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Published: March 14th 2010
After leaving New Delhi on a high, we boarded a Spice Jet plane to Goa, on the south west coast. We grabbed a prepaid taxi from the airport, and a short hour later we were dropped in the very touristy town of Candolim. We had already noticed a change in the feel of the place on our car journey from the airport, but when we looked at our accommodation, it warmed our hearts.
The rest of us was pretty warm too. The heat, even at 5pm, was a sticky 32 degrees. Our accommodation was an ensuite room with fridge and balcony, overlooking a garden of palm trees. It was an oasis of calm. We settled our things and then went off to discover the town. We had read online that Candolim has a large supermarket. Given that many of the restaurants were offering English food (beef squarely back on the menu!), we had high hopes for what we might find in the supermarket.
We were not let down. Plenty of recognisable food from home. We had to restrain ourselves from blowing our entire budget! With enough supplies for a few days we wandered back to the hostel, gradually trying
to absorb the sights before our eyes. It was like being in a “Little England”. While in other situations this might almost put you off a place, we have done our fair share of cultural expeditions in India, so it was nice to not have to think for a while. Given the attire of the many tourists from England and Russia, I felt safe enough to return to my normal day clothes. I'm pretty sure we didn't stick out in the sea of bare chests and bikinis.
Goa represented peace and relaxation for us. After hitting rock bottom in Delhi, we delighted in the simple pleasure of a home-made lunch, eaten on the balcony. We spent our time speed reading the books from the exchange shelf in the hostel and in general just took it easy. We donned our swimmers and spent a day at the beach. At only five minutes from the hostel, we surprised ourselves by how little time we spent there! I think it was because, as we lay watching the world go by, hiding under our parasol, on the beach, we realised that we were in the very small minority. Most of the other beach
goers were grilling themselves silly. I even spotted some putting on factor 3 oil. I didn't think you could still get that!
Achieving the ideal tan (or the leather look) was top on the agenda for many tourists. The streets of Candolim were filled with toasted tourists, and after-sun cream was walking off the shelf in the supermarket. I think we have become more sun-conscious since we were in Australia, but seeing the raw red sunburn on some passers-by, you had to ask whether they even used any sun cream at all. Aside from anything else, I couldn't understand how they could tolerate being out in the heat. We could barely move around!
After several days of doing nothing, we finally got our act together and booked a tour. The final thing left on our India to-do
list was to get an elephant ride. We located one that was part of a Waterfall and Spice Plantation Tour and so we roused ourselves out of bed at 8am.
Amit, our driver, explained that our first port of call would be the Dudhsagar Waterfalls
. To reach these falls normally takes two hours. Around the two hour mark we were
winding our way through the largest truck traffic jam I've ever seen. Coming against us was five kilometres of dump-trucks, who were queueing up to work for the local mining company. Amit explained that there must have been an accident, because the oncoming traffic wasn't moving an inch. The end-result was that trucks going the opposite direction couldn't join the end of the queue, and so were clogging up our lane. Amit took our little Suzuki van off-road and around trees. Next we were in the newly created middle lane: with dump trucks on either side of us and just as we thought we were making progress we saw a bus coming our way (also trying to use the middle lane). It was chaotic India traffic at its best. We couldn't help but laugh. There was a bit of a stand-off until eventually a dump-truck was moved and we were off-road again.
Finally we cleared the traffic jam and made our way to the transfer spot for the Dudhsagar Waterfalls. Here we were allocated a jeep, to be shared with four others. Pablo, our guide, hopped in beside us. The road to the waterfalls was a dirt track and
crossed the river at several points. Thankfully we had a sensible driver, who took his time. Pablo kept us busy with small facts about the park and the animals that inhabit it.
After forty minutes of bumping around, we reached a car park. Here several people fed bananas and nuts to a family of cute monkeys that live here. The troupe also had some new arrivals. There were tiny baby monkeys everywhere. They were so cute - they must have only been days old. They were “Bonnet faced” monkeys who store food in lumps in their necks. It leaves them looking very odd!
When we had seen enough of the monkeys we began a short walk up a rocky path towards the waterfall. When we reached the pools underneath the waterfall, Pablo told us that he wouldn't swim until later in the year when the water is warmer. This immediately made us suspicious of the temperature, but none the less we donned our togs and dove on in with the rest of the tourists. The water was certainly fresh
, but it was also a lovely contrast to the sticky, hot, weather. We spent an hour lolling in the
water, chatting to the other tourists, before descending to the jeep once more.
Amit was waiting for us at the transfer point, and he was ready to bring us to the Elephant ride. We did the ride near the transfer point as it meant we could catch up some of the time lost in the traffic jam. We handed over five Euros each and queued up to take a ride on Manny the Elephant. She was a big, gentle teddy bear! I instantly fell in love, and as we plodded our way around the track I decided that I want a pet elephant when we get back to Europe!
After the short trek we were allowed get up close to Manny and feel her skin and tusks. Amit kindly assumed the role of photographer and translated our questions. I couldn't believe it, but Manny was actually 43 years old! She was a gentle giant, and we were sad to say goodbye.
Nothing could top that experience, but there were still parts of the tour to complete. Amit drove us to a spice plantation where we had a typical Goan lunch and were given a guided tour of
their sample garden. It was interesting to see how all the spices are grown. At the end of the tour an employee gave an example of how they scale the trees. He scuttled up one large palm tree and then swung himself across to another. It was easy to know that he had no fear of heights anyway!
On the way back to Candolim we asked Amit to stop briefly at some of the churches in Old Goa. It wasn't part of the tour but we struck a deal with him that we would then visit one of the shops he gets commission if he brings tourists to. Old Goa had a distinctly Portuguese feel, and could easily have been a town in Brazil. It enjoys Unesco status because of its beauty, but I most enjoyed the green space that they have kept clear. We didn't buy anything in Amit's over priced antiques shop, and soon we were on our way back to Candolim. After having spent a nice day with Amit, we booked him to take us to the Airport in a few days.
We had one final day left in Goa, during which we realised we
had to buy our souvenir of India. After scouring the shops, we eventually opted for a nice wooden elephant. It will be a nice reminder of a lovely end to our time in India.
Next stop Hong Kong!
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