Our 13 year old son's vacation and the thought of taking a quick break before Diwali was a wonderful opportunity to squeeze in a short, 2-day trip to south Goa.
The Kadamba bus departed Bangalore in time, at 7:45PM, on Sunday, Oct 23, 2011. A comfortable ride and a couple of food and rest stops later, we were on the winding roads of the Western Ghats of North Karnataka and South Goa.
Oct 24, 2011: We heard one of our neighbours on the bus suddenly yell out "Kan-Kone, Kan-Kone". We peered out of the bus, sleepy eyed, it was pitch dark outside. The driver opened the door of the bus, we had no option but to step out into the darkness, clutching our back packs. A solitary incandescent bulb eerily lit up a quiet cross road nearby. Four or five people were waiting. They seemed to be waiting for a bus to nowhere, that was exactly where we seemed to have found ourselves. It was 5:45AM, the spot was Canacona, if the passenger and driver were to be believed.
An auto-rickshaw driver appeared out of the darkness and asked us where would we like to go. Agonda, I said. Ok, "Agond" he said, no problem, where in "Agond"? Monsoon Guest House I said. Rs 300, he said. No option, I thought, better than a 12 km walk through dark, winding roads at six in the morning. To add to the excitement, my mobile phone would not connect, so I had no way of calling Dirk at the Monsoon Guest House. It was just like the old days, no mobiles, no phones.
I asked my 13 year old, should we wait till daylight? No, he said, let's go. So off we went in the darkness, finally spotted a large, white Church that I guessed was the Agonda Church. Relief..!! The auto-rickshaw stopped at a gate a few minutes later, Monsoon clearly written in metal.
We opened the gate, it creaked. Ouch. We stepped in rather fearfully, expecting a dog or two to jump on us. Not a soul was in sight. We walked right through the property and on to the beach, fishermen were hauling in the nets, dogs were scampering around. We found a half constructed restaurant and settled down for a while. We wandered the beach and the road for an hour, got our bearings right, and went back to Monsoon. The staff was up by then, we were given our keys for a rather early "check in".
Monsoon Guest House is located at the northern end of the quiet Agonda beach. Our room was on the first floor, with a balcony facing the beach. We had a nice view of the beach and cliff from the balcony of our room, through the palm trees.
Agonda 'beach huts' are not open yet, most are still under construction. Guest houses with 'solid rooms' are available.
The northern end is oh so quiet, there are are only a few guest houses further north.
Time for breakfast. We did not have to look far, fortunately. Agonda White Sand seemed to show some sign of life, just south of Monsoon. As we walked the beach during the day, we realized that only three sea facing restaurants are open at this time of year. We ended up gong to Agonda White Sands for several meals, full menu, wonderful food and service. The menus are in the Menus section of this blog (October 27).
Happy village lady carrying firewood home in the bright sun.
The river at the end of Agonda beach is a amazing place for a stroll. The estuary allows you to peer at the thousands of little fish in the clear water, listen to the various bird calls, try to grab the darting, colourful lizards on camera, look at the mangroves across the river and let the calmness seep in.
The sea water tries to rush in at high tide, splashing away wildly on the rocks.
The river water tries to sneak out. The result is gushing opposing currents of water and never ending photo opportunity moments. 1/30 sec? 1/15 sec? 1/10 sec to capture the flowing water? F11? F8? F5.6?
Life guards take a break. What time is lunch?
The monsoon does not seem to have let up yet.
A few hours to go before the next trip.
Colourful fishing nets draped on the sand to dry.
Do you have a bone for me? Or maybe one, two, three, four, five. In the shadow of a fishing boat.
A highly contemplative 13 year old. Do I really need to get back to school?
Lights, camera, action, perched 10 feet high. Next stop, Bollywood.
Agonda beach is one of the Olive Ridley Turtle nesting sites (under the National Sea Turtle Conservation Project). I hear there are three to four hatches every year.
Agonda beach is about 3km long, the distance reminded me of the slightly shorter Baga to Calangute distance.
It's been a hard day. Time for lunch. We found the second open restaurant just south of the Church as we reached the southern end of Agonda. H2O is an eye catching property, in an obviously very different positioning, comfort and pricing category. The menus are in the menus section of the blog.
After a long, lazy lunch, the tide was way out, leaving behind pretty woven patterns of light and shadow in the soft sand.
Where can I take a nap?
Tea time for the hut builders from Belgaum (North Karnataka) at Monsoon Guest House.
The Agonda bug seems to have bitten the (relaxed) crows.
About 50 delegates at the Agonda Bovine Conference, wondering when the humans would invade their land.
Heading home with firewood, in time to cook dinner.
View of the Agonda Church from the beach, certainly the most well known landmark in Agonda. A welcome sight for first time travellers in the dark, as well.
Yoga on the beach at sunset.
Local village ladies headed home.
Long, lazy walks by the sea tend to make you hungry. Time for a snack at Cuba Guest House, the third restaurant that was open.
Cuba is located towards the southern end of the beach, a few hundred metres from the cliff.
Amazing views of the setting sun.
Oct 25, 2011: Another lazy day lay ahead, beginning with the post-breakfast walk to the estuary, to admire the tides and gushing water.
This is the house that Jack is building.
All dressed up and nowhere to go.
Madhu's Beach Huts, this hut is all but done.
View of the beach from inside a hut, you step out of the door and find yourself on the sand in full glare of sunlight. Not for the faint of heart. Wonderful.
Which colour goes here? V? I? B? G? Y? O? R?
Simrose, the property just north of the Church, under construction. Cane and plywood all over.
Jardin, north of Simrose, also work in progress. More cane and plywood, and banging and sawing.
'License problems' was the most commonly heard phrase. The huts are hopeful of being up and running by around November 10 or 15.
Low tide, calm sea, neat spot for a quick post lunch dip.
Oh no! Did you see that? Is that the rain headed our way? The north cliff is barely visible. Stuff the camera in the bag, run, run, run to the nearest shelter, a beach hut under construction. The Nepali crew even offered us lunch. Very kind of them. The heavy, 15 minute downpour was just the right opportunity to test their amateur water proofing construction skills. Hmmm, maybe it won't rain this hard as the season gets underway.
A fisherman and assistant deftly sort out the fishing nets before the next trip out to sea.
Oops! That was not part of the deal, was it? The low tide leaves behind puddles, and sand that is unexpectedly and extremely soft in places. Ankle deep water turns to calf deep water in a jiffy. Personal experience. So watch out!
The setting sun, low tide and woven sand at the northern end.
The lower water levels due to the low sea tide result in the sand bank of the river being exposed along both banks of the river.
The water that was gushing during the morning high tide turns into a 'picture' of tranquility in the evening.
The fishermen push their boat out to the water, using wooden pieces as make shift conveyor belts. The village folk and hut builders lend a helping hand.
We wait for a quick fish-curry-rice dinner at Agonda White Sands.
Time for a short prayer and thank you. We don't need to spend the night in the black sea fishing for a living. The discomfort that we need to endure extends to a comfortable 10 hour ride in an air-conditioned bus back to Bangalore.
Until next time, so long, Agonda!
(Acknowledgement: many of the photos courtesy Junior, particularly the better ones.)
== Oct 24, 25, 2011 ==
From hundreds of stars to five: http://feni-and-amok.blogspot.in/2012/05/from-hundreds-of-stars-to-five.html