Having spent a few days in South Goa, we thought we should sample the North for half a day. After all, it was almost 'New Year', and there should be some things going on there. The traffic started to build up while we were near the Zuari Bridge. The "bridge is narrow", our young driver explained. Well, it turned out that the entire stretch of road from that point on was a bit too 'narrow'! Our ride from Arossim to Baga took about 1 hour and 45 minutes. We hopped off at Bharat Bar at the end of Tito's Lane. Side stepping people, scooters and motorbikes, we made it in one piece to the beach.
The expressions on Junior's and Memsahib's faces revealed absolute incredulity.
This cannot be happening! Last we checked, back where we come from, Goa beaches look like this!
Is this for real? Giant speakers piled up on the sand. Beach beds and chairs with hardly any room between them.
A lost beach dog finds a relatively quiet spot and seems to "hide his head in the sand", quite literally.
Water sports, however, seem to be fairly well organized in Baga. I noticed a ticket-booth set up on the beach. The para-sailing clients seemed to have been whisked away far into sea, as the line of parachutes indicated. Visitors actually trust semi-skilled Indian water-sports operators with their lives, given our virtually non-existent safety standards and general penchant for taking short-cuts. Well organized, potential death-traps may be a better description, perhaps?
We were looking for Emmanuel Shack. I was lost, even though I have been there several times earlier. Junior located the shack soon, barely distinguishable in the chaos.
Now, for some contrast, here is a picture from my archives. This is Emmanuel Shack during the monsoons not even five months ago, on August 2, 2013, to be precise. Same shack, same beach, same Robert, different season!
Well, here we are, finally, and it's December 30, 2013!
It's been quite an effort to locate Emmanuel Shack. Time to sit back and enjoy the show. You can almost sense the feeling of relief on one hand, and shock on the other, on Junior's and Memsahib's faces.
Once we settled in, we got used to the sight of people, sun beds and chairs jostling each other, and the sound of each shack blaring it's own choice of music. You can shut your eyes, but it's hard to shut your ears!
The show went on. A tourist, a 'senior acrobat' was successfully doing multiple flips and while his little 'local student' tried to follow, in vain. Sometime during this show, the sun beds were carried into the shack by Robert's staff, and along with it vanished our acrobat's shirt, likely rolled up in one of the mattresses and sheets! A massive search and rescue operation followed, at the end of which the missing shirt was located, tucked away well inside the shack inside one of the mattresses. Our 'senior acrobat' friend left, all smiles. Not that he had ever stopped smiling. A lost shirt probably did not mean much to him, being a small matter, compared to the great fun he was having. Oh, by the way, the acrobat reminded me a lot of Chris Gayle!
It's time to tease 'baby' a little, and remind him of his behaviour when he was three of four years old, when he first started coming to Goa with us. He's 15 now, and has been back over 20 times since! It's a case of the Goa bug catching 'em young, indeed!
Here's my old friend Robert, whom I had first met in 1983 in Epicure Restaurant that his (late) parents used to run in their home Calangute, hidden away in the bushes behind Souza Lobo. Little restaurants in homes used to be a lovely tradition back then. Robert was a young lad then. His mom was a fabulous cook, and his dad was an extremely generous bartender. RIP. I last took refuge at his lovely, old home over two years ago during the monsoons. Lately, however, Robert has got himself a 'permanent license', so he spends the off season in Baga.
The sun set soon enough. The para-gliding stopped for the day, and the boats lay still once more, bobbing on the water. People appeared to silently dissolve away. The multiple strains of music stopped one by one. It was time to think about dinner. Grilled beef steak for Junior.
Spicy Ambotik fish curry for me and bland Noodles for Memsahib.
No food experience quite beats that of a dinner on the beach after sunset.
Finally, it's time to head out. Robert's shack is extremely well decorated for the season. The granite flooring signifies the status of a 'permanent shack' that gets to be well wrapped up in miles of plastic sheet during the monsoons.
A last look back, and it almost feels like the Baga of old. Very few people. The random music has stopped playing. Rows of candles throw their gentle glow on the tables neatly laid out on the beach.
As we left via the back door of Emmanuel Shack, a Cross and Star quietly said 'Bye' to us.
Until next time, then, so long!