Casa Pilerne in Goa, India
It's a great feeling, for never in all our years of driving down to Goa, in South India, from Bangalore, have we ever arrived, in time, to eat lunch in Panjim, on the same day that we left. Earlier we would break journey in Hubli or Karwar for the first night and then take the dreadful, potholed, road into Goa the next morning. Today with the new National Highway 4 from Bangalore to Goa, driving is a dream and coming to Goa if you are a bird lover, a must do. Of course keep ten and twenty rupee notes handy, as there are around eight toll gates on the way into Goa, but the road is better than airport tarmacs!
Taking the Panjim bridge, we drove down on the Betim Road, which brought us to an old fashioned fish market and heaps of old world shops, from which food supplies can be picked up. We asked the way to Casa Pilerne, the heritage home stay we have booked with Jude D'souza in the village of Pilerne, in Bardez, while buying milk. “Look for the Rajat Hotel, which is the landmark into the village of Pilerne,” said the sugar-cane juice vendor, giving us directions to the house. In a matter of minutes we are charmed by the old world ambience of Casa Pilerne, on a small and winding village road.
The house is built out blocks of laterite stone, which is typical of heritage Goan homes, with a verandah running around the front of the house. A high roofed hall greets you with comfortable sofas, and the divans dating back to possibly Jude's grand- father's time. The beds too are old fashioned and tall but instead of lumpy coir mattresses, there are firm yet soft modern mattresses, with fresh linen and a fan cooling the room. Modern tiled toilets with running water and geysers are the only mod cons added to make the stay comfortable. A large rambling kitchen is equipped with fridges and gas stoves, in which you can keep food supplies and rustle up a meal if you prefer that to eating out.
The village of Pilerne is a birders paradise. Hundreds of birds of the Western Ghats dart and fly among the trees, growing thickly on the hills in the village. You don't have to go far scouting for them, as they are all around you. All the hundreds of birds pictured and written about in my copy of 'Birds of the Western Ghats' by SatishPande, Saleel Tambe, Clement Francis and Niranjan Sant are there. The book comes in handy for an amateur birder to quickly open and identify all the new birds around. The more common Sunbirds, Oriental Magpies, Parakeets and Bulbuls frequent the garden, and off and on, a group of curious Jungle Babblers or Seven Sisters, set up a racket over something they have found to eat.
Delicate little Brown Dove's busily walk around looking for food, and their familiar Coo-coo-croo-koo-koo is a wonderful sound to wake up to, after your afternoon siesta. The red eyed Crow Pheasant too wanders around in the underbrush beyond the garden, so keep an eye out, as he makes great pictures.
In March, the jungles around are fairly dry and birds can be easily spotted with the naked eye. We are dazzled with the swift dive bomber attacks, made by the flamboyantly coloured Paradise Flycatcher. It's an insectivore and catches its food in the air with it's long tail feathers flying out behind it, making a breath taking sight. A kingfisher calls raucously from a branch over hanging the fresh water lake in the village, which is filled with beautiful pink water lillies. The fields around and the creek running through it, also has a variety of water bird life, which can make wonderful pictures for an amateur like me, with just my digi- cam.
Take stout trekking shoes when walking up the hill slopes, as the laterite stone can hurt, should you accidently step on exposed stone. We cut ourselves long poles to help us climb up the hill and wore only green or brown coloured clothing, to blend into the foliage.
This is Goa at its pristine best, away from the rabble of tourists and crowds. Pilerne is a hidden birders paradise and the whole of Casa Pilerne can be booked by a party of 10. There are three bedrooms with plenty of running water and even a TV if you have fractious city kids who need entertainment. Bhujan, the man Friday in the house is a pleasant, affable soul, who can guide you to the nearest beach once you are done with the birds, as that's a part of Goa that definitely needs to be enjoyed as well!
For details contact: Jude D'souza: +91-9923691560.
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