I have mixed feelings and confused thoughts about our time in the north of Goa. Beyond Panjim, the commercial hub of the tiny state, across the broad expanse of the Mandovi river, you enter the land of party legend. As we drove across the old bridge, the spectacular prospect of the new road with its mix of suspension and columns, its preformed sections being lifted into place, gave concrete manifestation to the ambitions of the state and national governments. This is also the most developed stretch of coastline, paying host to indigenous holiday makers seeing the sea for the first time, exogenous tourists with monstrous cameras and bossy guides, young party seekers searching for a beat or two, a mass of churches and chapels, bird watchers with their binoculars and notebooks, and if you look hard enough the odd wizened hippy.

A road to nowhere
Church as factory
Church as cricket pitch
Church as ruin
Being made welcome
All souls day

The prospect of a complicated journey involving many changes of local buses, a still undeveloped competence in spoken or written Hindi, and the splendid local expertise of Conrad, equalled a restful taxi ride to our next stop. We were staying in an apartment belonging to a friend of a friend; it appeared in the backstreets of a little village, like many things in India, yet another disjuncture, this time amidst the bungalows of old Goa.

One nick or two
Nagao nightlife

The relative calm of the transition from one place to another merely displaced my standard travel anxiety. I decided that we were far away from everything, and so we needed a scooter immediately. A spate of rationalisations duely issued forth. The recommended in house fix-it man being briefly unavailable, I entered into negotiations with (almost) the first local I found. Yes, he could get me a scooter, no problem. Yes, okay for three hundred rupees a day. Yes, for four days, returning at ten o’clock on the fourth day. Ah, but that’s only three and a half days say I. Oh, I see, you’re very drunk, and so is your friend. But the deal seems done, a scooter is promised in the next little while, and I fret and worry that I’m as much a fool as ever I were.

But it comes, it works, it’s clearly lived a life, the suspension barely suspends, it stalls when the lights are on and the revs drop low, but we get about, and survive and thrive. Our first night requires the search not for the perfect beach, nor for the perfect beats, but for a bar with a telly. The journey took in the spectacle of Calengute, something between Oxford Street in the week before Christmas and the Kumb Mela. Not there then. Three traffic jams, two broken roads, four camouflaged cows, and an estuarial bird bonanza later we find a telly. All this, I should say, is so that we can watch the last instalment of England U17’s in their World Cup Final.

Are we there yet?

We visited Anjuna, explored it’s market, tried to make sense of the crowded town, it’s abrupt end, the wilderness of fields, navigated by scruffy roads, and then a rocky and dark sand beach fringed with bars, restaurants and exotic lodgings. As we climbed down onto the beach i picked up a few viciously broken bottles nestled in the sand. I tried to imagine the hypnotic restless energy booming through the night and the sun with tropical speed throwing daylights glare on night times revels.  But i wasn’t there. The journey home was fun. 

Local art

Old Goa up river from Panjim is the old Portuguese capital. A strange aspic drenched graveyard of colonial worship, now hosting selfie adoring celebrants. All set in lovely clipped lawned grounds. Some of the lavish interiors are truly amazing, gold, gold and more gold, beautiful stonework, extravagant carved and painted wooden reliefs. The infants seem hyper cherubic, perhaps some tropical offspring of Botticelli’ s issue. I liked the abandoned ruin of St. Augustine’s Tower, strangely more alluring than the grand edifices of the surviving churches.

The tree over the pool

Our apartment was situated in a village called Nagao, in a small complex built around a mighty banyon tree and a pretty pool, and wedged between the usual hotch potch of shacks, sheds, gardens, building sites, and a couple of stylish modern homes. The plot itself was rectangular, except for where the perimeter wall skirted around an ancient thatched shack. The web of tracks, paths and lanes in this village took in everything that I’d come to expect in Goa. There was a too narrow winding road with too much honking beeping traffic, some beautiful and delapidated Goan bungalows, a couple of starched white chapels, some lovely front yard shrines dressed for the end of Dwali, buildings of all ages and stages of coming up or going down, dressed in all imagineable colours,  all manner of luxury and simplicity jostling together and pressing at the surrounding fields that hemmed in growth.

Time to move on.

Mapusa market
A rare well kept original


Cathedral gloom and a plastic chair
Looking down the line