Drive through my memory lane of many firsts- Land of Lone wolf.
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
Travel is more than sight seeing, its a change that strikes deep within, permanently altering the known ideas of living.
The land of charming landscapes, glittering beaches, water sports, mouth-watering seafood, nightlife and a laid-back vacation for all age group- That’s what defines Goa. My brother and cousins had been there over last Christmas, but I couldn’t make it due to work commitments. So, when I badly needed a holiday to get a breath of fresh air beginning of this year, this beach getaway was my first choice. And when I got an invitation to my friend’s wedding at Vijayawada, it was the best occasion for the extended celebration.
Work pressure didn’t give much time to plan, so I packed all my stuff just few hours before my train journey was about to start. Rushing amidst Chennai traffic, I somehow reached Chennai Central and boarded the train. That’s when it struck me……isn’t this my first solo trip !!! 😊😊😊😊
Landing at Vijayawada- the erstwhile business center of Andhra Pradesh , I felt a different air. It had a unique smell about it. It has a Nawabi charm, a tad different to Chennai. Though a big city, it is very laid back. I didn’t have much time to spend here, yet, I instantly felt at home. The journey from Vijayawada railway station to Tenali- where marriage functions were to be organised was cool and relaxing. The ambiance of our stay was out of some Rabindranath Tagore’s short stories- old school building, a clean lake
flowing besides, lots of greenery, etc. In the early morning, sound of Iyer’s chanting conducting the marriage rituals, the blushing bride and groom- yes my friend was all shy, chatter of all decorated pretty women, hustle and bustle of kids and adults alike- all gave a head-start to my journey. Wishing my friend all the luck on his new journey, I started for my next destination- GOA.
This trip was first in many ways- my first flight journey as well. A bit nervous but with feelings to conquer, I stepped into the Airbus. Since I was a small kid, aeroplanes and helicopters have always fascinated me. The whirling sound over my Thiruvattyur house made me go crazy. I would stare at it, run behind it till as far I could. I dreamt of flying my own creation one day. I haven’t lost that passion yet and am still hopeful of doing so someday. The flight journey had a soothing effect, made me go back to my childhood days and daydream 😊
Reaching Goa, I took a long breath. Finally, I was here- on the Land of dreams. My stay was booked at Calangute Beach. Also called the ‘Queen of beaches’, Calangute is the largest beach in north Goa. I couldn’t rest so decided to explore the nearby areas. It was a bit busy and crowded, seemed like a perfect tourist retreat, filled with souvenir stalls, shacks and other stalls selling everything from beer, trinkets to pawns. Being Saturday, my first
destination was the Saturday night market- luckily it was near my hotel. The market comes to life only on Saturdays and stays open from 7 pm till about 2 am. The flea market was huge with certainly around 200+ shops selling stuff. The stalls, all sold the same stuff but were cool and colourful. You need to be a skilful to bargain with shopkeepers to better prices. There was a live music and dance counter, playing soothing Sufi numbers. I spend quite a time there, relaxing in the musical ambience. After trying out some lip-smacking dishes and drinks, I retired to sleep around midnight.
I was flying and dancing when a phone call woke me up early next morning. Damn, I had Scuba Diving booked! I rushed to finish ablutions and got running to catch the cab. It was a long 2 hrs ride to the Grande Island where I met new people on board- a group of 4 friends, a couple and a family of 4. The tour operator had arranged “on the go” breakfast which was fulfilling. On reaching there, captain gave us a brief training session about the scuba equipment- Face mask and snorkel, Oxygen Tank, Wetsuit, Rubber Funs, etc. The instructor gave us a practical training session. And then we were accompanied with a guide to jumpstart the dive.
Did I say that I had won a 1 hr scuba diving free of cost as I had booked most of my sight-seeing through a single operator!! How do I describe the experience? Definitely a once in a lifetime experience. I was floating, the sound of sea in my ears was music, without my feet touching the ground in the sea, I was feeling what ultimate freedom is. You cannot rest your feet on the ground as you don’t know which area has poisonous element. As I moved deeper into the sea, I encountered the vibrant and colourful fishes-
the look was straight out of an insta page- the beautiful corals, different variety of water plants - made the seabed a house of treasure. All scenes of Hollywood adventure movie flashed through my eyes and I felt I was living them infront of my eyes. The farther I went, the better the view was. The longer I was inside the sea, I more my heart craved to spend my entire life underwater. That view of the underwater life is imprinted in my mind forever. But it was sad to see plastics waste around. That’s a put off to our environment. On returning to surface, I indulged in snorkelling for some time. Floating in complete stillness, closer to the water surface, was rejuvenating. This alone time was when I distanced myself from the voices of the world so I could hear my own. It was thrilling and an exciting experience. The exotic lunch organised by the operators was delicious and fulfilling. The day ended after the long drive back to Calangute.
Next day, was a bit relaxed one. After a heavy breakfast at my hotel, I hired a Royal Enfield and explored the city. The drive around Goa was blissful- cleaner air, lesser traffic, smoother roads. Though the heat remains like Chennai, the cooler weather in February made the ride easy. My first stop was Basilica of Bon Jesus church in Old Goa. This church has been built in exquisite style. The interiors are finely decorated. The floors have been made of white marble. The smooth pathway of the altars is worth appreciating. The church has many paintings amongst which the painting of St. Francis Xavier is the most noteworthy. On the upper side of the church there lies the most enchanting relics of art called the Bom Jesus Basilica Art Gallery. I hadn’t planned, but I spend quite a long time here. Was it the effect of ambience or something else, I don’t know, but it made me very thought-full? I strongly felt an urge to talk to my Amma. I felt, because our parents cannot take care of us lifelong, our society has built the marriage institution. Do I want that at the cost of my parents? No never. I want my Amma to be always beside me, may what come. A prayer crossed my lips to the Ultimate power. The day ended with a quite dinner at a nearby place.
My last day was dedicated to a long drive to the most exquisite beach of South Goa- Palolem. It is largely unspoiled and is inhabited by both local fishermen and by foreign tourists who live in shacks along the shore. It is one of the beautiful beaches in all of Goa. A natural bay surrounded by lofty headlands on either side which results in a calm, idyllic sea with a gently sloping bed that allows you to walk up to deeper in the sea.
I started searching to book a boat ride into the sea. Since this beach is mostly visited by foreigners, the cost was higher for a 4-hour boat ride. While bargaining with one fisherman, a blond girl came by enquiring for a boat ride. She was speaking in mixed English and the fisherman couldn’t understand her. Trying to help, I pitched in and look what…we ended up negotiating and lowering the cost by 1000/- for a combined boat ride. The plan was, that the fisherman will ride us to sight-see 2 islands and then drop us at the Butterfly island. We can spend 2.5 hours there and then he will return to pick up. While on the way, I got to know the girl better. Her name was Kaira, a travel blogger visiting from Russia, had been travelling across India since last 6 months collecting data for her blog and Goa being her last destination. She shared her experience of India travel- how different and varied the country is. But what struck me most was, how beautifully she explained the similarity across every country she had travelled, in terms of family values. She said and I quote her- “even-though the thought process is different in different cultures, but the values which binds the family living everywhere is same- its Love, Companionship, Trust and Support- that every family member have for each other”. How time flies when you are in good company!! We reached the Butterfly Island and parted ways. I had carried my fishing sticks so got busy is setting it up and she went kayaking. This is a small but pretty island with Rocky Mountains. I was expecting to catch fishes, but no luck. ☹
The fisherman came with the boat and it was time to return. I couldn’t sit idle on way back as I was upset to not catch fish, so I kept my sticks aside and started using the wired weights into the sea. Look what we saw- a 5-member dolphin family encircling our boat. It was a mesmerizing view. They jumped, they twirled around. All 5 were of different sizes, pitch black. I had heard numerous anecdotes from my friends and relatives, who had travelled, about sighting dolphins at Palolem beach, but wasn’t expecting with my bad luck in fishing. I was completely caught up in their antics, when I felt a sudden pull to my wired fishing weights. OMG- there was a fish entangled in the hooks.
I had a lifetime thrill. It was a big Rock fish. My joy knew no bounds. My new Russian friend couldn’t believe her eyes. It was a new experience for her esp. in India. I invited her to have dinner with me- the freshly caught fish mixed with exotic Indian spices and cooked over charcoal- a barbeque- which I planned to create by myself.
On reaching the beach, we drove to a nearby local market, had some refreshing drinks. I bought the ingredients for my special fish barbeque while she shopped for some souvenirs. We went back to the beach, chose a quite place and I started setting up my small kitchen. It was a bit windy, but with some effort, I was able to light a small fire out of charcoal. I took out the wooden skewers, hooked the marinated fish and set it to cook. While the dish was getting ready, we enjoyed the sound of sea waves splashing the shore, starry sky over a can of chilled beer. In no time, my culinary skills were put to test. Not blowing my own trumpet, but the dish was mind-blowing. Was it the freshness of fish or the exoticism of Indian spices or my culinary skills, the dish was lip-smacking!
We chatted through the rest of the evening amidst Goa chill, the beautiful and mesmerizing beach with an ear to some slow music in distant. It was late night for me, so I wished her all the best and saying goodbye, drove back to my hotel. Another first for me was to make a long distant friend from a faraway land- I am still in touch with her and she keeps sharing her travel experiences.
My overall Goa trip was a fantabulous and a dream come true experience. Being a nomad at heart, I would like to visit Goa again. Goa sleeps in the wee hours and springs into activity at in the evening. Goa is a must visit, at least once in lifetime. I believe life is meant to create stories, not to sit idle. So get up and get going, I am sure, you’ll never forget it.