Monday, November 3, 2014

On the Road Diary - Day 3, Amboli, Calangute

Amboli is most famous for the Amboli ghat which we take to go to Goa. Its in Maharashtra and the MSTDC (Tourism) runs a fine place here. The town is really small and one passes through it in a few minutes. Amboli is at a height of 690 m (so?) and is the last mountain resort before the ghats take you down into the beaches (ok!). There are a few resorts, treks, sunset points etc which make up quiet holidays (no!).

We set out after breakfast in pouring rain. The skies were dark, the rain pelted hard and the ghats were beautiful. Slowly and slowly we inched onwards (I mean the cars inched onwards and we hunched inside them), driving around the bends, watching out for the  adventurous ones. It took a while to reach the bottom of the hills. Uneventful. Relief.
Calangute beach, the new mela

At the Sindhudurg police checkpost we saw some mischief. The cop was waving down all vehicles that were entering Goa. Why? Its the Goa police that needs to check right, if at all. All car drivers made their way to the fat cop sitting inside the room. He waved all Maharashtra cars away and collected 50 bucks from all else. 'What for?' I asked. 'Arre pyar se dene ka!' he told me. (For love, my love.) I didn't have the energy to fight but seriously, he was just sitting there and collecting money from every car. Now I can imagine what he will do if someone does not have the papers in order. Corruption and love.

In total contrast, the Goan police check post let us in without any checking. There was a toll somewhere I remember, just before Goa I guess, and a steep amount too. Must be Goa charges. Not there before if I remember. And then we headed towards Calangute where Milind had zeroed down on Souza Lobo as the restaurant to visit for lunch. It was lunch time already. I could feel the clock ticking away in my stomach.
Souza Lobo from a distance

The sun was now shining bright. Goa was full of people and cars. I mean really full. Add the narrow roads of Goa and you get a taste of full. It is the Diwali weekend so we cannot expect any less. But the sheer number of people, is daunting. We slowly made our way to the parking lot near Calangute and parked there. From there we footed it to the Souza Lobo which is by the sea.

The Indian tourist is a different specimen. This is not the same person he or she normally is. And - the Indian tourist in Goa is even more different. Goa is the other name of possibilities. Of unknown good times. Of food. Of bikini clad women. Of foreigners. Of drugs. Of sex (hopefully). Or so the dream goes. What it does transpire into is this. Start yelling loudly or drive recklessly. Buy skimpy clothes irrespective of how the body shape is. Flaunt tattoo or get tattoo. Look lecherously at everyone in the hope of hitting on someone. Not finding much response, hit the beach. Get more reckless. Watch bikini clad foreigner walk past and get more adventurous i.e. swig more beer and walk closely hoping they will invite you for you-know-what. They don't. Get sun and fall into water fully clothed or in under clothes. Get aggressive with everyone because hey, you are on holiday. Its a fish market out there in Calangute. And hey, the way to avoid the aggressive Indian crowd is to move some 300 metres away from the entry to the beach. For some reason all these chaps get off the vehicles, head straight into the ocean in a straight line and head straight back in the same straight line. They rarely venture off the track. And then they eat idli and vada and biryani. I did that my first time here so I know.

I know the aggressive Indian tourist in Goa so I stayed away from them.They are best left to themselves. We went to Souza Lobo and ordered what we normally order in Goa. Idly and vada. Just kiddin. Beer and fish curry rice is more like it. After a long long long lunch (food is great, service excellent, bill enormous) we headed on to the beach. It was hot. The beach was lined with about a million people. Welcome to Goa.
A teaser of Hotel Raman

Post all the lunch and stuff we went looking for our place of stay, Hotel Raman. Its not easy to find. Take Calangute - Baga road (the road that goes to Baga from Calangute which is no more than 3 kms so dont drive longer because then you're on the wrong road or in the sea) and drive till you see The Church of Lady Piety on right. Opposite it you see small lane going in, perhaps showing signs leading to Estrado Del Mar (Hotel Raman's neighbour). Go into lane and keep going and going, left and right, right and left until you are are dizzy and find Raman. The whole distance from main road to this place can't be more than 500 metres but it will have at least 10 turns.
Rain drops 

Turns out that Raman is a great property. Really nice. It has cottages. It has rooms. It has a pool. It has a restaurant by the sea. It has a good cook. It has well done up rooms. And they take credit cards which is amazing in Goa. It has service which is rather reticent (why?). It has rates which are very reasonable for the class it offers.
Walk from Calangute to Baga, you can walk past the mountain behind and reach Anjuna
Check in. Its raining again. Talk of cyclone. The beach is crowded. We walk towards Baga. The sea was rough in the morning, really rough. By evening the tide went out and the beach was flat and friendly.

Anjali got herself a stick and started writing in the sand as we walked. 'Shack' she'd write and point. 'Life guard' and an arrow. 'Restaurant and an arrow. 'If someone wants to find a shack they can see this and find,'  she said. Very helpful. I like this altruistic streak.

The evening dinner at Raman got us into close contact with Manoj Naik, who runs the Raman kitchen highly efficiently. A man with unbounded enthusiasm, great culinary skill and zero patience. On first instance he will give you approximately 12 seconds to make up your mind else he will disappear. Subsequent entries will give you five seconds at best. 'Time nahin hai,' he says. Anyway we somehow got everything organised and life went on.
Directions to lost souls

It rained cats and dogs that night. Who the hell came up with that stupid expression I wonder. Must be those sadistic chaps who wrote all those nursery rhymes. Why would one imagine cats and dogs falling from heaven. What are the animal rights chaps doing? Get this expression banned. Anyway I slept off on some wonderful beds that the Raman hotel offers. Really nice. The interiors are so tasteful that all is forgiven. No one with such nice taste cane be bad.
Flower and rain

Anjali watched cartoons till late. At one point I called her to tell her to reduce the volume a bit. She shut the television off instantly. And then she heard what I said. 'Oh,' she said.'I shut it off by mistake.' Poor thing. She thought I would reprimand her for late night viewing. I told her to watch as long as she wants. Poor kids. What all fears they grow up with. Poor me, I wonder what all fears I grew up with. That's for the shrink. I propose to walk the beach if the rain lets up. Its my favorite pastime in Goa.

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