If there's one thing I've learned from my Goa trip, it's this: never put off a trip too long, because when you finally make it, there'll be too many non-negotiable things to do. So, after much agonising and deliberation (and some heartbreak), we decided to stay North for this trip. We would just have to be content with a day spent in Colva-Utorda. And so, after wending our way through luxuriant rice fields and drying harvests, we spent a wonderful few hours at the Colva home of the ex-reviewer's family friends, N and S.
Since we arrived just a wee bit after lunchtime, we were, very graciously and warmly, ushered down to a meal. The food at the Gonsalves table was exquisite in the way only great home food can be — non-greasy, perfectly seasoned and cooked without tasting like restaurant food. There was some absolutely fantastic fish, plain curry, a meat preparation, and rice. N would have had three more dishes on that table if we hadn't been so full. I must also say, I've rarely felt as welcome in someone's home, especially as N took me on a guided tour of their home and a part of the ex-reviewer's childhood.
The only way to finish that meal was with chocolate rum pancakes that the ex-reviewer hadn't stopped ranting about for over a year. Off to Benaulim Beach then, to Pedro's Beach Cafe. But we needn't have bothered. Sure, there was a lot of rum in the pancakes, but the chocolate was watery and almost non-existent, the banana hard and bland. So, by the time we stopped wasting our time with the unspeakably bad service (45 mins to serve pancakes!!), I was in a very bad mood indeed. With rain sweeping in from the beach, putting paid to my Utorda plans, I was positively furious.
Not being very keen to ride 50-odd kilometers on a wet NH-17, we set off northward with me muttering about the pancakes under my breath. And to irritate me a little more, by the time we got about 10 kilometers up, the bloody rain had stopped and the roads were drying up. Can you bloody imagine! At this point, the ex-reviewer wasn't sure if he was amused or irritated at this magnificent display of puerility. But serendipitously, just a little before Zuari Bridge we came across a sign proclaiming "Kenilworth Beach Resort and Spa, Utorda Beach. 3 kms"
Perhaps all was not lost yet. If it were, I'd have lost out on this.
I wish the light had been better because the photo would then have told the truth of it. You see, I'm told that the water couldn't possibly have been greeny-turquoise. That we don't have very many beaches like that in India and that Utorda's not one of them. That I was being fanciful. But I can tell you, with at least a degree of certainty, that that the colour was really close. Thing is, I don't like most of my photos from Utorda a quarter so well — mainly for a couple of reasons. First, because of the fallen and the impending rain, I didn't have even acceptable light to work with. Second, I was too busy jumping around the beach to bother with taking photos.
If anything will convince you of the merits of the south of Goa over the north, it is Utorda. The elder sibling tells me that Palolem and Butterfly Beach in the South are as exquisite... next trip... but I've never yet set eyes on a beach and wanted to dive into the water at once. Utorda's far beyond beautiful and too far beyond my feeble words to attempt a description. But somewhere in those white, unbroken sands and that inlet of warm water a little way up the beach, with minute fish speeding past, I was entirely lost. Off came the sandals, out came the camera, and madly danced the penguin on Utorda Beach!
Utorda has a lot more character than beaches like Baga and Calangute because there's nothing else there but the Kenilworth Beach Resort and two shacks. A deep, loopy stillness whistles about you instead of beach chairs, massage men, and water sport peddlers annoying the living f%$k out of you. Makes for a lovely change, don't you know, to see so many shells on the beach. It was also a strangely reassuring experience to collect shells as I did on the sands on Candolim as a four year old. What sealed Utorda as "favourite beach" though was this, my prize find. In these two years of photography, this is my second favourite composition.
Another of Utorda's attractions is that most gorgeous restaurant/shack, Zeebop by the Sea. The guidebook says it is "arguably the best shack in Goa", and while I'm not sure if it qualifies for restaurant or shack, I had a wonderful time there. I'm told they have full bathroom facilities and space to leave your stuff so that you can spend the whole day there. They also have an incredible array of fresh seafood available, from which we sampled the superb seafood cocktail. The charming staff, especially the man who seemed to be in-charge, Baiju, were enthusiastic enough to bring out trays of lobsters and prawns for our selecting pleasure!
Because it began raining again, we didn't spend as much time at Zeebop as we would have liked to, but it was quite enough to let me fall completely and utterly in love with the place. I don't know exactly why I feel so strongly, given the unseemly brevity (I fervently believe!) of our visit. Perhaps, there was something that intermingles and sparkles about great food, good feni, Utorda Beach, and the name Zeebop by the Sea. Perhaps there was something about the silence and wind. I'm just glad I had the chance to experience it.
Finally, here's wishing you a very happy Diwali and a marvellous year ahead. As always, I hope you are surrounded by family, your loved ones, and loads of mithai. I hope this festive season is safe and prosperous for you and yours. I've had an amazing past few months and I really hope that the New Year ahead continues to bring halcyon days like these for both you and I. Saal Mubaarak, people! :-)