Just to make sure we didn’t get totally bored of reading and relaxing on the beach all week, we decided to take a little day trip and see some sites beyond Palolem. We rented a scooter, bought a few liters of petrol and headed north. There aren’t really that many sites nearby, but we made a day of it.
We scooted up and down the hills and along the fairly quiet rural roads passing small villages, rice paddies and school children along the way. Our first stop was Cabo de Rama, a huge old Portuguese fort. Despite the government signs warning of severe penalties for anyone caught desecrating this historic landmark, the place was pretty run down. We’re not sure what “protected site” really means in India, but in this case it could only have meant stone walls speckled with graffiti and overgrown with weeds where locals put their cows to pasture and monkeys fly between the treetops. Still the fort was an impressive site (as were the monkeys!). It’s massive walls wound along the coast offering great views of the Arabian Sea.
We later visited Agonda Beach – a smaller, quieter beach not far from Palolem. We knew when we came to India that our guidebook was dated (circa 2001), but our visits to Palolem and Agonda were absolute confirmations of this. It’s true that Agonda is quieter than Palolem, but there are still many services and facilities – many, many more than indicated five years ago. You get the sense that both beaches are headed towards some sort of environmental disaster in about ten years if they keep pace. Let’s just say the view of the ocean is great, but the trash swimming along side you – not so much!
To kill time before the train station window opened up for us to purchase a ticket, we thought we’d pay a visit to the Grand Resort Goa, an Intercontinental Hotel nearby. I had heard that you could pay to use their very nice pool and spa. We found the hotel – a luxury fortress with closed gates. Despite our sweaty attire and mode of transportation, the guards at the gate let us pass. We parked the scooter and wandered about the resort. It was quite amazing – private beach, golf course, archery range, skeet shooting range, heliport …and pool. The pool, complete with waterfall and swim up bar, beckoned. We were hot. It was clean. We kind of look like we belong, right? I mean we don’t have dreads or anything. We found a little corner to set our things down and took a dip. Refreshing, clean water. Things were going pretty well until the nice pool guy checked us out and realized we didn’t check out. Being the honest folks that we are (and since they had a crash proof pool system), we fessed up and said we’d leave rather than pay some ridiculous amount of rupees to stay. We already got to swim anyway right? I did offer him baksheesh – a bribe common anticipated anywhere else in this country, but not with the honest staff of the Intercontinental. I am sure we weren’t the first to offer. We calmly made for the exit, and relished our mini dip into luxury as we returned to Palolem.