Sunday, August 14, 2011

Monsoon - Day 3 - Anjuna, Baga

An early morning walk to the Anjuna cliff and down to the beach seemed like a good idea. 

A few sellers of 'T-shirts - Shorts - 'Ray-Bans' - Hats - Footwear - Junk jewellery' had set up shop towards the top of the cliff.  

Further down, towards the beach, the lane was all deserted. The skeletons of shops and restaurants remained, waiting for the magic, life-giving breadth of the 'season' to blow. 

The tide was up, the red flag was fluttering madly, the beach was littered with branches and twigs left behind by the high tide. 

The sea and clouds were all one colour - grey. Not a soul was in sight. 

The bovines rightfully take over what is their land, blissful in the warmth of the morning sunshine.

The parking lot at the head of the clliff also belongs to the bovines. Till about 9AM. 

It was time to head back to Green Field, Baga, for the Old Boys meet. 

The motor-bike ride was a pleasure, along the back roads and the real 'green fields'.  

Old Boys and their families joined in the festivities.  

School Flag and baloons fluttered in the warm breeze.     

An amazing Jazz band played for over an hour.  They obviously enjoyed playing their music, and their joy was highly contagious. 

Fisherfolk and Portugese dancers followed. 

... accompanied by lively Konkani songs.

An all-Goan, approximately 20-course menu, the likes of which are very rarely encountered.  

Sadly, it was then time to head back to Anjuna, food and drink up to the gills, once again on Navnath's motor-bike taxi, wind in the hair.  

A 'local' petrol station along the way, very thoughtful, in case your tank runs dry.  

Remember the ground in Anjuna which the cows own till about 9AM? Well, here's a picture of the same ground at 5PM. An incredible contrast..!!

The 'Independence Day' weekend was reason enough for visitors to descend in the hundreds. 

Wonder where the cows ran away to. Until they reappear in the calm of the next morning.

The Anjuna cliff, and the colourful market were busy places that evening.  

"You take scarf for the ladeee? You take ear-ring? I give you cheap praiiiice."

Searock Restaurant was very busy in the evening.

Lovey rock and blues jam sessions. 

8 PM: Back in Baga, at Cavala, for the last of the festivities. 

My flight back to Bangalore is scheduled to leave at 8:45AM the next day. 

Rukesh was waiting at Villa Anjuna with his Wagon-R at 6:30AM. 

I made it to the airport well in time, and paid him for both trips 'when you leave, ok?'.  :)

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Monsoon - Day 2 - Anjuna, Calangute, Vagator, Baga

9AM, Anjuna to Calangute, on Navnath's motor-bike taxi. 

The effect of the monsoons is visible. A portion of the beach has been ploughed away overnight.  No worries, the sea will soon bring the sand right back.

The high tides leave behind plenty of branches, twigs, sometimes footwear and dead fish. And sometimes, if you are not careful, the sea carries your footwear away. It's probably advisable to just let it go, unless it is washed back on the sand again.

Fishermen use 'line fishing' to try and catch small fish. It's too dangerous to go out, unless they are on a large fishing boat far away, from the shore.

The sea was remarkably scary this morning. 

I was reminded of the poem 'The Highwayman' by Alfred Noyes.  "And still of a winter's night they say, when the wind is in the trees. And the moon is a ghostly galleon, tossed upon cloudy seas."  It is best to stay away from the water. The angry sea deserves respect. 

The high tide made walking difficult, since the sand was soft and moist in most areas, good exercise for the city legs, though. 

Back in Calangute, the tour groups had started doing their ugly thing. 

Time to seek refuge in my old friend Robert's home. 

Tucked away between Hotel A-Canoa and the sea, across the road from GTDC, invisible to the world, is Epicure Restaurant.  It's like the Goa of old, unchanged since 1983 when I first visited Epicure. Robert's parents used to run the place. May their souls rest in peace. 

Robert's dad used to serve the customary, generous portions of Feni, while Robert's mom used to cook super Fish fry and Fish curry. Robert was a young lad then. He now runs a shack in Baga during the season, while his home-restaurant is open all year round. He cooks a mean Bar-b-q some evenings. 

His two dogs welcome you, and his cat shows up soon enough, grateful for some morsels of food. 

The rain suddenly came pelting down, in Goan monsoon fashion. I was glad to be able to enjoy watching the rain from the shelter of Robert's home. 

An excellent opportunity to watch the rain and relish Robert's market-fresh prawn fry and fish curry.

I could see and hear the sea through the bushes. Fortunately, the crowds were hidden, which was a relief. Sitting in Epicure, you can hardly believe that you are barely 50 metres away from chaotic Calangute beach and GTDC area.   

The curry came along with a bonus fish fry. 

A call to Navnath, after which I wondered where to go next, finally deciding on Vagator. It's been many years since I last went to to Vagator. 

The sand is dark on Vagator Beach, the usual crowds stay towards the entrance, but tend to thin out as you walk further north. Lots of rocks to clamber up on. 

However, it was hard to get across the rocks to the other side because of the high tide. 

Good idea to to climb up the mountain, towards Chapora Fort. A cross, as serene as can be, casting a figurative protective net on us all.

Amazing views from up there, looking down at the beach, the rocks, the pools of water, the sea, and the clouds hiding the sun. 

The noisy sea and the grey monsoon clouds looked amazingly menacing, with the sea water occasionally splashing into the pool by the rocks below.  

I was unable to climb all the way to the Fort. The thick, monsoon-fed vegetation had covered all traces of the paths. So I decided to climb down after a few moments of solitude, admiring the views all around. 

Back on the dark sand beach. The usual crowd of tourists on the far right.

A phone call and 15 minutes later, Navnath appeared once again, ready to give me a ride back to Anjuna, and then to Baga later in the evening. 

The rest of the evening was reserved for the reunion of the Old Boys' Association of my School, St Joseph's Boys' High School, Bangalore. Several Old Boys and their families had come over to Goa, joined by those resident in Goa. 

The venue was Green Field, Baga (drive along the Baga - Calangute Road, turn east at the Coffee Day near Ronil, and you will find Green Fields about 100 metres down the street on your left). 

As the name suggests, the lovely restaurant is located along green paddy fields, a truly tranquil setting. 

The live band was wonderful, living up to Goan standards. A good time was had by all, after which it was time to head back to Villa Anjuna.  

You guessed right, it had been yet another busy day. 

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Monsoon - Day 1 - Anjuna, Calangute, Sinquerim

The alarm went off at 03:30AM, I was as excited about heading to Goa as I had been on my first trip many, many years ago.

I reached Bangalore airport early enough to make sure  that the plane does not leave without me, and grabbed a sandwich and coffee while I waited.

The flight to Goa was smooth, while the approach was bumpy. We landed at Dabolim a short nap and 90 mins later, through a thick layer of grey clouds. The ground was wet from early morning rain. Oh no, I thought. Thankfully, the clouds had lightened and the sun was trying to peep out.

Collected my bag from the carousel, walked out of the terminal. My taxi driver friend Rukesh was there all right, with a broad smile. On the way he told me that his 5-year car loan has all but been paid off. Excellent condition for a 5-year car.
The ride to Anjuna took about an hour. The Zuari River looked grey and sombre. On the brighter side, the bridge is always a reassuring indication that you are back in Goa. We passed fields that were coloured a rich, lively green, well washed by the Monsoon rains. 

Past the cashew trees and rice fields, Panjim Bus Station where I have arrived at and departed from many times in the past, Mandovi River with the ferries underneath, the large Maruti dealer and Coqueiros, on to winding roads and the turn towards Ajnuna. 

As we reached, Rukesh said 'You pay me when you leave, ok?'. 

Good to be back at Villa Anjuna on the North Anjuna Beach Road just short of the cliff. Frantic renovations were going on, to get ready before the start of the season. A quick look around as I waited to check in revealed a few changes. 

The kitchen had been moved into Cafe Pluto. The old kitchen area was being converted to a restaurant. The pool was as well maintained as it has been over the years. I was given a temporary room since guests had not checked out.

I was out of there in about 15 minutes. So much to do, so little time.
The Anjuna cliff area was rather deserted, quite a pleasant change. Only a few cliff restaurants are open in August.

Time to head out to Calangute, then towards Sinquerim to check on the old MV River Princess. 

Negotiated with a motor-bike taxi driver, Navnath, at the Starco crossroad near the hotel, for a drop to Calangute and pick-up later in the afternoon. And off I went, wind in my hair... 

Calangute Beach had not got busy yet. 

Further down, as I approached Candolim, I saw a sight that is familiar on Indian beaches. 

The gentleman reserves the right to dress down and splash in the water. The lady, dressed in a bright, silk sari with loads of ornaments (gold or artificial), follows dutifully, about 6 feet behind. 

The sun was shining and the tide was down, which allowed plenty of space to walk fast on the dry, hard part of the beach. I reached the MV River Princess in about 90 minutes. 

Much of the structure has been chipped away. A ship with a crane was loading the cut up parts on to a barge. Well. maybe the old ship will finally be removed from its decade long resting place. If they can get the bottom of the ship off the sea bed, that is. Maybe they have a plan for doing that. 

I was beginning to get hungry (and thirsty). Time to step into Souza Lobo on Calangute Beach, almost an institution, and a must-visit restaurant. 

Fortunately, you are well protected from the mayhem outside. 

And you can savour a drink and salad in relative peace.

Between 11AM to about 7PM, about 200 or 300 Indian tourists congregate at any given moment, in a small area of beach, leaving behind their scooters, vans and buses. Sadly, Calangute turns into one of the filthiest beach areas that you can imagine. 

Remains of food brought in multi-storey 'tiffin carriers', discarded water bottles, beer bottles, liquour bottles, food wrappers. 

The Goan Govt probably needs to launch a 'Save Calangute' campaign, until tourists learn to care for each other and for the environment. 

It was getting busy and noisy inside Souza Lobo, so time to wander out, after the customary Feni and Fish Curry. 

Navnath, my motor-bike taxi driver showed up in about 20 minutes to pick me up.  How about South Anjuna, I wondered. A drop to Curlies should be a good idea, and then a stroll back to the hotel. 

Curlies is a well known beach shack at ths southern end of Calanguts, always busy, though I can't relate to the head banging kind of music. 

A couple of Fenis takes care of that. People jumping in and out of the water, friendly dogs strolling around, a juggler came along, after which 'vada-pav' and 'bread-omlette' stalls were put up. The pavs and omlettes flew off quicker than the ladies could make them. 

The sun was beginning to go down. 

The walk to North Anjuna along the beach did not work out because of the high tide, swirling waters, jagged rocks and scurrying crabs. 

I scampered back up the hillside in an effort to find a path inland, and then back on to the beach further North.  

Suddenly, a typical sharp, monsoon shower just 'happened'. By the time I looked left and right, desperate for a place to hide, I was completely soaked. I took shelter in the garage of a house, the owners waved at me cheerfully, while I waited for the rain to stop. The rain lasted about 10 minutes. 

The sight of the green fields was too pretty for me to even begin to regret being drenched to the skin. A very small price to pay. You dry up in an hour or so, usually. Meanwhile, enjoy the post-shower, clean air and the greenery. 

Little and big crosses are found all over Goa. 

I found the beach once again after a slightly uncertain, 10-minute walk along unknown roads, finally turning west.  Reached the beach near Sunset Restaurant, shut down, deserted, a very 'monsoon season' look.  

And, in case you are wondering what Sunset Restaurant looks like during the season, here is a photo taken in April, during our family holiday.

A quick shower at the hotel, and back to the cliff for the evening edition of the news.

Searock is one of the few cliff shacks that are open in August. The others have broken furniture strewn around, the remnants of the battering of the monsoon wind and rain.

Sea Rock is a terrific place to spend the evening, during and after sunset, open till around midnight, listening to the music, and to the sound of the waves crashing far below. 

It was a busy day.

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