Friday, November 19, 2010

A Goan Odyssey: Part 1 - The Konkan Experience

Konkan

If there is a crown for world's most beautiful rail route, then Konkan rail route will not be too far away from crowning glory !!!

The moment we chose Goa as a weekend destination, there was no doubt on how we were going to travel. We have to chose a train going through Konkan to Madgaon and the best option available was the Rajadhani Express which does its duty three times a week from Thiruvananthapuram to the capital (Rajdhani) of India - New Delhi. This is considered as one of the most premium luxury trains as far as Indian Railways is concerned.


Goa, one of the most popular beach destinations of India thrives on tourism industry, as a result of which this small Union Territory have a plethora of picnic spots to chose from, most of them beach destinations. Starting from this post I am going to present before you the beauty of Goa through the various destinations I travelled during my four day tour. The last post of this series will be a guide on how to plan a trip to Goa, aimed at first timers to Goa.

So lets Go to Goa, the name itself has a rhythm, a happy go lucky kind.

The prospect of a journey in a luxury train through one of the most beautiful rail routes, sounds exciting until one enters the Rajadhani train, the coaches of which adorns paintings of the rich and diverse cultural heritage of India. All that glitters is not gold!! The beaming paintings on the outside is in no way reminiscent of what is inside. Reality of this premium segment experience sinks in within no time. Soiled toilets, badly maintained curtains, uncleared waste on floor and the not so adorable mouse friends does not jell well with the additional premium we pay. I am not sure whether this kind of badly maintained coaches are found only in Southern parts of India as the normal saying is that the babus at the helm give only scant attention to the South even though maximum revenue is from this part.

The journey started almost half an hour delayed, thanks to a drunken brawl between the coach staff and the ground staff, over an issue of not filling water in one of the coaches. The brawl in front of passengers using highly abusive language and in front of top officials of railway makes one feel that job security guarantees people ruthless freedom and the customers have to suffer, coz they don't have an alternative to rely upon. The prospect of the impending vacation at Goa, gave us enough courage to take everything in our stride, without getting unduly upset at the environment.

One good thing about Rajadhani is that food is included along with the ticket charges and these will arrive at stipulated times and we don't have to take care of packaging or buying up things, which relieves us of a major burden during travelling. We enjoyed some quality time with kids, for it is only during such journeys we get to be near them for longer periods of time.
A good night sleep ensued soon, with the prospect of waking up, amidst the Konkan trail, fuelling our thoughts.

We over slept a little owing to the fact that it was a real cloudy morning and Sun didn't appear at all. By the time we woke up and got ourselves ready we were already passing Mangalore. The sound of train suggested that we are crossing a bridge and it was a huge one too. I got ready for the photo shoot even though it was very cloudy,I knew that Konkan is not going to disappoint me.


We were on top of the Netravathi river which is one of the major rivers of Mangalore. It was drizziling, but that was not a deterrent for those who rely on water resources to earn a livelihood.


The cloudy ambience resulted in presenting us the silhoute of the nature around, which itself is a joy to watch.


The Konkan route has started to get into my head and the fun was just starting. The train stopped for a short stop at Uduppi - the closest point of approach to famous Kollur Mookambika temple and the only station in Mangalore where Rajadhani has got a stop.

The Konkan rail, a brain child of good leaders from around Mangalore and neatly executed by the supervision of an able administrator who also has Delhi Metro project under his CV, surely is one of the most enchanting experiences for fellow travellers. This route stretches from Mangalore to Mumbai, through Goa and most importantly this reduced the travel time between the port towns - Mangalore and Mumbai by around 10 hours !!!

The bridge which we just passed must have a length of more than a Kilometer and it is one of the shortest bridges in this route. This explains why this route is one of the Engineering Marvels of the current day. Only self challenging engineers at the helm could manage and execute a project of this magnanimity.

As the train chugs along, the ambient light began to increase and greenery was starting to make its presence felt by the way of paddy fields, all of them radiant with energy coz of overnight rains.


Paddy fields never seem to end and we get a feeling that grains for the whole of India is being cultivated here. All of a sudden the terrain changes from vast open green clad paddy fields to small muddy hills.


From a lay man's point of view digging through soil for laying tracks is much easier than cutting through rocks. But the tracks through the muddy hills with lose soil was one of the greatest challenges faced during Konkan constrution. Digging through is easy, but many a times the hill will give in and the soil will be splattered all over the tracks. Constructing tunnels through such hills was even more herculean task. Even now one of the major reasons for maintenance work during the monsoon season is due to the collapse of some part of such tunnels. But rocks once cut stays strong.

A quick look ahead seemed like we are heading towards mountains.


But against expectations paddy again made its appearance, the green veil giving a soothing effect on our eyes. Is green the most pleasing of all colors?


Green, no doubt symbolises prosperity, green signal is the one which is chosen for signalling go ahead.

It was time for breakfast and I took a short break from enjoying the enchanting Konkan where the terrain kept on changing. Watching Konkan through the glass panes of train does not convey what it is in real, the dirt in the glass panes makes it a translucent one. Spent some time with wifey and kids inside the compartment, who by now had befriended a smart young lady, born and brought up in Goa travelling with her son to her native place.

The booming sound of a train going through another long bridge made me change my position from the cabin to the door side with my camera aiming for another shooting spree.

The sharavathi river was making a grand entry to my field of vision with some beautiful mountains in the backdrop.


Soon the train rolled into another long bridge - Sharavathi bridge. The train was slowing down a bit and looking down from the door side to the river was a little scary too. I again cross checked whether my camera is tightly strapped on to my wrist. The cloud cover and its reflection on the river was a giving a feeling as if we were moving through a shell.



Each passing moment was presenting a new portrait, the paintings keeps on competing with one another on which is the best. I was not able to close my eye even for a minute coz then I seem to miss something different. The same mountain appeared to have differing beauty at various angles, some of them far away were travelling with us for some time before bidding good bye. This reminded me of the childhood days when I wondered why moon always travels with us when we were doing long journeys.

The presence of a river nearby means that land will be really fertile, testimony of which is evident here.


Monsoon which overstayed this year has had its impact on the paddy fields, most of them looking like sprawling lakes.


The roadways along this route made me wanting immediately to jump out, get into my motorbike and roam around. Each of the places seem to present itself as a superb travel destination.


There were lot of boulders along this route which was in sharp contrast with the greenery around. Some of them were netted as a protection against rocks falling of from these boulders on to the tracks which can be quite dangerous.


Creation of such an engineering marvel is not the end of it, but maintaining it trouble free also requires lots of effort, no wonder why a separate unit under the name Konkan Rail Corporation came into existence for looking after this highly challenging trail, was formed. Till date many great people has been at its helm ensuring that this track has a very high uptime even during the monsoons which lashes in full fury during April September season.

More and more wonderful scenaries was in the offing.


The NH 17 from Kochi to Panvel also runs parallelly with this track. It is no brainer to imagine how great a drive or a ride through those wonderful roads will be. NH 17 route occassionally comes into the sight amidst the picturesque ambience making the urge for a passionate road tripper to hit these roads in the next possible chance. The next rider mania was going to be held in Goa. If I had enrolled for the biker event, it would have presented me an oppurtunity to ride through these roads, but another holidaying within a month of this journey is completely ruled out.



Many small stations passed by, but this superfast train did not stop at any of them. The last of the stations which it had a halt was at Suratkal which is known for the preimum Engineering school, the National Institute of Technology.


The population density in most the regions were really low, and only when some station was nearing there seems to be some population at all. We were now passing through some industrial area and a factory was visible. Seems like it is a tile factory.


The non stop trail continued until we reached Ankola, where the train took a small breather.


The juggernaught continued. The mountaenous terrain was making another appearance after a lull for a while, neatly decorated by a piece of cloud.


I decided to take some time off my shooting spree and went inside the cabin where my kids were already barging my wife with an array of questions ranging from when will reach Goa to why a tunnel is so dark even during the day. Ofcourse there were many small tunnels along the path and on some of the bigger ones the pressure difference was being felt as we could sense it by our ear.

I was in the doorsteps again as we were approaching Karwar, where we will be going through one of the longest tunnels. I kept waiting for the tunnel to approach and here it comes.


It was dark, the sound of engine changed, at times water droplets jetted in, sound of whistling by personnel manning the tunnel occasionally burst through the ear, there were intermittent lights on the tunnel and we kept on travelling through this 3km long tunnel. My kids slowly started to fear that this is not going to end. We were inside the tunnel for almost 4minutes, even then we felt uneasy. Wonder how the people working under the mines will feel or even more wonder what the ordeal would have been for those trapped miners in Mexico.

Watch the train darting out of the tunnel.


The next station is madgaon and I returned back to my seat. Madgaon is about 45 minutes from Karwar. Soon one of the coach stewards approached us smiling, with some cash in his hand, neatly arranged in such a way that the bigger denominations were clearly visible. It was a customary ritual in Rajadhani train, where the staff demands tip for their service, something for which they are paid by the railways.

The train rolled into Madgaon station, gradually reduced speed and then came to a grinding halt. The usual turmoil between those alighting and entering the train also followed suite. Since it was the second platform we need to climb up the overbridge which was in the form a ramp. So we have reached Madgaon after the first leg of the journey throough the enchanting Konkan.


While walking through the fly over I noticed a long bridge like construction which wore a deserted look.


Those were the mortal remains of the skybus project, which started off as one of its kind in Asia, finished the work in record time, but eventually shelved due to the unfortunate incident of one of the engineers getting killed in an accident during trial run.

The concept was the invention of an eminent personality - Mr. Rajaram, who was the chief of Konkan Railway corporation and holds patent for the skybus technology. Another interesting thing is that Skybus is a cheaper alternative of Metro Rail.Metro rail has has been successfully implemented in Delhi by another gem of an engineer - Mr. Sreedharan, who also was at the helm of Konkan rail corporation during which period this track was laid. It seems that Konkan rail corporation gets the best out of the people working for them and makes them more innovative.

Our discussion on skybus project was interrupted by my son's comment on the presence of huge lorries on the railway track and his doubts on what those trucks were doing in the railway track.


Infact, it was the RO-RO concept, another brainchild of the Konkan Rail Corporation which yeilded a huge income for railways while being a boon for both the truck drivers and the environment. The loaded trucks can just drive into or roll into a truck carriage and then roll out of the nearest railway station of their intended destination. The truck crew can sit inside the truck itself. This Roll On Roll off (RORO) saves the truck owners a lot of money as the charges for this railway carriage is much less than the charges for fuel, truck drivers can take rest, wear and tear of the trucks can be minimised, reduce the traffic on the highways, save a lot of fuel, reduce pollution etc. Who ever created this concept need a huge pat on the back.

We got out of the Madgaon railway station, went straight to the prepaid taxi counter, followed the simple procedures and got the feel of the wonderful attitude of Goan people who makes us feel at home. Our destination was Calangute in the northern part of Goa. It is about 1 hour drive from Madgaon, which is in the southern part.

The taxi soon hit the NH17 route just outside the railway station and started heading North. The taxiwallah rather than sitting just silent, gave us many info. He knew both Hindi and English very well eventhough his mother toungue is Konkini.

Madgaon is a small township and seems like it is not so popular with the tourist as it is a little away from the beaches, but their were lots of shops and the town seems to be bustling with activity. This particular series of buildings caught my attention. French influence in architecture is quite evident here.


There were no huge traffic blocks, but suddenly there seems to be one, but all the motorists were patiently following the lane discipline, quite unlike in some other parts of India, where traffic block results in utter mayhem, when the impatient driver tries to squeeze through the available space. Goa is different, the people here are relaxed and they pass on their relaxed attitude to us also. A little ahead the reason for this snarl was visible and it was an interesting one too.


While heading north, we still seems to be following the Konkan rail. While crossing a bridge over Zuari river, we saw the Konkan rail bridge over the same. Another doubt soon propped up from my kid, Why the bridge was having a truss only in the middle.


Might be that more reinforcing is required only in the middle, I am not sure why?. (The correct reason is given by Mr.Sanal in his comment to this post)

The routes and road side scenes were quite similar to that of Kerala. Trees lined up in unison, green clad paddy fields, coconut trees everything ensembling Kerala, seems like the Western side of Western Ghats has the same geography.


Harvest season seems to be flourishing as we could see lot of activities in the paddy fields as well as on the roads.


Building density increased as we approached Panjim. This particular sign board seems to welcome us to Goa


The mandovi river was soon in sight. Lots of activities were going on, Ships, beautiful cruise boats everything clearly spell out the day to day routines involved here.




The trip plan was made in quick schedule, hence we did not had any particular agenda, so we were all the time talking to our driver on where all we should visit and Panjim seems to be one of the candidates for a day out. The city seems bustling with activity and there are lots of beaches and churches around.


Don't know whether we will able to cover them all and our primary aim is not to cover the entire Goa during this four day tour, but have a relaxed four days when we will be visiting atleast 2 places per day.

The vehicle rolled out of NH 17 and turned westward towards Calangute where we had booked our hotel - Hotel Sunflower which was near the Calangute beach.

As the cab entered the place of our stay at Calangute, dark clouds had gathered over the region getting ready for a heavy pounding. The hotel sunflower offered only basic accommodation, to be more clear, it provides basic lodging and has a restaurant, a swimming pool and some really courteous staff, one of whom talked in length on what we can do for the next three days. After a long lunch session we crashed into the bed and got lost in a dream world. By the time we woke up the day was almost over and we just had a walk around Calangute and again hit bed after a light dinner and booking a cab for the next days journey.
The first leg of the journey was over and Konkan surely made its impact and made the journey more interesting. The best mode of travel to reach Goa is via Konkan, whether you travel from South India or from North India and make it a point that you get to see the mesmerizing Konkan during day time.

The full glory of Western ghats is on view in Konkan. Big green clad mountains, beautiful paddy fields, huge rivers and lakes, rocky mountains, thick dense vegetations adorn this area, all of which creates an impression in the mind of a nature enthusiast, but does not go well with an engineer assigned with a task of creating a rail route where undulating terrains presents a real dauting challenge. The answer by the able engineers were tunnels carved through rocks, tunnels created through soft soil hills (which is more difficult), bridges over lakes and rivers which never seem to end all of which presents an example of how human cognizance is able to work wonders on making the impossible a reality. Take a bow to the visionaries, to the engineers and to each one of the workers who made this a reality. 

Exclusive coverage of the places where we visited during our Goan Odyssey will soon follow in the posts to come. So keep visiting and get a glimpse of one of the most popular tourist destinations of India.

Click here to read Part 2


The Goan Odyssey -The story so far...


Part 1. The Konkan Experience - Watch the beautiful pictures of Konkan rail route 
Part 2. Baga Beach - A beautiful beach
Part 3. Vagathore Beach & Chapora Fort - A place with diversified ambiance.
Part 4. Fort Aguada & Anjuna Beach
Part 5. Panjim - A scooter expedition
Part 6. Calangute 
Part 7. The Dolphin Trip

17 comments:

Balachandran V said...

You took me all along with you! :0 Looking forward to part II !

Shrinidhi Hande said...

I am yet to travel by train on Konkan route... shd do it soon

Anu said...

The konkan railway is definitely one of the best! hubby prefers it to anything else, and doesnt even mind making detours! Great pics, as usual! I am surprised though that you got such great pics through the rajdhani windows,, the last time we travelled, we couldnt get any decent ones since the windows were dirty. which is why these days both samhith and i enjoe travelling in second sleeper!!! looking forward to the goa posts!

Roshmi Sinha said...

Wow! Awesome captures... as usual... and a true feast for the eyes. Thanks for sharing :)

Salahu said...

Great man...we had a trip during college days..! but Rajadhani is a new experience...waiting to see more goan snaps..!

subu.ps said...

Hi Balan saab
Part II will be uploaded soon. I am pretty loaded with work now. Had to take three days off for Goan odyssey and it took a heavy toll on my office schedules.

subu.ps said...

Hi Shrinidhi
Thanks for your continued support of my blog. Yes Konkan route is superb. The journey from Panvel to Madgaon is even more exciting.
thanks
subodh

subu.ps said...

Hi Anu
All the pictures from taken from the door side :) The dirty Rajadhani windows completely blinds the heaven outside. No wonder why a traveler like you and another budding one loves the 2nd sleeper.

best regards
Subu

subu.ps said...

Hello Roshmi
Thanks a lot. Konkan is a lot more beautiful, pictures don't do complete justice.

thanks
Subu

Amin said...

Very beautiful...

subu.ps said...

hello Amin
Thanks a lot!!

regards
Subu

Savaari said...

This is great post, Eager to travel on Konkan route.

alphabetworld said...

A highly captivating post!
Wow...i relived my journey via the Konkan route on Rajdhani's first ever trip to Delhi...AND i relived my Goa trip.
You've left me yearning for one more trip to Goa -- but well, no accomodation anywhere :( :( :(

I absolutely LOVED this pic: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_TUD_eb2u_Z0/TOUyGupcHJI/AAAAAAAALcs/l3oek_p9GMM/s1600/DSC05563.JPG
Splendid click. All the pics are lovely, considering you took most of them from a moving train! :)

Sanal said...

That was nice, and read the remaining parts too. Though I had traveled through this route 2-3 times, even on those initial days when land slides, blocks and very slow moving trains use to be common, ur narration inspires me again.
The best part of konkan is between goa and mumbai, where tall bridges and long tunnels are frequently seen. Rathnagiri will be a wonderful experience.
One more thing, those long trusses in the middle of the bridge are for long spans which helps in boat traffic :)

subu.ps said...

Oye Sanal Bhai
thanks for ur comment and for the info on truss.. I just corrected the spelling of truss too.
I have traveled in the goa mumbai route only once though

Trav Themes said...

Hey you enjoyed lots... have u take any kind of local experience in Goa ?

Do you know what is Experiential Tourism ?

Pooja Kamthe said...

After watching your photos I must say that your Goa trip was awesome.Had you gone to south Goa as the beaches are very beautiful over there..I went to goa trip in last month enjoyed alot as Goa is the most amazing place to hangout with your friends.

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