A week’s arduous planning and itinerary making for a trip to Alibaug (just another place I hadn’t yet visited till then), with countless nights of me breaking my head simply deciding to choose the mode of travel, and innumerable phone calls to find a cheap and decent hotel; got transformed in a matter of minutes on the penultimate day *poof!* to a bus ride to Goa! It couldn’t be truer that the best and most unforgettable moments of our lives are almost always the result of sheer spontaneity and non-planning!
Perhaps it was 2 minutes, or maybe 3, that was all required to make the decision, after which I found myself sitting at the window seat of the semi-recliner in the non-Volvo bus. The absence of a smile on my face confounded ‘Machine-Gun’, whose excitement was beginning to wane at the lack of reciprocation from my side. I found myself helpless in my failure to sift through my own emotions that were an assortment of excitement, disbelief, bewilderment and anxiety.
Around sixteen hours later I opened my eyes to a stroke of panic. I asked ‘Machine-Gun’ (I shall explain the pseudonym in a later post) if the bus we took was for Kodaikanal! How was I to know that the mid-August monsoons could drape a sheath of thick mist over Goa to make it look like a hill-station!! (Not that I’ve been to Kodaikanal either!)
Upon de-boarding at Mapusa, and a short taxi-ride later, we had checked in at one of the loveliest and cosy little cottages, under the home stay system. Surrounded by absolute greenery like the backyard of a country-house in some reclusive hamlet, with hens clucking around and ducks leading their trail of ducklings, and the local people going about their daily chores unmindful of the tourists next door; my expectations of Goa as some exotic ‘hippie’ land had seemed to hit a roadblock. When I related the stark similarities to the typical scenes in Kerala, ‘Machine Gun’ reminded me to keep in mind that Anjuna would nowhere come close to its peak-season best in the month of August! So I had to contend myself with having my first visit to Goa in an off-season and experience it nothing like how I had seen it in Indian movies or from photographs of friends on Facebook.
A quick lunch and a beer each down, we began our stroll down the road that would lead to the famed Anjuna beach, my first Goan beach. While excitement was shooting up in me, it was inversely proportionate in Machine Gun, whose face had begun to cloud over, just like the sky above. While I was blissfully unaware of the darkening shades of grey (in Goa you look down, where the beach is; who would look at the sky!), I was soon made aware of the situation when I started feeling tiny drops of wetness falling upon me. As we looked doubtfully at each other, uncertain whether to proceed in an impending downpour; a mutual unspoken understanding propelled us forth in reassurance.
My eyes finally spied that which my heart had desired for several years. Yet, in a strange twist of fate, it was not the famed Goan cool blue waters that I saw; but a vast expanse of liquid grey metal. If disappointment was a reasonable emotion that should have overcome me then, I am happy to say it was not. By the time I would have been merrily playing knee-deep in the waves of any beach that I go to; here I was, far from the water, on the edge of the shore, standing on a high rock, drinking in the view. Staring at the molten gun metal in front me, and under threat of being blown away by the gusty wind, I found myself drowning in pensiveness. With images from Wuthering Heights playing across my mind, and picturing myself as a captain of a ship in a stormy sea, I was woken up from my reverie by strong lashes of rain that had now started pelting us. Machine Gun and I scampered through the wet sand and managed to find a thin sliver of the edge of a low roof of a hut as the only shelter. Even as we were laughing about how futile it was to stand underneath it, the rain abated. Contemplating the long walk back to the beach, with the threat of it beginning to pour any moment, we decided to stay and explore where we were. That’s when I remembered the camera I had brought along, which was forgotten in Machine Gun’s pocket. We decided to make use of it and ventured on a clicking spree. It was after clicking some snaps that I thought of examining the location we had chosen to pose before. It turned out to be somebody’s grave, dated the year 1965. Some more time of loitering about in the sands and rocks, and a last long look at the horizon where the grey of the water blended into the aerial one, it was time to go back. I returned from the beach that evening, dissatisfied with the antiquity of the grave.
Since I am a beach lover, and this was a short trip, I insisted on spending the rest of the two days at beaches as well. However, I conceded in allowing a change as desired by machine Gun, who is less of a beach person, and the next day was decided to be spent at Calangute. The bike ride to Calangute was a heated affair as the sun fumed mercilessly over us, in complete contrast to the previous day. We parked the bike, which turned out to be quite far from the beach, and made it a point to buy those cheap local fancy sunglasses and several bottles of water. I must say that our enthusiasm was drastically low here, as the beach was terribly crowded and the sweltering heat proved to be a dampener. Unable to take the midday heat and scorching sands, we had to beat a hasty retreat. Determined to kill the boredom of being a pillion rider, I took out my trusty camera to try daring antics upon myself and the speedy Machine Gun. The appealing paddy fields and hills on the way made sure to contribute beauty to the pictures.
The final day was spent with long bike rides, ending with some attempts by me to learn to ride as well. Machine Gun’s patience was running out, as was the time allotted to us to hire the bike. Long walks, a few purchases, and loads of beer marked the end of the trip. We had also managed to find a few good eateries, but that shall be covered in another post about my second trip to Anjuna. For now, my maiden visit to this long cherished coastal land turned out to be very interesting and different from expectations. My taxi ride back to Mapusa was tinged with a bit of sadness, but I knew I would be back at the same place, where the gray waters beckoned me to revisit them in a different time, and in different colours.