With 15 days of cycling the tea plantations and rice paddies of Southern India, we headed north to the former Portuguese beach colony of Goa where we immediately noticed a completely different vibe. There is less traffic and not as much honking. People move a bit slower and there are a lot more visitors and European snowbirds living in the area. Goa has been attracting backpackers and “hippies” for decades since the state gained independence from Portugal in 1961. Today it is a very popular spot for both locals and foreigners looking for a few days of beach or a few days of festivities. There are two common ways to visit Goa – head south for some beautiful beaches and a slower pace or head up north for the night life and the strips of beach bars and restaurants.
We opted for the former and settled down at a yoga retreat in Varca for a week. The beach in Varca is 26km long and one of the cleanest spots that we have seen in India so far.
The twice-daily yoga sessions (one at the pool and one at the beach) was just the thing to work out the knots and aches from the days of cycling. Unfortunately, the rest of the experience was a bit bizarre and not exactly what we were expecting. The retreat ended up being more of a “home-stay”\hostel that we shared with a nice young British woman, 6 India guys from all over India who were working at the abode, and a crazy, anti-social dog that constantly growled at everyone and attacked chairs and table legs at every meal. It was not a great experience but travel doesn’t always go as planned. It cannot always be rosy and magical like the articles of the in-flight magazines (where many of our blog posts could live nicely;>). But we have been pretty lucky so far with hiccup free travel and great stays for 4.5 months. Actually, it has been less luck and more the incredible, detailed planning and scrutiny of Susan. Her tireless travels through the inter-webs and up-and-down TripAdvisor reviews is a big reason for our smooth travels so far.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t so bad – we managed to practice a lot of yoga over the week, learned to cook a few new Indian dishes, and met some good people. When the power went out, or we lost the water in the middle of a shower, or got too creeped out at the local massage parlor, we simply chanted our newly learned mantra “Breath in with the smile, breath out with the happy” and all was good. At the end of the day, these were mostly “1st world problems” and not worth getting too worked up about…although that dog was really crazy.
While in the south , we had the chance to visit Cabo de Rama where we explored some castle ruins that pre-dates the Portuguese and spent some time on a gorgeous and deserted beach.
After yoga, we headed north to the larger city of Panjim and used up some of our hotel miles to book into a spot on the Mandovi river for some dog-free, hot showers and a little room for ourselves.
At the end of the day, we enjoyed Goa and it’s laid back pace and beautiful weather. It was a nice place to take a break and spend some time in one spot after the busy travel schedule of the last few weeks. We are closing in on 30 days in India and have a few days left to spend in Pune and Mumbai before we move on to other parts of the world.