“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.” ― Charles Dickens
Homecoming is a celebration, a feeling of being at home with our folks. I am talking about my recent trip to Goa. Yes, Goa, a state on India’s West coast – one of the most popular tourist destinations in India – is my home town. It has unique fusion of Indian and Portuguese architecture and cultures and famous for its beaches and places of worship. The best time to visit is between November and March when the weather is beautifully pleasant & clear with a cool sea breeze blowing through. I have seen a heavy influx of tourists between October and January.
I decided to drive to Goa from my base location Pune. It is a 450 kms drive and takes anywhere between 8-9 hours; however for me the drive was 12-14 hours, why? – because of my photo stops, to capture the picturesque moments along our journey. While there are many flight options, a drive to Goa, especially post rains, is captivating – a completely different experience. You should try it sometime; in case you have not done that before.
I started in early morning hours @5:30 am – this helps, as I then manage to cover the majority of the journey avoiding peak traffic. Also the golden hours are the time of day with the best lighting – photographers swear by this “golden hour” or “magic hour”, as it is sometimes called. The route I drove was Pune – Satara – Kolhapur – Amboli – Sawantwadi – Goa (NH4 which is the Pune-Bengaluru highway). While there are also other routes how one can choose to take – via Belgaum – Chorla Ghat – I was advised to take the Amboli road. The recent monsoon fury had lead to landslides at Chorla Ghat completely disrupting the road and traffic.
My first stop was for breakfast. It was near Satara where I got a beautiful morning view of the Windmills of Chalkewadi. These windmills stretch over a 5 km plateau and supply electricity to Satara and neighboring places like Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, as I understand.
I normally eat light during such long drives, so had a small cup of tea and moved on. Majority of the highway was in excellent condition barring a few belts where there were diversions due to fly over construction work. The first “Ghat” (mountain pass) you will come across is the Khambhatki Ghat. This is a drive of 10-12 kms and a comfortable one.
There are 2 ways one can drive through Amboli:
1. Immediately after Nipani, once you cross the Tavandi ghat, you take a right (Landmark: Goa Ves Restaurant), which is the Nipani Ajra Link Road.
2. You drive ahead for about 8-10 kms and take the Sankeswar exit towards Gadhinglaj.
Both roads meet at Ajara, where you continue your journey towards Goa via Amboli.
I preferred the First Option
And here is where you experience the “countryside” beauty of India. The road passes through villages, farms and beautiful landscapes. I took a short halt near a farm where a farmer and his family were harvesting groundnuts. I walked up to their farm and started chatting with them, inquiring about their daily tasks. They offered me fresh groundnuts and man!! were they tasty!!! – fresh from mother earth, sweet and juicy!!!. The taste was very different than that of the usual ones we have at our urban abodes. The drive to Amboli Ghat (mountain pass) was for about an hour or so.
Like I said earlier, this drive is something I always look forward to, especially post rains. It is a 10-14 kms compelling drive among thick forests and beautiful natural landscapes. Amboli Ghat is a hill station, located in the Sindhudurg district of South Maharashtra. This ghat, considered to be one of the most beautiful drives in India, is also a major tourist attraction. June to September is the peak season to visit and one finds very good resort options – a great weekend retreat. It lies in the Konkan region near Maharashtra’s border with Goa. There are also tea and snack stalls mid-way where you can take a break and enjoy the tea and snacks.
I was not alone by the way and some real great company. Very inquisitive and bold – not afraid of the tourists. They were used to these kind of surroundings. However, I am told that, they can be nasty at times, so one needs to take care. Since I was doing a photo shoot, they were good boys.😊
Your drive through the ghat will cut through the beautiful Amboli forest where youenter Sawantwadi, which was formerly the capital of the Sawantwadi State ruled by the Sawant Bhonsle royal clan of the Marathas. This place is known for its wooden handicrafts, hand-made cards colorfully painted. The focus of the town is a lake in the center of called as “Moti Talav”.
From here it is a scenic 90 min drive to Goa (of course depending on your landing destination). I stayed at Porvorim which is about 8 kms before Panaji. I reached at around 3:00 pm and immediately headed for lunch to a Portuguese classic restaurant – O Coqueiro. This restaurant specializes in Goan cuisine and you should definitely try their Chicken Cafreal.
I myself am a dedicated foodie and also love cooking. I always prefer to try the local cuisine wherever I go. . And Goa being my home town, it is a blessing in disguise. For breakfast, you should try the Mixed Bhaji (vegetables) and Unne (Hard Bread) at Tatos, Café Bhonsale and Café Real – in Panjim. You will have a mouth-watering experience of delectable breakfast.
Amongst other sweet dishes you must try the Serra Durra or Sawdust pudding – a wonderful Goan Portuguese style dessert. This dessert is unbelievably simple and easy to whip up in a jiffy with only four readily available ingredients. You should have it chilled and it is a perfect party for your taste buds. Very simple to make as well – as it does not require any baking or cooking. For this, I would specifically recommend Café Bhonsale and O’Coqueiro.
If you are savvy for Sushi Food, then you must visit Yaki Zushi. This restaurant serves authentic pan-Asian cuisine & probably the best Sushi in Goa, in fact the best I ever had. Starting with their ambience, it was peaceful and unique. A great place to relax and chill. I always visit this restaurant whenever I am in Goa and have observed that they maintain very a high level of quality in the food they serve by importing the finest ingredients.
Continuing the food story, how can one not mention Fish (sincere apologies to vegetarians 😊). For fish lovers, one has to visit the fish markets in Goa. Here I would suggest you should visit the one in Margao, which has been recently given a face lift. You can get a variety of options to choose from and they are very fresh and tasty. Some of the local delicacies are – Snapper, Mussels, Sardines. Since I had a self-catering accommodation, I visited the Panaji market and my wife cooked some delicious food
My main intention of travelling to Goa was to attend a marriage function and visit my folks. It had been a while since I had visited anyone and also the occasion was perfect. Marriage is one function in Goa where you can meet all relatives at the same platform. The venue was near Mangeshi Temple, which is midway between Panaji and Margao. A very well known tourist attraction, it houses the deity Lord Mangesh, an incarnation of Lord Shiva – the Hindu God of Destruction.
Next day, I planned to go to Bicholim (also known as Divchal and Dicholi) , a small town in North Goa – located about 30 kms from the capital Panjim. I was enthusiastic to attend the famous festival of this town called ‘Novo Somvar’. This festival is celebrated in the honor of the Goddess Shri Shantadurga. Folks from all over Goa throng in this town to visit the temple and offer prayers to the Goddess. The whole town is decorated with colorful lights and streets are full of small shops selling toys, gift articles etc.
The main attraction is the Palki (also called Palanquin) of the Goddess which is taken across the whole town. It starts in the evening and carries on till late night. All the folks pay their respects to the Goddess. One can also witness vocal performances performed by school kids and renowned artists. It is an atmosphere of great pomp and enthusiasm that cannot be missed. This festival is celebrated every year in the month of December, so in case you happen to be in Goa during that period, do visit. You will positively get a unique experience of local Goa.
The other main attraction are the sweet shops – Orange Ladoos, Khaje, Revadi or Gajak – which you can savor. I would like to divert your taste buds specifically to “Khaje”. This sweet is made from a mix of chick pea flour, jaggery and ginger. While this sweet is available throughout the season, it usually has food colour added, is what I have experienced. But for such occasions, you can actually taste the home cooked form of this sweet.
I returned to my home late night after an unforgettable experience of the positive and energetic environment of the festival. The next day after completing the daily chores, I had planned for a night tour of Panaji.
I first visited the Panaji Church (Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church) – a popular tourist destination right in the heart of Panaji. It is beautifully adorned with colorful lights as there was a feast – universally celebrated on December 8 as the “Feast of the Immaculate Conception”.
I also captured some light trails and the recently restored Unity Statue at the center of Miramar circle. Surrounded by a series of fountains and strikingly lit, it now has become a major attraction once again, which had faced much neglect over the years,
My final day was a trip around Panaji and Margao. I started in Panaji early morning with my camera gear and began my photo walk around the city. I first took a stroll on the pavement right next to the majestic Mandovi river and also in the inner streets of the city. It is a different feeling especially early mornings or sunset where you can view the casino boats, cruise boats, fishermen boats, etc on the river cruising along – a pleasing sight to watch. Being early morning, it was deserted an a pleasant walk.
I then left for Margao first at around 10:00 am, for some personal chores. It took around an hour or so for me to reach. Along the way, I came across this quaint hotel alongside the Zuari river – Café Amrapali – House of Grace a boutique hotel. It used to be a 100-year old Portuguese goan villa converted into this beautiful resort. One can also witness the infrastructure face lift – flyovers that are being constructed in full swing, connecting key locations – Panaji, Margoa, Vasco (Airport).
I reached Panaji in the late afternoon and went on to explore the city life. The kind of interesting encounters and random incidents within public place you can stumble upon are quite amusing. I encountered a group of “Pigeon Friends who had parked their bikes for a get together😊. Then I had the honor of meeting “”Mr Chivas and Mr Absolute. And finally an interesting hoarding with a striking message. A new element discovered by HP – “CO(square)” to reduce emissions 😊
My next destination was Siridao Beach. While there are many popular beaches around Goa, this one in particular was off beat and silent. A good place to release your stress and rejuvenate yourself. Mind you, there aren’t many restaurants or bars around, unlike other popular beaches. But this is a haven for nature and macro photos, and I took full advantage of it. 😊
Finally, the day came where I had to return back to Pune. Again we hit the road in the early morning via the Amboli route. I was amazed to experience how different my return journey would be. A few stops on the way, but worth the wait. 😊
Reached Pune in 9-10 hrs.
So my friends, thank you once again for your love, support and motivation that has brought me this far – my 3rd Blog post. I will continue this journey to share my travel story-tales and entertain you more. 😊
If you enjoyed this post, like it, comment on it 😊. I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!
9 thoughts on “Wander-Man: Home Coming”
Well written blog…good that you right in first person as it develops a good connect with readers!
Please continue this talent with passion as you have serious gift of expression apart from a super lens eye.
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Thoroughly enjoyed your travel blog, majestic clicks gives the feel of your emotions n imagination, your every detailed explanation on routes , local dishes, off beat places n people. In nutshell, loving your blog every moment..keep continuing !!
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Thanks a lot Subbu. 👍🙏
Thank you for your Lovely comments.. keeps me agile and going..
Loved the local details you included. Remembered home 😀 Hope you enjoyed meeting Mr Chivas 🥃
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Another excellent blog bro. Never realised the beauty of konkan and getting anxious to visit Goa again. Enjoyed the complete blog.
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Good one Sohil. It’s been 5 years plus, time to book a trip again for sure. And this time surely some local delicacies recommended by you. Keep writing.
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Nice job Boss!! Really captured the flavor of your trip and Goa from a native son of the soil perspective. Very different side of you emerging in this blog as well. You have a genuine style of writing – do it more often. Now you’ve got me wanting to book tickets!!!!
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