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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Brisbane, Bollywood, Opera & Jazz

Orlando has been away interstate (Brisbane and Sydney) for the past month, and you would think I would have found time to update these pages. But no, my diary filled with dinner dates and more. I haven’t had a minute for weeks.

Brisbane
It’s all good, though. I took the opportunity to fly up to Brisbane one weekend instead of Orlando flying home. It was a bit like going to Spain or Italy for a spring weekend in terms of weather, but of course no matter how far you fly you are still in Australia when you get there.

We had great food, and wandered the tiny city on foot (and on river catamaran) seeing the sights. Unfortunately Sunday lunch with friends resulted in a bout of food poisoning for me, but despite this set-back it was good to get out of Melbourne for a few days.

Opera and Jazz
Culture-wise we have had opera at the State Theatre: Porgy and Bess performed by an all-American cast. Dianne Reeves last Sunday evening was probably a little more accessible to me. I have finally soncluded that opera is not really my cup of tea, not even Gershwin. The Diane Reeves concert was brilliant; she was backed by a simple trio and sang a broad range of songs, from the ones made famous by her in the movie Good Night, and God Bless, to a handful of Ella tunes and even a bit of Marvin Gaye. Easily the best gig I have been to all year.

Bollywood Nights
Meanwhile, Eileen and I have taken up Bollywood dancing on a Wednesday night. Somehow I thought it was going to be all form and style and carefully-placed feet. However the focus seems to be on grand extravagant gestures, especially with ones hips, eyes and head, and the whole session is more barefoot high-impact aerobics than dance studio. By the end of the hour we are drenched with sweat, breathless with exhaustion and laughter, and applauding ourselves wildly having vaguely managed to follow the teacher. We have even signed up for performances! Afterwards we go to the little Indian place around the corner for supper and put the world to rights. I love it.

Family Birthdays – Annette


The Doyle birthday season continues, with Annette (the glamorous sister) celebrating her 50th birthday last week. I missed the party and a weekend of celebrations (that’s what jobhunting will cost you) but I’m assured the last party-goer departed at 9am the following morning.

 

 

 

 

 

Annette is the person who introduced me to India eight years ago, and has strong links with the country herself. Here she is with little Aishwaria, the youngest addition to a family Annette has been friends with for more than 20 years. She visits the family every time she travels to India (which is twice a year) and she is like the eldest sister. She doesn’t ever talk about the assistance she has given this family over the years, such as paying for a well to be dug to irrigate their farm, and contributing to the education fees of most of the family. Her latest idea is to help buy a tractor for the family’s village – any ideas, anyone?

 

 

 

However Annette is not just a philanthropist and has been known to be a bit of a party animal too. Here she is after a long night partying in Essex (where else), having convinced the local police to give her and her mates a lift home when they locked the keys in the car. Charming.

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!

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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.