No one usually goes to Goa alone… of course, there are exceptions… and I just signed on that “Exceptions” List.
It wasn’t supposed to be a solo trip but plans change… and since I had an outbound flight from Goa and rescheduling would have cost me the same charges as a night spent in Goa, I decided to go for the latter!
It sounds easy to travel alone, but believe me, as a first-timer, I wasn’t entirely comfortable. I wanted to do the solo-Goa trip: to test if I had the knack to do it (if nothing else!).
So, after quite a bit of time and research on it, I boarded a bus on a Sunday evening and headed to Goa. Sitting at the window-seat, listening to music and watching the world go by already gave me a high. Yes, it would have been nice if they wouldn’t have played the movie Yamla Pagla Deewana (Brain-hurting-material!) but my headphones nicely blocked the sound, so no complains there!
Additional blabbering: I did have trouble finding a restroom at 3am on the highway. These are times when I wish God had provided women a similar anatomy like that of men. Let’s just say, the dry shrubs and the full-moon night on a national highway was not helping me do my deed and the arrival of a jeep while I was doing it was, indeed, very precisely timed. So, like a smart person (or ostrich, whichever is preferable), all I could do was hide my head in my hands as the vehicle whooshed past on the highway hoping they didn’t have a gun or a camera to shoot!
Okay, minor distraction there. Continuing…
I reached Goa at around 9:30am, Monday morning, and was dropped at Madgaon bus terminal. From there, I had to go to Fatrade, so I took one of those bike taxis. I have never taken one before and I think it’s a very convenient way to travel Goa, especially when you are going solo.
I had already booked a no-frills room at Veeniola Homestay. It is in South Goa, a bit out-of-the-way from all the touristry hotspot. My agenda was mainly to eat, drink, read, draw and dream. In short, a full-day ticket to day-dreaming at a South Goan beach.
I had a humungous breakfast at the in-house restaurant, exchanged pleasantries with Lenny, the manager (I reckon), appreciated the bookshelf overflowing with books (and good ones too!), said hello to my room which was basic and neat and hopped to the front reception to say a quick hello to Mrs. Miranda who owns the place.
I picked up a book and I didn’t quite reach the end of the first page when I felt asleep for a good hour! No fault of the quality of writing, I was just tired after the overnight journey. At around noon, energized from the nap, I decided to utilize the rest of the day by walking to the beach (a 10-15 mins from the homestay) and whiling my time there.
I was just about to leave when Lenny called out and asked if I would like a drop to the beach. I was a bit skeptical because he is supposed to manage the place but he said there was not much to manage during the off-peak seasons.
I was like “Okay, what the heck!”
… so I hopped on his scooty and went to Zalor beach, the nearest one to our homestay. It was a lovely stretch, no tourist around, just 2-3 locals at the distant… it felt like I owned the beach. By this time, Lenny and I started talking about living in Goa versus living in other places. He appeared to be an ultimate fan of Goa, declaring that he would stay nowhere else on this earth, and since I was a newbie to South Goa, I guess he took it on himself to show me a few nearby places. I told him I shall buy him a drink for his Goa Darshan, and so, just like that, we were on it!\
Next stop was Cavelossim Beach. We went through typical Goan roads to reach there… you know, narrow lanes with green shrubbery on both sides. No wonder people love riding bikes in Goa. If I only knew to ride a scooty well… sigh…
At Cavelossim Beach, there were a few people around but there were no shacks. Apparently, come mid-September, and shacks would mushroom on the beach and tourists will flock here. But I liked it without the fun fare. No tourist, just me and the ocean, one-on-one. Lenny would drop me at the beach and wait while I walked along the shoreline. I must say, he was quite patient because I really did take my time with the sea.
On the way, I wanted to buy alcohol *duty-free* for back home. Actually, I was looking for flavoured liqueur and Goa turned out to be heaven… so many flavoured liqueurs (locally manufactured) at such affordable prices (Rs. 220/- for a bottle of San Andre). Paan, Triple Sec, Mango, Coconut, Chocolate… wow! I bought a couple of them. This trip was turning out to be quite unexpectedly good!
The next place was Mobor beach, which according to me, was the loveliest stretch of the three beaches. I thought the sand was whiter at this beach. There seems to be quite a number of high-end resorts at this stretch, so there were a few tourists but nothing too distracting. It was so lovely to be there! Just to be there! I was mentally ticking a check-box of some subconscious bucket-list of picture-perfect scenes! I found serenity, even if it was for a few minutes… it was absolutely precious!
After that, as promised, I had to buy Lenny a drink for the Goa darshan. For this, he took me to a new restaurant of a known friend. It is called Jocarol. The place was a hidden gem, known to locals and not frequented by tourists. The restaurant’s location was perfect… it was by the side of a river… I should say almost “on the river” because there were water bodies at both sides of the restaurant. The feeSole/Sol was that of a floating restaurant.I met another of Lenny’s friend there…. Me, hanging with Goan locals… I myself had a hard time believing it… this was NOT on my itinerary and still, after all the plannings, the unplanned Goan Darshan seemed to be the best thing that could have happened! I enjoyed tasting their local fish… (Sole fish and Bombay Duck) and Savio, Lenny’s friend, told me interesting facts about the Bombay Duck. I had a lovely afternoon with these guys. At around 4pm, we must have returned to the homestay.
I had to take another nap.
Afterwards, with a King’s in my hand (the Goan beer, cheaper than water!), I sat on the verandah ledge of the in-house restaurant and philosophized with Lenny. He insisted that I should see the sunset at Zalor beach and since I appeared to take a liking to King’s beer, he suggested I take one to the beach.
Again he dropped me at the beach and I walked on my own to dream some more. The sun was setting, but there were too many clouds and though the sky had a lovely hue, I was hoping the clouds would clear its way so I could see a perfect sunset. Lenny said I was now being greedy. He explained that there has been a fortnight of continuous, torrential rainfall every day, except today. It seemed to be my extremely good luck that the clouds were holding up the rain. Hmm… I reflected and I agreed. Yes, I was being too greedy. When all I planned for was sitting on a beach, I got a perfect Goa Darshan package, good weather and nice company. The sunset might not have been perfect but to me, it was one of the best endings to a day well spent.
At night, dinner-time, Deepak, the in-house cook prepared the most amazing Baked Fish with Garlic, Lemon and Butter that I have ever tasted! The homestay, now more like a stay at home, made me feel even more at home when Lenny said I could make my own cocktails at the bar! Yay! I made two! 😉
Late at night, Lenny’s friends dropped in and one of them went straight to the kitchen because he wanted to cook! Hahaha… I was reminded of our gatherings in Mumbai when friends head to the kitchen and help themselves!
I slept early that night and woke up at 10AM next morning. I had my usual helping of tea, eggs and toast… It almost felt routine! The homestay was really having an effect on me! I didn’t have much time to do any sight seeing. Instead, as a thank-you gesture, I drew a small sketch for Lenny!
I had a lovely time seeing South Goa with a local who loves Goa with all his heart. Moreover, my notions about solo travelling have changed. I feel good, I feel refreshed and I feel more determined!
As I left Goa, I ticked the blank box next to “Travelling Solo” in my list of “Things I want to do”. And I have written a note at its side “Will do it again!”
P.S. Reading this, don’t simply pack your bags and leave. Solo travelling might sound fun but being a female, do be mindful of what goes around and research before embarking. Don’t take too many dare-devil risks… just saying… it might appear reckless to go on a Goa Darshan with a stranger but truth be told, I read quite a few things about Lenny beforehand. (He asked me why I trusted him, and I shrugged but this is the truth… I researched not only about the homestay but also about Lenny and Deepak…) So, if you ever travel solo, do keep in mind to travel safe! Much Love. ❤