Day 13: PANJIM PEOPLES
We awoke at 5:45am to get packed up as if we were checking out of Casa de Goa (which we were) even though our alternate accommodation at the Panjim Inn was not confirmed yet. Still, the thought of staying another night in this dump felt wasteful and we weren’t going to have any of it.
It felt a bit awkward checking out a night early. The hotel staff was shrugging as if they didn’t know what was going on. Meanwhile, Deborah was reluctant to say anything at first thinking we’re easily offended or were very picky.
But eventually, she asked us where we had been in India and eventually the topic turned to tigers and leopards (both of which we saw at Ranthambhore National Park). Apparently, leopards are still around Goa as she mentioned one happened to be in someone’s residence and was on TV.
From then, Deborah got into it by talking about Goan history and some interesting facts about Goa and some of the things we were seeing during the drive.
One of the things we noticed was the absence of slums and people living on the streets here. Plus, the pace was definitely more relaxing than other Indian places we’ve seen so far (and this included some of the far flung places [or so we thought] like Shillong). The buildings have a mostly Portugese influence with colorful walls (many of which are chipping or fading due to the monsoon) as well as some narrow alleyways reminiscent of some of the nooks and crannies you might find in some of the classical places of Europe.
Among the things we learned, Goa was a Portugese name as it was supposed to rhyme with Lisboa (Lisbon) while this area was named Go-something where the “go” was Hindi for cow.
Even though Dudhsagar Falls was roughly 70km (according to the driver) from Panaji (or Panjim for Portugese), it still took nearly two hours (and the driver was speeding and passing pretty emphatically). That was because of the numerous trucks carrying iron ore. There were caravans of them, and they tended to clog up the flow of traffic.
We also saw a couple of big spiders and termite mounds on the way.
We got to a pretty crowded area at 11am that was full of jeeps that made it as well as tourists already here. There were lots of waiting macaques (a type of monkey) waiting for handouts. Unfortunately, many of the Russian tourists were feeding them (clearly ignoring the signs) while no one seemed to be enforcing the rules, which was unfortunate.
The views of the falls from this area were only partial and of the top part of the falls. I was hoping for a more contextual view of the falls from a hill across the valley, but apparently it wasn’t here. So when we started to hike down, I was hoping somehow that this was going to be it.
Given the humidity and heat of this area, just about all of the tourists came in swim attire (we were the only ones in Ex-Officio shirts and pants) and cooled off in the plunge pool at the base of the falls.
The view of the falls weren’t all that satisfying from down here. And when I asked the local guide (different person from Deborah) about an upper viewpoint of the falls, he said we needed permits and would have to come back another time to do it. So of course I thought to myself this was quite a bummer as what I thought was the best view of Dudhsagar Falls wasn’t even available in the standard tour. The guide told me that he could do it on a return trip for Rs 2500. So I was under the impression that there’s a separate road or something to get up to that satisfying vantage point. But for now, we’re stuck with the views we got.
So after getting our fill of the falls as well as checking out a little tiger cave (only during monsoon), we quickly walked back towards the awaiting jeep area. A sign here mentioned that the falls is 300m. The local guide told me it was 310m. Either way, it was nothing like the 603m height I’ve seen floated about in the web literature as there’s definitely a fair bit of misinformation out there. Plus, it’s been said that this is the 2nd highest waterfall in India. After seeing Nohkalikai Falls (which was claimed to be the 4th highest in the world but didn’t have any statistics on a permanent sign or something to back it up), I was obviously skeptical about such claims.
We left on the jeep at 12pm just in time for a traffic jam on the narrow 4×4 roads in both directions. Since we were all dripping with sweat from the brief hiking in the humidity as well as breathing in the nasty diesel fumes as we waited, this wasn’t good.
During the drive back, I was confused about what’s the story behind getting that contextual view of the falls that I so coveted.
So I asked Deborah if the falls was visible by train passengers (thinking maybe those folks might get the nice views of the falls somewhere along the tracks before passing in front of the falls). She said train passengers do see the falls, but I wasn’t sure if it was the viewpoint I coveted or some suboptimal view like the ones you get for Stoney Creek Falls on the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
Then, the driver mentioned to Deborah (who then translated to me) that there’s a 1.5-hour hike uphill to a better vantage point (possibly the one I coveted). Of course the guide repeated what he told me about needing to get permission to get that viewpoint. In any case, like I said before, it’s not part of the standard tour, and that was a shame because I think the falls would be more worth it to go out of the way for.
Nonetheless, we eventually made it through and got back to our normal vehicle at 12:45pm. We also saw a few rangoons (black-faced monkeys) running across the road, which contrasted from the macaques which only seemed to be at the falls area.
We learned during the drive back that we would be checked into Panjim Inn. So at least we’d be better positioned to get out of Goa tomorrow plus do our walking tour of Panaji (Panjim) this afternoon after checking in.
At 2pm, we made a stop at the Basilica de Bom Jesus and the Se Cathedral across the street. The Basilica was interesting because it housed the still-intact remains of St Francis Xavier. His body was so well-preserved (didn’t decompose since his burial) that some missing parts of his body were in different places for display. Deborah joked that St Francis Xavier couldn’t rest in peace but his pieces are resting in different places!
The Se Cathedral was just a big cathedral (said to be Asia‘s largest church). It was about St Catherine of Alexandria, and I guess she was supposed to die by stretching on a wheel, but the wheel fell apart. So I guess this might have something to do with the Catherine Wheel rock band I remembered hearing about in my high school days.
At 2:40pm, we were back in the car and headed to Panaji. And at 3pm, we checked into the Panjim Inn. They had rooms across the street at the Panjim People’s, which we were given. And one look in here made us forget about all the worries about another Casa de Goa experience.
The stained-glass windows, ornate tiled floors, artistic bed posts, and European-style matching dresser and desk was enough to make us think we were staying in some art gallery. In fact, I’d argue that we could stomach another cold shower here instead of the dump last night.
At 3:35pm, we took advantage of our position in town to do a quick walking tour. So we got oriented, carried around both our LP and DK India books, and starting doing a hybrid walking tour encompassing both LP and DK guidebook recommendations.
First, we walked towards the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, which was an impressive building with a bright white facade. The front of it looked grand and we decided to walk around its complex for a bit to see if there was anything else interesting about it. It turned out that the front facade was the best thing about this building.
Then, we aimlessly walked around some of the local streets in search of a possible place to have dinner. Julie was hungry since we didn’t have dinner last night. Plus, it seemed like she was feeling better than yesterday.
As we walked along the reflective Ourem Creek (which also had a decomposing dead rat on the sidewalk, which made me wonder whether the fleas might carry bubonic plague), we could see that Panaji certainly did have its charms.
Julie and I wished we could’ve spent two nights here and skipped Calangute Beach. But as usual, hindisight was 20/20. In any case, we’d eventually figure out where we were going to have dinner, and so we ended our walking tour as we returned to our room at 4:55pm.
Since most of the restaurants didn’t open until 7pm, we used this time to try to get relaxed and cleaned up a little. And as we were doing this, we were visited by the local tour company rep named Rajesh who made sure that things were going ok with us after hearing about the Casa de Goa and Calangute Beach debacle.
So we shot the breeze for a bit as well as got in contact with Akhilesh in Delhi, and things seemed to be all squared away once again. Sometimes I wondered if we were being perceived as the difficult tourists given the amount of attention we were getting. Then again, it could very well be that this tour company pulled out all the stops to make sure the trip was going well with us, and thus, that would assure us that we were going with a good tour company.
When Rajesh left, a few minutes later, someone else knocked on our door. When I answered, it was someone who I didn’t recognize, but he knew about our itinerary. After realizing that he was our driver for the Karnataka part of our trip, I made sure his itinerary and ours jived.
He also mentioned that no one contacted him about us moving from Casa de Goa to Panjim Inn. So in addition to driving from 4am yesterday from Bangalore to Calangute, he waited there for a while until he finally got the call a couple of hours ago about us switching accommodations to here. I’m sure the driver wasn’t very happy about all the driving and waiting. In any case, we agreed that tomorrow 8am was the time to get going, and with that, he left.
At 6:55pm, we walked back into town to pick up some more water and eat at Viva Panjim’s, which was very close to our accommodation. The outdoor eating experience was as Julie described a poor man’s Europe. But it was still charming nonetheless as we couldn’t envision this type of experience anywhere else in India like Delhi or Mumbai (where touts and beggars would go right up to you, or someone would have already set up a home in the alleyway).
And by 8:20pm, we were back at our room. But the lobby downstairs from us was closed so I guess we’ll not be Wi-Fi-ing this evening (we couldn’t get it from our room).
And so ended this pretty eventful day – one in which our Goa experience was much different and pleasurable than the beach holiday we expected prior to coming here.