Though a cable winch (or a modern boat) would be more efficient, the Goan fishermen of Benaulim bring in their catch the old-fashioned way and, if you’re strolling by, they’ll probably wave you over to help. Two long ropes stretch all the way up the beach, with heavy branches attached at intervals; on the other end is their net, sometimes floating 500m from the shore and visible only as a massive swirl of water and seabirds. You and a dozen fishermen brace your backs against the branches and take straining steps in reverse toward the line of palms.
The old wooden fishing boat that rests on the sand, with the Portuguese name Bom Jesus painted on its prow, is both a reminder of the tiny state’s colonial past and evidence of its peculiar culture. Like most of India, Goa had a sophisticated
indigenous society for more than a millennium before Europeans arrived, but its modern character is the result of spice-hunter Vasco da Gama’s arrival here at the turn of the fifteenth century. Though the Indian army finally drove the Portuguese out in the 1960s, Goans today are proud of their unique identity: partly Lusophone, largely Catholic and with an intriguing and delicious fusion of Portuguese and Indian cuisine. These traits have attracted travellers to Goa for decades, as much to admire its cathedrals and colonial architecture as to throw massive raves on its famously lovely beaches.
It’s not party time in Benaulim, though; the sand slips out beneath your feet and you must be conceding 3m for every one you gain. Either the waves don’t want to give up their bounty so easily, or the fish aren’t keen on being dinner. Groaning, yelling, laughing and grimacing, your team could keep at this for hours until the net is hauled in, though by this point you may have turned over your position to someone else. Stick around, though, and you’ll see what’s likely to end up on your plate that evening in a fish curry.
Benaulim is 15min by public bus from Margao, Goa’s “second city”.
Top image: Goa fisherman © Alex Erofeenkov/Shutterstock