We are regulars to Goa come rain or shine, just 7 hour road trip, it’s proximity to Poona makes it an ideal getaway.
Poona has a growing no of residents owning 2nd homes in Goa and are fast edging out neighbouring Bombay who were the earliest to invest in properties.
Delhites are the next wave migrating to Goa and I foresee a mass exodus in the future.
As for us owning a slice of this paradise in Goa has been lost opportunity, we contend ourselves to a temporary home away from home.
Gone are the days we would check in at some sterile Hotel reservation and not savour the sights and sounds of Goa.
A chance recommendation by Rajan Eklahare who owns TheJungle Resort at Amba, to shift to Olaulim Backyards in North Goa, made us fall in love with the concept of Home Stays.
We have never stepped inside the confines of a Hotel ever since and even though we have listed out numerous home stays in Goa, Olaulim Backyards has been our 2nd house for all seasons.
When it comes to great city escapes from Melbourne nothing beats the oft-trodden Ocean drive. Much touted at every tourist bureau, the Great Ocean Road is nothing short of spectacular, with a dramatic sweep of landscapes, and boundless ocean (coastal) drive.Book your tickets online, there are many offerings, including lunch and various halts. I personally found it very short pitched especially if you get a driver who hustles you to hurry every step to pack in the drive and 12 Apostles not in one day, but only 6 hours!
Just an hour away from Melbourne Central begins the winding, windswept drive, extensively over cliff tops until a stretch of the blue ocean comes into full view. The majority part of the road drive is widespread by the Ocean, and the driver offers us time to imbue in the most popular part of surfers beach.
We continue on to the next circuit of the drive and it was mostly uphill. That is when the ancient rainforest appears and the south-west coastline that we were skirting along disappear.
The rainforest is another highlight and a trek deep within Otway Forest and National Park is fascinating. The topography of the National Park is home to ancient trees, ferns, and spreading roots far and wide giving thick overhead coverage.
I felt the Maits Rest Rainforest named after the forest official was a rushed walkway and one could do no justice to look up admire ancient trees with literal cave like gateways at its root.
The rainforest in this gully has been evolved over millions of years and is a valuable source of information on life and history. For ten thousands of years, the local Aboriginal tribe called Maar held a spiritual connection with these forests and continues to provide cultural and historic links.
Prehistoric massive ferns, lush, surrounding ponds and waterfalls was tempting to plunge into. Take a moment to stand still and tune into the tranquil surroundings and smell of the ancient forest. The old Myrtle beech trees stand tall providing a lush canopy above, providing shade to the plants below.
There are signboards and brief on some pathways signifying trees that grow around, name and tag of the species of plant that thrive, age and ancestry. Some of the Redwood trees are over 500 years old, tallest in the world, well preserved and thriving.
After completing a short loop of this incredible rainforest exploration, back on the road and final stop is the magnificent 12 Apostles.
The Great Ocean Drive is one of Australia’s top journeys of a lifetime, the 12 Apostles (only 8 remaining) at Port Cambell National Park is really the most panoramic scenes high above the crash of waves, the cliffs and foaming waters below will keep you spellbound.
These limestone outcrops stack up, off the shores in ghostly sizes and figures, being adjacent to the park, this road is highly popular with tourists.
The Marine Park with the 8 limestone outcrops has Gog and Magog cliffs, the London Bridge with a hollow in the middle, the narrow openings to the sea blocked by the cliffs are few landmarks here.
The Razorback is a rock stack with sharp edges and bumps caused by the wind blown spray eroding away the softer layer of stone leaving the hard uneven surface. With over one wave every 14 seconds there has been a lot of erosions over centuries!
It’s very difficult to comprehend some of the spiel aforesaid by the Aussie guide, stories of intrigue and valour abound in these cliffs, also of ships and pirates.
In all a great time, a great coastal drive of over 400 Kms, lots to see and ponder, a day trip isn’t enough.
On my next visit here I plan to stay back and explore more as it takes 2 days or more to cover. Many homestays and apartments are available here, passing through old towns and villages we briefly stopped at a popular restaurant Stiks for lunch.
More reasons to visit Australia, Melbourne again and retrace the Great Ocean Road
Text/Photos Jyoti Shetty.
Nighoj Kund is 90 Km from Pune, Maharashtra in a village by the same name. Spreading across just 2 Km or more, the river Kukadi has carved out potholes that resemble a Martian landscape.
The river stagnates at this stage to a shallow level, exposing the potholes on either side. It’s not a deep gorge as one can see during the summer, but the kUnd is part of the attraction, the main characteristic here is the potholes.
We had learned so much about Nighoj Potholes, and Jayesh of Western Routes always announces group visits there, only during summer. These potholes are visible barely for less than two months.
The monsoon fills up these craters of all frames and sizes may not be advisable to visit them to see the potholes.
My first impression when I recently visited Nighoj Kund was a bit disappointing. I anticipated a more expansive coverage of this geological marvel, the potholes are centuries old, and these basalt rocks are geologist’s enchantment.
During acute summer the landscape changes drastically giving it the otherworldly upshot.
I could not avoid dropping off into a bathtub like a hole, sunbathed for quite a while. Some of the larger outcrops of rocks were layered in distinctive subtle shades, some even had shells embedded in the sediments.
It’s worth watching your step while examining the strange outlines of cavities that the river etched as it swished and swirled around these basaltic rocks for centuries.
The Nighoj Kund area is quite easily maintained, and considering its interior location in the village some of the smaller holes were filled with hay dump and a few plastic bottles.
Luckily the two Devi temples alongside the Kund safeguard the cleanliness initiative. The main Devi temple that towers above the kind has an interesting story, there are 9 such temples in the hamlet. According to the priest at the temple, goddess Devi carved out the gorge with her mere elbows.
The temple compound provides the much-needed shade, do venture out here early morning, as the afternoon sun is unrelenting. We barely covered the Kund opposite to the newly constructed bridge. An ancient bridge could be viewed at a distance now abandoned.
During the height of monsoons the gorge fills up to prodigious levels and jumping into the gushing river makes it pleasurable. The potholes are completely submerged to form the riverbed. The incredible summer lunar landscape disappears only to appear until the succeeding year. These potholes and riverbeds are a mute testimony to our past and hold secrets of the river as also ecological insights.
Nighoj Kund can be combined with temple visits nearby. The famous Ganpati temple and Devi temples of Nighoj. On your way out a fort built by Shivaji’s cousin is worth holding back for a quick look.
Friendly villagers are quite overwhelmed by visitors to the hamlet, they will even tempt you to their homes for a meal and witness bullock cart (it’s not banned here) race on festive occasions.
#rewind mode when I returned to #coorg after decades. Here is a brief #capturethemoment of #thedrivehome and #vistaprint . This is the advantage of having #wheelsundermyfeet and the passion to #traveltowrite . #coorgtourism #tourism #travelblog #travelgram #instagrammer #coorgcoffee #youtube #travellogplanners
Revisiting Coorg -with some last minute shopping to be done, I set out downtown, which is the pulse and marketplace of Coorg. Former glorious days these bustling towns catered to just bare essential ma and pa shops.
It’s a far cry now with traffic snarls, narrow roads that intensify chaos amongst swelling crowds.
The mid-90s witnessed a surge in tourist boom. The verdant forests, cool climate and manicured coffee estates are such an allure to this mountainous district in Karnataka. Home Stays (luckily in and around far-flung villages, coffee estates) and many Hotels (unfortunately around townships) have led to traffic woes and other adversities.
Tourist preferences are indicative in these small towns of Coorg. The proliferation of restaurants catering to tourists from neighbouring states is inevitable. I was beyond shocked to see KFC (Kodagu for Chicken or something to that effect!).
In Virajpet, several Delhi eating joints, Chaat shops, thankfully a few Kerala Paratha joints and Kerala cuisine, but North Indian food appears to have swept over local cuisine.
Indian tourists quite frankly are quite averse to trying out food other than what they are accustomed to, especially Vegetarians.
Coorg Cuisine in Mercara, Main road, is one place not to avoid for the most authentic Kodava dishes.
Girish Pemmaiah proudly serves well-known local cuisine handed over by his grandma a great cook and his Mother. He does show exasperation when tourists demand Dal Chaval and takes great trouble retaining and initiating them to Kodava food.
Some dishes like Pandi Curry Kadambutu, and Nuputu is to die for. Don’t miss the Bamboo curry, even though seasonal, at CC it’s available all year round.
Authentic Coorg food is difficult to trace even in Mercara, couple another hole in the wall places exists but difficult to ascertain the quality of food.
COORG THEN AND NOW
I found a sea change in the way Coorg has emerged from a sleepy coffee growing/farming district to hook on as a potential tourism destination.
Two decades ago it was a chore driving down to my husband’s estate filled with potholes and bad roads. Today infrastructure has vastly improved, with smooth roads even in the deep interiors.
Garbage disposal was a problem, but now the District has that organised and maintains squeaky-clean streets, especially Mercara.
I remember climbing hilltop to catch network on my mobile, similarly that has greatly improved.
The Kodavas guard their customs and traditions rather diligently especially in their hometown find progress slightly intrusive.
The young Turks (Kodavas) on the other hand take great pride in nonconformity, welcoming change that is inevitable and returning home as was the norm.
The Nalknad is a palace full of covert windows and doors. The last Raja used this as his final outpost and refuge, the palace though secure as his hideout could not withstand the onslaught of the British army. Ironically Dodda Veerarajendra built this palace to commemorate his victory against Tipu Sultan ably assisted by the British!
A guide welcomed us and I distinctly remember asking him if this is a house like any other around these hills, why call it a palace?
Once you step inside the simple architecture of the Nalknad, the fading geometrical designs, intricate colourful murals on the ceilings and walls, the carved pillars, this two-storied palace undeniably permeates everything royal.
The secure palace compound wall that surrounds the palace is where some of the ingeniously designed hidden passageways begin. Just at the entrance is a veiled window, which acts as the guard’s secret viewing spot and also a secure room. The entrance door is massive and completely spiked to prevent any elephants from battering it down.
The palace with many highlights – look out for bulky wooden latches on every door of the many tiny rooms that exist. Each latch simply slides into a wooden block ensuring secure closure of doors.
The tunnel vision peephole is a decorative geometrical design open window panel that also doubles up as room ventilation. From a distant rear end of the building, one could directly watch the entrance through well-aligned narrow windows privately.
The bathing room had a low partition within its interior for the actual bath area. There was no evidence of storage of water either hot or cold. The pots if at all must have vanished years ago.
The Royal hideout was through various narrow passageways and stairs, steep leading to the hideout in the basement. Strangely there was no window or ventilation in that particular room. The wedding Mantap building exemplifies simplicity, this was built for the Raja’s sister’s nuptials.
On our way out I met some government officials who had come to mark the presence of their visit. I categorically stated that this iconic building must be saved. The building is in a grave state of disrepair, the paintings are peeling off, and the floor is caving in certain places. The steps of the stairs were chipped, doors and windows disjointed, displaying apathy and disrespect to this iconic palace that could otherwise help tourism in Coorg.