walking on very long beaches

I‘ve always loved walking. For twenty years or more it’s been my main source of exercise, and never more so since I moved to Australia. For me, an hour’s brisk walk (and I walk at six or seven kilometres per hour) clears my mind, resets my brain, opens up possibilities, recalibrates my spine and offers me precious alone time.

On a good day, when I turn back at the park and head east on Altona Esplanade, I feel so uplifted I could lift my arms and fly back to the car. IMG_7274 But it’s taken me twenty years to realise that there is one sort of walk that I adore above all others. I unconsciously seek it out when planning a trip. No other walk every measures up. After two decades of diligent practice I can now say that my favourite pastime is Walking On Very Long Beaches.

Queensland?

I didn’t grow up very close to the coast. It took half an hour by car or bus to get to Sandymount or Costelloe’s beach in Dublin. But all of my family fare better when close to the sea, and most of us now live minutes (or even seconds) from the water’s edge.

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I think the turning point for me, though, was ten years spent living in the midlands of England. The closest beach to Leicester was Skegness, and one autumn Sunday I couldn’t take it anymore. I pointed my car east and drove a full three hours non-stop to the coast. When I got there, on a chilly, murky spring afternoon, the tide was out. In Skegness the tide goes out about half a mile, so I had managed to reach the seaside without arriving beside the sea. Defeated, I turned around and drove the three hours back, without getting out of my car.

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Fast forward a decade or so to India, when I spent many happy months living in the village of Candolim just yards from a six mile long beach. Each morning I walked south to Sinquerim and the old fort, uplifted by the occasional sight of a dolphin just a few feet away in the surf, feeling like I had the whole beach to myself. Afternoons saw me strolling north towards Calangute, where the only concern I had was how far I would walk before jumping into the water to cool down. That beach gave me my sanity back.

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These days I live about a ten minute drive from a nice suburban beach with a lovely boardwalk and a park at either end. Winter and summer, it’s my favourite place to walk: not too busy, just the right length. If I want a change, I can walk at least an hour from Port Melbourne to Elwood before I run out of footpath and have to turn around. And if I tire of bay beaches and need to hear the crash of real waves, the grand sweep of Ocean Grove on the surf coast is only an hour’s drive away.

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My ideal beach length is “longer than the time I have to walk it”. In other words, I prefer to run out of time than to run out of beach.

Jamaica?

These days, the quantifiable self tells us that we should walk 10,000 steps a day, so I like a good 8-9km round trip walk so I can get my daily quota out of the way whilst staring at waves and getting my ankles wet.

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Every trip I take, I search for a location with a Very Long Beach. Tasmania, Ireland, Vietnam, Queensland, USA, the Caribbean: my travels have taken me to, or taken me back to, some of the most wonderful VLBs in the world.

Where are your favourite VLBs?

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getting around in goa

Kinetic Hire – go to Bruno’s shop on the main street in Candolim, opposite Fayaz Arts and Crafts. He will get you a Kinetic (a Honda moped).

For jeep tours, DO NOT USE Ola Tours as they are a huge rip-off. Use Den’s Tours – he is extemely reliable and friendly. You will see notices around, and you can usually book at the Mango Grove and at Stringfellos.

For boat trips, Club 21 or Bobby’s will sort you out. It’s a good way to get to the famous Anjuna Market on a Wednesday morning without the traffic jam!

saturday night market at arpora

The now-famous Saturday Night Market in Arpora is the only place to be on Saturday nights during the season. It’s a bit like a night-time Anjuna with bars and food and live music. Everybody goes there, so head off early and go home late to avoid the dreaded traffic jams! Ideally either go by moped (get a lift or hire one), or get a pilot motorbike which is a licensed taxi motorbike. You will see them around Calangute most evenings, and you will definitely see lots for hire to take you home from the market.

If you want a great henna tattoo, search for my old friend Guru who is always at the market. At his stall you can browse through thousands of designs which he will painstakingly paint onto your body. He will also translate any word into Hindi for you and paint it in beautiful calligraphy. Guru’s beautiful wife is Lena and she is usually with him too at the stall.

You have to be a little bit careful with henna tattoos as some people use cheap henna and an allergic reaction is not unusual with the cheap stuff. Guru only uses the best quality freshest henna, and you won’t have a problem. To be sure you catch him, email him at gurubeachboy@hotmail.com.

goa tours and trips

A couple of my really good friends now run tour businesses, and I can really recommend either Denis or Angeline depending on what you want to do, and how far you wish to travel away from Goa.

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Denis is the owner of Stringfellos shack, and also runs a day-trip business. His friendly drivers will take you out into the countryside in modern open-sided 10-seater jeeps, to visit the spice plantations, or the waterfall at Dudhsagar, or many of the Goan Hindu temples. If there are enough of you he will customise a trip for you over one or more days. Have fun!

footprints

 

My old friend Angeline runs this new tour company. Her office are really conveniently located in central Candolim, and I know she will do everything to make a trip outside Goa special for you. Check out the Goa Footprints website here.

Angeline can arrange anything from local Goa day trips, to week-long journeys to Rajasthan or the Taj Mahal. She can also do other regular travel agent stuff for you like re-confirm flights, book train tickets and reserve hotels for you.

If you want an amazing couple of days away from the beach ask her to book you into Wildernest, a hilltop paradise on the border between Goa and inland Karnataka. She particularly recommends a visit there during monsoon, when it is like living in a cloud of mist.

mapusa

Mapusa (pronounced Mapsa) is the regional market town and no trip to Goa is complete without a bus ride there for a shopping extravaganza. The main marketplace is right beside the bus station, and there you will find everything for sale: saris, spices, fresh fruit, pottery, bedclothes, excellent stainless steel kitchenware, and of course bindis for me! (My favourite is blue, by the way).

The best place to eat is the Shantadurga Hotel in the middle of the market, which does a lovely thali for about Rs12.

calangute

Calangute is the main shopping centre on the North Goa coast, and within days this will become to you the big metropolis – full of traffic, tourists, shops and life.

Calangute Resaurants and Bars

Oceanic is by far my favourite – it is upstairs in central Calangute opposite the old petrol station. It is a family run place, and a great place to watch bustling Calangute come to life at night. The chicken tikka masala is not like anything you will have tasted in the UK, and is well worth a try.

Infantaria is a famous bakery just around the corner from Oceanic on the Baga Road. It is open for breakfast and does excellent fruit juices, fresh breads, pastries and all sorts of other divine food. Lunchtimes are always busy too.

Andrew’s Bar is right in the middle of Calangute market. It is named for the late owner, but is now run by his widow. It is small and poky, but full of life and atmosphere. Once you have visited once you will return!

The Plantain Leaf is almost opposite Oceanic on the maind drag, and does pure vegetarian food. It has an air-conditioned area if the heat is getting to you. You absolutely must visit and try a thali.

Jungle Village is a new place in Calangute to hang out. Owned and run by Brits John and Gary, it is a beautiful old Goan mansion which now houses a great restaurant and bar, along with pool table, a crystal rock shop and – believe it or not – Crazy Golf! It’s a lovely place to sit on the traditional Goan balcao by the front door sipping a G&T and catching up on all the gossip. Tell John I sent you – I’ve known him since a chance meeting in Bobby’s shack over 7 years ago and he is the most lovely man.

Further north from Calangute is Baga which is full of great bars and restaurants. 

Brittos is right at the top of Baga by the mouth of the river and does great food.

Nearby Drop Anchor is a cool bar playing good chillout music. It had a pool table last time I visited. Excellent late night hangout.

Other nightclubs locally include Titos and  Mambos – check with Denis in Stringfellos and he will tell you which one is this season’s best!

On the road to Arpora the Saturday Night Market has become an absolute must for everybody. It is a late-night version of Anjuna, with stalls selling everything from jewellery to clothing, and lots of bars and foodstalls. There is live music all night and it is where everybody goes on Saturday nights. Dress glamorous but wear your beach shoes – you may think you look ridiculous but you won’t when you get there!

candolim restaurants

Bon Appetit is right down at Sinquerim, beside the big Fort Aguada five-star hotel. You can walk down the beach in the evening towards Bon Appetit –you will see their beach entrance clearly once you are beside the Fort Aguada. It is a lovely place to sit and watch the waves at night, under the coconut palms with a gin and tonic in your hand. My favourite restaurant of all.

Stone House is towards the southern end of Candolim. It is a lovely laid-back place which plays excellent jazz and blues. Oh, and the DJ is pretty cute. Food is great and you can watch the world go by on the road below. A good place after a busy day.

Mango Grove is in the central part of Candolim and is a great meeting place for drinks or breakfast.

Silver Sands – Sheetal restaurant is a wonderful traditional Indian restaurant, right at the bottom of the beach road.

Hakka Fu Chow is up near Candolim market and football ground. Don’t be put off by its appearance – it looks like a shanty town thrown up at the roadside! Inside you will get the most wonderful Chinese and Vietnamese food cooked by an excellent chef. Late at night you will see all the local workers popping in for their dinner on their way home after work – you can’t get a better recommendation than that!

Viva Goa is further north on the right on the way out of Cancolim on the main road. Again it is a locals’ place but the food is sublime and really cheap – and you can buy your own booze at the shop next door!

Goldeneye restaurant is opposite the Goan Heritage Hotel, which is well sign-posted off the main road between Candolim and Calangute. It is a lovely quiet restaurant specialising in seafood (the seafood platter is excellent value). After dinner you can walk a few paces to the beach and have a nightcap in the Flying Dolphin bar.