29.01.2016 - 01.02.2016
Understandably, the 3am flight from Mumbai to Goa made us pretty damn tired. Delirious in fact. The flight itself was typical but there were a few things that made us all very giggly. Firstly, the music playing during boarding was Lauren's all time favourite McArthur's Park (the Richard Harris version), then, she spotted a man with a lobster neck pillow that made her LOL for 20 minutes. Michael was sat next to a hippie lady who chatted to him about breathing and yoga for the flight duration, and Hattie got a phone number from a guy called Salvador who works at KFC (not the deaf one). By the time we got to the baggage reclaim we were all in hysterics.
The transfer to Alor hostel was 45 minutes and in an effort to recoup a little, Justine and I tried in vain to sleep. When we arrived, Lauren made a point of announcing "I AM HUNGRY" to ensure the next part of our Goa tour involved food. We were eager to have our clothes laundered as there are only so many times you can turn knickers inside out, but because our rooms weren't quite ready, we proceeded to exhibit our dirty pantaloons in the hotel's reception. This is when I discovered that my beloved stinky neem oil had exploded (but luckily only soaked a small bit of my bag and no clothes). Because the laundry is charged per item, Lauren had to verbally count up everything for the receptionist to fill out on the form. The itemisation went something like this; "9 knickers, 2 shorts, 3 vest tops, NO WAIT - 10 KNICKERS!" Needless to say the staff and other hotel guests waiting to check in and out were rather bemused.
When all organised and checked into our rooms (which were very big and nice with a double bed and mini kitchen), we popped over to Raj's Happy Place restaurant (no connection to our Raj) - literally opposite the hotel. The staff were the most beautiful young men any of us had ever seen (or maybe the delirium was intensifying) and we chomped down on an amazing and cheap breakfast while enjoying an equally amazing WiFi connection. We're easily pleased us lot.
Feeling a little more human, Raj took us down to Candolim beach a short walk away from our hotel. It was a lovely sandy beach with a number of hut-style café, restaurants and bars, not too many tourists and a nice amount of free sunbeds. I should add at this point that the weather was paradisical; azure blue sky, a balmy 30-odd degrees and a nice sea breeze to keep us from collapsing. At this point we were all feeling like we'd been part of a suppressive cult and were relieved that in Goa (where it's touristy and Westernised and much less conservative), we were fine to get our bits out in all their fluorescent milk bottle glory.
Still too out of it for sunbathing and swimming, Lauren and I went back to our room for a quick little nap and 3 hours later we emerged and decided to pop back over to our new favourite jaunt; Raj's Happy Place. There we enjoyed the free WiFi, the sounds of elderly Brits on holiday and the mocktails.
After some application of some concealer and some insect repellent we were ready for out long awaited night out. We got taxis to Pit Stop café where we had some average snacks and plenty of cocktails during the 2-4-1 Happy Hour. Jack bought a laser shooter thing from a street vendor and managed to shine it in some children's eyes - which pissed off their Dad quite a lot. I got pissed on aforementioned cocktails almost immediately as per and for the next hour or two we danced to remixed chart music from 2 years ago, all sweating profusely and drawing major attention to ourselves. After a while a very camp Indian fellow and his female friend stepped onto the dance-floor and began to grind and twerk with the best of us. He certainly had little to no inhibitions and he definitely put us all to shame.
After tiring of dancing we spilled out onto the Calangute 'strip' that felt just like like Magaluf/Zante/Tenerife/Alberfiera etc. and did a bit of drunk browsing and shopping. We then briefly went into the 'exclusive' Tito Mambo's club that Raj got us all free access for (he knows the owner) but if you know Lauren and I at all, you'll know that the flashier, more try-hard a place is, the more it's just not our thing. We didn't even stay there long enough to get a drink. On the way back to Pit Stop we saw some women on the street begging with their very small, semi-conscious children. Even when I'm drunk I've always got a critical head on me, and seeing them just made the cavernous dichotomy that is our lives hit home. In that moment I felt (rightly or wrongly) sickened by myself and my peers, drunkenly stumbling down the streets, spending our fortunes on cheap alcohol and regretful tattoos when these people were genuinely suffering.
I sobered up pretty quickly after that and Lauren, Justine and I decided to call it a night and get a cab home. Our taxi driver seemed to be an aficionado of crap 90s pop music and as soon as the doors were shut, a dance remix of Aqua's Lollipop (Candyman) blasted out followed by The Vengaboys' Uncle John From Jamaica. Of course we nostalgically danced along in the back - forgetting that we were in India.
Upon our return we decided to have a wander for some late-night snacks and found a nearby Domino's pizza. We shared a vegetarian 10 inch and I also had a weird custard bread pudding thing that fulfilled me on numerous levels. Our route back to the hotel was down an unlit dirt track and still semi-intoxicated, a large cow stepped out of the darkness and scared the bejesus out of us.
The next day was the last on our Uncover India tour. We met at Raj's for breakfast and hotfooted it over to the beach. It became quickly apparent that none of us were remotely prepared for the Arabian sea and after 10 minutes both Hattie and I had lost our sunglasses under a large wave that overwhelmed us. After swallowing a few gallons of seawater and showing all of the Western and Indian holidaymakers our nipples, we sheepishly retired to our sunbeds at the Rovers Return seafront bar and caf (no joke).
Later that evening we all got taxis to Arpora Saturday night market; a massive festival-vibe market with lots of food stalls, live music and Asian/European wares. The place was full of tourists and hippies and there were some lovely things on offer; clothes, jewellery, spices, ornaments, materials, accessories, crystals, home furnishings etc. I bought some fake Ray Ban sunglasses to replace the ones that the sea stole from me, and Lauren bought some bellowing red trousers and vest tops. The live music was average; little more than a British guy doing acoustic covers of mainstream stuff like Ed Sheeran. After an hour we were all shopped-out and a little tired of saying no to the dogged Indian market traders so back to Alor it was for our last evening meal together as a group.
Raj did us proud and picked a restaurant called Café Del Mar with a beautiful decking down onto the beach. There were fireworks going off and the Goan night sky was full of stars. We sat at our outdoor table with feet on the sand and picked from the fresh seafood plate that was presented to us. Not really noticing the prices I picked tiger prawns (which were bloody delicious) and then smiled sweetly at Lauren when the bill came round. We laughed and reminisced about the last 2 weeks; what a trip it'd been.
The following morning we had our last group breakfast where we said thank you and goodbye to our wonderful tour CEO Raj who had really made everything so easy and so unforgettable. We then said our goodbyes to the rest of the group except Mona and for the rest of the day the three of us wandered around the town looking at some old Portuguese catholic churches. We then found a delightful Tibetan restaurant hidden away from rowdy, trashy Calangute beach where we ate momos (dumplings) and Lauren got a delicious cornflakes, fried banana and honey desert.
For our last night in North Goa, Lauren Mona and I once again spent our time and money in Raj's Happy Place, chatting with the lovely boys who loved Mona, drinking sweet iced coffee Baileys cocktails and discussing our future travel plans. It was weird saying goodbye to our last 'groupee' and we weren't quite sure what to expect going back to a twosome. But for now, the excitement of moving onto South Goa distracted us from the farewells and endings. Patnem awaits.