Beaches, Cocktails and riding a Royal Enfield to its Limits

Riding in India had been hard and not nearly as much fun as it usually is. But the last 200 kilometres or so to Goa were amazing! The road was smaller but good unusually great tarmac and apart from the few carrying sugar cane to a factory we passed, there were no trucks, leaving us to enjoy the scenery and the ride. Colourfully dressed farmers and work hands were bringing in the sugar cane and Indian rural life unfolded in front of us against the lush green backdrop of this region.

Aidan and I managed to lose each other a couple of times when I suddenly stopped to take a photo. Then I’d race on, trying to catch him, zooming right past where he was waiting for me only to stop much further on, wondering where the hell he was. Meanwhile Aidan got worried I might have had bike problems or even an accident, slowly retracing his steps to where he’d last seen me. Of course our phones chose that moment to refuse connecting to any signal. Happily we did eventually find each other again. Whoops!

Then the road looped up a fun little road into the mountains, offering awesome (and of course misty) views. We stopped to say hi to the monkeys before descending the potholed road on the other side into Goa.

We’d finally made it! Our well-traveled friend from O’Coqueiro’s in Diu had recommended Arambol beach in north Goa, so that is where we headed. The first hostel we checked had a decent room for 500Rs a night, sorted. Aaaaand relax!

We’d read about Double Dutch, a restaurant well known for its excellent buffalo steaks. So we tucked right in. Wow was that yum!!! Till now I hadn’t really missed it, Indian food is just too exiting. We’d basically eaten vegetarian since we arrived in India, apart from chicken or fish once or twice a month. But beef? I guess the Portuguese had brought Christianity to Goa too, so cows aren’t too holy to eat for everyone here.

Arambol has guest houses tucked away under palm trees, on the rocky cliffs to the north and in between the locals’ houses and there are beach huts all along the miles and miles of beach. The main street has shops selling shawls, hippie clothes, leather goods, jewellery, shisha, incense, ayurvedic powders, drums, guitars, potions and just about anything a hippie or backpacker could want. There are bikes for rent, booze shops and endless cafes, restaurants and juice bars. It’s a super chillaxed atmosphere.

In the busy north of the beach the restaurants sprawl out onto the beach, hundreds of candles on the tables lighting it up during the night. Shops and bars cling onto the rocks either side of the path that leads to another beach further up. But at high tide you’ll get your feet wet.

Towards the south the restaurants space out a little, making room for beach huts, sun loungers and dozens of fishing boats, waiting to go to sea every night. In the morning they come back in, fishermen rolling them back up the beach on pieces of palm tree trunk. Their catch is delivered straight to the restaurants and what they don’t take is sold in the small market up by the main road.

A bunch of ladies and children walk up and down the beach offering cheap sarongs, bracelets, coconuts and pineapples and a guy cycles past a few times a day selling ice cream out of a cooler box on the back. At night local hippies spread their crafts of unique jewellery, paintings, palm tree baskets and anything else you can imagine on a cloth in the sand by the shimmer of battery-powered little lamps.

Aidan spent most of the next morning on the toilet. His tummy still hadn’t recovered. So I decided to ride into Panjim, Goa’s capital, to check for poste restante. There was some confusion at counter No 10 and then I was told to come back after 3pm. Ok, chance to have Nila’s oil leak checked out then. A fellow Pulsar rider advised there was a Bajaj service centre in Mapusa, a town on the way home and it was easier to find than the one in Panjim. Or so he thought. In Mapusa people kept sending me up and down the road with the big Honda showroom. But no Bajaj place. I was starting to feel like this was one of those movie scenes where a person sees one thing, but in reality it’s another. Maybe I should ask the Honda people if they are Bajaj really? After hours of searching I gave up and rode back to the postie. But my parcels hadn’t arrived. Bummer. What a waste of a day! I decided to leave it for a few days….

It seems we got to this little paradise quite early in the season and so it is still relatively quiet. The days were spent sipping cocktails, catching up with friends and writing the blog.

We rode to the famous Anjuna flea market a couple of beaches south, only to find there are no fleas. It’s a fully fledged market selling all the tourist stuff you can buy in Arambol. So we stopped for a nice cool beer in the midday heat to drown the disappointment. Luckily after that we found a few nice Tibetan stalls with unusual stuff to browse and one corner was dedicated to artists, craftsmen and designers selling their own handmade stuff . Mostly hippies that came to Goa and never left. Their stuff was pretty cool in an arty farty kind of way, but a little pricey for our purses.

Of course we went to the night flea market between Anjuna and Braga too. Again, no fleas here. In fact this one was a proper touristy thing with cheesy oompah band and almost a funfair feel, only the rides were missing. Both markets had originally started as flea markets…. I guess our guide book is a little outdated. But hey ho! We found a nice travel size brass shisha pipe and managed to bargain it down to very affordable. A little St Nikolaus present to ourselves (it was 6th December after all). And it was nice to stroll about in the cool evening air.

After a few days we moved south along the beach into a little hut. It seemed sure we’d be staying a lot longer than originally intended, each day too lazy to be useful in any way. We’d started figuring out some of the best restaurants and even made friends with the cat in the Italian place. She loves Capricciosa pizza as much as I do and spends the rest of the evening on my lap having me scratch her chin (and don’t I dare stop for a second to have a sip of my wine!).

This was the perfect opportunity for my delayed birthday present: to ride an Enfield! (I’d originally wanted to buy one of those instead of Nila, but we’d decided against it. They are much heavier and cost twice the price. But I really, really wanted to ride one, being in India n all!). A couple of days before we’d inquired about a really shiny new one. But suddenly I got a bit worried about crashing a rental bike, so we opted for a an older one. A price was agreed, the guy took my passport, and that was that. I was free to ride his Enfield. Whoopie!!!

I slowly wobbled down the road, not used to this new machine, its owner staring after us with worried eyes. But I soon got the hang of it: the bike just doesn’t like changing speed, neither speeding up nor slowing down. Perfect for Indian traffic then! It’s a difficult bike to get used to, heavy, unwieldy but with a tiny turning circle and a much too narrow back wheel. The gears slip and when engine breaking becomes too hard, she just jumps into neutral, flying freely down the hill, the drum brakes (front and rear!) doing little to slow her down. But once the roads emptied out leaving us to cruise the twisty forest roads of the Satari region, I was having loads of fun!

We found a cute little restaurant tucked way on a side road at the edge of town. They had super yummy fish thalis served in their own hand made clay pots. After that we decided to take a shortcut through the countryside. Soon the tarmac ended and we were faced with a gravel road.

Past a few farms, somebody shouting we’d gone the wrong way. But the Navi confirmed the road would join the main road in a kilometre or so. The road turned to long grass and we found ourselves crossing a few rocky riverbeds. This was fun!

Sadly the bikes didn’t think so. We tried going up a steep super rocky slope, the bikes skidding and bouncing about. Then the Enfield dropped. I managed to pick it up only to drop it again 2 metres later. And this time she was stuck in a ravine! Aidan climbed off Khiimori to come help. We decided to try make it all the way. But having lost the momentum, Khiimi just couldn’t get over the boulders and up the hill. Even with me pushing it was a huge struggle. There was no way we would get the heavy Enfield up there without completely trashing it.

So begrudgingly we turned around. It took a lot of pushing and heaving just to turn the bikes around. Then I lost my footing on the damp rocks and the Enfield went over again. Shit! That’s enough. I convinced Aidan to ride her out while I would take Khiimori. Didn’t he always want to test ride the Enfield anyways? We finally made it out of there and swapped bikes again. We were drenched in sweat and the Enfield had a lot more scratches now. Whoops! We were a bit miffed we hadn’t made it all the way but it had been lots of wickid fun 🙂

The next couple of days we just did some easy riding along the coast, meeting up with a friend of a friend at a beach down the road.

We rode to Old Goa, a UNESCO site with lots of old churches and a corresponding market and had a nosy around with our new friend.

We found a vehicle grave yard with a dead tuck tuck and an ambulance.

Then I had to give the Enfield back. It had grown on me and was fun to just cruise around on, but it was clear we had chosen the right bikes for our India Adventure. Luckily the owner didn’t seem to spot the extra scratches and gave me back my passport no problem. Phew!

The day after it was time to finally get Nila fixed. I never found the elusive Bajaj service place in Mapusa despite following several more instructions from locals. So I decided to go to the one in Panjim, which Aidan had marked on the Navi. But of course that wasn’t where it said it was either, so I ended up endlessly circling through the one way streets, asking people for the way at every corner. When I finally found it, they declared it wasn’t an easy fix so I should come back the next day at 10am. Bummer, another wasted day and it was too late to go for a nice swim now too!

The next day Aidan came with me to Panjim as he wanted to find a new lens for his camera. Just as well, cos Bajaj told me to leave Nila there over night, so Aidan gave me a lift back. That evening I got a very confusing call (it is impossible to understand Indians on the phone). Major engine work was needed and they’d call me back on Saturday. Aidan went back the next day to inquire amongst other things. Turns out the first time Bajaj opened the engine up they’d fucked the thread of one of the bolts that holds it together. The second Bajaj place had then tried to fix it by pouring liquid metal in. So now, a few kilometres later, it had blown again and these guys were sending the engine casing off to be re-drilled…. God knows how long that will take, so now we are stuck in paradise, waiting for Nila.

And then it rained. I mean it RAINED! A thunderstorm hit the coast one evening as soon as Aidan had started snoring. And it rained into our bed! The hut we’re sleeping in is made of woven strips of bamboo letting the water through in a fine spray as the wind whips the rain against the east wall next to our bed. And the roof has a few holes too. The electricity cut out, so I tried to rescue all our things by the light of my phone. In the morning the rain picked up again. Our bed was soaked and a river ran through the hut. We moved the bed away from the wall and fell asleep again.

I guess this is sort of what monsoon season must be like. It’s not cold but everything is damp and the sky is grey! Nothing that a beer in the bar can’t fix though. The seats there were wet too, but we made ourselves comfy anyways.

Life is hard chilling with cocktails, writing diaries and blog posts, chatting to other travelers and beach bums and watching the restaurant guys collect their sun loungers in a hectic frenzy, only to put them back out moments later when the inspector has gone. They are allowed four on the beach, but they have fourteen.

We went to fetch Nila on Saturday evening. But on the way home it turned out the tick she’d had when I test rode her after the repairs was actually a huge problem and the engine overheated massively. Shit! Too late now to turn around, workshop’s closed. So we chained her to a tree and rode back to Arambol on Khiimi. That means Monday, Aidan’s birthday, will be spent dragging Nila back to Bajaj and hanging around there till she’s fixed. Well, nothing to it but to enjoy our Sunday on the beach then…. I’m off for a swim 🙂

One response to “Beaches, Cocktails and riding a Royal Enfield to its Limits

  1. Pingback: Gorges and Valleys | followingtarmac·

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