Palolem/Patnem – It is all soooo lovely.
Never did find Bonkers. Found the Sea View Coco Beach Huts run by a group of nice sisters (not the nun kind even though this is seriously Catholic territory) and their kids. I am living in a stilted plywood hut with private bathroom, right on one of the loveliest quiet beaches in the world with amazing variety of surf conditions throughout the day. The water is bathtub warm, the waves gentle in the morning and then bodysurfing perfect in the afternoon, the view from my little porch overlooks a beachfront restaurant that serves fantastic tandori, I have a family of mama pig and 6 baby pigs that live under our huts, I am able to steal a wifi signal most days from an internet café a couple of resorts over, I am walking distance to shopping stalls galore and about 100 restaurant choices, I have access to an ATM in the next town, a hot 5 rupee, 20 minute bus ride away and all this for around $10 night. Come on over!!!
The neighbors are mostly Russian – seems everywhere in Goa is mostly Russian tourists escaping the winter. They come for two and three week holidays – the ones here are ones who have come on package deals to the north and now are putting their own vacations together. They pretty much keep to themselves as language is an issue and there are enough of them to not have to mix much. The past few days the Russians have left our little cluster of huts and now we have a wider variety – an 70 plus year old super fit Belgium couple who are here for 5 months ( and more than a little bit crazy...) , some Germans, some Brits, a New Zealander and an Aussie, some Danes etc.
The beach here and next door at Patnem is fringed with these stilted bungalows or huts. They are all temporary structures. They are built every October and come down – every last bit of them, by the end of April in time for the monsoon season. The law is that the beach has to return to its natural state from May to October. The restaurants and the bars and every structure are torn down leaving only the little village cement huts that are scattered behind us. Lots of people rent those little houses or rooms in those houses but I much prefer to be right on the beach – falling asleep to the sound of the pounding surf each night. It has been truly tranquil and oh so beautiful. My routine has been to get up around 7 am, go for along walk up the beach, watch the fisherman unload the catches of the day, play in the tide pools, come back – have a swim or kayak, have some breakfast on the beach ( amazing omelets, hash browns with onions and peppers, roasted tomatoes, toast, jam and tea for less than $1.50), swim, read, sit on my porch, come back, body surf in the big afternoon waves, eat, read, walk down the beach to town, visit with friends, steal some wifi on my porch and go to bed….ahhhh……they even have Diet Coke Janice Beaton!!! You could live here. And cheese - OK, it is from Yaks but for those of you who travel frequently and love cheese, cheese separation can be an issue.
I was here for Holi - the festival of color - heralding the beginning of Spring season. People throw colored powder on you and wish you "Happy Holi" It is pretty tame here compared to other parts of India and I made sure I was somewhere safe because I heard it is the one time of year gropping and pawing and touching women is permitted. God knows I do not need any more attention than I can get just walking down a street. It is much easier here in Goa with all the tourists, but would have been a free for all in Jodhpur. It is nice to go a whole day without being asked for photo opportunities.
I am thinking that this might be a great place to come to next winter. I met a guy from Vancouver who has been retired for 20 years – he retired from Woodward's when they closed – he was 48 years old. He has been doing winters around the world in hot places for 20 years so has been everywhere. He rents a house next door in Patnem for 4 months – Jan1 to April 30. He has 2 bedrooms, a little kitchen and a bath. Not right on the beach but a 3 minute walk. He pays $275 cdn a month – all in, utilities included!!!!! Take that Arizona and Florida. He rents a scooter for $2 day when he wants to go exploring out of town but really everything is either delivered or within walking distance. The train comes about 10 minute from here as well. Pretty perfect. Not much to do after 10 pm – this is not the party atmosphere that North Goa is, so it attracts a different mature crowd.
The negatives?? Instead of the incessant rooster crowing that I came to despise in the rest of Asia – India has dogs, dogs, dogs everywhere…and cows but it is the friggin dogs that sleep all day and then fight and howl and party all night. The cows – much quieter. The beach has dogs everywhere and I have come to love watching them protect their 150 meters of turf. Seems that they have divided the one kilometer beach into a series of 150 meter chunks. About 4 or 5 dogs per 150 and they chase right to some imaginary line – sending the intruder home or into the water yelping and howling. Ahh the simple life of dog watching – Val Bouey, you would be in heaven.
The other issue is that it is getting hotter every day. And more humid. The season will end here soon because of the heat. Nearly all the shopkeepers are from Kashmir, Nepal and Tibet. They come for the winter season, November to April then return home for their busy tourist season in the north. Indians take their vacations in the summer and head for the mountains to escape the unbearable heat that envelops most of the country in the summer. Highs of 50 degrees are not unusual so the moderate temperatures of the highlands attract Indians who can afford to travel.
I am leaving on March 11 to take a 16 hour night train to the city of Cochin. Heading 16 hours south may seem rather stupid as the heat there is already the talk of the tourists. It is right near the tip of India - close to Sri Lanka. There I hope to find India's backwaters - canal trips through I don't know what? Mangrove swamps?? As always, haven't read up on the place yet so I can't be anything but amazed.
I have a flight booked from the south to Kuala Lupur on the 23 of March and then on to Ho Chi Minnh City on the 24th. I know I will not be ready to leave India but the weather is dictating the course. That and the huge draw of reuniting with my two very good friends I met in Laos last year. Sharon has been working in two orphanages in Lesotho Africa and is coming to Vietnam on March 12 and Laura has now relocated from Santa Fe New Mexico to Da Nang Vietnam where she is teaching English. The three amigos from the Vieng Vien Beach Huts reunite in vietnam!!!! So looking forward to catching up.
Here are some pictures of my little piece of Palolem paradise…..