For the past 20 years, I have followed an annual practice of visiting the Swami Samarth temple at Akkalkot near Solpaur. Every time I visit the temple, my heart and mind is filled with total peace. A chance visit with college friends some 20 years ago was my first visit to the temple. Ever since, I make it a point to go, at least once a year.
This time, while I was planning the trip, my wife insisted that she and my in-laws accompany us too! Initially my response was tepid but I turned ecstatic when my father-in-law proposed that later, we must continue the drive to Goa. That’s how a pilgrimage tuned into a leisure trip overnight. Since were going to have multiple stops en route, we decided to drive down to Goa instead of boarding an overnight bus.
The journey to Goa via Solapur was fairly long, close to 700 km, so we decided to use our seven-seater Ertiga. With five passengers (myself, wife, son and in-laws), we decided to use the spare capacity in the last row for our luggage. Fortunately, my father-in-law is also a keen driver, so between the two of us we decided to turn turns at the wheel.
We started out in the early hours to avoid the morning rush. We reached Kandi as per our plan and made the first halt for breakfast. Thereafter it was a straight drive till Omarga, where we took a left turn instead of driving straight to Solapur.
The open countryside with lush green fields on both sides of the rood was a welcome break from the concrete jungle of Hyderabad. Since it was still early in the day, traffic was pretty slow and my son made full use of this opportunity to monkey around in the car.
It was fun to see the approach of two different generations – one senior and the other junior to my driving skill. While the senior generation wanted me to play safe, the youngster kept howling for speed, egging me on to keep my foot pressed on the accelerator. Dad-in-law was more cautious.
Soon we touched Omarga and took the left turn to reach Akkalkot.
There we first paid our obeisance at the Swami Samarth Temple in Akkalkot. A difficult-to-explain energy fills me up every time I visit the holy shrine. This time was no different. Though a simple place, there are vibes that I pick up that can’t be put in words.
With pilgrimage box ticked, son and I again slipped into our leisure mood. Along the way, my father-in-law told us an inspiring (Nah boastful! ?) story of his life and how he eventually made it as a successful businessman, against all odds. Truth be told, while my remained focussed on the road, I did feel riveted to the story.
Soon we crossed Belgaum and reached a highly recommended, well-reviewed hotel in Goa - Quality Inn Ocean Palms, just 5 kms walking distance away from the sprawling Calangute beach, one of the largest in Goa, courtesy dad-in-law, of course!
What glorious three days stay we had at Quality Inn Ocean Palms. The icing on the cake was that for the weekend we received free entry from the reception for Ocean Palms Carnival, an in-house razzmatazz that turned out to be the best family experience we have had in ages – DJ, Dancing, Stand-up Comedy, Family Games and more!
Even the pool was delightful and son and I spent all three morning in the clean waters.