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Saturday
Dec262009

Beaches - Goa

At the outset, let me state that I am not a huge fan of lying out in the sun. However, Goa is famous for it's beaches, and many travel there for the express purpose of getting involved in the beach culture.

Coco (sic) beach - it was badly affected by the Boxing Day Tsunami

I arrived in India in the middle of November to be greeted by a hiatus regarding the allocation of permits for beach shacks across Goa. The Indians can build a shop, or retail outlet, in just a few days utilising cane lashed together with twine as a framework, and the whole structure made relatively weather (sun) proof by using palm fronds for walls and roof.

The problem was caused by the fact that much of the beach is in public ownership and a government licence is required to operate a beach shack. Now there have been beach shacks in Goa for very many years, and conflict arose between the (established) traditional beach shack operators association, and another association who wished for all shacks to be allocated on a ballot basis regardless of previous history. When I arrived the shack situation, throughout Goa, was at stalemate awaiting a decision by the High Court of India. There were a few shacks, some illegal, and some erected on private land.

Another view of Coco Beach - with some evident sea defences

The Goa (winter) season is generally regarded as being between 1st November, and the end of April. Demand for shacks, Goa wide, was roughly 600 odd applications for 300 odd permits. As November turned into December, everyone beacame extremely restive awaiting the decision.

Eventually, in the first week of December, the High Court decided that all beach shacks would be awarded on the basis of a ballot. It took another week for the ballot to take place and for the allocations to be made. Firstly for South Goa, and then for North Goa. I was told, and this may be incorrect, that the cost of the licence to sucessful applicants for beach shacks is 50,000 rupees - approx £670 - as a one off payment for the season.

A nearly completed shack on Calengute Beach - next to the construction canes for it's neighbour

To Europeans, the shacks are important for the simple reason that the Indians do not tend to lie out and sunbathe. They will visit beaches, but tend to congregate, standing, near the water's edge, and chat to each other. Occasionally, they will sit on a towel under the shade of a coconut tree. To enable sunbathing, it requires a shack, with a licence for that particular part of the beach, to provide sun beds for which they will attempt to charge. This then provides a captive audience for the various beach hawkers, and a micro ecosystem is duly created. In practice, it is possible to negotiate a sun bed, on the basis of a promise to eat, and drink, in the shack.

It has to be said that the beaches are idylic. Perfect sand, and perfect weather.

Colva Beach - South Goa - prior to the shack ballot

It would be a sunworshipper's  dream. Every day the temperature reached 33 degrees and this was achieved through unlnterrupted sunshine.

Colva Beach again - note the absence of sunbathers

And finally, of course, the rules of the beach......