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Published: April 15th 2011
Kelly was getting a little bored spending so much time relaxing so we rented mopeds for a couple of exploratory trips around the area. Those two days were probably the most stressful we have had on our entire trip. While Kelly says that no one is out to intentionally have an accident, personally I think that as soon as anyone on the road sees a white person, they decide to mess with them and freak them out. The worst is when they come from behind, honking as they pass you and then stop right in front of you or cut right in front into a driveway.
The first of our two trips was to go to Old Goa which was the capital of Goa from the 16th to the 18th centuries at that time was larger than either Lisbon or London. Now all that is left is some amazing huge old churches. We had 2 choices of routes to get there – on hwy 17 (which we didn’t want to do – boring) or via quieter country roads on the other side of the Zuari River. The latter looked easy to do even though we already knew that the maps
we owned were next to useless. After an hour or so of going in circles (but driving though pretty villages) we finally made it over the bridge and suddenly found ourselves on another highway – this one was 17b and looked pretty new, which is probably why it wasn’t marked on anything. Now at least there were road signs – and lots of roundabouts to test my nerves. We stopped at a truck stop for food and had a most delicious egg curry (anda masala).
Old Goa is inland and so was stinking hot! First stop was the Basilica of Bom Jesus, made from red stone and completed in 1605. As well as a huge carved wood and gilt painted altar, there is a spectactular tomb housing the remains of St Francis Xavier, patron saint of Goa. Across a wide road and a huge manicured lawn are the startling white churches of St Francis of Assisi (built in 1661), the huge Se Cathedral which was completed in 1652 and the Church of St Cajetan which was built in the mid 1600s and modeled after St Peters in Rome.
On the ride home I lost Kelly at a roundabout
– he was a head of me and there was a lot of traffic so I lost sight of him and took the wrong exit. No problem – I saw him waving from another exit, so a quick U turn and over to where he was waiting – except he wasn’t. After going a little further down the road and not seeing him ahead, I figured the best thing to do was go back to where I had last seen him – and there he was, but at a completely different exit from the roundabout. Turned out that his hand signal was not a “here I am” wave but a “stay where you are, I am coming over” wave. Could have fooled me. Anyway, turned out that way I went was the correct road and the reminder of the journey was relatively uneventlful other than arriving home exhausted and totally stressed from having to concentrate every second.
After a days recuperation, we ventured out again – this time to Sahakari Spice Plantation which was just east of Ponda. The worst part of this trip was the road on the outskirts of Margao – some of the pot holes extended
right into our pathway and it was a bit difficult to get around them when there was vehicles beside you and coming right at you from the other direction as well.
The entrance fee to the Spice Farm was 400 rs each which we thought was a bit steep, but by the time we left we were quite content about the value we received. As soon as we arrived we were given a welcome flower garland and a glass of lemongrass/ginger tea. The guided tour was a stroll around the 2 acre demonstration farm where we saw green cardamom, turmeric, peppercorns, all spice, cacoa, nutmeg, coffee, mangoes, jackfruit, betelnut, cloves, pineapple, bananas (did you know that the flower of the banana plant can be used as a vegetable – and did you know that banana plants are the second tallest grass, the tallest being bamboo). The most interesting fruit/nut we saw was the cashew. Below each round cashew fruit there hangs a single cashew nut in a pod. No wonder they are so expensive!! A really nasty liquor (feni) is distilled from the fruit. After the tour we were given a small glass of feni followed by a most
amazing buffet lunch which included chicken and fish as well s an assortment of veg dishes. Dessert was watermelon and ice cream.
In an attempt to avoid Margao on the ride home we got completely lost on country roads. One of the hazards of keeping one eye on Kelly (who was always zooming ahead) and the other eye of traffic, meant that I often missed seeing speed bumps – going over a “triple’ at high speed was exciting! (There I was, slowed right down for this wicked speed bump and actually going around it and as I look to my right I see Gretchen airborne after she launched off the speed bump doing 30 k’s.- KD)
It took Kelly a few visits to the laundry but he finally realized that his shirts were actually coming back dirtier than when he had dropped them off. However, they were neatly wrapped in newspaper with a string bow so I suppose that made up for it.
One of the (many) good things about Benaulim is that within a very short walk of the two main “tourist” streets there are lots of little hole in the wall eaterys. At Srusthis Canteen, 2
glasses of chai, 4 samosas and 2 banana buns is 40 rs (less than a dollar) whereas going to a regular restaurant would be 4 to 5 times that amount – still cheap though, in the grand scheme of things. In the evenings a few carts are pushed around the streets, serving Bhel Puri, fish patties and sausages. Kelly has been keeping a financial record of our expenses and he figures we are averaging about $8.00 each for food and drinks daily.
There have been torrential downpours of rain accompanied by fantastic thunder and lightning shows on Sunday and Wednesday night. Everyone assures us that the rain during the monsoons is much heavier!!! The restaurant across the street has closed down and is all tarped up in preparation for the monsoons and each day a couple more small stores close down. It is time to leave.
We are faced with a 12 hour train ride back to Mumbai and then an 8 hour flight to Hong Kong via Bangkok. We decided to spurge and are travelling in first class on the train – the main difference is the seats are red cloth rather than blue vinyl and there
is a solid wall and door to our compartment vs a curtain. There is no danger of starving as there is a steady parade down the corridor of tea, coffee, samosa, chicken, pakora and other tasty snacks. We finally got smart for this train trip and made a note of the stations where we stop for longer than 2 minutes – so we know where we can get off to stretch our legs. And we also made a note of the stop before ours – so we know when to get ready to jump off. In the dark it is sometimes difficult to figure out station names.
Instead of going all the way into Mumbai, we got off the train at Dadar as it was closer to the airport. Getting a taxi and the trip to the airport is a story unto itself – suffice to say: hello to the real India, Goa is just an illusion. So now it is farewell to the dirt, the noise, the unbelievable traffic and the great memories and on to Hong Kong
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