Friday, July 31, 2009

MONSOON MAGIC - 2

This continues from Monsoon Magic Part 1, click here to read.

Winding down the narrow roads of the Western Ghats with enough twists and turns to churn whatever is in the stomach, one finally emerges in the coastal area of Karnataka near Honnavar Town where the mountain road meets the so-called National Highway NH-17. The “highway” is quite narrow by International standards and was badly worn out and exposed in stretches. Swollen rivers and lakes were all around us as we drove North towards Goa, reaching a wet and windy Colva Beach (Colva is near Madgao for those familiar with the larger cities of Goa).


(Swollen river)

Monsoon is a lean season in Goa and one does not generally need reservations anywhere in any class of accommodation. We just walked into a hotel that’s a stone’s throw away from Colva Beach. Although Goa tries to promote “monsoon tourism”, I know why most prefer the dry season. In this wet season, the sea is very rough and has a muddy tinge, there are no beach shacks to have a drink and eat some fresh local seafood. The sand on the beach is wet and somewhat dirty with left over plastic covers stuck in the sand, remnants from the tail end of the high season. Asking around, I came to know that they (whoever they are) don’t clean the beaches during monsoon simply because no one really comes beach side. But this is also the best time to go to Goa since there are no crowds, restaurants are all open and seating easily available unlike during the high season and generally the entire place wears a deserted look, which suits me fine. If better promoted and if the Government cleans up the place a bit, this would be an ideal monsoon lover’s paradise.


The morning turns out dark and gloomy, looking out towards the sea from the hotel window it appears like menacing clouds are about to make landfall and attack with fury and that’s precisely what happens, just as I step out the door of the lobby for a short walk across the street to a South Indian Udupi style breakfast joint called Sagar Kinara (what else!). The strong gusty wind catches me unawares and breaks my umbrella. Holding the tattered remains of the same and getting drenched, I made it to the restaurant for hot Idli and coffee. It’s raining very hard by now. It’s as if a dam in the sky has burst open and water is literally pouring down. For those who want to experience real rain and get away from the rest of the parched country, this would be the place. For lovebirds, the sounds of rain falling outside the window, the ever-rustling sounds of the coconut palm, the dark gray clouds heavily laden with rain provides ideal conditions to stay indoors and snuggle. For those who love getting wet in the rain or don’t mind a bit of a soak, like me, nothing will stop us characters from venturing out at the slightest pretext. Just watch out for objects flying around in the wind and falling tree branches!

We ventured up to Panjim, the capital city of Goa. I think a separate blog is in order, to fully describe this little town that makes up the capital of this small state. I’ll do that when I go back for housewarming in November. There are too many things to describe about Panjim that can’t be done here. I love the Old Portuguese buildings that are all over, well restored and in active use centuries later. The waterfront areas, in particular the river Mandovi’s banks, have some fine examples of such architecture. One can walk along the river on well paved walkways and lined with gardens and have a first class view of the boats that ply the river leading out to sea on one side and on the other side you’d be seeing these architecturally aesthetic buildings and you’d continue walking all the way to Campal and the Goa Kala Academy. All this is for another blog. Back in South Goa 45 minutes of driving later, we stopped for lunch at the famous Martin’s Corner and I kept my eyes peeled out for celebrities but no such luck. Photographs of Indian glitterati are hung on the wall showing how popular this place is. I found the ambiance to be delightfully Goan with murals of Mario Miranda’s cartoons on the walls. I ordered Goan food, the staple fish curry and rice combination and that was simply great. I’d say the service was fantastic too.


Next day was the big day for us. The apartment was all done and delivered. The swimming pool is near ready as is the community center and gymnasium. The keys handed over and the paperwork done, it was time for a celebratory lunch. There’s a restaurant called Fisherman’s Wharf near Mobor beach that’s right on the river Sal. One can see the line of fishing boats berthed silently, waiting for the monsoon to end before the fishing season starts. The ambience and food were both good. Sal River had turned muddy like all others.
video
(River Sal from Fisherman's Wharf)

Now, Mobor Beach needs a special blog too, as it’s my favorite. You’ve got white powdery sand, nice seafront, classy hotels nearby and at one end the River Sal empties itself into the sea. It all sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? It is worth a visit to anyone who has not been there. After lunch we drove up to Ponda and after visiting the Laxmi Narasimha temple in nearby Veiling, which I go to every time I am in Goa, we headed back out towards Karwar, the coastal port town in Karnataka. Not finding a decent place to stay in Karwar, we continued on into the night, something I swear I’d never do again.

The same road, NH-17, had completely become a lunar landscape during the brief two days that I was away in Goa. There had been extensive flooding of the road, heavy rainfall, stormy winds, downed trees and power lines, you name it. The same road we had traveled earlier was unrecognizable. Driver and I had to keep looking for signs that said we were still on NH-17 as neither of us could remember the road being that bad just a few days before. Night driving is insane. Add copious rain, poor general visibility, stray cattle (even at night!) and humans running across poorly lit or sometimes even completely dark NH-17 and it adds up to be a dangerous recipe. What with blinding lights coming in the opposite direction from drivers who never dip their lights, ill defined sign boards and directions, and you know you are close to an impending disaster. Luckily we escaped some very close calls that night.

We snuck into Kumta, another coastal town not far away from Karwar and hunkered down for the night at a decent place. There’s a rest stop in between Karwar and Kumta and I’d recommend a stop here at the Kamat Yatrinivas restaurant at any time. I liked their breakfast and generally everything else on the menu. They’ve got a sugarcane juice machine and will make fresh delicious cane juice for you while you wait, for a low price of Rs. 12 a glass (US 25 cents!).


(Flying fox - hanging from a tree on the banks of the Payaswini - click on the picture for an expanded view)

The next morning looked promising, with the sun partially out, visibility reasonably good and it was only then that we could see the real damage the excessive rainfall in this area had done. Heading out South towards northern Kerala, we saw people marooned, away from the road, their houses and huts were like little islands in a sea of muddy water. There was flooding all the way South and the roads did not show any signs of improvement for the entire length of the Karnataka coast that NH-17 follows.


(Hanging bridge - still pic - over Payaswini River)

Five bumpy hours later we arrived in Kerala. Interior roads in Kerala were still good and we made good progress. Staying back in Kanhangad town and visiting the somewhat disappointing beach there and our social visit completed, we drove next to Kuntar village for more socializing. Kuntar is on the banks of the river Payaswini that had also turned red and was flowing strong. They’ve made a new suspension bridge that now connects the other bank of the river. It was fun walking across the bridge and fun to see the greenery all around. Bats hung in trees in hundreds near the water, noisy as ever. These were flying foxes and I’ve never seen them from that close up.
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(Payaswini River)

Returning to Mysore via the hill town of Madikeri was interesting. Getting out of the nice Kerala roads, one encounters the Sulya-Madikeri road winding uphill, to be an extremely bad road. What makes up for this bone jarring experience is the vista. The hills all around, coffee plantations, the cool atmosphere and light intermittent rain followed us all the way to Mysore. The weather suddenly cleared up as we were just outside Mysore and the road, State Highway SH-88, was a real pleasure to drive on. The trip was therefore an overall success, bad roads adding to the adventure. I hope those who read this are prompted to visit Jog and possibly Goa; I heard the monsoon is getting weaker over the area now.

18 comments:

Kamini said...

A lovely read, well worth the wait!
And once again, my best wishes for your dad in this difficult time.

avdi said...

Lovely. It was totally worth the wait.

Now waiting for the more blogs on Goa, all those detailed ones. Hope you have some good pics of the cathedrals etc.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Kamini: Thanks for your kind wishes always. You and Avdi sound the exact same in the first line of your comments! I am grateful to both of you for reading and enjoying this piece.

Avdi: Glad you liked the piece, I thought it a bit long but I had just hammered it all on my laptop and did not feel like chopping much of the article, although there were some casualties! I have some pictures that are good and some, especially of the heritage buildings of Panjim, that are not so good and I will re-take them for posting on the blog.

flowergirl said...

Sigh! I have not yet been to Goa (can you believe that?!)

Shall await your future posts and store it all away fro my visit!

Very nice and I like the flying fox photo - is that what those bats are called?

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

flowergirl: Goa is worth a visit for sure and I hope some of my blogs will entice you to make a visit sooner than later!

The Flying Fox is a name given to these fruit eating bats. Here is a link to wiki that has some great details of these creatures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pteropus

avdi said...

:) Great minds think alike, Anup. Kamini's comment was awaiting moderation and wasnt visible, so its all the more remarkable that we said the same thing.

In fact the post was LOVELY and worth the WAIT.

Now waiting for the lovely post on Goa ! It has been on my wishlist for too long.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Avdi: Great minds do think alike! Thanks very much for your appreciation.

Baron's Life said...

Award Get your AWARD here!

Namita Chandra said...

You write very well Capt.I confess I am not very fond of rain. We are planning to go to Madikeri by road either from Mangalore or Bangalore (haven't worked that out as yet)in the winter this year. There is a lovely Club Mahindra resort there.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Baron: Thanks!

Namita: Winter in Madikeri is really cool and dry. I guess you like that kind of weather? I have not been to the Club Mahindra there.
Thanks for the compliment.

YOSEE said...

Now that the monsoons have been declared as "failed" here overall, it was nice to at least read about( and see) rains, swollen rivers and dark clouds ! Had been in Goa once at the start of rains and did not understand what the whole "Goa in Rains" hullaballoo was all about. It was a "damp"squib !.....can understand the scary night ride on that road becoz. been there,done that too ! and we had a driver who kept muttering hanuman chalisa throughout that drive into darkness !....Plenty of trailers here for future blogs. All eagerly awaited.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Yosee, I would have muttered the Hanuman Chalisa too that night if I knew the verses! The driver started out confident when we left Goa that evening but as we progressed into Karwar and darkness set in rapidly, he had second thoughts. Unfortunate that the monsoon failed in so many parts of the country. Blamed on El Nino effect I believe. I say plant millions of trees.

Mysore Blog Park said...

A most satisfying read. I like your reference to the lunar landscape condition of the roads.

All the best to your father and family.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

MBP: Thanks for your kind wishes.

Swaram said...

Oh :( I hv missed so much of this magic. Work is worship they say; lemme nt curse ;)

Wonderful post! N I hv travelled so much but never been able to visit Goa. That ws like one virtual tour. Thank u so much :)

Any pics of the churches et..al?

Details inc . South Indian Udupi style breakfast - Wow! Ur blog is indeed a gr8 source of info!

Hope ur dad is dng better nw :)

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Swaram, thanks! I know you are busy and I do enjoy all your posts on wordpress. I am going to do folow up blogs on Goa. I have pictures stored elsewhere and am going back in October and hope to do more photo blogs from there. Let me see if I can dish out more info once I get back to Singapore tomorrow night. Dad is OK, not much can be done to him now and he is comfortable and I hope he continues to be comfy. Thanks for asking about him and for your kind wishes.

Dew said...

Captain, I love monsoons, I love traveling..and your writing is certainly worth reading :)..so would visit often to chek for more...!!!

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hi Dew! Welcome to my blog. Monsoon is my favorite time of the year and I have missed many of them, having been abroad all this time. This was one rare occasion that I had to go home during this period of time. Will check your blogs too.