A magical brew – South Goa

When life locked down, all life moved to Goa.
So did we…

Mission : Work from Goa.

No matter how different we think we are, we are all the same. Sumi and I took our laptops, our work and went to Goa to live in a friend’s apartment which had been empty since the lockdown. It is located in a quiet village called Patnem in Canacona, South Goa (very close to Karnataka border.) There was no plan or agenda. It was just to stretch our legs after the long lockdown and get some sea, some sun, some fresh ocean fish, and do our work. The weather was nice and warm during the day and cold in the night. Typical Goan winters.

Our house was just a minute away from the beach with just one shop, one cafe (Cow Corner), one chai-shop, and a couple of locally run restaurants to help you with your living. When we landed at the airport, our extremely chatty and friendly driver took us to one such family run restaurant before taking us to our home for a nice locally prepared fish thali because all we could talk about in the car was eating fish. We reached the small homely hotel and I was head over heels in love with the taste and freshness of the meals they provided. This place called “Rama’s kitchen” became our everyday lunch venue for the rest of our stay.

We settled in our new home, brought groceries, water, cleaned the kitchen and the house. The plan was to spend little money since we both didn’t have a job and we were setting up our new advertising business (something we both ran away from previously and thought said goodbye to, but apparently we hadn’t). We kept rules to keep the trip very budgeted. No eating at shacks or fancy restaurants. No drinking or drugs. No spending money on surfing or on hiring vehicles etc. The point was simple – take a break, be amidst nature, work as usual, wake up early, swim, eat healthy. Pretty straight forward and so it was.

We would usually have chai at the Patnem Chai shop almost every morning, with a side of mangalore bun or samosa, head to the beach, swim a bit, come back, make some breakfast – cereal, almond milk and fruits, and start working. During lunch time, go to Rama’s kitchen with salivating mouths, gobble down a fish-heavy lunch, and snooze-work until evening. We would take a break in the evening to go to the beach, swim, walk, watch the sunset and come back home to finish work. Have a light dinner – some fruits, salad, eggs or occasionally go to Cow Corner to have some salad and desert.

The cute Cow Corner in Patnem. Don’t be surprised to see a lot of cows around this corner.

Until I decided to take a kayak in the water.

A couple of years back, I had the first time experience of kayaking in the sea in Ramshwaram. I had only kayaked in lagoons and lakes on calm waters and kayaking in sea and that too on a windy, stormy day with expert coaches around was the first taste of adventure I got. It was an amazing learning experience for me and the possibilities of going so deep in water, going to far isolated beaches which can’t be reached otherwise always fascinated me. And learning to Kayak in Rameshwaram led me to create some unforgettable memories and the independence it gives was truly worth it. Read my earlier post about Rameshwaram.

The non identical twins.
Patnem at dusk

Here in Patnem, the sea was shallow and calm. I was a bit nervous to rent the kayak when I got to know that there are no instructors around to save you in case you drown or topple. Even though the shack owner confidently told me “Hum dekh lenge agar aapko kuch hoga toh”, I wasn’t very sure of getting in the water myself. But the kayak was very cheap. How can I deny such an offer I thought. I took it. But I had a small friendly argument with the Namaste cafe manager – Rakesh who asked me to wear the life jacket. I have nothing against life jackets but these jackets are usually so oversized and loose that they become almost impossible to swim with these things or in case you fall in water. I’ve had experiences in the past during my other water adventures and I know it’s pretty easier to swim without those baggy things on you. That was my argument, but not a strong one. I’m going alone. Might as well wear it. We settled.

I struggled a bit to enter the water but soon got the hang of it and I paddled and I paddled until the beach was far and I got close to the first fisherman boat. From here I could see the mountain ranges behind Patnem. The whole scenery looked so beautiful. I decided to take some rest, just to look around, enjoy the quiet, soak in the ocean. My next destination – the other fisherman boat and the other one, then the other ones that were dotting the far horizon. I kept giving me small goals, and not to overwhelm myself. I zigzagged my way tacking into the gentle ocean and parked myself (not really) at a spot to lie down in my boat and float freely looking at the sky above and feel the gentle waves caressing my boat from below. The water was so deep blue at this hour and so was the sky. It was around 8 in the morning, wind speed of about 3 knots and I thought it was probably the best time to be in the sea.

The view from the otherside.

I was calmly looking around and at a distance of about 20 feet, I saw a triangle emerging from the ocean surface and disappearing. In a second all the fear that Hollywood has been injecting us over years and years with films like Jaws and Lake placid etc took over my mind and I felt a chill in my spine. I have seen way too many films where people think it’s a shark and then there’s nothing – and then there’s a huge great white emerging out of nowhere, killing everybody. The colour of the sea turning from blue to red, urrggh that sight! There was a big fisherman boat near it and fishermen know their fishes. It just can’t be a shark I thought but I was sure about what I saw. Damn, it is a shark. I got my period the night before and I was wearing a cup so that I can swim. Maybe the shark wont know it. Maybe the shark will. You see, the sharks, they have a great sense of smell. Before I knew it, I was shivering with fear desperately looking here and there for any signs of that triangle appearing near me. What do I do? I’m bleeding. The shark knows it. It’ll find me. And then it happened…

I saw two dolphins jump right in front of me in perfect synchronisation, out of nowhere they just leaped and vanished into the sea. I was in awe. My mouth remained open for a few seconds and so did my eyes. I was in complete wonder. Here I was waiting to die but instead I had such a close dolphin encounter. When I realised this, I started to shout like a mad person – Dolphins! Dolphins!

A couple on a double kayak approached me when they saw me jumping in my boat and I told them about the dolphins. We spoke and they told me about the swarm of jellyfish that were in the water about 50 feet from where I was. I paddled in that direction curious to see these creatures who have been making headlines everyday, stinging more than 80 people in North Goa in a span of less than 10 days (November 2020).

I paddled and paddled until I saw these long white, delicate and graceful looking creatures dancing and swaying under my boat. Suddenly I found myself above more than 20 jellyfishes ranging from about 1 meter long to 2 meters long (a little longer than my kayak). In that instant, I realised the importance of the oversized life jacket that I reluctantly strapped on me. The sea was very calm here. The wind must be 3 knots, no more. Rameshwaram was probably (i didn’t check) 7 knots or more. If I had that sort of wind today, my boat could’ve easily toppled multiple times. How would I swim if I even accidentally touched the tentacles of these long mighty jellyfishes, I wondered. I know from the newspapers that these jellyfishes are not fatal but their sting does have a lasting effect. In situations like this, the purpose of a life jacket is to keep you afloat – even if your limbs are experiencing momentary paralysis. And this is why life jackets are mandatory and that’s why surfers wear rash-guards to protect their limbs in case they get in touch with poisonous creatures.

I gently paddled deeper, careful to not touch them to see till how far they are spread. The numbers weren’t declining. There were just more and more of them everywhere. For a moment, I saw a small round thing coming in and out of the ocean and I thought it’s a seal. But it was just a coconut shell. I thought I have seen enough today and decided to head back. I kept thinking that probably the swarms of jellyfish are now moving towards the south and by the next day, it might not be safe to swim in the water.

I paddled in full speed as if on a mission, got to the beach, toppled and scratched myself on the sand, pulled my boat out and told Sumi and Rakesh about the jellyfish. Rakesh was not surprised by the jellyfish but was more surprised by how good I kayaked and how far I went. He told me that he got worried after a point when he could not spot me. He probably thought huh, this short fat girl will just go in for 15 mins and come back scared. He was probably right. If you look at me now, I am not fit anymore, I have gained weight and I probably wouldn’t have ventured into the water if the wind was not so kind. I quickly alerted the coast guard about the jellyfish swarms and he was too busy watching videos on his mobile. He just said – “don’t worry, I have everything” pointing to his first aid kit. Okay. Point taken.

Sumi was a bit scared with the jellyfish situation and frankly, I was too. I thought I won’t go in the next day but who knows, let’s decide about tomorrow, tomorrow only. After that day, I kayaked every day, every single day for one hour minimum, exploring different directions, crossing different landmarks, chasing more fishermen boats and finally leaving them far behind. I would nod at every boat I cross. It was just a way of me telling them – hey I’m going deeper, just lookout for me and they will nod back as if saying – ya bro, we got your back. It’s funny how differently people connect on water than on land.

One of these days, I was kayaking with a friend (Dhvani), who lives in Goa and was visiting us in Patnem. Both of us talked so much while kayaking we lost track of distance and time. When we turned to look, we couldn’t tell which beach was ours because we could see five beaches from there. We were probably 3 kms inside the water. We paddled above the jellies, I took my phone with me that day, carefully wrapped in plastic, hoping to take a picture but no luck. I had already lost an iphone to the sea and was worried of losing my Pixel. Can’t believe that I made the terrible mistake of not carrying my GoPro yet again because I thought, hey! I’m only going to work from Goa, I don’t need a GoPro. Lesson learnt. Lesson learnt for life. This is the second time I’m experiencing jellyfish encounters in the sea and I didn’t have my GoPro to capture it. Universe won’t give me a third chance with jellyfishes. I felt so stupid at that moment.

As the great Einstein said once – “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

On our way back, very close to the shore, the dolphins decided to give us a show. You see, you don’t find dolphins, they find you when you least expect them. This time they were so close to the shore it was unbelievable. They kept dancing around us – two of them in sync and then they would split to leap from two different spots but still in sync. It kept on going for about 20 mins before they decided to call it a day. It was the longest dolphin dance that I’ve seen apart from watching the same on TV.

Evening Kayaking in Patnem

One day I decided to kayak in the evening. It was quite windy. Probably 7-8 knots. It was difficult to kayak and the jellyfishes had decided to come very close to the shore that day. The sunset was beautiful though, unlike the ones you have onshore where you share it with many people. Here, it was just you, the setting sun and the jellyfishes. But the wind was making it hard to kayak and I was scared. I didn’t want to be separated from my kayak. Not today. I turned back in just 15 mins and alerted the coast guard about the current location of the jellyfish swarm. He was disinterested and said – “No worry.” Fine, point taken. I get stung, you fix me. That’s how it works.

Our last day in Goa, I went kayaking in the morning, the wind was at 1 knot. Not a single ripple in the water. It was like kayaking in a pond. Water looked like glass. And under that glass like surface there was mushy green algae glittering and glistening under the bright sun, it was an extremely hot day. There was something off about the ocean that day. I didn’t see a single jellyfish. No dolphins, nothing. There was so much life in the water every other day and that day it felt like death. Only tiny green algae for as far as you can see. No wind, no waves, no life. Just a hot day and a mushy ocean. I came back disappointed and thought I would spend my last day eating a nice full breakfast at Rakesh’s. While my breakfast was being prepared, I was scrolling through my Instagram and I saw a lot of posts about a bioluminescence phenomenon happening in Mangalore and some beaches in Karnataka. Even @Wheelsandtails posted some beautiful pictures of it from their place in Karnataka.

My brain started to work, with a broken logic and half known facts trying to connect the dots desperately. I thought the jelly fish probably came from north and are moving towards south. Mangalore is 200kms from here, maybe the bioluminescence organisms are also travelling in a particular direction. North – south or south – north. The sea is full of algae. The jellyfishes left their territory. The dolphins took a day off. Something is not making sense here. The sea felt like Dal lake.

Something is definitely not making sense today. What does all this mean? Is there a logic or a precursor to something more epic? I showed the pictures of glistening blue night beaches of Karnataka to Rakesh and told him that there is a slight chance that we may get to see something similar tonight here in Patnem or in the coming nights. I told him to keep an eye out and call me if he sees something later that night.

The scenic, inviting, empty Galgibagh

It was our last day in Patnem and Sumi wanted to go to Galgibaga (a nearby beach further south from Patnem) to eat at a popular seafood shack and to swim there. The sea was too notorious there, she said. Big waves, uneven floor, no tourists, it could be a fun new beach to spend some time on. We rented a couple of bicycles and went to Galgibaga on a hot afternoon, which was only 6 kms from Patnem. It was super exhausting. The highway was paved through a hilly region with a lot of ups and downs. We were extremely tired and looked like two fried chickens by the time we reached Galgibaga. Without wasting any time, we kept our bags at this sea food place and ran towards the water. Happy little kids jumping in the water, getting smashed by waves over and over again. We had our share of fun in the water. After a nice whole meal – a Red Snapper, some fried Squids and lots of beers we decided to cycle back to Patnem. The food wasn’t great as the fish wasn’t fresh and the oil had a smell. But I was still happy to have my Lemon and Garlic Red Snapper. We were full, we were exhausted and we passed out on our beds as soon as we reached home.

After 2-3 hours, Sumi woke me up because she was feeling nauseous from the food we ate.

I looked at the time and it was 10:30pm. I offered her some Pudin Hara that might soothe her but she felt very heavy in her stomach. It’s then I remembered that I was supposed to go to the beach to check out if there’s anything unusual happening in the ocean that night. So I offered Sumi to take a walk on the beach (for her stomach of course!!). I couldn’t convince anyone to chase my idiotic theory based on half baked facts and some non expert assumptions. From whatever I’ve gathered today there might be a maximum of 5% chance of sighting something unusual at the sea tonight. And Rakesh would’ve called if there was something I thought. But let’s just try, I thought. I managed to convince Sumi to go to the beach with me because that’s the only way her stomach can feel better 😛

I took my torch, a water bottle, Pudin Hara and our jackets to the beach. Sumi proposed, let’s go towards the right side since it’s lit and bright and there are people around. I proposed the exact opposite, to take the left, where it’s completely dark, absolutely no people and there’s a hill at the end. I planned to sit at a height. We crossed the rocks in the moonlight and started climbing the hill to find a spot to sit.

The direction we headed towards.. Up that little hill.

We were chilling, talking and my eyes were glued to the ocean, scanning every inch of it expecting to see some magic. The moon phase was waning gibbous and there was little moonlight reflecting on the waves. After about 10-15 mins, I saw a glimmer of a faded blue light in one of the crashing waves and I was sure of what I saw. My mind must be hallucinating because I’ve been thinking about it too much I thought. Few moments later I saw it again. A faded blue gleam. Then I asked Sumi to look where I am looking and see if she could spot some blue activity in the waves. We both saw the dim blue light again and we thought that we’re both hallucinating. And then this one wave came where the streak of blue light was neon bright and as long as the length of the wave. We started shouting in pure wonder looking at what we just saw! I had goosebumps all over my body. And then it happened again and again.

We were seeing the Bioluminescence happening in the sea right before us. Just us. Unlike the pictures I saw in the day – this phenomenon was not happening on the beach, but was way too deep in the water, far from the rocks. It’s just too real now. We were not hallucinating and this is actually happening. We were looking a magic brewing in front of our eyes as the sea churned this magic light wave after wave after wave (only on big waves).

Bioluminescence in Goa
😦 Sad Mobile Picture ):
Bioluminescence: The ocean’s magic brew
😦 Sad Mobile Picture ):

We started to take a count of this wonderful symphony, 5-10-25-30. Only the big bright ones. We were on a rock, switching positions from squatting to standing to sitting with no amount of tiredness in our muscles and not an ounce of regret in our brain. Just staring at the ocean, predicting which wave will splash and produce neon blue light, and giving it a number. That’s all we did. We completely lost track of time and realised that suddenly it’s 3:30 am. Five hours we spent counting the Bioluminescence show, feeling euphoric and super energetic. We were only talking about this from 11.30 pm and now it was 3.30 – two women sitting on the rocks, fully focused on predicting the waves. Sumi was mostly predicting the waves, while I was trying to make some failed attempts of capturing them on my phone. 

We climbed down the hill and dipped our feet in the warm ocean water. It’s amazing how nurturing the sea can be – offering warm water on a chilly night. We walked back and crossed the entire stretch of the beach towards the exit only to see that the glowing has started to happen in the small waves right at the beach itself. But it’s not too pretty because the lights on the beach were too bright here.

We walked back home, Sumi’s stomach was healed. My curiosity was rewarded. We slept like a babies, smiling 🙂

Dhvani shared this video from Patnem a week after we left.

Next whole week, we were going to stay with our friends in the North. Later we got to know from Rakesh that Bioluminescence was happening in full glory almost everyday at Patnem. He sent us pictures everyday and it was just getting better and better. I wished I could go back there. But by this time there were so many tourists there to witness it every night, and it had become a party. I told myself – I was there first and that is enough.

Lessons learnt

1. Always listen to your gut. Don’t get lost in logic. The more you listen to your gut, the more accurate it gets.

2. Explore every damn day. Someone very dear to me told me to kayak everyday and each day will be a new experience. Each day you’ll get to be the part of a new story. And right he was.

3. More time spent with nature, the more connected you are to it. You become more and more aware and intuitive, you start picking up the signs. The signs are everywhere, but if you are not connected, you won’t see it.

4. Sometimes other people’s misadventures can lead to adventures of our own. If Sumi hadn’t taken me to Galgibaga, if she hadn’t eaten the bad fish where we did, and if that bad fish hadn’t screwed up her stomach the way it did, I would have slept through the night and missed out on all the magic only to regret later.

5. ALWAYS carry your gear. I missed yet another opportunity to take pictures of these magnificent creatures.

6. Believe ~ in ~ Magic


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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Kavitha Kannan says:



  2. Zhen says:

    Hey! Lovely experience in Patnem 🙂 next time you’re in Goa, hola at me!


  3. Zhen Paintal says:

    Hey! Lovely experience in Patnem 🙂 next time you’re in Goa, hola at me!


    1. 911rash says:

      Zhen!! Where are you?


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