Goa, which used to be a Portuguese colony, is so unlike other parts of India that I encountered. While I was there, it felt a different way of life, more relaxed, not so frantic in comparison to the big cities – even though there was still the hustle bustle of street life in the capital Panjim.

9513389814_2be00c6a7b_kWe got dropped off 5km from the railway station and managed to find basic but comfortable digs for the next few days situated right on the beach. Even though we spent a few restful days at the small town of Benaulim, sipping cool beer watching the sun set over the sea, wandering along the beach and exploring the village, it was a little too quiet for our tastes, so we moved on.

We had heard on the grapevine from other travellers that the place to head to was further south of Goa, to a small beach town called Palolem and, back then in 2001, it was still relatively unknown and unspoilt.We didn’t procrastinate too much and it was a decision that was to shape the rest of my life… When we rocked up, we has no idea where we were going to stay. For some reason our radar took us to the end of Palolem’s stunning crescent-shaped beach to Ciaran’s Camp – its simple wooden beach huts were so inviting. We didn’t know how long we’d stay so negotiated one week for £6. As it turned out, it was to be our home for the next three.

Maybe this is why whenever I am near the sea and hear the sound of waves, I feel calm. And, it was here in Palolem, I used to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean crashing into the shore. It often felt like I was actually lying on the beach itself and it was the first time since I left to go on my travels that I truly felt relaxed.8688494113_8c270ac800_kWe explored the area – even though there wasn’t too much to see as Palolem wasn’t very developed at this time; I read a lot of books, dozed in a hammock – which was pretty dangerous on several occasions when coconuts would drop from their leafy homes without warning. I sun bathed, swam in the sea, even one night going out to see the phosphorous rocks  glowing green in the still waters. We also made friends; gorged on seafood, the Goan prawn curry being a favourite; and played a lot of card games. It certainly was a care-free existence where days seemed to roll into one and I began to lose track of time.palolem

Part of the group of travellers we became friendly with included S, who as you all know, is now my husband… I’m not going to lie – there were no fireworks or cupids in the air as at the time because romance wasn’t even on my mind. But, of course, there was an attraction, friendly banter, and some harmless flirting. But it didn’t even occur to me we’d see each other again. He was there with his brother and two friends and we only got to spend a few days with the group, before they headed off to Anjuna in the north. So that was that…

Or so I thought…

One scorching day, we decided to grab a boat taxi and head over to Anjuna to check out its famous markets. I still to this day don’t know if fate played a mysterious hand but when we stepped off the boat, we literally ran into S and his friends, who happened to be sitting on the beach where the boat had docked.

AnjunaWe ended up spending all our time with them, laughing and chatting. The day quickly turned into night and we went with the flow, grabbed some dinner and carried on drinking well into the early hours of the morning. A beach bonfire had been lit and revellers descended on to the sand. It was a busy night, locals weaving in and out of the crowds, hawkers trying to sell their wares. I was pretty giddy, but I soon sobered up when I realised my bag had gone missing…  And so had my friend’s… We had been robbed.

And oh, so stupidly, I had packed my passport, bank cards, my round-the-world plane ticket and camera in it…

Only five weeks into my travels and I had lost all that was important… I remember crying a lot. Panicking. And polishing off half a bottle of vodka…

In the morning, with a sore head and knotted stomach, it was time for me to deal with the consequences. First up, was a sheepish phone call to my parents. After more tears and a lot of shouting – from my mum – we bid a hasty farewell to the lads, exchanged email addresses (which were a fairly new-fangled thing back then) and headed to the police station to get a police report for insurance purposes.

Needless to say, what we thought would be a fairly simple process ended up taking up over eight hours… Of crying, begging, standing our ground and then crying some more. The dodgy police officer was insistent we pay for his time… But as we explained over and over again, we had no money as it had been stolen! Thankfully, he relented just to get rid of us… But it wasn’t a pleasant experience.2985871301_3f82d431b8_b

Exhausted and deflated, we made the journey back to Palolem with what little money we had… And knew it was the end of our time in beautiful Goa. As much as I wanted to stay in this tropical bubble there were urgent matters to attend to. We needed to get the train back to Mumbai and get new passports and plane tickets.

So, it was with a heavy heart we left… And boarded the train on to the last stage of our adventure in India…


Images: Flickr: Ramnath Bhat Alex Bowyer Cycling man Richard Bonnett Dietmut Teijgeman-Hansen

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