As the Madras-Vasco Express that runs through Bangalore stops at the Castle Rock railway station late in the morning, you can get ready for some exciting and fun-filled mountain journey. After this station, you enter a fascinating dream called Goa, which you will know as the train starts its ascent through chains and chains of green-laden hills and dark roaring tunnels.
Little did I know of this lovely Indian state till Srikanth, a friend of mine, came back from Goa to tempt us all with vivid descriptions and animated accounts of his three days in Goa. After listening to his account, we were all longing to hit the beaches as soon as possible. It catapulted the imaginations of us all beyond bounds, and soon I was on board the Madras-Vasco Express with 5 of my friends to an unforgettable journey to the destination – Goa.
By the time the train reached the Vasco-da-gama station, it was late afternoon. It would be a good idea to rent bikes to get around Goa, since the beaches and places to visit are spread quite apart. However, Vasco is a business city rather than a touristy one, and so it would be rather easy to take the Kadamba shuttle service from Vasco to Panjim. The Kadamba bus stand is just at a stone-throw distance opposite to the Vasco railway station. Just avoid the taxi touts and head straight to the bus stand to catch the shuttle. It is a 30 km journey which can take about 45 minutes. We got the last of the seats in the shuttle, and left Vasco to reach our first destination – Panjim.
Panjim is written as ‘Panaji’ in English for reasons unknown to me; however the locals call it Panjim, (or exactly ‘Ponjie’). Panjim is a quiet and leisurely town, which is also the capital of Goa. The Kadamba bus stand is towards the northern part of the city, and has local buses that can take you to a lot of villages around the place. Also remember that this Kadamba bus stand is the place where you will have to come back to catch the shuttle service back to Vasco on your return journey. We had already booked our rooms in Alfa Guest House in Calangute beach, and decided to take bikes from here. We just had to ask around, and soon got three motor bikes, which we planned to use for the next three days in Goa. (It was the end of January when we went and we paid Rs.200 per day for each bike for three days).
The next half-an-hour of our journey was on the motor bikes. We rode through wide roads, narrow roads, climbed up, rode down, honked, overtook vehicles and enjoyed our ride, when we finally reached Calangute. It was a Saturday afternoon, and already we could make out that it was a world in itself. Indians and others, young and old, male and female, a lot of people were happily, either briskly or lazily, walking up and down the road leading to Calangute beach. It was a care-free life, away from offices, meetings, deadlines, appraisals and bonuses. A life full of excitement, or a life embroidered in peace – you get to meet both of these worlds in Goa. No wonder Calangute beach is called the queen of the beaches in Goa. We just spent some time in the room refreshing ourselves after the long journey, and soon hit the beach.
It is a pleasure to walk on the Calangute-Baga stretch of beaches. Though crowded, these beaches have a lot to life in them. There are these umpteen numbers of touts who want you to take up one of the innumerable water-sport activities in the beach. There is parasailing, banana rides, water-scooters, dolphin-watching rides, and the list goes on. Every 10 feet, you get greeted by someone asking you to take one of these rides. We were tired and wanted to put off all that stuff for the next day. Being young and single bachelor men we were, we just liked the large crowd of the fairer sex in Calangute, both Indian and other, clad in beachwear and basking in the sun. We took eyefuls and kept strolling along the beach. Soon we found a place to get into water. We did just that, and enjoyed the cool waters of the beach, which was the reason we had come over five hundred kilometers from Bangalore to this wonderland.
A good thing about the beaches in Goa is that there are lifeguards stationed in every beach in the state. A bad thing for us is that their services end at around 6.30 pm, and they ask the tourists to leave the waters and come ashore. It was already near sunset that we entered the waters, and we thought it is wise to listen to them and came out after sunset. We decided to spend more time in the waters the next day. We just continued our bird-watching routine, and reached our guest house, and got ready for the night.
The night is the best time of the day to be on the Calangute/Baga stretch of beaches. There is a party mood lingering on the beach, and a long chain of beach shacks, each playing inviting music and live bands, make the mood even more enthusiastic and charged. There are tables put facing the beach and it is simply great to have a seaside candlelight dinner with your sweetheart, provided you have one. The unfortunate bunch of men we were, we had to be contented with each others’ company, not to mention the company of chilled beer.
We chose a shack called Lucky Star which had a lot of people already (a lot of people means, the food and music is good J). A live band made sure all of the guests were on their feet, and a group of gorgeous females around made sure the night was good. Add it to the mouth watering, delicious food – chicken lollypops, kebabs, fish and rice… it was an unforgettable night. We also smoked an apple flavored hookah, which was the first time I did that, and it was a cute experience. We had gala time until around midnight, and reluctantly walked away from the beach to our rooms.
The first day in Goa ended in a rocking night and a dreamy sleep. The waters of the sea kept washing our thoughts through the night, and that we were already tired gave us a good night’s sleep.