Monday 05 December
We touch down in Goa airport in the early hours of Monday morning. With no option to check in early to our Airbnb unit, we sleep at the airport for five hours until our taxi driver comes to fetch us at 6am. Disclaimer: There is nothing romantic about sleeping in an airport. And even less romantic is sleeping in a military airport. With German Shepherds and Indian soliders milling about.
The drive from Vasco da Gama Airport to Anjuna in North Goa is approximately an hour. Immediately we feel like we’re in a more rural setting, and catch the sun rising over Panjim. On arriving at our accommodation, we opt to have breakfast at the adjacent Hilton Hotel while our room is being made up.
We had made it to Goa. The heat seems almost as stifling as Mumbai, if not worse, but the scenery more than makes up for it.
Scooters seem to be the de facto mode of transport, so I immediately organise one through our fixer, Sachin.
Tuesday 06 December
I wake up early and decide to go searching for some pictures. The backroads of North Goa prove to be an unending maze of small and obscure roads, some leading to dead ends. During my photo mission, I’m accosted by an African gentleman who seems to be curious about my origins. I explain to him that I’m from South Africa, and he explains that he’s from Nigeria, and for a moment we share something common in this far-removed destination. As our conversation progresses, he asks me if I like to ‘trip,’ to which I decline his advances. North Goa really is living up to its reputation as a hippie paradise.
Breakfast is at Cafe Lila, after which we decide to explore the southern reaches of the North Goa beaches, navigating the crowded streets of Baga, passing Calangute all the way down to Sinquerium beach. It’s a manic rush but ever-so-satisfying to soak in the sights, sounds and smells of this tourist hotspot.
Wednesday 07 December
Again I decide to search for some prime locations for shooting. Our final day in North Goa starts off with breakfast at the German Bakery, then exploring Fort Chapora, and then heading to Calangute for cash and data.
Fast-forward to the evening, and we’re frantically trying to find a taxi driver that will take us south for Rs 2500. The standard rate seems to be Rs 3000, but this is out of our budget. We then get an unsolicited call from a driver called Ashish who promises to take us to Talpona in his Suzuki Ertiga for an agreed price of Rs 2500.
Thursday 08 December
We check out of our unit at Riviera Hermitage at 9.30, with Ashish taking us to Talpona. The rancid smell of fish immediately becomes apparent on the drive. This, accompanied with the twisting drive and car sickness from looking at my phone, brings on a bout of nausea that I somehow manage to survive by the time we arrived at our Airbnb unit in Talpona at around 12pm.
Our gracious Airbnb host Patrice gives us a full rundown of what to do, where to go and what to expect, along with offering credit in light of the demonetization crisis that’s gripped the district. Livestock and other animals roam freely, children play in the street, locals can be found cooking up dishes and in general, there’s a sense of tranquillity throughout the countryside. Our unit is about 5kms from the larger town of Patnem; a drive through thick vegetation and winding roads along the river. Overall, it’s a welcome change from the business of North Goa.
Friday 09 December
South Goa stands out as the highlight of the trip. The beaches here are almost untouched, compared to the north. Talpona and Patnem are practically unspoilt, with far less traffic than their northern neighbors. It’s also far easier and less life-threatening to get around, with the drive to Patnem a scenic meander through the Goan countryside, passing some stunning river crossings. Of course, with hindsight being 20/20 vision and all, we realize that we could’ve skipped Mumbai completely and spent more time on this side of the world.
On Friday, we head to Patnem to drop off washing. We then search for the train station to resolve the matter of our wait list status for our 2AC tickets. On arrival, we are told we have to cancel our 2AC tickets and buy new 3AC tickets to guarantee a spot on the train to Kochi. We oblige and are promised a refund on our 2AC tickets.
Then it hits us. After sorting out our rail arrangements, we go to almost every ATM within a 2km radius, only to find them closed or depleted of cash. We hadn’t done much research into the demonetization crisis as we hadn’t really been affected by it until now, but I do hope that it is resolved swiftly by the Indian government.
Saturday 10 December
Our last day in Talpona is spent searching for cash (which fortunately didn’t take long), and getting groceries for our supper. After drawing cash we head to Patnem beach to collect laundry, then back home to pack. At around 11.30am we take a short drive to Deepiksha’s alongside Talpona beach for one final meal and to pay for the use of our trusty scooter. With time to kill, we drive back to Patnem after lunch and find a relaxing tea shop (Jaali) run by a South African expat. We while away an hour or so and then head back into town to get groceries for supper, as well as more cash. After showering and eating, we wait a few hours for our driver to take us to Cancona station, in the dead of night at 11pm. Our train arrives almost 20 minutes late, but we are on safely and headed on the 14-hour ride to Ernakulam Junction in Kochi.
We’ll miss this place, that’s for sure.