Sunday, June 3, 2007

Goa- Day 3 -- The Return of the Kings

Day 3 began in much the same way as Day 2 - Nilesh staring at my face and trying to wake me up, only this time he wasn't determined to kick me out of the bed. 2 days of travel, lack of sleep, excitement etc etc do tend to get you tired. And especially so, if you act like an insomniac when you aren't one. Nilesh asked me whether we should go to where-ever we wanted to go. I said yes.. groggily. The he asked me if I wanted to wash up/ get ready so on before others... I said no... groggily, but vehemently. Sleep is precious, especially when in the confines of an AC room for which you are paying peanuts.

Nilesh then woke up Harshal, who had suddenly gotten Nilesh's enthusiasm for things. Nilesh, went back to sleep. I was woken up soon. Everybody was ready, almost, and were just chilling. I hurried up to finish business :D. We left the room at about 7 ish, a little late as compared to yesterday since none of us could really get yourselves awake fast. As always, we had our little discussion about "where to go, what to see" etc. We really believed in "dynamic selection of optimal entertainment outlets" - in Nilesh's words. The good thing was that we had finalised our two destinations - Fort Aguada and Sinquerim Beach. The bad thing was we hadn't decided the order. I say bad thing, because that turned to be a point of another discussion.

The logic (my logic :D) that won out was - go to the fort first, walk around and see the place and get tired etc in heat and then head to the beach where we can swim, relax, etcetra to our hearts content. We took the same road out of Panaji, that heads to Mapusa, took the left turn at Porvorim that takes us on the road to Calangute, Baga, Sinquerim, Aguada and I-dunno-where-else. We went past the right turn that takes us to Calangute and Baga and slowly, the number of continental restaurants, cool coffee shops and money changers increased. Clearly a place where foreigners tend to outnumber Indians. Almost.

We took the left turn to Aguada and as we went up the small hill, we could see Panaji city and road that we had taken in the distance. The road turns around the hill, and gives you a view of the beach lining Panaji - Miramar beach, where we had been the previous evening. At times, climb up seems amazing, almost impossible for the 97 cc bikes that we had rented. (I will always point out that the Hero Honda Splendour has an engine with a smaller displacement than my beloved Bajaj Caliber). The road almost seems to run through a small forest. There is the jail on the other side of the hill, and clearly, they want this place as depopulated as possible.

Harshal was smarting over the Aguada-first plan. It wasn't his choice. And his irritation doubled when, on reaching the fort, we were told that the fort opens to public at 9.00. It probably the first time that I have been unhappy that certain things aren't available early in the morning. I like things opening after 10.00 - college, class, movie, maybe work too. It was just past 8.00. An hour to kill! And that hurts, especially since we had chosen summer time to make this trip. We were a little hungry, but the only food available was Lays, cold drinks and coconut water.... We devoured some of those goddamn chips filled in packets that are 3/4th empty. Had some pepsi/mirinda etc and then decided to go to the other side of the hill and check out the prison.

The road goes round the hill completely and at one point it snakes in with the sea on the left and the dense thicket of trees on the right. We found a clearing on the left, a nice spot to sit and watch the sea.

Cool view na. We sat there for quite some time, fooled around. Od threatening to throw my camera, then trying to do some rock climbing, but never going higher than about 3 inches, me trying to click a group photo without using the tripod and so on... Harshal and I also managed to spot this insect/fly and tried to take one of those winning photos. The final result wasnt so cool... but we had fun trying to corner an insect in the middle of the forest. Finally, we decided to try our luck back at the fort. We didn't want to go see the prison. You have no idea what could happen, right?

Anyways, we reached there, and did more timepass waiting for the "caretaker" or whatever to come and "open" the fort. At the end of the road which runs along the fort is the lighthouse. Had a look at it too. That damn thing was also open only in the evenings! We walked back to the fort, to be told that fort had been opened some time back, those vendors et al hadn't seen the guy walk up and go in and realised only when they saw some tourists come out of the fort!!! Cursing those idiots (mentally of course. You don't curse 20 vendors with knives to cut open coconuts when there are only 4 of you with a digital camera and keys to 2 bikes), we went in to see the fort.

Nilesh had hyped up our interest by saying that this was the place where the DCH scene was shot. The scene where the three friends talk how things will change and they will all move apart as they go on with their lives. The last half hour spent around the fort had convinced us that this wasn't that fort. The horizon here wasn't the clear blue sea -sky thingy into which ships disappeared. There was a freakin' island kinda thing there. Plus the place in the movie was a bare patch of land. No thicket of trees. When we entered the fort, our assumptions were confirmed. The three of us each gave Nilesh a look of contempt. We turned around to move around the fort, only to realise that the fort was "over". The place was bloody small (in terms of "fort size") that it kinda ended before we even started. There seemed to be some cool chambers and corriders but they were blocked. The big board at the entrance said that this upper fort and a lower fort were connected and the lower fort also served a harbour or something. But we couldn't figure out how one went to the lower fort. We felt like we had been cheated. And we were pissed. (Look at Harshal's photo ... and you'll get how we felt, btw he wasn't posing or anything)

We walked around the perimeter and came out thirsty. Thankfully the ice-cream guy had come by now, and we ate those over-priced ice-creams in silence. Harshal had lost it. He was the most susceptible, and he made no bones about demonstrating his frustration. This seemed to be a sign that the day wouldn't be a good one. We had fun days one too many, I thought.

Hoping things go well, we headed towards Sinquerim beach. The road to the place is quite funny. You believe the road is good because the authorities made an effort to impress the firangs. So you follow the yellow brick road... uh.. no.. not exactly.. you follow the black tar road. At one point, there is this fork where the good tar road turns left and the road going straight is a dusty, untarred monstrosity. Its then that you realise that the road turning left is actually the entrace to The Taj, while the "road" ahead is the way to the beach. Now you know why the road was so good until now. We reluctantly went straight.

The view, again, was awesome. The beach is generally full, and the presence of so many foreigners along with the most amazing sea shore has ensured that there are a lot of adventure sport activities. We could see people out in power boats, water scooters, banana boats and what not! I had intended to do something of the sort - some adventure thingy. I was hoping for paragliding, but then we heard the rates - 400 for a scooter ride, and 250 per head for a motor boat. We werent convinced. We had a quick cash situation review.

We were short. Only about 600 bucks totally. All of us had spare cash... in our bags at the room. Ouch! And we were yearning to do something fun. Those guys who manage all those sports are quite convincing salespeople. The convinced us to take the ride and asked us to pay later. There are many ATMs around, they said. We had a quick chat regarding what option to take. The power boat thingy was good, a good 3 km ride and all of us would enjoy that together. But then a water scooter is a water scooter!

We sat 2 on a scooter, with the prof guy driving the thingy. Three on the scooter that is. And it is just so cool. Add to that the skill these guys possess in riding the waves and making sure you almost feel you are gonna fall.. wow is all i can say. After all of us were done with the ride, we quickly jumped back into the sea. Initially, we had kept our life jackets on because we were too lazy to remove them, but thank god we kept them. None of us can swim well, and the water there is terrific.. rather.. terrifying.. :D. We were in waist deep water, but when the waves crashed in, the water regularly rose by about 3-4 feet. The life-jackets ensured that we were lifted off our feet each time and thrown hopelessly towards the beach. Nilesh's bruised knee bears testimony to that fact. In fact all of us had minor scratches etc on elbows, knees etc.

This swim turned out to be the best one ever. We went much deeper, since we had jackets on, and since there were many good swimmers/lifeguards around. There was also a better crowd out there. Firangs, and in general, good ppl. Not old, fat people like at other places. After quite some time, the crowd thickened. I mean, the number of people incresed... not their size..! Anyways, feeling concerned about the status of all our baggage - clothes, cameras, phones et al, Nilesh and I got out. Nilesh was a bit tired too. So we decided to withdraw the cash from the ATM and pay the scooter rent thingy. Even though you see millions of ATMs operated by ICICI bank (all of which are always full!) in any city in India, we didnt chance upon one that day. I knew that there was one near Calangute beach, about 5-6 km away, but that was too far!

Nilesh used another ATM (costing us an extra 50 bucks :(... ), we returned with the money, and paid it promptly. Our conscience was clear. :P. Harshal and Od had just come out of the water. Those (&*((^^%$&(&^&. We were extremely thirsty, so had some water. Onkar was supposed to meet his uncle. Its so amazing to have a friend with relatives in Goa! His uncle has a place near all these beaches: its near Provorim. Meeting his uncle was quite an hilarious incident. Od's uncle waved at him. And told him that his place was a bit in the opposite direction. So we would have to turn back. Harshal had to wear his helmet, with a cloth inside it. He set himself upon it.. and nilesh and I started to turn our bike round. We look back to realise that Od's uncle has reched the other side of the road.. and is almost starting to leave.

I looked over to Harshal to tell him to hurry up, and just then, the flow of vehicles increased! So we couldnt take the U-turn. Od's uncle had left just a micro-sec before this. So he dint know we were stuck. It took us a good 5 mins to get around and head back. Noticing that we were missing, Od's uncle stopped near a snack joint on the way. By the time we arrived, he had been waiting for quite some time. We stopped, and he treated us to some Egg pattice and cold drinks... As we left, the same situation happened. By the time, nilesh and harshal were ready with their helmets etc, uncle had already left, and was disappearing in the traffic. He had told us that we had to take left turn, so we started slowing down at every one of them. Finally, we saw him waiting far ahead, just before the turn. We caught up, and he showed us his place. Its an amazing place, next to a cute little school (forgot the name, i think it was something like - chuby cheeks or something.. )

He suggested quite a few places for chow time. And the best part was that all those which he suggested specialised in Goan food & were cheap! Something even better was, all those he named were on the main roads, at decent locations, were AC and almost at the center of Panaji city. We ate at this place near the maind bus stand in Panaji (again, i forget the name, but its quite famous, about 50 feet away from the bus stand, is almost always crowded to capacity and is dirt cheap but has excellent food. The name is something like Rego..) We ate like royals, ordering non-veg, veg, cold-drinks, whatever , only to later realise that bill was about 250 bucks only. An amazing surprise. What a bill to end your trip with! :D

We went back to the room, packed all out stuff, cleared all the money we owed each other and cleared the BSNL room rent. We still had time, so we lazed around. Nilesh and Harshal had a big arguement on whose money management system was better. Nilesh had proposed a system where each pays his own, but one guy notes down all expenses incurred and later sorts out. Harshal had proposed pooling a common amount of money, through which all expenses would be met. Nilesh's system worked well on the first day, and Harshal's worked well on the second. but it collapsed when we extended it to the last day since each one had got different amounts of money and did not contribute equally. Od and I had great fun joining the fight and poking fun at each, since we were content with having all our money accounted for. We knew how much we had paid and how much was owed. Who cares about the other person then!

We left for the bus stand in the evening at about 6.00. I quickly picked up some cashewnuts etc... I wanted to buy some souvenirs for myself, friends etc... but there was no time. We had to return the bikes, get some food and be seated in the bus. The bike rental guy came quite late, causing panic among us. But we reached with enough time to spare on some bhel & paani puri. The bus left at 7 ish.. quite on time one must say. But we had been cheated. That guy had given us the second last row. Apparently, this was because the bus had changed at the last moment or something. It was quite obvious that our argument the previous day had caused this. There was nothing much we could do. A gang of south indian guys, aged similar to us, sat behind us. Some were clear drunk, or were drinking. Thankfully they dint create a ruckus. Too tired to do any timepass, I dozed off first. The others watched a stupid Z grade film that had been put on in the bus.

The dinner stop was a nightmare. About 15 buses had reached the place at the same time... so there were about 300 -400 hungry ppl ordering at the same time. And the bus was supposed to wait for only 30 mins. Madness! We barely ate anything... and went back to sleep. I remember being even more scared whenever I woke than the time in the ST while going towards goa. This driver was worse! And it seemed all those other private bus drivers were of the same mould. All drove at hellish speeds. They should allow buses to compete in F1. Lets see if that Hamilton guy can win then.

Reached Pune on time the next day. Took a rick home... and went to sleep!