India // Goa //

Chapora

Huddled in the shadow of a Portuguese fort on the opposite, northern side of the headland from Vagator is CHAPORA, north Goa’s main fishing port. The anchorage and boatyard below its brown-walled citadel forms the backbone of the village’s economy, but there’s always been a hard-drinking, heavy-smoking hippy tourist scene alongside it, revolving around the coffee shops and bars on the main street. Come here at sunset time and you’ll see the “boom shankar brigade” out in full force, sipping banana lassis and toking on chillums under the banyan tree – a spectacle little changed in decades. For a brief period a few years back, Russian mafia types took over and squeezed the freaks out, but like migrating turtles they’ve returned to their old hangout in numbers undiminished by the recent changes in Goa. If this doesn’t sound much like your bag, you’ll probably be best off sticking to neighbouring Vagator.

Chapora’s chief landmark is its venerable old fort, most easily reached from the Vagator side of the hill. At low tide, you can also walk around the bottom of the headland, via the anchorage and the secluded coves beyond it to Big Vagator, then head up the hill from there. The red-laterite bastion, crowning the rocky bluff, was built by the Portuguese in 1617 on the site of an earlier Muslim structure (thus the village’s name – from Shahpura, “town of the Shah”). Deserted in the nineteenth century, it lies in ruins today, although the views up and down the coast from the weed-infested ramparts are still superb. Also worth a visit is the village’s busy little fishing anchorage, where you can buy delicious calamari fresh off the boats most evenings.