Just came back from Goa yesterday. When someone tells you they have been to Goa, what they actually mean is they have visited beaches and places in Goa, as Goa is a state, albeit a very small one.
We were a group of 8 friends who drove through Tumkur, Chitradurga, Davangere, Ranebennur, Haveri, Hubli, Yellapura, Ankola, Karwar to reach Goa. The whole stretch can be done in approximately 10 to 12 hours. The road is very good till Tumkur, sucks from Chitradurga till Haveri, gets better once you cross Haveri. But, we Camped in Hubli and started the next day. Beyond Yellapura you will have to drive through thick forests and descend the western ghat, to reach Karwar. This part of the stretch has some sharp curves and is deserted, save for a few trucks here and there. Also keep one thing in mind, once you cross Tumkur there are no good restaurants on the highway. Either you have to pack your own food or drive into one of the towns on the way. The police at Karnataka Goa border harassed my friend Gowda saying show me the original RC book and took 50 rupees as “entry fee” (read it as bribe).
Our first stop was Palolem, a beach in Canacona district of Goa, approximately 20 kms from Karwar. Palolem looks more European than Indian as it is abuzz with white skin. The place has a lot of options to stay, but a couple of ones that we enquired were full. We finally wound up staying in Om Stays which is a line of huts(tiled huts not thatched) with attached bathroom and toilet located 5 minutes away by walk from the beach. The place was neat for 500 rupees per hut. Some of the huts had TV and hot water while others did not. The owner was a very friendly chap who provided us with extra beds and gave us a quick run down of Palolem. We were the only ones in that place and we took 3 huts. I talked to the owner regarding the rates and he informed me that 500 rupees was the off season rate. During season, it varies from 1000 rupees to 1500 rupees, 2000 rupees during new year. The tourist season in Goa is supposed to start from October 15 and peaks during the new year time.
I found Palolem beach serene and charming, with an ample mix of commercialisation and village charm. On the south side of the beach there are two out crops. I guess during high tide this is surrounded by water. One of the posters I read on the way refered to them as Venus island. The view from the out crops is breath taking and I could have sat there for hours in solitude listening to the chirping birds and the sound of the sea. I have no idea how it is during the peak season as, hut construction was going on through out the beach and the out crops, to be ready by the peak season. There are lots of shops on the way to the beach selling everything from toilet paper to clothing.
We had a ball of a time in Palolem playing beach volleyball, football and swimming. We were by the beach till 3 in the morning and no one came and enforced discipline on us. Also there are two bars on the beach side which are open 24 hours and also there is a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop which is open till one in the night.
Approximately 15 kilometres from Palolem there is another beach called Agonda which was deserted save for a single family and a couple at the time of our visit. You can see rocks jutting out from the sea and the beach ends with a majestic hill on either side. There is a fort called Cabo De Rama which is at approximately 10 kilometers from Agonda. We reached Cabo De Rama late, so we could not explore it completely but the view of the sea from the fort was heavenly. We spent some thirty minutes there monkeying around. The resort owner informed us that the sun rise and sun set from the fort is something not to be missed. The fort is surrounded by a deep moat and we were afraid as to whether the fort closes at night. So I went and enquired at the nearby bar regarding this and the person there assured me that it was open 24/7. The drive from Palolem to Cabo-De-Rama was scenic and the twilight added to the magic.
After 2 days in Palolem we headed to Panjim, capital of Goa. The road to Panjim was good, in general we found all the roads in Goa smooth with good direction boards. After a brief stop over in Panjim we headed to Calangute beach some 15 kilometres from Panjim. This beach sucked with crass commercialisation, crowd and garbage. I remembered Juhu beach. We had food in a hotel called Sagar near the beach and started hunting for a place to stay. We split into two groups with one group heading towards Anjuna while the other explored Baga for accommodation. We finally settled down for a place called Lua Nuva in Baga. Since it was off season, the proprietor agreed to rent out the room for 1800. It had AC but TV was not working and there was a small pool where we had a ball of a time the next day. The advantage of staying at Lua Nuva was that it was very close to Titos street, the happening street of Baga.
We wanted to explore the night life of Baga, so we headed towards Titos, a famous night club, which was our planned destination for the night. But to our disappointment we found out that it was open only during the weekends. It’s sister concern Mambos allowed only couples inside. After this let down we roamed Titos street up and down hopping in and out of lots of places. Lots of guys approached us with offers of disco parties. The usual deal was, for 300 rupees they supply you with an escort for the club and she stays with you until you come out. We did not go with this shady deal.
Next day we checked out Aguada fort which was buzzing with tourists. We were under the impression that this was the fort featured in the movie Dil Chahta Hai but later we came to know that we were wrong. From one side of the fort you get to view the grand sea. On the base of the hill where the fort is situated there is road that leads to a small beach by the Taj resort. Ahead of this beach, there is a path by the side of the mountain base which snakes towards the top. It was drizzling slightly and I had very slippery sandals on my feet. The verdant cliff, the raging sea, the overcast sky, the slight drizzle and the slippery ground made the trek a very enjoyable experience. If you have deep enough packets stay at the Aguada Taj resort. The view from the resort is splendid but starts from 16,000 rupees and goes till 60,000. Later we tried the cruise at Panjim. It costed 130 per head and lasted almost an hour. I would not recommend it to any one.
Next day we checked out Anjuna beach which actually has a very small stretch. Since it was raining heavily there were not many tourists around, but the place was buzzing with hawkers. We spent maybe ten minutes there and started towards Vagator to check out Chapora fort where the fort scene of Dil Chahta Hai was actually shot. En route for a brief period we stopped at Vagator beach. One has to endure a pretty steep climb to reach the fort, but the climb is worth every calorie you burn. The fort is surrounded by the majestic sea on two sides and you get a spectacular view of Morjim, Arambol beaches. Even though we did not visit these beaches, the view from the fort convinced me to make this visit mandatory the next time I visit Goa. There is a jutting in the hill, like a wharf, where you can walk to the edge of the cliff, like a diver going down a plank, for a jump into the pool. We sat there for sometime chatting and taking in the majestic sea. After this we headed back.
Since it was off season and rains accompanied us most of the time there were not too many people around. Also the hotel prices were really cheap when compared to the tourist season rates. Out of all the beaches we visited I found Palolem serene and tranquil, where one can spend time at his own pace. Have to experience Goa during the peak season.