Goa is the smallest and the richest state in India. And last week I had the ticket to fly to my dream place in India. I and a group of five friends landed at the Dabolim Airport, at dawn and checked into the Golden Sands Resort in South Goa, which is only a 10 minute walk from the fabulously soft beach of Betalbatim.
Thus began our journey around the paradise called Goa.
Gasper Diasand Dona Paula– a beach 7 kilometers from Panaji, the state capital was our first stop. The history of the place made them all the more intriguing.
A Goan boy, Gasper fell in love with a Portuguese girl, Paula and they used to meet secretly. They could not understand either’s language; love flowed silent yet strong. Every time Gasper would blow on a conch shell Paula knew he needed her and came. They got caught and the conch was blown for the last time: the most mournful cry. They tied a red cloth around themselves and jumped into the ocean. The place where the conch and red cloth was found the next day came to be known as Gasper Dias and the place where the two lovers frequented came to be known as Dona Paula.
The Bom Jesus Basilica was our next stop. Situated just 10 kilometers away from Panaji, the Bom Jesus Basilica, in South Goa, houses the remains of St. Francis Xavier and we took a bus ride to there. The serenity of the place was intriguing and we were moved by the magnificence that greeted us.
We visited the tiny enclave of Teracol next, 42 kilometers from Panaji, at the northernmost tip of the state. Fortunately, our visit coincided with a guided tour of the Teracol Fort, set up by the Portuguese and we were allowed a sneak-peak into the interiors of the St. Anthony chapel. It is dark, gloomy and claustrophobic; and is kept locked at other times.
We decided to be near nature a bit, and a visit to the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary was unanimously agreed upon. Covering an area of 8 square kilometers in North-East Goa, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is home to many animals including black-faced Langur, jackal, Indian bison, wild boar, deer, birds and butterflies. The sanctuary also hosts a Botanical Garden, a Rose Garden and a Deer Park. A jeep ride inside the Deer Park was very exciting.
Paradise on earth just got a little better, when our tour took us to the Dudhsagar Waterfalls. 60 kilometers from Panaji, at the border of Goa and Karnataka, the Dudhsagar Waterfalls translating to ‘the sea of milk’ stands true to its meaning. The waterfall creates one of the most picturesque landscapes in India and is a top tourist draw.
A long night bike ride brought us to the Calangute Beach. The Calangute Beach, a stretch of 7 kilometers, the largest in Goa, is rightly termed the ‘queen of beaches’ and we had a wonderful time as we went parasailing and shopping at the ‘tinto’ (as the markets are called there). We lay under the sun and later had a little nap on hammocks.
In between the amazing tour that we took around Goa, we enjoyed to our heart’s fill. We had Xacuti and Cashew ‘feni‘; laid on the soft beaches at night to hear the ocean’s soft roar, napped on hammocks, played water-volleyball, and most importantly partied a lot but we missed out on the famous Goan carnivals. The people are amazing out there, warm and welcoming.
As we checked out, we made one promise to ourselves; we are going to be back very soon.