Where water is concerned, I am not entirely bereft of guts – give me the company of two strapping young boys to swim along, and I can take on the waves like a mermaid. Well, furry boys that is. Max and Sibu – the four-legged sons of resort owners Pirkko and Savio, and my own private Thorpe and Phelps duo – are entirely responsible for my successfully canoeing on the Olaulim River in Goa.
It was an overcast morning at the cusp of summer and monsoon, and the Goan clouds had packed in all the heat over the inland countryside. Stealing every single gust of wind, they had ensured that there was not a single flutter of leaves left. The only solution to shake away the yawns and ease into a presumably muggy day was in imbibing copious amount of coffee and taking a dip in the pool. And then Savio suggested something preposterous for a lazy holiday – ploughing through the serene waters of the Olaulim River with light oars on a yellow canoe. With my fitness levels having plummeted, I knew that these very ‘light’ oars would turn into bricks in less than five minutes. Did I already mention I was on a ‘lazy’ holiday? I meandered around his suggestion with a weak smile and ambiguous nods, when he threw in a proposition I couldn’t refuse. Max and Laku, their two dogs, would swim along!
So off we were, Savio leading the troupe of Max, Sibu, and a panting me for an hour long canoeing trip into the river that skirts Olaulim Backyards, one of the dreamiest pads in Goa. The dogs swam with abandon, detouring to sniff at marshy mangroves and then joining the coterie and encouraging me constantly by looking back and waiting up. The hour swept by, with my enthusiasm amped up with such inimitable company. The rest of the day was spent sinking into an easy chair by the swimming pool and sipping on fresh juice, silently patting my own back about my athletic accomplishment. Richard Parker, the cat, curled on my knee and demanded a rub before both of us snoozed away the rest of the mild sunlit hours.
Having never explored inland Goa, Olaulim was perfect to tune into a break beyond the coastline. While a breezy seaside holiday can never be dissatisfying, the thickly green and refreshing countryside provides a new dimension to India’s favourite coastal destination. I continued the non-beach streak the next day by hopping onto a rickety scooter and heading to the Devar Island, a relatively untreaded blob of land that can be accessed by ferry alone, from Old Goa.
Pleasantly devoid of cafés, restaurants and the overbearing touristy vibe, I drove along paddy fields, stopping only for a swig of Urak at an unassuming roadside bar. The mossy-walled Our Lady of Compassion Church on a hill, was where I parked and peeped down at the thousand shades of green – the rains had finally ripped through the dark clouds. Another reason to have stayed away from the beaches!