The Goan Holiday: Day 2 – A Spiritual Trip Around North Goa
Armed with umbrellas and raincoats, after having a breakfast of chole bhature- spicy chickpea curry with fried bread (straight from the frying pan to our plates), fresh yoghurt, pasta made with a Indian twist, a cup of tea, we were good to go. Lush green trees with undergrowth giving it the appearance of a green carpet grew on either side of the road. Homes were built in the Portuguese style and looked like the buildings left behind by the French in Vietnam- buildings, compound walls and even the pavements were yellow. Not the yellow as “Yellow, yellow, dirty fellow”, as the kids would say but a warm, cheery yellow which provides an excellent backdrop against blue skies which were now grey due to the Monsoon season and the blue waters which were now more brown-grey due to the heavy rains.
The town, is full of parlours offering temporary and permanent tattoos. In fact, even as you walk down the street or take a stroll on the beach, you’ll find vendors who will shout out to you offering their services to etch a tattoo on you. We very politely had to repeatedly state that we were a “non-tattoo family”. Obviously, they were irked. Other than tattoo shops, Goa is also famous for cashew nuts (‘kaju’ in Hindi) and alcohol (‘daru’ in Hindi).
Here’s a haiku on getting comfortable in Goa
A mug of Daru,
Plain, salted, roasted Kaju,
And a black Tattoo!
The first activity chalked for the day, was boating on the Mandovi river. The sun, bright overhead, dressed as tourists would, covered in sun-screen, a sun-hat and sun-glasses, the 9 of us headed towards the jetty. A expansive park, more like a botanical garden, albeit without the names marked on the trees, had to be crossed to reach the jetty. Hundreds of trees provided a respite from the scorching monsoon sun. The difference in temperature in the garden as compared to where we parked our van across the road was significant and we so wished we could stay a little longer but the ferry boat was waiting. The sea was rough and the waves rocked the boat. The ferry boat could carry around fifty passengers at a time. One had to watch the waves and climb into the boat at the right time to avoid getting drenched by the waves. Once we were comfortably seated on the boat, a sudden, unexpected, shower lowered the temperature instantly and all those who had taken the seats on the side to get a better view had to vacate the seats as the rain splashed in. The sudden commotion added to the excitement of being in a rocking boat with no life jackets on a river that joined the Arabian sea. The guide on the boat had nothing much to say except “look to the right and you will see the Casino owned by the owner of …, look to the left and this cruise has a casino owned by …”. My sister-in-law who had a stiff neck from the night before, was healed by the end of the boat ride.
When you’re on holiday, you simply must experience everything even if you’ve done it before in another country and this boat ride was just that. Once the music started blaring through the speakers, a few local lads started dancing (the dance steps done routinely when men in India dance on the streets on a festival, in a wedding celebration or any other occasion, the steps made famous by Amitabh Bachchan in the 80s’ ). The steps remain the same irrespective of the music being played. No complaints though because it adds to the “Indian” holiday feel and it’s part of the package. Strangely enough, a few such boys happened to be there on another passing boat as well. In India, people are naturally competitive and dancing on a ferry boat was just another ground for competing. While the boats crossed each other, they waved to each other and seeing the boys in the other boat dance with gusto, the ones on our boat responded with greater energy.
The other landmarks that were pointed out was the Central Jail, the church in which a scene from the movie, “Amar, Akbar, Antony” and then some other locations where other movies were shot.
The waves got a little turbulent as we neared the Arabian Sea and our boat had to be steered back into safer waters. While the trip is not informative and certainly not the best boat ride to experience in terms of scenic beauty, it’s definitely worth one ride. We decided to cancel the night cruise that was supposed to be on the same river.
If you prefer seeing the cruise liners lit up against the dark skies and do not have kids with you, you could opt for the dinner cruise rather than the boating experience or you could go for both and enjoy the rustic dance by the local boys by day and a romantic dinner by night.
The next stop for the day was St. Francis Xavier’s Church
The church was built in 1884 and still houses the body of St. Francis Xavier. Everybody who visits Goa, generally visits the Church once, some to appreciate the beauty of the construction itself and most to pray at the Chapel. The body of the Saint is taken out of the casket every 10 years for 45 days. It was last taken out on 24th November 2014. The laterite walls of the church are adorned with a tiled roof. The church grounds are beautifully maintained and also house a museum which has artefacts dating to 400 B.C. There is a solitary road leading to the church from St. Paul’s college. It was originally dedicated to St. Jerome or St. Antony but was re-dedicated to St. Francis Xavier after he was canonised by Pope Gregory. It’s better to use the services of a guide at the Church. They charge a bare Rs.100.00 for all the information on the Church.
The church grounds are massive and are beautifully maintained. The complex is equal to any of those in Europe.
The grounds are so clean and the rains made it cool to walk around bare-feet ( was a necessity for me,thanks to shoe bites I got with walking around in flip flops).
Close to the Church is the Ruins of the Church of St. Augustine. On the way we bought ice-creams. There are lots of vendors selling ice-creams, sodas, mangoes cut and sprinkled with salt and chilli powder and roasted corn on the cob. You can have them if you have a strong stomach. If not, I suggest you stay away from them unless you’re sure of a washroom close by.
Built in 1602, it was perhaps once the largest church in Goa but was deserted in 1835. The buildings fell into neglect and the façade and half the tower fell in 1931. Some more of it collapsed in 1938. Now, what meets the eye is a single tower that stands tall, defying the rains and the wind, in honour of what, once was a richly adorned place of worship. Once you make walk up the slope towards the tower, you can see what once were the rooms in the church.
The temple is located in Mangueshi Village and is famous because it is also the village of the iconic Indian singer sisters – Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. In fact, many even mistake them to be the patrons of the temple which is not true. The temple is devoted to the Hindu God- Shiva who is also known as Mangueshi. The village is named after the God. The temple complex is simple yet elegant. Built in white stone, it has a deepastamba (tower in which lamps are lit every Monday) in front of it. There is a pond adjoining the temple which is the oldest part of the temple. There are several legends associated with how the main deity was brought to this particular place. It is considered to be one of the most sacred temples in Goa. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Note : One must be appropriately dressed to enter the temple and must not wear anything above knee length. The temple does provide shawls for free, that can be worn as a sarong to cover your legs if you end up at the temple in shorts.
Beaches in South Goa
On the way, we passed a number of beaches – Benaulim beach, Colva Beach amongst others and these were part of our tour. As per the children “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”. The girls’ wanted to get off at a beach only if they were allowed to walk in the waters and get wet, so we decided to skip the beaches and head back to Calangute beach, where our resort was, so that we and they could enjoy the waters and the sand without worrying about getting dirty.
There are a number of beach-side restaurants that serve Goan food but we did not try any of these and stuck to the proper restaurants and if you have a sensitive tummy like mine, then the beach restaurants may not be for you.
Lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf : 3.30 p.m.
Lunch was Goan coconut fish curry, masala fried crab with rice for the non-vegetarians, Thai green curry with vegetable, fried rice and Mushroom Tonak for the vegetarians. The fish curry was heavenly and the crab meat, succulent.
Tip: 1) Don’t try using your teeth to get the meat out of the crab. Ask the restaurant for cutters to break through the king crab and scoop out the meat.
2) Forget your diet when you’re on holiday. There’s enough time for it after the holidays 🙂
For all those with a sweet tooth, there’s lots on the menu. We stuck to Tiramisu and we weren’t disappointed.
The drive back home took around two hours. We were exhausted but content. The trip had been both spiritually and mentally satisfying and the food had been the cherry on the top.
Grateful for today,
I looked out of the window,
At the fleeting landscapes,
Fields filled with water,
Farms dotted with solitary cows,
Bridges over muddy rivers,
Hillocks covered in green…
The sky was a dark black,
The rain poured hard,
A cool breeze gently blowed,
In the van, little heads bobbed, eyes closed,
Tired, their faces looked content,
Carefree and young,
Blessed with the joy of togetherness,
I looked up at heavens above,
And wished upon a star,
May happiness and love be theirs forever…
Tomorrow, we go to the forts of Goa, which are unlike any I have seen. Forts that will make you experience how it must have felt for a warrior, to stand right on the top with a view of the land and the sea. Forts that are now famous because they have been showcased in successful movies and most Indians go there try and pose like the actors in the movie. We weren’t an exception to that for we are truly Indian.
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