Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Goa tavelogues : Last 3 days

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The last three days, I divided my time and my lazy hours between Kola beach and Agonda. One morning we trekked up to Agonda , a four kilometer hike I think and spent the whole day there –lounging, eating, playing the frizzbee , swimming and eating some more. Of course a considerable time was also spent in chatting up with other tourists.
We ate at the Greek place (Agonda) one evening, where we made some wonderful friends – Diana , a hypnotherapist and Andrea, a flight attendant . It is amazing how people meet and how several connections just unfold. We met them coz we did not have a table and ended sharing a table with them. Diana and Andrea knew Niels and Rachel (our Galgibag friends) and in turn had already heard about us. I still remember the look on each of our faces, when suddenly Andrea interjected –“Wait a minute… “.Everyone got so excited, and suddenly we all weren’t strangers anymore. Further on, Suveer and Diana found out that they follow the same school of yoga, and have also trained under the same teacher at some point. They were ecstatic, as both gushed hawed and chattered away excitingly about yoga while Andrea and me looked on. The next day they came over to Kola beach, and we spent a lovely afternoon together. Met them again in Bombay, where Andrea related her fantastic, truly Bollywood style love story that unfolded the last few days she was there. Diana stayed on for few more weeks in Bombay to practice yoga, we met often , an amazing amazing lady with an interesting life story.
We spent a lot of time with Brad and Liz too, another wonderful couple from Cornwall. Retired and living it up. They have been coming to Goa for 10 years now. We shared so many stories and so much of our histories. Thanks to them, we discovered another tiny beach close to Kola, which was incredible and so isolated.
Then there was Petra, travelling with her mom and aunt. Back home Petra has a chocolate van. Little did I realize then, that she wasn’t simply making and serving milkshakes. Check her out:
Foodies and chocolate lovers ..rejoice!! :)
She had so many questions about Mumbai, she was reading Suketu Mehta’s Maximum city and was much intrigued. We spent a lovely morning doing yoga on the beach and slurping on pancakes.
Sally and Fran were an absolute riot. Fran especially. We spent one evening playing Adupuli Attam, this ancient game Suveer was carrying. Sally was travelling alone, and had some wonderful tales to relate. She was missing her boy friend, a tree surgeon so much. I was much intrigued by what a tree surgeon does. Fran’s knowledge of Goa was incredible.
It was amazing how many people I met and befriended. Most had such intriguing professions—Dog trainers, tree surgeons, thinker, chocolate van driver, hypnotherapist and the likes. Conversation was so easy. Everyone was friendly and eager.
I spent the other hours of the day floating in the calm lagoon, reading reading and more reading.. Downing pancakes at odd hours and going for long walks in the evening. The nights had gotten slightly chilly; I’d snuggle under a blanket on a beach bed and stare into the dark ocean, the lit sky and into my thoughts. One afternoon I went for a long swim in the lagoon past the resort and the next one into the jungle behind. It was really quiet and so green. The water was cold and at one point, I sat still in the water, a thousand tiny fish came around me, I could feel their tiny bodies against mine, it was fantastic.
I also had 'my spot'. The lagoon would join the sea by way of a tiny stream which was flowing over the beach past big rocky boulders. The water was very shallow; it felt like a water bed, the sand was soft and wet, the flow of the water gentle. I would lie on the water, perch my head on the soft rock and read or just stare at the blue sky.

Day 3 : Galgibag

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A remote beach further than Talpona, one of the last beaches of South Goa, it is also a turtle nesting beach. Lined with fir and pine trees, the beach stretches long. As usual, only visitors other than the locals were foreigners.
I really don’t know how we got there. But the drive/ride to Galgibag beach is beautiful. Past green hills, winding roads, paddy fields, old Goan villas, rivers and more rivers. If you wish to get there, ask the foreigners you meet on Patnem, or the boho ones speeding on bikes. Most know. Locals might blank out.
The access road to the beach is narrow; we whir past tons of foreign tourists who seemed at home. It is a small village, with rustic old Goan homes, few hutments, churches, bungalows with large courtyards and tall towering coconut trees. I spot scores of foreign nationals lounging, walking with cloth bags, peeking from houses, eating and sipping tea at chai shops and ambling along. Most are long terms tourists, who come often, living on months at a stretch and some are even permanent residents. There are no shacks on the beach. Apparently not allowed. We spot some Russian sign boards. The locals still serve food to the visitors. Picnic tables are set under the fir trees. It is picturesque.
MEET NIELS, a German dog trainer and criminal (he introduced himself like that) and Rachel – a New Zealander teacher and ardent cyclist.
We got talking with Niels and soon both Niels and Rachel joined us on our table.
Niels has been coming to Goa past 8 years. In November 2009, he was involved in an accident. An accident where three Indians were injured and Niels had half his face, from forehead to the nose cut. I also noticed deep scars on his thighs. Stuck at the government hospital in Goa, Niels describes the doctor treating him nothing less than a butcher.
Passport impounded, money over, insurance cover gone, Niels is stuck in heaven under hellish conditions. Yet we couldn’t help but laugh at his situation.
‘You could be stuck at a worse place you know’ I couldn’t help but philosophize with him. He laughs, so says everyone I meet. A dog trainer by profession, Niels and I talk for a while, about dogs, about my dog Elsa, and some more. A good looking guy, the scars on his face only add to his enigma. I found myself enamored. J .
Rachel is a teacher from New Zealand. Loves to cycle. Travelling alone, the initial impression of a shy demure girl soon evaporates when Rachel relates her travelling tales. She has bicycled through Indonesia and another country I can’t quite remember (must be eyeing Niels that time…sigh). Her cycle was parked outside, as she checked the position of sun to determine the time she had to bicycle back to Agonda. She wants to travel north now, maybe Leh. We express our reservation as she’s alone, she smiles, I find friends, she says smiling at Niels.
We bid good bye to the pretty people. Wished Niels the very best of luck. His court hearing was in 3 days. I thought that’ll be the last of them I’ll ever see, little did I know.
The water in Galgibag is magnificent. The sea bed is flat, the flat beach extends deep into the water. If lucky, you might spot the Olive Ridley turtle. As the gentle waves crashed against my body, I found myself floating into oblivion, wishing time would just still, as I watched the top of the fir trees gently sway in the breeze, nirvana seemed close by.
Further down the beach another site treated me, the Galgi River meets the sea. The patch is slightly rocky, the backdrop lined with green hills and coconut trees. The salt water lagoon rests on one side of the beach and the sea on the other side. The beach stretches till the union of the water bodies. On either side I see people lounging in water, some liketh the sea, and some the lagoon. It was unbelievable to be at such a spot, I marveled at my day, of how things collaborated through the day –the people, the food and goodness so that I could finally dip my body in the lagoon and float, while listening to the waves crashing on the other side. .

Day 3: Agonda -- Patnem -- GalgiBag.

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Day 3: Agonda à Patnem -à GalgiBag.

Sometimes we have good days and sometimes bad. But having a good good day on an already brilliant holiday is something one cherishes even more so.It was serendipity at its best.
The day was long and eventful. We discovered 3 beautiful beaches, met some wonderful people and ate really good food.
The day started with a dolphin ride, a short motor boat trip to the sea, a few kilometers off the coast. It is a 600 rupees trip. Out in the open sea, it is quite peaceful, the thrill of spotting dolphins is contagious; we managed to spot ten to twelve dolphins. Magnificent creatures dolphins are, out in the wild the enigma increases four square. Few even put up a show – they jumped out of water, and flipped twice.
On the boat, we meet Brad and Liz, a British couple from Cornwall living at the same resort as us. A retired professor and nurse, they have been coming to Goa for the last ten years and know Goa better than most people who claim to know Goa. At 70 and 63 years, Brad and Liz are truly living it up. . We convinced our boatman to drop us at the beach next to Kola-- Agonda Beach. On Liz’s recommendation and reference we break feasted at a shack called Gratitude.

Agonda Beach

Agonda beach is great. Stretches long almost 3 kilometers , the water is calm and shallow till a long way in, so a weak swimmer can definitely go deep and still feel safe. Occasionally dolphins come close to the shore and swim around. Agonda feels like a global settlement. A single dirt path ambles along with shacks, hutments, small houses, a line of coconut trees and other shrubs. Cows and buffaloes often cause traffic jams, and you can hear faint squeaks of protest from bikers. Most are patient as no one is really in a hurry. Simple and amiable village folks walking, loitering , lazing around, sitting on benches , eating home cooked rice and fish curry at the road side dhaba and chai shops, many on scooters and bicycles ambling along.. only the so called village folks can be Germans, Brits , Greeks or Asians or scores of east Europeans -- name a country, you have a representative.
We ate at Gratitude.The moment we took Brad and Liz’s reference, Rajesh the owner, became a friend for life
Break Feast: Israeli Breakfast – Hummus, Pita bread, fries, a green salad, black coffee (as Goa usual horrible) and orange juice.Then a Chocolate pancake and more juice.
Pramod our server is far from home. The long hours of work and no extra time wage makes him a bit whiny. Every morning he wakes up at 5 am, goes for a long run on the beach and is a karate black belt. He wants to get back to Nepal and complete his higher secondary, but hates farming, so reckons he’ll have to leave home soon. He says years in cities have made him lazy, so says a young boy who works 15 hours a day. He likes bartending and claims his Caprioshkas are the best. In conversation I found myself telling him my life story, we spoke in hindi at length. He’s yet to master English, and was thrilled when an Indian trotted along, he sighs that it is such a rarity. Imagine hearing that in India. I learnt that he was once working in Pune, at a restaurant quite close to my college. We gushed and hawed. My second glass of juice I noticed was in a bigger glass and more thick.
We watch Vishnu, his fellow compatriot welcome few extremely white girls with –‘ Hellloooo , welcome beauties, how arh youh ? , Pramod shakes his head; he has a long way to go. I hope he comes back next year; I’d like to meet him again.The day was going great, only 10:30 am, and I’d already met and befriended some wonderful people.
After the huge meal, my friend and I hopped on a bike, courtesy Rajesh and took off. The plan was to hit Patnem and the famous South Goa beach -- Palolem. We never reached Palolem.


The beach is indeed lovely; right blend of frolic and peace. Not too isolated as Kola and slightly more urban than Agonda. Way less crowded and much cleaner than Palolem. The water is great similar to Agonda’s. One can walk way into the sea, splash and even swim. The sea feels calmer here.
A great place to eat would be Sabai-Sabai. An enchanting place on the main beach road, this is Sabai Sabai’s first season.
Meet Mario – An Italian, the owner, the chef and the bartender. I found Mario an endearing character, extremely stressed and amiable.
I sip on one of the best iced coffee I have ever had. We take a look at the rooms and the beach huts. The design, the style, the high standards and the affordable rates blow me over. Mario is warm and slightly temperamental, but I hear all Italians are that way. His rates are nominal. Ranging from rupees 600 for beach huts to 1000 for single rooms. The rooms are comfortable with modern bathrooms, something which most other establishment provides at much higher rates. If I wasn’t in love with my Kola beach, I‘d shift.
Mario even lets us use his shower in his room (as all rooms were occupied) to freshen up. Classy guy I must add.
We chat up with another employee there, Amita, a shy Goan girl. In conversation she opens up, and seems thrilled that we speak Hindi. She suggests a beach; not very many people know about, it piques our interest.
And off we go …to Galgibag.Back from Galgibag ... We head back to Sabai Sabai . To thank Amita and try Mario’s food. I wasn’t disappointed.
Mario cooked and served an exotic sea salad with crab, mussels, prawns and fish and oven baked thin crust authentic Italian pizza. Sabai Sabai is probably one of the few places you’ll get good coffee. Mario is warm and a brilliant cook, he has an open kitchen, and I could see the stressed Italian cook with a zest and intrigue quite enchanting. Plus a meal made with so much heart was bound to taste great.
To top that, the Tiramisu made me weak in the knees. It was as if Mario was in love with me, and had just made it for me. It made me feel special. I have never tasted tiramisu so good, so rich and so fresh.