A drizzle of tourists keeps the tourism fires burning in Ashvem

Ashvem, in North Goa, experiences the highs and lows of tourism in season and off season
REALITY CHECK: The sight is beautiful, but reality is rough at the coast in Ashvem, Mandrem.
REALITY CHECK: The sight is beautiful, but reality is rough at the coast in Ashvem, Mandrem.Photo: Augusto Rodrigues

On a late afternoon in June in Goa, the sky darkens as the clouds burst and the noise of rain falling on rooftops disturbs the silence. From afar, the waves can be seen breaking and slowly kissing the promenade built along the Ashvem coast.

Unlike many coastal wards, Ashvem, in North Goa, has not been silenced by the monsoon rains, and this can be gauged as Paulo Britto is seen reaching an agreement on prices with guests seeking to hire his bikes.

After a while, four customers drive away with four of his vehicles.

REALITY CHECK: The sight is beautiful, but reality is rough at the coast in Ashvem, Mandrem.
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“There are people still coming to stay at hotels built around the ward. Domestic tourists still come during the weekend, especially during the long ones, but most now prefer to stay in the upscale hotels,” says Britto, who has around 20 bikes which he rents out.

The rain has seen the arrival of guests reduce to a drizzle, but not all is shut in this ward that is a witness to the highs and lows of tourism.

There are a few restaurants that are open, and though the food might not be the best served by all, there is food that suits every visitor's purse.

PRETTY AS A PICTURE: With the rising levels of water during the rains, soak in the beauty of the season.
PRETTY AS A PICTURE: With the rising levels of water during the rains, soak in the beauty of the season.Photo: Augusto Rodrigues

“Our timings have changed. We used to start early in the morning for breakfast during the season, but now, we are open for lunch and finish early at night. Some senior staff is on leave,” said the manager of a restaurant that sees better days during the season.

There are restaurants that can be seen covered in plastic, some shops are closed, and a handful of eateries have two or three covers. Unlike during the season, the sounds of the waves make the best music here in the monsoons.

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The local residents, too, are more relaxed, though some yearn for the scenes of the past.

“The place is quiet compared to the season, but we still have to be careful of the traffic when going out for a walk. We have these mad guys driving at high speed, and for an old lady like me, it is dangerous,” says Josefina as she strolls past the beach, an umbrella protecting her from the rain.

“It is good that some people are making money, but the past is lost. I miss the coconut trees that dotted our coastline. I still cannot understand why they were cut,” she adds.

CLOSED! Many establishments in Ashvem shut down during monsoons.
CLOSED! Many establishments in Ashvem shut down during monsoons.Photo: Augusto Rodrigues

As the evening grows older, the smell of salt fish being roasted emanates from a cluster of houses. Though not cut off from civilization, many residents cannot let go the charm of yesteryears.

Salt fish, garnished with onions to accompany kanji, is going to be dinner for the Fernandes family.

“We could not go out fishing and could not climb our coconut trees to collect toddy, and so, we waited to see whether my husband could get fish as he had gone angling. Or salt fish, pickle or sausages would be our meal,” discloses Apolon, as she sips hot tea to keep herself warm in the rain.

The rain has seen the arrival of guests reduce to a drizzle, but not all is shut in this ward that is a witness to the highs and lows of tourism.

No visitors can be seen around, but once in a while, girls and boys from the North can be seen moving around – chatting, giggling or getting some corn.

“We stay here (Ashvem) because the rents are reasonable for us, who work around hotels here,” admits Asma from the North East.

Rooms with attached kitchens and washrooms, that are normally given on rent for around Rs 9,000 a month during the season, are now available for Rs 3,000.

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“At least we are getting some money during the rains, and these children who work in the hotels are not noisy and don’t trouble us,” explains Apolons’s daughter. “They move to other places during the season as our rent increases,” she adds.

As time ticks to return home, a drive through concrete reality stares – one of the potholed roads and flooded streets – and the beauty experienced in Ashvem turns into a dream.

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