Saturday, June 9, 2007

Goan summer

Mumbai to Margao in May was a crazy idea and that too by road! But we just wanted to do it and when you got to go you got to go (to Goa!). Weather be damned! So on a hot Friday afternoon at 1430hrs we piled on into our Maruti Omni and set out on our way. Surprisingly the traffic was rather thin and we reached Karnala (just beyond Panvel) within an hour! We stopped by at Hotel Karnala, our favorite stop for some amazing batata wadas, kanda bhajiyas and chai, to refresh ourselves. The owner Mr.Hattiangadi, who by now is our ready reference map on that route, advised us to travel up to Khed or Chiplun for our night halt, as night driving is not for us. So feeling refreshed we got on to NH17 at 1600hrs. The heat had not burned out our enthusiasm. The mercury had dropped reasonably not to fry us and the drive was easing out. Nearing Mahad, for a couple of kilometers the road runs parallel to river Savitri and it is very scenic. On the outskirts of Mahad, overlooking the river is a garden cafĂ© –Ruchi Gardens. It is worth taking a short break here to refresh in the natural beauty. The roads were good, so though it was a long and winding road, which dipped and climbed at will, we made it to Khed in three and a half hours. As a matter of fact, at the fork that split the road to Khed and the bypass, we found a lovely place to stay –Hotel Anmol. There was a general sense of quiet efficiency and the cleanliness was remarkable. The food was good and the service, indeed, excellent! It was value for money. Rooms are available in the range of Rs.300/- to Rs.900/- and surely worth the stay before the final lap to Margao. Early next morning we set out in very pleasant cool weather. The roads again were wonderful making the drive through several ghats on the way a piece of cake. All along the way there were shady trees lining the roads, so we could stop as and when we felt like, to get the blood circulating in our behinds which were numbed due to being sat on for long hours! For lunch we stopped near Kudal and had a lovely Malvani treat in a restaurant –Sharmilaa. The food is cooked after you place your order so be prepared for a longish wait - but it is worth the wait for the delicious food is lip smackingly Malvani! Having sated our taste buds with some fine fishy delicacies, we got back on the road to race the sun into the sea. It took us just three hours to reach our destination – Haathi Mahal in Margao. We checked in and after a quick wash, strolled to the beach to bid goodbye to the setting sun. Welcome to Margao! Margao is the happening city South of Goa. This city has developed in recent times. All along it was the North Goan beaches that were in the limelight, popularized by the flower people – hippies – in the 70s. But now it is the turn of South Goa with its temples, forest ranges and of course the beaches to shine bright and beautiful. Margao city per se is very small and centers around one garden. The government offices and the central business district all surround this garden! This is the city, which can satiate any tourist – the beach bum, the pilgrim or the wildlife enthusiast! The famous beaches near Margao are Colva, Benaulim, Cavelossim, Mobor and Palolem. All these beaches are beautiful and clean. Since we were staying near Cavelossim, that was the beach we frequented dawn to dusk! This is dawn at Cavelossim. We would find quite a few dogs ensconced in the cool sands. A walk on these sands at dawn is very invigorating and peps you up for the day. This is the magical sunset that we would view every evening in Cavelossim. A picturesque ending to a beautiful day! For all those lovers of water sports there is parasailing and water-scooters too! The temples in the pictures are the most popular in Goa. Lata Mangeshkar and her family are supposed to be very closely associated with the Mangeshi Temple. So whatever that you wish to do, maybe even nothing, you can do it around Margao! There are plenty of restaurants to choose from along the coast and the beaches, though the ones on the beach shutdown during monsoons. The options for cuisine range from traditional Goan to oriental and continental and of course the regular North and South Indian food. You name it and its there! Margao is an amazing city indeed to chill out in, for the rejuvenation of any jaded mind or body. There are quite a few instant Yoga and Ayurveda centers too – though I did not venture or dare to try any! Maybe next time!