Walking to Merces and having masala dosas for breakfast!

Morning walks are an integral part of my daily routine – and it is always much more than a routine when traveling outside Gurgaon. And among all the destinations, Goa is one of my favorites. You can choose between the beach, the palm lined rural roads, the winding village ways – the options are many. Of course, these trips are also filled with visits to the numerous family scattered around – and yesterday, I chose to combine the two and decided to walk to Merces (about 7 Km away) and have breakfast with Bina – a favorite cousin. I set off a little after 6.30 – daylight being late in this western part of the country. I walked down Campal, towards the Kala Academy ….

The orderly ambience of Dayanand Bandodkar Marg - Campal
The orderly ambience of Dayanand Bandodkar Marg – Campal

The FSI in this area has been recently raised and so there is hectic pulling down of the existing structures and busy construction activity. One wonders how long the owners of the few remaining bungalows will be able to resist the lure of the lucre!!

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A few traditional homes – among all these new structures
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Statue of a Portugese luminary in the Public Park

The pavements are wide and well maintained and with little traffic at this time of day, walking is a pleasure. As 7 o’clock approaches, a few other morning walkers emerge.  All along the river front are the public sport facilities – swimming pool, cricket ground, jogging track – and the first cricket match and some early joggers could be spotted. Past the Kala Academy, the pavement gets even wider, and you walk past the parks maintained by the Forest Department – fortunately, Goa has not thrown out its colonial past,  removed statues and renamed roads.

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The nets have brought in a good catch – he was struggling to lift it.

I spotted a lone fisherman struggling to pull in his nets – obviously he had had a lucky morning.  At other spots, closer to the River a few optimists could be spotted sitting with a simple stick with a bait on a string – hoping the fish for lunch would bite! A little further on, the town of Panaji begins, and there was the hustle and bustle of the morning market – fish and vegetables being delivered, early bird customers, the haggling ……

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The fish market at 7 am
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Fresh catch of the day

Past the entrance to the Agshe ferry – free service through out the day to cross the Mandovi – the pavement kind of disappears – there are shops and the Riverfront Resurant of Mandovi hotel and some offices. This was where the Goa-Bombay ferry docked, and for first decade of my trips to Goa it was the best and only way to reach Goa – except for the unaffordable single Indian Airline flight and a long, torturous train journey to Vasco via Belgaum. Along this old jetty, a series of large boats are anchored which are the casinos that the Govt has given license to. I spotted smartly uniformed young men and women coming out – presumably the Casinos must be working all night. These were probably licensed to promote tourism, but locals who I speak to feel that these places are mostly frequented by Goans themselves and it has not done all that much for tourism.

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One of the casinos along the river front

Then it was over the bridge over Ourem Creek, past the large number of the cruise ships and the  bus stop to the road leading into Merces. This part of the walk was not so great, there were no pavement, it was close to 8 o’clock and the traffic had picked up, even on a Sunday morning. Also, the touristy end of the town, was full of garbage and smell of urine. The kilometer distance from the turning to Bina’s house was a road with no pavement and large number of speeding 2 wheelers – carrying well dressed Catholics on the way to Church, well dressed Hindus on the way to various functions, casual men in night wear probably rushing to get the best fish bargains, fathers and mothers shuttling young children to the various tuition classes etc….. Having survived the traffic, I finally got to Bina’s place to eat the best masala dosa I have had in a long time!

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