My “road trip” to Goa, started very oddly with a flight to Bangalore. Yes, I know, Bangalore is a good 550+ km from the beach state and 1000+ km from Mumbai, but bear with me, because this is one crazy adventure.
It all started with me reading an article in the June issue of National Geographic Traveler India. The interesting article titled “After Hours: 15 Night time adventures around the World”, introduced me to a different side of Goa, one where trees glowed in the dark rain forest.
I was hooked. I had to find more about this place called the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa and visit it soon. After much research, I kind of figured out the best time to visit and even convinced a few friends to join along. Somewhere along the line, we decided to make the weekend jaunt to Goa’s hidden side, into a more full blown exploration of Goa’s back roads and offbeat destinations.
And therein was born the idea of a road trip !!!
Since I was the only one from Mumbai, I had to begin this road trip with a flight to Bangalore where I would meet up with the rest of the crew. The idea was that we would drive from Bangalore to Chorla in North-East Goa and then down the coast to South Goa. Along the way we would stop by quaint hamlets, stay on a river island, visit forgotten forts, old churches and desolate beaches and sample what the rural countryside had to offer.Like all good plans, this one too did not survive contact with reality. But that’s where the fun and the adventure really began.
Since we were to drive to Goa, we had rented a SUV for the trip. But just two days before the trip, one of the guys dropped out because of a work related emergency. So we were down to just three people. As a result of the lower numbers, we cancelled the SUV and decided to just take a car for the trip. Still things seemed more or less on track and I reached Bangalore, on the night before the trip.
On the way to a friend’s place from the airport, we got a message from another chap that said “Very Sorry”. Seems he had a last minute medical emergency in the family and couldn’t make it for the trip. And just like that, there were two.
This also meant that the road trip from Bangalore was essentially off. The next day we decided to just do the trip to Goa anyway. Last minute flights were booked and due to some mix-up on fares, I ended up on a marginally cheaper flight about 20 minutes before my friend. We then dashed to the airport, booking a car in Goa, while in transit to the airport. But alas, Bangalore’s traffic played spoilsport and our genius of a cab driver decided to take the longest route possible to the airport, ignoring all our protests and cajoling. Thanks to him, I missed my flight !!!
Determined not to give up though, I promptly got out of the cab and went straight to the airline counter to book myself on the next flight. About 30 mins later, I was finally on a flight to Goa !!!
The flight to Goa was thankfully uneventful and we landed as scheduled. After getting out of the airport we went to find our car. And lo behold, our chariot (a Maruti Wagon R) stood by the road, beside a decidedly shady looking character who seemed to be the owner of the car.
With great reluctance, he handed over the keys to us and we were finally on our way on the much awaited road trip, only to realize that both our phones were almost dead and GPS navigation was probably the only way we would reach our destination. Luckily for us, the car had a USB port that let us charge our phones (or at least keep the phone alive) till we reached our resort in Chorla.
After these misadventures, things kind of went smoothly though and the trip turned out to be a bigger success than I imagined. We traversed the length of Goa, navigating almost entirely by GPS, following our researched route. It was a surreal experience to navigate almost entirely by phone. We’d often miss “main roads” because the main road in question was often smaller than the road we were on. The GPS directions were also bizarrely funny at times. We were once trying to find an old church in Panjim and our friendly GPS lady proclaimed that we should “Turn left at Party On” to reach our destination.
And there were some weird coincidences as well. At one point, when we were passing through a small hamlet, we literally rode past the owner of the car and his friend, who stared at us with his mouth open in surprise. Needless to say we were in splits over this.
Over the course of four days we stayed in a rainforest in North-East Goa amidst waterfalls and croaking frogs, relaxed in an old villa on a river island, looked at an ancient curio filled house, visited three beaches, saw an old fort and feasted on loads of local sea food.
But all good things must come to an end, and after a brilliant road trip in Goa, we finally headed back to Mumbai and Bangalore. For me, I’ll always remember this trip as the one that almost didn’t happen, the one where Murphy almost won…