Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sun, Sea & a whole lot of chillin'

Work is good. Mainly because it helps you appreciate the breaks better. I believe I touched upon this theme earlier. Anyhow, as it often happens in corporate-dom, we'd worked like dogs (no offence to the ladies who'd worked equally hard) for a long time. To the extent that most of the other teams would rather chew on their shoes than have any sort of interaction with us. Just around this time, the mandarins above decided to give us some money for "team building" before we went postal and we lost half of the company. Then came the difficult task of deciding where to go. For various reasons, some true and mostly false reasons, the ladies decided to ditch us. Which more or less helped us firm on Amgol. I'd been wanting to go here ever since I heard it from a friend.

While the decision was made quite early, due to a variety of corporate reasons - some of which were beyond our control, the actual date was set for middle of March. We hoped that we wouldn't suffer Caesar's fate, though we did have a driver who tried really hard. The idea of a tropical isle really appealed to a the entire team. So right up to the last moment we had people who dallied and then decided to come along. This led to the first problem. The seat next to the driver had to be utilised. So, of course, the first bus had to have it broken. The initial starting time of 22:30 hrs then stretched to 23:30 by the time the alternate bus was arranged. Then the alternate bus had a puncture. We were driving around Nelamangala waking up highly disgruntled puncture repair-men. One who went so far as to refuse double rate because he had not slept for 5 days. Highly unlikely that. Anyhow, by the time we left Bangalore and it's suburbs it was almost 02:15. I for one was sure that we won't reach before 12:00 the next day. But then, I wasn't counting on our friendly neighbourhood S├ębastien Loeb wannabe - the replacement driver. Having come of a day shift and forced into driving the night, he made the most of it. In the process, he made sure all of his guardian angels - and possibly ours - were on their toes. I counted no fewer than 3 instances in during which my pathetic life flashed before my eyes. Be that as it may, but we were on the island by 10.00!

After an excellent breakfast of neer dosa and chutney along with coconut halwa, all plans of cricket were shelved as folks jumped into the river for a swim. The river is not very shallow on it's southern edge. As Vishwas, the owner, put it if the boat topples, don't swim, stand. The northern side is, at places, upto 10 feet or more deep when the tide comes in. The island itself is on the estuary of river Varahi. So technically it's on, what would be called backwaters in Kerala. There are not a lot of things to do on the island. We made do with cricket and volleyball. There are no TVs - which is the whole point in my opinion - so those expecting to catch up on what Tulsi and her Saas are getting on to in their hugely exciting life, should give this place a miss. One plus side of this was that we missed the pathetic display that the Indian cricket team put up against Bangladesh. Post a slightly indifferent lunch - only the fish curry was good - we all then lolled on the sands by the river quaffing beer. Let me be the first to tell you Amgol, in this weather is prime beer-quaffing territory. You'll only get canned beer so if you want more, you'll need to bring your own. There is a refrigerator in the small shack. The shack is also good for the odd cups of coffee - when you've had too much beer.

Unlike other land locked places, you won't be able to get off the island whenever you feel like it. Though the skeletal staff, will help you across the river, it is hard work for them, so make up your mind before you make them run around. Folks interested in birding will find the isle an excellent place to fill their time. When the tide runs out between mid-morning and late afternoon, you can arrange for angling as well. You can use the isle as a base to visit nearby beaches - Othinene, Kaup, Maravanthe etc. Since NH 17 passes along the coast, for those who lack personal transport, the public transport is good along this route. There are direct buses to Kundapura, from where Amgol is about 4 kms. Kundapura bus stand should also help you connect to other beaches and places of interest along the coast quite fine. You can also use the Konkan Railway, but you'll need to enquire about the train timings.

But then, these are exacting activities. I would recommend that you spend 2 days doing nothing. Besides lolling on the sand and drinking in the beer of course.