Sunday, December 12, 2010

Explore Goa: From Mobor to Palolem

My 21-gear Trek bicycle ride.
I decided to do the Mobor-Palolem route using a bicycle. I knew it would be challenging, considering that the route is full of small mountains but I felt my newly acquired 21-gear bike Trek bike would be up to the challenge. I was wrong.

I started early morning at 6:00 am. It was still dark as I cycled towards Cavelossim, to get to the ferry to cross over to Assolna.

My bike route from Mobor

I reached the ferry point at 6:30 am and realized that I missed the first trip. I had to wait till 7:00 am to get the next trip. The first light of dawn was slowly peeping through the horizon so I decided to try some long-exposure photography by the riverside.

Chilly and Misty morning in Cavelossim.
The ferry finally turned up and left sharp at 7:00 am. As we reached the other side, the sun finally decided to show up.

Sunrise at Cavelossim River.
I got off the ferry and rode towards Assolna. The local market of Assolna seemed to be frozen in time. I could see the exact same shops that stood here 20 years back, the cows freely roaming in the streets and making a general mess of the whole place and people setting up shop to sell fish and vegetables. Assolna (and most of the interior villages) have missed the tourism boat that has captivated all the coastal villages.

A fish seller in Assolna.
The ride from Assolna towards Betul could best be described as an expanded Fontainhas. Charming Portuguese style houses dotted on both sides of the road. Many of them palatial in size and some of them in ruins.

Houses like these dot the Assolna-Betul Road.
I reached Velim, which is another interior village that seems to be frozen in time. Even the Church is exactly as  it was 20 years ago.

Velim Church.
The school was about to start so the place was teeming with school children - many of them seemed to be fascinated by my very unusual looking bike.

Velim School children puzzled by the bike.
On the way to Betul, I passed by the Tollecanto graveyard. I am fascinated by graveyards that look peaceful and quiet - and this one looks extra peaceful because it is situated in the middle of the fields. Perhaps, it does not have the charm of the Aldona graveyard, but it would certainly feature in my top 10 list.

Tollecanto graveyard.
My next stop was at Baradi. The village of Baradi is populated by Kunbis (a tribe that generally specialized in daily labor such as rice plowing to make a living). Besides the Kunbis, Baradi is famous for its Holy Cross chapel that overlooks the Arabian sea and surrounding villages. In my time, you had to climb lots and lots of steps to reach the chapel, but now there is an access road. This is the first time I realized that my bicycle is no match for the South Goa mountains. I had to walk (and push the cycle) to the top. I was wheezing by the time I reached the chapel, but the effort was worth it.

View from Baradi Holy Cross Chapel.
The Holy Cross at Baradi.
You can climb the top of the cross but must ensure that you remove your footwear. Traditionally, people take 3 rounds before coming down. Since there is no separate entrance and exit, things get very messy on feast day (which is 3rd of May).

The Chapel is somewhere in the middle of the hill, so I decided to climb all the way to the top. I was disappointed because I couldn't get a view down because of overgrown trees. But I did find this lonely place right on top of the hill.

Top of Baradi Hill.
 It was nearly 8:30 am, and I was feeling hungry. I wasn't expecting any gourmet breakfast in Baradi so I decided to look around for "pao-bhaji", which the is Goan equivalent of McDonalds. It's fast, cheap and available everywhere. Unlike McDonalds, it is very delicious.

My breakfast: Mix-bhaji & Pao.
There was a lot of racket going on. I asked a local what's happening. He explained to me that there is a logeen (Hindu wedding) and a wedding (default for Christian wedding) happening today. The cool thing is that both the houses are next to each other!.

The Hindu house decorated for the Logeen.
The Christian house also decorated for the wedding.
I peeped inside the Hindu house where all the racket was going on. It was basically a live band going full blast. I use the term "live band" loosely because it sounded more like noise to me, but I am a photographer not a music connoisseur.

A live musical act at the Logeen.
As I left the noise behind me, I came across a Zhor (fountain). There were few ladies washing clothes and they did not seem to have any problem having their pictures taken - especially after I spoke a few reassuring words in the Konkani language.

Ladies washing clothes at the Zhor (fountain).
I crossed Betul and encountered my first real hill/mountain. It was very steep which required me to get off the bicycle and push the bike all the way to the top. A small side lane at the top caught my attention. I thought it might lead to one of the secluded beaches that dot this hilly area so I decided to check it out. I was right. The path leads to the end of the hill with the beach right down.

Secluded beach at Betul.
There is no direct path to reach the beach. I left the bike on top of the hill and followed a narrow and steep path down.

Small lake next to the Betul beach.
Not a single soul in sight. This beach is truly secluded. The ascent back to the top of the hill was very tiring. No wonder the beach is devoid of people.

I continued riding towards Palolem. There is a diversion that takes one to Cabo-De-Rama fort. I remember visiting this fort about 10 years back but cannot recollect much about my visit. I thought this would be a good opportunity to visit the fort and photograph it.

Entrance to Cabo-De-Rama fort. 
Entrance to the fort is free. The place is mostly in ruins but has some fantastic views of the Arabian sea. It houses a functioning chapel that holds weekly service.

St.Anthony Church at Cabo-De-Rama.
View of Cabo-De-Rama beach from the top of the fort.
The rocky beach of Cabo-de-Rama.
Ruins of Cabo-De-Rama fort.
Another stunning view from top of the fort.
I was very thirsty by now as it was nearing noon time. I stopped at a local bar to have the Goan favorite.

Chilled Kingfisher beer to quench thirst.
Next came the hardest part of my journey. The mountain from Cabo-de-Rama to Canacona is very high. It was essentially walk+push the bike for the next 2 hours. At every bend, I would feel that I have reached the top, only to be mocked and greeted by another long climb. The sun was directly above me so the trees on either side of the road could offer me neither shade nor mercy. My skin turned 2 shades of black during these 2 hours.

Turn after turn of agonizing climb.
I finally reached Palolem beach at 3 pm. 9 hours after I started my journey from Mobor. I was tired and all my muscles were aching. There was no way in hell that I could make the return journey back to Mobor on the same day so I took up a room in Palolem, had a fresh bath and just crashed out.

The evening at Palolem was a relaxing affair. Just walking on the beach and having dinner at one of the beach shacks listening to the waves crashing into the beach.

Children playing at Palolem beach at sunset.
Sunset at Palolem beach.
Early dawn at Palolem beach.
Sunrise at Palolem beach.
The next morning, I packed my bags and headed back to Margao - which is where my sister lives and where I am currently holed up.


Mark Gillett said...

What a great blog.... Well done you. Photos are good too!

Cajie said...

Thank you so much Mark for your words of encouragement. Attending your motivational seminar had a lot to do with this trip of mine.

Mohammad said...

Awesome Cajie you sound like a global trekker really nice work ....btw the beginning nneds correction its 6:am you got pm over there ... meet you soon

John said...

I am really enjoying your blogs. Im now thinking of doing the similar trip on bike

Cajie said...

Thanks Mohammad. Mistake corrected.

Cajie said...

@Mohammad. Thanks. Error corrected.

@John. It is an excellent idea as you get to enjoy nature at its best.
However, if you plan to tackle the mountains, then be warned. They need a lot of effort. You need a good cycle and you need to be very fit.

Merwyn Rodrigues said...

Nice photos