After 16 long years I went back to the place where I almost drowned. Goa for me, has always been more than just beautiful beaches, booze haven, Da Vincian churches and mummified saints. It was during a school trip to Goa when I almost drowned in the Colva Beach. The images of that nightmare are still fresh in my head. So it took a little bit of effort to fight the demons in my head to undertake this trip. But then time is a great healer and I remembered the incident only when I went back to the same (except that it’s thousand times more crowded now) Colva beach after all those years.
The route we chose to reach Goa was circuitous and tiring, as we had to pick people on the way and there were no reservations available. We took an overnight train from Bangalore and reached Londa. From here we hired a khataara Jeep on a shared basis (after a lot of haggling) and reached Madgaon. Word of Caution - Do NOT take the road from Londa to Madgoan. The road in certain parts can put a rocky terrain to shame. And once you cross this nightmare, comes the worst of all. Close to a thousand trucks lined up along the street going in the same direction as you and about half of them coming in the opposite direction. And no, I’m NOT exaggerating the numbers. The reason for this is a iron ore industry somewhere in there. But luckily, our driver who's quite accustomed to it successfully drove us out of it, without losing much time, but not before having a few close shaves and heart-in-mouths.
Once in Goa we found a decent cottage - The Palm Grove Cottages - on Benaulim Beach. It’s an ancient-looking cottage drowned in greenery. Living amongst such greenery though being a truly exhilarating experience, it still has it downsides. The downside being, you have to share your room with mosquitoes, frogs, moths and lizards. Just make sure you tire yourself so much during the day that even Iron Maiden would fail to wake you up.
After a quick freshening-up we hit Benaulim Beach, which was a 10 minute walk from our room. Benaulim is pretty much pristine with its clean white sand as far as the eye can see. The total length of the beach could be close to 4 or 5 kms. And for this reason, it’s not very crowded. You can find many spots in the beach where there's hardly any crowd. And the best part about most beaches in Goa is that they have Life Guards a la' Baywatch style sans the busty babes. The water is gentle and clean and hence very enjoyable. There are lots of shacks on the beach where you can eat. Benaulim also offers parasailing opportunities. And since, this beach is mostly frequented by Westerners, the prices are a tad higher here compared to Colva. Bargaining for prices is always a good idea, anywhere in Goa, as they are highly spiked up. The only thing that comes cheap is beer of course.
Seafood is the staple food in all Goan restaurant menus. While some of them are tasty the others were simply forgettable. Try the Goan rava-masala fry of any fish to try "something new". Most restaurants get their Squids and Prawns right. Leave the chicken items for rest of India. Also try Kokam water. Locals vouch for its stomach-cleansing power. So probably it’s a good idea to detox your stomach of all the Fish and alcohol. No prices for guessing the local alcoholic drinks. Fenny is the word when it comes to liquour in Goa. There are two versions of Fenny - Cashewnut (famous in North Goa) and coconut(famous in South Goa). Cashewnut scores over its cousin though. Also try the Portwine while you are alcohol-tasting. The sunset is a must-watch here, as is the case with most beaches in the west coast. The other best time to be in this beach is early morning, when most of the party-goers are still in bed and sun is just about warming up for a hot day ahead.
Getting-there: Benaulim is about 9 kms South-West of Madgaon. Both geared and non-geared vehicles are available to move about Goa apart from numerous Taxi Services. Oh, even bicycles are also available on rent.
Must-Do: Watch the sunset. Bargain on prices quoted for any service! Try some Goan Cuisine and spirits.
Must-Don’t: Miss out on adventure sports. Littering.