Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lazy days and lazier sunsets in South Goa

Winter is an amazingly comfortable time in Goa. Early mornings at Pristine Resort in Arossim were cool and serene, temperatures quite low by Goa standards. I had discovered Pristine a couple of years ago, and we have been back twice after that trip. It's worth waking up at 6 AM, sometimes at 5 AM.

Our strolls would begin early, at about 7 AM. 

Hard decisions had to be taken. Do we head north?  

Or do we head south?

Early mornings presented several opportunities to catch the rising sun.

One morning, Junior condescended to turn his camera towards us. He prefers the clouds, sun and sea, he says. 

Morning exercise and fresh air would be followed by a relaxed breakfast by the poolside. 

Goa inspires teenagers to hit the books! Guess what, the cruel school authorities have scheduled exams just after the New year.

Studying hard...

Later in the day, closer to lunch time, would be time for our second outing. That's only a couple of hours away! A leisurely stroll would take us back to the shack in Uttorda.

Back to the shack and watch the moments slip by unnoticed. 

Tender coconut to start the pre-lunch proceedings with.

Several hours to get some 'quality reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic done. Junior's exams were coming up in January. Memsahib had some coaching assignments to prepare for. I had some teaching and consulting projects to prepare for. 

Studies have proven that toes in the sand increase concentration and retention of the three Rs. 

The catch of the day was brought in every day.

Fish grilled in Racheido masala.

Smoking and hissing sizzlers. 

More fish grilled in Goan masala.

Afternoon post-lunch walks were lazy and long. 

Occasional water kicking fights erupted. Take that!

Inevitably, the victor (an avid EPL fan!) and the vanquished.

Junior then gets into the sea for a refreshing dip. The water used to be oh-so-comfortable.

Quintessential South Goa. Calm sea, low tide, long stretches of beach, splashing along in the water, barely a soul in sight, not even on New Year's Eve!

Some folks build sand castles.

Some prefer long cycle rides. The width of beach at low tide is probably several times most of our highways!

A grim reminder of the circle of life. So, be happy and make the most of life.

Afternoons melted away into evenings. 

The para-gliding crew showed up everyday late in the afternoon. A remarkably young lad, perhaps 10 years old, takes off, shrieking in excitement. 

Junior captures a parachute catching not only the wind, but the rays of the setting sun, as well. 

A younger kid has fun the old fashioned way.

One evening, Junior disappeared. I found him several hundred metres way. Camera, tripod and remote were all set up, shooting a time lapsed sunset sequence.

Here are a few pics of Junior's sunset sequence at low tide.

Meanwhile, back at the shack, the Memsahib relishes a tender coconut and scrapes out the while 'malai' inside. Yummy..!!

Tuna salad at sunset, the old favourite.

Fruits, a fitting end to the day.

The haze prevents the red ball being visible all the way as it appears to dip into the sea. 

Junior and Memsahib go for a stroll. The para-gliding seems to go on till the crew are barely able to see in the dark!

Another candle lit dinner, with life guard jeeps occasionally going by lighting up the sand.

Fish Vindaloo curry, Chicken Xacuti curry and rice.

Still sizzling Sizzlers for the Memsahib, a hot favourite this season.

Sometimes, after a sunset snack, the second part of dinner would be at Balton's restaurant on the street, with its outstanding decor and upkeep. 

King fish grilled in Ambotik masala was a nice way to conclude the day.

Cool, early mornings faded away into lazy mornings and afternoons, which in turn dissolved into lazier sunsets and evenings. That's South Goa in December!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Baga - Party central in December!

Having spent a few days in South Goa, we thought we should sample the North for half a day. After all, it was almost 'New Year', and there should be some things going on there. The traffic started to build up while we were near the Zuari Bridge. The "bridge is narrow", our young driver explained. Well, it turned out that the entire stretch of road from that point on was a bit too 'narrow'! Our ride from Arossim to Baga took about 1 hour and 45 minutes. We hopped off at Bharat Bar at the end of Tito's Lane. Side stepping people, scooters and motorbikes, we made it in one piece to the beach. 

The expressions on Junior's and Memsahib's faces revealed absolute incredulity. 

This cannot be happening! Last we checked, back where we come from, Goa beaches look like this!

Is this for real? Giant speakers piled up on the sand. Beach beds and chairs with hardly any room between them.

A lost beach dog finds a relatively quiet spot and seems to "hide his head in the sand", quite literally. 

Water sports, however, seem to be fairly well organized in Baga. I noticed a ticket-booth set up on the beach. The para-sailing clients seemed to have been whisked away far into sea, as the line of parachutes indicated. Visitors actually trust semi-skilled Indian water-sports operators with their lives, given our virtually non-existent safety standards and general penchant for taking short-cuts. Well organized, potential death-traps may be a better description, perhaps? 

We were looking for Emmanuel Shack. I was lost, even though I have been there several times earlier. Junior located the shack soon, barely distinguishable in the chaos.  

Now, for some contrast, here is a picture from my archives. This is Emmanuel Shack during the monsoons not even five months ago, on August 2, 2013, to be precise. Same shack, same beach, same Robert, different season!

Well, here we are, finally, and it's December 30, 2013!

It's been quite an effort to locate Emmanuel Shack. Time to sit back and enjoy the show. You can almost sense the feeling of relief on one hand, and shock on the other, on Junior's and Memsahib's faces.

Once we settled in, we got used to the sight of people, sun beds and chairs jostling each other, and the sound of each shack blaring it's own choice of music. You can shut your eyes, but it's hard to shut your ears!

The show went on. A tourist, a 'senior acrobat' was successfully doing multiple flips and while his little 'local student' tried to follow, in vain. Sometime during this show, the sun beds were carried into the shack by Robert's staff, and along with it vanished our acrobat's shirt, likely rolled up in one of the mattresses and sheets! A massive search and rescue operation followed, at the end of which the missing shirt was located, tucked away well inside the shack inside one of the mattresses. Our 'senior acrobat' friend left, all smiles. Not that he had ever stopped smiling. A lost shirt probably did not mean much to him, being a small matter, compared to the great fun he was having. Oh, by the way, the acrobat reminded me a lot of Chris Gayle!

It's time to tease 'baby' a little, and remind him of his behaviour when he was three of four years old, when he first started coming to Goa with us. He's 15 now, and has been back over 20 times since! It's a case of the Goa bug catching 'em young, indeed!

Here's my old friend Robert, whom I had first met in 1983 in Epicure Restaurant that his (late) parents used to run in their home Calangute, hidden away in the bushes behind Souza Lobo. Little restaurants in homes used to be a lovely tradition back then. Robert was a young lad then. His mom was a fabulous cook, and his dad was an extremely generous bartender. RIP.  I last took refuge at his lovely, old home over two years ago during the monsoons. Lately, however, Robert has got himself a 'permanent license', so he spends the off season in Baga. 

The sun set soon enough. The para-gliding stopped for the day, and the boats lay still once more, bobbing on the water. People appeared to silently dissolve away. The multiple strains of music stopped one by one. It was time to think about dinner. Grilled beef steak for Junior. 

Spicy Ambotik fish curry for me and bland Noodles for Memsahib.

No food experience quite beats that of a dinner on the beach after sunset.

Finally, it's time to head out. Robert's shack is extremely well decorated for the season. The granite flooring signifies the status of a 'permanent shack' that gets to be well wrapped up in miles of plastic sheet during the monsoons.

A last look back, and it almost feels like the Baga of old. Very few people. The random music has stopped playing. Rows of candles throw their gentle glow on the tables neatly laid out on the beach. 

As we left via the back door of Emmanuel Shack, a Cross and Star quietly said 'Bye' to us. 

Until next time, then, so long!

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