We took a pre-Christmas break, lazing at the dreamy Olaulim Backyards, in Goa. Olaulim Backyards is a quaint homestay, run by the warm, gracious couple; Savio and Pirkko. Savio is Goan while Pirkko originally hails from Finland. Though she has lived in Goa now for many decades. They live in the Backyards with their two lovely children, Manuel and Shameena and four adorable dogs, two stunning cats, a rescued, human donkey, Mantra and a very intelligent goat, Lilly.
Olaulim is a quiet, secluded village, North of Goa, about 8 kms from Mapusa and 11 kms from Panjim. The DH sure has some very special abilities of discovering off beat destinations that always make our travels unique and extraordinary. One would imagine North Goa pulsating with life, with the party scene rising to crescendo. But you will be surprised when you land up in the Olualim Backyards, as time just stops by here. You can lie all day on a hammock and be lulled to sleep by the whistling coconut fronds. The breeze by the riverside caresses your entire being, relaxing every tried nerve in your body. Olaulim Backyards, lies lazily sprawled by the Madovi river tributary.
On our first day at Olaulim, we went kayaking amidst the tranquil waters of the river, savouring every moment of the solitude and the surreal sunset. The sky was aflame with joy and our hearts happy as a lark’s. I returned soaking wet, as the DH had managed to splash enough water on me while rowing, but it was all so worth it. The smiles, a lone fish doing somersaults, and the excited family kayaking and rowing in the boats adjoining ours, will be treasured always.
The prequel to supper was feni and some soul-string conversations at the Taverna Hama Hama. Before supper was set up, we watched with delight the 3 kg fish (Perch) being wrapped in banana leaf and smoked in hay, initially on the flaming fire and then slow smoked for about half an hour. Supper was enhanced with the smoked fish and a lip-smacking spread of delectable Goan fare.
The four-legged wonders gave us company as we were busy satiating our souls and stomach. Max who is a mix of a Rottweiler and Labrador is one Susegad guy. (Susegad translates to relaxed, contented, laid back attitude towards life) He would forever be lying on his back, not a care in the world. How we would all love to trade our lives with his! Shibu, the Great Dane and the gentle giant won our hearts with his soft demeanour. Then there was the affectionate, Laku and Athena with her admirable personality. Max would always be gnawing Laku’s back, as if giving him a nice back rub with his molars. The cats, Fluffy and Silky would happily park themselves on the sofa.
The Backyards has a total of five cottages. Two by the riverside, and three on the tiny hillock. The cottages have been preserved of their gigantic rocks and they are as much a part of the room, as the minimal furniture. The shower and the bathroom is outdoor, surrounded by lush flora and rocks. It sure is one experience, bathing in the open air; unsettling yet unique at the same time. In our cottage, we had to climb down a few wooden steps to go access the bathroom. There is no TV, no air-conditioning, so if you like to always soak in the lap of luxury, this place isn’t for you. The weather in December was pretty conducive, infact chilly in the nights and early mornings. We had to ask our hosts for extra blankets.
Mantra, the incredible donkey is the highlight of this lovely homestay. He starts braying at any given time of the day. Sometimes as early as 5 A.M. when he wants to be let out of his little stable. He can be seen walking around aimlessly and sometimes with some mission in hand. He was always there to give us company at the breakfast table. He could either smell the fresh fruits or has a penchant for the different kinds of Goan breads or can’t resist the freshly poached eggs that Pirrko made us each morning. We were all waiting to capture his braying and would whip out our phone cameras to gather the footage, but would fail miserably, till the final day when the 9 year-old managed to, with some sheer stroke of luck. Our hosts told us that during cashew season Mantra gets drunk on the cashew fruit and loses it completely, running all wild, awry and amok. One can only imagine the hilarity around this. And we thought it was fun enough to watch him plod through the day otherwise.
On the last day I went fishing. It sure was a test of patience, as on my Kerela trip I had gotten way too lucky. But this time on I kept waiting for the fish to catch my bait but failed hook, line and sinker. I spent almost an hour and a half trying my luck, while right next to me was a local boy from the village who got lucky with every bait. By the end of his mission he must have caught at least forty-fifty small fish, and I had just managed to get hold of just one. But that was exciting enough to say the least. Eventually I let go of my lone fish too, asking the nine-year-old to release it in the river.
All good things must come to an end. So did this laid back holiday at the Hemmingswayesque Oulalim Backyards. We bid adieu to this alluring, river side getaway and our lovely hosts, and parted with a smile and promise in our hearts. A smile to cherish this breezy, surreal holiday and a promise to return when the sanctity of solitude beckons.