Road trips are best when they happen unplanned. I had always had this dream about waking up one morning and just gathering all to hit the road. Well, finally it happened! A week before Diwali, we had planned a trip to either Rajasthan or Kerala. But, somehow, the common choice came down to Goa. Well, it was already too late to get a train or flight reservation and the only option was out beloved Tata Tiago! The feeling of having your friends on a road trip and that too to Goa is exciting and we were already reliving the Dil Chahta Hai movie! The only difference is that we were four friends in this trip â€“ Divyesh, Amit, Sagar and myself. There was another family who were to accompany us â€“ Prasad and Priti Golvelker, their parents (Their dad joined us in return trip), son Atharva and their cousin Bhargav. Prasad had been a part of our group before he was married!
The first thing we did was to book our stay in Goa. It was an eight day itinerary and we were to stay at several different places. Luckily, we got a room everywhere, though it was a mix up of hotels and dormitories. This was certainly going to be an experience.
Day 1 â€“ 30th October
You cannot sleep when you have planned a road trip to Goa and will be driving along the scenic NH8! All of us got together at my home on the 29th evening and we had been getting loaded since! The bags were packed and the power banks were full. We had prepared some home cooked food, as every Gujrati will and planned to savor them when on the road. It was meant to be a picnic that would shift places! Anyway, we had locked out doors at around 4.15 in the morning and were on our way along the NH6.
We made the first stop at Navsari for the dayâ€™s first tea and snacks. It was a welcome break as the morning was already cold and we were shivering even with the carâ€™s heater on. This was also after a long time that we got to actually see and follow the sunrise! As the morning glory lit up the highway, we realized what we miss every day. Anyway, we were gradually gathering the excitement on being on a road trip and complaining why it took so long for us to do so. After Navasri, the second stop that we made was at Lonavala. It was around 1.30 and the sun was already high up in the sky, lighting up the magnificent green hills of Sahyadri. If you had been to Mumbai, this scene would have been a complete opposite! The mountain road was certainly a bit tricky but as long as you are careful, itâ€™s a smooth and fun drive.
We parked safely beside the Lonavala highway and gathered our lunchboxes. It was the most amazing lunch time we had in years. Moving onwards, we reached Kolhapur by 7.30 in the evening and bunked up in a dormitory we had booked for the night. The evening was still young and we used this opportunity to pay a visit to the famous Mahalaxmi temple after getting refreshed in our dorms. Do make sure that if you visiting any temple in Goa or Maharashtra, you shouldnâ€™t be in shorts! Sagar had to pay the price but we friends didnâ€™t leave him waiting alone!
It was a beautiful night and we got ourselves filled at one of the famous Punjabi Dhaba at Kolhapur. Sleep wasnâ€™t still upon us but we had all tucked away by 10.00 in the night.
Day 2 â€“ 31st of October
After a long night of sleep and a scrumptious breakfast of famous Misal-Pav at Kolhapur, we started for Goa at 10.00 in the morning. In about two hours, we were already entering the beautiful Amboli Ghats. If you are driving your own vehicle, this would be a ghat road you wouldnâ€™t want to miss. Apart from the greenery around, you would also pass through several small waterfalls. We took a halt at one of such waterfalls that also gave a panoramic view of the entire hills. With the mountain looming all around, this is a perfect place to be with your family and friends.
By 3 PM, we had reached Goa, completing a total drive of about 1120 kilometers. Our hotel for the night was booked at Calangute and it was fairly easy to find. The moment you enter Goa, you already know you are in a different part of the world. Tourists from across the globe would be seen around and the best part is that Goa is much cleaner and well maintained than other states. After we reached our hotel, we took the opportunity to freshen up. Though it had been a very long drive, no one was in the mood for calling it an end of the day! After all, we had just reached Goa! By 5.00 in the evening, we were ready again to explore the beaches. A 3 kilometer drive took us to the Calangute beach where we parked our vehicles for INR 100. The idea was to walk down to the Bagha Beach and since it was already evening, the scene was fabulous. However, both the Calangute and Bagha beach were crowded, especially since we were right in the peak of the tourist season. Consequently, we didnâ€™t go for a dip in the sea.
The walk to the Bagha Beach took us around two hours and we decided to check into the Brittos restaurant â€“ a beachside setup and offering candlelight dinners. The Golvelker family stayed at Panji so we were not going to spend time with them for next 2 days but the four of us bachelors took to the beach side. There is nothing more amazing than some good food, best friends and the sound of the waves breaking at the shore. It was both peaceful and exciting.
Day 3 â€“ 1st November
Our first stop on Day 3 was the famed Agoda Fort. If you are visiting during winters, itâ€™s best to make it to the fort by Morning but in summers, afternoon will be a recommended timing. Anyway, the place was too much crowded and not quite recommended for tourists and travelers who are looking for some natural harmony. We tried to get out of there fast and make the most out of our next stop â€“ the Vagator Beach. This would be a place that offers your clean shores, clear waters and a lesser crowd - perfect for spending some time with your family and friends.
The Vagator Beach is also a place for tourists looking for some adventure sports. Run by locals, you can experience the thrill of a Jet Ski Ride, Banana Ride and Parasailing. We did it all and thoroughly enjoyed them, especially parasailing. The aerial view of the clean waters is something that you wouldnâ€™t forget for a lifetime. Our itinerary didnâ€™t have these activities planned before, but we couldnâ€™t resist. Also, we had saved some time from the Agoda Fort! There are several packages to choose from but you can always bargain with the locals. We have paid 1600 Rs. Per person For 3 water sports including Para Sailing, Jet Ski and Balloon ride.
Our third stop for the day was the Chapora Fort â€“ 4 kilometers from the Vagator Beach and takes you to the top of a hill. This is the place that has been made famous by the Bollywood movie â€˜Dil Chahta Haiâ€™! Luckily for it, it wasnâ€™t too crowded either and we had a great view of the sunset.
We left the place around 8.00 in the evening and headed towards the Brittos. The restaurants around here didnâ€™t allow bachelors to dine! Nevertheless, Brittos did save us some money and the meal wasnâ€™t too bad either! We reached our hotel by 10.00 in the night and were followed by half an hour of heavy rain to cool things down even more!
Day 4 â€“ 2nd November
Activity went on as usual in the morning and after a brisk walk at the beach and a round of morning chai and sandwiches, we left for Panjim by 10.00. The places that we visited in Panjim were mostly crowded tourist places and were not somewhere that you would want to spend a lot of time with your friends. Our first stop was the Immaculate Conception Church, one you would have seen in the Salman Khan movie â€˜Mujhse Shadi Karogiâ€™.
The next stop was the Dona Pawla, which had been recently in the limelight from the Singham shooting, another Bollywood top grosser. However, it was an ill-maintained place and we also found it hard to find a good place for parking. After that we visited the St. Francis Church â€“ a more peaceful place to be at and the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount. The Chapel is again situated atop a hill and gives you a good view of half of Goa! We ended the day by paying a visit to the Shantadurga Temple.
Day 5 â€“ 3rd November
We got out early to catch the less crowded Colva Beach in South Goa. Starting early is also highly recommended if you arenâ€™t looking to burn your feet and skin by the burning sand. We werenâ€™t able to stand bare feet in the sand, though it was just 10.00 in the morning. Priti Golvelker had researched about the less known Cola beach and it was our next stop. Reaching Cola Beach would be difficult as Google Maps donâ€™t register it and you will have to do a lot of asking around. We somehow managed to get to the entry pint of the beach but still needed to go two more kilometers towards the sea to be at the actual Cola Beach. It was a struggle driving through the sand and rocks but once we reached the place, every bit of it had been worth it.
Cola Beach could be one of the best beaches in India. Thanks to it not being on the Google Maps, it is quite unexplored and offers you the real natural beauty of a Goan coast. There were not more than 20 people in this beach and surprisingly, all of them were foreigners who were perhaps trying to get away from the crowd. The coast is well protected by small mountains and hills and also had a small bar by the beach side! Itâ€™s a mesmerizing view, especially when you are holding a chilled bottle of beer! This is a place that I promised myself to be back again.
Day 6 â€“ 4th November
Our stay in Goa came to an end as we started for the Tarkarli Beach in Maharashtra. Tarkarli is famous for scuba diving and is also one of the few coral beaches along the mainland coastline. The water here is clean and as opposed to most Goan coasts, you can hope to spend some alone time with your friends and family. The white sand, the blue waters and the curved coastline makes some amazing photographs and we were busy exploring the 8 kilometers long stretch of the landscape. Though we didnâ€™t do any scuba diving, we did take the opportunity to ride a camel on a sea beach! A couple of hours at the Tarkarli Beach and we were ready to say adieu to the sea.
By 4.00 in the evening, we had reached the Ganapati Pule and the road ahead was pure bliss. Beautiful Ghats and a magical sunset made sure that our trip came to a full circle. Our dormitories for the night were booked at Velneshwar Beach! It was the last night of our trip and we made the most of it by dancing around bonfires and chilling out on the shores. It was fun and as winters had already started, we promised to do more such trips.
Day 7 -5th November
We left Velneshwar early and wanted to make it to Ahmadabad by the end of the day but little did we realize that the roads across the city arenâ€™t as forgiving as the ghat roads. Firstly, the roads were not so great and we had to be very careful driving across the terrain. Our Tiagoâ€™s speedometer barely crossed the 60 kmph mark. Secondly, when we were able to make it to the Mumbai City by evening, the heavy traffic ensured that we were stuck like forever. It was getting frustrating and a quick change of plans made us heads towards a Priti Golvelkarâ€™s native place in Navsari. It took us the whole evening to tackle the traffic and make it to their home. We rested there for the night after a meal of Sev Ushal.
Day 8 â€“ 6th November
We left for Ahmadabad by 8 AM in the morning and made it by 12 noon. Overall, the trip took us through 2600 kilometers of drive, every moment of which revealed what we missed every day. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable trip and we came back with a lot of photographs and memories. It is even special since this was probably the last time that four of friends could be together.
As someone who has experienced Goa on a road trip from Ahmadabad, it would be my advice to keep an open mind and be ready for surprises. Nature will reveal itself in the most unique of ways and you shouldnâ€™t be planning on anything. Just give in to the flow. Also, donâ€™t expect to get the regular Guajarati food! If you are a vegetarian, Goa can be a difficult place but search enough and you can survive! This trip costs us 14000 INR per head including petrol, hotel, food, drink and stay. I can proudly say that this amount is completely affordable for you so don't seat at home, start your car and go on trip. It had been one of the most memorable Diwali vacations that I took and though life would be back on the same boring track, we were rejuvenated enough!