Riding to Old Goa

Colourful buildings along Arambol beach

The warm air rushes through my hair as we wind our way through palm tree lined lanes and dusty, shabby but colourful villages just behind the coast.

Hiring a moped is a great way to explore other beaches and to catch a glimpse of the real Goan villages behind the tourist resorts. We visit Baga, Calangute and Candolim but there are hordes of tourists, hassle and traffic. Behind the many touristy beach shacks you can see where people have built homes with wooden sticks, dried palm leaves and blue tarpaulin, living in poverty right in eyesight of the package tourists who seem to be oblivious to this. The beaches here are wider, but have less character and charisma as Anjuna, and we watch as people splash around, sitting in the lapping waves fully clothed.

Arambol has a similar traveller vibe to Anjuna, the golden beach is framed by green palm trees and colourful buildings. Vagator is rocky but beautiful with its striking, steep red cliffs and a shrine on the beach.

Vagator beach

I love the feeling of freedom the moped gives and I’m not so scared of the traffic anymore as I even start to understand Indian ‘road rules.’

The bigger vehicles have right of way. Lorries display hand painted signs on the back reading “Horn OK Please.” People want you to honk to make them aware of your presence. The driver, or sometimes the passengers on the bus, will wave or wiggle their fingers if it is safe for you to overtake. Whole families ride on motorbikes, a man, his wife riding side-saddle with sari billowing in the wind behind and 3 or 4 small children snuggled into their parents. People have incredibly quick reactions as pedestrians confidently walk out into the middle of the traffic and it seems to part for them.

Riding over the green hills hugging the sea we see lots of nice vistas of the sea, hillsides, dusty villages, colourful temples and palm tree lined rivers with colourful bobbing boats.

orange temple

On the way back we rode past this beautiful temple.

A trip to Old Goa ends up being a lot more stressful and expensive than expected. There is only 1 bridge by the capital Panjim that links north and south Goa and the police pulled us (and many other tourists) over . Apparently we didn’t have the right international license but for 2,000 rupee (£23) they would let it slide. It’s basically just another tourist scam. The fine was 2000 rupees; we only had 1,500 but they took that anyway and let us on our way to Old Goa.

The old Portuguese churches were impressive and gave us an insight into part of Goan history but it was a little strange to see catholic churches in the middle of India.Only the churches and cathedrals are still standing without the town they would have once been part of.

Back at Anjuna there was a beach party that night spilling out of one of the bars onto the sand. The party was heaving, the trance volume whacked up, there were fire dancers on the beach and the bar was decked out with psychedelic UV decorations. Dancing in the sand by the waves was good to experience but it was also a bit disturbing to see westerners who were old enough to be grandparents off their faces on drugs, dancing to trance music. Some looked like remnants of the 60’s hippy trail who came to Goa and never left.

The famous Anjuna flea market was the next day. The colourful stalls and tourists were tightly packed in and the hassle from stall owners, roaming hawkers and beggars was pretty exasperating. What made it worse was that they were charging ridiculous prices (more expensive than cheap English shops) for bad quality pieces of tat. I haggled hard and bought some baggy trousers and a purple kaftan as I would need to cover up more in other places on our journey.

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