Beyond beaches- the hidden gems of rural Goa

A plantation in rural Goa brings back into fashion the basics of good living

Published - October 16, 2019 05:08 pm IST

Varied platter  Dudhsagar waterfalls and cashew fruit

Varied platter Dudhsagar waterfalls and cashew fruit

Every year, three mothers and four kids set out on a holiday, to places as remote as can be. We pick a region and try to cover different terrain within it. The jobs are clearly split among the three of us. I, the compulsive dreamer-traveller, research and unearth gems from inside India, my engineer friend does the math, and the mom among us mothers, takes care of our teens’ needs.

This summer, I zeroed in on the ever-eluding Northeast. But time and budget constraints came in the way. We settled for something in and around Maharashtra.

The most obvious and easily accessible was Goa. But it seemed like vanilla ice cream — delicious, but plain and oh-so-common. I had to make this more appealing. I added Dudhsagar, which is rural Goa, to our plan. So, the sun and sands, and waterfalls and forests were taken care of. I dug deeper and discovered Malvan. That would be our last stop before we headed back to Mumbai. To add to the excitement, I keep every stay a surprise from the group. We made the most of our week in Goa, ticking off the list of must-dos, from dining to dancing, island hopping to dolphin viewing, shopping to sun tanning.

We were now ready for Dudhsagar. The best part of driving into the rural part of any State is the stopover for local cuisine. Dudhsagar Plantation, our destination, was a haven in the heat — a 50-acre property with five cottages in the midst of a tropical garden and a cashew plantation.

We were welcomed by the host, Ashok Malkarnekar, born to a Konkan father and a German mother, who tells us how this property was his parents’ creation — from a barren piece of land 30 years ago to a natural oasis with a vibrant ecosystem today.

One with Nature

The cottages are built with eco-friendly, porous, rusty-red laterite, which is common along the length of the Indian coastline. The rooms are bright and spacious, with wooden cots, cotton mattresses and bed linen with pleasing floral prints.

The kids shrieked in delight at the large open-to-sky bathroom, covered with a net to trap falling foliage.

The spice tour around the garden, lavishly sprinkled with flowers and fruits — unique varieties of ginger, turmeric, chillies, peppers, lemons, betel leaves, and many more with medicinal value — was enlightening.

The natural pool at the deep end of the farm, with plants around acting as natural filters, is any hydrophile’s dream. The water is crystal clear and devoid of chlorine. One can attain nirvana by simply lying afloat staring at the sky. Everything about this was nostalgic for me. It reminded me of my ancestral home in Kerala, where I spent my holidays as a child. Waking up to the sound of a hundred birds chirping, catching a ray of the golden sun, breathing fresh air that you can smell, and might even want to bottle the fragrance for later, walking aimlessly on an endless carpet of dry leaves, staring at Nature’s most beautiful creatures that come in various colours and sizes, swimming under the star-studded sky, and eating light and flavoursome vegetarian meals, made from fresh farm produce.

As we set out one morning on the Nature trail, following the neatly-mapped route, I travelled back to my childhood when, along with cousins, we would go cashew plucking.

We realised that we could pack a-plenty in 48 hours, from village walks to bird watching, farming to bathing in the many waterfalls, visiting a pre-historic rock-carving site, Portuguese heritage mansions or Goa’s oldest temple — all within a few kilometres distance from the property.

If you are an early-waker, you must stroll down the neighbouring village, to catch the sun spread its rays on the fields and glisten the pristine rivers.

If bird watching is your passion, be ready with your scrapbook and your cameras to capture over 30 species of birds, or drive down to the pristine Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary in Mollem.

There is something romantic about train rides in India, especially when the route is scenic and you have a window seat. Enjoy the ride from Madgaon to Kulem for an exhilarating view of the Dudhsagar waterfalls, that look like gallons of milk gushing down from heaven. The wise would spare a moment to stop and stare, while the rest will lose the view to vain selfies and video captures.

Heritage enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice. You could pick from the Braganza house in Chandor, a colonial mansion reminiscent of the Portuguese era, the 12th Century Tambdi Surla temple situated in the midst of a forest, or the Usgalimal village to marvel at the recently discovered Mesolithic rock carvings. Goa might be among the most popularly known destinations worldwide, but there is much left to be discovered as you go deep inside. Dudhsagar was just one of them.

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