Snippets of Goa, India.
Snippets of Goa, India.
There comes a point in just about every cross-country trip when you are in desperate need of a rest. We had battled the manic crowds of New Delhi and hit the historic sights of Agra. We’d survived the festival of bad luck that was Jaipur and journeyed by camel through the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer. Elsewhere, there had been James Bond-driven shenanigans in Udaipur and a few days exploring Mumbai, with its delightful colonial architecture and boat cruise to nearby Elephanta Island.
Thus, by the time Allan and I arrived in Goa, it felt high time to recharge our batteries. That meant basing ourselves as far away from the region’s infamous party zones as we possibly could. Happily, the peaceful Benaulim Beach in Goa’s drowsy north did just the trick. It really was the perfect base for napping, swimming, eating, reading and reflecting on our action-packed escapades.
Our Benaulim base was Rosario’s Inn, a dirt cheap guesthouse run by a plump, middle-aged woman, Mama Rosario. Just a hundred meters or so from Benaulim Beach, Rosario’s appeal was all location, location, location. It certainly didn’t have much else going for it, mainly due to the fact that Mama’s lazy gaggle of sons were responsible for the day to day running of the place. Still, Rosario’s had a certain charm and the woman herself possessed a booming laugh that always made me smile.
Snippets of Goa.
Unapologetically sleepy, Benaulim Beach really was a slice of paradise. Each day, we would wake up, set up camp under an umbrella and rest like we’d never rested before. It was here that I devoured Donna Tartt’s excellent novel, The Secret History. And listened to album after album on my CD Walkman, now pretty much an antique item.
Unfortunately, I have little remaining evidence of my time there to go with my fond memories. But I do like this lone shot of me unfolding my sarong one morning. The original photo was a mess, but I was able to give it an artistic makeover courtesy of the photo editing app Prisma.
Those days on the beach were also memorable for the many fascinating characters we met. The fruit ladies, for example, who strolled by every day. The young local boy and his relentless campaign to sell us a bag of cashew nuts. The certified fruitcake of a grizzled expat who seemed to genuinely believe he was Paul Newman. You can read all about them in my short story Butch Cassidy and the Cashew Kid.
For the most part, nightlife wasn’t much of a thing. Not beyond a beer and a bowl of calamari at least. However, there was a beach bar called Domnick and, if memory served me well, it opened for a couple of nights during our stay. In truth it was little more than a shack, but on the night we popped our heads inside the sandy interior had been transformed into a rollicking dance club.
It was here, to the sound of YMCA, Dancing Queen, I Will Survive and all the other usual cuts, that we met Benaulim’s self-professed King of the Dance Floor. I don’t know if he was high on some questionable substance, but this guy was nuts. Totally intent, for reasons that are still beyond me, on forcing Allan and I into a frenzied dance-off.
After four days or so of lying around I began getting restless. As a result, I hatched a plan to spend a few days in Panjim, Goa’s Portuguese flavoured capital. While Allan was not keen on leaving his spot on the beach, I did meet a Scottish gal called Lisa who said she was up for joining me.
Those days in Panjim were very blasé. We strolled down the main promenade taking in the views across the Mandovi River. We took a night cruise, which the operator proceeded to completely ruin by blasting incredibly loud and unspeakably shit music through our skulls.
Elsewhere, we wandered Panjim’s leafy streets admiring all the old colonial houses. Many of them were set along cobbled lanes and squares, rows of pretty yellow residences with tiled roofs and plant-laden balconies. My standout memory though was of this quartet of schoolchildren. Upon spotting Lisa and I, they came rushing down the steps of their school to greet us.
Snippets of Goa.
“London Cool!” announced one of them, having discovered that I hailed from the English capital. “Panjim boring!” added another, thumbs down. It literally blows my mind to look at this photo and think that these kids are now in their early 30s.
In Panjim Lisa and I met an Englishman by the name of Phil. He was such a curious and charismatic character that from the moment we met, the three of us slipped into a familiar routine of jokes and travel anecdotes. Once Phil was sure that he wasn’t intruding, he decided to join Lisa and I on an overnight trip to check out the famous Vagator Night Market.
Our choice of digs was the surprisingly decent Jolly Jolly Roma Guesthouse, with rooms set around a clean and leafy courtyard. Moreover, the owners were friendly and it was such a peaceful place for breakfast.
Vagator Night Market.
I remember feeling bowled over by the sheer scale of the market. At some point the three of us got separated between the tangled rows of stalls, food tents and barbecue stations. When I eventually stumbled upon Phil he was flopped out at a seafood joint. Feet up on a chair, beer in hand… that mad doctor grin plastered across his face.
It was a lot of fun hanging out with these two, so much so that we are still in touch nearly twenty years later. For a deeper look at these long ago adventures, have a read of my short story Lisa and Phil.
Check out more of my travel reports from across India.
For a deeper look at my time in the country, have a read of my short story collection Incidents in India.
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