Friday, December 27, 2013

Annual health check-up in Goa

The good doctor requests that an annual health check be done. I generally split the check into two. The Clinical part is completed in Bangalore while the Physical part (equivalent to the TMT, Tread Mill Test) is happily set aside for Goa. Visions of long stretches of whitish sand beach keep me going until the holiday. 

Psst... sometimes I manage to sneak in a trip or two or three in between, but for the (health) record, this may be documented as the annual health check trip. Lately, the destination has been South Goa. The first (and only) surprise was Dabolim Airport. I've never seen the arrival hall as crowded as it was during the last week in December 2013. The staff at the pre-paid taxi counter seemed rather lonely. Most visitors appeared to be package tourists or visitors looking for their names on placards. The pre-paid taxi fare to Arossim was Rs 400. "Same as last year?", I asked. "Yes, it's the same." the young lady replied, smilingly.

Early mornings are a wonderful way to savour the solitude, watch the sun come slowly up behind the palm trees and observe the beach come to life. 

While Junior uses sophisticated equipment like a DSLR camera, tripod and remote to try out time-lapse photography, I do it the old fashioned way. Click. Walk five minutes. Click again. Walk ten minutes. And so on. This, in my opinion, is the best way to experience the wonders of South Goa sunrise along the beach. This reminds me, I need to borrow a few of Junior's photos. Arossim to Majorda takes less than 10 minutes. The sun is still hidden behind the palm trees. Click! 

The first joggers appear by about 7:30 AM.

Next stop, Sunset Beach, where the sun peeps up from behind the tall Casuarina trees. 

Few more folks soaking in the atmosphere.

Betalbatim came by soon enough, and I noticed a crowd in the distance. Early morning picnic, maybe?

Hmmm, that's an interesting sight. A Master-of-Ceremonies with a hand held microphone shouting instructions and singing, while a group of over 15 folks lay buried in the sand. 

The MC had a few helpers who were digging what appeared to be, well, whatever. What an ingenuous way to experience self induced goodness early in the morning. Sand Therapy, anyone? An innovative way to relieve unsuspecting folks of quite a hefty sum of money, I reckoned. A one-hour walk would probably have done them a world of good. I happened on the same lot on my return trip, the general profile was that of Indian ladies and gentlemen who may not be fond of walking, so I guess they were happy with the Sand Therapy. Win-win situation. The MC makes a truck load of money. In return, about 15 people feel healthier! Neat business model, isn't it?

Miles to go before I sleep. Shacks in Betalbatim are still sleeping.

A few waders in the sea, in the distance. No Sand Therapy this time. 

A momentary pause to admire the art and engineering that is the foundation of fishing boat construction.

Colva, ahoy! The sun is well and truly up by now, so sunrise is done for the day.

A line-fisherman in Colva hauls in a bunch of fish. He yells hysterically 'hei-hei-hei' at me when I step a bit too close to the nylon line, virtually invisible in the sand!

The usual families and large groups knee-deep and waist-deep in the sea, fishing boats in the distance. 

I suspect this Resort may have been the place where I had stayed during my first visit to Goa in 1981. My dad had a conference to participate in, and I had tagged along. Oh well, if not  this one, maybe the neighbouring one.

Fishermen take time off to fix colourful and really fine nets, as well as boats, before their next expedition to sea. 

During one of my walks, the first health check, I wandered further south of Colva. I walked past Benaulim and Varca to the area where the Ramada Resort is located. That's where I had stayed in 2010 during a company conference. Sea Pearls shack was a nice shack to visit, I had come to know the owners. My last visit was in December 2011. Incredible how they remember clients even after a gap of two years. The moment I appeared at the entrance, the lady came across from behind the counter to greet me. "Where are you staying?", she asked. "Oh, you walked from Arossim? How long did it take you?", she asked. We chatted a while before I settled down. Her daughter is now 12 years, and a recent addition to the family, a baby boy is 4 months old! My Android App informed me that I had covered over 14 km. 

I deleted a bunch of photographs in the camera by accident. Whitish sand, blue sky, blue sea, empty stretches of beach except at Colva and Benaulim. A few food pics taken in Sea Pearl shack via the mobile phone remain. Oh well, there's always a next time. 

First, after the long walk, it's time for a swig of the Local Brew and a Green Salad, I thought. Health food!

I sat back and reflected on my self-styled health test. 

Clinical tests passed in Bangalore. This morning's tests consisted of:
Cardiac (heart needs to pump satisfactorily), 
Pulmonary (need to breathe adequately), 
Neuro (need to coordinate), 
Locomotor (need to walk step-by-step) and 
Visual (need to avoid the occasional muck). 

So, I thought gleefully, health food can wait a while, I can probably risk a bit of sin. Spicy Goa sausages was next on the menu. 

It's incredible how time passes by almost unnoticed while seated in any beach shack in Goa. White sand, blue sea, blue sky, drink, food, interesting visitors who did not speak English, more drink, more food and more nothing. Finally, several hours later it was time for lunch. Barracuda Fish Grill was next. 

The return trip to Arossim was by bus. That should be fun. Having sat in the shack for too long doing almost nothing, it was past 3 PM, and I did not want to risk getting stranded on a dark beach at sunset.  First leg, a 1 km walk through winding roads to a deserted bus stop. A short wait, after which a little bus came ambling by, almost reluctantly. The driver seemed to say, it's siesta time, do I really need to do this? The ride to Madgaon set me back by Rs 15. Another 30-minute bus ride took me back to Arossim. 

Junior and the Memsahib would be arriving shortly. I need to lure them out for strolls, I thought. They were in fact happy to do so. We used to be on the beach by about 7:15 AM. 

However, the Memsahib seemed to be equipped with an in-built distance meter. The 2-km mark seemed to be the limit. The meter was calibrated so that a certain magnetic force prevented them from crossing the 2-km barrier. The return trip of 4-km was the self-imposed limit for the morning. The next walk would be before lunch. I had my health checks to complete, remember? Consequently, I used to wander along further, admiring the sea, sky, sand and boats along the way. 

Early mornings presented interesting sights, like this couple pitching their tent for the day, while curious little kids looked on. 

Fishermen sorted out boats and nets. 

The water sports operators used to show up by about 9:30 AM. 

Restraining walls have been built at Sunset Beach. This lane leads to Martin's Corner, a well known restaurant in South Goa.

Very, very few people on the beach, even as late as 9:30 AM. 

The shacks in Majorda are just about getting tidied up.

The treacherously unstable banana boats are getting cleaned up before the first unsuspecting customer appears. The favourite trick is to topple the boat. Passengers are too shocked after that experience, precious time is lost and by then the riders have had enough. Big win for the operator. The riders probably need to feel relieved that they have not lost their lives!

Ah, the ugly Jet Skis are getting washed and ready for the day's rides. The red 'Dolphin Trip' boat waits in the distance.

A couple has marked their territory by pitching an umbrella, after which they smoothen out the sand and prepare to settle in. 

A life guard has arrived in Uttorda. It's still rather quiet. Even the almost perpetual beach dog companion has not showed up. Actually the Arossim-Uttorda area stays quiet most day, getting slightly busy only towards sunset. 

Well, that little walk was not too bad, was it? Another health check done. 

Leave the resort by 7 AM, say Hi to Colva, and get back slightly before 10 AM, just in time for breakfast that included 'egg-white masala-omelette'. 

After about two hours it would be time to head out for a lazy walk and lunch. 

Life in South Goa is generally a lot of nothing much. "No Ado About Nothing", maybe?

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