As the dinner simmers slowly on the stove… I sit down to write, collecting my thoughts, with stillness around, about my beautiful sojourn in the quaint little place called Aldona, in Goa.
You know, I never need an excuse to travel. All I need is an urge to runaway to the wilderness of a new destination – to explore something new. So, when the urge sparked, I went ahead and booked my tickets to Goa, for a weekend. Well, it had to be Goa, North Goa, as monsoons cast a mysterious spell in that coastal belt. This time, certainly, I intended to explore more of its native life, unlike the last luxurious excursion, to consume more about the general lifestyle and cultural norms, and of course to taste the food, cooked home style. Hence, I preferred a homestay, which I thought, would help me experience it well. I feel, hotels, can’t fulfil that quest to savor the local flavors, both in terms of food and culture.
The North Goa
During my brief research I stumbled upon “The Only Olive”, a supposedly century old Portuguese style villa, restored and renovated. The lonely planet, Outlook, Condo Nast` and several other travel journals had strongly recommended. I looked up for reviews too, which seemed to me, a reasonably good place to lodge. They all recommended its hospitality and the feel-good-experience, well that is, only if you like the kinds – the rustic, timeless, classic touch. I went ahead, made my reservations. Though it was a brief conversation with the owner, I could figure out, this gentleman, was not here to do just business, but instead, he wanted to leave a fine imprint on the visitors with an ever-so-rich experience in true Goan customary style.
The Only Olive, The Homestay
As soon as I landed, a fresh most air, welcomed me in Goa. There were soft clouds, all over the sky, but did not promise rains. It was green – lush greenery sprawling all over. I was picked up from the airport, and on my way, I observed how calm and serene the place was, where people were in no particular hurry, and they wore a smile, which was not plastic – I like to explore this bit, during the transit time, from airport to hotel or whatsoever, in my car, as it helps me gauge a bit about the place. Monsoon had bathed the floras and faunas abundantly, that almost everything sparkled and winked in happiness. The roads were clean and smooth – buttery, magnificently maintained. I thought, it would be fun to drive.
Maneuvering through the narrow roads, and having crossed, several old terracotta roofed old homes and little markets, we reached the homestay. It was an hour’s drive from the airport to the destination, Village Aldona, where The Only Olive was perched on a hillock, – a quaint little place, in North Goa, along the sides, there’s a calm river, that flows silently, cautious enough not to stir the tranquility of the place.. And as I walked up to the porch, I could take a sweeping view of the surrounding village, and listened to the constantly chirping birds, that need to be located with careful attention somewhere behind the flowering bushes and fruit trees, specially, an olive one, that the patch of garden boasts of.
The Only Olive
The caretaker welcomed me with a gentle smile, helped me carry the little bag inside and escorted me to the room. I was amazed to look around – A very high celling, roofed using terracotta tiles, the old teak wood beds, tall wooden doors, the old style iron hooks to lock them, terracotta tiled floor, my favorite unfinished wooden table, positioned for dining outdoors in the courtyard, the old, style, caned arm-chairs.
The Only Olive
Mug of Joy
I simply felt, I could touch the era that’s gone by. Santosh, the very humble, polite caretaker, quickly got some tea, bread and eggs for breakfast. The bread was a local one – rich in fibre, husk and pocketed ones, like pita, slightly chewy but very fresh and enjoyable, that was sold door to door in a little motor bike, piled in a cane basket, covered tightly with a plastic sheet, to ensure its freshness was sealed and intact. I enjoyed my every bite, and then decided to take a power nap, so that the rest of the day could be well explored, unaffected by lack of rest.
The Poi & The Breakfast
Around noon, I could not resist. I woke up, dressed up, to venture out in my rented car. Decided to start with the local market, where the magnificent church, little shops, general stores, etc. were all closely knit.
The Mapsua Market
I drove down, all through the narrow roads, reached the Mapsua Market, photographed the vibrant, colorful fresh stocks, of spices, flowers, breads, vegetables, fresh supplies, in little makeshift shops and push carts.
After some time, went further to a couple of beaches – famous enough as the party hubs – Baga, Candolim, Calangute and further explored the Fort Aguada and the beach alongside.
The North Goa
The enroute was not so smooth – but it was fun wading through the roads, breathing in the air, that was so relaxed with a tinge of humidity. I walked along, splashed the salty water, looked across the horizon, and slowly retreated to the homestay. It was late evening, where silence enveloped the night and stars twinkled up there in the sky, which was fairly clear, signaling me, it was time to say goodnight…after a tiring day. Of course, on the dinner table, the steaming hot, fresh prawns curry, some rice, crumb fried fish, a veg curry and a green salad, awaited to be devoured. Santosh had neatly cooked and served the food. His services for the day had ended, and he headed home, to spend time with his flock, that stayed right behind.
Goan Fish Curry
Sigh!!!! Two days of absolute fun thus came to an end. Well, Goa is beyond parties and beaches, only if you wish to explore.