Early on, our plan was to visit the orchard early morning as the trees were supposed to be sprayed with insecticide. But due to nearly continuous drizzle, that was postponed and we decided to visit after 10 am. Needed the sleep anyway.

Road leading to orchard

Road leading to orchard

The orchard is about 25 minutes drive from their house, just beyond Kufri  in a very picturesque setting. There are a number of apple and pear trees in addition to some walnuts, plum and a few others. Most of the fruits including apple were very small and still about 3 months from getting ripe. Apple trees were covered with nets to protect them from hail. Additionally, they have a very interesting way of rearing bees. A small hole is made in to the wall of a spare room which is connected to a box. It also keeps the bees safe from weather and most predators. The owners need the bees for pollination and also benefit from harvesting honey.

Little Apples

Little Apples

As mentioned earlier, they were thinking of building a few log huts in the orchard. A small resort of log huts or tents when built here in between the trees will be a great attraction. The views of the valley are awesome, it’s sufficiently far away from the road so that there is no noise and the weather is cool. Their plan is to keep it as natural as possible with minimum construction, so it should be good. It should be a nice place to spend a few days in mountains or a rest stop whenever someone is visiting Shimla and places on the route.  We did a bit of brainstorming over this.

As we started to go back, it started raining heavily again. We drove for about 45-50 minutes through some very narrow streets with very high inclines to reach Shimla. The rain had stopped by the time we reached the city and the weather was cool enough to make us wear sweaters. We walked around the typical touristy places like the Mall Road and nearby market.

Inside the orchard

Inside the orchard

For the first time in my life, I visited a state tourism office (run by Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation) on Mall Road and asked for advice. The staff there was pretty helpful and advised us to visit Rajgarh, Haripur Dhar, Habban valley and a couple of other places on the way. It turned out later that some of the places like Habban valley are marked wrongly on the map and most people don’t even know about such a place. So please don’t trust the maps 100% and confirm with multiple sources. Wifey had first wanted to visit Kasaul, but as it is very near Kullu Manali area and we plan on visiting the place 2-3 months later, we agreed upon the plan suggested by tourism officials. We booked a room in a guest house run by HPTDC in Rajgarh for about Rs. 1000 from there.

Wild flower

Wild flower

Later, we walked around a bit in the market taking in the sights. As almost everyone has been to Shimla, there is not much to write about. I just don’t like the uncontrolled construction which has led to the hills being stripped of their green cover to be replaced by ugly buildings all over. Our walk was nice as it had rained only about a hour before and was still cloudy. Doing the same thing the day before in normal mid May weather would have been out of question.

While walking, I noticed a small shop selling old books and felt curious. The place was just covered in books of all genres, but with a majority from British times. Few of them were in good condition while the others had pages falling out or crumbling. I found one book written by an explorer in Tibet and asked it’s price. The shopkeeper answered with Rs 9000. Haha. Even with the antique value, he is charging just whatever comes to his mind as the books weren’t even restored at all. Just picked from trash and put on display on shelves and sometimes bins.

Rainbow on way to Shimla

Rainbow on way to Shimla

There was another similar shop but with lesser number of books a few meters ahead. Didn’t feel like buying stuff but still ended up buying an out of print edition on Indian Ordnance Corps for Rs 300. An excellent bargain considering the mint condition of book and contents.

If someone remembers this artwork installed there, the young man in front posed as model

After getting back, it was time for dinner and packing for next 3 days. The car we arranged for was scheduled to arrive at 6 am. So we packed everything hurriedly and went to sleep soon after.

Memeorial to Lt Gen Daulat Singh on Mall Road

Memeorial to Lt Gen Daulat Singh on Mall Road

 

Taking Shelter

Taking Shelter

Same boy in different attire 15 years later

Same boy in different attire 15 years later

This is the story of another trip to mountains with wifey. This one was not planned at all and I had no idea about the places we visited. Infact, I had not even heard of them before we reached there. Even after all this it was an enjoyable trip with interesting sights, people and places. On 12th morning, wifey told me that her parents were going to Shimla to visit family next morning and she wanted us to go too. We were supposed to go there for a long time

Jaabli rest stop

Jaabli rest stop

but had been unable to do so. As I had 4-5 days free without much work, I said yes. I haven’t been to Shimla since 2007 new year’s eve and wanted to see how the place has fared. While she packed, I worked to finish up some pending work. The process took much longer than expected and I got free only at 4:00 am in the morning. We had to leave at 6 am next morning, so I just lay in bed trying to get a hour of sleep but was unable to get any. Combined with a wedding I had enjoyed a bit too much last night, it was really nice to be very tired yet not being able to sleep. At 5 am, we started getting ready and tying up some loose ends which seemed aplenty.

We got in to the car at just before 7 am when the road was covered with school kids and their buses. Day was a bit hot and humid even then. I don’t like mornings and when you combine it with humidity, heat, noisy kids, traffic and general city ambiance, it’s almost a torture. The drive to our destination through Delhi gets worse when one reaches Majnoo ka Tila area and further. The area looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland with ugly construction, dust, filth, chaotic traffic and general ugliness all around. The huge mountain of garbage near GT Karnal road with random fires all over the place just completes the life altering experience.  Rest of the journey was not as bad, but nothing to talk about till one reaches the mountains. There are some green fields on the way, but the way houses and factories are swallowing up land is depressing.

First rain drops

First rain drops

It remained hot and sunny till we reached Jaabli. By the time we reached there, weather started getting cool and cloudy and we took our first rest stop. Bought some barfi boxes for Shimla family and had something to eat there.
The journey was pleasant from that point as it started raining and weather was much cooler. Passed a few towns on the way with too much construction which is haphazard, looks dangerous and is destroying the soul of mountains.   Nothing remarkable happened during rest of the journey till the time we reached the house of our hosts, a 20-25 minutes drive from Shimla.
After exchanging greetings we had a late lunch. Their house has a great view of the hills all around, specially those of Kufri from the terrace. One of the floors of their house is empty and they were thinking of converting that in to a guest house.  The views of surrounding hills are great and the place is sufficiently distant from Shimla and major roads which are blocked with traffic very often. Almost everyone is driving a car these days and the roads are just not build for this kind of traffic.

Rainy Day

Rainy Day

They also own an orchard in Fagu and wanted to have some opinion on how to go about it. We visited that place next day, but that will be covered in next post.
There aren’t many pictures in this post as I took only 10-11 pictures that day.

 

Before going to sleep last night, we had decided to visit two forts, Fort Aguada and and Fort Chapora. I don’t know what’s the logic, but English spellings of these and many other places like Mapusa is nothing like how locals pronounce or write on signboards in Devnagri script. Maybe it’s the same thing which tunred Mumbai to Bombay, Dilli to Delhi.

Fort Aguada and lighthouse

Fort Aguada and lighthouse

We woke up late and decided to visit Fort Agauda in morning and Chapora in evening. Our breakfast was in Vivenda Kafe, a small food joint on the way designed with a European ambiance. We had some sandwiches, avocado milkshake, coffee (or tea) and a delicious Goan dessert.  When we were hiring the car, the owner had suggested that we go on a 4-5 hours boat trip which included dolphin sighting, fishing, visit to some Bat island and a couple for other things for just INR 1600 per person. Almost every other shop had posters like this offering almost the same service at nearly same prices.On the way, we drove through the boatyard where tourists were lining up for the trip. The boats were just a marine version of the rickety public transport buses. Under powered, uncomfortable seating, too big, exposed and full of tightly packed people. One look and we both decided to skip the boat tour. Maybe there were some better services too, but we didn’t feel like searching for them.

A rare photo of me and wifey together

A rare photo of me and wifey together

Fort Aguada was about half an hour drive away with only 2 turns. According to historical sources and signboards, there was a fresh water spring inside, water from which was used to replenish stocks of various ships which docked there.  There is also a old disused lighthouse which is closed for visitors.  The water storage tanks are also not accessible and the visitors can only climb up the walls for the view. Personally for me, it was a bit of let down as the view was nothing special. It wasn’t really bad but was nothing more than a little bit of altitude near the sea. Most places of interest , atleast to me were closed off. But the Indian tourists didn’t seem to mind it and were clicking pictures aplenty.

We had a short nap after coming back to hotel and went on to visit Fort Chapora which was made famous by some movie shoot. The place is nothing more than ruins of boundary wall which is surprisingly intact while there is no trace of any man made structure inside them. I tried searching but couldn’t find anything. It didn’t look like the place was excavated or given any attention by archaeologists. Considering the history behind the place, it was a bit of let down, but the views were fantastic. There is no path left from road to the fort which sits atop a small hill. So people just climb up which way they like to the entrance. Like many other tourist places, local Indian tourists were hell bent on making this place another dumpyard by dumping copious amounts of bottles, cans and plastic. So called Youngistan crowd which formed the bulk of visitors is as idiotic as their pot bellied parents.

View of beach from fort Chapora

View of beach from fort Chapora

I climbed up the wall and went a bit down the hill to get a better view and was rewarded by the scenery in picture. The beach was just below and was probably accessible by foot. I asked wifey to come, but she preferred to stay on the wall. A very strong breeze was blowing by this time. After taking some pictures, I walked too the adjacent ridge and stayed there for a while taking in the view.  Visibility wasn’t that great though, probably due to haze. Walking back, I heard bird calls of 2-3 birds but was unable to spot them. Only sign of any animal life were a few burrows here and there, most probably rats.

While we were driving back, we realised that our train tickets to Mumbai were not getting confirmed and we had to take a bus. I tried Redbus.in which had a number of options, but the actual timings differed from what was provided on website. So we went to a bus operator’s office to confirm bus tickets. We had a flight to catch at 9 am and only one bus had suitable timings. Even that bus had only a few seats left due to the long weekend effect. That part done, we went to Fisherman’s Cove for dinner. A live band was playing Hindi and English songs and there was only one corner table left. We managed to change that later. For dinner, we ordered pasta, some local fish curry and some other stuff which I don’t remember. The service was fast and efficient and the food was OK.

 

Fort Chapora from the end of ridge

Fort Chapora from the end of ridge

As we had still quite a bit of fuel left in the car and this being our last night in Goa, we decided to visit Baga beach. Reaching there was not an easy task with confusing roads, closed off routes and crowds. The place is just a typical party thing with a night club just behind the beach. Almost every single restaurant on the beach had a dance floor and people dancing on the same Hindi, Punjabi, English songs. Very loud, distracting and nothing like the other places we visited earlier.  To make things interesting, a large number of people were lying here and there passed out after drinking too much or snorting something potent. Probably a nice place for certain kind of party people, but not for me. We walked along the waves for a while which pushed us off our feet 4-5 times and then drove back to hotel.

Reaching back to our hotel, we packed up our stuff and went off to sleep. Next morning, we walked to Candolim beach and to have a late breakfast on the beach. Our bus left at 4 pm, so we had a lot of time. On the way, we stopped for a few minutes in a small shop run by a young girl from Karnatka and ended up buying some more clothes,  hippy jewelery kind of stuff.

Sea on our first day in Goa

Sea on our first day in Goa

Upon reaching the beach, we found a restaurant and grabbed a table. I got a squid dish and wifey ordered some kind of biryani. Latter was completely inedible and we returned it. Squid was only marginally better.   Walking back, we stopped a restaurant on main street, Bob’s Inn to eat something. Later on, went back to our hotel for rest and freshening up. We had checked out in the morning, but they kept the room for us . Few minutes after 3 pm, we caught the taxi to Mapusa where we were supposed to catch the bus. The bus was Mercedes but not very comfortable. There were 3 rest stops including one for dinner and we reached Mumbai at about 5:30 am. Spent a couple of hours with family there after which they dropped us at the airport. The flight back landed right on time, a few minutes in advance I think, but the drive back home took longer.

Over all a great vacation in a great place. I will definitely try to visit Goa again and explore some other places , specially southern parts which we skipped this time. Bucket list includes boat trip, para sailing and couple of other activities and places.

 

 

Waking up on day 4, we were shortlisting the places we could visit. There were a few day tours, boat rides and places which interested us, but they were spread all over. We decided to have breakfast outside and got ready for it. We asked hotel staff for best way for transport and they suggested that we hire a car or a scooter or bike. There were couple of such places near the hotel. Went to one and the owner suggested that we rent a car instead of hiring one with driver as the latter will be twice as expensive, if not more. They had Wagon R, Swift, Jeep and a few scooters. We got a red Swift which seemed to be better choice. Although the car was not in a great condition, it worked just fine.

Sea Hawk

Sea Hawk

First thing we had to do after getting in was to get some fuel for the car before going for breakfast.  The petrol pump was bit out of the way away from everything else. After getting some petrol, we drove back looking for some place to eat. Wifey did all driving in the trip as am not a good driver and lost my license a few weeks back. We stopped at a restaurant Bending Bamboos which had outdoor seating under a huge mango tree and a few others. Only one other table was occupied at the time. It was quite late for breakfast, so we decided to have something heavy. We ordered a rice dish with fish curry (king fish) and a local mix vegetable dish along with some pineapple juice. Pineapples in Goa tasted very sweet compared to slightly sour types that we get back here. While waiting for food to arrive, we decided to visit Indian Naval Aviation Museum in Marmugao near Dabolim airport. It was about 41-45 km from where we were and it took us about 70 minutes to reach there.

Sea Harrier and Ka-25

Sea Harrier and Ka-25

Compared to similar museum, Air Force Museum,  Delhi the place is small and has lesser number of aircraft, gear, memorabilia and other stuff on display. But it’s one of a kind place and very interesting. The first noticeable thing on entering the gates is a Sea Harrier jump jet. There are a bunch of other planes which include Breguet Alize, Hawker Sea Hawk, De Havilland Vampire, HAL-HT2. The biggest one is the four engined L-1049G Lockheed Constellation. I’d  like to see a Tu-142 whenever it’s retired, but I don’t think that they have enough space for more.  Helicopters are represented by  Kamov K-25, Westland Sea King, Chetak and a few others. Indoor section which covers two floors has a few old electronic warfare systems, sonobuoys, torpedos, bombs, radars, pictures and infographics about various events in the Indian naval history.   Apart from that, there are a bunch of plane engines, helicopter engines, missiles and one UAV on display outside. Strangest object however is mockup of cockpit, labeled as a simulator outside bathroom.  There are a number of other things, but will post more about the place in another post.

Puppets for sale

Puppets for sale

While taking first few pictures outdoors, I messed up a setting on camera and some pictures taken in sun came up too bright which I noticed later.

After coming back, we stopped in our hotel for some rest and freshening up. In evening, we visited Saturday Market of Calangute. It is an all night market held on Saturdays and goes on from dusk till dawn. Most of the stalls were selling touristy clothes, decorations, cheap jewelery, shoes, herbs and various other knick knacks. A large number of stalls were owned by foreigners who were mostly selling self-designed (?) clothes. Then there were Tibetans, local Goans, Biharis, Marathas and quite a few other groups all in the same place. A stage had live performance by various music artists going on, but was audible only in a small area. Food and drinks were available, but didn’t feel like eating there and most of it was very overpriced. We bought a few decorations, hats and some other touristy stuff before heading back.

This reminds me, I also got a sweet mug as a memento from the museum.

Saturday Flea Market of Goa

Saturday Flea Market of Goa

For dinner, we stopped at Torq, about 10-12 minutes walk from our hotel. A live band was playing which stopped within 10 minutes of our arrival, at about 10:30 pm. The place was half full when we arrived. The table near us was occupied by a group of 2-3 families. The main topic of discussion with them were the fights which 1-2 men of the group had while they were younger. Now that they were older, fatter and uglier, they wouldn’t stop yapping about it. The noise probably affected staff too as they mixed up our orders. I had ordered a spicy fish curry while wifey asked for non-spicy vegetable dish. Instead we got a normal fish curry and highly spicy vegetable dish. I was OK with less spicy fish curry but vegetable dish was too spicy for her to eat. The staff replaced the vegetable dish within a few minutes though and were very apologetic. Although service of the place was good, food was barely passable. Reached back to hotel tired and went to sleep soon after.

 

We started packing up our bags and had a quick shower afterwards. We were planning to leave Arambol before evening to explore some other place. Jamaica gave me phone number of a hotel owner who had a property in Candolim, about a hour drive away. I called 5 hotels to inquire about room availability, tariff etc. but couldn’t make up mind. We decided to visit the places and then choose one.

Breakfast place

Breakfast place

For breakfast, we walked a bit further than we had last night and found a nice shack on the beach.  After a breakfast of fruit salad and just sitting around, we walked back. Wifey went to the shack for a nap while I joined Jamaica and family for another dip in the sea. The waves were OK but the sun was really strong. After about an hour, I went back to shack for another shower and for final packing. Jamaica had arranged for the same car on first day to take us to Candolim. After saying our goodbyes, we hopped in and drove towards Candolim. Finding the hotels there was fairly easy as most of them are on a single road. We checked rooms of 5 hotels before settling on one. I wanted to get some place near the beach, but wifey wanted something bit more upscale and luxurious.  Most of the places in area are only about 5-7 walk from the beach. There were a large number of properties near the beach too, but we didn’t feel like spending too much time in the heat going from one place to another.

Sunset on Cnadolim

Sunset in Cnadolim

After checking in and a bit of rest, we walked to Candolim beach. Most of the properties near the beach have been converted in to guest houses and hotels and the place looks like a laid back town rather than a village which it officially is. Not as green as Arambol, but not too bad either. The beach itself had a a fairly large number of tourists, mainly Indian. The other difference was the sand, which was more brownish and coarser. For dinner, I was thinking of going to any of the beach shacks there but wifey wanted a change. So we found our way back to the main road. After a bit of walk, we found Over The Flames in Calangute. It had outdoor seating and a karaoke night was on. During our stay, a foreigner performed Nazar Ke Saamne song, much to the delight of locals present there. He pronounced some words in a funny way, but that’s the limitation of writing Hindi in Roman script.

Lots of ASSn

Lots of ASSn

After some drinks and tandoori snacks, we ordered Vindaloo with rotis. I had heard a lot about Vindaloo but never had the chance to try it. There were a few versions, vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian. Almost all of my meals till then had been meat or sea food and I wanted something vegetarian. Waiter asked me if I wanted it spicy. Considering that all except 3 tables in the restaurant were occupied by foreigners, I assumed that the normal version will be bland and flavourless. So like almost any Indian, I asked him to make it spicy. Big mistake ! Wifey tasted a small bit and immediately pushed the whole bowl towards me. I took one bite and nearly caught fire. The dish was hot in a way that it hurt going in and worse coming out. I struggled to eat some with roti, then gave up.

Found it like this while walking back

Found it like this while walking back

We paid the bill and walked back to the hotel. Along the way, we stopped at a bakery to get a muffin or cake, don’t remember exactly. Upon reaching back, I realised that I had sun burnt skin on my shoulders, face, neck and almost every body part exposed to the sun.  Sunscreen is of limited help, if at all and it gets washed away whenever one takes a dip. I am too lazy to carry and use it anyway.Just 3 days in the sun and it happened yet again. Hot spicy Vindaloo burnt something else next morning.