Thank you so much for the warm welcome back and your kind comments, it made coming home that bit more bearable!
Ready for more?
|Detail from Hindu temple|
After acclimatising ourselves in Benaulim and rediscovering the area (if you're interested there's some photos of a morning in Margao, Goa's second city HERE) we gathered our belongings, jumped on a bus and two hours later arrived in Agonda, in Goa's deep South.
India's public transport system is efficient and easy. Climb aboard, take a seat, tell the conductor where you're going and you're charged one rupee (just over 1p) per kilometre. Women travelling alone even have a specific "Ladies Only" seats situated behind the driver. Often you'll be the only Westerners on the bus, providing the entertainment for the other passengers. You'll be stared at, photographed or tapped on the shoulder and asked where you're from, where you're going and what you think of India. The bus stops every couple of hours so passengers can stretch their legs, use the loo or stock up on snacks and chai.
Once we arrived I sat in a cafe and minded the bags whilst Jon went off in search of accommodation. Never look for a room carrying bags, it puts you at a distinct disadvantage for bargaining for the best deal if the owner knows you're homeless. If they ask then tell them you're already staying at another place in the village but fancy a change.
|The Hindustan Ambassador, the taxis of India|
Agonda has changed massively since our first visit 13 years ago. Back then it was a tiny fishing hamlet with just ten simple beach huts all sharing a bathroom, along with a couple of guest houses and a local store. Electricity was limited and sporadic at best, the village had a single payphone and a dirt track served as the main road. Nowadays it's the hip destination of choice for many, Kashmiri emporiums, tourist shops and cyber cafes line the tarmac road and the beach is fringed with trendy hut encampments with prices varying enormously but, despite the changes, its still hard to beat as a place to unwind.
The first place Jon tried charged £80 per night for a coco hut but next door he found one for £5. Both offered exactly the same view of the ocean, access to the beach, a palm thatched roof and an outdoor sitting area, the only difference being that ours didn't have colour co-ordinated sheets or WiFi.
|Duck 'n' Chill beach hut. Our home in Agonda.|
We soon fell into a daily routine - starting with a leisurely two hour walk along the beach at sunrise, watching the fishermen sorting their catch and squealing excitedly every time we spotted a dolphin cavorting in the water.
Breakfast was eaten in the tiny village cafe, often sharing a table with auto-rickshaw drivers and waiters on their way to work. For 40p each we'd dip crusty white bread rolls (pav) into plates of steaming hot & spicy veg curry (bhaji) and sip from glasses of sweet, cardamom-infused chai.
The rest of the day would be spent back on the beach, swimming, reading and basking in the glorious sunshine. We'd take a picnic to enjoy under the shade of a nearby fishing boat; locally-grown, buttery bananas, juicy Karnatakan oranges and bun, sweet bread flavoured with fennel seeds.
Cows would surround us, patiently waiting for the banana skins and orange peelings.
In the evening we'd head out to dinner. While the beach front is lined with trendy shacks offering increasingly sophisticated food in a sumptuous setting, the prices come at a premium and, more often than not, the only Indians you'll meet are the ones serving you. Instead we step away from the beach and head for the village instead, eating at one of the restaurants set in the gardens of old Goan houses. The decor won't be swanky and the menu will far smaller but its where the locals choose to eat so the food is authentic and, even with several ice-cold beers and a post-dinner gin/vodka and tonic, the bill rarely comes to more than £8.
|Typical dinner for two - veg vindaloo, veg pakoras, cucumber raita, chutney and plain rice|
After 12 days of beach life the lure of culture further afield beckoned so we packed up our bags and again, with nothing planned, headed off to the railway station, buying a pair of one way tickets to the neighbouring state of Karnataka.
And, yes, that really is a cow on the track!
See you soon.