KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
It was strange to fly again after so many weeks of travelling by road but before we knew it, we were descending into the Dabolim airport. The government tourism desk in the arrivals area arranged a taxi to take us to Palolem Beach in South Goa. We walked out into the sunshine and found a driver holding up a sign with "Kapoor" in bold letters. All so efficient and easy.
Everyone we spoke to before coming to Goa had told us that the quietest and most relaxing beaches are at the south end of Goa, so we were prepared for the hour and a half ride to reach paradise. We had also learned that most of the accommodation consisted of huts on the beach, but we knew that we wanted something a little more substantial and so it took us a little longer than usual to find something acceptable. Fortunately, our driver was a patient man and didn't seem too concerned that we had him drive from place to place. At one point, we got down from the taxi and went off down some winding paths looking for the reception area of one of the beach hut hotels. When we returned to the place where we left the car, we found it was nowhere in sight. Panic set in as we realized that almost everything, we owned in the world was in the suitcases and backpacks we had left in the taxi. We had our passports, travellers cheques, credit cards and cash with us so we weren't in serious trouble, but it was pretty alarming. Finally, Anil spotted the taxi down a narrow path where the driver had parked under a shady tree. Relief! A lesson learned, someone should always stay behind or if that is not possible, we should at least have the license plate of the taxi and the name of the driver!
We ended up finding a simple room in a home just back of the huts that line the beach. This home stay gave us a sturdy building with an attached bathroom and although we would have preferred air-conditioning, we felt the room would suit us for one night at least while we checked out the accommodation more thoroughly the next day. We off-loaded our baggage, thanked the driver for his relatively safe driving and headed out to the beautiful beach to watch the sun set and find a beach restaurant for dinner. The beach is a gentle arching strip of sand with rocky headlands at each end, leading to even more secluded beaches. We found a delightful restaurant perched on the rocks at the left end of the beach and settled in for a meal. The music playing was very soothing and we soon struck up a conversation with our waiter about the music and he was happy to point out all the features of Palolem Beach that we could explore. We could see that we had arrived at the end of the main tourist season but we were surprised to learn that most of the businesses would close down at the end of March and the population would turn to the sea to earn their living until the cooler weather and the tourists returned towards the end of the year.
We settled in for the night with Anil determined to find us a better place to stay the next day - one with air-conditioning and a television. It was only as we were drifting off to sleep that he told me that it was the World Cup Cricket that he was worried about missing-out on, otherwise our room was fine for a few days before we were due to fly to Mumbai. This helped me to understand why he had been so grumpy and determined not to find this secluded beach acceptable. No problem, he had waited all our married life to be in India for a World Cup, the least I could do was agree to move to a busier beach so that he could immerse himself in his favorite sport.
Late the following morning, after a leisurely breakfast in the same sweet restaurant, we moved back near our room and found beach chairs and an umbrella for some sand and sun time. Anil chatted with the waiters in the restaurant behind and learned that the big match between India and Sri Lanka was not scheduled for that night, but for the following week. I could see him breathe a sigh of relief and he turned and said that Palolem Beach was fine for our short stay in Goa. I was thrilled, the place suited me to a tee and I was happy to "hang" for a few days.
There's not too much more to say except that on our second day, we decided to give sea kayaking a try, something that we had hoped to do in Thailand but had not been able to do. The sea in this area is like glass in the morning and it would not be too challenging for such rookies. I have to say, it was a real thrill until I began to feel a little seasick and we headed back to shore. We were able to see the shore birds and the waves on the rocks from an entirely different perspective - one I will never forget.
On our last day, we learned that not only do all the businesses in Palolem Beach close for the season, but they are dismantled as well. I still can't quite believe it. All of the structures along the beach and for a distance of 200 meters inland, are torn down and rebuilt every year. The businesses can only start construction after they receive a license in October. A tourist we spoke with on the beach told us that she had come to Goa in August and was aghast when she looked up and a bulldozer was coming down the beach flattening everything in sight. The government had decided to send a strong message to those businesses that flaunted the rules and started construction before October. For that reason, I went out and took more pictures of the beach huts to give you an idea of how much is involved in building the beach community at Palolem each season. All though this seems wasteful, perhaps it will ensure that this beach never becomes a concrete jungle and keeps its simple charm.
After four days of lazing on the beach and getting brown as a berry, (editor's note: and Vicki losing four games in a row in Scrabble!!!) we packed up and headed north to the capital, Panjim, for our last day in Goa. We wanted to see the famous old churches and the little narrow streets with their colourful houses. We see this quick trip to Goa as a preliminary foray - to a place we will surely come back to for a stay of several weeks. Goa is everything we've heard it to be, and more!