Yesterday, we took off, on the spur of the moment as we are wont to do, for a day-trip to Fort Tiracol. It’s been on my mind for a while. I had visited many years ago with my friend Sushma and the quiet beauty of the setting has stayed with me ever since. I love journeys even short ones, and am always keen to share that love with family and friends. A day-trip is better than no trip at all 🙂
So duly showered and with a bag full of Ishaan essentials (Oh yeah! To forget these would mean certain disaster!), we set off. Thanks to Google and my irritatingly organized hubby, we were well-armed with printouts of the best route to take, complete with driving instructions (Don’t you wonder how we found our way before Google was born? I do!). The route was fairly simple, a straight road for the most part…you’re holding your breath now aren’t you? You’re waiting for the inevitable tale of us lost, driving along meandering roads that go in circles, and take us to every place but where we want to go? Hah! Gotcha! Well, sort of…we got to our destination alright (have the pics to prove it!), just by an unexpected route 🙂 One that we were hoping to avoid and that I am now glad we didn’t!
Let me explain. Tiracol or Terekhol is a sleepy little village, on the northern tip of Goa along its border with neighboring Maharashtra. It’s where the Tiracol river flows into the Arabian Sea and where the Portuguese, recognizing its strategic location, built a fort, way back in the 16th century. The site is now a designated Heritage site, protected by law. There are two routes to get here – the longer inland route and the shorter route that involves a rather ‘perilous’ or perhaps ‘adventurous’ is a better word, ferry ride across the Tiracol river at another sleepy village – Querim! Well, were veterans of ferry-boat crossings once, most Goans are, even today. With rivers never far away and a typically ‘susegaad’ Government that takes ages to build even the smallest of bridges, they have to be! Getting a two-wheeler in and out of the boat is a piece of cake; a car, now that can get tricky! For one, there are currents and tides to consider, which means the boat is often not perfectly aligned with the ramp; for another, water is not a still surface and no matter how skilled the driver of car and boat claim to be, it’s extremely common to hear the metallic, screech of the silencer as it is dragged against the ramp, getting into and out of the bobbing ferry! Imagine trying to accomplish said process in ‘reverse’ gear and you know it’s as close to a tightrope act as you’re going to get! Still, practice makes perfect, and there was a time when we did it not once but several times a day and tides & currents were no match for hubby’s supreme driving skills 😉 But that was then, you understand…more than a decade ago…and now…so we were keen to avoid the ferry especially during the Monsoons when the waters would be at their swirling and unpredictable best!
Man proposes, God disposes, or in this case Man disposes 😛 Yeah, yeah, you guessed it, we took a wrong turn, well not a wrong turn, (coz there was a huge sign that said Terekhol at the diversion), just not the one Google said we should, and so driving through the narrow, curvy lanes of Pernem, we arrived, many gorgeous birds and one dashing mongoose later, at the ferry crossing of Querim. The drive was wonderful – the rains have made everything lush (I love that word!) and an earthy fragrance abounds. The abundance of green, all shades of it, from the shimmering emerald-green paddy fields to the dark olive-green leaves of age-old banyan trees, is very soothing, so calming as to be almost therapeutic…all’s well with the world you think, while Nature is still full of such wondrous beauty 🙂
We had to wait a good half hour for the ferry, pleasantly spent chatting up with one of the locals, a friendly sort of chap. Now for the moment of truth…but the fates were kind and so were the river Gods (this is India after all, why one deity when there are a thousand available ;-))! It was a sunny day and although the ferry at first docked at an alarming slant to the ramp, the driver and his numerous guides (all shouting it seemed contradictory instructions!) managed to get the boat fairly aligned, so that getting in was relatively easy on our nerves and the car 😉 This was Ishaan’s first ferry ride, and he seemed to enjoy it, although rather confused with all the going ons 🙂 Ten minutes later and the whole process was repeated again as hubby reversed the car up the ramp on the other side and we proceeded to drive to the Fort, just 2 km away.
The Fort is now a Heritage hotel and is beautifully preserved. Its location offers stunning vistas, situated as it, at the point where the river meets the Sea. There are sheer drops on every side and a very ‘end of the world’ feel to it 🙂 A gorgeous spot! The Hotel is simply and minimally done, with brass lamps and shields and dark wood. There is no pool (because of its Heritage status) and there are only 7 rooms, all without air-conditioning (but for once I’m not complaining, ‘coz it’s cool and breezy) and named after the days of the week! The entrance to the fort is through the typically fort-style, large wooden doors with embedded cast-iron studs, a few steps later, and you are in the courtyard, ‘the belly of the beast’, where at one end stands a chapel in honor of St. Anthony and at the other, a statue of Jesus on a pedestal, rising into the sky with arms outstretched as if blessing the fort and its inhabitants. The chapel seems old, but the statue I think is a more recent addition donated by some grateful parishioner, for wishes granted perhaps. Upstairs, at the end of a rather steep staircase, on the ramparts, is the lounge-bar, simple and tastefully done, with ochre walls comfy chairs and the mandatory panoramic views!
We were the only ones there, what with it being off-season and a weekday, and so we felt rather like Kings of the Castle 🙂 We settled down in the bar and let Ishaan run around, free his legs after the long drive and quenched our thirst with chilled beers while the helpful bartender (another local chap) served up snacks and local tidbits. After taking pictures and a customary game of cricket on the tiny lawn up front, a must for Ishaan, wherever we go :), it was off to lunch at a little home-owned eatery down the road, recommended by another local on the ferry (very helpful, the locals :)), called the Hygienic restaurant 😉 True to its name, it’s a very basic, but surprisingly clean eatery (not a single fly or bug did I see, in this open-air setting!), owned by a yet another friendly local, a Mr. Francis Rodrigues, who proceeded to discuss fish and history, in that order, with professional ease and great relish 🙂 He recommended the fresh catch of the day and that settled told us about other things to see in the area, a famous local temple here, a beach there. While the fish was cooking, Ishaan chased Mr. Rodrigues’s three pet pigs, calling them ‘rabbits’ and scaring the fat beasts out of their wits!!! It was hilarious to see them so terrified of him, desperate to get away 🙂 Again, I must say, very clean pigs, Mr. Rodrigues, I am very impressed indeed 🙂
Lunch done and armed with fresh directions from Mr. Rodrigues as to the inland route home (we didn’t want to push our luck with the ferry ;-)), we set off once more. An hour and a half later, after a short diversion to Shiroda beach (I’ve seen better), we were back home, thanks to excellent directions from our new friend! And so, a thoroughly enjoyable day all around. It rejuvenated my spirits and left me yearning for more. I wish we could have stayed until sunset…next time!
Next stop – The Collem Wildlife Sanctuary where I want to show my boy, his favorite animals – Elephants!!
Meanwhile – here’s to Tiracol, and a fabulous visit back in time 🙂