am pondering a catchy title for our wild week in Goa and the silliest one
of all sticks out: Go Go Go Goa, ya’ know what they say? Anyone
who has seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will appreciate
the tune and anyone who has been to Goa will appreciate the Technicolor
Dreamcoat reference, either literally to the Anjuna market or metaphorically
to the trancers at the full-moon rave parties.
We haven’t had a down day since moving to Mumbai, so a week at the beach was what the whole family needed. Goa is an hour flight south of Mumbai along the Arabian coast. It is India’s smallest state with a heavy Portuguese flavor, which doesn’t come as a surprise given the Portuguese ruled this part of the coast from the mid-1500’s to Independence. It is touted as India’s ‘Costa del Sol’, and has beaches that cater to the huge resort crowd, backpacking hippies that got lost and never found, young Israeli and Russian ravers seeking ‘alternative states’, and families like us that want a safe beach, cold drinks and beach umbrellas for occasional refuge from the burning sun. We had a fabulous week and the following pictures give a clue to the fun and sun.?
We arrived in Anjuna Saturday evening after an uneventful flight from Mumbai. We had booked a room at the Villas Anjuna on a Lonely Planet recommend. As usual, our LP pulled through as the Villas were lovely, the staff friendly, the pool inviting, the food good, the beer cold and the location perfect. Our room was right off the pool, so we literally got off the plane and into the pool (aren’t those lyrics from a cheesy 70s song?). It was dark, but the pool was lit and the kids had a blast playing around and getting into vacation mode.
Sunday was our first day to explore Anjuna. It is a small village, with one main street that has restaurants and a few stores. The beach was about 25 meters down this road. The area by our villas was rocky and full of red cliffs, but a short walk led us to a full stretch of beach with several inlets of volcanic rock. This stretch of beach had lots of seasonal bars, markets, and restaurants. Everything is built on volcanic rock base with bamboo poles for the ‘walls’ and old palm thatch for the roofs. The monsoon runs May through August, and the whole coast shuts down. It is useless to build anything permanent as the torrential rain dissolves it.
Cows meandered everywhere, which surprised us. We envisioned cattle in the fields, but not lounging on the beach. And there they were, the self-appointed lifeguards of Goa! Garbage was everywhere, too, which was the only disappointing thing about Goa (India in general). It could be such a lovely area (IS a lovely area) and the locals desperately need some education about recycling and garbage service. It is stunning to think of the revenue generated by tourism, yet the state has no garbage service; everything is dumped on the roadside, tossed in the Sea, or burned indiscriminately.
The infamous Undertoad of Goa stalks many sections of beach, so Mom had to keep her kids in line with scary stories until she was convinced it was safe and they wouldn’t get dragged out to Sea. (Sidebar: at least two tourist deaths a DAY were reported in the paper, attributed to their lack of knowledge/respect for the undertow). Once I was sure thinks were OK, we had a blast bobbing, jumping, running and belly-surfing our way through the waves. The kids just couldn’t get enough. And when Mom made them come in for a repeat slather of sunscreen or a water break, they would squiggle and fidget in their chairs until they were unleashed again.
Monday we took a motor cycle taxi to Vagator Beach, just north of Anjuna. The bay here is more secluded, so the kids were able to bob and play farther out in the Sea. The cows, as always, posted guard against the Undertoad. After soaking up lots of salt water, we hiked to the top of the Chapora Fort, a remnant of Portuguese power in the area.
Tuesday we did the native thing and went by local bus to Old Goa, the former Portuguese Capital. Old Goa has been designated a UNESCO heritage site, so construction efforts have been underway for years now. The Basilica of Bom Jesus houses the immortal remains of Saint Francis Xavier. !Que lastima we were not there for the every-ten-years-display-of-the-remains (happens again in 2014)! Se Cathedral’s front portico was used for the infamous Auto Da Fe’s that took the lives of thousands of Hindus under the Portuguese Inquisition. The Church of Saint Cajetan was designed like the original St. Paul’s in Rome, a design most have forgotten since it doesn’t look anything like this anymore! The church of Saint Francis of Assisi has excellent examples of the gravestone slabs used by Portuguese nobility and which now serve as the flooring in these churches.
Wednesday was the big Anjuna market day, without which a trip to Goa would be incomplete (according to every guide book we had). The kids quickly learned to parrot ‘You come look my shop, OK?’, which was the background cadence the whole day. I’ll let Dave’s pictures tell the story of the day.
Thursday we rented motor-scooters (10 bucks for two for the whole day) and hit the northern beaches. We loved cruising through rural Goa, seeing the water buffaloes laze, the bugs hum (when not plastered in our teeth), the trees sway, the locals idle, and the fishermen haul in their nets. We bounced among the waves on the expansive beach at Morgim, explored the star-fish strewn sandbars of Arambol and practiced capture and release of mud-skippers and crabs among the tide pools of Ashvem. Our game on the drive home became ‘How Many Cows Can You Pet While Riding on a Motor Scooter’. Fabulous fun if you’ve never played before?
Friday was designated our Anjuna beach crawl. Dave wanted to start at one end and get all the way to the other, hitting every establishment on the way and imbibing in the refreshment selections. Which we accomplished, with the help of the local herd to keep a safe eye on our kids and our meanderings.
We flew home Saturday well rested and ready to start another round of school. We are still reviewing options for travel in December. We’ll keep you posted! Hugs to all from India.