Straight onto a sardine can bus from outside the airport to main town Margao, then another onto Palolim, the scenery and people had become even more colourful if that was possible, with most buildings in Margao being of obvious Portugese influence. The folk were a fascinating mix of traditionally costumed old women overloaded with complicated tribal looking jewellry and standardised pig-tailed schoolgirls in immaculate crisp, clean uniforms. In spite of the touts I plumped for the conventional if quaintly named Virgin Beach Resort, it had been quite a while after all, and bagging it for less than I had been quoted I decided it was a deserved indulgence to treat myself to a double room with en suite and balcony, not bad for 400 Rupees (about a fiver), and not 1 minutes walk from the beach. Similar to my time in Olympos, Turkey, I was making a point of not taking a beach hut just to spite the stereotype. Comfort, bug proofing and security were real considerations anyway and perversely it transpired to be cheaper. Desperate to alleviate red raw recesses, blisters and a weeks accumulated grime, it was as quick as I could get a shower and do laundry before crashing out on my 1st bed in 4 days. Upon later investigation the beach indeed proved to be the promised perfect golden crescent backed by palm trees and beach huts, and a beer was only 30 Rupees a pop! I would not be rushing off in a hurry!
Having made a point for once of doing not very much of anything, I still managed a couple of day trips from Palolim in the end. The first foray was instigated by the necessity of going to the nearest town Chaudi in search of a cash machine, but evolved into a fantastic if sweaty circuit to the nearby resort of Agonda. This had been the alternative resort recommended to me if I wanted something a little quieter than Palolim. Upon arrival in Palolim however I had struggled to imagine that that was possible, but somehow Agonda managed it. A perfect golden strand with just a few tiny beach hut gatherings, it was a paradise almost deserted. We drank beer, sunbathed and then went for a dip in the shiny Arabian Sea, it was all there was to do. Kicking my bad timing, the others made the understandable decision to move there shortly but my time was up, I had a flight to catch shortly and so would have to hit the road.
With time now pressing I did a second day trip up to Margao accompanied by Mannfred, he in search of a new camera and myself in need of a replacement clock. It had been the one sour note of Goa that I had managed to chill out so much I promptly lost my treasured pocket watch, my bandana and most crucially my specs. Other previous losses such as a hanky and a comb were easily replaced but when youre on the road with little in reserve such small details can make all the difference. Losing my specs especially was a major blow. From Margao it had been my intention of visiting Old Goa, the colonial capital full of Portugese archtectural wonders and potted history. Sadly in the end the rickety buses proved to be too slow on the toytown roads and I was foiled by time. I salvaged something from the day by visiting the Naval Air Museum near the airport and then went into the nearby town of Vasco da Gama. Getting to the museum by novel motorbike taxi, it proved to be a small but worthwhile collection of interesting types including many of British origin, perhaps most notably the rare Fairy Firefly and Shorts Sealand flying boat manufactured in Belfast. I learned that the first pilots for the Indian Navy had been trained at Donibristle in 1949 and that the first ever underwater ejection was done from an Indian Seahawk after a catapult failure on take off from the aircraft carrier Vikrant. Again the buses were slow to materialise but I was fortunate to pick up a free lift back out to the main road from a local guy, a rare act of charity in a country where the outstretched hands were normally quickly proferred. Forewarned not to expect too much from neighbouring Vasco da Gama, the evocative name was enough though to arouse my curiosity. With little of note besides the ubiquitous pretty whitewashed cathedral, there were still vague hints of buildings of character, contrasted by the grubby, pylon straddled beach covered in filth, begging kids and a dhow under construction. Vessels of all descriptions from fishing punts to supertankers sat out in the bay. It didnt matter that it wasnt pretty, I had seen Vasco, a town named in memorial to the guy who had started it all, a long held dream.