G O A, in all possibilities is every Indian’s favorite 3 letter word. Probably it’s the only place where you can really be Susegad. Somewhere in the start of December 2015 the idea of riding solo to Goa conceived my mind and within a week I was all set to roll. After a detailed check on all the essentials and servicing the bike I hit the road at 7 am in the morning. The plan was to reach South Goa by 6 pm which obviously did not happen.
Now, there are 2 route options which you can take. One is the NH 17 (Renamed to NH 66) which passes through Ghats with innumerable hair pin bends and treacherous corners. So if you have motion sickness, this can be a bad choice to opt for. The other way is taking the NH 4 which is safer and faster. I decided to take the NH 17 which is a two lane highway and I was delayed by good 3 hours. Passing through Chiplun, Ratnagiri and Sawantwadi, I managed to enter Panjim at 8pm. Palolem in South Goa was still good 72 kms and my butt refused to be seated on the motorcycle anymore. I decided to spend the night in Calangute or Bagha and head towards Palolem the next morning. A refreshing shower ensured that I slept to glory.
Mechanics become the best friends on solo travel
The next morning I headed for a heavy breakfast at my all-time favorite Infantaria Cafe in Bagha. I checked the road to Palolem on Google Maps and it was the time to be back on the road. Within 3 kms of my ride I heard some weird sound from the bike and knew it needs a doctor (read mechanic). Now finding a reliable mechanic for bullet is a task in any part of India. I tried analyzing the problem on my own and noticed oil leakage from the shock absorbers. The oil seal had to be replaced which after checking with some people I came to know it is available only in Mapusa. There was a specific mechanic who I had to meet on recommendation of a friend in Mumbai. I found the guy without even having his contact number and asked him to replace the oil seal. Whatever happens, happens for good. While I had to wait for 3 hours for the work to be done, I saw an Israeli couple asking for help from the mechanic. They wanted to check where they can sell their bike in Goa which they bought from Delhi and were travelling across India. But the mechanic did not understand English and I became the translator for them.
Meeting the travel couple
Yali and Tal are probably the best couple that I have met so far. While I tried explaining them what the mechanic was saying, we struck a chord. They got down from their motorcycle and we started talking. Our conversation went on for over an hour on various topics and we connected. They were very kind to invite me to their place which they had rented for a month in Arambol. I changed my plan of Palolem and decided to join them in Arambol for the rest of the day. They were lawyers in Israel and had taken 2 months off for a road trip in India. We shared Falalel’s, Pizza’s and endless late night discussions on the history and culture of India and Israel. My perspective of Israel had totally changed by now. Yali also introduced me to other Israeli’s and they were all so welcoming. There is a particular lane near the Arambol beach which somehow has people only from Israel and everybody knows everyone. We went to a joint in the lane which was full of Israeli’s playing games and having fun. I was amused to find myself as the only Indian guy in that place among 100 odd Israeli’s. In between table tennis and snooker I learnt more about them. I fell in love with Arambol and spent 3 days with them chilling at the beach with live performances at the drum circle party and random sit-down open concerts.
South Goa and the Random villages
It was time to hit the road again for a quick 100 kms journey to South Goa. On the fourth day I left at about 10 am and took unusual roads to reach South Goa. Taking random left and right turns, I came across local villages in Goa. You suddenly notice how life changes from the party hubs to quiet villages. Interacting with elders of the village and spending some time with the school kids gave a satisfying feeling of making this trip worth and complete.
South Goa is the more serene half of the state, and for many travelers that’s the attraction. There are fewer activities and not as many clubs or restaurants, but overall the beaches of the south are cleaner, whiter and not as crowded as those in the north. Bounded to the north by the wide Zuari River and to the south by the neighboring state of Karnataka, south Goa’s coast is a series of resorts that range from the five-star hotels to the village feel and to the backpacker-friendly beach hut bliss of Palolem, Patnem and Agonda. Take the time to explore inland where you’ll find some fabulous historic sights, Goa’s finest Portuguese mansions, winding country lanes and wildlife reserves. If you want to take it easy, the south is a redolent, rewarding and re-energising place to base yourself.
The Backpacker guy and Back to Mumbai
We have all come across posts on facebook and stories talking about a well settled person leaving home to travel the world. Well, I met one in Benaulim. On the last day I thought about leaving Palolem and going to this village in south goa called Benaulim. On my hunt for place to stay for the last night, I was visiting resorts and looking for the cheapest options. In one of the beach stays which had innumerable huts, I noticed a guy reading some maps and making notes. I went up to him inquiring about the manager and we started talking. 15 minutes into the conversation we exchanged numbers and I was back again searching for a hotel. We were to catch up in the evening again for probably another exchange of culture.
Destiny had reserved the best for the last day. Julien Truchan was his name and he was back packing across the world from the past 1 year. A software engineer from France was fed up of daily 9-5 job and one day he quit his job to travel. At a quiet beach side café we sat till late in the night. I asked him if he regrets his decision at all and the reply was a big NO. We spoke about culture, people, food and the bad ass Mumbai underworld which he wanted to know. After 2 weeks he came back to see me in Mumbai before his next country.
It was time to end this wonderful journey and I was back to Mumbai from NH 4. I met so many people with inspiring stories and it turned out to be something like a cultural exchange program. I guess that’s what the reward of solo travelling is. Now I have good friends and a place to stay whenever I visit Israel, Russia, UK, Germany, France, Peru and Switzerland.