I feel almost ashamed to confess that being 28 years old, I’ve never been to Goa. As an adult.
I’ve been there once when I was a 7-year-old kid, with my family and my relatives and all I can remember about that trip was collecting starfish in my dad’s handkerchief. Anyway, I’ve never been there after that and I have always felt like an outsider in any conversation that involved people making plans to go to Goa or people discussing their recent trip to Goa. I’d given it up as a never-gonna-happen event. I’d never go to Goa. I even convinced myself that the Goa scenes of partying, over-crowded beaches and limitless alcohol were not my cups of chai.
Of all the beaches in the world, the only ones I consider worth going to are in Gokarna. Nestled cozily in the armpit of North Karnataka, away from prying eyes of soulless tourists, the place breathes magic and serenity at every nook. Mansi had never been to Gokarna and so, we decided to go there and it was decided that I’d show her why that place is so magical. I’ve written extensively about my travels to Gokarna on my personal blog at MirrorCracked.
To get to Gokarna from Mumbai, one has to either catch a direct bus at 3 in the afternoon to Kumta, which is about an hour away from Gokarna. This ride is almost 16 hours and one would reach Kumta only at 7 in the morning the next day. But the sleeper buses are comfortable enough and unless you have a naughty bladder, you can fare very well. But given that we had almost a full day’s work to finish on a Friday, we decided to take the alternative route. Via Goa.
On the 28th of September 2012, Mansi and I set out at about 5 in the evening on a bus headed to Goa. We had four days ahead of us (October 2nd being a National Holiday in India, we had a really long weekend) and Mansi had big plans of showing me around Goa for the first two days and then it’d be my turn to do the same in Gokarna. I was apprehensive, i’ll confess. I never really cared for too many bodies on beaches. And I consider it sacrilege to see a beach being commercialized with people selling all sorts of junk food, junk jewelry, junk clothes and just plain junk in order to trap tourists and attract filth off the streets. I told her my fears, but she was quite cool about it. She explained the difference between South Goa and North Goa, and told me that we were going to South Goa, where it was peaceful, quiet and away from the mindless meat markets of the North. I told her that seeing was believing.
So, a very pleasant 8-hour overnight ride brought us to Mudgaon (or better known as Margoa on maps), which is the main trading and commercial center of South Goa. We had our trademark chai at a local vendor and were picked up by a friend in his car. A very pleasant drive through the narrow roads of the city brought us to Benaulim, where I could not see a single flea on the beach. There was no one. Vast expanses of empty beachhead, the sound of the gently lapping waves and the wind rustling through my hair, and I was hooked. A lovely quiet breakfast later, we stared our exploration.
We lunched at a restaurant called Dropadi, on Palolem Beach, which was a pleasant 45-minute drive from Margoa. Sipping our drinks and looking out on to the pristine blue waters of the Arabian Sea, shimmering in the afternoon sun was a lazy thrill that seemed unable to be surpassed.
A quick detour on our way back found us amidst the ruins of the Cabo De Rama fort. It was a humbling sight – sitting on the ruined fort wall and looking out on to the sea at a distance below us and the deafening silence enveloping us in its safe cocoon. We drove back that night with a happy smile on our faces.
Our second day in Goa began with a lovely breakfast at the legendary Martin’s C0rner. The quaint ambiance of the place set the mood for our memorable drive from South to North Goa, as we made our way to Anjuna Beach. With Google Maps supporting us ably all the way, we made the 50 kilometer drive in little over an hour. All the nightmares I had had about North Goa came rushing back as we stepped on to the beach at Anjuna, near a beach-side cafe called Curlie’s. Too many people and much too loud music – it was rape of the worst kind. We met the weird woman we were supposed to meet and barely twenty minutes later, Mansi and I were literally running back to our car to drive back South to peace and sanity. The weird woman gave me a headache which was cured by roadside chai, omelettes and Maggi noodles.
Through her happy googles, Mansi showed me a side of Goa that I had never imagined. I am in love with half of Goa.