Part 4 of our family India travel blog ( journal) series.
Does it seem to you that we have more problems than any other travellers? I’m pretty certain we don’t, I think everyone has problems on the road, they just don’t tell the world about it. By the end of the trip the hurdles have been jumped and the good times outweigh the bad so travellers return to their friends and families raving about their fantastic experiences. You’re getting it uncensored and as it happens.
I adore India, this is probably the 7th month we’ve spent here all up, and I knew before we came that it could be challenging, but Colva in South Goa, was where we hit some big problems.
Colva, South Goa
Colva is the nearest beach to Madgaon train station, just 10Km away and 200Rps ( 2 pounds) in a rickshaw, that’s why we ended up there. We hadn’t been able to do any reasearch in Hampi the night before, no internet, if we had, we probably would have known to head to a quieter, less touristy spot.
I have to confess, I’ve never had any desire to visit South Goa at all, I’m in love with the crazy northern scene and have been for 20 years. It always looked to me that the south was for package tourists and sun worshippers, even 17 years ago when I took my last package holiay. Recently many travel bloggers have been staying long-term in Palolem, 42Km south of Colva, and raving about it, so we thought we should check it out. ( Including my dear friend Gabi of The Nomadic Family and travel hero, Wandering Earl)
Before heading to remote Palolem, we needed to sort out train tickets to the North of India and thought we’d be better placed to do that from Colva, so we settled in for a few days.
We found a beach-front room for 800 Rps ( 8 pounds) it was small, but clean and cool, the sea breezes have kept us comfortable without any need for air-con, even at this pre-monsoon time. Our room, more of a small bungalow with a little veranda, had the bonus of a sofa bed giving us plenty of room for the 4 of us. Indian hotels really don’t seem to care how many people you cram into one room, the price remains the same.
Colva beach is beautiful, it runs for miles. In places it is crowded with Indian tourists, in others deserted but for a few locals and fishermen. At the top of the beach the sand is so soft and powdery it crunches like snow underfoot. Washed by the sea it becomes a smooth firm surface, ideal for walking and running. Chef ran miles here, every morning.
There is plenty of wildlife to keep small boys amused, big burrowing sand crabs to chase and smaller ones to find in the shallows.
If you find a fishing net recently pulled up you’ll find their by-catch in the sand, jellyfish, small crabs, starfish and, surprisingly, sea snakes, dozens of them. As they are still alive and trying to make their way back to the sea you really need to watch where you walk. Of course, they delighted 2 small boys and their zoologist mother, I’ve never seen a sea snake before.
Behind the long beach are picture perfect villages, rice fields and water buffalo. But not at Colva, Colva town itself is quite frankly yuk, a nasty little tourist hole with too many people and tacky shops.
We were visiting at what we thought would be the quiet time, it’s getting hot now in the build up to the monsoon and western travellers are thin on the ground. There were a handful of Russians at Colva and thousands of Indian tourists. The town reflects the needs of its users, it wasn’t our scene.
The Great Part
The local Goan boys running the beach shacks were so nice, we particularly recommend Bob’s Shack, to the right of the bridges onto Colva beach. Santos was an absolute gent and the wifi worked, sort of. Domnick’s shack also had intermittently working wifi. Food was great everywhere and there was a stand selling good, Americano coffee near the beach entrance. Beer was the cheapest we’ve seen here at 100Rps fr a large Kingfisher.
Early one morning, while we were walking on the beach, a local guy approached us and invited us to his home for a cooking class. How could we say no? Cooking classes are most certainly our thing after a brilliant lesson in Khmer food in Cambodia and many days of Thai cookery courses.
We spent a whole morning in his home, chatting to him and his 3 children. He was a remarkable guy who spotted straight away that my son was named after Dylan Thomas and could speak a few words of Welsh. This cookery class will have its own post in time.
Playing in the crashing waves was wonderful, my boys, used to the calm waters of the Coral Sea, love a bit of action when they take a dip.
Despite the problems, we really did enjoy our time here overall, just a few times I wanted to scream ( and did). The boys read Kindle books endlessly, curled up in chairs in beach shacks between swims, the lack of internet did them good I think. I love that Boo has now really caught to reading bug,same as his brother.
Boo dropped my phone and smashed it on a concrete floor, no Instagram. Not that I’d been finding the time to post to that platform.
My camera lens stopped working ( the Olympus PEN, 2nd time this has happened, a design fault). I now only have the big zoom lens, a massive disaster.
Mostly, no internet, which drove us all insane as we were trying to make onward travel plans and arrangements.
The guests at our hotel were all Indian, mostly men. They started drinking at 7.30am, beers and spirits. You’d see the same on the beach, men having whisky for breakfast. There was lots of noise in and around the pool area, it’s not nice to be around. It seems to be a cultural difference, drinking in the morning is quite normal, could somebody fill me in on this if you know?
We were constantly being approached for photos of the kids. Once or twice a day is OK, it’s a thing that always happens in India, but it never stopped in Colva and wore us and the kids down.
Some pathetic excuse for a man decided to grope me in the sea. I gave him both barrels in true Welsh-girl style as he slunk off like a kicked dog. ( Eve teasing, they call it here, it’s common, but I thought at 48, with my kids, I would no longer be a target. Indian girls endure this constantly from some, not all, types of males.)
No laundry. We smell bad! I did some hand washing in Mamallapuram where we had a washing line, but the per Kg laundry services of SE Asia just don’t seem to exist here. Bigger Indian hotels offer a per piece service, but it would work out extremely expensive at 50Rps for one pair of trousers. We had nowhere to dry hand washing where it would be safe.
No trains. Every train north was fully booked for a month at least. Our bad, we didn’t realise it was Indian holiday time. Booking trains here is not a simple process.
So with only 3 weeks of visa left we were a little concerned. On the 4th day after 2 days at Madgaon station, we decided to head north to the main train station at Vasco da Gama ( two easy and comfortable bus rides), maybe we could access the tourist quota from there. No joy, there were only 2 tourist quota seats on each train. We were stuffed.
Luckily, we wandered into a really nice restaurant ( Cafe Karma , near the station) which had excellent, fast wifi. Finally we could do some research. At this point we were just looking for flights out of India, we’d had enough. We quickly discovered that flights out of Cochin, Kerala were way cheaper than out of Goa ( thanks to the miracle of Skyscanner) so Chef went back to the ticket queue crush to see if we could book a train south.
Success! We have tickets to Cochin about a week from today, so we’re sorted, from there we’ll fly out.
For now we’re settled in North Goa, happily enjoying Anjuna, one of our old haunts. Things have changed a lot over the last 20 years but it still feels right, we like it here. The kids are in the beautiful pool, I have internet and coffee, all is right with the world. But still no laundry, I’m off to do a mammoth hand wash.
Did you miss parts 1-3 of this random, unplanned, independent family travel adventure around India? If so, find them here. 1. Arriving and adjusting to India travel. 2. Getting to Magical Mamallapuram from Chennai, with a few hiccups. 3. Getting to the ancient city of Hampi and on to Goa.
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