June 28th – 1st July, Goa
We took a train from Hampi, to reach Goa; as per the usual Indian guidelines, we were told it would take 8 hours but took 10 – this is the way! Arriving in Vasco Da Gama, we’d had some inside information from a friend in Banglaore (Maria) that Baga and Culangate were the places to stay during the low season as they were still alive and kicking. So after much bargaining and indecision around taking a bus or auto rickshaw, we jumped in a taxi and were on our way!
Goa is a province in India on the west coat, the smallest province in India and what we decided was the most like NZ. Goa is famous for it’s beaches and cuisine, so naturally we enjoyed it! It was a Portuguese colony up until 1961 when the India government decided to boot them out. It has more liberal rules around alcohol, less (or no) tax, luckily the bars pass on those savings to the keen tourists – Jono and I were definitely keen on a few beers after being dry in Hampi for 3 nights (in fact pretty much dry for 2 weeks – apart from the Ratnam’s hospitality!)
We spent our first night in Goa in a coule of bars, we were staying in Baga and the bars were luckily very close by so we enjoyed a couple of beers while watching the World Cup games. The vibe of Baga was quite touristy, plenty of foreigners and Indian tourists about and all out to have a good time and relax. We managed to surface before lunch the next day and head into Culangate (the next village down the coast) – we walked along the main beach road that connects the two villages, it was clear to see the Portuguese influence in many of the buildings and we were also quick to get the feel that Goa was a chilled out, easy paced spot. Later that night we met a couple of other travellers, Louise (SWD) and Kristi (USA); we all grabbed dinner together and then caught up with Vijay – a guy we’d been given as a contact in Goa from our friends in Bangalore. Vijay is a Goan local who knows the beach and nightlife scene well. He owns his own beach shack – these are bars/restaurants right on the beach that are built out of palm tree fronds – which during the low season is closed but he did know of a shack that was open and very popular so we arranged to head out there the next night!
It was time to hire motorbikes again, Jono and I, being the experts on all things scooters in Asia/India, said we’d show Louise, Kristi and Charlotte the coast – so with a 4 bikes we were off North up the coast, Jono and I pretending that we knew what we were doing….We ventured first to a place called Anjuna another small coastal village with a market, Jono got stuck in at the market and purchased a pair of shorts; quite the bargain hunter. Being monsoon season the ocean was pretty high and wild, plenty of swell rolling in and smashing against the shoreline – impressive stuff. Then it was onto a place called Vagnate, well once we’d asked a few locals the direction – turns out Jono and I don’t really know where we’re going but we give off the impression that we do! Vagnate was again a small sea-side town, with a beachside market full of entrepreneurs claiming that we needed gemstone earrings, bracelets, paintings, scarves and the like – I’m not sure on what planet guys like shopping for overpriced jewelery, but we certainly were quick to tell them we weren’t that interested (multiple times!) If they’d been selling a cold Kingfisher it may have been a different story!
After a 40 minute drive back into town, we grabbed a latte from Coffee Day (a chain of cafe’s they have here in India that serve the best coffee we can find) then went for a wander down to the main beach at Culangate. It turns out that white people walking on the beach are quite an attraction. At the start one Indian guy came up and asked if he could have his photo taken with us, “Sure thing” we said…then all hell broke loose! We must have been in about 15 photo’s before we decided to make our way off the beach; we made it two metres before another hoard of people were after photo’s with us. 20 minutes later and a much stronger ego we left the beach and refueled ourselves with “the best samosa we’ve found in India” for all of $0.30 NZD (yep I went back for a total of 3 samosa’s).
That evening we had given the night to Vijay to organise, and he delivered on every level! We went out with Vijay, his wife Rihanna and a couple of there friends (Charlotte, Aziz and Lionel) to a beach shack ‘Curlys’ that served up authentic Goan food right on the shore front of Arjuna beach. So we all sat around with plenty of food, a number of Kingfishers and enjoyed the chilled out vibe at Curlys. Of course us kiwi’s had to destroy this “chilled out’ness” by introducing a drinking game of horse racing (cards racing as horses…). After a monsoon downpour, we headed back into town to Cape Town (local bar) where we enjoyed a few more drinks and a chat with the group. Even running into a trio of Brit’s who Jono and I proceeded to belittle (in a friendly way) in all things sporting and general “NZ is the greatest” banter; funny stuff. It was a late night but great fun hanging out with the locals who more than showed us a great time out.
Our final day, understandably, had a slow start – a spot of brunch and a couple of Latte’s at Coffee day got us on the right track to ensure we caught our bus that night. We had a farewell dinner with Louise, Kristi, Charlotte, Vijay and Rihanna at a beachside restaurant before Jono and I took a cab north to catch a sleeper bus to Mumbai. Once on the bus we quickly discovered that the sleeper beds were not designed with kiwi lads in mind..picture Jono and I FULLY CLOTHED in practically a single bed…as tough nights sleep but we did find it pretty funny!