As if India hadn’t amazed us enough with the rolling evergreen hillside and snow-capped mountains of Dharamsala, there we were, less than 24 hours later, engulfed by palm trees and coconuts in the warm sunshine of Goa. We headed straight up to Arambol from the airport and stayed for 4 nights. The small beach town was fairly empty, which meant all of the shops and restaurants wanted our business. Our accommodation was on the 3rd floor of a guest house about 200 yards back from the beach ($6/night). Our days typically started by lazily walking down to the beach, finding a lounge chair and umbrella associated with a decent restaurant, and alternating between eating and swimming (with a minimum of 30 minutes in between, of course!). The water was warm and the waves stayed around 3-5 feet, which made for excellent body surfing! Around 5pm, we’d usually go back to the room to shower and change before enjoying the sunset over dinner with sand in our toes.
The only downside to Arambol was the women and children that would approach our beach chairs begging us to buy something. They usually carried shawls, jewelry, or some other sort of craft. Despite our polite refusal, they would persist and proceed to lay out all of their items on us and our chairs. The most heartbreaking was the little girl, no more than 7 years-old, who would lay out all of her jewelry and say, “Buy something, I give you good price!” to which Gabriella responded, “You’re too young to be saying you’ll give me a good price.” No matter how idyllic India can be at times, there is still the harsh reality of a poverty-stricken community and families struggling to meet basic needs. What a luxury it is to have access to clean drinking water at home.
After 4 days, we hired a taxi to drive us south to Palolem. The landscape reminded us of Hawai’i with palm trees near and lush hills in the distance. It took about 2.5 hours to wind through the various passageways from North to South Goa, but we finally made it. Gabriella waited with the bags while I strolled down the beach checking out places to stay. I settled on a place consisting of 12 small beach huts (12’x12’ plus attached bathroom), each a different color, with a restaurant, 2 daily yoga classes, beach chairs and free wifi ($10/night). Our hut had a small porch with a hammock and 2 chairs facing the water less than 100 yards away. There were more Westerners in Palolem, but still rather empty, and many more places to eat. We stayed for 5 nights.
The beach life was much easier here as we could take 10 steps out of our hut, have a nice breakfast, then fall into a lounge chair on the beach. We also took some walks up and down the crescent-shaped beach. To one side there was a small island, Butterfly Island, which was accessible during low-tide by hopping rocks to get over. We waited until the time was right, packed a waterproof bag with camera, water bottle, and snacks, and then did some exploring. We climbed over massive boulders all around the perimeter of the island, which made for some spectacular views of the shoreline and open sea. About ¾ of the way around, we reached a cliff that couldn’t easily be crossed, so we trekked into the brush of the island to get back to other side. Everything was overgrown and there were no trails, which made us lose our sense of direction at times. There were ants and spider webs teeming in the forest, so we couldn’t stay in one place too long. Luckily, we reached the other side with only a few cuts and a great story.
Palolem was much nicer that Arambol, but not without an element of stress. On our third night, I awoke around 5am with an intense itch on the side of my right cheek (not my face). I stepped into the bathroom, turned on the light, and discovered I had been bitten 6-8 times by a mosquito. I put insect repellant on my arms, legs, and chest, but this one had landed on my shorts and feasted. The bumps turned red the following day and swelled to the size of a quarter. I got stressed about the diseases carried by mosquitos, especially in this part of the world, but it’s been over a week and I’m fine. We’re taking plenty of precautions to stay healthy, physically and mentally. No sense in worrying about something you have no control over, but we certainly slept with a mosquito net from then on!
Last Sunday, we took a train south to Mangalore. We planned on spending 5 days there, but upon arrival we realized that it’s another big city and not the beach town we expected. We left Tuesday evening on a 9-hour train bound for Cochin. A lot has happened since we got here, but so far it’s been one of my favorite places in India. We’re in a great place with great people so there’s no need to worry. We’ll be here until Wednesday (5/23), and then I’ll recount the adventures of Cochin…