South Goa is as calm as North Goa can get cacophonous.
The serene beaches in and around Agonda offered undoubtedly the best beach experience of the trip. Tucked away from the mainland and hidden behind forest is the Butterfly beach. It requires half an hour walk through wooded hills. The hike is such that, you wouldn’t fancy seeing a beach at the end of the trail. Alternately you could take a local fishing boat from Palolem or Agonda beach to reach here. Unfortunately, the litter around this serene beach ruins the tranquillity of the place. Hope someday people will be more sensitive and carry their own litter back with them.
Renting bodyboards from Samudra Surf School at Agonda beach, mornings were spent riding the waves. The consistent waves and a long shallow shoreline is a perfect combination for a beginner to bodyboard. Less crowd is a blessing in times like these. Don’t get stuck at the beach, hike the hills around to be bowled over by the vista. Trudging along a few ridges, a secluded place was a perfect vantage point to watch the locals angling and fishermen waiting patiently on their boats to acquire the day’s catch.
Our place of residence in Agonda was through Airbnb. Run by a family, this is an ideal place for an extended stay. Experiment with your cooking skills at the shared kitchen provided for guests. Beach is a 5 min walk away, a few restaurants at the shacks dish up the usual fancy, expensive continental fare in addition to some local seafood options. Many restaurants haven’t opened up yet, owing to the pandemic, the cooks and workers haven’t returned. Hunting for a budget, local taste we ended up at Annapoorna restaurant, 2km away from Palolem beach. During our stay, we met a writer-director, who makes off-beat movies, launching them on OTT (over the top media) platforms and Youtube. It was a pleasure chit-chatting about diverse topics under the sun. He had done a recce of magnificent hidden places around the beach and was kind enough to show us these locations.
Cabo de Rama is a dilapidated fort, which is not well preserved. The ride to this place on undulating roads through greenery is rewarding. A quick stroll around the fort and we continued on the welcoming course towards Colva beach. Seeing the sun go down the horizon at Betul, it was time to turn back towards Agonda. Next day, an early start took us to Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary via Canacona town. A blissful sanctuary with zero tourists, riding through the jungle to our heart's content was a good way to bid adieu to South Goa.
Abandoning the work in progress NH66, glide inland on the well laid out roads to Dona Paula, crossing Goa university. This place was made a famed tourist spot by local guides, who invented fictitious love stories to attract visitors. A busy jetty, it offers views of the ocean, with some stalls selling clothes ranging from hats to bikini. Strolling around the Cabo Raj Bhavan we rode towards Miramar beach and finally connecting to the NH66 at the bridge to cross the wide Mandovi River. Three bridges across this river, with one of them – Atal Setu, opened recently – not allowing two-wheelers atop it, will disorient even someone with a good sense of direction.
Spend a day at Velha Goa (Old Goa) musing on the years gone by and the effect of them on the Goan culture and history. The standard places covered by the tourists in old Goa are a group of heritage preservation, mostly churches built by Portuguese. The Se Cathedral, Basilica of Bom Jesus (under renovation), Archeological Museum of Goa (accept payment for tickets only through mobile payment apps), the dilapidated chapel of St. Catherine, Church of St. Francis of Assisi. A little away from this bustle sits the remains of a church tower, St. Augustine Tower, quiet and tranquil place to spend time in silence. Down the road Convent of Santa Monica houses a museum by name Museum of Christian Art, temporarily closed for renovation. In the same institution is the Chapel of the Weeping Cross, whose legend says blood oozed out from carving of the Christ on the cross and the Portuguese Viceroy registered a miracle with Rome. A short walk from here will take you to Church of Our lady of the Rosary, with very few visitors, it still has the air of serenity and placidness. One can see the Divar Island and watch the boats ferrying people and vehicles across. The road to the jetty holds another renowned monument – Viceroy’s Arch.