Sunday, January 26, 2014

Goa Diaries - I

There's nothing quite like a holiday in the sun while your fellow cityfolk ice up in the deep freezer that Delhi has become this winter. It is mind-numbingly cold here, and I'm practically chilled to the bone while typing this out. Thanks to my lovely set of parents, however, I was lucky enough to get to enjoy some sunshine, twice too, in the last few weeks. December took us on a getaway to the magnificent mahals and colorful bazaars of Jaipur. And this month brought for us a beautiful sojourn down south, to Bombay and then Goa, far far away from even the mention of a cold day.

Bombay did not make as big an impression in my maiden visit as I had been hearing from all quarters that it would. Nevertheless, I leave out scope for it to grow on me with a couple more visits in future. It is different from Delhi in many respects, however, and the debate on which one is better shall forever go on and on. I have a lot to say on the subject too, but for that I've reserved an entirely different post (to follow soon).

Goa, on the contrary, was mesmerizing from the word go. It turned out to be more amazing than I had ever thought it would be. Abundantly laden coconut trees, luxurious in their bounty. Ceaseless beautiful beaches bathed in warm sunlight. Cool salty water that tingles every hair on your skin. It was a real treat to the senses.

We spent less than 4 days in Goa, so we could only cover some of the major attractions the place boasts of. A more thorough exploration of the state I have reserved for my next trip, with friends and not family this time. Goa is a visual delight, with much less to talk about and much more to see. In keeping with that, I'll be coming up with more pictures than words, letting the sights speak for themselves.


Our first day was spent recovering from the endless train travel and exploring the area around our guest house in Dabolim, very near to Goa International Airport. Interestingly, the airport has recently been refurbished and a majestic new terminal inaugurated only last month. The next day we set out, with summer hats and high spirits, to explore the Northern part of Goa, car and driver in tow.


I fell in love with the coconut palm the moment I saw one. Their presence just makes the skyline gorgeous!

We first visited Aguada Fort built by the Portuguese in the 17th century as a docking and watering place for ships. It is situated atop a hill, with a panoramic view of the vast Arabian Sea right below.




Iconic scenes from movies like Rang De Basanti and Dil Chahta Hai have been shot within this very fort. The view is to literally die for.



A walk around the fort grounds and some 50 photos later, we moved onto the Dolphin Cruise that moves from the beach down the hill. They take small groups of 10-12 on a motorboat, starting from the mouth of river Mandovi out into the Arabian Sea, where we look out for dolphins, seagulls and kingfishers, whichever and how-many-ever you can spot.

As we set out on the one-hour cruise, to the right we saw the hill that we had just been atop, with the Aguada Fort lighthouse visible in the distance. The guide pointed out the lower part of the Fort, which is still being used as a prison by the Goa State authorities. To be out on a boat with a bunch of strangers in an unknown place, with a prison housing drug peddlers and hardened criminals right in front of my eyes...eerie thought. Glad I escaped safely with only good memories of that boat ride.

Lower Aguada Fort, housing part of the Goa State Prison



Sunkissed and rather ecstatic, Yours Truly.










































45 minutes of the cruise had gone past and none of us had yet spotted anything to make the dolphin cruise live up to its name. We were crestfallen, and stopped looking around even as the boatman started steering the vessel back towards the shore. On the way back, he had a word with another boat's guide (not a word of which we could understand) and steered the boat in the direction the guide pointed towards. Almost at the same time, all eyes and ears perked up as we heard the unmistakable sound of a dolphin's call, almost like a shrill whistle. And then they showed up - a pack of 4 dolphins playfully swimming in and out of the water in such perfectly alternating synchronisation, that only 2 of them were visible above the surface at a time. They moved like a wave of grey matter, with snouts and a slippery, rubbery exterior. They frolicked and whistled, disappearing from sight and then reappearing. It was a sight to behold! I captured it all on video, though it was too large in size to be uploaded here (might upload it on YouTube sometime and reproduce the link here).

A rare picture of a stealthy little dolphin I somehow managed to capture.

White seagulls taking off of the water. Bad picture I know, but the actual sight was amazing.

The beautiful blue waters with land only at a great distance set many a pulse racing.
























A medieval era fort, a boat cruise out on the sea and a tête-à-tête with a pod of dolphins - and the day had only just started. There was more to follow. Till the next time I write, go plan a Goa holiday, you! It's peak season, and I'm sure you're somewhat titillated already. ;)
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