Saturday, 26 February 2011

Ottis! Ottis! Dolphins!


Water sports at Baga beach

Most of our guests (Joe and Marietta’s Guesthouse) make it a point to enjoy water-sports at Calangute or Baga beach. Baga is just 3 km from our guesthouse and dutifully, I get them whatever information I can on the water sports available at the beaches. But truth be told, the only water sports I ever experienced was a short boat ride in the sea offered by a friend.

Yesterday (Friday, Feb 26), I was at Baga beach at 8:45 a.m., ready to embark on my first dolphin ride. Camera slung around my neck, I and a Pune-based family of 5, waited in the 12-seater boat while the 2-men crew unravelled the ropes which tethered the boat. I hoped to get as many pictures as I could for my blog.

Wet and Warm..Together!
My apologies then, for getting so few. Our journey had not even begun when disaster struck. A huge wave lashed our boat drenching us to the bones. As the boat moved, I noticed my camera was dead. I thought I would use the camera on my mobile phone; it was dead too. Then I noticed that I was no longer wearing my reading glasses. The crew recovered them from a water-logged corner of the boat.

Soon we had sailed maybe 3 or 4 km into the sea and the shore was a distant haze. We saw the dolphins then. Not like in the movies; shiny-smooth, squealing mammals that interact and cavort with humans. The dolphins in the sea are shy. They gave us only fleeting glances of their snouts popping in and out of the water, their backs and tails arching as they tumbled in a confetti-splash of water drops all around. Then there was a pair frolicking together; twirling and gambolling side by side. Lovers playing the game of seduction?

Splish!! Splash!!
The other sightings were brief but magical. Every time we sighted a dolphin, the Pune family members exclaimed “Ottis! Ottis!” with childlike glee. I asked, and was told the ‘Ottis’ means ‘There’ and they were speaking Sindhi.

A slight breeze wafted towards the land. I saw only one seagull gliding above. The water was like olive-green, its surface undulating softly with small waves. One of the Sindhi brothers bent and trailed his fingers in the water. It was 9:15 a.m., but the sun was a hammer in the clear sky.

All around, the water stretched for miles and miles. Wearing a life jacket did not stop me from feeling small and vulnerable in the vast immensity of the ocean. Our boat had a green shade on top giving a semblance of cover, shelter. There were a few other boats of dolphin watchers. They were small (one was just a 2-seater) and looked fragile. I wondered what would happen if that huge wave lashed at us now. Our crew took us in circles, a dolphin snout here, a dolphin tail there and more shrieks of “Ottis! Ottis!”
My companions..
We sailed north towards Anjuna beach. Our crew pointed to Curlies Shack and other pleasure dens around. On the return journey, they pointed to “Island beach,” the secluded cove behind the Retreat House, where someone has built a shack. The Retreat House, the crew members, both non-Goans, described to us a “church.”

Action at Baga beach
Alighting at Baga beach, I said goodbye to the two Sindhi brothers and learnt their names were Bharad and Mukesh. I was still wet and cold and poorer by Rs 300 from the boat ride. My Nokia phone and Nikon camera were dead. But I felt no loss; only light and elated from my first date with the dolphins.

Note: Some other water sports activities offered at Baga include Banana Ride, Bumpy Ride, Jet Skis, Parachute, etc.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Carnival Goa!

Consort of the King, Her Majesty Queen Momo
Ohhh...Carnaval Goa! Or the Goa Carnival, is just round the corner, March 5 to be precise. The Carnival is unique to Goa; it is not celebrated anywhere in India or Asia.

Do you wanne be part of King Momo's 4-day reign of fun and frolic in Goa? Come and join in the float parades. Entries are entertained even at the last moment. If not anything else, you could enter in the Clown or Joker category. Past Carnivals have seen individuals dressed as Bin Laden but professing to be "Peace Laden", men dressed as big-bosommed, fat-bottommed aunties, ghosts, ghouls, etc.

King Momo's 4-day reign of fun and frolic in Goa begins on March 5 at 3 Goa's capital city of Panjim. The monarch of merriment will declare open his reign from atop his regal chariot with his beautiful Queen alongside. The King will lead the parade of floats along the beautiful River Mandovi in a riot of colour, costume, music and dance. Sorry, forgot the feni.

The Carnival will be celebrated in 3 other towns; Margao (March 6), Vasco (March 7), Mapusa (March 8).

Joaquim Telles, president of the Panjim Carnival Committee told me the Carnival parade will have floats in 6 categories this year. These are Sponsor category where some endorsement of products is allowed on the float; Club or Institution (1st prize Rs 30,000), Fun Junk Car (1st prize Rs 10,000), Family (Rs 10,000), Clown or Joker (Rs 5,000) and the most eye-catching, Traditional category which has the highest 1st prize of Rs 40,000.

Joaquim said last year there were 96 floats in Panjim alone. "Lately, we have revived the Traditional category. That is why the 1st prize is Rs 40,000. The Carnival is unique to Goa. People from all over India, all over Asia and other parts of the world come to Goa to see it," said Joaquim.

You can come too! And stay at Joe and Marietta's Guesthouse, Calangute.

The Carnival Chariot of His Royal Highness, the King Momo!