I've heard how people fall in love with Goa. I read a few old stories in which foreigners burnt their passports to stay back in Goa; stories of how they found their spiritual path in this place. Stories of how Goa was part of the earliest hippie trails, and how the RV culture we dream about today was there in Goa during 1970's itself. Buses found their way to Goa all the way from Europe and other parts of the world in their quest for self-realisation.
When I visited Goa for the first time, I didn't quite understand what was all the hype about. Goa beaches were warm, the town colourful, and the food to die for, but it was not the Goa I read about! The locals say Goa has changed a lot- things were very different during the golden era of this beach town. However, even today, there is no place like Goa in India. Deep down inside, I knew that the spirit of Goa was intact at some place, and I also knew I was going to come back to Goa to witness it.
"You don't have to worry if you can't swim- the water is shallow and hardly reaches your waist. And you're pretty tall", Shanu said. "Take a kayak and go around the river '', Pirkko, my host said. I'd never done kayaking on my own before. Pirkko helped me with the basics and I was eventually on my kayak with my oars. A quick session of testing the waters (pun intended) followed- left, right, forward, backward and still. Finally, I was on my way kayaking in the Mandovi river. I passed through the mangroves and fishing trails and took a break from the relentless rowing. In the tranquil backwaters, the only sounds I could hear was that of the jumping frogs, the sweet cooing of the birds, the swish of the wind and the rumbling monsoon clouds above me. It was sheer bliss.
It's beyond the crowded beaches, busy streets and commercial cafes & pubs.
Olaulim, Goa is a laid back village in the heart of North Goa. It's not very far from the coasts, and yet is very quiet and peaceful.Pi rkko and Savio (my hosts) run an eco-friendly stay - Olailum backyards on the riverside of the village and it is a heavenly place. It's very romantic how this couple runs the place with their heart and soul and choose to share the space with passionate travellers. The cottages are named after the birds who are their visiting guests. They have Adorable dogs, lovely cats, a pony, donkey and a goat. I'm usually afraid of pets, but here I was at ease. I guess if there is positive energy all around and they don't feel threatened by humans, they are all calm and co-exist in harmony and love.
The best part is most of the village residents grow vegetables and fruits organically in their backyards and often exchange them with neighbours. Walking and cycling around the village is one of my favourite things to do. A variety of flowers, fruits and vegetables are indigenous to this land. The smell of ripe fruits wafts around in the breezy streets. The locals were getting ready to celebrate Sao Joao.
The colonial old houses, a few dilapidated structures with windows made of seashell instead of glass, the vegetable gardens, green meadows, the humble church, and the small chapels all add charm to this sleepy village. The women who are always up for a quick chat near the street ends and the pit walls, Mrs. John who calls 60 cats her pets and knows each one of them like her own kid, Mr. Salgaonkar who says both Jesus and Ganesh are one, Mr Francis who complains about how cutting down trees and raising concrete building for the sake of tourists is the reason for late rains in Goa, the birds both resident and visiting, among so many others call this village home.
Life on the other side of Goa!!!
Offbeat things to do around Olaulim Goa
Chorao islands & Salimali Bird Sanctuary: The nearest ferry crossing to reach here is from Pomburpa, which is less than two km from Olaulim backyards. There is a beautiful church here to explore. The Salim Ali bird sanctuary is a mangrove habitat for so many species of birds along the Mandovi river. The trails are well paved. It's a wonderful experience.
Divar island: It is the prettiest and quietest town I've ever seen around Goa. Ferries run very frequently to Divar. The colonial houses, luxury villas, old churches and the panoramic view from the top of the island are all reasons to visit this island. You can walk into the Island house to understand the architecture and feel of a 200-year-old house and Portuguese lifestyle. They serve authentic breakfast, lunch, dinner, and high tea.
Mayem Lake: located in Bicholim, Mayem is a serene fresh water lake. The sleepy country side is perfect to relax, read a book or sip coffee while watching the water ripples.
Socorro: The roads to this town are verdant on either side. The heritage homes are very picturesque. The Sorrocco church grounds have local events organised all the time. The Dynasty bakery serves the best bread, croissants and other freshly baked goods.
Driving to the Panjim Heritage area, Old Goa and the warm beaches are also great options to experience the old charm of Goa without all the commercialism that has been associated with it.
Savio and Pirkko also curated some authentic experiences along with organisations who are run by responsible, Eco-friendly operators. You can check their website for other activities like Scuba diving, Yachting and Rafting - Olaulimgoa.com
Tags: Offbeat guide to Goa, Unexplored Goa, offbeat things to do in Goa, Second time in Goa, Goa tourism, Goa monsoon.
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