Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Hundred Hues of Green:Goa in the Monsoon

Day three in Goa and we find ourselves sitting in a roadside shack of a local tea stall in a quiet corner across Baga River, where we stop for a quick breakfast of fresh and warm vada pao’s and tiny plastic cups of milky and sweet chai. Being the middle of the monsoons it suddenly comes down to rain and soon a couple of more people scurry into the tea stall, for shelter, a hot cup of tea and conversation. People on their Activa’s zoom past us, covered in navy blue rain coats shaking off droplets of rain water, while I bite into my still warm vada pao, savouring the perfect crustiness of the bread, along with the mildly spiced vada in the middle. The owner of the tea stall breaks pieces of pao and scatters them on a patch of ground outside his shack, a cue for a noisy gang of crows to swoop down and peck vigorously at the ground while fighting each other off the crumbs. I sip at my syrupy and sticky cup of tea and wish all Monday mornings were to be this way!

Goa in the monsoon is when Goa takes a vacation from the crazy tourist season and when the locals take an opportunity to relax in their shorts, taking lengthy siestas and sitting in their verandah’s, surrounded by tangles of leaves, grass, weeds and flowers and watching the occasional tourist zoom past them on their bikes. Goa is beautiful all through the year, but there’s something about the monsoons that brings out a wonderful earthiness in her, making you want to stand and stare in awe. Tall and graceful coconut palms rising up from crimson soil, swaying to the breeze and delicately showering you with raindrops as you walk past, grey skies rolling with monsoon clouds, a moody ocean crashing surf upon the shore and throwing up spirals of spray as angry waves hurl themselves vigorously against jagged and mossy rocks and strong gusts of wind weaving through your hair as they whistle past your ears.

The monsoon season or the “off season” as it’s called, also means that Goa is cheaper, ensuring not a lot of time is spent haggling for a good deal. We stayed at Reliance House, a guest house in Calangute which provides entire apartments for rent with a bedroom, a large and airy living room which opens up to a spacious balcony, kitchen and two washrooms, which is just perfect if you’re a large group of friends (the living room had extra mattresses and pillows stacked up against the wall ensuring sleeping arrangements for a group), or even a couple. The guest house also has a kitchen from where you can order your meals (lunch and dinner need to be requested for in advance).

Reliance House is tucked away in a quiet corner, a short walk from Calangute Beach and a five minute scooty ride away from the tourist-y Baga Beach and is managed by the always eager to help Girish Kalgutkar (and his team of young boys who he laughing refers to as “Baccha Log”), always spotted in his under shirt and a pair of shorts, he runs a small departmental store in the guest house, where he stocks soft drinks, bottled water, soap, biscuits and other knick knacks. Each time I would look at Girish running down the stairs towards us with a big umbrella held high over his head and a bigger smile on his face, to come and open the gate for us it would make me smile, because for some reason he had vaguely begun to remind me of the slightly eccentric yet very likeable Babu Rao Apte from Hera Pheri!

A Nano hired, we drove to our hearts content down narrow roads, the tires of our tiny car crunching red earth as we went along- roads flanked by an abundant cover of green, which sometimes curved into nowhere or at times surprisingly led to a tucked away little patch of beach. We drove along narrow streets lined by white washed churches stretching up towards dark hovering monsoon clouds and green fields that had turned into small lakes because of the monsoon. It took a while for my eyes to get used to the fact that the horizon wasn’t interrupted by gloomy, grey concrete, or the zigzag of tangled black wires running over head.

Monsoons in Goa are a riot of colour- from the rich shade of burgundy of the soil to the hundred hues of green foliage entangled with each other, dotted with tiny beads of rain water to grey skies and a dark, moody ocean tossing giant waves against the shore.

Usually dismissed by tourists as too sticky or too wet with nothing much to see or do, monsoons in Goa are a perfect excuse for doing nothing at all- a setting for just the right kind of vacation. Be prepared to spend time indoors given the rains and while you’re in what better to do than read, eat, nap, day dream and read some more with time drifting by at a leisurely pace; just being relaxed and content with life in the moment, or susegad, as laid back Goans would say. 

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