Travel: Waterfall Safari and Spices

A group of us woke up early today to embark on a day trip beyond the beaches. After all, there is only so much beach bummage that one can handle!

It took us about 2-hours by taxi to reach the the the small town of Kulem, a town located just outside the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park, a protected area located within the Western Ghats.

What I didn’t know at the time is that the Western Ghats are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and said to be one of eight “hottest hotspots”of biological diversity in the world. The mountain range is home to 39 properties in total with locations in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra.

From there, we hopped in a safari jeep for a 1-hr climb through the mountains up to the waterfalls.

As expected, the 4-wheel drive was more than needed as we climbed the mountain. We crossed over rocky terrain, small streams, and large pools of water at low points along the road. We parked and then there was a short hiking path to the base of the falls.

Dudhsagar Falls is one of India’s largest waterfalls with a peak height of 1017 ft. It sits on the border of Goa and Karnataka, and is a four-tiered waterfall. Its name can be translated to “Sea of Milk” because the monsoon rains transform the entire rock face into a jaw-dropping force of water. Unfortunately the monsoon season is from July to September, so we were just catching the remnants of water left behind.

I wasn’t aware that we were allowed to swim in the pool. Fortunately Tané had a spare bikini top and I decided to sacrifice my underwear for the cause. (I ended up having to ride home commando, wet panties in a pair of jean shorts is never a good idea.)

It was definitely an experience being able to lay our backs against the rock face and feel the pounding of the water run across our heads and shoulders.

We then swam back to the rocks, dried off, and had a quick photo-op before heading to take the jeep back down the mountain. After we hopped in the taxi, it was on to our next stop for the day.

The diversity of India’s culinary creations are something that no one should skimp out on. India is the largest democracy in the world, and its substantial geographic presence results in six, unique climate subtypes. From north to south an abundance of dish varieties can be found. Goa, for example, is well known for its Goan Fish Curry, and the south for its use of lentils, rice, and dosas, whereas naan, rotis, and samosas originate from the north.

Such variety would not be possibly without the use of spices, and we learned all about the difference flavors that each spice can add to dish on our tour of the Tropical Spice Plantation. We were able to see, pick, and taste all of the following: Pepper, Vanilla, Betel Nuts, Cardamom, Lemongrass, Piri Piri, Nutmeg, Cashew, Clove, Cinnamon, Bay Leaves, Chinese Coriander, Turmeric, Ginger, All  Spice, Gherkin, Cardamom, and Black Cardamom.

imageThey even had an elephant giving rides! (Although I can’t comment on whether he was being ethically treated and cared for.)  We then headed back to the hostel to relax for a bit before we all grabbed dinner together to celebrate my last evening in Goa.

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Travel: Beach Bummage 

I have nothing of consequence to note. Haha. As much as I love the backpacking culture of seeing and experiencing as much as possible within a limited timeframe I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it is EXHAUSTING. Traipsing around Central and Southern India with a friend that was native born-and-raised in Bombay has been uniquely authentic, but I am due for some serious R&R!

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The exciting think about today is that a group of us from the hostel spent the evening exploring the Arpora Night Market. For me, it was very remniscient of Taiwan’s night markets, with stalls offering anything you could possibly want, in addition to the quintessential souvenirs.

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The market sprawls over a large outdoor are and is only active and open during the main tourist season. Divided into a Lower, Central, and Upper Field, it is difficult not to get lost and overwhelmed by the crowds.

We browsed everything from traditional handicrafts to huge assortments of spices and teas. There were booths after booths brimming with Kashmiri carpets, Pashmina scarves, silver jewelry, and unique art creations. You name it and you can find it! There is also a food court centered around a stage that hosts an array of live music from Rock to Indian Classical.

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I was both overwhelmed and in awe. It is impossible to miss the fervor in the air, and although similar to previous night markets I experienced as a child, the Arpora Night Market had its own distinctive character. It offered the diversity of a global experience without overshadowing the unmistakeable hints of a typical Indian Bazaar.

 

Travel: Vagator

This morning with a heavy heart I had to bid Nick adieu. But before he disappeared into the wind, he helped me secure a rigshaw to ferry me away to a hostel for the remainder of my time in Goa. Nick then hopped into a Taxi headed to the airport.

imageIt’s somewhat surprising that we are such good friends, with very similar travel philosophies, despite our colored past. You see, once upon a time, many years ago, we dated each other, and, as with many high school relationships, it ended dramatically and emotionally, igniting a rift in our social circles. But, as is typical with age and college, our friendship evolved and adapted to the adults we were becoming. Even today I still find some irony in our story. Nick is one of a handful of friends that sees the world and travels in similar fashion to myself.

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But enough about our history! I am now on my own, savoring the rest of my days on Vagator Beach. Unfortunately, with the New Year’s traffic it took me over an hour to get to my new crash pad.By the time I had checked in and dropped off my luggage I was hot, sweaty, and tired. I used the lounge area to catch up on some blog posts, and after recooperating some energy, made the 10-minute walk to check out the beach before calling it a day.

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Travel: New Years

Last night while walking amongst the crowds on the beach and celebrating the holiday, my butt got grabbed twice. The first time I thought it was an accident, but the second time I couldn’t help myself from turning around and shoving the guy behind me. Nick, ever a great guy friend, backed me up and the group of males backed off. It took me awhile to shake it off and go back to enjoying the celebratory atmosphere.

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This morning, Nick and I slept in. We started off our morning with lunch consisting of traditional Goan Fish Curry and Fried Prawns. It was so tasty! After, we meandered on to the local beach and rented cots for the day to spend a lazy afternoon. We enjoyed quick massages from a peddler, and certainly couldn’t skip our daily tradition of Chai and Biscuits.

With a twinge of sadness we watched the sun dip below the horizon. This was to be Nick and I’s last night together as he was flying out in the morning to spend some time with his extended family in India. We celebrated our eye-opening Indian Adventure together by sharing one last dinner.

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