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Settling Down For A Bit in Benaulim, Goa

Renting A Luxury Apartment is a Treat!

We decided to travel to the village of Benaulim on a whim after hearing it was a relatively quiet beach and ended up staying for a month!

An old rickshaw in the village

We spent the first couple of nights in a guesthouse (run by Rod Stewart – not his real name but what he wanted to be called!) which was clean and OK but with a very small room and pretty basic. Then, on one of our walks, we popped into some nice looking apartments to inquire about availability, were shown three and shook hands on staying for a month. The apartments are mostly owned by overseas landlords and rented out via the Internet, but lots of them were empty and we paid about the same for our somewhat luxury flat as we had been paying for a normal room.

View of the pool

The flat was amazing. We had a bedroom with a massive bed and air conditioning, a bathroom with hot water, a kitchen with all crockery and utensils, fridge, toaster and kettle and a large living room with a table, cable TV and plenty of seating choices, oh, and two balconies! The apartment complex also had a lovely pool which was empty almost all of the time. It was great and it felt like we were actually living in India proper then, going out shopping and cooking up breakfast. One of the best things was being able to make our own coffee and tea, how we liked it and when we wanted it.

Fish drying in the sun (very smelly)
The beach was about a 30 minute walk away and for the first couple of weeks we stayed exclusively in Benaulim, enjoying having more than one small room. We did eventually explore some other local villages by catching some very cheap and very very crowded buses to nearby areas, but always felt pleased to return ‘home’ again to Benaulim.
Walking between Varca and Benaulim beaches

Interesting Encounters

We met a few quite interesting people while staying in Benaulim. Firstly, after only a few days a man on a bike, Shiva, stopped on the road to offer us an array of services: cooking classes; bird watching trips; books for sale from his home; bicycle rentals; guitar rentals and sightseeing trips. He was the most ardent Anglophile we have met yet. When we asked about why he had guitars and did he play them he said they were “not my cup of rosey lee” and when we said we were from Northampton he started reeling off things like “NN1!” “market square!” and “Rushden and Diamonds!” it was quite an odd experience really. He has never been to the UK but would like to visit and enjoys talking to people about where they are from (and obviously has an excellent memory!)

Sunset from the front balcony
Another gentleman that Henry met on one of his early morning walks wanted to talk to him about contraception, childbearing and the possibility of Henry finding a western child for him to adopt! He thought that taking the pill meant that you could never have children afterwards. He was also asking about IVF. He was unable to have his own children but wanted to leave his property to someone, but not an Indian (he said Goans and Indians were very different, after Henry said there were lots of Indian children who needed homes) I don’t know what his wife would have said about all this but he was very keen on finding someone to give him a fair skinned, western child to bring up as his own and become his heir and thought that Henry might know someone! Quite bizarre.
Walking back from the beach through a rice field

From our back balcony the view was of a dried up river bed and some trees, quite unexciting at first glance but there was always some nature to watch. Often, there were herds of cows taken there to graze and they were accompanied by some graceful white birds wherever they went. Sometimes the man in charge of the cows came on a bike. There were some amazing bright blue birds which I think were kingfishers and I gave trying to photograph them a good go but with little success.

Cows on the beach

Bull Fighting In Benaulim

other thing to observe out of the back balcony were the occasional bull fights, yes, bull fights! The first one happened at sundown on a Friday and gathered a large crowd but was over in minutes (one bull just ran away) The second never really got started as the police turned up (one man with a bamboo stick) but the third was quite a sight. The men gather first (I’m sure I was the only female who witnessed it) and bets are placed (we later learnt these bets can add up to thousands of pounds) then the bulls are brought in from opposite ends and are supposed to fight in the ring formed by the men but rarely does the circle hold. They are bathed with lots of water before the fight and one we saw had a garland of flowers around his neck.

I almost did not want to watch it but ended up staying out there to see them head to head, horns locked, in a brute show of strength. None of the bulls in any of the fights were hurt, they just got sweaty and eventually one ran away. It is a somewhat horrible form of entertainment and it seems odd to have seen it in a country where cows are revered by most of the population. I suppose it is another example of how Goa is different from the rest of India. We saw the fighting bulls out for training walks on many occasions around the village, sometimes with a heavy piece of wood around their necks to drag along. They looked massive and well cared for up close and the owners (or trainers) were obviously very proud of them. I also had my first (delicious) steak in Benaulim.

One of the bill fights
With all the swimming in the pool and the trips to the beach I was noticing that my hair really needed a cut. I asked for a recommendation from a local lady who manned the coffee machine in the Internet cafe and trotted off for a trim. Well, all I can say is that the hairdresser and I have very different views on what constitutes a trim. It was all fine in the end and it was a good cut but she took off between three and four inches! It was the most drastic cut I’ve had in ages but it’ll grow back and there is less of it to manage now…
Johnny Fisherman's boat
Another memorable event in Benaulim was our visit to Johnny Fisherman. We were walking early one morning on the beach and stopped to take a photo. A man rushed out of the nearest shack (restaurant) and offered to take one of both of us. He enjoyed directing us into a number of poses by the boat that belonged to the restaurant. We stayed for a drink and the manager offered to cook us a special dinner. He tempted Henry with the offer of fresh crabs and, taking a deposit, went to Margao on his bike to buy them. We returned in the evening to a dinner that Henry will never forget. He was presented with a massive platter of whole crabs and was rather off put by the whole thing. We were both expecting them to be a little more prepared…
The crabs!

On our last visit to Margao, to collect the contact lens order, we met some of the street kids again (from the shoe cleaning.) They were very pleased to see us and one of them decided to try their luck in getting Henry to buy him a bike! He said he needed it for school as he had a sore foot and it was too far to walk. We ended up giving him a couple of plasters, a small amount of cash and a smiley face sticker to him and his friend and they were quite happy.

Full moon from the back balconyBenaulim, 17th January – 16th February 2012


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