Long weekends are city people’s nirvana! Goa!
Between Dussehra and Gandhi Jayanti, this time we had a four day weekend. What better way to spend the days than a hastily planned road trip to Goa. South Goa to be precise. Far from the maddening crowd of Bangalore (and of the popular North Goa).
Our Goa plan (that we executed to the T)
Friday, 29 September
- Start at 12:30 pm after completing Saraswati Pooja at home
- Enroute stop at Chitradurga Fort (210 kms – 3hrs 30 mins)
- Spend the night at Davangere and eat Benne Dosa – (65 kms – 1 hr 15 mins)
Saturday, 30 September
- Start at 4:30 am from Davangere towards Palolem Beach, Goa (300 kms – 5hr 30 mins)
- Enroute stop at Karwar Beach
- Reach Palolem beach studio guest house by 11:30 am
- Spend the day at Palolem beach
Sunday, 1 October
- Early morning Yoga and meditation on the beach
- Meet friends for lunch somewhere in South Goa
- Spend the evening at Palolem beach
Monday, 2 October
- Start at 5:00 am from Palolem Beach to Bangalore
- Reach Davangere for lunch
- Reach Bangalore (home) by evening tea
Super excited, I mounted my gopro hero 5 black on my car dashboard. Wanted to capture some highway action. We hit the road! After the initial hour of wading through city traffic and passing through Tumkur, we were on a smooth as butter road. Doing upwards of 120 kmph was a treat.
Chitradurga, here we come
Our first target was Chitradurga Fort. About four hours drive due to heavy traffic in the outskirts of Bangalore. We would have taken may be one pit stop enroute for a bio-break.
You will find a lot of restaurants and cafes on the highway — surely one of the most convenient drives if you are headed with family. Almost every 15-20 kms, you will find a road-side eateries and jaunts.
At about 4:45 pm, we parked outside Chitradurga Fort. You need to buy tickets to enter (INR 30 each). Within minutes we realized this was one massive fort. Immersed in history and folklore, the fort has overlapping influences from the Chalukyas, Hoysalas, the Vijayanagara empire, Hyder Ali & Tipu Sultan, the Britishers and legendary tales from the Mahabharata.
Please come back next week to read my blog post on Chitradurga Fort (coming very soon).
Off to Davangere for some Benne Dosa and night rest
It was 6:30 p.m. and we were on the road again. Now headed to Davangere. Two things were running on our minds — one was where would we have the famous Davangere Benne Dosa and the second, how many Benne Dosas would we have. I was introduced to the concept of Benne Dosa a few days ago by my colleague and friend Abhijit Rao. He sold me the story well. Now I must have it.
In about hour and fifteen, we reached our hotel. We had booked Hotel Pooja International for our night halt. The drive from Chitradurga to Davangere was smooth although it had started to rain. The timelapse video should give you a glimpse of the road and driving condition. The only gripe is that NH-8 if full of toll roads and yet for most parts that highway is not properly lit and driving in the evening with mixed vehicular lights can be tricky.
After settling into our hotel, which was alright for a budget hotel, we headed off to eat Benne Dosa. We drove around the town for fifteen minutes before finding Old Sagar Benne Dosa.
What a delicacy! Crispy butter dosa, served with mashed potatoes and spicy coconut chutney. We usually keep our dinner light, but tonight we dug in. Yumm!!!
After our dinner, we strolled around the bazaar for a few minutes. A day before Dushera and the streets were full of vendors selling flowers, Pumpkins and banana leaves for the festivities.
After spending some time in bazaar, we headed back to our hotel.
We slept well, got up early by 3:15 am, did our Yoga and meditation, got ready and hit the then hit the road by 4:30 am.
Day 2, Tearing away to Goa
At 4:45 am, it was still dark. Took us about fifteen minutes to get to the highway. From there on it was a smooth ride through the wide and winding highway. We could easily clock over 100-120 kmph without breaking a sweat. The road is a treat to drive on.
We stopped multiple times to soak in the beauty of the western ghats. The road started to wind up a bit, become greener by the mile, lush green flora surrounded us. The crisp morning air, the dew on the trees, the carpet of greens everywhere, sounds of birds in song, butterflies fluttering by, cattle lazily grazing — everything that the human soul longs for. A sense of connectedness with all things natural.
It is a five and half hour drive, give or take.
For about an hour and half, after Bankapur Toll Gate (Haveri), you turn left into the state highway (SH 6), which is single-lane beauty. Snaking its way through villages, forests and open fields.
Sight of water, Karwar Beach beckons (a teaser to our South Goa paradise)
After nearly five hours of driving, we we could feel that we are near the ocean. The air heavy with moisture, the unique smell of the sea and the distant gushing of waves. Lo behold, through the S-bend, saw the beautiful coastline. Blue and Turquoise in the morning glory — Karwar Beach was straight out of post card.
We took a pit stop there. Parked straight into beach. Took a bunch of photographs, share a plate of idli sambhar, stretched our legs and got back onto the road. Palolem Beach, Goa was just an hour away and we could not wait.
Entry into Goa
In a short while, we were at this small check post. One side was Karnataka and the other side was Goa. Within seconds we crossed over and the flora started to change suddenly and drastically. The tree cover was thicker and greener. The road slightly narrower but very well maintained.
In about thirty-odd minutes, we were near Palolem Beach. The sun was out and we could see scores of tourists buzzing in their scooters. South Goa is known for attracting a lot of western tourists and not so much Indian tourists. It is the quieter part of Goa. All the party action happens in the beaches of North Goa. Here it is much more peaceful and chilled out. Sort of the hippie hangout.
But this was the extended weekend, so there was crowd everywhere.
Settling into our studio: Roundcube Guest House
Since we made last minute plans to visit Goa, only a few options were available.
We had booked Roundcube Guest House, which about 150 meters from the beach. Now that has to count for something. The manager of the place helped us park our car and helped us settle in. It was a decent studio room overlooking the bazaar. We were lucky that we got an accommodation on such a busy weekend at such short notice.
Any other time, I would prefer to stay at a better property.
Brunch time at the beach
We freshened up and went for brunch. Had some nice fresh fruit beverages and smoothies, with some nicely done salads. You have some very nice cafes, restaurants and beach shacks in this part of the country. Goa is pretty unique. You have locals and foreigners in equal measures. Many of the joints are owned by non-Indians. These are people who have perhaps sometime visited Goa, fell in love with the beaches, the people and culture and decided to settle here. It almost feels like a little Europe out here.
Off to the Sea, frolic at Palolem Beach
It was time for doing what we came here to do. Go dipping in the sea. The water was pleasantly warm, the sun was hiding behind the clouds and tide gentle. What more can you ask for?
Chanchal and I do not profess to be good enough swimmers. In fact, we at best can manage to stay afloat in still pool water. That is about it. Braving the ocean is something with our swimming skills (or lack thereof) is ridiculous.
The high point is I got to test my GoPro Hero 5 Black underwater. Well as you see in the video, it works like a charm. To be simply able to take your GoPro underwater without any protective casing is just awesome.
We spent more than an hour in the water. Got ourselves nicely tanned, even burnt at the edges so to speak. As you would know, if you spend time in the sea, you will feel sleepy. So we headed to our hotel to take a bath and doze off for an hour.
A beautiful Goan evening
In the evening, we headed to the beach again. Went for long walks, had snacks and beverages at quaint little beach shacks. Kept looking at the sea until it turned dark and we could only hear the waves.
We discovered an amazing Italian place for our dinner – Magic Italy. These guys are as best as they come. Run by an Italian family, with still much of the ingredients sourced from Italy, this one is a rarity. The seating is oh so comfortable – you have a choice between Arabian style low seating where you can stretch you legs or table and chair arrangement. Whatever works for you.
The food is just mouth watering, subtle and delectable. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words… so here it goes.
We wanted to have their Tiramisu. But realized to our shock that people tend to book their Tiramisu days in advance. So we could not have it. They ran out of it before even starting their service.
The Goan Party on the streets
While South Goa is known to be largely a silent beach. There is something about Goa that just spells carnival. It was nearly mid night and we were heading back to our guest house. What we saw blew our minds. Some revelers and hired trucks that had huge music systems, DJ consoles and strobe lighting and got the party to the streets. You could see locals and tourists jiving to the beats.
So while you are in Goa, if you cannot go to the party, the party comes to you. It is difficult not to move to those beats and the overall vibe. Man… Goa is surreal, quirky and more.
Day 3, When you wake up in Goa
Yoga and Meditation at the beach
We pulled out our Yoga mats and off we went to the beach in the morning. What a way to start your day! Yoga and Meditation on a peaceful beach. It is not everyday Chanchal and I get to do this in front of the sea.
The sea breeze gave us great company through our practice. While initially the sound of the waves was bit of a distraction, but soon it blurred out and all you feel is the deep quiet and calm. We have done Yoga in the mountains, in the plains and now at the beach. Shall do it pretty much wherever we go.
We found these cute puppies on the beach. Their mother was weak so we got her some milk and biscuits. Hopefully all of them would live to become strong and healthy dogs in months ahead. And may be we will return to the beach next year to say hello.
Heading out for a lunch with friends
It is amazing when you realize even your friends are in Goa the same time you are there. In fact, you are meeting mid-way between Delhi and Bangalore. Drove about an hour north of where we were and met at a place called La Q’Sine. Met Arun and Kanika together after a long time. We had some really amazing food here. I tried the Goan Brinjal Vindaloo. If you are in this part of the country, then you must try a Vindaloo preparation. Originally, made for meat eaters. I was fortunate to find a vegetarian option. Between the vindaloo and the goal coconut gravy preparation, one could live a life time to eat.
To reach this place, we drove through some really amazing locales, the hair pin bends and S bends were a bit tricky but the whole trip was worth the visuals that greeted us all through. It was drizzling, the whole Goan forests and farms were alive with life.
Last evening in Goa
We came back to Palolem for our evening snack. We spent some nice time by the beach beneath the stars. Had some really amazing food… again at Magic Italy. Caught up as a couple and just lounged. We are very fortunate to have these moment of absolute love and carefreeness. These moments are untouched by gratification and are the ones one would remember when age and time have done their trick.
Day 4: Ready to roll. Heading back home
Woke up at 3:30 am, took a bath in the cold water, did our Yoga and got ready to leave by 5:00 am. It was still very dark. We went to the beach to say good bye.
Started driving at ten past five and sleep would not leave me alone. The first two hours of the drive was tricky, with nearly no light on the roads, stray cattle everywhere and sleep in my eyes.
We took multiple pit stops just so that I do not doze off behind the wheels. The drive back was painfully long — took me 12 hours to reach home — yet we were greeted with some great visuals. The sun was out in the full force during the day and I had a hard time staying awake behind the wheels.
Chanchal had lunch at Davangere – Benne Dosa. What else!
I skipped having any.
As we reached closer to Bangalore, the traffic grew to unbelievable levels. Realized everyone who took the long weekend trip was returning home.
Finally at 5:45 pm, I parked the car in my apartment. And off I went to sleep to wake up only the next day morning.