Divar: The Isle that Time forgot…

Well, that’s how it made me feel!

Saturday saw us take off on our meanderings through Goa after a week-long break during which hubby was in Delhi. With the family united, and the weather suitable (a steady but light drizzle and a cool breeze), it was time to go exploring again!

The Adilshah's Palace gates

This time, we headed for Divar, an island in the Mandovi River, no more than a 10-minute ferry ride from Old Goa, the old state capital when the Portuguese still ruled here. I had never set foot on the island and hubby was no better, having last visited in 1988, to examine polio cases for his doctoral thesis (there were 4)! The trip had that expectant quality – the excitement that comes from knowing there’s something special coming 🙂 I had heard great things about Divar from a cousin (who’s a native) and was prepared to be swept of my feet…but that’s later…

Shroom magic!

On the way to the ferry crossing at Old Goa, quite by accident, we stumbled upon another heritage monument, The Church of St. Cajetan, an impressive building, built in the 17th century. There was nobody around, just some workers in the garden and a couple of tourists inside. The whitewashed interiors were stunning – cool, calm and peaceful in the usual manner of churches. In the garden were more unique finds – an old gate from the Adilshah’s Palace and a fluorescent orange mushroom sprouting from a massive tree trunk on display!

After a pleasant half-hour, we finally started toward the jetty and were lucky enough to find a ferryboat waiting. In under 10 minutes we got our first glimpse of sleepy, green, dewy Divar 🙂 My first thoughts were of travelling back in time, as though instantaneously transported to some long forgotten era, when people were few and Nature reigned supreme!  A single road led us from the jetty into the village,  flanked on either side by Mangroves and paddy fields and myriad birds. I don’t know my birds, but we did see a whole host of them, including several kingfishers, gulls, ducks and a pair of kites fishing for their afternoon meal. I must brush up my bird-watching skills! The isle of Chorao, next door, is home to the Salim Ali bird sanctuary and so it’s no surprise that there are so many of them here. We stopped on the road to turn back and catch glimpses of Old Goa and the St. Cajetan Church we had just left.

Then we just drove, on a whim, wherever the roads led. We tried them all, up a slope to the inevitable Church and just below it, the inevitable temple, overlooking intensely green paddy fields as far as the eye could see. Along tiny winding roads flanked by old houses, some quaint, others flashy and gaudily painted. Down more winding roads to two more ferry crossings and discovered what looked like a resort, Devaaya, next to one, which after research on Google, turned out to be an Ayurvedic Spa! I found Divar sleepy even by Goan standards, but that’s an integral part of its charm. I’m surprisingly thrilled that no bridges have been built across the river here, just yet, because that would just bring unwelcome change and bustle to this quiet, quaint village.

The visit took me back to the times when as a schoolgirl, I holidayed in just such another village, the green, rustic, sleepy village of Amona, my ancestral home in North Goa. Times have changed, and it is unfortunately, no longer, as green or virgin as it used to be. Instead, we now have an enormous iron-ore mine and processing facility that mean pollution, increasing temperatures in summer and noise pollution all year round 😦 Such is the price we pay for progress. Well, people have jobs and that’s something, I guess.

Crab catch!

But yes, Divar, what we saw of it, is thankfully untouched by that kind of progress. The air here is still crisp and lightly scented, the fields bejeweled, the atmosphere quaint and cozy, and the pace of life I’m certain, calm, relaxed & unhurried. It’s almost as if the island had grit its teeth and dug in its heels, firmly resolved to resist allegedly progressive change and preserve instead, a simple lifestyle in commune with nature, and I for one say Amen! It really is the ‘Isle’ that time forgot…at least for now…and with luck for a long time to come  🙂

Here’s to many more wanderings in sleepy Divar!

p.s. On the way back in the ferry, a fisherman on board, caught a little crab all in the space of a few seconds, using a simple plastic line! Ishaan was very thrilled indeed! I asked to take a picture, which I include here!

This time, tried my hand at making a video of the pics. It’s my first attempt, so please forgive any mistakes!

Vagator Wanderings…

Just back from a wonderful drive to Vagator beach!

We started off after lunch and made our way toward Mapusa and onward to Vagator, following our map. Again, winding roads lush with greenery and flanked by paddy fields…a Goan hallmark 🙂 We were headed to the Chapora Fort, that hubby had never been to and that I had vague recollections of from a school trip, aeons ago!

The fort sits on top of the Chapora hill and offers gorgeous views of the Arabian Sea, but although we got there, we didn’t walk the last 10 mins up to it. It was raining and the steep rocky path up to the summit, was dangerously slippery. We didn’t want to risk it with Ishaan in tow, and so that part of the trip will have to wait for dry, sunny day. We did see some wonderful birds though, blue-bellied with russet wings and lots of butterflies. Ishaan was thrilled to see a black and white spotted mongrel and was very eager to touch it! Not something I encouraged, much as I love dogs!

Just as we were ready to leave, we saw a girl, a foreigner, come walking down from the fort and we asked whether she would like a lift back down the steep slope. She acquiesced and we set off down the hill. I thought she was very brave to have gone on up to the Fort alone, given it’s isolated location! I wouldn’t have ventured there on my own and I’m a local! As we got talking, we discovered she was on a 2-month visit to India from Germany, and had already visited Rajasthan, Delhi and Bombay. She was now working her way down south – next stop – the Backwaters in Kerala. She seemed relieved that we spoke understandable, unaccented English and we decided to go to Vagator beach together and help her find a place to grab a bite on the way. It was siesta-hour, so naturally every restaurant was closed :P, and we decided to hit the beach first.

Vagator beach can be viewed from atop a craggy overhang and I had a sense of deja vu, like this was Tiracol all over again, that ‘end of the world’, remote, windswept, faraway feeling! There was a chilly breeze and a light drizzle. High tide had reduced the beach below to a slim strip of sand, the sea was rough and fishing eagles circled at eye-level looking for a meal! It was wild, wonderful and magical – there was ‘Atmosphere’ and then some, if you get what I mean! There were only a few Indian tourists, some of whom came up to our friend and requested a picture, to which she graciously assented! I found it strange, but apparently this happened to her quite often! I guess to millions of small-town Indians, seeing a foreigner and getting their picture taken, is still an exotic experience, much sought after and fondly cherished. As hubby points out to me, annoyingly at times (only ‘coz he’s right you understand ;-)), I’m hardly representative of the average Indian, with my privileged upbringing and urban lifestyle complete with frequent jaunts abroad! It’s easy for people like me to forget that the majority of Indians still live in her villages and although rapid progress is fast eroding their innocence in some ways, in others, they are still naive. Sometimes touchingly so. When she later shared that some Indian families she had requested for pictures, had asked for money in return, however – that just made me sad 😦

We sat there for a while, strangers, newly bonded by our shared experience and soaked in the ‘atmosphere’, while a couple of vendors approached our friend with beaded jewelery. They ignored us completely of course 😉 It was a memorable half hour 🙂 All to soon, the strengthening downpour signaled it was time to leave. On the way back we dropped our friend off at The Mango Tree, a bar, which seemed like a hangout for foreigners and where she would hopefully find friends and a bite to eat, after first exchanging e-mails and Facebook ids, so I could mail her the pics we took. With much waving and wishing her a safe journey ahead, we parted ways, certainly for us with fond memories of a chance encounter and I hope for her too 🙂

Another memorable addition to the Priolcar family archives!!