Friday, 28 March 2008

TWENTY NINE - The Horrors of Flight

The last night in Goa, we decided to go to the Alpha club again, to see if the music was any better, and also to look at the jewellery stall, where the rings and bracelets were better than usual tourist tat. No much joy there, as the stalls were not booked in because of the heavy rain.
The young rock musicians were doing a version of the Stones, which seemed a bit dated.

It was another wet night, torrential rain and hug claps of thunder, which had the effect of stopping the local dogs doing their own musical rendition, one dog taking the lead vocal, and others doing the woo woo woo backing group, plus a little bass.
Up at 3.30 am and taxi finally turned up at 4.15, so made it to airport by 5.30 - tedious waiting in long queues, to no obvious point.
Will not go into the details of the dreadful return flight via Sri Lankan airlines, because that was so bad. Although I had asked for seats right at the back of the aircraft, we were put on row 3, up front with a large collection of families and small children/babies, who howled in turn for the whole 11 and a half hours.
Needless to day, arrived at 7.30 pm Heathrow in a state of extreme tension!!!! The weather so cold, difficult to describe the shock to the body, from 39 degrees to about 5.
It was a great and delightful surprise that R and L turned up with their car to meet us at Heathrow.
Next...... now where shall we go to next? Somewhere a b it nearer, perhaps.

Saturday, 22 March 2008


Today is the last day here. It is still cloudy this morning and I am hoping for a bit of sun later but sky does not look good. Probably more rain on the way.
Had a swim in the lovely sea, which today is very calm, and much colder
Might go into local little town, Choudi, for a meal because the food there is Goan, and not geared up to tourist taste. Choudi is the only place where there is an ATM, and is where I bought my mobile phone. The phones are essential here., Everybody has one, every man, woman or dog. The call rates are very cheap, only 6.99 rupees a minute.
At the Udipi hotel in Choudi you can have a delicious breakfast of Masala dosa, and lassi, but it is too far away to go there except by rickshaw.
The food has been allmost without exception, really good. Fish and rice most days. I decided not to eat chicken or meat while here. There is a surprising lack of vegetables, unless you order a mixed veg dish, when they appear as if from a pack of frozen mixed veg, in a spicey sauce. Aloo gobi is usually delicious, and I noticed piles of cauliflowers in the Chaudi market, and potatoes, so these are local.
Twice I lashed out, and had king prawns - you see them before they are cooked. A memorable flavour. But quite expensive, about £10 sterling.
Fruit also delicious but not easy to buy cheap, unless you go for the tiny bananas. They are 1 rupee each,tourist rate.
This may be my last post,but I will be adding photos. Just nearly lost this text, as there was another power cut.


Like most holidays I have been on, I do not meet the local people much, but do talk to the waiters, hotel staff, taxi drivers, shopkeepers. Most people here do not have much vocabulary, just basic English.
Some do not understand much at all, and the women seem less able to talk than the men. The children and young boys are more forthcoming
There are a lot of Israeli people here too. Israeli food on the menus.
Some people who work here are,of course, better educated and have good English so it is nice to have questions answered. I still do not know why some palm trees have shoes tied round them. Asked twice, and it seems to be either to keep bad spirits off, or to ensure the tree has a good crop of nuts.
Met a rich young man from Bombay called Ravi when in Candolim, he was with his uncle, who he worked for. They are into real estate. He was staying in a posh hotel and I met him at the Internet cafe. They are developing a building, with the aid of a ultra modern architect, from Argentine, who I also met. Good company.
The other Bombay person I met was the artist, who was at the Guest House, which I wrote about previously. Apart from that, it has not been possible to talk much about Goa, or India, or the world in general. I guess if I had been in Bombay it would be a different story.
There are Indian holiday makers here, groups of men, or families, but they tend to keep themselves to themselves.
A lot of the workers in the tourist trade are from other parts of India, in particular from Kashmir. I got the impression that the Goan people resent all the Kashmiris taking their jobs, but when the season is in full swing, there is probably enough jobs to go round.


Well I believed the talk about no rain in March, but I have not been lucky.
Friday night, it poured down while it was too wet to walk out for a meal, so people sat in the nearest bar or, in our case, the Guest JHouse eating hut, which dripped a bit.
Yesterday Saturday, we went to Agonda beach up the coast about 7 miles, it is very wild there, with a few cafes, some huts to rent, and a couple of shacks on the edge of the sand. No palm trees, but a beautiful horseshoe bay, but the waves quite big so I did not swim for long.
Lucily, as it started to rain again at 2 pm Nasesh arrived with his rickshaw and by the time we were back in Outrem (end of Palolem beach) rain was heavy. It then poured, in tropical frenzy, for most of the afternoon and evening, so not much fun to be had on the beach for anybody!
Late afternoon it was stopped enough for a walk to the main drag, where all the hippy shops are, and cafes selling probiotic yogurt, meuslei, wholemeal bread, tattoos, kaftans and othr nicknacks. Not my kind of place, really.

Friday, 21 March 2008

TWENTY FIVE Animal life

click here to view slideshow

I forgot to add, that we saw quite a few monkeys when we went to the spice farm. Otherwise nothing particularly wild, just lots of cattle, dogs, water buffalo.
Round the buffalo are collections of what I think are white egrets.
Near where we are staying, looking from the balcony over the back, I cn see lots of little black pigs rootling through the dead undergrowth.
The babies are unbelivable cute, grey with pink legs and little wagging tailsl. about a foot long.
On the beach here there are far too many dogs, at least 16 in one end alone. They have been petted by the local hippies/hut dwellers so tend to run up or jump, which is a bit of a nuisance.

TWENTY FOUR -Tanshika Spice Farm at last

We got to the spice farm eventually. It is on the edge of the Netravali Wildlife preserve. There are no signs until you are almost there. although we now have their leaflet with a sketch map ad their web site.
The young lady who is running the farm with her husband, gave us some lemon tea and conducted us on a tour of the plantation. It is 15 acres, and they grow chiefly coconuts and betel nuts, plus cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, lemon grass, pepper and chilli.
We were told how difficult it is to produce vanilla pods, as each flower has to be polinated by hand, at the precise moment, it is a vine which grows up the palms, and has to be trained downwards. I bought two pods later. The cardamom too is interesting, as it is a rhizome based plant, growing with large leaves but the flowers spread along the ground like runners.
We were shown the compost pit, and the collection of wooden toys some obviously over 100 years old, and found in the family house. Figures on horseback. Also some various kinds of small beehives, the miniature bees about 2 millimeters big, and still living in the tiny ball of the nest
All the plants are cultivated organically, and the compost is enriched with cow shit (her word) over layers of chopped palm fronds and stalks, and other vegetation.
Then we were conducted round the house, in the family of her husband for about 200 years. It is a 'mud' house, in other words made of clay and dark grey in colour. The corners of the house are reinforced with large stone blocks. It is very large and has a courtyard right in the centre, rather like the middle of an old Spanish casa, and in the centre is the rectangular alter place, with a holy basil plant growing there, in a pot. The lady of the family would go there early morning to offer prayers before starting the day. This is a Hindu family.
The outer room, the oldest and coolest of the rooms, is long and dark and has a cow dung floor. Our hostess explained tht twice a year cow shit is put on the floor to preserve it, make it cool, and soft and yielding to the feet.
After the tour, we had a vegetarian lunch, tasty and refreshing, and departed with a small collection of their spices

Thursday, 20 March 2008

TWENTY THREE - Wednesday - Artists in residence in the wild

The plan was, a trip into the forest interior to visit a spice farm. K at the JC Bar told me it was a new business set up by a young Goan couple, two years ago.
The driver Nagesh, brought the taxi round at 9 am, as the roads are too rough for a rickshaw. He also brought his little boy along, age five. This reassured me, because I thought he would drive even more carefully. They do not wear seat belts here.

It was obvious that he did not really know where the spice farm was. After many miles climbing higher and higher, up the foothills of the Western Ghatts, through beautiful forest, he pulled up at the Mangal Farm Guest House. I think he believed this was our destination, whereas we were aiming at Tanshikar Spice Farm.
This Mangal Farm Guest House looked very attractive, with a green garden outside, and grassy track leading to the courtyard. I went up to the house and asked, "I think we are lost, and may I use your toilet"?
It turned out that the woman I spoke to was an artist, in her room was a collection of acrylic paints,. She was very kind and welcoming, and her name is Vijaya, and she comes from Munbai.
At the Guest House was in total five woman artists, all on a four week residency there. The sponsor was a gallery in Goa. They are all Indian artists, and as well as looking at Vijaya's work, I spoke to Dimple, from Bangalore. She was recently working at The Edinburgh Printmakers, and showed me photos of etchings and photo etchings. She had also visited the East London Printmakers. We stopped for a cold drink, and few words with everybody, and took a photograph of us all. What a chance, to find these women artists working away in the middle of the jungle, with links to the international art world! I hope to keep in touch with them

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

TWENTY TWO -is anyone out there?

do let me knw if you are reading this post, or is it just so much hot air?

TWENTY ONE -Visit to Cabo da Rama Fort by rickshaw

monday was the day we decided to go to Cabo de Rama Fort, which is about 30 kilometers away, up the coast, north. It is very high, and on a promentary.
We went there by rickshaw. Nagesh the driver, who goes quite slowly on the very bad roads, is the one who has taken us to several places now. It is rather like riding in an oval biscuit tin, painted yellow. There are two tinny doors, and nowhere to hang on as you sway and bump along. No windows in the front doors, and the driver sits in the middle, operating the handles and clutch. In his windscreen are small pictures of Hindu deities.
But since the computer i am typing this on had a crazy keyboard, i will have to continue another day.

Continued on better computer and keyboard. Thursday.
There is not much to add, except I felt rather sorry for the rickshaw itself, as it laboured up the gradients. At one point the engine stalled, and it seemed like all three of us would start going backwards. Luckily Nagesh started it up again. The roads are very poor, of course, and the cows and bulls do not get out of the way.
At Cabo de Rama, there is remains of a very ancient fort, pre Portuguese, made of reddish, rugged stone blocks, with a few old cannon. There is a fantastic view over the coast line, stretching far into the distance, and far below the tops of palm trees. It was empty, except for five other visitors. There are arrow or gun slits in the walls facing the sea.
Quiet, atmospheric, and with a hint of previous civilizations in the square muddy pool, behind the fortifications, with stone steps going down into the water, and surrounded by massive jungle trees.

TWENTY -A night out at the local hot spot - dark and mysterious

Yesterday I composed a blog about our visit to the Alpha Club in Palolem beach. Unfortunately the whole entry was wiped and had not been savesd at all, so here goes, with a fresh version.
We heard from G and C that there is a music club on Sunday nights, where you can go along and listen to the free jazz/ G also performs there singing with his guitar.
So, thinking it might be a nice venue, i put on my strappy dress, necklace and red sandals, being smart for the first time since my arrival in Goa. We took the rickshaw with the local wide boy, Nagesh. Although he rips us off, he does it with genial good nature. He was not sure of the way and we thought he had got it wrong when we ended up bumping along a narrow, sandy lane between shacks, in almost complete darkness.Just lights from the little dwellings.
There had been several power cuts earlier in the day, and the sky was full of large clouds, but everybody said, it never rains in march. Never.
The Alpha club was near Perry's, which was apparently the place to eat. perry's turned out to be a little shack, empty. A middle aged man appeared wearing shorts and singlet, i think he had been having a nap. We agreed to come back at 8 for fish, Sharfish, he called it.
And so to the Alpha club, where everybody sat in the sandy clearing under the palms, with a net overhead, maybe to collect the nuts. Three young musicians were giving it a go with their electric guitars, a kind of tuneless rock. There was a rudimentary bar and a few stalls selling jewellery etc. A very basic loo. Underfoot, of course, just more sand.
At 8 we walked round to Perry's, when the blackness fell over all, completely. no power. Luckily we had a torch. In addition, it started to rain. The sand turned to sandy mud. There were no candels at Perry's but he finally found a couple of stumps, and we had our Sharfish and rice, in the hot darkness. it was very good, maybe it was shark. A rather extraordinary experience and so funny- nobody else there and the sound of the rain on the corrugated iron roof. One tiny glimmer of flame for a light.
After the meal, back to the Alpha club, to find everybody cowering in the shelter of the small bar, since there was no other cover from the rain, The musicians of course had to turn off the guitars since there was no power.
We all went home early.
now i have a local mobile phone, i can easily ring for a rikshaw. Back to Rajbag.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

NINETEEN - Moving on, to another guest house, tomorrow

Our stay at the Villa Viegas ends tomorrow, Wednesday.
The last five days will be spent at the Palolem Guest House, which is about 3 miles away from Rajbag. It was recommended by G and C, a couple from Sevenoaks, who we met in the local bar/ restaurant. After a brief visit to check it out, we reserved a room and hope for air conditioning, first since our two days at Panjim after we arrived at the beginning of March.
Hottter and hotter each day. Freak rain storm one night, which everybody says is unheard of at this time of year.
The guest house will be much cheaper, it is 1200 rupees a night.

Friday, 14 March 2008

EIGHTEEN - The villa Viegas

This villa is a strange set up.
To greet us was a friend of the owner, who was away.
She told us a bit about what was what, and then rushed off. To Delhi or somewhere.
Yesterday the owner's husband, who is English, turned up to collect cash for our rental, and then he too departed.
He is only in India occasionally, he told us.
We are on our own there, with one helpful handiman/caretaker, two dogs, and a cleaning lady who comes in in the morning.
There are two other people, in a room like us, but they have been ill with feaver and sore throats so have not seen them much.
It is a modern,green house.
The garden is completed dry and bare, except for about a dozen large cashoo nut trees, in shape like huge apple trees.
Meena knocked the ripe fruits off with a pole yesterday. The fruits are pale pink, and at one end protrudes the nut, in a pale grey casing. When the fruit was all down, Meena and Kamlesh picked the nuts off the fruits and saved them in buckets to sell later. The crows eat some of the fruit which is still lying under the trees. You can eat the flesh, and I tried it. It is very juicy and slightly acid, a bit like a sweet tomato.
Our room is upstairs, and it is nice and large, painted white, with a very high ceiling and a fan. The fitment for the shower drips constantly, so we have to keep the bathroom door closed at night otherwise the drip noise would drive us crazy.
In addition to the dripping, there are often power cuts, when the fan does not work.
There is a balcony and outside, space for a kettle and some cups, so I can make cups of tea with powdered milk.
One good thing, is the little cafe just up the lane, where Surya does the cooking. He is a very smart young man, and had a wide fan base, mostly local people. The place is usually very busy in the evening, and the food excellent and very cheap. There is a building next to the kitchen where the 'locals' sit, and a kind of eight sided thatched hut with open sides, where he puts the people who spend more money, like us Brits.
He often says, Pay me next time, if he has no change.
This is where we met two people who stay in Palolem for six months each year. They were helpful and full of good advice, and recommended various shops - for instance we could buy a mobile phone with an Indian sim card, because everybody contacts everybody else by mobile phone here.


The good things about this place:
The sea is great. There are three beaches here in the part of South Goa where we are. Patnam is the smallest. The waves are high, and come thundering in, so you have to go out deeper before they break, and then dive through them. Your goggles get full of sand.
The best time of day is early morning. It is fresh, and the light is clear. Here there are lots more birds, none of which I recognize.
The pineapples are ripe and delicious, and the papaya huge. The tiny bananas are sweet.
The feni is good too. This is the local alchohol made of palm, or cashoo fruit. Mostly very cheap, about 30 Rupee for a double. That is about 20 pence. It is nice with lime juice, fresh. Or you can buy a bottle of TEEM, for 5 rupee, which is soda.
This is my favourite drink, Lime Soda - a tall glass of soda water with added juice of a lime and a spoon of sugar.
Remember, there are 80 rupees to the £ at present.
apparently the feni does not give much of a hangover, although I have not tested this out. Fresh orange juice or melon or pineapple is available at the beach shacks.
The huts behind the beach shacks are very cheap, and are on stilts, but I am not tempted to rent one. The basic ones cost 300 rupees.
As a contrast, the InterContinental Goa, is huge and full of pleasant mannered staff. At the gates are uniformed guards like soldiers, at the main entrance is a smart man in white uniform, red sash, pointed slippers and red turban. He bows at us and smiles as we come in. Inside are shiney marble floors, high ceilings and lots of Russians.
All round the hotel is a huge golf course, grass green and watered by hand, by men holding their thumbs over the end of hose pipes.

SIXTEEN -Dogs in depression

Now I am at Palolem beach, where the internet is Rupees 40 per hour, so much cheaper than the Intercontinental, which is full of Russian guests.
Today is friday and we have to leave the villa where we have a room, next Tuesday. After that we have reserved a room at Palolem Guest House, for last five nights.
There is a problem with the local dogs, because several people have remarked that they are rather agressive. In fact they are described as 'crazy' - they only bark at the tourists, not the village locals. And yes, they do dig holes to sleep in, I have watched them do it. Two near the villa are particularly barking animals. And to cap my worries, I was told that there is rabies here - although where "here" is, I am not sure. Is it the state, or is it the district, or is it the coastal resorts?
Apparently there was a move to get dogs sterilized, to curb the number of animals born, but does not have had much effect.
I was amused to see a dog racing up the beach the other morning, with a furry corpse in its mouth, maybe a rat. It was persued by a noisy flock of very indignant crows, obviously annoyed at loosing a feed.
Otherwise, the dogs get fed on the left over rice.
Sadly, I saw an old man in the shack/farm near the villa, watching to see a large bull slowly pass by his gate. He had a big stone in his hand. Then he threw the stone at the bull, as hard as he could. I could not make out why this should happen. Maybe he was the same man who threw a stone at the villa's resident dog, who has a badly injured paw, so he now runs on three. Nobody seems very worried about this.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

FIFTEEN - At Palolem being posh

Here at the new villa, which is in a little village called Rajbag, very near the grand Inter Continental Hotel. I am writing this in the hotel, and it is so expensive - about 3 pounds sterling for 30 minutes on the PC - that I will not be able to do the blog until I find somewhere cheaper.
Its good here though, except for the very noisy, barking dogs, which are much more agressive than at the last place. Must close now.

FOURTEEN -The night out with the gods

When we first arrived at Lucia's Guest House in Sinquerim, we heard about a banana festival, which we failed to get to in time.
So when we heard about the Hindu festival at a local temple, we determined to go along.
The temple is tiny, but all day long the local people had been buzzing up there, and the atmosphere was very exciting. Apparently the high spot was a performance to be held in the evening at about 10 or 10.30. The host at our guest house told us that he had enjoyed going along as a boy, sitting on a mat at the front, watching the theatrical performance, so it sounded exciting.
We walked up at about 9.30 to see masses of people walking round stalls, piled high with bright plastic toys, geegaws, pretty bangles, CDs, fried chick peas, and, much to my surprise, hoop-la stalls. You know the kind, you throw a ring over a bottle. In this case, the bottles were Kingfisher beer, and coke or fanta.
We sat waiting in a covered space for the show, on red plastic chairs, with ceiling decorated with what was like frilly lampshades only much, much bigger. At the front was a small stage with huge sound systems set up, and some young men messing about with electronic instruments. An hour went by. At one side of the space, people went to their devotions in the temple, decorated with flowers.
A few more young men joined us, in a circle all round the edge of the central area , where we thought the performance would take place. But no. A large tarpaulin was put down and on it, the local young ladies came to sit, with their children, and some older ladies. Eventually the whole central space was filled.
At 10.45 the performance began, and it was not exciting Indian dancing or theatre, but a singer on the stage, dressed in western clothes, belting out a song, not very well, and particularly western in style. He was the warm up. The next two singers were a bit better. But it was slow going.
The Goan Lark was a bit more interesting, for at least he was smartly dressed in a blue tunic and tight white trousers, and had a high, pleasing tenor voice.
Anyway, we left then, feeling rather disappointed! I did have a red spot of powder on my forehead, though, which made me feel rather exotic.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

THIRTEEN - Next - to Palolem

Today is Sunday. Tomorrow is the last day at Sinquerim. I am just getting to like it here, and getting used to it. It is just a tourist destination, but it still has bit of village charm, and at early evening when it is quiet, you can walk along the little red sandy lane and look up through the coconut palm fronds to the bright stars, where up above is Orion. I feel sorry for all the shopkeepers and stall holders, since they seem to sit all evening long, until 11.30, with nothing to do and with no sales. Perhaps it is worth it for the busy months of European winter. The Russians come here too, there are signs written in Russian.
I was told by a couple of people, "We like the English, we don't like the Russians". A bit of a broad statement, but nice to be in the favourites list.
On Tuesday we set off by taxi to Palolem, about three hours by road, and are sharing the cost with a young couple who want to go there just for one night. Watch this space. We set off at 8.30 in the morning.

TWELVE -Mandovi river

One of the things that is rather annoying here, is that everybody (locals I mean) asked you how much you paid for something and then says you were vastly overcharged. This has left me with the impression that I have been ripped off left right and centre.
Well I probably have. I did manage to beat the shopkeeper down from 250 rupees to 130 rupees for the beach towels, but I think I was badly stitched up when I bought two big bags of cashoo nuts from the charming and friendly beach vendor, with his sad stories of not seeing wife and children for six months of the year, and he needed the first sale of the day to bring him good luck.
The trip to see the dolphins was probably another extortion but it was a lovely experience. Fairly nearby is the estuary of two rivers. On a calm sea, the dophins can be seen jumping, quite clearly.
The collection of brightly painted boats are, as they usually are, very attractive. The morning light was soft and silvery. We chugged out into the sea and although there were other boats, it was quiet and calm. The kind of bright light and misty, hazy horizon that the Impressionist may have liked to paint. Every so often the boatman pointed out the dolphins jumping. They moved about quickly, or maybe there were several small groups. Each group seemed to be three or four, small silvery grey dolphins. The boatman said they jumped and hit the fish with their tails, then eat the dead fish. Dont know if this is right, but the dolphins made a huffing noise as they jumped, which I though was them puffing out air.
The headland had the remains of the old Portuguese fort of Arambol, where there is now a local prison. In addition, there is a luxurious villa with terraced gardens and white grecian style urns and statues.
The boatman told us that the villa owner also owns the huge rusting freight or iron ore container ship, off our nearest beach, which was grounded in 2001, and which is said to cause the excessive erosion of the sands along the beach. Several beach shacks are so badly affected by erosion that they are resting on piled of sandbags, with wooden piles out front.


I may not have mentioned the driving here. It is alarming!
The daily paper often mentions pile-ups and fatal colisions and I am not surprised. Yesterday in the paper it was a train and van, today a minibus and a car. I just hope for the best!
Even the bus drivers are hectic. Where the road is bad, they do not slow down, you just have to grip on even harder.
In Panjim and a few other places, there is a devilish spawn of the sleeping policeman, or road hump. It is called the Rumbler. It has its very own road sign. The rumbler is a series of small ridges, a bit like corrugated iron sheeting, which is truly teeth jarring, expecially if taken at speed!
The bike riders are altogether more sedate. The bikes are large, and black, with big wheels and on the back is the prop, which I remember on my bike as a child, you push it down and the bike stays more or less upright. The bike riders are usually wearing flip flops, which somewhat prevents any sprinting or racing.
In addition to the delivery lorries, buses, small white taxis (Suzuki think), cows,dogs, bikes and pedestrians, the road users include scooters and motor bikes - the small kind that used to be called mopeds. When the festival was on recently, the young men buzzed through the village with pretty girls on the back in their best saris, often riding side-saddle. Nobody wears a crash hat, of course.

TEN - Dogs and other birds

You notice the dogs here.
There are lots of them, smallish and brownish.So far they are mild and quite. Seldom barking. They lay about, they come onto the beach and recline under the beach beds. I wonder who feeds them, since they do not seem extremely thin or uncared for. Only when we went on the bus to Candolem, which seems a poorer part, and we walked about, there were scruffy looking dogs sleeping in shallow holes at the side of the road. I get the impression the dogs scoop out a little shallow pit to fit their back quarters into, and then presumably this is their own home territory.
The sides of the roads are not made up, just red stones and rubble or sand.
Yesterday we were having a late lunch snack at a bar near the road. Several bulls and cows passed by, as they do. One of these stopped at the gate and pushed her nose into the opening, staying in a determined manner. The waiter shooed her a bit. Then he came back with some naan and fed them to the cow. He said: She does that every time, comes in the morning, the afternoon and the evening.
The cows are small, dark or piebald, and with thin fur. They too, like the dogs, seem very mild and placid. Some of them have calves with them. And some are not cows, they are bulls.
One evening, on the bus, I noticed through the dusk, walking on the opposite side of the road, a grey elephant. She had a keeper, and a man walking behind. Otherwise she blended into the murk - she had no lights!
Crows are in abundance. They have grey heads like ravens, are small with huge beaks. The cawing is incessant as day goes by. I think they must be in such large numbers because of all the litter from bars and hotels, it is piled up frequently. Unfortunately there is a lot of litter at the back of the beach too, and you see numbers of plastic water bottles everywhere, along the shore line, in the bushes.
Other birds seem not very numerous, you hear them in the early morning, but they are fighting a loosing battle with the crows and the developers.

NINE - Who you meet

Here the people are - on the whole - charming.
The host and hostess at the Guest House, Joseph and Lucia, are Catholics, and exemplary in their hospitality. The house is old, and at the back yard the sand starts, across which you have to trudge with your towel and swimsuit to the beach.
This is such a hot area, that I imagine it is rather like walking in the Sahara.
Other people, too numerous to mention, who we have met, of course include waiters, shopkeepers and helpful people on buses. Everybody replies, if spoken to. Unlike the Europeans here, who, just like in England, ignore you quite often.
Surprisingly, the holiday visitors all seem to come from Up North, from Manchester, Burnley, Wolverhampton, and from Yorkshire. These visitors are quite often very tanned, browned to a dull leather-like consistency, with none of the sheen and reflected light of a naturally dark skin. Some come year after year. Apparently huge parties of friends meet up every year at Christmas time.
In some of the bars the Christmas decorations are still hanging, and a sign is still up wishing us a Happy New Year.
The most hospitable people we have met so far were the hosts at the wedding in Old Goa.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

EIGHT - Old Goa - brief visit

There was not much to see in Old Goa except the two main churches, and a museum of Christian Art, which we missed because it closed just as we made it to the entrance.
The basilica holds the remains of St Francis Xavier in a high tomb. The ceiling of the basilica is made of white painted wood, and in size, is just like a small English cathedral, but with wooden buttresses. Not much decoration except wooden figures carved on a pulpit which are like ship figureheads.
Upstairs in another building was a display of strange images, which reminded me of surrealist paintings. For instance, a long, angular wooden table disappearing into the distance, with arms coming out of one end, and in another, a bulbous sacred heart again with arms coming out and waving. To add to the strangeness, each big image, which are in oils I guess, seemed to be covered with sticky-back plastic. There are about 12 or more of these paintings, with no information but they seem to be, maybe, of 1950s vintage.
In addition there are some lovely wooden carved figures of saints, which must have been removed from their original site. Life size and just plonked down anyhow, so you could touch them.
Later we stopped at the one and only bar and had a cold beer, where I did another drawing. The cows here often walk about in the road, braving the driving skills.

SEVEN - Wedding

To continue with previous post about the wedding in Old Goa, this was held in a large hall over some shops. Of course it was decorated, and at one end was a dias where, eventually the bride and groom appeared. They were beautifully dressed, and the girl very pretty. She looked about 16. Everybody lined up to shake hands and take photographs.
I was impressed with the lovely clothes which the ladies wore, their best silks, with flowers in their hair. The children were similarly in pretty dresses, boys in suits. The chief men of the family were in traditional dress, with long tassled scarves, which I would like to have for myself (scarves, not men).
When we attempted to leave, we were urged to stay for food, so had to join another long queue and had rice, dahl,bread, pickles etc. Then once again, photo ops, and we were asked to stand by the bride and groom to have our photos taken - a great honour. It was a delightful experience. Earlier I did some drawings while the photo ops were taking place, and apparently there was a large crowd standing behind me, watching me drawing, which was a bit embarassing.

SIX -Sweet tea

You can get addicted to sweet tea here. When we stayed in Panjim, we went on a fruitless search for a jewellers as I wanted to buy a ring. No luck - all rings too small for me. To refresh ourselves, we had tiny cups of very sweet tea made with condensed milk, in a little cafe.
Now we are in the tourist resort of Candolim, the tea offered is English type, with real milk, and not so good.
In the settlement of Old Goa, we went round the Se (this had an accent) and had a nice experience, in addition, because we were invited to a small Hindu wedding. This happened because our taxi driver was looking for an ATM, stopped for me to get cash, and I heard a brass band upstairs. So up I went, and asked if I could come in. The 'best man' at the door, very smart, welcomed us.
Have to stop here as PC playing up.
The young man who welcomed us is was the brother of the bridegroom. I took a photo of him. We later had the honour of being photographed with the bridal group, on the podium and shook hands all round. Since they did not know us from Adam, we thought this was so hospitable.

Friday, 7 March 2008

FIVE - Bus trials

I have not had much chance to do much blogging, but now have found a hotel where the computer is OK, except it keeps dropping the link!
We are still in Sinquerim, Candolim. This is the 'best' end of the long beach which goes as far north as Baga.
There is a bus that runs parallel with the beach - but inland from it. We went on the bus last evening, but the experience of London buses does not prepare you for this! Although there are allowed 12 passengers standing, it is a tiny bus, with doors at front and middle, so the conductor had to be very sharp and domineering to keep people from boarding, and the bus stopped for perhaps 30 seconds to allow the unfortunate passengers off and on.
The doors are kept open, so if you are near the opening, you might just likely fall off. The pace of progress is wild - and because you cannot see out if you are standing, we managed to get off too far past our destination, which was a side road in Calangute.
The purpose of the trip was to try and find a post office. As usual we had a lot of post cards for family but nowhere in this district is a post box. There is a rumour of a post office, which is apparently closed for the Hindu festival which is on at present.
Nobody had any idea of how we could post the cards, although you can buy stamps at local shops. Finally my idea worked, you walk into the poshest hotel, in this case Goan Heritage (5 star I guess) and just hand the cards to the bloke at the reception desk, simple. But the bus back here was even more of a nightmare as, being Friday, people were going off home or going to work, and forget all about 12 standing, it was more like 30. You just have to hang on and hope for the best - fun though.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

FOUR -Pack it up

Just remember, if you are having a one-night stop, and want a swim, do not put your goggles, swim hat and deodorant at bottom of your case! Went for quick dip in the sea in Sri Lanka before it rained too hard - Ray was waiting on the beach in case I drowned, and he was getting wet. Since it was a 'posh' hotel, a helpful employee came out with an umbrella for him to stand under.
We are finding it difficult to access ATMs. Got a little Sri Lankan cash at Colombo airport, then at Dabolim airport there is no ATM to get Indian rupees (you cannot buy them in the UK).
Taxi driver stopped en route to Panjim, so we could get money to pay him. It is more expensive than we thought. Taxis, tips, drinks, the cash goes down very quickly.
First two nights at Panjim, at Panjim Pousada. Nice heritage area, where the Portuguese used to live. This old building has about four rooms - all upstairs. The beds are extraordinarily hight, I had to hoik myself up, almost jump up. If you sit on the edge of the bed, your legs dangle down. To close the door of the outside lock was an ancient metal hasp, secured with a padlock. The same arrangement in this second place, Lucias Guest House, where we are now staying. Padlock a relict of the Raj.
In both establishments nobody had oiled the bolts, they squeek and groan, and you have to wrestle to get the bolt in place. When you are inside, you secure your door with bolts, similarly ancient and rusty.
This can be difficult if there is a power cut. which has happened for the past two days here in Goa. Thank goodness we brought torches.

THREE -near Colombo, Pegasus Reef

Flight was fine, but the drive from airport to hotel near Colombo airport was one of the hellish kind. The driver decided to avoid the main road, as this is always extra congested, so we had a detour along a dirt track for miles along a dead straight canal (built by Dutch) and the van did not have the kind of suspension to deal with the bumps. We were shattered by the experience. It took about an hour at least.
To add to the experience, the people at this hotel told us to be ready to leave hotel at 2 am (morning) to get to airport in time for flight to Goa at 5.40 from Colombo airport.
So no sleep for second night running!
At 1.30 am to entrance waiting for minibus. Of course at the airport another long tedious wait, three lots of forms to fill in, well I will not go on, just try not to have a night break at Colombo on the way to somewhere else.
Finally got to Dabolim airport in Goa at about 8.50 where the taxi I had booked, was not waiting. Luckily hired another one which did not cost as much - Rupee 450.
But the driving here!!! Non stop horn honking, weaving in and out, narrowly avoiding pedestrians and motor bikes, lorries. Some places we were driving two abreast on left, in a two lane road with another lorry coming in the opposite direction.
A final note about the start of our trip, it rained in Sri Lanka- very heavy downpour with lightening and thunder. Grey skies just like in England.

TWO - Incongruous music!I

We got here eventually. Today is Wednesday, 5 March and we are at Lucias Guest House, Sinquerim, Candolim.
Three times we have been serenaded, the first night in Sri Lanka we had a meal in the evening when three musicians wearing flopping straw hats and batik shirts, played "Island in the Sun" and various other 1950s favourites. There was two guitars and a little drum, and it was like the Mexican bands we heard several years ago at Playa del Carman.
The night before last, we had the pleasure of three more musicians, this time in Goa, wearing black sombreros. We were at an excellent resaurant in Candolim eating delicious tandouri kingfish. One played a trumpet, one a drum and one a guitar. They played the Percy Sledge standard, 'When a Man Loves a Woman', and 'On the Banks of the Ohio'. Occasionally the trumpet player switched to a violin. Outside, was the dark beach and the Arabian Sea.
Last night, over the loudspeaker in yet another restaurant, we listened to more 1960s standards, the kind I used to dance to at parties in 1960s and 1970s.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008


Exactly one week to go, so spent long time reading the One Bag website, which is one of my favourites when travelling.
I realize I am without some essentials to pack particularly special clothes line, and ear plugs. Trip to buy same tomorrow.
Waiting delivery of sleep masks from Magellan.

Our itinerary is roughly:
First night at Colombo, in hotel north of that city, near Negombo.
Next morning early flight to airport for Goa.

Two nights in Panjim to see the old city and hopefully visit the cathedral on Sunday.
Move on CANDOLIM for about 10 days, then further south, probably by a hot and uncomfortable taxi!
Rest of time our base will be room in villa near Palolem, then move for last four days nearer airport.
We will have these last days to book on spec, and hopefully find somewhere good at the last minute.