Riding a cycle through Goa.
Updated: May 31, 2021
When you think about Goa, you instantly think of the rave parties and golden sandy beaches and all the firangis that come to the party capital every year. But there is more to it as I discovered on an impulse trip with two almost strangers, I met less than a week ago. One a Filipino poet and the other a Marwari trekker (for those of you non-Indians, Marwari is an ethnic Rajasthani group and on another note being a Marwari means trying all the ways to save money), who I ran into at a poetry jam in Bangalore and for which Jay was the host.
Jay: Thanks for coming. Happy to have met you. What's your plan on the 13th-14th?
I: Thanks for today, it was amazing. I’m mostly free on those days, sup?
Jay: I’m going to goa to meet up with some kids, plus it’s my birthday on 15th.
A week later I’m riding a cycle we borrowed from two local kids we met from Assolna, a small village on the banks of the Sal river. The kids promised us there is a beach close by, less than two Kilometers away from where we were staying. 50 mins of pedaling across paddy fields and a river and 4.5 Kilometers later, exhausted trying to pedal any further we reached Cavelossium. A village bustling with flea markets and tucked between the Sal river and the Arabian Ocean. You can see people trying to sell handmade goods to clothes and souvenirs you could buy. The kids clearly knowing what they were doing, asked us to follow them down a small narrow pathway, which then opened up to a bright blue ocean and a golden sandy beach. You could hear the ocean roaring even before you could spot the beach, and a shimmering sunlight making the sand sparkle like a thousand tiny jewels. There was a calm in the atmosphere that I had never experienced before. It was the joy and excitement of chasing the waves or just knowing that you are experiencing something majestic.
One of the kids tells me that he has a surprise for me and that he thinks I would like it. He then pulls out a plastic cover from his bag and gives me a handful of tamarind that he had plucked from his backyard. We sat on the beach looking at the sun setting into the ocean, with a hand full of sour tamarind and a pocket full of sand. If you haven't experienced a sunset by the beach, then you must. Imagine a bright red sun sinking into the ocean slowly until it completely disappears, and all you are left with is the last few rays of orange and yellow you can see in the sky. I was trying to capture this sunset on my camera, when the most friendliest of dogs walked over to us, wanting to get his picture taken.
Once the sun went down and it started getting dark, we dusted the sand of our pants and toes and cycled back to Assolna. Only this time, we decided to take the beaten road which was a shorter route going through the heart of the village. The smell of Goan spices, what smelt like a curry of sorts being made, got us all hungry from the long ride. People lighting candles on their doorstep got me intrigued, they were celebrating something from the church. Hundreds of candles lit up the pathway, revealing the bright pop of colorful houses. There is an ongoing debate about whether the Portuguese inspired the architecture in Goa when they colonized India, and some say it is a blend of Goan and Portuguese influence that makes the architecture there so unique. Take a walk or even better borrow/rent a cycle and ride through the small towns and villages instead of going around it.
Earlier that day, the locals took us out for lunch to this restaurant by the river called Joe’s River Cove. If you are driving down from Assolna you will find it after the Assolna-Cavelossium bridge on the right. If you are lucky you will get a table with a view of the river. Jay tells me about his love for crabs and everything sea-food, he grew up in Philippines were sea-food is a daily staple. Anna, who is from Italy and is doing her nursing in Goa tells me about how she has fallen in love with the place and the people there. The church father from the village offers to show us around and opens up about how he spent his time here growing up. Everyone has their own stories to tell, travel brought us together and allowed us to share our stories, to a group of people I hadn’t met before. Good food, good music, and a bunch of people laughing our guts out.
Goa has more to offer than its beaches or parties. It’s the people and their hospitality that you have to experience. The next time you are in Goa, talk to a local there. Most of them have so many stories that they have to share. You will find a strange comfort in them, like you have known the person for a long time. They are the most welcoming and warm people I have met in my travels. Maybe take them out for lunch with you, or let them show you around the place. Live like a local, travel like a local and eat like a local, that is when you would truly get to experience a place.