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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