Finally, I made it on my own to Goa. My first Solo Trip ever. Goa is often stereotyped as a place where you can only travel with your friends, thanks to Bollywood. Well I must say I really had a great time traveling alone – from being chased away by people on Divar Island to getting drenched in the rain on a hill top, I did a few things which I had never done before. The Introvert in me had found its way out of its comfort zone..
Well, to begin with, there were a few issues lingering here in Bangalore till 13th Sept. There was public unrest regarding the Cauvery issue with the burning of buses and strikes and violence in Bangalore. I was worried if I would be able to leave Bangalore on 14th Sept. But things seemed to have settled down by 14th Sept and I was off to catch my train to Goa. I was excited beyond words. And I was travelling by train after 2 years. Train Travel had always excited me since my childhood even though I wont enjoy the 3-day journeys as before.
The whole point of the trip was to be in Goa on my Birthday (15th Sept). I wanted to do something new on my 25th birthday. A gift from me to myself. I kept the whole trip under wraps from my friends and parents. Only my roommates knew about the trip. I did so so that nobody comes with negative views on solo travel and spoil the whole thing for me.
Got off my train at Madgaon station at around 6 in the morning. Yes, it was my birthday and I was in Goa. Mission is halfway through. By the way, Madgoan station is around 40kms from Calangute. That is where I had my room booked. So had to find my way to reach there. Went outside the station, waded off the over-charging taxi drivers and made my way to the road where I saw a bus pass by. I asked a shopkeeper on how to reach Calangute. He said I will have to take a bus from Kadamba Bus stand to Panjim and then from there to Calangute. Something that I found new in Goa were the bike taxis. It is cheaper than autos and perfect for solo travelers. As I was waiting for a bus to Kadamba, a Guy in a bike taxi came by. I really wanted to take the early morning bike ride through the city. He charged me 80/- at first and I said 50/-. He dint agree to that but still waited. As he saw a bus coming our way, he said OK for 50 bucks and I got my bike ride.
Madgaon was just waking up as we whizzed past the empty roads, through lanes filled with houses built in Portuguese style. We reached the Kadamba Bus Stand in 10 mins. You have express buses going to Panjim. Non AC ones for 40/- and AC ones for 48/-. I took the AC one as there wasn’t much difference in the fares for the two buses. You need to take the ticket from a ticket counter before you board the bus. Reached Panjim in 50mins. From the Panjim Bus Stand, I had to go outside the stand to get to a paid washroom. Below is the picture of the entrance to the toilet. Yes right, ‘Symbol of Cleanliness’. As if we don’t now our Indian Public Toilets. This one was far away from being clean.
The Bus Stand has Boards for each platform where the buses have been stationed with their destinations written on them. So finding the bus was easy. It was a bit bumpy 20 bucks ride from Panjim to Calangute. I had to keep checking the Google Maps to see if we were reaching Calangute. We reached there in 20-30mins.
Now to find my hostel, Backpacker Panda which is somewhere in between Candolim and Calangute Beach. I started following Google maps and walked through an alley way till I found this sign at the end of the road. ‘Beware of Dogs’, right, and I stopped there and asked a lady the way to my hostel.
There was a common room near the reception with few beds and chairs. There were a few foreigners sitting there. Well I was not the kind who goes and talks to strangers yet. I found an empty bed and kept my backpack over there and started reading the ‘The Alchemist‘ which I had bought a few days before leaving for Goa. I might have sat there for 1 hour and the receptionist came and said my room has been confirmed. OK now that was a relief. So she led me to my room which was on the 1st floor of the building. The hostel walls were decorated with really cool graffiti.
I had booked a 4-bed dorm. All the rooms were named after islands and beaches. Mine was Nicobar I guess. The room was clean and so was the bed. I kept all my stuff in the locker and went towards the beach following the sound of the waves. It was not the crowded beach as you would expect in North Goa. This beach strip falls in between Candolim Beach and Calangute Beach and had more stray dogs than people.
Most of the introverted people including me have a problem indulging in small talks and casual conversations when it comes talking to strangers. So going to the common room and to strike a conversation with a stranger was freaking me out. The reason I took the Solo Trip was to get out of my comfort zone and here I was still sitting in my room with ‘The Alchemist’ in my hand. As per the itinerary I had set for myself, my 1st day was supposed to be spent in the Hostel and the nearby beach and trying out some food joints. So I got cosy in the Sofa with my book.
That was when a guy came by, Deepak from Ajmer. He was in Goa on work purpose and had been in the hostel for a week now. He asked me to come to the common area and meet everyone. So I threw my book aside and went to the common area. That is where I met Amit, a Delhite in Goa volunteering for a project.
It was time for me to get lunch. Amit had rented a 2-wheeler and was going out. I assumed he was going for lunch as well and we finally ended up in Baga Beach having some over priced Chilly Chicken Goan style from one of the shacks there. Baga Beach is a commercial beach with lots of shacks and people and music.
Then we left for Anjuna beach. We saw a hill at one end of the beach and decided to get on top of it. Amit was not really into climbing the hill but I had to convince him of the view we could get from the top. That was probably the best decision we made and we rode the scooter to the foot of the hill and climbed up. And the view…..was awesome.
The ocean breeze, a cloudy day, the elevation and the greenery. It was just a perfect view. I took these pics with my phone but trust me this place looks even more beautiful and is a real treat for the eyes. The best part of this spot is that it was totally isolated and probably not many people have come here. We spent some time clicking pics and then it started raining. We put all our stuff into zip bags and just sat there in the rain. The view just got better in the rain. We ditched the plan to visit other beaches as we had already got the best spot in Goa. Sometimes it is better to enjoy that one beautiful moment in a particular place than running around ticking places off the list.
The rain showed no signs of slowing down. So we took the bike ride back in the rain. Lost our way trying to reach the main road. Somehow we made it back to the hostel completely drenched. Then Amit told everyone that it was my birthday and we all had dinner together in the common area. The day ended meeting a few Germans and French. It was a good memorable day to start my first Solo trip.
The plan for the day was to visit Divar Island and Old Goa. Reached Panjim Bus Stand and from there a 10 min Bus ride to Ribander. From there you can take a ferry to Divar Island across the Mandovi River. The ferries are Govt sponsored and wont charge you any fare for the ride. The ferry also accommodates 2 wheelers and 4 wheelers.
After reaching Divar island, you can take a mini bus to reach the the center of the island. But the bus service doesn’t cover all the corners of the island, so it is recommended to get a rented 2 wheeler across so that you can explore the island without tiring yourself out. That was one mistake I made when I decided to explore the island on foot.
Well you do get to see many houses which carry a mixture of Indian and Portuguese architecture. If you are lucky you can get the owners to give you a tour of the house. But luck was not on my side as I found most of the houses closed.
Divar island is a very isolated and sleepy village far away from those noisy beaches. I was using Google Maps to navigate but I kept on losing network range. I dint come across any other travelers or tourists on that island. Perhaps I was the only one who is new there. But it is the perfect place to walk on the long never ending empty roads, only if you love walking. I came across one church which also seemed to be closed.
There was something called ‘Porne Tirth’ appearing on my maps and I was following the route displayed. Well Google Maps had something else in store for me. As I followed the map, the route led me to an Aqua Farm. As per the map, I was supposed to walk through the Farm to get to Porne Tirth. The gate was open and I couldn’t find anyone else to ask the way. So like any other explorer I walked in. The place looked abandoned.
As I walked in and took a few pics, I heard people shouting at me. Then I saw a man running towards me making some not-so-friendly hand gestures. I tried to explain to him that I had lost my way trying to reach Porne Tirth. Well he dint seem to understand that I had lost my way and said ‘Ek aur baar aaoge tho baand ke maarenge’ (If you come here once more, we will tie and beat you up) Who talks like that now. Well that threat diffused my exploration and I decided to get off the island. Finally I met a few Goan guys and one of them offered to drop me at the ferry which will take me to Old Goa to which I agreed. His name was Sydney(yes, after the Australian city) and I will never forget his name, maybe because he was the only kind person I met in Divar island or maybe because of his name which was unique. He works as a wedding planner. He waited there till my ferry came and then we shook hands and I left Divar Island once and for all.
Hungry and tired, I reached Old Goa. Had my lunch of Goan Fish Thali from the first hotel I came across. It was already 4pm by the time I finished my lunch and it was raining heavily. Once the rains stopped, I moved around the nearby churches. It was getting dark and I was not getting any good pics. There is no point in roaming around if I am not able click any good pics.
And then it started raining heavily and my phone also died. So I took the bus back to Panjim, reached the hostel and just dozed off. It was a tiring eventful day.
My last day in Goa. The plan was to visit Aguada Fort which was around 6 kms from my hostel. At first I thought of renting a bicycle, but then I decided to walk as I had all day. Before that I went to the beach. I met an English guy over there who was from my hostel. He was working in a Pub in England after which he quit his job to travel. I had only read about people who quit their jobs and take the plunge and here I was meeting them. We roamed around the beach shacks for breakfast.
Once back in hostel, I was off to Aguada Fort. I had my lunch on the way. You have to walk uphill to reach the fort. Very few people choose the option to walk. I met a group of guys from Calicut on the way. I joined them till the fort. The Fort was touristy and full of people. I walked around the fort. You do get a beautiful view of the sea from the fort. I roamed around clicking a few pics and then decided to turn back.
I tried to hitch a ride back but failed miserably. Since I am a guy and an Indian, the success rate of hitching a ride in India is 20%. Anyway walking downhill was easy.
On my way back, I saw 3 kids playing football in a ground and I asked them if I could join them to which they politely refused as I was not wearing football boots…FML. So I spent some time watching them then turned back to hostel. Went to the beach to catch the sunset but the sun went behind the clouds and I was not able to get a perfect snap.
Then I saw an old man picking up something from the sand and putting it in a cover. I went over and asked him what he was collecting. He took out something that i looked like a small crab which is called Sand Sneakers. He feeds them to the birds he has at his house. He said he lives near my hostel and asked me to drop by any time.
That ended my last day in Goa. The experience was different. Had my share of bad and good experiences of a Solo Trip. Maybe I haven’t seen everything in Goa or maybe my trip was not about ticking off places in a list. I ditched many beaches as I found the hilltop spot in Anjuna beach, the Old Goa tour is still incomplete. But the goal of Solo Travel had been reached. Getting into trouble and learning from mistakes and enjoying the best moments, I did it all. It was time to wind up the trip.
I am grateful to all the people I met and who helped me along the way but above everybody else I am grateful to myself for having the guts to take this trip alone.