Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Goa trip - Day 2 - Mario Gallery, Museum of Goa, Anjuna Beach

(This post continues from Goa Trip - Day 1)

Mario Gallery
On the second day, November 30, we set off for the Mario Gallery in Calangute. It has a delectable collection of illustrations by India's well-known cartoonist late Mario Miranda. Mario Gallery is not an imposing structure; it is a small store on the side of a busy road, and can be missed, but for the statues of some of the characters in front of the store.

"Please wipe that expression off
your face; people might think
we're married!"
This place was of particular interest to me because I grew up laughing my heart out over Mario's cartoons (with characters like Miss Fonseca, Bundaldass, and Rajani Nimbupani) that used to appear in The Illustrated Weekly. He brought out not only the subtle ironies and humour that punctuate the fast-paced lives of upwardly mobile Indians caught in the urban maze but also the tranquillity of the traditional Goan culture.

At the gallery, the cartoons are kept alive are on multiple fancy stuff like figurines, key chains, t-shirts, cups, wall-hangings, etc. I bought a few framed illustrations and refrigerator magnets, some as gifts for my friends and some for myself. They can be bought online too from the gallery website.

Museum of Goa
If you are riding around Goa in a motorbike (like we were), or in a car, then keep an eye on the fuel level. There aren't many petrol stations so it will be a good idea to have your tank topped up. That's what we did after the visit to Mario Gallery.

With a full fuel tank, we headed to the Museum of Goa, at Pilerne. This is a three-storied art gallery, that spreads over an area of 1,500 square meters, curated by artist Subodh Kerkar. The best thing is about this place is that you can enjoy looking at the works of art, even if you are not such a great art fan. Not a surprise, considering that one of the Kerkar's aims is to take art and local history to the larger audiences.

Each of the works has a historical context to it, and there is an informative write-up beside each of them that makes understanding the art easy. The art gallery is a sort of confluence of the historical legacy as well as the innate culture of Goa.

The section on chillies, a major component of
Indian recipes, but a foreign import  
There is one section on chillies, which is a major component of many Indian recipes. But chillies are not originally Indian. They came to India for the first time in the 16th century on a Portuguese ship at Goa from South America. Now, India the world's largest producer and consumer of chillies.

Read more on the museum website and on Wikipedia

It was almost 3 pm, and after lunch, headed back to the hotel. Changed our dress, and left for Anjuna beach.

Anjuna beach
This is arguably the most well-known beach in Goa. More than natural beauty, it is known for the wild trance parties youngsters have here. If there is a loose equivalent to Las Vegas in India, it is along the beaches here. One can sense the "no one cares" attitude hanging heavily in the air.

The culture goes back to the 1960s when foreign tourists, especially of the hippies of the flower generation, started flocking to the beach. Now you won't find so many of them. The place is actually swarming with crowds of young Indians who are looking for some fun. There are also plenty of shops from where you can buy anything from clothes to curios.

Sunset from Anjuna beach
Anjuna is also famous for the Wednesday flea market. We missed that as we arrived on Thursday, and would be leaving on Monday.

We watched the sunset from the Anjuna beach and headed back to the hotel.

(Goa Trip - Day 3)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Goa trip - Day 1 - Assagao, Vagator beach, Mapusa Hanuman temple

On way to Goa, somewhere in north
Karnataka, as seen from the train.
Goa is the smallest state (by area) and the richest state (by per capita GDP) in India. It is globally renowned for its beaches and natural beauty. It was a Portuguese colony for over 450 years, from 1510.

On way to the hotel from Margao railway station, in a cab
Not many, including Indians, know that Goa continued to be under Portuguese rule, for as many as 14 years after India won Independence in 1947. After Portugal repeatedly rejected Indian demand to leave, India had to send the military and annexed the State in a 36-hour battle called Operation Vijay, in December 1961.

Vagator Beach
Though the Portuguese left, the State continues
to have their influence, which makes it culturally a bit different from the rest of the country. Wild parties are common, and a carefree ambience generally pervades the coastal belt. In a sense, it's the Vegas of India. What happens in Goa, stays in Goa!

Vagator Beach
A trip to Goa has been long-pending. And finally, it was happening. On November 29, we, my wife and I, alighted at the Margao station around 6.15 am.

We had breakfast at a restaurant in the railway station and booked a cab from the pre-paid taxi counter. We reached our hotel (which was around 40 km away) in Assagao, Bardez sub-district, around 8 am.

The lush green landscape and the undulating roads and the quiet streets reminded me of the small towns in my home state of Kerala. This was a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle (even early in the day) in Bengaluru.

The cab driver was a deeply religious person but was driving at a very high speed. I was at times a bit worried and was tempted to tell him to drive slowly. I could see he was drawing a cross and saying a prayer every time we passed a church.

Vagator Beach
The check-in time at the hotel is 2 pm. So we kept our luggage in the cloakroom; freshened up and had breakfast.

One good thing about Goa is that you get cars and motorbikes on rent. That makes moving from one place to another easy and inexpensive. I checked the rates: Rs 400 a day for a
motorbike; if it's for more than a day, then it's Rs 300 a day. It's Rs 1,500 a day for a car. I hired a motorbike for four days. We were to leave on the fifth day.

Fountain in the park in Mapusa
It was 10 am. It wasn't difficult to decide where to head first. A beach, where else?! We chose to begin our tour with the Vagator beach, which is the northernmost beach in the Bardez region of the state. Being early in the day there wasn't much crowd. Clear waters. Gentle waves. Spent about an hour and a half there. Had some snacks in one of the beachside restaurants, and later lunch on way back to our hotel.

Rajasthani folk songs at hotel's poolside restaurant
At the resort, we had a single bedroom house all to ourselves. It was on the ground floor. We would have been happier if it was on one of the upper floors. But, that was okay, since the overall ambience and the environment of the hotel premises was so quiet, peaceful, and refreshing.

The day was the second death anniversary of my father. Traditionally, we go to a temple to pray for his soul. In the evening around 6 pm, we went to a Hanuman temple in Mapusa, about 5 km from the hotel. This is a very old temple, built in 1843. It has a very impressive architecture with marble floors.

A Rajasthani dance at hotel's
poolside restaurant
There is a park nearby, where we spent some time. There were about 20 people, young and old. Some chatting away, others on a brisk walk around the park. Some children were running around. A small illuminated water fountain kept the children entertained.

The ride back to the hotel through narrow and quiet roads (some of them dark with no streetlights) was an experience in itself.

We were back in the hotel around 8 pm. At the poolside restaurant, there was folk music and folk dance performance by artists from the state of Rajasthan. That was really good.

(Goa Trip - Day 2)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Claire Nelson's miraculous survival from the depths of despair

We Are The World Blogfest
This is an amazing story of hope triumphing over despair.

Thirty-five-year-old travel writer Claire Nelson from New Zealand was hiking in Joshua Tree National Park in California, in May this year, when she accidentally strayed off the trail. She hadn't checked the GPS and she had no idea that she was on a wrong track.

She climbed on a rock, which she thought was steady but actually wasn't. To her horror, she slipped and came hurtling down into a canyon 15 ft below.

It took awhile for her to realise what had happened -- she fallen into a place where she couldn't be heard by anyone nor anyone could see her.  Worse, she had badly broken her pelvis, and she couldn't move.

There was no mobile connectivity; so she couldn't call anyone nor she could text. She survived a scary first night, amidst fears of being bitten by rattlesnakes.

With the sun shining bright. She made use of the material available with her to make a contraption that would shield her from sunlight.

She was getting dehydrated as time went by. She was running out of the 3 liters of water she had carried; and was left with no option but to drink her urine to keep herself hydrated.

She was desperate and fears of not being able to survive was threatening to overpower her. She needed to talk to someone. So she videographed updates, so that in case she didn't make it, her family and friends would know what had happened.

But in the midst of all this, she didn't lose hope.  After nearly four days she heard the sound of a helicopter, and she stretched herself as much as she could and waved the umbrella-like contraption she had made to protect herself from the sun.

The authorities had been alerted by a friend of Claire, who hadn't heard from her for a while and began panicking as to what might have happened.

Claire was rescued and after surgery and  prolonged medical treatment, she is finally learnt to walk again.

BBC's Outlook Weekend, last week, featured Claire Nelson, in which she spoke to presenter Emily Webb narrating the entire sequence of events. The 25-minute programme is worth a listen.


Kiwi hiker Claire Nelson's incredible survival after three nights in US desert

Missing Kiwi woman Claire Nelson found injured in US national park

(This post is part of the We Are The World Blogfest, wherein participants share positive stories of hope and success.)