Goa - My Journey
So this is how we first met – on a misty morning of February, in a half-tired body from a sleepless night, at a noisy & crowded beach. My first visit to Goa was not the dream vacation I had always imagined it to be. But well, that is where it all started.
It was 2010 and I was in my early twenties. I was barely getting to know the places around Mumbai, when a friend suggested Goa trip. No one can say no to that. So a Goa trip was planned and I eagerly tagged along. We took an early morning flight from Mumbai and reached Goa while dawn was still breaking. We hired a pre-paid cab from airport and reached where all first timers reach –the great Baga beach. Well, not quite so. First we reached our hotel by the river. After all these years, I don’t remember the name of the hotel. But it was by a river and across the river I could see another hotel with a cute restaurant on the river side.
Our hotel was close to Baga beach and that was where we landed within an hour. It was not impressive at first sight and it only got worse from there. The beach was full of sunbeds and the water full of people. There were all sorts of water sports and it resembled more a Mela than a vacation destination. Like everyone out there, we occupied a sunbed and spent most of the day there drinking and eating and water sporting, until Sun started going down behind the horizon. That night we went to Flee market, followed by some dancing at Tito’s, followed by a re-visit to the beach after midnight. While the Flee market was fun and the beach at night was calming, I was still unsatisfied somewhere.
Next day we decided to head to Calangute beach, which was pretty much similar to Baga in lot of sense. Later we drove our rented bikes to Aguada fort crossing 10 KM and spent some time in the Sinquerim fort. I enjoyed when the wave hit hard against the rocks and splashed water all over us. We went further south to Panjim and took the cruise which was quite average despite all the local singing and dancing programs. We dined at Panji and headed back to hotel through the dark roads at night.
The trip ended better than it started, but it only increased my thirst. There were glimpses of what Goa could be, wrapped in the wreck of a trip that we had. And I was dying to find out more about it.
Getting to know
Monsoon is off season for Goa. But one who has been there in monsoon would tell you that’s the best time. My second trip I planned in the month of July, only six months from my first encounter.
So five of us packed our bags and taking Konkan Kanya Express from Dadar at 11:20 PM reached Goa on next morning. Most people take the train to Thivim or Madgaon, but I had a different plan. A plan arrived at by some half-cooked internet research. Our first stop was Arambol beach in far north of Goa and hence we got down at Pernem station. We found two autos to take us till our hotel close to the beach, which closely resembled a home stay rather than a hotel. By the time we settled down in hotel, it was raining consistently, so we walked to the beach wearing our rain coats or taking our umbrellas.
The water looked wild, beach sand was wet and the green hill in distance looked greener than usual. The sea was wildly thrashing against the hill and the small rocks around it, making a sound of a distant cry. There was a foggy feeling to the whole vision and small drops of rain kept gently touching us reassuringly. It was a beautiful. There were red flags on the beach indicating no swimming allowed in sea, but for me it was redundant. The sea looked too scary to even imagine venturing into.
The beach had been completely empty apart from us. We found some left over cardboards and food packets from the sacks that are there during season. Later we found out about the beach huts that gets set up during October and broken down before Monsoon. With nothing much to do there, we decided to check out on the same day and head to our next destination – Panjim.
Next two nights we stayed at Panjim, in a guest house at the heart of the town. We hired a car for whole day and did all possible touristy things – visited Chapoda and Aguada fort, saw multiple beaches along the way between the two forts, ate sea foods and more than anything enjoyed rain-washed roads through bright green forests or by the restless sea.
On our third and last day, there was only one thing left to do – visit those famous churches in old Goa. But we were in a bit of bad luck and there was a strike on that day making it impossible for us to travel. At noon we ventured out from our guest house to the empty streets of Panjim in hope for finding some vehicle or at least some food for lunch. There were no cars plying and no restaurant was open. After some walk and some whispered conversations with the locals we found a place with shutter three quarter down where they were selling keema-pav. We sat in a dark room with other locals and enjoyed that food.
Later we found some travel agent and arranged a vehicle for Karmali station, where we would be boarding our return train. But on our way to station we did a pit stop at Basilica of Bom Jesus Church and walked the remaining 2.5 KM to the station through one of those beautiful roads of Goa under the pleasant stream of rains with a heart full of memories of a wonderful trip.
Goa was starting to grow on to me and I couldn’t wait to go back and explore more parts of it. Next winter I arranged another trip and this time I had two agendas in mind – see those churches that I missed out last time and experience beach huts. After some web search I figured Palolem was the right place for beach huts and also booked some hut online called “Chattai”.
Once again I had booked the same train Konkan Kanya from Dadar. But this time it didn’t show up at 11:20 PM… or an hour after that… or even an hour after that. Derailing in konkan railways is not unheard of and unfortunately such an event had occurred on the same day making all trains extremely delayed. Our train started sometime after 6 AM and by the time it pulled into Madgaon station, the Sun had already set and the last light of evening was starting to disappear. We were running almost 12 hours behind schedule. Outside we spoke to some bike guys and arranged two bikes on rent for 400 per day. After the arrangements were done, we headed south towards Palolem through the dark roads of night.
It was a long and scary ride till Palolem. Most of the route was dark and for a highway it felt quite narrow. Often we felt we were going in a wrong way and we couldn’t even spot any shop or village to stop by and ask for direction. After 40 KM and one and half hours later we found an exit with sign for Palolem. After a few minutes on this road we could find signs for all hotels and following the sign for “Chattai” we reached our beach huts.
The hut wasn’t bad. It was spacious, made of bamboos and had a sit-out on the terrace. But for a being a beach hut, I couldn’t spot any beach anywhere.
We went out for a walk on the same way we had come and found a lot of sacks on the way. There was also a German Bakery nearby. We ate at one of those sacks and then went looking for the sea. The sound of the wave and salty smell guided us to the right direction and we sat down on one of the left out sunbed staring into the vast darkness and listening to the rhythm of the wave. At some distance on top of a hill we could see lights, like a party is being held. But we couldn’t hear any sound. In fact there were no sound apart from the wave and our own breath.
We went back to our huts that night and came back after sunrise for breakfast. And that was when I got first view of Palolem beach. The white sands, the calm see, the hills barricading the water like big swimming pool and that lonely round rock in the middle of it all. And most of all, no noise from crowd or any water sports. It finally felt like the Goa I always dreamed off.
Unfortunately, our plan was set and we had to leave by mid-day to our next destination – old Goa. We manage some boating in the morning to the butterfly beach and dolphin watching point. Both were unsatisfactory and we couldn’t enjoy the place as much as we wanted.
We left Palolem by afternoon, stopped at Agonda beach on the way and again were off through those mysterious roads as the evening light was about to fade away. This time we went the double distance, crossed Madgaon in the middle and finally reached Old Goa where GTDC hotel was already booked for us. It was an ordinary hotel which was adequate for one night’s sleep and that was what we did.
Next morning we rode in the roads of Old Goa and visited all the churches. It was worth visiting once, but our heart was still somewhere in Palolem. By afternoon we had checked out and boarded the train back from Karmali station. I had never felt sadder leaving Goa. And even before the train started leaving the station, I had already planned to come back again.
Something like Love
True to my word I went back again. It was October of the same year and my excitement had mellowed down a bit just before the journey knowing most beach huts in Palolem wouldn’t open by then. At last minute we decided not to go to south and we went directly to Colva beach from Madgaon station due to its proximity to station. After some search we found a hotel close to the beach and decided to stay there. It was an average hotel, but that was all we could found.
We ate a lot of sea food and went to the beach in the evening. But it was nothing like Palolem and we were starting to regret our decision to stay there. The beach was quite crowded and had water sports, but it was still different from Baga or Calangute. The average age of crowd was older and there were more number of families. Either way, we knew we had to leave.
Next morning we checked out and headed south. Finally we experienced those roads in daylight and they seemed much less scary. Some parts of it were through forest, but much of it had paddy fields or empty grasslands on both side. By mistake we took an earlier right from the highway and ended up on a bad road and eventually it led us to Agonda beach. We decided to stop for breakfast there.
Back in those days Agonda beach had been emptier or maybe because it was October, all we could found were homestays. We stopped at one such place called Mario Paulo and went in for breakfast. The food was cooked the owner herself and it was delicious. Upon considering the possibility of not finding an accommodation there, we decided to stay in the same homestay.
We didn’t do much during that trip, but it was still a wonderful trip. Agonda is a nice and quiet beach and the food there was absolutely delightful. So we went back from the trip fully content. But still my thirst for Palolem had not been quenched and I hoped to come back again to Palolem and stay in a beach hut that was actually on the beach. I wanted to wake up to the sound of the sea, stare at the sparkling water from the windows at noon and enjoy a candle light dinner by the water. All of that was going to be reality in future, but not just yet.
Things didn’t go as I planned and there were lots happening in life in between. So Goa was forgotten for a while. After everything settled down again and I was relaxed enough to make plans, I planned the longed for trip on March of 2013. This time I knew what I wanted and there was no point in wasting time. Upon reaching Madgaon, we quickly rented bikes and we headed south. To the calm sea and the quiet village. We reached the beach roads and headed for the huts from the back side. We went to the southmost corner, up to where we could drive and parked our bikes there. Chose the first hut entry we could find and walked in from the back. First there were few brick rooms, then a courtyard with lines of huts on both side, then up ahead the restaurant/sack and through the tables and the bamboo poles of the sack I could see the white sands and the sandy water ahead. And I could hear the rhythmic sound of the wave. And at that moment, I knew I had found “My Goa”. I promised myself to go back there every year and so far I have kept that promise. Even though crowd has gone down over time, Palolem is still my Goa and nothing seem to have come as close to it. Yet.
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