Ready.Set.Jump 

“Welcome to the jungle,” said the spider to the fly. You enter at ease, with dense scenic foliage around. Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary- a wildlife-protected sanctuary has an eclectic range of flora and fauna species nestled deep in the heart of South Goa. Painted billboards along the way, a guide to the forest dwellers inhabiting the jungle– king cobra, kraits, Russell vipers and the common rat snake and the elusive leopard and many species of spider and scorpion. Deep within the jungle is a hidden treasured extreme activity- Canyoning. An exhilarating technique-oriented sport, its activities range from walking, abseiling, wading and swimming through waist deep and open waters, scrambling, climbing, jumping and sliding down natural slopes. Imagine, Indiana Jones wet dream.

 Three guides, with a cumulative 25 years of experience, direct each expedition. Being a moderately risk defined activity- Safety is paramount. Medical kits are on standby– water, helmets and harnesses with a wet suit provided. Instructions are delivered post the signing, of a surreal consent form. It’s more dissuasive than persuasive. One has to be moderately fit, not afraid of snakes or spiders, and have no fear of water or heights.

 The jeep meanders an uphill road, a few grunts and shrieks later; arrives at the destination. You tread the off beaten path no more than a few feet wide with loose gravel and strewn spider webs on the earth’s floor for company. It’s humid and the smell of wet earth engulfs the air. There are ascents, which run 75o inclines that get you huffing & puffing. Itchy cacti stand guard to the river like militia. It gives you the sense of a quest for lost treasure – a secret to be discovered. One is allowed multiple breaks and the guides – Clement, Vlad and Philip – are an enthusiastic laugh riot. Their jabber makes the trek bearable. The sound of cascading water can be heard beyond the dense foliage ahead. The course charts 3kms in total, yet having barely crossed a kilometer, the lactic acids in ones legs start to build up.

 Standing at the cliff’s edge, one realizes there’s no turning back. Once underway, the way out is seeing it through the end. The Sauri River majestically makes its way over rocks and boulders with numerous waterfall drops in the distance. 

At a point in a deep cove, resides Brian- a water snake. Luck in their favor, the guides catch the elusive irate reptile and can make a formal introduction on request. The canyon puts one to the test, and chances to conquer it are high, though with a few minor nicks and scratches and a multitude of tumbles in tow expected. The ending for this beginner course is far more theatrical, to say the least. The last rappel against gushing water from up above, one is informed of the rope holding self is a few meters short. The only way left, is to let go!! Fear not, the water below embraces the fall tenderly much to the impish grins of the guides above. A sense of accomplishment beckons on departure amidst tired bones and muscle aches – which would have one ready to repeat this again. Or maybe it would be the adrenaline talking; longing to see Brian, once again.

 A great place to stay at is La Mangrove. A blink-and-miss eco resort in Katebag, it offers a modern tipi concept opposite a serene mangrove. An idyllic, tipi accommodation and river lounge garden in South-Goa, only 5 minutes by cycle from the beautiful protected Galgibag Beach, also known as Turtle Beach. It’s located in an authentic and charming Goan Catholic village, 25 minutes from the famous Palolem beach. The river lounge is a ‘bubble of fresh air,’ a place to escape from the hustle & bustle of life. 

A panoramic view of what expects you at La Mangrove 

The view transcends your senses to an alternate realm of peace and calm with only the occasional egret and Brahmin kite for company. Being an eco resort that’s one with nature, the tipis come with open-to-sky bathrooms and thatched walls right behind each with a common meeting and dining area right next to the mangrove. The reception is good with free wi-fi and a delectable organic menu to choose from.

 Perfect for an early morning awakening, with a hot cup of tea to watch the sun rise from behind the riverbed far ahead.

La Mangrove has an exclusive sitting area facing the river and mangrove. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared daily with organic foods by their chef from a set menu. Serving a range of Indian, Tibetian & Continental -a must try is their La Mangrove Momos, Pasta a la carbonara, Tentuk soup. 

The deep fried chocolate momo’s with vanilla ice cream is a must try. 

The breakfast is part of the package with a choice of continental and a healthy option. The food prepared is fresh and wholesome. 

A scrumptious continental spread to start the day at La Mangrove 

Another option is 10 minutes away on Turtle Beach at Santosh Bar & Restaurant. Known for his fresh fish and recommended by Jamie Oliver you should ask for the catch of the day. 

Fresh catch of the day. Basic. Scrumptious. 

An unforgettable sunset amidst the crashing waves

Word of Advice: 

  • Avoid Canyoning if you suffer from arachnophobia
  • Canyoning is best done between October and March
  • If you suffer from any serious medical conditions it is best to avoid this activity as it is very strenuous on ones body.
  • There are a variety of levels to accomplish depending on fitness levels.

Tour Operator: It is recommended you book your stay through the website http://www.lamangrovegoa.com for the best deals. Thibault can be contacted on +91 8408086365 or lamangrovegoa@gmail.com

For the canyoning experience it is best booked with Emanuel Ferre the owner of Goa Jungle Adventure. He can be contacted on +919850485641 or manu@goajungle.com


 This article was written for Lonely Planet Magazine as part of their Easy trips. No part of this publication  can be reproduced without prior consent/ approval of LPMI. 

Chocolate momos, Fresh catch, breakfast, panoramic views, hammock Pic courtesy by Nolan Mascarenhas Photography. Shot on Iphone6. Images for main article shot by Sameer Mangtani.

Goa’s Dessert Divas

This is part of a series of articles written for Goa Times (Times of India) on people and happenings in and around Goa. 

This article features Home baking dessert divas and some of the delectable goodies they create. 

Click on the image to enlarge for a better read. 

  
Publication: Goa Times 

Written by Nolan Mascarenhas 

Ant’s in my pant’s 

Many of you reading this post would relate to a statement in the affirmative if I stated ‘The ants in my pants, take me places’. Before you get naughty, let me course alight your ‘thought trajectory’- it’s directed towards my thoughts travelling at the speed of light and my body taking me places on roller blades ( I can hardly roller blade to save my life). I’ve lived the life of a nomad ever since I can remember. That would explain traversing and immersing myself in the culture of 5 states so far, though, all along being a true blue GOAN at heart. 
My last port of call was Aamchi Mumbai. I was content with the hustle bustle the city offered. The adrenaline rush garners from mad traffic jams, the eccentric neighbor hanging her inner’s for a breakfast view which was always abrupt (thank god for small mercies) except the occasional Sunday morning. Oh, the pollution and the smell of salt water form the docks nearby. I loved it all- learnt to love it more likely. Though, what did tug at me, was being away from the motherland- (NOT Portugal folks!!), GOA. 

Anyone who hears of someone coming back to Goa from the world outside, would whisper in closed circles of NOT being able to cut it in the real world and hence come running home to Mummy & Daddy. 

I always wondered, after 13 successful years in Corporate India ,what would Goa have to offer that I couldn’t find waiting for me outside? The answer would come to me a few years later-A state of mind. No pun intended. 

These days, I wear a multi dimensional hat and travel destinations my readers (i.e. YOU) get to read through my writings (aka rantings) 

People ask my parents- ‘what does Nolan do?‘ The poor folk with a befuddled ‘deer caught in headlights look‘ on their face,fail miserably on most occasion. A typical Lost in translation moment. 

If I have to straight jacket it in a nutshell for all you potential matchmakers out there- I consult for a few corporates and handle branding and marketing solutions along with a predominant role in the Hospitality, Lifestyle and Travel Industry. I am a techno savant. What is that? Ask Google. And, I live out of a suitcase 14-17 days a month (on a slow month

As a consultant, it allows me to lend suggestions and help boost the tourism of our fair state as an influencer, of a different kind of Goa- (that would entail NOT! entertaining last minute requests from ‘friends’ who need passes for Sunburn orSupersonic every December.)It’s for the betterment of Goa- rich in so much heritage and culture, food and traditions, and more importantly blessed with a right balanced ecosystem. 

A Goa, who I have shamefully abandoned all these years , in the quest for something better out there- only to realize it was here all along. 
Here’s to you GOA. Proud of be GOAN. 
The Burning Question- Times of India on hinteland tourism 
 

The Burning Question on transportation and taxi drivers in Goa-about their rude behavior and whether justified? 
 

GOA Calling: A Homestay Guide 

Every once in a while a magnum opus project comes ones way. For me this was in the form of the latest trends of #homestays for #timesofindia for the season 2015-2016. 

It was an arduous task traversing the length and breadth of this fine state of ours to being to you the top 20 #homestays     across India. 

Lucky and honoured to have catalogued and compiled the Goa chapter for this fantastic initiative. 

The guide is is available at your leading  bookstores. So before you head on over for the season do check out the list. It’s a home away from home experience. 

 

  

Grab your copy today!! 

My first Birdcage Threesome 

Wicked thoughts scurrying thy mind? I assure you of nothing scandalous, I plan on keeping this post PG rated for my younger followers (though I assure you some of them could teach you and I a thing or two.)

Happy to be back in Mumbai once again and excited to know I’m meeting guests who I haven’t seen in over a few years. It’s funny how being left to host the evening the place falls upon my choosing every now and then. Well when suggested the dining option many of them chuckled knowing only I could have thought of something so – exciting. 

I wait patiently at Cafe Threesome in Versova. The vibe is fabulous. The DJ spinning some deep house tunes and the service of the barman prompt to keep my spirits ‘high’. It’s a very chic sublime concept of a restobar with a unique twist to a much enticed exotic menu. The bathroom catches my fancy given the soap dispenser being a Jack Daniel bottle with a selfie booth (I’m sure it’s seen some mayhem and action three ways to Sunday in its time) with the lovely folk visiting for a powder pucker. 

It’s always great meeting old friends. So much catching up to do well in this case thanks to a multitude of Whatsapp chats were in touch though far away and life carried on. A gentle reminiscence of ‘wild days gone past’ and a somber melancholy sets in to a time not so long ago that is hard to come by these days. Thank god for change and the stagnation of us all to pick up where we left off unfettered. A few of the usual lot couldn’t make it and their presence was missed. But we were at Cafe Threesome and I had heard a lot about some of the wild preparations. 

Now before the morale police come to task let me assure you after being in the food fraternity a while and travelled far and wide there’s not much that shocks me anymore. But a good preparation or the culinary skill and concept of chefs these days could arouse much curiosity to ensure I am left gasping for more. Yes, there is a hashtag circulating these days to the effect #foodporn and yes I totally understand why. After all good food = porn these days? 

Let’s call ourselves back to the showcase at hand. I am gently ushered aside to allow me to let go of the menu to the chefs imagination and only asked my preference being vegetarian or not. I go for the non vegetarian route this time. Having detoxed myself in Goa I feel alive and fresh for more. Sadistic much? Read on. 

The Italian Chicken makes its way like a caged animal to our table. For a moment, in the dim lit ambience I thought we would have a live chicken up for slaughter given the cage that accompanied it. There is a restaurant in Mexico that does that I’m told. Don’t want to divulge more details here but as I said things are bizarre in the world of food excitement these days. Fresh from the farm onto the table in a matter of speaking – literally! 

On the lighter side, what did chicken say to server upon arriving at my table? Cage meeeeeee. (I’m not known for my jokes. Thank god for small mercies.) 

 The Italian Chicken   Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

Our up and about waiter with a hop to his step further elucidates; ‘Sir. This dish is an Italian flavoured burger patty with salad leaves, Roma tomatoes, pickled cucumber with a serving of grilled onion chutney, jalapeños & salsa served with thousand island dressings and fries.’  The waiter had me at pickled cucumber. The rest was just the icing and a orgasmic blur emitted from his iteration of the condiments. I smiled in glee thanking him like a satiated kid in a consumed candy shop. 

The meat was tender and well marinated. Perfect char and succulent and juicy inside. The fries fresh and crispy. The presentation reminded me of Mr Williams character in the movie the Birdcage. The cage round and red made of firm wrought iron was produced and kept aside. Ladies this piece of jewellery could do well to husbands who don’t behave themselves on the dinner table or elsewhere- if you catch my drift. Come now, your probably thinking 50 shades darker yes? 

While your at this place do dig into a few exotics such as the Silken mutton galauti and the wasabi fish fingers. One of my recommendations for the vegetarians is the cute Cupcake Shrooms. Now it’s not illegal so your safe. More on my Instagram post shortly about that in the coming week. Stay tuned. 

All in all I better let your mind play havoc and run a little wild. The next time in the mood for roll cage might I suggest some with a threesome. Guaranteed to excite. 

Gardening @ the bar 

I must confess. I miss my garden. The smell of wet mud, the plucking of weeds and my entire gardening apparel, gloves, hat et all. The simple joys of pottering and tottering around getting my hands dirty (in a matter of speaking). 

On my food trail in lovely Mumbai on a glorious sweaty and sunny afternoon a foodie bestie and self decided to head over to Jamjar diner @ Versova for some much needed catch up and a ‘special surprise’ that awaited me. 

Least expecting come dessert time was the presentation of this ‘sinful surprise’ brought to our table- Flower pot surprise. 

I guess it must have been the constant high pitched tone shrills me and my bestie kept on at that possible caught the attention of our garçon attending to us to attentively without ask hand over this delicate creation. 

So what is the Flower Pot Surprise? As you can see it looks like an orchid plant but underneath the so called deceiving earthly mud is a ton of gooey brownies, a few diced marshmallows infused with dollops of vanilla ice cream topped off with Oreo soil. A gardeners treat indeed. 

Mind you though, looks can be deceiving. Though small in size it took all our might to down this treat. It is comfortable enough to satiate at least 3 people on the table so order one carefully.

With great tunes belted out in a very chic retro diner (loved the old juke box) and great conversation ahead here’s to happy food trails ahead. Oh- I forget to mention – don’t worry if you don’t have green fingers for this any color will do as long as the sweet tooth craving prevails. 

Flower pot surprise -(before & after)   Pic courtesy – Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

Trolling for the Crystal Skull 

I am trolling for a legend. The legend of the 13 Crystal heads- a controversial archaeological mystery, 13 crystal heads have been found in regions around the world, from the American southwest to Tibet. They’re dated between 5,000 and 35,000 years old, and were supposedly polished into shape from solid quartz chunks over a period of several hundred years. Although according to engineers, they bear no tool marks to tell us exactly how they were made. The heads are thought to offer spiritual power and enlightenment to those who possess them, and as such stand not as symbols of death, but of life.The basic elements of the 13 crystal skulls legend is that at a pivotal time in humanity’s history, the 13 crystal skulls will be reunited to awaken a new era – transforming from an old paradigm into a new world. (Pretty intense stuff huh?)  However every quest leaves one thirsty and sapped especially for something such as Crystal Vodka which is a resounding-Pure Spirit. Im not going all mystical on you and no- I am NOT a soothsayer or ancient shaman (though its my most wildest fantasy to possess such powers) 

I must confess I am NOT a Vodka drinker. I’m a whiskey man from the go-go bar (sigh Jim Morrison…how i wish you were around) and with friends such as Basu Shatbhi ( Maestro Mixologist) and Karina Aggarwal (Alcobev Blogger) i’m in good company never stray from the dark side (in a liquor of speaking of course!!) However I love art- I mean look at this bottle, its mesmerized me enough to purchase one for my bar (and mind you its not cheap!!) I love purity & simplicity in this complex world. I love all things.. au naturel and this is the first thing that strikes me about this vodka.

Conceptualized by Dan Aykroyd a well-known actor (remember Ghost busters..Who you gonna call?); a spiritual believer in what he calls the “invisible world” where otherworldly presences are a “form of reality as valid as our normal reality.” and the one ad only veteran fine artist John Alexander who lent his art to the construct of this masterpiece. A couple of years of research and the bottle was ready heavily inspired by the legend and vodka was the natural drink of choice, however,with it, a commitment to do something enlightened and different.

The result was perfect vodka, with absolutely no additives. No glycol (an ingredient for engine anti-freeze); no citrus oil (used in its raw form as an insect exterminant); and no raw sugar. Nothing was needed, because it was abundantly clear that finely produced vodka came by its smoothness and flavor naturally. So in the end, only the highest quality peaches and cream corn was distilled four times into a neutral grain gluten-free spirit and blended with pristine water from Newfoundland,Canada. And that was not all- the liquid is post filtered seven times, of which three are through layers of semi precious crystals known as Herkimer diamonds (Ladies go wha…?eyes sparkling yet..?) which are double terminated quartz crystals (a crystal with two naturally faceted ends. It is a rarer form of crystal.) also known as Middleville diamond or a Little Falls diamond. These raw stones are quartz crystals, which have been ascribed healing properties by some new age belief systems.

So the next time you wish to imbibe in this long lost mystery and unearth stories untold head on over to The Capiz Bar @ The Grand Hyatt Goa. With a wide array of spirit to keep you company ,try not to look too deep into its eyes, it might arrest you and unveil its true undeciphered meaning to life’s mysteries.

May the force of the 13 guide you well…

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

Christmas already? Mistletoe ready

The weather is playing havoc. In the middle of unrelenting torrential showers and damp musty interiors appears much awaited sunshine. Quite the respite, I must add.

Given the horrid weather these days my drinking preferences have altered to the conventional rum and coke or a neat glass of whiskey. While this may throw upon a somber lull to an even duller mood it’s soothing to the mind not to mention the tastebuds.

At a bar I chanced upon a long lost friend who happened to run this swanky club I kept hearing about on the beach front- Destination One. Little did I know he was in and around town and was man behind the scenes. We regaled our days of yore and ordered each other our favourite drinks while the live band played on. Known as quite the perfectionist with his liquor he suggested we live back those good old days and do something crazy the next time the weather permitted. We used to play this drinking game where we choose a base liquor and has to construct something unique out of it to test our mixology skills. Some creations were disasters some were outstanding. A little like Dexter and Dee Dee in a vast laboratory being our respective bars.

It wasn’t until a few weeks and hundreds of gallons of water later that I got a call one fine sunny morning to hop across for something Christmas like and special. To my pleasure and utmost surprise he has concocted the Mistletoe Strawberry Daiquiri with a batch of fresh strawberries received the day before from Mahabaleshwar.

While most of you are aware the Daiquiri was invented by an American Mining engineer- Jennings Cox who was stationed in Cuba at the time of the Spanish-American war circa 1898. It also happens to be the name of the beach and the iron mine near Santiago,Cuba. Interesting to note the basic recipe for a daiquiri is similar to the grog- British sailors drank aboard ships in the 1700’s which contained rum, water, 3/4 ounce of lemon or lime juice and 2 ounces of sugar. Ice replaced water the minute it was invented.

With a heady whir of the mixer the blend was perfect and a touch of jazz added with the candy cane catapulting me months ahead of time in anticipation for Christmas. With a few belles around the place and a glint in my eye I pondered where the mistletoe was positioned. No luck however to sneak a pucker.

Anyhow guess I’ll have to dust off my mistletoe come this Christmas season and I definitely know what I’m cheering too.

And just like Brenda Lee I’m going to be Rocking around the Christmas tree tonight. Hic hic!! 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

The Porter of Palanpur 

It’s 7:45a.m. The slow churning wheels come to a halt at the platform with a hiss of fatigue in the air. There’s a window of opportunity for one to ply their trade. From coffee vendors to hawkers selling wares to sleepy passengers aboard. 

It’s quite the wake up alarm indeed. The hustle bustle of the famously dubbed ‘breakfast stop’. In the distance I glance at this figure in all his stature. Calm and composed with a dead pan chiseled look on his face which would give Michaelangelos creations a re-look see back home in the Vatican.  Each line and crevice on his drawn face with a story to tell. His hands firm as steel. He is Bahadur (in Hindi means ‘brave’). And with his ‘pagdi’ is a feature of regal elegance. (For those who wonder what a ‘pagdi’ is -a term for a turban in the Indian subcontinent- a headdress that is worn by men which has to be manually tied. It  signifies a symbol of honour and respect in all the regions where it is a practice to wear one.)

Business was slow. So I wander across with a conversation in mind. He is obliging to the extent of not being rude and brash. It’s obvious he’s not a talker but I prod at my own risk. I return back with a plate of pakoras and two cups of tea (chai).The flood gates opened with a pleasing smile on his face. Eureka!!

Bahadur and his family natives from Rajasthan had so far worked five jobs from being a retired army personnel to a sweeper on the streets. At the golden age of 75 he probably could bench press my body weight at ease (No your not going to get that information that easy, let’s just say I have heavy bones and leave it at that). A proud man at that with a family of 6 to support which included a wife 2 daughters and a couple of grand children to support working minimum daily wage being $10 on a good day of porting luggage across his shoulders was indeed heart warming and awe inspiring to say the least. And this man with stories to tell of the long lineage of fighters pre India’s independence et all. 

The one thing I wished was for time to pause just to grasp tales as much as I could ,but this 10 minute pit stop imprinted a deep sense of pride of work irrespective of blue or white collar jobs we covet. It does put things into retrospect. As they say a Man’s gotta do what a man’s got to do. 

We at best scratch the tip of the iceberg in the life of others to unearth a majority of what lies beneath which is never told. People tend to put on facades as we move on so rapidly in life. However sleepy towns have a different story to tell. No one said it better than the bard himself- “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits…..” 

Thank you for the memories over a 10 min cuppa. 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

  

OOPS Tiramisu 

A cruel joke could be defined when- after a 7 course meal accompanied with exclusive single malts from around the world, you are served this masterpiece. 

I present to you the Oops Tiramisu. This is the genius of Chef Saulo Bacchilega from the Park Hyatt – Goa. 

He playfully comes across and with a mischievous hint in his eyes asks me if the cup is straight or tilted? I reserve my comment till he further explains that while I may be seeing double my senses are well intact and it’s actually a deconstruction of his favourite dish from back home the way Mama made it. Thank god for reserved silence to avoid the foot in mouth syndrome I religiously partake in on multiple occasion. 

I was told everything on the plate was edible so I started testing. Turns out the cup was ceramic indeed (Duh!!? While you maybe quick to judge I have in some places had cups made of white chocolate so you probably couldn’t blame me) and was delicately stuck to the plate with a white chocolate base – genius might I add- more chocolate for me. 

And the focus was the deconstruction. The careful blend of picture perfect presentation. A tiramisu means “pick/lift me up” and rightfully so given the coffee flavoured dessert it is. A systematic dessert to begin with for we all know how careless a tiramisu really can be,hence its need to be layer trapped in a vessel to preseve its visual beauty. Could you  imagine the horror if left to run wild and free? 

It certainly would create chaos with the coffee soaked ladyfingers often called savoiardi  (biscuit mind you, not the vegetable) fighting for supremacy and the mascarpone cheese screaming murder helplessly trying to keep all the elements from ruining the appeal to ones senses.  

A tilted coffee cup post a delectable , intoxicated dinner is all one needed to end this magnificent event on an all time High. (No pun intended) 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography