Sunday, August 9, 2015

Goa Monsoon 2015 - Beach resorts in Baga and Calangute

You know you are in Goa in August when the sky is grey and overcast, when the sun bravely tries to peep out and when the rich green of the rice fields flash by the window.

You also know you are in Goa - at any time of the year - when the Motor Cycle Taxi 'Pilot' drives up and parks, hoping for a ride. Motor Cycle Taxis are unique to Goa (in India), and, fortunately, they still exist. It's useful to store some of their phone numbers on the mobile.  

While I generally don't quite need a reason to head to Goa, the excuse this year was the annual Old Boy's reunion of our school in Calangute, at Chalston Beach Resort.  Having landed up early to breathe a little more of the Goa air, I thought I'd go for a stroll up the beach from Calangute to Baga. Chalston is located approximately 250 metres north of the famed, recently remodeled Calangute Steps. 

Looking back south From Chalston Resort, the 'sea of heads' is clearly visible. There seem to be tourists at Calangute all year. They don't appear to believe in the concept of the 'off season'. The crowds disperse quickly only when it rains.  

The monsoon fueled sea is a wondrous sight, capable of mesmerizing anyone, even couples sitting together, thinking their private thoughts. 

Having stayed at Chalston Resort several times in the past, I find the location quite magical, right by the sea.  The garden by the restaurant leads directly to the beach.  A terrific spot to gaze thoughtlessly at the 'angry sea'. Perhaps the best of all the 'Beach resorts' in the area? 

Looking north, the tall, sodium vapour lamp of Baga is located approximately 1.5 km away, hidden in the mist and haze. Along the way there are several Beach facing resorts. The temporary shacks and sunbeds have vanished, due to reappear in October each year when the sea calms down and the winds get gentler. 

A short, 200 metre stroll brings gets you to the Raman Cottages area. 

Pushing along, the Estrela Do Mar and Villa Goesa Resorts lie a few minutes ahead. Estrelo Do Mar seems to be shyly hidden away a little distance away behind the trees.

Villa Goesa, though equipped with a lovely property with direct beach access, seems to consistently bear a forlorn and lost look over the years. The facade hasn't seem to have changed in years.

Perhaps the last of the Beach facing resorts is the Colonia Santa Maria (CSM) and a couple of others in the vicinity, before the loud commercial air and crowds of Baga hit you. 

As we reach the area around Mambos, a cow manages to relax peacefully, yet seems to peer further up the beach, where the usual crowds can be seen in the distance. 

Well, it's been a quick and rather short walk by Goa standards - just over 1 km from Calangute. Time to reward myself in a beach shack in Baga. A short stroll from Mambos, just south of Brittos. 

Emmanuel is a permanent shack in Baga, run by Robert who lives in a quaint, old house in Calangute. His home still houses Epicure Bar and Restaurant, where I had first met him and his lovely family in 1983. 

Still being the Monsoon season, though the peak seems to have passed, the shack is geared up to get protected from the rain by rolls of thick plastic sheets that can be quickly pulled down. 

It turns out, as always, to be an afternoon well spent, starting with the familiar flavours of the local brew, accompanied by a variety of salads.  Just what the doctor ordered.

As the rain plays hide and seek, we keep running in and out. A stint at the tables outside, looking up trying to figure out when the heavens may open up. 

Feeling a little brave, with the rain bearing clouds not appearing anywhere nearby, it's time to settle down on the 'sun beds' - or, perhaps 'cloud beds' may be more appropriate. Clouds fly by, sometimes very grey, sometimes lighter. Every now and then  ominous Nimbus clouds filled with rain go by, as if wondering whether to drop their payload.  

Several on-the-beach and run-back-to-the-shack round trips later, it's time to earn the lunch comprising of Rice and Goan Prawn curry. 

What a shame, having coming to Goa and not trying another? So, here comes the milder flavoured Chicken Cafreal. 

Many hours go by. The beach gets busier towards evening. Robert's staff fold the umbrellas and bring them inside the shack as a prelude to bringing the sun beds inside. 

The evening rolls along, and it's time to head back. We have about 1.5 km to walk back, which is better to do while a bit of daylight still exists. It's not about getting lost on the beach stretch, which would be rather hard to do. It's about the beach dogs choosing to get inquisitive in the darkness. The waves are still restless and rough as we decide to head back from Emmanuel Shack, an extremely difficult decision to arrive at.

Just as we are heading back to Chalston, cows and their owners also seem to be heading back home. 

Should you choose to, the day (or night) can stretch on in Baga and Calangute. A favourite late night (all night?) option is Infantaria, with a full menu that includes live music on the top floor till quite a late hour. 

Thank you for joining me. Happy planning, and happy travels, whatever it is you may be doing. See you in Goa in a few months. 

-=-= 08-2015-=-=

SJBHS OBA Connect 2015 Goa

The OBA Connect event in Goa kicks off the series at several locations, typically ending with Kerala in May. Previous events in Goa were held in 2010 and 2011 (Baga), 2012 (Anjuna), and 2013 and 2014 (Calangute) all in North Goa. The 2015 event was held at the lovely beach front Chalston Beach Resort, like the previous two.

Some folks reach early...

The warm-up dinner was held on Saturday, 8 August at the beach facing restaurant. The garden was tastefully and subtly lit up.

Lots of music, drink and food inside as Old Boys got a chance to catch up after a year. 

The main event was held on Sunday, 9 August. Old Boys and their families got a chance to stroll along the beach before the start, or just sit on the chairs on the lawn and take in the views of the fairly seas that still wore the Monsoon look.

Goa during the monsoons never fails to remind me of the lines we had learned in School: "And still of a winter's night they say, When the wind is in the trees, And the moon is a ghostly galleon, Tosses upon cloudy seas." It's the "cloudy seas" bit that rings true. On severely overcast monsoon days, you would find it hard to figure out where the sea ends and where the clouds begin. Today was not one of those days, though.     

The senior Old Boys who graduated in the mid-1950s stand together for a photograph.

The venue gets busy by about 11:30 AM, while it's time for a quick game of soccer for some. 

The Members of the Committee of the Goa Chapter of the OBA had an unually long meeting this year. 

Soon after, Lloyd Macedo welcomes all the Old Boys, families and invitees. 

President Gopal Bengeri says a few words, uncharacteristically short by his standards, probably because we had been alerted by the management that the auto shut-off switch of the electricity system may get triggered off should any speech go too long beyond permissible limits. 

The cake to honour the OBA, which would be cut after lunch. 

Lloyd Macedo and Gopal Bengeri lead the singing of the School Song, with Rahul "Toddy" Tadimalla on the keyboard. "Jawwwwww....." that's your note! 

Old Boys join in singing the School Song, with a little help from a sheet of paper. For most, it's been several decades. 

Animated conversations continue around the beach front restaurant. 

The snacks arrive soon after, consisting of Fish and Beef snacks. 

Meanwhile, for the discerning few, the most popular drink by far is the Goan Cashew Feni. The best quality has been thoughtfully bought and carefully preserved by Lloyd for this annual occasion. 

The food is, in typically OBA Connect Goa style, a vast spread. White rice, Pulao, Veg Caldin, Goan Prawn Curry, Chicken Cafreal, Pork Sorpotel, Roast Pork, Crumb Fried Modso Fish and Salad. With many thanks to Shashi Lewis for his continuing contribution.   

Ah, not to forget the Ice-cream for those who wish to cool off after the drinks and huge meal. 

It's time for cutting the cake. Some members of the OBA Committee Goa Chapter line up with OBA President Gopal Bengeri: Dr Amod Borkar, Lloyd Macedo, Fulgence Rodericks and Mike Rozalla. Cake cutting is followed by singing the School Song, with Toddy on the keyboard. 

Meanwhile, the afternoon ticks by... 

Toddy lights up the event with his rendition of Rock and Blues. 

Jeevan Alvares adds fizz with his animated vocals. 

The Batch of 75, as always, is well represented at the OBA Connect Goa event. 

President Gopal Bengeri decides to award a prize to the four from the Batch of 75, to recognize the most well represented batch for the fourth consecutive year (2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015). 

The Cultural part of the event featured a academically brilliant young school girl who is a Bharat Natyam dancer, happy to be getting an opportunity to dance at the event. Introduced by Mrs Lloyd Macedo.

Folk dancers also grace the occasion with a variety of Goan and Portugese costumes and dances. 

It's time to wind down the music and dance, and say "Good bye", as the sun climbs down behind the clouds. 

With respects to Mario Miranda, a reputed Old Boy.

The rains have been kind to the OBA Connect event this year, and the weather has been marvellous. 

"Kenna sun, kenna rain...."