Footloose in the hinterlands of Goa

Goa.

The sun, sands and the sea? Nah. Not by a long shot.

Those were the images on our mind as well till we glimpsed a different Goa. A rustic and virgin Goa. A Goa that promised to be more alluring than its famous alter-ego. We booked our vacation through India Untravelled and got a chance to stay at one of the most amazing locations ever.

Our homestay “Cancio’s House” was located deep in the hinterlands of North Goa – in the tiny village of Aldona located on the banks of the Mapusa river. “Cancio’s House” also known locally as the Amaral’s house is a 500+ year old Goan-Portugese property owned by the beautiful family of Roberto Amaral, his graceful mom Maria, his wife Raquel, their three lovely kids – Harrison, Antonio and Rafael, their two beautiful dogs – Donut and Jess and the cat which has adopted them – Floss Boy.

Cancio's House, Aldona
Cancio’s House, Aldona

The Amarals
The Amarals

The house, which is believed to have been built in the pre-Portugese period, has undergone several restorations over generations but still retains its old world charm with lovely rooms overlooking a central courtyard. We listened avidly as Roberto recounted his rich family history in the charming dining room where black and white photos of his ancestors line the walls, lace curtains adorn the windows and the lilting strains of music floats in the background.The house is surrounded by dense foliage consisting of native trees, shrubs and creepers inhabited by a plethora of creatures.

Malabar Pied Hornbill
Malabar Pied Hornbill
1-IMG_3901-001

Roberto and Raquel welcome their guests warmly not only into their homes but also their hearts. I was overwhelmed by their amazing hospitality in spite of them being in the midst of a personal tragedy. My 9 year old was elated to have found such endearing friends and dogs to play with and had to be literally dragged out for any outings! As Roberto regaled us with his inexhaustible supply of anecdotes, Raquel served us wholesome home cooked meals. Her home-made chocolate brownies and jams are something to die for. We tasted several locally made breads like the Katro (Butterfly bread), Poi (Wheat flour based bread) and even had the good fortune to taste the Bol (A traditional goan bread made for distribution during marriages). Roberto took us to visit a local bakery where we had the opportunity to see the breads being freshly made. Piping hot Pois’ straight from the wood fired earthen oven tasted heavenly!

Raquel's delicious spread
Raquel’s delicious spread

Bread straight from the oven !
Bread straight from the oven !
The Traditional Bol
The Traditional Bol

Aldona is a biker’s delight as the narrow but incredibly well maintained roads crisscross the entire village. We rode past lush fields, small water bodies, local churches, old Portugese styled homes and through some interesting stretches that led nowhere. It’s a place where one can keep driving forever. We did stop at times to listen to the call of the Red Wattled Lapwing or to gaze at the beauty which a serendipitous turn on the road would reveal. We stopped by an old stone bridge with wooden sluice gates (Teen Mansher) to see an angler gathering his spoils for the day. Around 4 Km from Aldona are the ruins of the old Corjuem Fort built around 1705.A military fortress used for the defense of Portugese India, the ramparts of the fort were an excellent place to watch the sun set over Aldona.

Aldona
Aldona

1-Roads
A serendipitous turn
A serendipitous turn

Teen Mansher
Teen Mansher

Corjuem Fort
Corjuem Fort

Amidst the small hamlet, the white washed walls of St.Thomas Church rises imposingly. A 400-year old church, its ornately decorated biblical murals were captivating as I attended the mass with Roberto and Raquel on All Soul’s Day.

St. Thomas Church
St. Thomas Church

'Aiz-Maka-Falea-Tuka' - Today Me Tomorrow You : Inscription on the cemetry
‘Aiz-Maka-Falea-Tuka’ – Today Me Tomorrow You : Inscription on the cemetry

The adjoining villages of Aldona boast of some breathtaking lakes and waterfalls. Mayem lake, around 10 kms from Aldona and located among sleepy villages, is a sparkling and serene water body enveloped by lush vegetation. As our boat glided in the crystal clear waters, we seemed suspended in a tranquil space as the greens above merged with their shimmering green reflections.
The Arvalem Waterfalls around 20 kms from Aldona, is located near the village of Sanquelim. Located in a small cove nestled amidst dense vegetation, the waterfall is pristine as the white foam cascades down the sheer rock cliff.
Adjacent to the waterfall, the monolithic structure of the ancient rock cut cave of Arvalem, which dates back to the 5th-6th century, stands striking with its laterite stones. As one absorbs the stillness of the chambers inside, one can almost travel back in time.

Mayem Lake
Mayem Lake

Arvalem Waterfalls
Arvalem Waterfalls

Arvalem Caves
Arvalem Caves

One cool morning before sun rise, we set off for Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. As we floated in the estuarine mangrove habitat located along the Mandovi river, we spotted several types of Kingfishers, Egrets, Redshanks, Cormorants, Brahmini Kites, Sandpipers and the more rarely seen Lesser Adjutant Storks.

Birding along the mangroves of the Mandovi
Birding along the mangroves of the Mandovi

And at long last, we did go to a beach ! Morjim beach – one of the lesser known and hence, lesser populated beaches in Goa, it also serves as the nesting site for the Olive ridley sea turtles.

Morjim Beach
Morjim Beach

My post cannot be deemed complete if I were to omit mentioning one of the most endearing aspects of staying in Aldona. And that is the people of Aldona. Extremely amiable and helpful, simple and unassuming, they unreservedly share their laughter and tears. Our cab driver, Deepak, a happy-go-lucky man was an archetypical Goan as he chattered loquaciously and prevailed on us to have home-cooked snacks with his family. Happy and contented with all that life had to offer and his uncomplicated way of looking at life, he could have given a run to many of the so-called-successful but stressed out folks. Maya Angelou’s words came back to me – “We need much less than we think we need.”

Deepak
Deepak

Au Revoir Aldona ! We leave a part of us with you and take breathtakingly beautiful memories back home.

Advertisements

53 thoughts on “Footloose in the hinterlands of Goa

  1. Beautiful writing, Spectacular Photographs and a whole lot envious of your travels 🙂 I really need to visit THIS Goa. Hope you had a nice trip, Ash.

  2. Amazing grace, beauty and tranquility, recounted with vivid images and lucidity. It is such a different picture of Goa, unsullied and untainted by gluttonous tourists, depicting life at its purest. The post is a visual treat.

  3. Lovely Ash! SO – there is more than one unconventional view of Goa 🙂 I had the privilege of seeing a different face of Goa when I trekked there from Dudhsagar falls to Castle Rock..and now this!

    1. Suresh, Dudhsagar falls trek would have been ultimate ! We saw it on our way but couldn’t stop there. I am sure now, you would have similar stories to share from your recent treks.. waiting to read 🙂

  4. Maureen Britto

    You made my village of Aldona and Corjuem – My Dad’s village sound so exotic. My Mum is from Chorao where you went bird watching. You should have also gone to the St Michael Chapel on the Hill in Assonora my husband’s ancestral village close to Mayem lake and you would have got the most delightful sight of the whole of Bardez or North Goa from there….The Amaral family went there for a picnic recently…Thank you for your warm comments about us Aldonkars – We are like that only…..God Bless…..

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment Maureen ! The villages were so beautiful that I am glad if I have made them come alive a little through my post. We did actually go to St.Michael Chapel on the hill, but as we reached there at noon, we couldn’t get really good photos. Also, going there in the evening or early morning would have been marvelous.

  5. Hemachandran Maniedath

    Excellent reading experience of a beautiful journey. We really enjoyed your write-up Asha !!!. Deepak the driver, whom one cannot forget after reading your narration,silently gives us a message for us to introspect and feel happy about ourselves. These are the positive gains of a successful trvel. At times we are llucky to have such trips.We wish you to have more number of such trips in future.

  6. Naveen

    I am completely bowled over by nature’s magnificence & it’s untouched beauty! Beautifully written blog post…My greetings to the Amaral family! We too had been to Goa in 2006 & it was splendid!

  7. Goa continues to be my favourite destination but its time we started looking beyond Baga and its surrounds. Homestays is a lovely way to discover the real character of the state and I shall annoy you for details, next time when we plan a trip.

    1. Thanks for your comment Purba. We have always preferred homestays and have been amply rewarded everytime. The atmosphere and the local flavor one can absorb through places like these are completely different than staying at a hotel or resort. You’re welcome to ping me for details 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment ! It was around 20 kms from Aldona and we took around 45 minutes to reach. It had mostly foreign tourists but it was still quite empty. There were couple of shacks around serving food.

  8. I wish I could live in a house with so much history. Those brick oven breads are to die for. I and big fan of brick oven things. Awesome experience, thanks for sharing. Will use it as a reference for my vacation, whenever that happens.

  9. prabhat

    this was brilliant post! loved it. do you have any contact of Raquel and Roberto? How do I book up this place for a week or so? Please send me a contact no or any email add. thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s