Beginning of a love affair

Original Plan

This is the beginning of a love affair, something that initiated multiple road trips to my favorite hang out Goa. It was October of 2010 , the month of my marriage  anniversary ,it was my third marriage anniversary .  Every year on this occasion , we go for a holiday, this time I made a plan to stay in Kodaikanal for few days , relax and have some good time with my wife and our 10 months old son Abe now Aryaman.  I planned my route and expected  12-14 hours on road, by car. I planned to leave early in the morning around 5 am , so that I can reach Kodaikanal  before evening and relax there.

Change of destination

In the morning, I was not able to locate my sunglasses , which is a necessity on my travels . Finally, I called my friend Kumar Jayant, who lived nearby. I asked him to give me his sunglasses as I need them all the time. He came to my home with his Ray ban shades, we had a brief discussion about my travel plan to Kodaikanal . He suggested, why not go to Goa?  as it would take same amount of time. Moreover, he knew about my promise to my wife Jyoti, to take her to Goa after marriage. That promise still had not fulfilled. Considering that, I changed my travel plan in the matter of few minutes , over a cup of tea with my dear friend Kumar.

Main Highway

So new plan was to go to Goa, bags were already packed, we just had changed the destination. My wife was ecstatic. I had a GPS enabled smartphone and used famous maps in it. As per the famous mapping site on my cell phone, from Bengaluru till Dharwad it’s a no confusion straight drive. However ,just before Dharwad, I had to take a left and the route was going through villages and forest, connecting to main highway to Goa.

Adventure begins

While, I was on highway, things were fine. However, journey became interesting in the evening around 5pm , when I left main highway and took route through the jungle. For initial few kilometers, the road was fine. But then I started hitting bad patches full of potholes. Later, the road was all filled with potholes. It was difficult to go above 20 km/h, I had to slow down. Due to bad connectivity , I was not getting routing information properly. Furthermore , there were multiple lanes in those villages in the forest. Soon it was dark, we had a new twist to the story with potholes filled with rainwater and mud. In dark with car headlights on, it’s really challenging to judge how deep a pothole could be. So, with every passing minute it was getting difficult to drive with a consistent speed.

Introspection

To add to our horror , in the middle of this forest, in complete silence and darkness there came a train  halt signal , I had to wait for 20 minutes to let the train pass. Those were few moments of deep introspection and guilt , I looked at my wife and my son, then the woods, with sound of crickets all around us. I felt how careless I can be . There was no clear route, potholes seemed endless. I was cursing myself for being in that situation. I was really worried with the increasing darkness , scared of unknowns. On this road apart from potholes, there was no one, not even incoming cars or buses. But my luck struck positively this time, as  just before the train passed, I briefly got connectivity and found that highway connecting to Goa was 20 km from there. With this new hope , slowly I started moving forward.

Decide – Forward or backwards

In 5kms, I was face to face with one of the weirdest potholes, completely filled with water and mud , there was no other way out, earlier I already had a narrow escape with another monster hole where my car almost broke down. To go through that additional one , I needed some faith. It was scary to imagine broken car . There was no backup plan in worst case scenario. I even for a moment considered to turn around and go back. But even that was of no use, as internet connectivity was intermittent, I did not have backward route either. So, going back was even more stupid. Finally, I gave it a try. I prayed almighty and drove my car into that giant pothole . It made all kinds of sounds and almost stopped. Luckily, it came out of that, but apparently silencer got hit.

Out of the woods

My knowledge of cars, is strictly limited to driving, practically no knowledge of car’s internal systems and repair. So, whatever the condition of the car was, I had no clue. It was sounding like Ferrari or any sports car, when you push its accelerator. It seemed it would break sooner. Finally we were on highway. Apparently, worst was over. But I could not accelerate enough due to cars noise. Later, I kept speed of 40kms/h.

After some time, I noticed one of the sign boards that suggested Ponda was around 100 km. Ponda is a town in the vicinity of Goa. In few hours we reached Ponda. There I found lot of tourist hotels , I picked one of them , parked my jumbo jet. It was 11pm , we had nice dinner , nice sleep. Before falling asleep, I thought about the evening I had in the jungle. We managed to come out safely in time. This little adventure made this road trip really something to remember. All the next experiences in Goa became sweeter and a beginning of a love affair with Goa.

to be continued. . Next post

Free spirit

Thought flight

It was Friday night, I had plan to write a technical blog on my TechNet blogs today, but before getting to bed, I was trying to meet my daily activity target I had set on my Fitbit device. While doing that I was listening to music as most people do, I was listening to random songs on my phone , then came one of my favorites shine-on, I actually didn’t care much about the lyrics, it was the music and the way singer has sung it. Every time I hear it, I get into my free spirit zone. I reach one of the beaches in Goa, more specifically its my favorite beach mini vagator, a small shack on the beach and a nice tea ,in a beautiful evening, with beautiful colors all around, red and blue sky, silver water. Its magical.

Business and Pleasure

It reminded me of my last visit to Goa with my friends. We actually went to attend an information security conference. What an awesome idea of the organizers, if you love information security and Goa both, you wont like to miss it. After the conference was over, We moved from southern Goa to North Goa. If you want to relax alone with lesser crowd you may like to be in southern Goa, but if you like to party and like to be with people and have fun, you would like the festive North Goa.

Saturday night fever

It was Saturday night , I and my friends Kumar and Ashvini(Ash) were wandering around the TiTos street in Baga after dinner, we finally planned to go back to hotel from Baga to Anjuna. On the way to Anjuna we came to know that there was a Saturday night market which is supposed to be a flea market, mostly by hippies . So it was first after a long time, when we were all singles without any women i.e. wife or girl friends, like we were in college , so we were free to roam around, without thinking about reaching on time in hotel.

Flea market experience

So this flea market was like a festival, there was a center area where people or a band was playing music, few guys were showing tricks with fire. Lot of guys were dancing on the bands music. It was an amazing feeling to be in that festive moment. This is what brings me to Goa again and again. Where ever you see, you see free spirits, having fun. I do not smoke or drink, people you see there, they do and as one of my friend says you pay for mahul bro not for booze, mahul in Indian means the intoxicating moments with your friends , which in fact is true, I never feel the need of any device to get intoxicated, as the moment itself is so beautiful. No body is worried about the work or anything, everybody seem to have come to a festival, thats the beauty of Goa.

Window shopping and Angelina

We spent time in different small streets of that flea market, watching shops and stuff displayed in them. In one of those streets I saw a shop, which had paintings in it, when I saw the lady who was selling it, she said she made them, I myself have been painting earlier as well and I could see the art in her paintings. She herself was beautiful, probably  European, I complimented her for her paintings and her looks as well, she reminded me of Angelina Jolie, as always I m forthcoming when its about complimenting, I told her she looks like Angelina, she thanked me with a non English speaking accent.

Stags not allowed

My friends and I, then sat near a open air disco where stag entry was not allowed. Stags , I guess is a concept known only in India, where single men can not enter a disco. So after waiting for a while we moved from there. My friends had few drinks and I had some juice. We stayed in that festival until we were dead tired and finally around 3am we decided to go back to hotel. While getting out of the flea market, I happened to see Angelina Jolie(symbolic name I gave to painter lady) again on her bullet, riding to somewhere. Bullet is a bike which is Indian Harley equivalent, not exactly but sort of. I just wondered , how come these people live here for so many months and then probably go back to their countries, moreover they live here so freely not that they should not, but I do not see the natives live with that freedom and mental comfort. May be everybody wants to live that free life, but our commitments in life do not let us live that way or may be its the grass is greener on the other side.

Before we call it a night

But before we actually reach hotel, we stopped by a road side tea stall and had tea and something to eat and finally we were in our beds in hotel. what a night it was, its not that when I come with my wife and kid I enjoy any less. But what I feel, coming single there with friends was a different flavor of same place. May be responsibility factor was missing and I was again a boy like I have always been.

My other posts on Goa Trips can be found here.

All Boys Trip

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

Introduction

I came home little late after office on a Friday evening . My little boy was asleep, my wife was making sure I do not wake him up and pretended to sleep as well, else he would wake up. I started watching TV , there was this program on Fox Traveler called Boys weekend. It was about a group of friends, all of them great chefs , they go out on weekend , cook delicious food , have some great time. There was a scene where they play poker and cards , whoever loses had to cook a dish. That reminded me of all boys trip I had with my friends .It was a group of 6 guys, I, Kumar, deepak, Kiran, Manuj and Junaid. We had similar scene in our trip. All the memories of that trip just flashed back .

Long drive

It was June of  2012 , we started early in the morning in two cars. Deepak, Junaid and I were in one car. Manuj, Kiran and Kumar were in the other. It was a rare boys outing after a long time. After light breakfast and fueling our car tanks, we hit the road , after an hour we reached Mysore. That year was of loneliness for me , my father is a diabetic , due to his health issues , my wife had to stay with my parents for almost six months. I believe Kumar’s wife was also not at home , Junaid was was single. Deepak had his permission from his wife. Kiran a free spirit like me, always ready for an outing. Manuj like Deepak, who is always life of our parties, agreed to join us.

We were switching drivers, to make sure nobody gets tired. But I heard later, there was another scene going on in Kumar’s car, where Kiran and Manuj were pulling Kumar’s leg and not letting him drive and we all know, how much he loves to drive, especially if it’s his car. We played all kind of music and repeated few songs a lot of times like Imran khan’s Amplifier. It was such a fun drive. The moment we reached near the heights of Ooty’s niligiri mountains, the hairpin bends, Deepak took the driving wheel, as that allows him to avoid mountain sickness.

Hotel hunting

It was cold in Ooty, it was afternoon already and we had not pre-booked any hotels for stay. So we started our hunt for a nice hotel. After searching for a while, we came to know about king’s cliff, in fact Kiran found it. King’s cliff is a heritage British style hotel and restaurant. They had resort on a cliff which was near to king’s cliff’s restaurant and main resort. Since its main resort rooms were all booked, we decided to stay in the resort on the Cliffside.

Lunch talk

We were starving after long drive. We finally got table and ordered food. On food table, we were pulling each other’s leg. I was catching that on camera. Finally ,  food arrived. On a trip, food can make huge difference about how much you loved it. It was mouth watering authentic north Indian food , tandori chicken, butter chicken, garlic naans and much more,  we all jumped on it.

Boys shopping

Later , all of us took a nap. Around 6 pm we went out to the market. It was not far away, we walked on the streets like college kids, wandered around a bit. Due to cold weather , we bought jackets and sweaters. Later ,we clicked few snaps while having fun there , bought drinks and other stuff for the party.

Bon fire and party

Kiran is multilingual, that also includes southern languages. He used this skill with the house keeper in the resort to arrange wood for the bon fire. We then started the bon fire and circled around it. Our DJ and cocktail king Manuj started helping guys with cocktails and other drinks. We did not have the music though but we never felt its need as we had special talent deepak with us. I had my own fake beers and other non-alcoholic drinks with me, Junaid who also lives on fruit juices gave company to me. Few guys tried my beers and finally gave up due to its bitterness. Kumar had huge plans for the night but somehow he was not able to throw a drink inside his throat. We had photo sessions in between, while having fun.

Coversations and Songs

As night slowly progressed, the heat of the fire started to feel even better as it was getting colder. Drinks started to show its effect as well on few guys. Everyone talked about their times with their girlfriends or wife. Later, Deepak sang few nice ghazals and songs. Few of us got back in time , remembered some of their romantic encounters. For hours, we talked about the times we spent in Bangalore, about our friends , also about a special friend Ashvini, who could not join us on the trip and wished if he was also there.

Late dinner

It was very late in the night, the food we had ordered got cold long time back. Junaid got a brilliant idea of using this fire to heat up the Tandoori rootis , Naans , Daal makhni ,chicken dishes etc. We started having food while we were heating it on the fire. It tasted even better that way. I even imagined to repeat that on a future trip.

Calling it night

We finally went to sleep. After few hours in sleep, I noticed I was working on a complex case , probably I was analyzing data , to put the pieces of puzzle into an order to make sense of it. Later, I realized it was a dream .When I opened my eyes and checked time on phone , it was 6 in the morning. I also realized my head was aching. I had some biscuits and medicine, which I usually carry with me. Felt better after some time, went to sleep again. I woke up after few hours to the noise around. Apparently everybody was awake.

Card games

Somebody carried pack of cards with him and brought it, that’s when the card playing started.  We enjoyed that for a while, probably it was first time we could do that on an outing,  usually on an outing ,we follow orders of our women to get ready to go out, for sightseeing or shopping. There was no such compulsion and we loved it.

Old habits

But some of us are so habitual of the routine, of getting ready and go for sightseeing or shopping with wife on a trip, that they follow it even when they are not with wife. Kumar was the one who became butt of jokes, when he mechanically followed that routine.

After breakfast, we were enjoying sunshine and the view from the cliff. That’s when Kumar came out, all suited up , Deepak asked him, if he was seeing his wife around. Kumar was surprised at question , then another question came from one of us ,”why are you so dressed up as if you are going to shopping or sightseeing with your wife?” Kumar knew he was caught in a wrong situation,he ran to his room , changed to short and t-shirt ,then sat with all of us, doing nothing. We enjoyed that morning in the sun, just lying there in the garden on the cliff.

Point of return

At noon we packed our bags for return. It was cloudy . Ooty was looking beautiful from that cliff. We were back in our cars and started our journey for home, enjoying the beautiful views on the way and the talks about last night.

Conclusion

All of us remembered that journey after returning home. We even planned another with Deepak, before he leaves Bangalore for Australia but it did not happen again. That is why as a rule, I do not deny a sudden request by a friend, to go on a trip ,as trips with friends are hardly planned, they just happen and leave long lasting memories.

Please also check my other posts on mountains here

Wanderer series- Tea hunters

Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com

Introduction

It was summer of 2008, it was only few months since I came to Bangalore and joined Microsoft. Back then, I used to smoke and Kumar was a great source of cigarettes. As usual women do not like cigarettes and its smell, so we use to find excuses to have a smoke. One of the excuse was tea, yes a weird excuse of having tea and cigarette together, justification was that we usually have cigarette with tea, so our logic ,cigarette is a side kick of tea which was what we wanted to have.

We were in night shift those days, one day on Saturday morning, when Kumar and I came back from office, Kumar called me and asked me if I would like to go for a drive for a tea (which meant cigarette on tea shack after a long drive) and yours truly is always ready for such a proposal. Obviously, we will be joined by the ladies on this tea hunting drive and we loved that too, I won’t lie.

Last minute call

I asked my wife to get ready as we were going for a drive with Kumar, to have tea on some road side shack. I was already in the same dress in which I came back from office. Kumar and his wife were waiting for us in their car. We lived near a very well connected road called Bannerghatta Road, famous for IIM Bangalore and Bannerghatta national park. So plan, was to go on this road for a long drive, which leads to Bannerghatta national park and have tea on any road side tea shack and obviously the smokes.

Road exploration

We were on the road ,we saw patch of broken path way . Kumar had intuition about that patch, that it goes to a road called NICE road that connects to Mysore road. He asked me, if we shall go that way . As usual, I nodded in yes. We were then on that patchy road, which finally led us to NICE road. But It was not completely built then. Following it, we reached Mysore road to Mysore. There is famous south Indian restaurant called Kamath , on Mysore road. So our new plan was to have our tea there. After we reached kamath.We saw sign board saying Mysore 100 KMs. We asked ladies, what they say about seeing the famous palace. They could not believe if we were serious about it and agreed to that. They thought we were joking and will take U turn after some time.

Changing destination

After driving for another 40 KMs, we reached mandya, which is a smaller city then Bangalore , we found ATM there , withdrew some money for travel. Till that point, ladies thought we will take a U turn and get back to Bangalore. But now, they realized that we were actually serious about going to Mysore. We took a small tea break , ensured ladies that it will be fun.

However , when we reached near Mysore, we saw a sign board that said OOTY around 160 KMs from Mysore. I asked Kumar, what he thinks about this 160 KMs. As always, he loved that thought and announced that we were then going to OOTY, which is a famous hill station of south India. It was almost 12 pm in the noon and it was so tempting that we decided to take the road for OOTY after reaching Mysore. Kumar was pretty confident that in another 2 hours he will cover 160 KMs and we shall be in OOTY around 2pm.

After 80 KMs from Mysore, towards OOTY, we found a restaurant which was just before the Bandipur forest and national park, we had another short break and had lunch there. Then, we went through this awesome forest, where we could see few wild animals as well. After another 50 KMs we reached Masingudi forest, which is in Tamilnadu and after another 20 KMs we reached famous 36 hair pin bend steep mountain road. Kumar is a good driver and these are really painful bends but he smoothly drove us and we finally reached OOTY around 3pm.

Getting right hotel

It was really cold there, we searched through whole mountain town to get a good hotel to stay. After checking different hotels in all categories, we picked a luxury hotel and got suites on the name of British Kings and Queens. By this time, it was almost 5pm, we rushed towards the OOTY Lake, for boating. Our phone batteries were dead, we could not use the cameras in the phone. So before hitting the lake, we found a shop in the market selling the non-digital camera. We finally had few clicks on the pedal boats. It started raining after some time.

By 7pm, it was chilling evening . We did not bring any winter clothes with us . As we originally planned for a long drive to have a tea. We then shopped for winter clothes in OOTY’s small market , finally got some relief from that chilly weather. After wandering around in OOTY’s market, we went back to hotel and had dinner. To my surprise, the dinner was very well cooked. All the dishes were authentic north Indian dishes, which was unexpected in southern India.

Lazy romantic morning

I woke up to a very beautiful morning, it was a beautiful view of the lake from the Hotel’s garden. Hotel garden itself was very beautiful. This hotel was surrounded by Niligiris, on a mountain top overlooking OOTY’s town and its lake.

As I mentioned in most of my travel write-ups. Best part of my travel is waking up in a hotel and dialing room service for a nice hot tea. So I ordered my tea, my wife is not so found of tea. She just watches me, having my tea during such moments since our Dalhousie trip. At times, we get into that romantic talk, which makes those mornings even so much more beautiful. I was enjoying my tea with my wife . We got knock on the door. It was Kumar, he was enjoying the morning in the garden with his wife. We also joined them in the garden , took some photographs with our new old fashioned non-digital camera.

Although, in such cold but beautiful mornings, I’m usually lazy and love to lay back and enjoy. But it was Sunday, last day of the weekend , on Monday we had to be in office. We decided to get ready and have breakfast quickly and leave for conoor, which is nearby beautiful mountain town. Again, Breakfast was also very well cooked and hit our taste buds well.

Conoor

We were all in the car quickly for conoor, soon we were in the middle of conoor’s Tea gardens. All those mountains covered with Tea plantation, is a treat for the eyes. We visited some well-known points, clicked photos stopping at any beautiful location we found. Driving through those Tea gardens was more beautiful than the famous crowded points. We then decided to get back, as it was already noon and we had to travel some 400 KMs to get back to Bangalore.

Return Journey

On our journey back to Mysore , we stopped at a hill point, it seemed it was in the middle of clouds, there was a tea shack there ,serving various types of masala, cardamom and other flavored teas.

We had different flavors of tea and smoked too. It was such a wonderful experience, in the middle of the clouds, with my friends and my beautiful wife. My heart did not want to go anywhere else . But I also knew, the beauty lies in small moments, not in overstaying them or over living them. So we moved on.

Someone felt tired and bored

We were on our way back and were near Mysore . It was around 7pm and all of us were really tired. My wife, although loves to see the places with me. But hates to be on the road continuously on a single stretch. I could see her tired . She wanted to reach home and relax. Kumar and I started some obnoxious talks to entertain the ladies. The talks about the famous brigand of that area, on the fly made up stories to entertain them. My wife finally got so bored by it. She bit me on my arm so hard that I could not say a single word that moment . I silently suggested Kumar to not to go on with those stories.

We continued traveling even after reaching Mysore, We had dinner on a Road side dhaba, dhaba is a typical Punjabi restaurant that serves Punjabi food, at times this keyword has also took us to restaurants which were nowhere near to be a Punjabi dhaba and their Food was nowhere near to Punjabi food. But on Mysore road, one can find some good dhabas as well. After dinner, Kumar pushed accelerator and got us home and stopped by another Tea shack to have a tea and a smoke.

To Anjuna

My little son’s kick woke me up. It was a beautiful morning. I was feeling really fresh . For a moment ,the memory of previous day drive came to me but after looking out of the hotel room balcony, I forgot that , such a beautiful morning it was. I love hotels, especially the room service. To enjoy that beautiful morning, I ordered a cup of tea .While waiting for the room service to serve the tea, I had a look at my phone and route from Ponda to Panjim, Goa, it was around 25 km from Ponda. So I planned to start for Goa after Breakfast. Then I enjoyed the tea in the hotel balcony with my wife, looking at beauty around and my little son.

While my wife was getting ready for the day and before breakfast arrives. I went down to the Hotel parking to have a look at my Ferrari, to see how bad it was. It did not look that bad, silencer was not hanging out as I thought it would be. Although looking at the car it looked like as if it came through a mountain rally. I started the car and it still sounded as it was sounding yesterday, like a Ferrari or any other sports car. I thought of getting it repaired at next car service center on the way or in Goa.

Both me and my wife were ready to have breakfast , It was nicely cooked breakfast. To be on the safer side, I had ordered Bread omlette but my wife ordered aloo poori (potato curry with fried Indian bread). I am from Punjab and have certain type of taste ,but after staying in southern part of India for a long time, my taste has modified a lot. Still ,finding food to match your taste is a difficult wish .But surprisingly breakfast turned out to be a tasty one. Bread omlette was tasty as I expected, I took a bite of poori aloo as well and it was surprisingly tasty, which was little unexpected for a Punjabi. My wife really liked it. Usually while traveling , you set your food expectations to a lower level and expect to live with whatever food taste will come your way. But after this breakfast, I was getting a feeling, that on this travel ,food will be Really delicious.

We started for panjim, reached there in an hour. Its such a beautiful place, I have been to many places, but its completely uncommon experience, when you enter panjim, you start feeling the Portuguese way of life and see architecture in the buildings and churches. As soon you enter panjim, you see backwaters alongside the road. On one side you have the backwaters and on other you have Portuguese style homes and churches . Its not a very broad road, but driving between the back waters and those Portuguese styled homes and Goan people is such a pleasure. Road from Ponda to panjim leads to mandovi flyover from there we can take a turn to anjuna beach. But it was my first road trip to Goa, I was not aware of the roads and routes ,so I drove my car to the city. After roaming on the streets for a while, I stopped and used my GPS to find route for Anjuna. It turned out that I had to cross the Mandovi bridge to reach Anjuna.

Way to the flyover was not very clear, My GPS was also playing games with me so used my best guess to pick the right road to get to the flyover. Finally reached the flyover and crossed it, once again there was a round about which had multiple roads as options , one was towards Mumbai and another one to which my GPS was pointing, although the sign board was saying that the road that goes to Mumbai also has way to Anjuna. I did not take chance and followed my GPS directions and took the road it was showing. That road was going through a village, touching the edge of the Mandovi river ,going through that village, you get the feel of the beautiful goan culture , you can see people fishing in the backwaters .Finally , I saw some known names on the signboards, still to be sure of my way, I asked an auto rickshaw driver , then followed his directions to reach Anjuna. On the way to Anjuna there were beautiful lanes going through apparent paddy fields. They looked like paddy fields but I thought it was off season, so no actual rice paddies were visible, just wild grass and weed . Then I reached a place, I think it was Calungute or Baga, it looked like a nice market, lots of tattoo shops and small shops with different types of colorful clothes . Found signboard directing towards the Anjuna, it appeared Anjuna was not too far from there.

After few minutes , I was in Anjuna where the road ends and beach starts. It was 2pm, I parked my car and took my baby out of the car, then me and my wife went to the first shack, which is at the edge of the Beach, on the Rocks, it had nice view and amazing breeze. After more then 10 years I was seeing the sea again. It was wonderful feeling ,beyond words. I just wanted to sit there ,watch beauty of sea and experience that amazing sea breeze with amazing goan food. I was in the middle of heaven.

To be continued..