Like Kerala, Goa has its head resting in the forests of the Western Ghats and its feet getting a brush of sea spray on the pristine beaches along the Arabian Sea. South Goa is home to a location that offers an amazing transition from the sea to the forest within a picturesque, 45-minute drive from Talpona to Cotigao.
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You could start this blue-green holiday from Talpona. The coastal stretch from Mashem to Cabo de Rama has a garland of unknown and untouched beaches. These have been discovered as yet only by backpackers. It’s where you are sure to spot one of those exotic shacks on stilts that will remind you of the Goa from the 1070s and early ’80s.
In fact, the names of the beaches are enough to reveal its unheard flavours (Read: Zorint, Canaguinim, Nuvem, Patnem, Xendrem and Vaturem). Here, feni is still homemade, and Fish Curry and Rice is staple food. After you are done combing these beaches, head to the coastline at Polem. It’s deserted, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot dolphins off its coast. The Galgibag beach is equally fascinating as it’s one of the nesting sites for the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles.
Next up, on your discovery are the fragrant forests to the east, where you will spot the Mallikarjun temple. In a unique, elaborate ritual, the idol is carried to the beach at Talpona for an annual dip in the Arabian Sea.
Green miles to go...
After this, embark on the green chapter of your holiday. Just before you reach Cotigao sanctuary on the Goa-Karnataka border, you cannot miss the secluded 500-year-old centre of Vedic learning, known as the Partgal Math.
Late in the evening, get into your avian avatar role, to spot the elusive Night Jar. It’s a bird of the night, and can be found near this Math. And, if you are lucky, like we were, you might chance upon the entire family — father, mother and two juveniles — stirring up from their sleep and getting ready for the long night ahead!
Our guide for the next day’s adventure was Deepak. He was nicknamed Jeevani or the the man who doesn’t die as he had survived five bites of extremely venomous snakes including kraits and vipers. He took us to an 80-feet-high watchtower that helped us get a bird’s eye view, of the birds! We were able to spot some of the tallest trees in this part of the world; many towered above the watchtower, were growing up to 100 feet!
Then came the night of the reckoning. The forest jeep drove us into the heart of the forest and dropped us at the machan next to Bela Lake. The sun had set but the moon was yet to rise. The dark, leafless tree next to the machan slowly became laden with twinkling stars. Suddenly, a star fell. And before one could make a wish, another one, inexplicably, flew across to the next branch! It was when we realised that the fireflies in the trees had intermingled with the stars in the sky!
The forest was unbelievably silent, and our slightest move on the machan made the wooden planks creak, even as the sounds amplified manifold. It reverberated in the forest, making us feel guilty for having breached its sanctity.
The long wait for the leopard followed. Despite Deepak’s warning that the leopard would skip this stagnant waterhole and go to a fresh-water one nearby, we kept up the night-long vigil. At the break of dawn, we heard as the breeze carried many birdsongs, known and unknown. We stepped down from the machan, only to spot the scared pugmarks of a barking deer, barely 100 feet away. Close on its heels were pugmarks of a leopard, the one we had missed. Next, we noticed the pugmarks of a mother bear and her cub. As if to confirm our observation, we noticed a termite hole nearby that was ravaged by the mother.
Nature in all its wild splendour.
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