beach seen from the boat on way to Sunami Island

This picture was taken on a low angle to capture the wave type 'design' on Sunami island beach. The natural design is created by the shallow waves of Karli river that cross over the beach during the high tide.

Scooter boat turning sharply in Karli river

When the pulling speed boat takes a sharp turn, the impact  on the Liquid Force boat (behind) creates some thrilling experience.

Confluence of Karli river with Arabian Sea. Note the colour difference in water

A large and high wave during high tide off Tarkarli beach.

Seagulls swimming in the Arabian Sea off Tarkarli beach

Snorkelling point off Tarkarli beach

Snorkelling off Tarkarli beach

Evening sun rays over  MTDC's Konkani houses

Day-3 : The MTDC check out timing was 9.30 a.m. and  we were booked for Rajya Rani Express boarding at Kudal in the evening.  In effect, we had one full day to spend without any accommodation.  So we hired a Maruti Ecco (Rs.1600/- for full day) from one of the two  local drivers recommended by MTDC to take us for some local sight-seeing places around Malvan including Sindhudurg Fort.

After checking out,  we left  MTDC Resort around 10.00 a.m. for Malvan Jetty which was 8 kms from Tarkarli. After passing through the congested Malvan bazaar road, we reached the Jetty.  Since it was Saturday, there was a lot of rush mainly of school children. After buying ferry tickets (@Rs.37/- to and fro) we waited for about 30 minutes before our turn came for boarding the ferry. It took about 15 minutes to reach the Sindhudurg Fort jetty. We were given one hour to take the tour inside the Fort as the same boat was to drop us back to Malvan jetty.

Sindhudurg Fort was Chatarpati Shivaji’s answer to the growing  threat from the marine forces (Navy) of Portuguese and Siddis. It is said that the selection of the place and the Fort layout was done by Shivaji himself and he personally supervised the  three years of its construction phase which was completed in 1667. From the outside view, it looks like a simple Fort, but once inside, one realises that it is almost like a mini township spread over 50 acres of land.

The east facing main gate of the Fort is not visible as it is hidden between two bastions. It is only after getting down from the boat and walking towards the  wall that one can see the gate. Inside the fort, there are  water supply wells, residence quarters, some temples and godowns for storing grains, provisions etc. The 40 odd circular bastions constructed over the wide outer wall were the watch towers which also served a repository of  guns and cannons.  Most of the bastions and other places are in ruins now. At some places, outer wall has crumbled. The only places which are still intact are a dozen or so residential houses, sweet water wells and , temples. The thick vegetation inside the Fort is stated to be partly responsible for decaying  walls and other remaining structures. We could not see the famous two branch coconut tree as this tree was damaged in a lightning strike few years back.

After finishing our one hour of ramblings inside the Fort, I felt very proud of Chatrpati Shivaji who had farsightedness in constructing such Forts at various part of Maharashtra.   Shivaji’s professional approach is evident in  one of his letters to the Construction Engineer in charge of constructing Sindhudurg Fort. The instructions and guidelines were very clear from the specification of foundation, checking the raw materials to the  negotiating for the materials from Englishman traders who were very smart. Finally, his  dictate was that the labourers to be paid their wages daily without fail.

While returning from Sindhudurg Fort to Malvan, we stopped at Salgaonkar’s Ganesh temple where the Ganesh idol is made up of  pure gold.  After lunch at Bamboo Hotel,  we proceeded to Rock Garden. The garden is so named because of its close proximity to the rocky shores of Arabian Sea. We spent more time on the rocky patch than in the garden. The Rock Garden is a good place for spending evenings.

On our way to Kudal railway station, we visited Bhagwati temple at Dhamapur which has been constructed like a Konkani style house with Mangalore tiles. The temple has got a big lake with some water sport facilities.  We reached Kudal railway station well before our train’s arrival thus ending 3 days of trip to one of the less touristy beaches of Maharashtra.

Some pictures of Malvan and Sindhudurg Fort below:

Fishing boats at Malvan jetty
Malvan Jetty for ferry to Sindhudurg Fort ( in the background)

Malvan beach with fishing village in the background

Fishing boats on the Malvan beach.

Sindhudurg Fort as seen from Malvan Jetty

A fishing boat and a protruding rock in the mid sea off Malvan coast.

Sidhudurg Fort jetty at the main eastern gate of the Fort.

South-west wall of the Fort. A small beach below the wall is called Ranichi Vela (Queen's beach).

Eastern rampart of the Fort

Some houses inside Sindhudurg Fort

Stone stair case leading to the bastion above the main gate

Sindhudurg Fort jetty seen from  the main gate top.

Ganesh idol in gold  in Salgaonkar's Ganesh temple.

Salgaonkar's ancestral House in Malvan

The rocky shores of Arabian Sea off Rock Garden, Malvan

An unidentified bird at the rocky shore of Arabian Sea off Malvan

Bhagwati temple,  Dhamapur on the  Kudal-Malvan road

Bhagawati temple lake

An unidentified bird at Bhagwati temple lake shore.

More pictures here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Trip to some less touristy places around Madgaon, Goa : January 2012

I and my wife visited Goa (on our way to Hampi) during the third week of January 2012. We have been often visiting Goa mainly for attending some ceremony in  our family temple. Normally, these visits will culminate in to covering the familiar sight-seeing places like beaches, temples, churches, and river cruise at the cost of repetitions. On this occasion, we decided to explore some less touristy places around Madgaon which was our transit base on our way to Hampi via Hospet.

The afternoon SpiceJet flight reached Dabolim on schedule. A  pre-paid taxi engaged at the airport (Rs.700/-) dropped us at Margoa Residency, Madgaon where we checked in (Rs.1500/- AC double bedded room). After lunch at the restaurant, we hired a local taxi (Rs.1000/-)  for visiting Casa Araujo Alvares Mansion, a heritage house and adjunct Ancestral Goa in Loutolim village, which was about 10 kms south of Madgaon.

Casa Araujo Alvares Mansion, Loutolim

The mansion is about 250 years belonging to Alvares family which has now been converted into  a treasure-house of artifacts and precious items to keep alive the customs and traditions of Goa. Maendra Alvares, the 5th generation of the Alvares family is the brain behind this project as well as Ancestral Goa. Although the house is not in the same grandeur as Braganza Mansion in Chandor village which I visited later, I liked its ‘down to earth’ displays devoid of the arrogance of money power. I rate this place as a ‘must visit’ for those interested in the heritage tourism.

I am not going in to the details of the house as they are already in this link : Casa Araujo Alavres Mansion . 

Visiting Hours : 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. – 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.
Tours every 15 minutes
Entry Fee : Rs.100/- per person with a free English/Hindi speaking guide.

Some pictures below :

Casa Araujo Alvares Mansion

Family Chapel inside Alvares Mansion

Old telephone instrument in Alvares Mansion

Some displays in Alvares Mansion

An oil painting from Europe

Dinning Room

Sitting and Ball Room
Ancestral Goa, Loutolim

Ancestral Goa is a theme park depicting Goa’s culture and traditions and a brain child of Maendra Alvares. As we came out of the reception room,  a statue of Lord Parshurama with a bow and arrow reminded of the legend according to which Goa was created by shooting an arrow in the Arabian Sea from the Shayadri mountains. Some of the sights inside Ancestral Goa are Art Gallery and Handicraft Center, Casa da Dona Maria, Anand Lotlikar's Ghor, the feni distillery,  Legend of Big Foot, The Farmer's House, Cross, Spring and Rakandar, the Fisherman's House, Escola da Musica, Tinto - the village market, Taverna - the country liquor shop, Goan Artisans, Mirabai Sculpture, Big Foot Dance Floor, Bird Habitat, Spice Yard and Rubber Plantation.

For details see the link : Ancestral Goa

Visiting Hours : 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m – 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.
Entry Fee : Rs.50/- per person
Camera fee : Rs.20/-
No guide is needed as visitors once enter the area, the commentary gets started automatically explaining the displays. The commentaries are available in English and Hindi.

Both these places require at least two hours to explore them fully. Since we had some time before it got dark, we decided to visit Benaulim beach which we had not seen in all our earlier visits. The beach is located about 6 kms from Madgaon and it is comparatively cleaner and less crowded than Colva beach. We had a great sunset view over the Arabian Sea before returning to our hotel room.

Some pf pictures of Ancestral Goa and Benaulim Beach below :

The decorated gate to Ancestral Goa

Display of Parashuram with bow and arrow soon after the entry into Ancestral Goa

A typical goan village house on display 

The  imprint of a legendary foot

A single rock carved sculpture of Meera Bai. 

Baunolim Beach

Sunset at Baunolim Beach
Next day, after breakfast, we hired a local taxi for whole day (Rs.1500/-) to take  us to our family temple at Madkai, near Mardol.  After finishing our religious part of the trip, we were to come back to Madgaon for lunch and then proceed to Chandor village (15 kms east of Madgaon) for visiting Braganza Mansion, the most talked about heritage house in South Goa. Somehwere near Ponda, our driver suggested that we consider visiting Sahakari Spice Farms about 2 kms from Ponda which, according to him, was worth a visit. The entry fee was Rs.400/- per person which included a welcome drink, 45 minutes of guided tour of plantations and a buffet lunch. It was already getting warm and we had ample time at our disposal to cover the Braganza Mansion. So we  agree to his suggestion as spending some time under the cool atmosphere of plantations with buffet lunch was making sense.

Sahakari Spice Farms, Cuti, Ponda

Sahakari is the owner’s surname. After taking tickets (Rs.400/- per person), we were directed by a Farm employee to an inside gate arch where we were welcomed by two ladies with garlands and vermilion. We were seated in a shack like restaurant for a welcome drink of tea made of lemon grass, ginger and colve with cheese biscuits as the accompaniment. In the meanwhile, we were allotted a guide to take us on a plantation tour. The tour lasted for about 40 minutes after which we were brought back to the restaurant for buffet lunch. The lunch was preceded by serving free of charge 30ml of cashew feni. There were both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared in Goan style. The lunch was good. There are other items available in the restaurant for which one has to pay for them.

There was no restriction as to how much time one can spend in the farms. One can simply relax under many shack like structures near the restaurant or take a further walk in the farms. A stream is flowing through the farms where there are options for elephant wash and rides at extra charges. We did not go for it but found that many foreign visitors went for elephant wash and rides.

I had been to a couple of plantations trips in Kerala. So there was not much novelty in this trip. But what I liked most about Sahakari Spice Farm was that they conducted the trip in a professional manner. Even if one is not interested in Plantation tourism, I will recommend this trip, especially for those visitors who are passing through Ponda, just for lunch and relaxation for a couple of hours to avoid harsh mid day sun light.

For details see the link : Sahakari Spice Farm

Some pictures of Sahakari Spice Farm below :

Entry into Sahakari Spice Farm

Some of the Farm employees double up as Goan folk dancers. 

A Spice Farm guide explains to the visitors the details of farming of some of the spices.

Some birds by the side of a stream which passes through Spice Farm

Coffee bean fruits

Vanila plant

Colve flower

Elephant washing in the stream.

Washers are 'rewarded' with a shower through the elephant trunk

Ganesh made from the coconut shells on display at Spice Farm shop

Braganza Mansion, Chandor

Barganza Mansion is located in Chandor village, 15 kms east of Madgaon. As soon as we reached the gate of the house, an old lady came out to receive us and to take us to the first floor on a wide wooden staircase. The house is now divided into two wings. The West wing is now owned by Menezes Bragnaza family of which the old lady is the matriarch of the family. The East wing is owned by Pereira Braganza family.

Once we passed through many rooms of the West Wing, the furniture and fixure styles, the types of various antique collections, some oil paintings  bear the influence of European lifestyles. The heavily carved rose wood furniture was made by the local artisans. Some of the windows are made up of laminated oyster shells that are found in abundance in the Goan beaches. The floors of the Ball Room is made of Italian marble, the glasses in some of the gothic style windows are from Venice and the chandeliers are from Belgium. The Ball Room looks like to be an attempt to replicate the one of those rooms in Versailles Palace near Paris. The highlights of West wing is the biggest private library of around 5000 books in English, Portuguese, and French.  All in all, the West wing rooms shows the aristocracy of the highest order. Since last 2 years, photography in this wing has been prohibited.

The East Wing rooms are almost exact replica of the West Wing except that it is less grandeur and  opulent in terms of maintenance of the rooms, collections of antiques, the style of furniture as compared with its West wing counterpart. This may be one of the reason that photography in this wing is allowed. 

There is no entry fee but the owners expect a donation of Rs.150/- per person for West Wing and Rs.100/- per person for East Wing. Photography is prohibited in the West Wing which is more opulent than the East Wing. Before visiting the place, it is advisable to know before one proceeds to Braganza Mansion whether the owners are in the Mansion. Otherwise the Mansion is locked.

Telephone Numbers: West Wing: +91-832-278 4201, East Wing:  +91-832-278 4227

Again for those interested in heritage tourism, it is a ‘must visit’ place.  

Some of the pictures of Braganza Mansion below :

Braganza Mansion

This was used to be a dinning room but now houses some antique furniture

Coloured glass panels on the door leading to a balcony

One of the side rooms to the Ball Room

Ball Room with Belgian chandeliers 

Close up of chandeliers

One of several such sofas with gold plated designs

Close up the Ball Room with gothic style doors leading to other rooms

Heavily carved bed made of rosewood

Carved chair made up of rosewood with family initials

Conversation sofa in the Ball Room. This sofa is also called lovers' sofa as the couple can sit on this sofa facing each other.

Goa has so much to offer in terms of its heritage houses. I have now decided that in my all future visits to Goa, I intend to cover many such heritage houses, some of which are becoming accessible to the public.

More pictures  here.