Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mathe-run - the trekking way...

When I heard of a day trek being planned I was excited about the idea. Firstly, it had been a while since I had gone trekking. Most treks I have been to were either in summer or were evening or night treks. More importantly, Matheran was an attraction as I had never been there. And to reach this beautiful hill station by foot was thrilling to know. After going and to and fro to have it or not, the four of us set out from Kurla station to Panvel at 6.20 in the morning. The forty minute train ride was a breeze on the foggy morning. We were suppose to be a dozen youngsters but almost eight backed out on the eve and four of us had made up our minds to execute what was planned.

Mrunmaiy, was the leader and the three guys (Ravi, Porus and me) ensuring we protected her while she led us. After alighting at Panvel station, we took a stroll to the local bus stop sipping some hot chai on the nippy morning. The interim destination was Dudhani – a little hamlet at the foothill of the Sahyadri mountains. We boarded the bus at 7.45 am and in forty minutes we were at Dudhani with the mountains staring at us. We had not carried water hoping to buy some bottles before the climb. The only store in sight did not have any. So we began the trek with no water on us (that's a record). However, a couple of packets of biscuits and glucon –d was the only saving grace.

The locals instructed us to follow a set of water pipes that would lead us to the trail. We were accompanied from a distance by a bunch of college boys who were on their own. So we would take turns to overtake each other.We took 5-6 short breaks but otherwise climbed non-stop for two hours chatting, panting, clicking and eating to reach the mountain top at Sunset Point in two hours.

After spending a few minutes at this secluded place and meeting a few villagers on their way down, we began to walk towards the hill town seeking directions from passersby, a couple of tourists and not to miss the Matheran monkeys. By 11.30 we could see the tracks of the narrow gauge railway and a stream of tourists. We had hit the red, dusty pathways of this hill town. After a stroll around the market place we finally settled for lunch, which was one of the goals at the destination.

Park view hotel served us a variety of chicken dishes and we made our own finger bowl before stepping out for dessert – milkmaid based gola and choco-walnut fudge. We then headed to the Matheran Light Railway ticket booking counter to catch the toy train to Neral. At the station a little boy helped us get our shoes cleaned of the red Matheran soil stuck to it. We were first in the ticket queue for the 2.45 pm train and after a couple of rounds of Uno we were all set to board the historic rail system.

We had a mobile kitty party for company. Around three dozen middle aged women chattering their way down the hills. We were at Neral by 4.15 after witnessing some beautiful sceneries. From Neral it was back to the Mumbai local to get back to our homes. It was a memorable day with lots of adventure. Some you would have read of, some we cannot mention here and some are to be only experienced and savored for time to come.

Monday, January 5, 2009

With Family to Goa

o The last family holiday that I can remember is when we had gone to Himachal Pradesh in our Diwali holidays years ago. Papa used to take us out for holidays quiet often. I remember Delhi, Agra, Tadoba, Totladoh, etc. Now we just see pictures of those past holidays and think of the fun we had then.
o I have been thinking of going on a holiday with the entire family for quiet some time now
o Few months ago, Sarvesh and me had discussed about the topic. He was all game for it and had suggested Sri Lanka, since it is a very beautiful country and he had been there. But traveling such long distance would have been a very expensive affair hence we did not pursue this earlier
o I also discussed the idea with Ravi, Porus & Urvashi – all of them showed great inclination towards a holiday

o I was contemplating the various places we could go – near Nagpur, near Pune, near Mumbai, up North, etc.
o I thought this holiday with entire family is something that is happening after many years. This has to be in a special place, because we will be discussing about it for years after we have been there. We never know in future if we all will ever be able to come together at the same time and go for such a holiday. So the place we go to also has to have a special significance and a good name which can be talked about.
o I thought of going to a beach place - because we don’t go to such a place normally and we have seen mountains, waterfalls and greenery in places such as Junnar
o Alibaug, near Mumbai could have been a option – but it was not cool-sounding as GOA. Besides some of the kids (i.e. ravi, me, uri & porus_ – had been to Goa and our knowledge of the place would come in handy while planning. After all our objective was to have a well-planned trip so all can have fun and we should know where we are heading to.
o So I decided ‘GOA’ was the place where we all will go and did a quick check on phone will all the siblings

CORE TEAM – Ravi, Porus, Urvashi & me

o I first thought of this tour in October’08. At that time, planning the Goa trip for December seemed like a doable option. (I did not want to push this to January 2009)
o 1st weekend of December (i.e. around 5 – 9 Dec) was a good option since there was a 2-day weekend in between and also 1 public holiday of Eid. So all working people will have to take a leave of only 1 day or at the maximum 2 days.
o But then started all the issues:
§ Papa wanted to be Nagpur during 1st week of the month as it is the beginning of the month and salaries & other things had to be taken care of
§ Sayongita Chachi and Maya mom had their special month of fasting and that month was ending and Puja had to be performed at their respective homes
§ My family had to come back by the 16th of Dec to attend a very important wedding in the family
§ Dadi has guests coming in December – so they have to back in Nagpur by a certain date
§ Etc. etc.
o And then finally, considering all issues, we decided that the dates would be – 11th to 15th December

o We could have taken various routes to go to Goa – e.x. via train from Mumbai, dadi & dadaji could come via plane from Nagpur, or all of us could take the road via Pune
o I caught hold of a tiny planning notebook and made a list of people who will be traveling. It came to a massive 18 people (including 16 adults, 1 baby & 1 Rani). We also thought of Buaji’s family – but due to some reasons they could not travel for a holiday.
o We had people from as many as 4 different locations coming together. But we also thought that the fun of the holiday is in traveling together.
o We were too late to book train tickets. Trains tickets to Goa during this season have to be booked 3 months in advance, as there is rush of tourists specially in December
o As soon as the dates were finalized, Urvashi was quick to book to and fro online train tickets of Nagpur-Pune for 5 people (i.e. Dadi, Dadaji, Papa, Mom & Chachi) – because if we did not act fast, even these tickets would be difficult to get and traveling from Nagpur via road would have been painful – considering we were thinking of taking the road-route to Goa
o It took Porus and me in-numerable calls to finalize our travel mode
o We thought of taking bus, hiring cars + driver. Porus was the key to this planning and was running around finding out rates for the various road transport modes. He also explored traveling in a bus to Goa. But since we would have needed the cars to travel in Goa –we decided to take our own and drive all the way to Goa.
o This way, we could halt whenever we want and the cars would be more comfortable for Dadi & Dadaji too
o In between the planning process, the core team also happened to meet up in Junnar. I discussed the idea with Chacha and he liked it. Chacha suggested we go in a cruiser and our safari as it can accommodate all people. He had seen the cruiser earlier and liked it. But we dismissed the idea of that car since it did not seem too comfortable for a long distance trip
o Finally, we zeroed on 2 cars: 1 Safari and 1 Tavera. Chachi & Anshu were flying down directly from Delhi.

o Apart of travel: Food & Stay would have been our major expenses
o The last time Chacha & family had been to Goa they had stayed at a friend’s guest house for very nominal rates. We thought this would be a good option for us as we could save a lot of stay then. But unfortunately the guest house was closed for some reason – and we had to rule out this option
o I finally found a hotel, with good reference checks, that was reasonable and situated at a good location and was comfortable and had reasonable rates. The owner was good friends with Ravi and gave us good non-peak-season rates.
o Even if the rates were higher I would have still gone with the idea of staying in a hotel – because I thought comfort of staying – while on a holiday is also a very important aspect. Also the hotel had a swimming pool.
o I finally booked the hotel – 3 cottages
o Also checked if Dogs were allowed and gave them and advance intimation that we will be checking-in with our dear Rani

o I thought, our parents have always taken us out on holidays; it was time that we take them out.
o I checked with Urvashi & Sarvesh if they were ok with the idea of us paying for the holiday. They were supportive of this thought too.
o But while budgeting I found that it would be difficult for us to fund the entire holiday so I seeked help from Papa & Chacha for the remaining funds, and they too obliged

EXECUTION – The Goa Holiday Tour

DAY 1 – Dec 11 - Travel
o Nagpur party reached Pune by 10:30am. Mumbai party reached by 8:30am
o We ate brunch at Pune home – Potato Paratha & Dal Rice
o Left in 2 cars for Goa at arounf 4:00pm.
o Took halts for taking pictures on the highway and drinking tea
o Lots of toll nakas and check nakas: Maharashtra Border, Goa Border & Karnataka Border
o Reached Kolhapur in night and had dinner in a hotel. Drive all night and reached Goa Hotel very late in the night at around 3:00am
o Decided who will go into which room, ordered for extra beds and checked into our rooms
o Chachi & Anshu had reached in the afternoon, earlier than us

DAY 2 – Dec 12 – In Goa
o Morning & afternoon: breakfast in hotel, Calangute Beach – Lazying on the shacks, halfpants for dadaji, hat for Dadi, other shopping, lunch, Sikander lost his spectacles in the sea, all boys got drenched in the sea while playing, all moms walked along the sea, dadi gifted us with box of biscuits
o Evening: Swastik Cruise – Dance on stage, river cruise, goan culture show, dinner in hotel. Rani was not allowed in. we ate chips on the cruise.
o Night: We also searched and bought an egg-less cake for Chachi’s birthday. Celebrated Chachi’s birthday in hotel and had dinner

DAY 3 – Dec 13 – In Goa
o Morning & afternoon: No breakfast, Fort Aguada – pictures on fort, water sports: water bikes, banana boat ride & para sailing, dadi & dadaji on speed boat, ordered for new spectacles for Sikander. Breakfast combined with Lunch at Aguada beach
o Late Afternoon: Some of them took afternoon naps in hotel, kids in swimming pool playing, dadi kept a contest of searching for a coin inside the pool. There were 2 rounds, I won the 1st one. Anshu won the 2nd. We both got prize worth Rs 100 the next day.
o Evening – dadaji & rani stayed back in hotel, others went to Baga Beach for dinner. Searched for night market, it was closed due to terror attacks warning. Checked out some shops for shopping near Baga Beach, bought 2 sunglasses for Papa, Sikander bought sandals, wine & sizzler for dinner
o Late night – Porus & Sarvesh went out at 1:00pm to see night life …. like the casino… discs…beach shacks…

DAY 4 – Dec 14 – In Goa
o Morning – breakfast in hotel, visit to Mangeshi temple, Church & museum.
o Afternoon - searched for place to have lunch. Got late and ate at 4:00pm finally. Half of us went back to hotel, rest stayed back to buy cashews and wine to take back home and be gifted to friends.
o Night –Ate dinner in hotel. Played snooker & pool.
o Late night – Beach-hopping. Our last day in Goa so did not want to go home early. Went again to Calangute beach & Baga Beach. Saw very high waves. Drank coffee in CafĂ© Coffee Day. Went to a super market to buy wine.

DAY 5 – Dec 15 - Travel
o Anshu & Chachi left early in the morning
o On our way back the 2 cars took different rotes. My car went through the Amboli Ghat and we saw waterfalls
o We also took a lunch-halt in Kolhapur and met all family members of beena chachi
o We reached Pune around 1:00am in the night

o All 3 of us (Urvashi, Sarvesh & me) paid in advance and Urvashi & me were the final custodians of the finances

o Ravi – For all his encouragement and support all through the planning & execution process
o Porus – For being the logistics kings & also the enthusiastic prince
o Sarvesh – For bringing super cool laughter and energy to the entire trip
o Papa – For his valuable insights and availability
o Urvashi – For shouting and pin pointing the loopholes all the time
o Sikander – For all the funny jokes and participation in every activity
o Dadaji – For his accommodating and flexible attitude
o Dadi – For her never-say-no spirit
o All the Moms i.e. Mala, Sayongita, Beena & Maya – For all the nice snacks they made and brought for us
o Dolly, Rajesh & Trisha – For being with us all through
o Shraddha – For being the silent participant but also being equally enthusiastic
o Rani – for being there and checking out the hotel swimming pool on the very 1st day..
o & Chacha – we all missed you a lot