Things to do around Goa – Travel Guide
1. Things to do around Goa Travel Guide Goa is modest in size compared to most Indian states but not so small that transportation is not an issue. Luckily for the Goans who commute between their towns and villages on a daily basis and Indian and overseas visitors who throng here, there is a reasonably efficient public transport infrastructure in place. Bus: Kadamba Transport Corporation (KTC) as well as private bus companies operate on fixed routes, and between them cover all parts of the state. The bus services are regular and ply from early morning to late night. Tickets can be bought after boarding the bus - the fares are so cheap that they qualify as downright scandalous! The downside is the buses tend to stop every so often and because the fares are kept low, are packed with local citizens and tourists alike. Taxi: Four wheeled options include the black and yellow taxi or the `tourist taxi' found outside hotels, airports, and bus and train termini and around tourist centres. The ubiquitous three- wheeled auto-rickshaw is now found all over India. Noisy and bone-rattling though they are, autos are popular because they cost less than standard cabs, take as many as four passengers and prove quite efficacious in traffic jams! From four to three to two! Goa is the only place in India to have a fleet of motorcycle taxis. Easily recognized by their bright yellow mudguards or fenders, motorcycles taxis are popular and fast - the catch is that they can only carry one passenger as pillion rider! 2. Ferry: Where there's water, there's a way! Goa is criss-crossed by numerous rivers, creeks and inlets deep enough to be navigable consequently ferry and launch services are cost-effective in terms of both time and money. Launches ply between Dona Paula, Panaji and Marmagao Harbour, a ride of some 40-45 minutes in good weather conditions. The launch service is suspended during the monsoons (June-September). Goans rely on the flat-bottomed ferryboats to cross un-bridged rivers and creeks to their home villages or simply to avoid the drive to the nearest bridge. Ferries are available between the following places: 1. Aldona-Corjuem 2. Amona-Khandola 3. Aronda-Kiranpani 4. Assolna-Cavelossim 5. Carona-Calvim 6. Cortalim-Marcaim 7. Cortalim-Agassaim 8. Durbhat-Rassoi 9. Keri-Tiracol 10. Narva-Divar Island 11. Old Goa-Divar Island/ Piedade 3. 12. Raibandar-Divar Island 13. Panaji-Betim 14. Pomburpa-Chorao 15. Raia-Shiroda 16. Raibandar-Chorao 17. Sarmanos-Tonca, St. Estevam 18. Savoi-Verem-Tishem Kothambi 19. Siolim-Chopdem 20. Vanxim-Itagem (Divar Island) 21. Vanxim-Old Goa 22. Volvoi Surla-Maina Rentals: In Goa, it is possible to rent a car, a coach, a jeep, a bicycle, a scooter or even a motorcycle the latter being most popular with youngsters and backpackers. Any rental requires a valid license but the bottomline before hiring a vehicle is to check its roadworthiness. It is equally important to carry requisite papers (license, registration and insurance), as the rentee is held liable in case of accident and license checks on foreigners have long been considered a profitable source of additional income for local traffic policemen. Car: An interesting cross-section of vehicles is available from a host of car rental agencies. Most hotels have preferred dealers and it is sensible to opt for them. On the whole, car rentals are expensive and rates vary depending on model and air conditioning! Taxis and tourist taxis cost marginally less plus offer the inherent advantage of being driven by a clued-up local. Motorcycles: Two wheelers heavy-duty Enfield Bullet motorcycles and their lighter Japanese cousins, gearless 100cc scooters and mopeds are much in demand with younger travellers and backpackers. These can be hired on pro rata or monthly basis (rates depend on season and demand) along with a security deposit. Bicycles: The cheapest and most eco-friendly transport available, alas, is effective only for short distance unless one has trained for the tour de France. Bikes, the every basic model with no fancy gear or speeds, can be hired just about everywhere and are available for as little as Rs 40 per day, maybe less, maybe more depending on the demand and each party's ability parley. TRAIL I-BOMBAY TO GOA Mumbai-Panvel-Chiplun-Sawantwadi-Panaji A journey by road is a voyage of discovery and this one winds its way to Goa through the districts of Raigadh, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg in the Konkan - the narrow strip of land lying between the green clad hills of the Western Ghats and the blue waters of the Arabian Sea. The 4. incredibly beautiful Konkan coast has a rich cultural heritage and a long history seen in the ancient forts, palaces and temples that evoke the magic and romance of an era long over. Contrast this with a perfect holiday environment - miles and miles of undiscovered beaches, tranquil retreats in misty hills, dark forests riven by silver cascades, rivers, estuaries and creeks that connect land to sea, paddy fields and orchards of astonishing green, tiny fishing hamlets and red roofed villages. And Goa is still to come! Different Strokes! By Konkan Railway: Those who love train journeys would revel in the Konkan experience. The KR train to Goa snakes its way through coastal Maharashtra, conserving its energies for the final charge through deep tunnels and great viaducts strung over rivers and valleys that lie between the densely forested slopes of the Sahyadris on the one side and the wind tossed waters of the Arabian Sea on the other. By Air: Flights to Goa may not offer much by way of scenic delights but make up for it by getting to Goa's Dabolim Airport in less time than it took to check in! By Bus: Plenty of buses and in all categories from overcrowded bone -shakers to well spring deluxe air-conditioned coaches. The ride takes all of 17 hours but look at the bright side there's time enough to bond with fellow travellers! Or culminate a romance, solve a murder 5. and bring to book a few villains, as did Amitabh Bacchan and Aruna Irani in 'B to Goa', the celluloid classic of the early 70s. NB: See Air, Train and Bus Schedules in the chapter on Getting to Goa. Out of Mumbai: Start as you mean to go! Hit the road as early as possible to beat the interminable Mumbai traffic unless the excitement of bumper-to-bumper grind is your particular high. The flyovers between Mumbai and Panvel are the Mumbai Municipal Corporation's bequest to Mumbai's harried citizens taxpayers benefit from marginally diminished driving time and stress, those fleeing the city have the option of a quick getaway and non-taxpaying citizens get a roof and shelter (albeit no privacy) under them. But thanks to the flyovers and the bridge over Thane Creek, the Mumbai Panvel stretch can be negotiated less than an hour on a good day on days that weren't meant to be, it can take as long as forever. Panvel: Only those who must, stop at Panvel, everyone else take the bypass to skip Panvel (with its suburban grime, decay, squalor and congested streets) and catch National Highway 17 at Vadhkal Naka. Poised at the crossroads at Vadhkal Naka, this is the moment of decision or indecision! The road to the left (NH 17) heads towards Goa and Mangalore (Karnataka), the one on the right winds its way to the fishing hamlets of Kihim, Kashid, Murud-Janjira and the well- heeled Mumbaikar's favorite weekend getaway at Alibaug. These seaside villages along the Konkan coast have given a new lease of life to weary and jaded denizens of Mumbai who've been everywhere (almost) and don everything (nearly everything)! Tailor-made for made for long drives, the road to Goa promises more than wide lanes and a comfortable ride. One of the most scenic drives in India, NH 17 picks its way between the beautiful and unsullied Konkan coast and the forested cliffs and hilly slopes of the Sahaydri Range better known as the Western Ghats. The road faithfully clings to its agenda of linking Konkan to the mainland and as such, rarely deviates very far inland. In places it runs parallel to the coastline, in others to the brand new Konkan Railway at times the two seem to vie with each other in their eagerness to get to Goa by the shortest route crisscrossing each other's paths off and on! Link roads branch off from the highway heading west to the seaside or east to quaint hill stations in the Ghats posing an irresistible challenge to those who love going off course! Mahad: The town of Mahad lies at the heart of Maratha land and has no other claim to fame other than a small but significant role in the inspirational saga of Dr BR Ambedkar and its proximity to Raigadh (24km). Raigadh is, of course, well known as the impregnable fortified seat of the great Maratha sovereign, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, claimed by the advocates of Hindu Raj as their flag bearer. Formidable and impervious to any attack, Raigadh stands on a near 6. vertical rock face. Climb up the conventional way and it takes three hours and 1450 steps! Fortunately for those used to easy living and elevators, the Raigadh Ropeway offers a way out! The Raigadh Ropeway package costs Rs 110/-and includes the four-minute ride up 420m, a visit to the museum, conducted tour of the fort and a short film on the fort and its history. Mahad is a good place for a halt even if Raigadh and its ropeway or the prehistoric Mahad caves don't appeal. What certainly will are motels and small wayside establishments that offer fairly clean loos, cold drinks or hot cups of tea, some solid sustenance and a well-deserved breather before tackling the steep gradients and blind corners of the ghats. But before the ghats comes Poladpur relevant to those taking a detour towards the hill station of Mahabaleshwar (42km). Driving up mountain roads will seem a lark, after negotiating the twists and turns of ghats where careless bus drivers never seem to take their foot off the accelerator nor bother with road decorum. Their sole concession to oncoming traffic is a deafening tattoo on the horn loud and long enough to start a landslide in less stable environment! Luckily traffic comes in bursts and pauses leaving the driver free to concentrate on the road, which insists on total attention. Tiring and demanding though the drive up, down and around the ghats is, it is compensated by the experience of driving through cool, dark forests and moss clad hillsides punctuated by streams and cascades. Still the delights of panoramic views are short lived dying away, as the road nears Chiplun. Chiplun: Qualifying as a sure shot winner of the most unattractive town in Maharashtra contest, Chiplun can be smelled long before it can be seen! Heralding the arrival of Chiplun is the industrial area on its outskirts where the air is putrid and the odour noxious to say the least. Chiplun's residents sure pay a heavy price for the dubious benefits of development and employment! Odours and malodours apart, the Taj Group has a property in Chiplun sanguinely called the Gateway River View Lodge! The town of Chiplun stands on the banks of the River Vashisti and the Taj hotel on a hillock overlooking it. People who frequent it, either come for weekends, conferences or stopover on their way to Goa or Ganpatipule. Chiplun is halfway between Goa and Mumbai and the Taj hotel is a fine place for those who want to build up the anticipation! Exit Chiplun and you begin to believe the hype as industries give way to orchards and farmlands protected by well-banked walls of laterite slabs. Fields cleave to the hillside or fan out in the valley; glossy green leafed mango trees share space with darker hued chikoo trees while 7. Coconut palms cast their feathery shadows over homes and hearths. Down in the valley, red puffs of dust and basalt rocks serve as reminders that this is the Deccan, born of volcanic and seismic turmoil, its fertile soil fed by the innumerable rivers and streams that flow down from the Sahyadris. And not far as the crow flies, sparkling silver is the Arabian Sea. This is Konkan at its best and the highway is belting its way through Ratnagiri district, home of the legendary Alphonso mango. Hathkambe: A right turn off NH 17 at Hathkambe (80km from Chiplun) and Ratnagiri, premier city of the Konkan is a short drive away. Once a slumbering port on the Arabian Sea, Ratnagiri is waking up, and how! Convenient connections to the rest of the country on the Konkan Railway line has undoubtedly helped - but the difference has been made by aggressive marketing of its agricultural produce, especially the famed Alphonso mangoes, the Ratnagiri hapus. So lucrative has it proved that those who had moved to Mumbai are now coming home, brought back by the lure of lucre and healthy lifestyles! Ratnagiri also offers its visitors a lighthouse, forts, a mountain jutting into the sea or out of it, a choice of beaches - one with silver sands, the other with black sand! North of Ratnagiri is the virgin beaches of Ganpatipule. The road from Hathkambe to Ganpatipule goes over the 6.6km long Kharbude Tunnel - one of the longest on the Konkan 8. Railway line before ending at this little town made famous by its Ganapati Temple and pristine coastline. Pali: Fifteen minutes out of Hathkambe and it's the temple town of Pali. Arterial roads link Pali to the jewels of Konkan coast Malvan, Sindhudurg, Vijaydurg and the magnificent beach at Tarkali. Those with the determination to stick to the plan will make it to Goa in the next four hours! Those who love to stray will discover a treasure chest of hidden delights. An important pilgrimage for Hindus, Pali is best known for its Ballaleswara Vinayak Temple and least known for the Sudhagadh Fort! The wooden temple built in the late 18th C receives it share of visitors and attention, both spiritual and monetary in contrast Sudhagadh is one of the most neglected forts in the Konkan, despite being fairly well preserved. Unlike Sudhagadh, the fortresses of Sindhudurg and Vijaydurg are very popular. A chain of forts stands watch along the Ratnagiri coast, most famous amongst them are Sindhudurg and Vijaydurg. Sindhudurg and Vijaydurg promise a bonanza of quiet beaches set against a picture perfect backdrop of swaying palms, green paddy fields and groves of fruit laden trees. The Ocean Fort, as Sindhudurg is also known as Shivaji's coastal stronghold; the fort contains a shrine dedicated to the great warrior-king who revitalized Hindu identity and restored its self- esteem, which probably accounts for the stream of visitors! Shivaji restored his own self-esteem, lost when he failed to seize the fortress at Janjira from the Siddi ruler of Murud, by establishing his coastal headquarters at Malvan. Malvan was protected from similar incursions by rocky outcrops and a reef encircled harbour. These reefs and rock islands now host the little publicized Malvan Marine Sanctuary. Another unexpected surprise (for those who weren't in on it) is Malvani cuisine, now finding its way to Mumbai through specialty restaurants. History buffs or fort freaks may like to check out the other fortifications around Malvan. These include Pandavgadh, the fortress that stands on a sandbank off Malvan where master ship- builders built sea-going crafts for Shivaji's navy. On the mainland are the ruins of Rajkot and Sarjkot, the two small fortresses Shivaji commissioned that stand guard on the mouth of the creek. Sawantadi: A few hours on from Pali is the capital of the 300 year old, princely estate of Sawantwadi ruled over by members of the Sawant-Bhonsle dynasty. Sawantwadi stands on the banks of Moti Talav - a small manmade lake formed when workers dug up earth to construct a palace for their king. The lake got its name not because there is anything remotely pearl-like about it, but because the labourers were paid in pearls! 9. The drive to Sawantwadi can be quite exciting. The road hurtles rather rapidly towards its destination and there is very little traffic to make the descent hazardous. The highway curbs itself as the final approach to Sawantwadi is negotiated, past farmland that seems to grudge the road its few meters. The Western Ghats loom close and even the trees seem to edge closer. The town itself is fairly disappointing those looking for a reason to stop here should do so for the unusual crafts that are its only cachet. Sawantwadi has a rich lineage of crafts, many of which are sadly dying out from lack of funding. Those that still survive, do so due to the involvement of the erstwhile ruling family. Amongst its crafts are painting, lacquerware, hand painted Ganjifa cards, wooden toys and carved bone and horn artefacts. Lacquerware was introduced in the 17th C and is still a family craft passed down from father to son. Banda: A twist here and a turn there, and NH 17 crosses into Goa at Banda, a small town on the Goa-Maharashtra border barely 11 km from Sawantwadi. Formalities dealt with, and its time for the penultimate stage of the ride to Panaji. Mapusa: The road rapidly moves towards Mapusa, the first big city it encounters in Goa. The landscape wears a new look cashew trees laden with pendulous fruit, slender betel nut trees and coconut palms sway in the gentle breeze redolent with all manners of fishy odours! Homes with tiled roofs and little shrines in gardens whizz past, bars and restaurants tempt sore-assed 10. thirsty travellers, folks go about their business with nary a glance at newcomers and sarees give way to skirts. The air is unmistakably Goan! Panaji: Across the new bridge on the River Mandovi, past the remains of the old is journey's end Panaji, the historic capital city of Goa. 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