Monday, December 26, 2016

Winter evenings in South Goa 2016

Winter days are fruitfully spent in Magzika Beach Shack typically from 10am to 3pm, with the help of Caju Feni, salads and Fish Curry Rice or Grilled Fish. After that, a lazy stroll takes me back north. Locals play a game  of soccer on the beach, or sometimes it is cricket. 

Some visitors leave their litter behind, sadly, though the mess is nowhere near as tragic as it is in the North Goan beaches of Baga and Calangute. Will Indians ever learn to respect their environment and their fellow human beings? 

Balton's Shack has been my regular haunt in South Goa since the year 2010. Balthazar or Bala, the owner of Balton's, introduced me to Prajoy, the owner of Magzika, a few years ago. Since then I've been alternating between the two shacks. 

The time of day just before sunset on a Goan beach is a magical period, can't be beat.   

Water sports are not as developed in South Goa as in North Goa, fortunately, so the environment is spared. The last of the boats do their rounds as the sun appears to touch the water. Relatively clear winter skies allow the sun to be seen almost all the way down. The last of the walkers make their way back before darkness sets in, while the last of the kids draw figures on the sand. 

Down.. down.. all that is visible is the tip of the sun. The water sports folks never seem to give up. 

After the fish of the afternoon, time to catch up on a bit of green salad by  the water.   

Meanwhile, the light is fading fast, just enough light to read a book and sip local 'Caju'. 

Toes dug deep in the sand, slices of lime and pieces of green chilly piling up in the glass, the sun has quietly disappeared but the afterglow lingers for a while. 

Eventually the darkness takes over, the sound of the breakers making their incessant yet gentle 'swish swish' sound barely 50 metres away. Looking east, Balton's Shack appears well lit in the darkness. 

Twangy and spicy Fish Vindaloo is an excellent choice for dinner in the candle lit darkness, sitting by the water's edge, as the winter evening starts getting cooler. Rather different from a typical summer evening. 

X'mas time is superb in Goa, the temperatures are pleasant, resorts, shacks and restaurants are well lit, and Nativity scenes are set up inside resorts, homes and by the road.  

Balton's Restaurant on the street near Park Hyatt is another of my haunts, run by Tony. His brother Bala runs the beach shack. The shack and restaurant are both called Balton's.  

Balton's Restaurant is probably the best decorated and maintained restaurant I have come across in Goa. 

The decor includes two motorcyeles from the 1970s - a Rajdoot 350cc and a Bullet 500c. 

Once again, the hours melt away as the lime pieces and slit green chillies pile up as the Caju Feni goes down smooth as a whistle. 

Sometimes the choice is Goan Cafreal masala for dinner. 

And sometimes it's Goan Xacuti masala.

Some evenings I eat dinner at Pristine Resort. The cook whips up superb Goan Fish Curry. 

Pristine Resort, owned by Tony, has been my regular stay since the year 2010. Superbly maintained apartments set around a pool, a cozy restaurant, friendly staff, and a quiet setting overlooking cattle grazing fields, yet only one kilometer from the light sands of Arossim beach. This has put Pristine Resort on my yearly calendar. My taxi driver friend Tony lives next door, he picks me up from the airport and drops me back.   

Rooms at Pristine are well appointed and maintained. Rooms range from single rooms to large apartments. 

The Cross and Ganesha make a unique picture of serenity just by the restaurant.  

The candles burn by day and by night, appearing to wish us well. 

It is this environment of tranquility that draws me back to Pristine Resort year after year.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Arossim to Varca - a long walk - South Goa 2016

Some of my holidays in Goa are set inland, in and around the quaint city of Panaji. Most holidays are set along the beaches. And beaches imply long walks. Sometimes 2 to 3 km, sometimes 15 km. A quiet breakfast by the pool at Pristine Resort is followed by a walk on most days. A long walk has become routine on every holiday, sometimes to Colva about 8 km away, sometimes south of Varca about 14 km away.  The hard sand on South Goa's broad beaches is extremely conducive for long walks. 

Setting off by 9am enables you to watch the beach wake up. Shacks start to get cleaned and set up for the day. 

There are always a few moments to gaze at the sea.

It's fun to splash along the water's edge, at the same timne offer a bit of relief to city feet not quite accustomed to walking many kilometres bare feet. 

More people appear on the beach as time goes by. 

Spots such as Betalbatim, Colva and Benaulim are crowded, at least by South Goa standards. 

Gotcha! A picture of a winter migratory bird! 

Taj Exotica on Benaulim beach passes by about 10 to 11 km south of Arossim. Memories of having stayed there about 15 years ago.

The broad beach of Varca appears shortly, a couple of kilometres south of Benaulim. A familiar area after several trips and walks, including an official trip around the year 2009 and a trip with my nephews in the year 2011. 

Beach shacks we had been to all those years ago still exist. Evisha...



Finally, a kilometer south of Varca, I arrive at Sea Pearls Shack. I've known the family for many years, and have walked over to visit them during my trips to Arossim. A long walk, about 14 km, worth every step of the way. The daughter of the owner is now in high school, nice to see her grow up over the years and study in an English medium school. 

Once again, the hours melt away as the sun heads westwards. 

Caju drink, a book and salad to munch on. 

Tasty Beef Chilly Fry to complement the Caju drink. 

The afternoon has flown by, and I'd rather take a bus back. So I make it to the local bus stop, walking a kilometer along quite lanes. 

The local bus stop has interesting graffiti conveying loyalty to soccer clubs in the UK.

Some parts of Goa have not changed, probably stayed the same for decades, like this home by the bus stop where the old lady is getting her hair soaked in coconut oil. 

The bus stop in Varca clearly does not want commuters to sit on the walls as they wait for the buses to arrive.

After a long yet pleasant ride to Madgaon and another bus ride to Utorda, it's time to settle down in Balton's Beach Shack for sunset. 

It's been a pleasant day, a long 14 km walk to Varca, chatting with the family that owns Sea Pearls shack, and the meandering bus ride back to Utorda. This is what holidays should be made of. (Old Jungle Saying!). 


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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Winter days in South Goa 2016

For most visiors, Goa is synonymous with beaches. And beaches are generally equated with beach shacks, a family tradition that goes back 50 years.  Though heavily modernized these days, the atmosphere remains the same, which is essentially all about chilling. 

My usual haunt in South Goa, set in Betalbatim Beach, is Magzika Beach Shack, run by the highly affable young gentleman Prajoy. His staff members, whose origins are from places as varied as Goa to Darjeeling, have been with him for 10 to 15 years.  

While in Goa, do as the locals do. My drink is the unique Cashew Feni, referred to locally as 'Caju'. A slice of lime adds to the taste, and the drinks go down smoothly, as the hours merge into the next. 

Pieces of green chillies cut longitudinally add to the fizz as the Caju drinks go down smoothly one after another.

Goan Fish Curry and rice are an excellent complement to the local Caju drink, the curry accentuated with the slightly twangy citrous Kokum fruit, a specialty of the Western Ghats.

After several hours of gazing at the sea, punctuated with sipping Caju Feni and diving into the uniquely flavoured Goan fish curry, it's time to set off on my walk again. The 5 km morning walk from Pristine Beach Resort in Arossim to Betalbatim was extremely peaceful, as the sun rose and the few people on the beach came to life. The scene during late afternoon was not very different.  

The magic of South Goa remains largely untouched, except for a few spots along the coastline. 

Migratory gulls stop by Goa during their journey south from the colder northern lands. 

The gulls fly round and round, quite a delight to the eye, as they land on the beach, take off and fly in giant circles and come back to the beach again.

The morning hours until 9 or 10 am are extremely quiet. By then the fishermen have sorted out the fish, cleaned their baskets and headed home, while the generally lazy visitors have not yet made an appearance. So the beach stretches are as private as can be. 

Life guards in South Goa enjoy a relatively peaceful life compared to their brothers on the beaches of North Goa. This life guard has wrapped his float like an 'Xmas gift, it looks like he will probably not need to use it this season.  

Most fishing boats are parked on the sand. This boat has been parked further up. Must have been quite an effort to drag it so far up the beach away from the water. The fisherman owner has probably gone away on holiday for a long time. A well deserved break, for sure. 

The slanting rays of the early morning sun never fail to create visual effects of light and shadow on the sand. Worth recording, though the camera on the mobile phone is not good enough. 

Grilled Fish with salad and fries is a good lunch option, alternating with Goan Fish Curry and rice. The local Racheido masala is used to grill fish such as Seer, and also to make light 'tawa' or pan fried variations. 

Long walks, splashing along the water, seem to be the highlights of lay Goan days along the beach. The hours melt away in Magzika Beach Shack. The shack dog invariably gets comfortable and settles down for a well deserved afternoon nap. 

The number of slices of lime and pieces of green chilly are an approximate indicator of time spent in the shack, which can often vary from 2 hours to 6 hours on a typical day.

After several hours in Magzika, as the sun begins it's climb down into the water, it's time to head back. 

The beach is a little more crowded during the late afternoon hours, a mix of visitors and locals.

A lazy walk from Betalbatim takes me to my next haunt which is Balton's Beach Shack in Utorda, about 2 km north of Magzika Beach Shack. 


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