As our time in Kerala was drawing to an end we had to plan how we were going to get to Goa. We were still yet to catch a train in India as we’d had some trouble with obtaining tickets in the past. We decided to plan ahead a little and set our leaving date as the 18th January, leaving from Ernakulam. I managed to secure some tickets online using the IRTCT website, costing 2300 Rupees (£28), leaving at 21:30 and taking just under 12 hours. This was a lot more than I was expecting to pay even for 2AC, the highest class and the only one that was available, although I booked 7 days before the scheduled departure date.
Our train left Ernakulam without a hitch, leaving on time and arriving in Madgaon, in south Goa a few minutes early. As I said it was my first time on an Indian train but I can’t see how Sleeper Class is going to be any different form the 2AC Sleeper that we were on, just the prices are considerably cheaper. (I may be eating my words later, I’m currently on a train to Hampi and have a Sleeper Class train booked to Mumbai next week.) The train carriage had a simple layout, with 2 lower and 2 upper bunks running vertically on one side, and 1 set of bunks horizontally on the other, the whole way down the carriage. We were given bed sheets and a pillow but had no curtains for any privacy. We were however given a towel, a cold face wipe, water, mango juice and a vegetarian breakfast, maybe that was what my extra £20 was paying for… not worth it. I did however have a chance to wear my Christmas socks.We arrived in Madgaon at 08:45 and planned to head straight to Palolem Beach for a couple of days. To get between Palolem Beach and Madgaon there are three options: A bus costing 40 Rupees (£0.50), a rickshaw costing 1000 Rupees (£12.50) and a taxi costing 1200 Rupees (£15). We had every intention of catching the bus, which leaves from the South East side of the Municipal Gardens, a 20 minute walk west of the train station but heard some people ordering a taxi so decided to jump in with them, paying 300 Rupees (£3.75) each for the 4 of us. A taxi is considerably quicker, with the bus being slow and bumpy but is only worth getting a taxi if there’s enough of you to split the cost. Palolem Beach is gorgeous. There are plenty of accommodation options along the beachfront and also some set off the beach, about a 3 minute walk away. On the beachfront, intertwined with all the bars and restaurants are a variety of beach huts ranging from 500-5000 Rupees a night. We decided to stay a short way back from the beach in a hotel, as the cheapest hut we were offered was 2000 Rupees a night. However we later met some guys who were renting a beach hut between them for 500 Rupees, if only we had explored a bit more. The original plan was to spend a couple of days at Palolem, then head down to Gorkana, around 2 hours south of Goa. However I loved Palolem so much I didn’t want to leave and ended up staying 8 nights and I may be planning to go back at the end of my time in India. I’m not too sure why I loved it so much, I mean it can’t have been the palm trees, the calm sea, the soft crescent sandy beach, the dolphins, the relaxed atmosphere and the great food, it must have been the beer. Coming from a dry state that Kerala is, to then find beach bars selling beer for 60 Rupees (£0.75), with the sun setting over monkey island and a cool breeze in the air it was just beautiful. The restaurants on the beach are a bit more expensive then on the road, 3 minutes away, but there’s something about eating in the evening, sitting on the beach and hearing the sea rolling in the background. There’s a wide variety of food, from Indian, to Italian, to Chinese and lots and lots of seafood. If anyone’s interested in watching sport whilst they are there, the Cafe Del Mar has 2 big projectors, where I finally saw England win a game of cricket in India, after 8 attempts. There’s the option of renting Kayaks on the beach and paddling out around monkey island for a bit of dolphin spotting. The sea is a bit rougher round the back of the island, but nothing too major. There are plenty of places to rent Kayaks but the cheapest I found was outside D’Costa, 100 Rupees for an hour. Another day we took a 2 hour boat trip for some more dolphin spotting, some fishing and to relax for a bit on butterfly beach, only accessible by boat. It was a great 2 hours, which we managed to get for 200 Rupees (£2.50) per person, whereas other people on the boat were paying 800 Rupees (£10) per person. It wasn’t really fair, just make sure you haggle hard!
From Palolem we caught the local bus back to Madgaon for our train to Hampi, the only problem being it was a public holiday in India. This meant that the bus was absolutely packed, filled to the brim and we really struggled to find accommodation in Madgaon, the night before our morning train. We eventually found a room, after an hour of searching in the dark, for 2100 Rupees (£26) which was stupidly expensive, yet there was no other option. Apparently everyone flocks to somewhere near the beach on a public holiday, but we weren’t to know, we only found out that day it was a holiday. I’m now approaching Hampi, an 8 hour train ride inland from Goa, so I’m off to explore the ruins.