alone in goa

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August 12th 2005
Published: August 12th 2005
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Having experienced the cities and towns of India we decided to seek out the Costa del Sol of India - Goa. It being monsoon season meant that we wouldn't be able to swim on the sea and enjoy golden sands sipping cocunut drinks at beach shacks, but we were keen to see what Goa was all about so decided to go there anyway.

Getting to Goa was a marathon journey. A 15 hour train east from Nagpur to Mumbai was followed by a 14 hour train south from Mumbai to Goa on the Konkan railway. Luckily for us we had a bit of a gap between the two journeys which meant we got to wander round Mumbai for the first time, but more of Mumbai later. Everyone had told us that the Konkan rail journey was extremely beautiful, as the train hugs India's western coastline, and the lush green paddy fields and palm trees were some of the first we'd seen in India.

Our first impression of Goa was that it was nothing like the rest of India - it was cleaner, greener, and the people seemed friendlier, or maybe just more used to tourists.

For our first night in Goa we stayed in the Goanese capital of Panjim. After cleaning off two days of grime we decided to stroll around the city, Lonely Planet in hand, to search out somewhere to eat. We got absolutely drenched by the monsoon in the process, which seemed to flood the roads in a matter of minutes, and soon we were the only people out in town, so we scuttled back to the hotel for food. We read the next morning that Panjim had recorded the highest rainfall for that year that day. Finally David had experienced the monsoon.

At dinner we decided to pick a few Goan specials, roasted mackeral, goan sausages and bebinka. Having eaten all three dishes together, we later realised that the bebinka, made from coconut and eggs, is a special goan dessert, and not something you should dip into mackerel sauce.

Our next stop in Goa was a place called Fort Aguada. The coastline in the North was beautiful, with a sea that was angry and rough, but we managed to paddle a couple of times losing flip flops along the way, followed by packs of inquisitive but friendly Goanese dogs. After wondering up and down the Northern coastline, and stuffing ourselves full of cashewnuts and fish, we were ready to move back to Mumbai. We soon realised that getting to Mumbai would be impossible when we saw news of the record breaking flooding there. Having recorded 1 metre of rain in 21 hours, all routes into Mumbai were closed. We were stranded in beautiful windswept Goa for a few more days.

To pass some of this extra time we searched for the infamous goan nightlife. The days of illegal parties on secret beaches are long gone but, in the high season, a few spectacular beachside and clifftop clubs survive. In the low season however we had our work cutout finding anything open past 11pm. Tito’s, a goa instituation, offered us a 70’s night, then a 80’s night, and finally some half decent music on our third visit. More disappointing was visiting some of the large open air clubs, looking out over the ocean. Having been shut for 3 months since the start of monsoon they were rain and wind swept, battered and bruised and looking nothing like their best.

It soon became clear that getting out of Goa was going to be very tricky. The Konkan railway was affected by landslides, with tracks being washed away and animals that had drowned in the flood were trapped in tunnels, making the whole route impassable. Roads into Mumbai were also flooded, and the airport was shut down to all flights. Eventually we found a way out in what seemed the only reliable coach out Goa, to a town near Mumbai called Pune, where another of Tanuja's aunts lives. After a couple of days in Pune we reached Mumbai.

The first thing we noticed as we drove into Mumbai was that the roads seemed to have been eaten away by the rains - there were potholes everywhere which made driving uncomfortable and very slow. The city seemed to be functioning again, the roads jammed with cars and the streets as crowded as Calcutta.

With the help of Tanuja's cousin we managed to travel into the centre of Mumbai on an infamous local train. You just have to stand on the platform and you get pushed on board by the crowd, whilst being elbowed and shoved by people who want to get off the train at the same time. These city trains, one every 2 minutes, carry 4 million commuters up to 100km to and from the Mumbai suburbs everyday. Trains designed to carry 1750 people carry 4000. Queuing does not exist.

We wandered the streets as we normally do and stumbled across the son of India's most famous leading actors and the son of the State's Chief Minister filming an action packed Bollywood film scene i.e. picking up a bag and driving off in a car. The crowd of three hundred people seemed pretty enthralled. Our attempts to get into the Indian Naval Dockyard to see an old warship failed, despite pleading with the security officer at the gate. Clearly he thought David was a spy. We visited a Sachin Tendulakar owned bar and restaurant one minute before closing time and unsurprisingly were turned away.

The rest of our stay was visiting relatives, and eating great home cooked food. Trains were still out of action 2 weeks after the monsoon disaster so our journey back to Nagpur, for a final visit to Tanuja’s grandmother, was taken by bus, complete with loud hindi movies, motorway services selling only curry and delays of at least 50% of the predicted journey time. 2 buses, 22 hours and 1000km later we arrived for the 3rd time at the geographical center of India.


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