Thursday, July 29, 2010

When Jo goes to Boot Camp!

I just love it when my job takes me places. I love to travel and get super excited at any given opportunity to do so. So come Friday and we get to travel to the outskirts of Mumbai for the Toyota Fortuner Boot Camp. I have always been a fan of Toyota since I was a little girl and my uncle used to work for them. I’ve heard it all from a young age how Toyota cars are awesome with great engines and superior technology. Now was a chance to actually witness it all.

We had to left Mumbai city by 9.30am, just as everyone was getting to work (ha ha losers). Hitting Pune-Mumbai expressway we were lashed with a heavy downpour. But that aint stopping us. An hour and half later we were there. The Boot Camp was held just off the Khalapur toll booth, off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

From boot camp

Spotting some signs to the camp we drove to the track. The event saw an introductory session of the Toyota Fortuner to the media… Oops! That’s us. It was real weird being considered as “media” them press types. I could wait for this to end and the raw action to begin. Grr... I had to remind myself that we were also here on work. I had to blog officially when all I wanted to do was jump around in the mud.

From boot camp

The Boot Camp saw the Toyota Fortuner’s going all out on a 3-km obstacle course.  We clicked some pictures of others in action before it was time to test the track ourselves.  Options to have an instructor drive you through it or drive yourself. Uh for us, all of us wanted to drive. Even I. But these boys I tell you! I might be just over 5feet but for the record I can see well above the wheel and my feet reach the pedals :P

The drive gets started in the Toyota Fortuner with Mihir behind the wheel. Well even sitting in the backseat one could feel the true power behind this machine. We went through a big puddle, where in you almost sunk to the bottom and the slush drowning you. Tackling steep ascents and incline, to driving the car at angles you feel it will topple, you just cannot help but feel amazed with the capabilities of the 4WD. It was my first ever experience in a 4WD being driven through an amazing and challenging track and I must say I was all WOW about it.

From boot camp

Oh and I did get to also experience a Toyota Land Cruiser. Man oh man, what a car! You just sink into the leather and there’s nothing the car doesn’t have. I was almost tempted to sell everything I own and live in this car. The Toyota Land Cruiser Prado too was on display. Again I must it is an awesome machine.

Not too soon, the proud owners of the Toyota Fortuner's came rolling in and it was really wonderful to see the anticipation on their faces of putting their 4WDs through what it is meant to do.

From boot camp

Do check this pics to see how our day unfolded.

All good things come to an end. And it was time for us to pack up and head back to Mumbai.

Hey also do check the Toyota Fortuner Blog for more updates.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In and Around Parra

The original blog post can be found on The Lovell Dsouza Crapsite. It has been republished with due permissions. The reason I felt the need to republish this is because it captures the true essence of our homeplace - Goa. 
So here's my brother Lovell documenting "Back Home" 
So I’m back home, in good ‘ol Goa. Sitting at the same table my Sis and I grew up eating at. The same table at which I studied for myriad exams that I flunked :P
Old Hall
The old table. The old hall. The massive windows. The damp roof tiles. The generations of relatives sealed in frames, hanging from the walls looking down upon me and thinking “Shame on him. Didn’t make the family name proud.” Hey wait a min, I did. May be they took that back.
Meet Tommy [the female family feline]. Some say she’s 25+ years old. I’ll keep her at 23, coz from photographic evidence she existed when my sis was a kid, before I was born. I stick my foot out for the usual feline meets master greeting. She rubs her head against my foot. I’m still king of the pride. Tommy acknowledges that. Until my sis drops by and steals me off my throne. How can that kitty leave me and run to my sis!!! Duh!! Whatever pussy cat. Big deal!!
Metal T-shirts
The black t-shirts have turned into makeshift doormats. I’m wondering how could my mom degrade the metal collection!! Aahh.. but I guess thats ok. Even the great Slayer t-shirt was not spared. That one has been torn into bits. The Nirvana collection has survived the onslaught. They lie folded in the cupboard.
The metal cassette collection has survived. The pirated CD’s survived too. The rains kick in. I listen to Alice In Chains for a change. Grunge kicks in. Finding a signal for Airtel in the house is a challenge in itself. The signal boosting ironing board does not help anymore. Last resort is defined by leaving the phone at the window risking it getting robbed.
I walk out. I see fields. I smell fresh air. I see birds. Coconut trees transform the simple village road into an aisle. Feels like a red carpet has been laid out for me. Well all over the place tell me I never have to worry bout taps running dry. Home it is. It’s not necessarily the beaches that everyone thinks about when you mention Goa.
Baga Creek
I head out to the Baga creek. I spot the Cross where Ryan [Babushin] and I used to hang out discussing crap. I recognize the spot where Donn, Russell [Yoyo] and I used to come fishing and manage only to catch crabs. The total number of crabs caught till date tallies to 1. I pass by the ground where our U-19 team used to train. The same ground where I learned to dive and catch a football in mid air. The same ground where I once left a lousy goal and our team lost.
Lan Lords
I meet my good old friend Srijay aka Byclops aka Peekachooooo. We head of to Lan Lords. We thought the place was shut down. We find it open. Once owned by the fearsome Homo Sapien Maleous clan, now left to rot with some school boys. The gaming place is dying a slow death. Never-the-less we frag against some bots. Get ripped initially. We rip them back after a while. Srij still got the superfast killer reflexes. I still kick bot with moi mag. The clan needs a reunion.
Srijay at Vrundavan Restaurant
Srij and I drop by Vrundavan. The evening restaurant where a lot of things were always discussed. Most visited by Lesley and me. Often accompanied by Evelyn, Srijay, Suneet and Prashanti. We attack the regular. Chillies, bhel, shev puri, tea and coffee are consumed. We call Les just to let him know we are re-living the moment and he is missing out on a lot of stuff, only to get a barrage of abuses in return. Good ‘ol days. Les, the abuser. Abuses everyone and everything.
We head back home. I’m home…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Parra, and the Goan way of Life!

Parra is a village in Goa and not a tourist destination. But it portrays the village way of life in any typical village in Goa. Uh, may be not, though our side of the village is pretty modern in itself.

Parra is located next to Saligao, and in between Arpora and Mapusa. Mapusa being the closest town.

An early morning scene in Parra. The sun's just rising.
Roads leading home. 
My best favourite part of Parra is the fields and the walk up to the hill. A short walk from my house will take you to the most beautiful, relaxing and utterly astounding place on the whole planet. I call it the Watering Hole. I used to sit for hours on end at this place watching the water go by or the farmers in the fields.

Tilled roof homes in Parra
Most of the village is now navigable by road. The road that leads to the hill. 
Walking up to the watering hole
The fields in Parra
More fields around my place
Fields adjacent to the watering hole
Me at the watering hole :)
A local fishing at watering hole
There’s nothing much to do in any village in Goa, other than sit back in relax. An afternoon siesta (term for a  short afternoon nap) after a perfect meal of fish, curry and rice, pretty much makes up an ideal day.

Well Parra is known for quite somethings. We have two famous open-air dance halls here. Emerald Lawns, I got married here, and Alva-Mar. Both are less than a kilometer apart and host some of the most happening events in Goa.

Come the summer (March - May) and Parra hosts a famous ball called the ‘Melon Nite.’ It’s called Melon Nite as Parra is famous for the watermelons grown in the local fields.

What you also must not miss is the fun and festivities around the festival of ‘San Joao’ which falls on the 24th of June every year. Celebrating the feast of St. John the Baptist, almost  everyone takes part in festivities which involve jumping in all the wells in the village, accompanied with food and drinks.

San Joao in Parra
Villagers having fun in the well
Local kids with the traditional headgear
A lady too decides to jump in the well
some be over-adventurous
No one is left. Everyone is blessed with water. 

Most of the photographs have been clicked by my brother, Lovell. Do drop him a note if you like his photography or would like to buy some prints.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Going Goa!

I have a hectic life in Mumbai. As a copywriter in a digital agency life can get particularly complicated and I look forward every two months or so to unwinding at my most favourite destination on the entire planet - Goa!

From goa this august

The name itself conjours different images in the minds of the people - sun-kissed beaches, beer, fish curry rice and goan delicacies, laid-back life, beautiful temples and churches... But for me, it's not about what the tourism brochures show you. For me this place is Home. It’s about spending time with my folks and sitting for hours at end at the watering hole.

From goa this august

I originate from a small little village in Bardez called Parra. I was born here, then spend my younger years in Oman before we were back to Goa. I could tell you where you must go while in Goa like the beaches and churches which are a must see. But that you can find in any tourist brochure. In the posts that follow I will introduce you to another side of Goa, one that I love best.

So Goa. A little bit about my state. It’s a tiny piece of land nestled between two large states and a water body - the Arabian Sea. What I love about Goa is the uniqueness of the place. People don’t think here like the rest of India, dressing sense, cuisine and culture is so different. Hindi the national language is rarely spoken except in schools. On the streets English is the primary language with Konkani the next preferred language.

This tiny state in India is rich in Portuguese heritage having been a Portuguese colony till as late as 1961. Divided into North and South Goa, it has four major town in Goa - Panjim, Mapusa, Vasco and Margao. Panaji or Panjim as it’s locally called is the capital city and houses can be considered as the legislative and commercial centre.

The weather in Goa is pleasant all round the year. My favourite is the rainy season which is usually during June to mid September. There’s no better time to visit Goa than in the rains. It’s off season time, meaning you can get great deals on hotels plus enjoy a Goa without the hordes of tourist. Tourist season begins in October and carries through the end of February. During this time you can find the likes of the Flea market, Saturday Nite Bazaar and a number of activities on the beaches.

Accommodation is easy to find. If the hotel offers are not enticing enough for you, try local homes which have rooms to let. This way you can experience the true Goan way of life. Transportation can be quite a nightmare tough. The local transport is tricky and most often over-crowded, even I wouldn't use it. The easiest way to get across is by Taxi or motorbikes. Be careful of the former as there is no formal rate card and taxi drivers are known to fleece tourist. The best way is to hire a bike. Make sure you have your licences in place and watch out for strays while you ride around. While in Goa do make sure you ride the ferry, even if it’s just for fun. It’s free, only vehicle owners need to pay.

What you need to get to Goa. Plenty of sunscreen!

The India travel tales begin...

From now on begins my documentation of my travels around India. Make way for me, Jo, as I go off exploring my home state and uber cool state of Goa!

My travelogue in India will be supplemented with awesome photography by my aspiring photographer brother Lovell

Monday, July 12, 2010

Finding my way with Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring

My review: 
When I was planning my trip I bought Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring. I must say that it has been immensely helpful in picking the right destinations to stay and visit.

On our trip, documented on this blog, we used to get lost in any new city or rather look about blankly figuring out which direction should we head. Luckily at this time Lonely Planet's Europe on a shoestring came to our rescue. It helped us find the tourism offices with ease and also pointed us in the right directions to our hotels and lanes we had to explore.

A little bulky for a backpacker, but very helpful. Do refer to this guide if you want explore the European cities without burning a hole in your pocket.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I met Lyons, the seagull, at Marseilles at Chateau d'If. He kept posing for me as we awaited our ride back to the mainland. I so loved this bird, that he became inspiration for my quilling artwork.

Oh and Tanaya, my travel buddy was so jealous of this bird that she kept rolling her eyes at us - our conversations and the photo shoot. Well we finally got to her and she clicked a picture of Lyons and me together. Well guess Tanaya, this post is dedicated to you and the wonderful patient person who were with me on our trip. To Tanaya!

From Lyons

From Lyons

From Lyons

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 35: London - Turkey - Mumbai - Goa

It was time to go! Our bags packed we rode the tube for the last time to Heathrow Airport. Thankfully Ryan came to drop us. I was sad to go but excited to be at an airport. Simply because it takes me to newer places. And Heathrow airport is mighty and beautiful. A lot of people might not think so, but I loved it. It's no way flashy like the Dubai Airport but a mighty one it is. 

Stepping off the Tube, we walk into the airport. I say bye to my cousin Ryan and thank him for sheltering us while in London and also for feeding us with amazing dishes. But I have to leave, reality is calling me back. 

Damn I am overweight in luggage. Lucky the Turkish Airlines official let me go without paying a pound. Did I say, I gave her my widest smiles? 

After some duty free shopping which involved picking up brandy for my papa, some chocolates for my mama and brother, all we had to do was wait to take off. Not soon we come to know our flights beeen delayed. Holy shit! I have connecting flights all the way to Goa. London - Turkey, with a stop over for 3 hours at Istanbul. Our flights delayed again at Istanbul. That gives me a bracket of less than 2 hours to make it from the International airport to the domestic one in Mumbai, from the initial 7 hours. In Mumbai I had to request security to cut line as I had to hurry to catch my connecting flight to Goa. 

So preoccupied I was here, that I failed to see Bonnie, then my bestest friend and now my husband, waiting to welcome me back. Tanaya spotted him and I was so glad to see him come. We then raced our way to the domestic airport, where you can say Jet Airways was practically holding the flight to Goa for me. I was whisked away in a special van to the aircraft and got a lot of dirty stares from passengers for delaying them. Not my fault I say. 

In Goa, my Mama and Papa were there to welcome me. How happy was I to see them. Hugs all around. So many questions. And my Mom still aghast that I went half the world across alone. :) Anyway there was a homecoming party. My extended family was there to know where I went, what I did and how I achieved this dream of mine. The end of it, everyone was envious. I can only look back and think WOW!