It is the 2nd week of December, the weather is pleasant and it’s just before the Christmas and New Year rush begins to set in. According to me, the best time of the year to be in Goa. The wind carrying the trace of the salty ocean water, a canopy of coconut trees lining the streets and the unhurried pace of the rivers do the work of tuning down the pace of my thoughts well and I, in-turn, slip into the Goan trance….
However, there is also a slight anxiety, as we are going to Arambol, a place I have never been to before (but I couldn’t help googling) and we would be staying in a modest 500rs. per night room, comprising of a bed, a toilet unit and (thankfully) a moving fan! A striking contrast to our usual Club Mahindra stays which wind you down to an almost unnecessary extent.
However, even spending a day in the captivating beauty of Arambol made me realize that that’s all you really need there.
Arambol, locally known as Harmal, is a small village on the northern border of Goa is an attraction for the nonconformists, the freaks and basically anyone searching for the perfect getaway from all things routine. Small guesthouses, numerous shacks on the beach and a lane lined with small stores selling stone jewellery, handicrafts, beachwear, etc.- that completes the picture of Arambol which owing to its remote location and rustic feel manages to hold together it’s picture of a small Goan village as opposed to the more commercialized and urban areas of Madgaon or Panjim.
A walk on the beach in the morning is followed by a cup of coffee at a small shack. At one side there are groups practicing tai chi or hatha yoga or some other form of mediation, while on the other side, the fishermen hustle about getting their boats ready for yet another round at sea (Grab some good lunch for me people!). Minutes and hours pass by as you laze around the small village and as the afternoon overlaps the morning, it’s time for lunch! A filling Fish Thali at about 70rs (are you kidding me?!)
I’m still trying to get into the laid back atmosphere of Arambol, the people here are so chilled, having a fresh coconut here or trying out some scarves there or sharing a beer. Afternoon turns to dusk and we head to the beach to see what was described to me as the highlight of the place. And I can never forget that evening…
The evenings of Arambol are a converse to the peaceful days. As I make my way to the bustle in the distance on the beach, I feel the warm beach sand under my feet and the shadow of everything is pitch black in front of the warm hues of the dusky sky. Like scenery out of the finest artist’s book, then I realize, isn’t that what it really is.
Ahead there is a gang of musicians, all from different countries, playing the djembe and the guitars and the flute and the bagpiper and so many instruments I have never seen nor heard of before and about a 100 people circle around amazed and ecstatic just like I was.
The sun has set and the prep of a romantic dinner is on under the starry skies of the beach. Ahead, there is a group of older people playing the guitar and humming songs, who says Goa is only for the young? A walk in the lane picking up some typically Goan items and a delicious dinner at a small joint makes the perfect end to the day. And if I went to bed thinking there is nothing left to be offered tomorrow, well, I was dead wrong.
I am greeted with ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ playing in the cafe behind our room and for obvious reasons, I feel so bloody happy! By the way, it’s 12.12.12 today! A trip to the Anjuna market is on the list, so after the cup of coffee at the shack, we grab two bikes and head to the market. Another thing that strikes me about this place is how easy it is to connect to the amicable locals. I already enjoy their company!
So, well, the flea market is a nice experience, the Anjuna beach is gorgeous, the heat, not so much but here’s the high point- the lunch at Curly’s. The view from the 1st floor is beautiful; it’s also windier and the food- yumm!! On the way back we halt at place with a particularly beautiful view and watch the sun set. Playing his guitar in the foreground of the setting sun is someone else’s way of relishing the evening. And that’s the best part, you can just be yourself here and do what you want and no one really cares. As long as you aren’t a bother, of course.
Back to Arambol and heading to the music session again! And again, I’m amazed by how the skies change colour every minute! It is so beautiful!!
After having dinner at another joint with beautiful ambience and delicious food (I love the fact that I’ve never had a chance to complain about food in Goa. Be it any cuisine), we go to Dylan’s Toasted and Roasted (those awesome café that plays a great selection of songs all through the day) for a cup of coffee. Now this place, I love!
The ambience is warm and welcoming; smelling of freshly brewed coffee and the place is lined with beautiful captures showing different shades of India. The menu card tells the story of the place and for the second time, I’m completely moved. Dylan’s is all about new friends + coffee + great music. We get into a conversation with one of the managers over a cup of pleasant cappuccino and he tells us that the pictures were gifted by a foreign traveller who had come to the Café. And yep, I didn’t pay attention to much of the conversation that followed coz I had retreated in the haven of my thoughts, charmed by people I have never met and stories I have never heard! This is really what I would love to do all my life! 🙂
These 30 mins. made me realize that I might want to revise my idea of a perfect ending to a wonderful day.
In the coming days the same routine of coffee, walk down the lane (which is called ‘madhla wada’ by the way), visiting relatives, evenings at the beach, sumptuous dinner and a coffee followed, but routine never felt so contenting. And new experiences were added to the string each day. Like one night, when we were having coffee at Mohan’s, a guy just stopped and dedicated a song on his trumpet to Mohan and then walked on ahead. Somehow these simple things add up to such lovely memories!…
So I leave Goa, unwillingly of course and carry back so much more and different than what I had expected. Though I leave with lifted spirits, part of me is too caught up in the in the Arambol village, portraying so many shades…but leave we must, my only consolation being the realization that I would be returning next year!…