Thursday, 25 November 2010

Chapora Fort

On the 24th I took Richard with me to go and check out the Chapora Fort, Chapora river and Vagator beach. Actually my target was Chapora river in terms of possible monsoon anchorage so, on top of Chapora Fort one can get the view of all.

Vagator beach

Chapora and Vagator is north of Anjuna beach and used to be (maybe still is) the place for the hippies to indulge in drugs and rave/ trance dances. It took us a good 30 minutes to get there from Sinquerim and the driver dropped us off at Vagator beach. The village itself was very tourist oriented with guesthouses and restaurants and internet shops.

The smaller unnamed Vagator beach

We descended from the road to the beach and walked to the foot of the hill where the Fort is. The beach is actually quite pleasant with a wide stretch of sand plus it has no rocks jutting up here and there like in Anjuna.  From the other end of the beach a foot path lead upwards and so we began ascending. In about midway we came to a ridge that revealed another small stretch of beach north of Vagator, in my guide book it has no name but nonetheless it was also not undiscovered as shacks lined the beach and some tourists were tanning themselves under the sun.

Chapora river entrance

We clambered upwards to arrive to a bastion, the only bastion left in fact, facing the sea and giving a good view over the entrance of Chapora river and Vagator beach. Here the Fort defenders of old could deal out death with cannons to any intruder attempting to storm the coast or river but today only plastic bottles and empty snack bags are thrown off the rampart. The Fort compound is actually quite vast although today it is only grassland. In the middle there are some stone plinths left that indicate the whereabouts of some buildings in the days gone by.

Chapora river

Chapora river

Chapora river looks from the top quite desolate with no development whatsoever. In my chart it was indicated that there is a fishing jetty below the Fort but I could not see it. It was probably obscured by the vegetation. During monsoon it most likely provides shelter for the numerous fishing boats plying their trade in these waters. As for having a yacht here I would not even consider it due to the lack of infrastructure.

Fort entrance

After seen the place we exited from the entrance and carefully treaded our way down without being thrown off by the loose gravel on the path we somehow navigated back the shorter route to Vagator beach by going through backyards of guest houses.

The last bastion of Chapora Fort

Chapora Fort in the distance

The Chapora Fort has been fought over many a time in the past. In 1683 the Marathas joined forces with King Akbar and made this their base to attack the Portuguese. Eventually the Portuguese managed to oust the attackers from the Fort and being wiser from that lesson the present Fort was built in 1717.

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Monday, 15 November 2010

Dudhsagar Falls

14th we had decided to go and visit the Dudhsagar waterfalls near the border to Karnataka in Ponda. We started early and took about 2 hrs to reach Colem where we had to change vehicles. In Colem we rented a Mahindra jeep with driver that took 6 passengers, as we were 4 there was another 2 NRI's from London sharing the 2 remaining seats. The charge was 500Rs/ head. Soon enough we were on our way to the Falls and entered the Nature Park where Dudhsagar is located.

Huge rainforest tree on the way to the Falls

Finally there

At the gate we had to pay camera fee and entry fees. Funny enough there were big signs that feeding the monkeys is prohibited with penalty of fine if breached. In Colem the touts were selling bananas to feed the monkeys. The Officials must be well aware of the Indian habit of littering indiscrimately as all plastic was banned in the park, signs were posted at frequent intervals "Do not litter".

In the cooling waters

The upper cataracts

After entering the Park we crossed a series of streams and on the 3rd stream it was full stop. We wondered off to see what was the stoppage and it turned out a jeep had been stuck midstream, people were pushing and pulling and after some wrestling eventually managed to get the car on the move again. Then the road turned into a red quagmire from recent rains and some cars got stuck. Even our driver managed to get his car stuck as he wanted to prove himself by finding alternative tracks. It was by then we discovered the jeep was only 2-wheel drive.

Upper cataracts

View to the lower pool from the railroad bridge

Finally after some 45minutes ride we arrived the waterfalls. There was a slight walk to reach the lower pool. It was very refreshing to take a dip in the hot searing sun. The view was magnificent as one could se the 300 meter fall towering above us. About midway up there is a train bridge passing. As I was not satisfied with current sights I left the boys to take care of the Russian tourists and ventured into the brush and clambered some 150m upwards to the bridge.

Sunil

Dudhsagar Falls

The workers on the rail track probably thought I am some apparition as a white man suddenly appeared from man height brush only clad in swimming trunks. Up onthe rail track I could see there was one more pool at this tier and local people were enjoying the peace and quiet there. I was also lucky to see a cargo train pass by, the driver and conductors waved happily to me.

Dudhsagar local inhabitants

Our car on the right stalled in the middle of river

Having seen the Falls from a higher vantage point I went back the way I came up. It was probably harder going down as I had to take care not start rolling downhill. Once down at the lower pool I took a refreshing dip and changed clothes after which it was time to get back to civilization. We all crammed ourselves in the Jeep and off we went. This time the driver got again stuck in the mud and when we were passing the 3rd last water stream I bet he stalled the car on purpose maybe in order to give the guys some chance to extract some  money from us on accord of pushing the car back to the road. I scuttled this plan by walking away with the rest of the boys.


Train at Dudhsagar waterfall

While walking towards Colem the weather got really bad, a thunderstorm was passing above us and I heard the most terrific thunderclaps before the down pour started. After some half hour of walking the car came trundling past us and stopped to pick us up. It only took another 30 minutes to get us back to Colem where the driver asked for tips. Not a penny from me before he learns to drive his Jeep.


Going to Dudhsagar Falls

We had some tea at Colem before heading back to Sinquerim, on the way we stopped at a highway dhaba for some late lunch. It was a very delicious thali and for 5 grown up men it cost 100Rs altogether.

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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Aguada Fort

On the 1st after finishing off provisioning I went with Richard up the hill to see the Aguada Fort as I had been staring at it from the anchorage long enough now and also been jogging past it many times. The road up goes past the exit to the Aguada jail and continues upwards past the Catholic church up on the hill. After that comes an exit road to the Helipad and then one arrives the Aguada Fort. The access is free and opening hours are between 0900 - 1730 hrs. The Fort is protected by the Indian ancient monuments act.

M/y Kalizma in front of Miramar beach

The whole area is very photogenic were it not for all the garbage that is thrown everywhere. You can see empty plastic bottles, torn snack wrappers, condoms, paper, broken bottles everywhere. I have seen in the mornings there is a bottle wala coming with a bicycle collecting empty bottles into gunny sacks as one gets money for selling 2nd hand plastic but all the other garbage is left as there is no money in it. India still has a long way to go in terms of waste management and changing the mentality to drop garbage anywhere.

The old lighthouse

Also in the mornings one will see peacocks running about in the bushes as well as domestic pigs. When jogging we have discovered there is a beaten footpath going around the whole of Aguada point under the Taj hotel resort passing the coastal bastions to Candolim beach. The view is breath taking. From there one can then jog back to Sinquerim following the road, a good 6km hike.

The watertank

Originally built in 1612 the remains of the Upper Fort are still very impressive, the moat is still intact and full with vegetation. Inside the Fort one can see the watertank in the middle (capacity 2.376.000 gallons) and the old lighthouse with the utility buildings adjacent in one corner. The Lower Fort was originally serving as Port to visiting Portuguese sailing ships and later on converted to a jail. It is also said there is a secret passage between the Upper and Lower Fort that was used in emergencies. The lighthouse was discontinued of use in 1976 as a new was erected a few 100 meters to the West of the old one.

The moat and a corner bastion

The surrounding walls are very thick and every corner has a defensive tower with ramparts. It is said the Portuguese kept gunpowder in the outer walls which had recesses of which many are now plastered shut, maybe due to constructional strength issues. All in all a nice place to visit but the local Authorities could earn extra kudos by cleaning the surroundings up.

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Monday, 1 November 2010

Captain's blog October 2010

Were now still in Goa and it is good as we don't have to cope with all the pollution as in Mumbai. The good weather is still eluding us as occasional thunderstorms keeps pelting us with water but in general the weather is good. We're still rolling at the Aguada Bay anchorage as the swell is coming in from the Indian Ocean.

Having Gujarati thali

Kalpu's birthday

In Mumbai we were the first yacht to anchor outside the Gateway of India, on the 1st m/y Tian arrived from Goa and on the 2nd m/y Ashena came from Elephanta as well. They were very very busy as a party had been set for the 8th. Not to say that weren't either as we had to finish the bow wood work repairs.

Carpenter's carving our front piece

On the 3rd Sunil arrived back from UK having successfully completed is Y3 certification. He was very pleased to be in the warmth of India instead of the ghastly cold dampness of Southampton and of course having his NOE warmed even better.

This steam roller must from the Colonial times

Then on the 4th we got the orders to prepare for Goa so our busy status went to frantic. Provisioning, contacting contractors for last minute jobs like our Dish TV setting up, Bose sytem service, OBM overhaul etc. etc. Also bunkering of DO and LO had to be done. The car had to be serviced as we would drive it down to Goa and so on.

Limatola and Kalpana

Later in the afternoon I went with Richard to try out an allegedly delicious thali. It turned out the restaurant near Churchgate was serving Gujarati cuisine and I learned then that in Gujarat they put sugar in every dish, everything tasted sweet. Even the sada pan outside tasted sweeter than elsewhere.

Rajaram, Dubey, Atu, Me, Richie, Kalpana, Saini, Ruman, Sunil

On the 8th was Kalpana's birthday and we celebrated it duly with cake and softdrinks. She is a very liked person onboard as she got many presents from the crew.

Then on the 11th I got a temporary stewardess from Niladri estate to follow us to Goa, Ms. Limatola Aier. Limatola is actually one of the Indian Empress stewardesses but she was on leave and so was appointed to help out in Goa for a week. Same evening Asen had an accident by a falling wall panel that hit her foot and she got a fracture confirmed form the hospital.

Kalpana in the Bom Iesus cathedral

On the 12th I signed Asen off as there is no place for convalescing onboard, especially with a person on crutches. In the afternoon at HW I got the compass adjusters and engine technician embarked with pilot coming last. After doing our adjustments and calibrations we finally headed off to Goa.

We arrived Goa in good order on the morning 14th and by 1020hrs I had the formalities done. The weather became bad though with swell rolling in and sweeping fronts of thunderstorms kept coming in and pouring water. The satellite picture showed us the long plumes of cloud cover extending out in the Indian Ocean.

Then the weekend of the 15th I got Commodore Mongia onboard and we anticipated the Owner, but the weather was not in favor so the whole weekend we sat looking at the sky. Eventually it turned out to a long wait.

Dubey outside the cathedral

On the 19th we got the bad news that our driver had decided to take our car for a joyride or some extracurricular taxi activities and subsequently he smashed it in an Electrical pole. The car was wrecked beyond repair. The Driver offered some story that he had not driven but a guy had come out of nowhere and referred to Saini that he needed to go to Baga beach and offered to drive and blah blah blah. The night watchman confirmed that the driver had been alone. Needless to say I dismissed the driver straight away and Saini & Sunil had to deal with towing the wreck and doing the insurance paper work. Luckily nobody was injured and we managed to get an "out of court" settlement for the Electrical pole as well.

Fishermen at Santa Paula unloading their catch

24th Richard and Dubey took the girls around to Old Goa and Santa Paula to see the old churches, they asked me if I wanted to follow so I did. The churches still looked the same, then we visited the Santa Paula market, and we finished the evening with dinner at Souza Lobo at Calingute beach. The food was good but lacked kick eventhough we asked for hot.

On 25th I went with Kenneth Pereira and Sunil to visit the Western Shipyards for a possible drydocking site. The prices they quoted were quite high for a small yacht like us, clearly they were geared for handling big bulk carriers frequenting Goa. Afterwards Kenny treated me and Sunil to a delicious lunch at his favorite restaurant beside the Pereira Building.

Kalpana and Karuna at Santa Paula

On 29th I had lunch with Richard at the Calamari restaurant on Candolim beach. The setting is nice but the view might be considered obscured by the grounded River Princess (someone else might consider it a curiosity). The food was a disappointment, it was bland and tasteless. We had a dhal and pork vindaloo and I did not even break a sweat, although I specifically asked for the native stuff, not watered out tourist food. We had same experience at the famous Souza Lobo restaurant at Calingute beach and a few others as well. Seems many restaurants are geared up to cater exclusively for the prevalent Russian crowd. Until now I can only recommend the Flambee' restaurant being up to the mark with their food.


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Diving Grandi Island

On the 31st Saini's old course mate from his Divemaster school invited us to join him on a dive with his Customers at Grandi Island, we only needed to bring our own gear and everything else was free. It did not take us long to make up our minds and the night before we had our gear set up standby.

Grouper at Suzy's wreck

Crabs

Dada came early morning with a long boat to pick us up. It was an ordinary boat that local people use for fishing and now also for ferrying tourists around. It is equipped with a tiny 10HP outboard that gives the boat abt 10 knots of speed, quite surprising actually, comparing to the size of the boat. Anyway, making 10knots, it took us about 2 hrs to reach Grandi Island.

Moray Eel

Honeycomb Moray Eel

We anchored off the E end of the Island, inside a small bay, just on top of the wreck. The dive was not a deep dive. We started at the forecastle of the wreck where one could see an old capstan still there and from there we continued downwards the hull towards the aft. I saw some huge groupers that must've weighed around 30kg or more. At other places of the wreck I also spotted crabs, both big and small. As the visibility was quite poor, only 2-3m, it was not very enjoyable and in fact me and my divebuddy lost the group after some 15min of diving. At one point they were there and then they were gone. We swam around for awhile but as it was so poor we decided to surface, there was no point staring into murky water. I went back to the boat but my dive buddy saw the bubbles of the others and headed down again.

The cave

Scorpionfish

Soon enough the other divers finished their air tanks and surfaced. All boarded and compared sights, our dive guide Dada told us that the thermocline must be affecting the visibility (the water was quite chilly) as he had had good visibility just the day before. Anyway, we weighed anchor and continued to the NE point of the Island and planned a shallow dive along the coast.

Lobster, anyone?

Coral

We went in and started at some 5m depth. The bottom was covered with corals and round boulders, no doubt having been ground by the countless monsoons for thousands of years. There was some fish darting here and there and Dada guided us near the shore to a small cave. In the cave I spotted a stone fish. The cave had heave surge so one had to hold on to the bottom as not to be smashed against the walls or any of the sea urchins that were nearby for that matter. We swam through the cave and came out on the other side almost at the surface and from there headed towards the sea and deeper waters.

Cuttle fish

Bluespotted Stingray

After some swimming I came across a huge cuttle fish that was just vacillating in place, after awhile he was joined by his buddy and the whole dive team surrounded them and watched them for some minutes. Then a Russian diver spotted a big sting ray that lay sleeping on the sea bottom. Then there was the usual Moray Eels lurking in their crevices waiting for prey coming by.

More coral

After some 45min of swimming we reached the relocated dive boat and surfaced. The dive was not bad but would have earned more kudo's if the visibility would have been better.
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