(Warning: Very long post.This was written after this post after which a lot of people asked for a sequel)
Let me describe the second lap of our journey from Mangalore to Goa. We left Kerala, spent a day at beautiful Mangalore and the next day took the Mangalore-Goa road. This route is a very scenic route and it is advised to use blinkers for car occupants during this journey. Otherwise car occupants will do crazy things like stopping the car every half an hour or so to take pictures of the beautiful sights. It is advisable to have patient drivers like my elder brother G who will patiently pull over every time I wanted to click a snap.
By the time we reached Bhatkal we were in a holiday mood. I would describe holiday mood as that state of being when you stop looking at the watch or the milestone and just enjoy the time without worrying about the next moment. Goa was somewhere in the horizon, but we were in no hurry to reach it. After a drive of an hour or so out of Mangalore, we hit a small beach. The water was an unusual grey and blended into the grey sky. The whole scene looked surreal like we were watching an episode from Star Trek. It was with great difficulty that we tore our eyes from the sea and drove on. We stopped at Bhatkal and were lucky to witness the arrival of fishing boats and the hectic auctioneering that follows soon after the catch is loaded. A basket of mackerels was sold for Rs 50 right before my eyes!!!! That would be around 10 kilos definitely. I suddenly felt bad at the haggling my Mom did with the fish seller who comes in regularly. These guys certainly don't have it easy. I looked at the fishing boat proudly festooned with the Indian tricolor and wondered how these guys managed to make both ends meet? :(
The Bhatkal Light House is an amazing place. You drive up this steep hill on a road that is perhaps a few inches broader than a ribbon to reach the lighthouse. The view from the lighthouse is breathtaking. We stood in silence and let the view sink in. Massive waves broke against the cliff walls below and I just couldn't believe that I was in India. This as a scene straight out of English novels. The confluence of the sea and mountains throughout the route was an amazing sight! (No guys, Karnataka Tourism is not paying me to write this, though their last cheque did bounce!)
We lunched at Karwar at a restaurant cum bar !!! ( it was the only place open at 3pm) The food was decent, the place wasn't. Any minute I expected a Silk Smitha to come floating out of the silk curtains and garish light festooned doorway. My mom and me were as out of place as two Nuns in a tattoo parlor. While G tried to stifle his laughter at our situation, M looked around with exaggerated interest and asked the Manager when the floorshow would start. The Manager suitably pleased at the thought of a prospective customer informed M that 'Belita' and her troupe would perform from 6 pm onwards. M put on another overly exaggerated look of disappointment and said mournfully that he would not be able to witness the spectacular floorshow as he had to drive to Goa. He then proceeded to do what he always does at restaurants. He asked the Manager if they served 'Duck'!
The poor manager who looked like a MacMohan clone ( of Samba fame in Sholay) was flummoxed. He went into the kitchen to check with the cook. By now G was chuckling away, while my Mom looked very disapproving and Dad tried hard to hide his smile behind the Menu card. My mom did what she usually does when M takes off on his pranks. She took the menu and ordered lunch from another waiter. MacMohan came back saying that they did not have “duck' but they had chicken. Again M put on that look of exaggerated disappointment and he sighed loudly and asked if they had ‘goose’? MacMohan went into a tizzy again and went to check the same with the cook. By this time I was laughing uncontrollably, my mom was looking daggers at M and M was reading the menu rather too gravely.
Drinking is a strict no-no while driving so both brothers had to watch Dad and me gulp down chilled beer while they had to make do with Musambi Juice. MacMohan looked very disapproving now. Two young guys and drinking Musambi juice??? I am sure he must have thought that he had seen everything he had to see in this trade. The waiter bought in my Chicken Biryani and M asked the waiter innocently if the meat was crow meat or chicken meat? The waiter was taken aback, and then recovering his composure replied with all sincerity that it was indeed chicken. He then proceeded to explain in all innocence that the restaurant did not serve crow. M nodded sagely and said gravely that he understood how difficult it was to catch crows!
We limbered into Goa late in the evening and were promptly stopped by the cops. We were waved behind a row of cars that were stopped similarly. A sleepy cop who perhaps did not see G clearly under the Sodium Vapor lamp wanted to know why he wasn't wearing a Khaki shirt!!! This time it was M's turn to hoot with laughter as G explained patiently that this was a private car and he wasn't a taxi driver. The cop noticed the white board and sheepishly waved us on. I guess it was time for the poor cop to go home and have his Feni.
We met surprisingly friendly cops in Goa. Imagine this scene. My brother and friend driving back at 7 pm to the resort after a day of scuba diving. A cop stops them and asks them where they were heading. When they disclosed that they were going back to the resort, the cop looked surprised and remarked that 7 'o' clock was party time and not a decent hour to be going back to the room!!! He then waved them on after advising them on the most happening nightclubs in town. He left a big impression on the guys with his warm and friendly nature.
The beaches of Goa were nice and it was cloudy throughout our stay, which made the weather really pleasant. However the waters smelled of fuel from the ever-present boats. We spent mornings on the recliners that the beach shacks hire out. On the last day we saw the shameful sight of a group of Saffron turbaned Sikhs who terrorized and chased every bikini clad foreigner out of the waters till somebody called the cops.
The whole industry is geared towards foreigners and getting a South Indian meal is difficult unless you go to Panaji’. I survived on Subs throughout the holiday and lost hell of a lot of weight by the time we got back. The food at the resort was heavily into meat. On our way back we stopped at a Kamat hotel and had rice and sambhar like starving hordes. :)
If you are going to Goa take the Bangalore, Mangalore, Goa route. It is a whole package of experiences.