21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
News Analysis now
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories
Dreamscapes Two
More Original Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living



The International Writers Magazine: Goa - a Birders Paradise

Casa Pilerne in Goa, India
• Marianne de Nazareth
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.

Casa 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 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.

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 owner: Jude D'souza: +91-9923691560.
Or: +91-9049988922


Pilerne in Goa, a birders paradise

As I sit on an antique bench, in the verandah of the family homestead in Pilerne, in my village in Goa, India, two white cheeked Barbets call out in the old teak trees, which were probably planted by Great Grand Father. The little village is quiet and thankfully still caught in a time warp, where besides running water and electricity, everything about the homes, date back to the previous century. Great Grandfather, Grandfather and now my Dad's photos, glower down at us, in the large sitting room as if to ask me, Marianne, how could you let  those potter wasps make those large lumps of goo, on our family altar?

And the termites, can't you hear them chewing up all the massive teak beams just above our heads? Why have you taken so long to come back to the village? You have even let the wall of the well cave in - the well where you stood and bathed with icy cold waters drawn out of its depths. I have no answer except that the rat race of living had overtaken my mind for the last decade. I love my family home where we visited as children, along with my parents. It's not a typical Portuguese mansion, but it's a house with memories of love and noisy family holidays.

We came, no matter where we lived in India, to spend a month in the arms of the homestead as kids. Every morning we waited for the baker to bring fresh and hot Pao, straight from his oven for our breakfast, which we dipped in hot cups of tea. Bulbuls called  raucously in the trees and a pair of Oriental Magpie Robins flew around waiting for scraps which we threw to them. Cows were our composters, as they walked past the kitchen window and polished off the watermelon and pineapple peels which Mum threw out for them. Suddenly a Greater Racket Tailed Drongo  flew down attacking the Magpies as if to say the garden was his territory. The story has not changed, over the march of the decades, except that I am visiting with my own husband and son.

Goa is hot and to keep cool, I walk to any tap in the house, every now and then, to wash my face which is covered in a film of sweat. The village slumbers  in the afternoon heat and even the labour, painting the beams in the house with insect repellant, take a mandatory Goan siesta after their lunch. Unless the beams and rafters in the tiled roof are painted with insect repellant, they will be food for the termites over the rest of the year. The repellant is foul smelling, made from oil extracted from the shells of the cashew fruit. It is black and treacly and lathered on with a brush. The whole house reeks of it, but we know how helpful it is, and so tolerate the smell. I try my hand at it as well, smoothing it into cracks behind the big swing doors and on the patches left behind after removing the Potter wasps nests.

Home We are lucky, we have arrived at the fag end of March, when the tourist population on the beaches are less and the seas yield king sized prawns. I sit to shell and de-vein a kilo of them in the garden and throw the shells and heads to the plants. In no time red fire ants get attracted to the waste and by next morning have decomposed my wet waste and carted away whatever they need!

As I sit and sip my upteenth cup of tea, mixed with milk powder and sugar free, I am shocked into silence, with the vision of a Paradise Flycatcher's sudden appearance. His bright orange plumage and ribbon like tail feathers trailing, he is perched on a shrub beyond the garden. Perking his head to one side, he seems to say, don't rub your eyes, I am for real! His absolutely stunning plumage, knocks the breath out of me. I stare open mouthed wondering if his head and crest are black or a royal purple. No camera to capture the moment, I am annoyed at myself,  as any movement, will cause immediate flight of the visitor.

We go to the back of the house, standing and waiting for the labour to climb on the roof and set fire to the grass which has grown up on the tiles. Suddenly a flash of yellow catches our eyes and we look up to see the incredible view of a pair of Golden Orioles. They allow us to feast our eyes on their brilliant plumage for a few minutes before they take off for the jungles, beyond the homestead.
Get your camera quick shouts Steven and I rush down to the edge of the homestead over- looking the fields. His excited shout, was to capture the sight of buffalo grazing in the fields with the Common Cattle Egret taking a ride on its back. Very helpful, these beautiful, snowy white birds, rid the grazing cattle of flies, ticks and lice and eat up pillaging insects, so are the farmer’s friend.

As I write this, the acrid smell of the insect repellant emerges from the house and I sit peacefully on the bench, with only the odd loud plop of a large dried teak leaf  falling, or the sudden tapping of a Common Golden Backed Woodpecker on the old teak trees. And ouch! a swift sudden bite from a fire ant hurriedly makes me shut down my computer and move off from my seat, on the step in front of the house.
© Marianne de Nazareth April 2012
mde.nazareth (at)

Share |
More vacations


© Hackwriters 1999-2012 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.