It was a pleasant summer morning, with our semester exams having a great end; yes! You read it right, a great end; the day had come when I dreamt of not giving any more exams from this point! (Just kidding :p)
Finally, the sense of freedom that only teenagers can understand and value has emerged from jail, smelling the fresh air after a very long time. The only thing is I am not a teenager now.
So, I called up my friend Sumit by late evening to hang out. After one month of exile, it was good to see him around. Although we had our exam night outs and after-college paper discussions, seeing him now seems to be completely different.
“Let’s go, have some momos. It’s been a while since we ate the street food”, he said. I agreed to this and slowly marched towards the town’s famous ‘momos mama’ place.
“Since our college is done, I think it’s high time we actually go and have fun somewhere,” Sumit said.
“Yes, but I don’t think so we can actually go anywhere. Every Time you made a plan, I always heard a voice echoing in me ‘cancel, cancel’. What can I do about it?”
“I guarantee that this time it won’t be the same,” he said with the stiffness that was quite new to me.
“Don’t you remember last time we planned about Goa, after so much convincing, or begging everyone to come, all you did is to say ‘my mom won’t allow me? She says Goa is a bad place to go’ and you canceled the whole trip?”
“Yes but I cannot listen to her tantrums during my start of the final year, man!” he said. “By the way, Goa is a bad place to go.”
“Seriously?” I shouted so loud that the old man who was enjoying his snack put down and watched me as if I had done something I shouldn’t have done.
“Calm down!” he said. After taking a huge bite, he further said “okay we will do one thing. Let’s go to Goa then. I won’t back out this time.” And I laughed at him the moment he said it. He just stood, gave me a stern look, and started walking. That was the first time I saw him do such a thing.
“Hey, at least pay the bill!” I said with a loud voice. He stopped, turned back, again gave that stern look, didn’t utter a word, and started walking again. I paid the bill and walked briskly to match his pace. I tried to start a conversation but in vain.
Sumit is a great planner. When it comes to going and visiting places (in our dreams) he has this talent to describe each and everything right from the scratch. The only problem was, we never actually visited one! So, even for him, it was a difficult task to do so.
It had been a few days since Sumit actually had a conversation with me. Despite so many missed calls and messages, Sumit managed to remain quiet. I was growing impatient as days passed. I even thought of going to his house, but something stopped me from doing so.
“Hey Rahul, I have made my final list. We will discuss it today. Come to my house by evening 7.” Out of the blue moon, I received this text from Sumit. I called him immediately and he just hung up the phone.
“Hey, come in”, a voice echoed from inside as I rang the bell. The door was open and I saw a bright light coming from Sumit’s bedroom. I locked the main door and went inside. In his bedroom, I saw him surfing some images on his laptop and a small scribble pad lying beside him.
“Why were you not receiving my calls? I was worried about you idiot!” I yelled at him.
“Hey don’t shout man. Uncle will just blankly complain again then.” He whispered.
“By the way, I have made the plan. You want to hear it?” he further added.
“What plans?” I wished he didn’t crack one of his little screamers again.
“Goa plans idiot! Have you forgotten what I said?” his tone looked quite serious now.
I just sat beside him. He kept his laptop on the table, and then showed me a word file wherein he had prepared an itinerary for us.
“This is our plan. We will visit all places, enjoy the hell out of it and make this is the most memorable one. Are you ready?” he said as if he was proposing to me to marry him. And I said “YES”.
Planning to go and have fun in a place seems easy to talk about, but when it comes to the point where the actual discussion takes place, it is quite easy to lose our minds. Right from getting to know about places via Google, checking out for hotspots in that particular place, going through tons of itineraries, looking out for legit hotels, travel agencies, and covering all this in a stipulated budget that we have (especially meeting extraordinarily tight cost cuttings set by our parents!) it is quite easy to give up on what we have planned to do.
Luckily, we didn’t.
The biggest challenge that we had now was convincing our parents to have this trip. Firstly, traveling to faraway places is considered a high-risk situation by them. Then as young blood, they still consider us as toddlers. Then, the budget issues and finally, the problem with Goa as a choice of place to visit!
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Additionally, these questions were also bombarded on me the moment I disclosed this topic,
Mom: “But how are you going to manage these many days with your friend?”
Dad: “I have heard that people sell drugs there,”
Mom: “The food is also rubbish there,”
Dad: “Those Russians who stay there are also quite dangerous people. I don’t think you can be safe around them.”
Mom: “if you get then who will take care of you?”
Dad: “You can go and visit some temples around the country, right! Why waste your time on those useless beaches and the garbage that is spread around?”
With a certain degree of emotional setback and some extraordinary convincing skills, I managed to make them agree on this plan. Even Sumit also had to go through the same kind of interrogation, and fortunately, his parents also agreed.
So, we were all set to plan and book for the journey now. The plan goes like this; it would be a 3-day 2-night trip. In these three days, we would cover North Goa and South Goa separately each day. Now accordingly, we listed certain places to visit, hotels to stay, and book train tickets. Also, we had to list down do’s and don’ts to be followed and things to carry along with our usual clothes.
This process is far more tedious than actually visiting the place. Yet how much ever we plan, the journey always brings a certain element of surprise along with it. Sometimes it is a special one; sometimes it turns out to be a nightmare. Here we had both of them to be witnessed.
We reserved tickets in Konkan Kanya Express that was bound to leave in the upcoming week. Sumit had booked hotels in Calangute and Panjim (towns in North Goa and South Goa respectively). He also mapped bus routes and walking routes using Google reviews and maps. So, it was a matter of weeks before we set foot on the road.
Thursday 11:30 pm. The hustle and bustle of the CSMT railway station were moving past me at a slow pace. Those Chaiwallas, Coolies, Snacks Vendors, and passengers showing their timid faces one by one is what makes this railway journey quite special. Since it was a 12-hour long journey, it is important to have some patience when it comes to railways. But luckily, as it was a night journey, the majority of the time would be spent sleeping.
Somehow I managed to stay awake all night; never had I felt so much nervousness before. Sumit on the other hand managed to have a good sleep.
The next day, morning around 11:30, we reached Phibim station. After having a hearty pav bhaji from a small hotel, we got our backpacks along with our happy selves and took a deep breath of the warm sea breeze that we got, although we are still 50 kilometers away from one! Sumit indicated that we had to walk to a nearby bus depot to catch a bus that takes us to Mapusa.
From there we again had to catch a bus to Calangute.
The bus ride to Mapusa was a 40 minute run through dense lush green forests. The farms that looked like colorful patches from far were a pleasant sight we had. Sumit was busy taking photos, but I preferred to have a live experience at that moment.
Getting down at Mapusa, what I saw was a bus stop with no real stops. It was just a barren land where the bus stops, waiting for it to fill up and leaves. A small box-like-looking bus came out of nowhere and it had a board saying KTCL in bold letters. The conductor was shouting “Calangute” on top of his voice.
So we got inside the bus, waiting for another half an hour to pass by.
Traveling by train has its own kind of jet lag experience. By the time we checked in and got into our room, we felt the wrath of it. It was so much tiring, to be honest. I just helped myself fall in that cozy little bed and had a momentary nap which turned out to be a 3-hour long one.
Sumit was busy with his phone, doing something now and then, which sometimes irritates me a lot. I was feeling irritated, but too tired to fight it back.
The lunch was, although not an amazing one, but satisfied our hunger and tired faces. Sumit was busy talking to the receptionist; meanwhile, I just took a walk around the hotel. It was quite a beautiful place to stay as I saw so many coconut trees surrounding it. The clear blue sky, warm humid climate and so many foreigners roaming around merrily were quite a treat to me.
Suddenly, Sumit was nowhere to be seen. I asked the receptionist, he said that Sumit just went out in search of something. I went to the main entrance and suddenly he appeared with a silver-colored Activa.
“There is a fort nearby. Let’s have a look.” He said.
I sat behind; meanwhile, Sumit was describing how he acquired that bike. Maybe that is the charm he carries with him, always. In Goa, renting bikes is quite easier than it seems. We spent the whole afternoon exploring places, visiting old monuments and forts nearby, out of which the most famous one was Chapora Fort. Although it was in ruins, still the area was quite charming and amazing to be in.
By evening, we were at Calangute beach.
We parked our bikes and took a long walk along the shores. The seawater had a sky blue color which made it quite beautiful to see. We had our usual conversations, planned for the next day, enjoyed the serenity, and finally after sunset left the place to get back to our hotel.
On our way back, we saw this little Dhaba near our hotel. I was hesitant to get in at first, but Sumit forced me to come. We stopped and had dinner that we can never really forget till today. The taste was so delightful, it was hard to resist coming back to that place again. Certain decisions that Sumit takes make me wonder how he identifies places and gets to know in and out of that place.
Now, the weariness was again creeping in. I was almost about to fall asleep when suddenly Sumit woke me up and said, “Hey come. I want to go to a place.”
“Now?” I asked, now really getting frustrated.
“Yes, I heard that this place is worth a visit at night.” He said.
I just forced myself up and went along with him. That screech start of the engine woke me up to get more alert as I saw literally not even an insect roaming around. It was so pitch black, I was getting more and more worried. Sumit was riding through rough terrain, a path that was too mainstream to be called a road.
Out of nowhere, I saw a man from far away waving a flashlight at us. When we stopped, the already scary situation soon turned out to be a nightmare for us. Two traffic police officers were standing near their bikes. One was with the flashlight and the other with a lathi and receipt book as if they were waiting for us to come.
We soon realized that we were going in the wrong way. Gladly, no car came from the opposite direction during that time! After an hour-long debate and paying a hefty fine, we decided to return as it seemed unsafe to travel further. Sumit actually planned to span the distance of our next destination if we traveled by bike, but in vain. We somehow reached our hotel and had ourselves get into a deep trance in no moment.
Day Two, Morning at 10 o’clock, we checked out of the hotel and had a 20 minute trip to South Goa by cab. We checked in a hotel at Panjim. Unlike North Goa, South Goa is the heart of the state. It is a place known for its authentic seafood, historical structures, and a busy city where all the major markets and service centers operate.
Our time at South Goa was quite a memorable one. We had a glimpse of the old Vaso-da-Gama church, an isolated Cabo-de-Rama fort, Old Portuguese structures, and had these amazing crab dishes from a local seafood restaurant. Overall, the day was fantastic.
The next day, we checked out of the hotel at 9 am and we had to catch our train from Madgaon, scheduled to leave at 11:45 am. There was this moment where we thought we might miss the train but luckily we didn’t.
After reaching CSMT, Mumbai at midnight, we caught the last local and reached back home, safely.
Although it seems like a usual tour, the charm that it brought within me is something that I will cherish forever. Also, the bonding that I and Sumit had before, strengthened further.
Traveling might not change people, but it gives never forgettable memories.
My name is Jayanth Iyer. I belong to a Tamil family and love to curate travel stories and blogs. Abeonaz has been a platform where I can see the right blend of travel and stories. Traveling to the golden quadrilateral of India is one of my dreams!