While it may seem that my time in Goa was spent either being a beach bum or exploring Panjim, it should be known that it wasn't. You see, the minute I found out that Charpora Fort at Vagator Beach was where they'd filmed Dil Chahata Hai, it was on the non-negotiable list of things to do. No, no, I don't have any great love for the film, don't you know. But the place looked so incredibly lovely in the film, not to mention inviting, representing all that I’d ever thought Goa would be: being still, connecting with myself and friends... about newness and susegaad.
And so, in the pursuit of the closed-for-the-off-season Lila Café for a much recommended breakfast, we found ourselves indolently following the green and blue back roads of the Baga river down to Anjuna and Vagator. I don't think that we intended to ride as far as we did, but accompanied by the sparkling, twinkling Baga river, following these roads became very special and much fun. You see, they're where I finally learned to ride the Activa without falling apart like unmoulded jelly. They're also where the ex-reviewer began to take a fledging interest in photography and for once, allowed me to take the lead, without heckling me at all!
We arrived in Anjuna first, and I must be honest, I didn’t like the vibe of the area much — although it may also just have been my eagerness to get to Vagator. Over a beer and some beef, I cajoled my way into Vagator and twenty minutes later, we were at the smaller Orzant beach. But seeing that it was too crowded with people and their buses, we went down to the main Vagator beach. It wasn’t much better there because there were at least a million people milling around too little beach.
In the hurry to escape the crush, I completely forgot about the wonderful Shiva face an unknown artist sculpted out of the rocks on Vagator. Check out the missed photo-op here. Sigh...
A short distance later, we sat down at a place called Willy's Shack, only to walk right out because the man didn’t serve Goan food. Without much of a choice, we settled on a restaurant called Tintin’s right opposite the road. It was still opening for the season and turned out to be one of the better food decisions we've made in Goa.
Along with what were most certainly the best beef chops in creation, Tintin's had the saddest dog ever imaginable hanging around. The little mutt kept looking at the ex-reviewer and I miserably throughout our meal! He must finally have made away with a decent portion of my chop but there was just nothing you could do to chase him away. No matter what, he'd just keep coming back and giving us that hungry, mewly look from under under his heavy, sorry brows and we'd be lost.
After firmly refusing to share my beef curry and languidly finishing my King's in the mild afternoon light, to Chapora Fort it was. Having looked at it from the beach and having watched Dil Chahta Hain, you know that the fort is perched atop a cliff and can be approached directly from the beach. The guidebook is kind enough to warn you that this is a route only for the seriously fit. Right then, we were off to an access point that's further uphill. It's still a decently vertical climb and by the time I got into the fort, I just needed some water, of which there was none, and some sitting... and staring.
From the northern ramparts, you can see across a small creek to Morjim Beach (the photo below), part of the stretch of the non-touristy, northern-most beaches. The view is terrifying in its beauty and scope. I cringe while writing this but there is nothing more magnificent than the sea. And watching it at various places in Goa, I've realised just how much I've missed it these past three years. I've missed all those nights spent at my window watching the lights from Madh Island (or from the bays down to Bandra) dance tantalisingly on the ominously dark water. There is something about standing on a cliff, watching the sea swell and break, the vista stretching as far as your imagination, that reinforces its uncontrollability and untamed nature... that reinforces how small we seem in comparison and how incredible it is that we can actually do the sea real harm.
Remember how I used carry on about being the only 27 year-old who’d not been to Goa in 23 years? How all my memories of Goa were a four year-old's? Well, all of these said memories revolve around the Taj Beach Resort at Fort Aguada. We’d go in a large group of my parents’ friends and their families, all of us waking early for boisterous walks on what I now know is Sinquerim Beach. Those were mornings spent fighting over shells and walking the ocean's edge to come back to a sumptuous buffet breakfast. We'd spend the rest of the day at the resort, venturing only to the beach in the early evening or at sunset. We must have made a few trips the Sinquerim Lighthouse because I've always recognised easily it from other people's pictures, but I don't think we explored any more than that.
Unfortunately, I don't have very clear memories of the Fort, despite living at a hotel built into it. I cannot remember if we ever climbed up the completely intact northern rampart or went down to the southern-most, but ruined, boundary of the fort. I can only remember seeing a huge building outlined in the distance while walking on the beach. My memories now are coloured with the ancient red-black beauty of the northern parts of Fort Aguada and of the views it offers. It is, I think, worth the time to stand facing the fort and watch the waves beat ceaselessly against the resolute rampart.
In retrospect, I think my reaction to Utorda was based on a childhood memory of Aguada: quiet, almost entirely deserted, and strewn with fish and shells. Today, expectedly, Aguada is more touristy and commercial, infinitely more than the Charpora Fort. It’s also too crowded because of all the water sports and the fact that you can take cars up to the southern end. I tell you, there are just far too many cretins in this world that want to drag their Scorpios up a path, not even a road, meant at best for two cycles riding abreast. But I suppose the view is worth it, no?
More photos on Flickr if you'd like to see them!