WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS: ANJUMAN DEODAR
GO FROM: Mumbai
GO FOR: Families, seekers of calm
The cabbies in Goa have no idea where Olaulim Backyards is. In fact, most of them don’t even know where Olaulim is. For a state that sees lakhs of tourists every year, discovering a place that even the cabbies haven’t heard of has got to be worth something, right? And yet, seclusion is just one of the many wonderful charms this place has to offer. As you drive over narrow, winding roads, passing quaint little hamlets along the way, you’ll know you’re in the Goa of old – the way it was, the way it should have stayed, forever.
Although Olaulim is just a half-hour drive from Baga in North Goa, it’s a world away from all the mayhem. Savio, a true-blue Goan, has seen his home state change before his eyes – the beaches overrun by tourists, the jams on the roads leading to them getting bigger with every passing year. So, when he and his wife Pirkko were looking for a place of their own, they quite naturally decided to stay clear of the beaches. And this picturesque three-acre plot right on the edge of a manos (backwater stream) ticked all the right boxes: a sleepy village vibe, thickets of trees, a little hillock at its edge, and tonnes of joie de vivre.
Olaulim Backyards opened its doors to guests back in 2010, and the whole family was there to welcome them: two children, four dogs, three cats, a goat and a donkey. Well, perhaps not the donkey; Mantra’s always been a bit of a loner, but he’s particularly efficient at trimming the grass around the pool. Shibu, the great Dane, is usually content plopped down in the dining area, but Laku and Athena will probably follow you wherever you go. Savio and Pirkko haven’t really tried to market this place, letting word-of-mouth do most of the work instead. You’re meant to understand the true meaning of susegad here, and are discouraged from checking in for just one night. Once you’re there, though, you know that it’s a good rule to follow: days could go by before you even decide to venture away from the sit-outs of the cottages. Built mostly using naturally available materials like bamboo, coconut wood, palm leaves, local stone, and rammed earth, each cottage is as unique as the next. Then there’s the pool, the hammocks, and the Taverna Hama Hama (the in-house bar). So it’ll be a while before you even think of actually doing anything. If and when you do, you can go cycling down the village roads, or take your pick from the kayaks, the canoe, or the rowing boat and paddle down the manos. Evenings are the best time to head out, as the air is cooler and the breeze will have died down. As you head west, you’ll have the still waters all to yourself. Under the gentle rays of the setting sun, the only sounds you’ll hear will be of the soft swish of your paddle and the occasional plop of a cormorant diving in for its dinner, and you’ll quickly realise just how much you’re going to miss this place when it’s time to go.
But, when you get back, the lights at the bar will be twinkling, music will be wafting down to the water, the neighbours will have arrived, and Savio will probably have a cocktail waiting for you. As conversations drift from philosophy to the cabaret bars of the ’80s, tomorrow will be forgotten, and the moment will be all that really matters.
The peak season in Goa is over and summer is yet to arrive. Make your travel plans NOW, check out LPMI’s March 2018 issue. Get your copy from your nearest newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.