Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. My first blog of the year is about a year-end holiday in Goa, India. I went on a road trip with my friends and stayed at the Dersy Resort, Agonda Beach in South Goa. Agonda is a beautiful, secluded and small beach in the heart of Agonda village. This was my 2nd visit to the same place; the previous one being before COVID-19 pandemic in December 2018.
There are plenty of local cafes and shops in the Agonda village operated by the locals and by the people from northern India – Himachal and Kashmir. The shops sell merchandise such as beach wear, art deco pieces, artificial jewellery, leather goods and accessories. I shopped for my favorite accessory i.e., a neck scarf called ‘Pashmina’. The google explanation of Pashmina is ‘a term for cashmere wool of the Changthangi cashmere goat, for fine Indian cashmere wool or a synonym for cashmere wool.’ The shop owner ‘Bilal’ told me that the goat is a protected species by law. However, the government has allowed to shave of the wool from which the scarves and other merchandise are made.
Pashmina is a thin-fine woolen fabric, with a rich feel and easily passes through the smallest of finger rings – a way to test the fabric’s superiority. Pashmina scarves are gender neutral and can be worn all-round the year. My love for scarves was ignited somewhere in 2013-14 when I had picked up a couple of them from a flea market in North Goa. Since than I have created a personal collection which I keep using on various occasions. The inspiration also comes from Europeans who use them in winters to protect from cold climate. I believe a neck scarf is a classy fashion accessory which highlights one’s personality and gives a confident look.
My next pick was a custom-made T-Shirt from a local shop. While strolling through the market, I spotted a shop selling sewing machine embroidery T-shirts. The shopkeeper ‘Abu Ahmed’ agreed to make an embroidery logo of pedal and tring tring on a black T-Shirt for me. I am delighted to own a tailor made accessory and promote local craftsmanship.
It wasn’t a surprise that there aren’t any bicycle shops and rental services in Agonda. One evening, I was walking through the village road, I saw a sign board which read ‘Taxis, Bikes and Cycles available on rent’. Upon inquiring the person told me that he has four bicycles and all of them are rented out to foreigners for a month. After a few failed attempts I managed to rent an Avon MTB bike from a local citizen. Avon is an Indian brand based in Ludhiana, Punjab and one of the leading bicycle manufacturers in India. The bicycle which I rented was a basic model and good enough for slow riding which suited my style of cycling.
I used the bicycle to commute within Agonda and planned a long ride to the nearest beach on a weekend. On the morning of 31st December, I went cycling from Agonda and visited Palolem beach (Canacona) which is 10 km distance. The route is mostly flat and passes through the village area with views of open fields, trees, private bungalows and houses on either side of the road. Enroute, I crossed a herd of buffalos, cows and their droppings on the road. I rode carefully to avoid my tyres getting messy.
Another thing that scared me was dogs that chased me as I passed through their territory. I was cautious, making eye contact with them carrying a calm look on my face communicating that be assured, I won’t harm them nor invade their zone. I still don’t understand the dog psychology of chasing moving objects but have experienced it quite often. Maybe if you know the science behind it let me know.
Unlike Agonda beach, Palolem is a commercial beach. Apart from the shacks, there are water sports facilities at the beach. When I visited there, I saw several boats lined-up on the beach front – almost blocking the sea view. Further, the boat operators approach tourists asking for boat trips and kayaking rides. The competition between the boat operators is intense which results in too many of them approaching the same person one after the other.
The approach road towards Palolem beach isn’t very attractive with a lot of chaos. Another downside of the beach is that the parking area is at the tip of the entrance with too many cars, taxis, rickshaws and scooters parked outside. There is a paid public toilet facility at the beach. Along the approach road, there are shops and cafes which are open from 9 am to 10 pm with some exceptions depending upon the seasonality. If you were to go consider my opinion, I would prefer to stay at Agonda beach and skip Palolem. In contrast, Agonda is much more peaceful to spend time in solitude or in the company of your travel buddy.
Back to cycling, I returned from Palolem to Agonda with a few stops in between for photos and videos. It was a little chilly in the morning when I started to pedal but while returning the sun was up and the temperature increased to about 28-30 degrees. The return ride was sweaty and ended with a quick shower. On the 1st of January 2023, I rode in the Agonda village itself and returned the bicycle back from whom I had rented it. I paid a rent of Rs. 200 per day and kept the bicycle with me for four days, and it was worth the deal.
The trip ended with a fabulous dinner at the Goa Cottage café in Agonda beach with live music, dancing and cheers all around on the night of 31st. The only thing that didn’t impress me was the extensive fireworks. When I went for a morning walk on the beach to see the first sunrise of the year, I had to navigate through the firework debris and thrash created the previous night. I am not against celebrations, but certainly not at the cost of environmental pollution.
I am thankful to the almighty for his blessings and the wonderful experiences I could gather from this trip. I am looking forward to more travel opportunities in 2023 combined with destination cycling.
Once again, I wish you all my followers and well-wishers a fantastic new year. I want to finish this blog with a quote “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”. So, I urge and encourage everyone to maximize every small opportunity which comes your way, take chances and pursue your passion. No matter what you like to do – travel, music, reading, writing, art, etc., do whatever floats your boat.
You might also like to read CYCLING IN GOA – FROM SANGOLDA TO CHORAO ISLAND
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Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai