The economics of exploring

As an economics student, I believe that wants are unlimited and the means to fulfill those wants are limited. The places I want to travel to are unlimited and like any other college student, I’m always on a budget. I can travel only during long weekends and festivals when flights and hotels are more expensive than usual. In such situations, planning a budget-friendly itinerary can be a real task. However, with some help from my dad, I managed to plan a super-reasonable and all-encompassing trip, that too, on a festival weekend.

3 of my friends and I were planning a trip together because the last time we’d be in a new city was 4 years back, on a student exchange programme in Germany, when we were less adventurous and thereby, less ready to try an unexplored area. This time however, we were more comfortable with the idea of exploring the unexplored and so we planned a trip in the South Gujarat-Daman-Dadra and Nagar Haveli region.

Day 1

We took a train from Mumbai Central to Vapi. Vapi is close to all the good places in the circuit and has reasonably priced hotels. We checked into hotel Blossom, which is 10 mins from the station, is priced at approximately 1500 INR per night and includes breakfast. T We then went to Silvassa, which is the capital of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. We ditched the tribal museum and went to the Damanganga riverfront in Silvassa. While the riverfront in itself is beautiful, there is no arrangement for people to sit at the viewpoint. If developed more, this spot can be even better.

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Post lunch, we headed to Dharampur, which is the base village for Wilson Hill. The drive to Wilson Hill is 26kms from Dharampur and is a perfectly motorable road. Wilson Hill is named after Lord Wilson, who was the Governor of Bombay in the 1920s, by Vijay Devji, who was the last king of Dharampur. A small temple-like monument is built in the memory of their friendship at the top. At the top, there are a couple of trails you can take to different viewpoints. Our first trail was a short one, not more than a 10 minute walk, which led us to such a pretty view! The fact that the place was not overcrowded like most of the other hills/mountaintops added to the beauty of the place. The second trail was slightly longer and it was downhill. The viewpoint was the best and we ended up sitting there for a long time. The four of us listened to music and took in the immense beauty, without uttering a single word. We ended a day with a typical Kathiyawadi meal of lasaniya bataka and sev tameta nu shaak at a roadside dhaba.

Day 2

We first went to Udvada, which is a small, laidback Parsi town, to the North of Daman. It houses the world’s longest running fire temple, the Atash Behram of Udvada. As per the customs, we weren’t allowed to enter the Atash Behram so we headed to the museum of Parsi history in Udvada. The museum in itself looks very homely and inviting and has a detailed description of Parsi history and their settlement in India. There’s a well outside the museum with carvings of phrases in Persian. Apart from that, walking in this tiny town is a treat in itself. There are big bungalows with porches in the front that house cute swings. Several homes double up as Dharamshalas that offer food and accommodation for travellers. We lunched at the Sodawaterwaala Dharamsala, which is a sprawling bungalow, with an open restaurant at the side. We feasted on dhansak and patties.  I’d recommend eating here and topping the meal off with some hand-made ice-cream that is sold by vendors roaming around in auto-rickshaws and cycles.

Post the hearty lunch, we headed to Daman. Since Daman used to be a Portuguese town, I was curious to know if Portuguese families still resided there. Instead of hitting the beaches, we first headed to the Nani Daman Fort. At present it only houses a church, a school and a cemetery. It overlooks the sea and offers a good view of the same. It is not well-maintained, but I’d suggest a walk along the corners of the fort. The Moti Daman Fort is much better than Nani Daman, since it houses all the administrative buildings and homes of the locals, alongwith a colourful post-office and pretty churches. We couldn’t get in touch with any Portuguese locals but if you can, contact the school in  Moti Daman; one of the administrators told us that there are Portuguese people who still stay there.

We’d heard that the beaches of Daman are pretty substandard so our expectations were very low but we were in for a surprise since both the beaches were quite decent. Jampore beach has shacks like the ones in Goa so that people can enjoy the view under the shade. Devka beach was the one I liked more, since it was less crowded and cleaner. Overall, while the 2 beaches are in no way close to the beaches of Andaman or South Goa, they are worth visiting if you’re in Daman.

On our third day, we had to board a train in the afternoon to come back to Bombay. We initally planned on visiting Nargol beach, an unexplored and clean beach, about 1 hour to the south of Vapi, but since my friends were exhausted, we decided to skip it and relax in the hotel. Nargol is still on my list and although I was pretty bummed that we couldn’t visit it, I hope to one day tick if off my bucket list.

In our 3 day trip, we visited beaches, a hill, a museum, a riverfront, a dreamy village, and 2 fortified forts. The cost for the entire trip came up to INR 5800 per head, which included transport, accommodation, food and everything else. The trip taught us that you don’t need a lot of money to travel, all you require is the readiness to explore the unexplored. The four of us may someday take another trip, when we’re all earning, when we can splurge without thinking twice. But eating authentic Gujju food at a no-frills dhaba and sitting at the top of one of the least explored hills in Gujarat gave us happiness that you can’t put a price tag on.

Take that trip with your friends. Plan and budget well. Go to a rural area, eat local food and absorb the culture. Be open to every kind of experience and learn something from each journey. Travel with those you love and never stop exploring. Be Khanabadosh, if only for some time. 

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