Goa: Beyond Beaches

The semi-sleeper bus reached the vacant streets of Panaji market early in the morning on a chilly December morning. I got down to be surrounded by a number of rickshaw wallas and taxi drivers. Somehow managed to get out of the crowd and grabbed a pilot(a two wheeler taxi) to reach the base camp which was bustling with early morning activities. The camp leader allotted me a tent and I had a short nap before having breakfast and meeting people from my batch who had come for the ‘Goa Biking Expedition 2015’. Since the day was for reserved for acclimatization and we were not supposed to cycle that day we decided to explore Goa on rented bikes which is quite a fad among the tourists visiting Goa. We visited the Aguada Fort located to the south of Candolim. The neighboring lighthouse provides a scenic view of the sea overlooking the fort.

aguada

The following evening we were given our bikes and then set off to a short ride in the beautiful old city of Panaji. Cycling through the old streets with buildings of Portuguese architecture dotting the narrow roads, whizzing up and down the roads with people staring at us twenty people all geared up on our cycles. We then returned to the base camp for a quick orientation about the next five days of cycling which was going to happen.

panaji

Day one begins from Dona Paula, which according to the local tourist guide is the statue of a certain upper class Dona, waiting for her fisherman lover Paulo. Though this is a myth, it was an interesting story. We then dumped our cycles into a jetty to reach the Mormugao harbour  after a forty five minute boat ride. Finding our way through the numerous fishing boats we began cycling in the hot afternoon along the airport road to reach our camp for the night in Assolna after a rigorous day of cycling. Now this camp was fascinating because it was the home ground of a local football team. We were supposed to sleep in the dressing rooms and what could be better than this for a football fan.

Day two was a rather dull day for me, I was exhausted from the previous day cycling as I had not practiced at all for this expedition, overconfidence from expedition last year you know! However I managed to scramble through the day with all my energy. Enroute we went to a very interesting lake not known to many people. It’s name in the local language is budbudachi talav or “lake of bubbles“. The lake is normally calm, but when someone claps while standing along the edge, we can see bubbles rising from the base of the lake. My prejudiced mind was not ready to accept the fact that something like this can happen. So I started looking for fish at the bottom but found none. Then I thought that maybe it is a periodic phenomenon so I waited until no one clapped for five minutes. After some time of waiting I came to the conclusion that it really does happen that way and I was amazed by this lake.Our camp for the night was at the gates of Netravali Wild Life Sanctuary where we were supposed to sleep in a temple. Near the camp was another lake excavated to provide a watering hole for animals. The water was crystal clear and cold but I had to take a dip and yes I did! A few of my friends hiked to the Netravali waterfalls a few kilometers from the camp site. I was too exhausted to accompany them.

lake bubbles
Budbudachi lake

The third day began by exiting the Netravali camp going through the small villages and the road winded through the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary. This day’s ride was pretty eventful because we got to see the infamous and now defunct mines of Goa which were very huge. The Tambdi-Surla temple on the way is a temple of historical importance and a heritage site. We went through a ghat section which had an open tunnel where we clicked  a number of pictures. The ‘open tunnel’ was like a pass between a mountain but they chose to name it that way. The day ended with us reaching the camp at Kollem. This camp was a church where we had provision for a shower after two days of cycling.

netravaii
Netravali Wild Life Sanctuary

Day four was exciting because we were going to visit the Bondla zoo. When we left the camp at Kollem we were all  going through the beautiful route surrounded by trees riding in the shade at a leisurely pace, it was all normal until we reached the base of the Bondla hill. The uphill was pure torture, the slopes were so steep that the cycles even on the lowest possible gear combination were strenuous to ride. To add to it, the road was nothing but a trail with loose gravel. Despite that, I managed to cycle all the way to the top only to find that the zoo was closed as it was their weekly holiday. Disappointed, we clicked a few pictures to celebrate the three hour feat we all took to climb the hill. But when Newton said, ” what goes up must come down“, little did we realise that his quote was applicable to us as well. The three hour climb was rewarded with a continuous fifteen minute traffic less downhill ride(thanks to the weekly holiday). We all were so thrilled with the downhill ride that we wished it never ends.

The last day’s ride from Khandepar camp back to the base camp at Panaji saw us visiting the popular tourist destinations in Old Goa like the churches. We also had scrumptious non-veg meal after five days of vegetarian  food that we had gulped. Upon returning to the base camp, we were welcomed with an applause for completing the expedition. We all were ecstatic that we did it together with beautiful four days worth of memories.

This expedition to me was different than the previous because of a few reasons. Firstly, I met different people from different walks of life and different age groups,me being the youngest. I had planned to come with the people in cycling group which I had met at Jaisalmer. Secondly, I had a few noteworthy lessons regarding food and travel. Lastly, I lost my digital camera(or was it stolen) on the same day that I left for Pune. The few pictures that I have here in this blog are already posted on my Instagram page. All the other countless pictures and videos are all gone with the wind.

So, Goa which is  very popular for its beaches. I give you, my version.

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