Scams advice, and "The Crew". .

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
Trip End Oct 01, 2006

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Well, here we go again. . Yesterday I typed in about a thousand words or so, and even saved in wordpad. Then suddenly the power went out, as it is wont to do here in India. Unfortunately there was no battery backup at the internet caf I was at. . "Broken" they told me. I thought that, ok, no problem, I had just saved a minute before. .
When I returned, though, there was no trace of my file. Some glitch of the computer, something.
You can imagine my chagrin, but after a bit of stewing, I just thought, "ahh, so it is. . " and all was shanti again.
So here I am (in a different) internet cafe, and will try to recreate my previous blog to the best of my ability.
Only problem with this place is that every few seconds, a beep of about 18khz goes off, at about 150 decibels. I may just have to get some earplugs, but I'll see how long I can last today as the pain threshold is passed every minute or so.

I wished to give advice on a few scams, and to describe the Golden Eagle Crew, down from Morjim, escaping the Arumbol area as well. I guess I was not the only one who saw the anti-shanti going down there. Going down the beach, I heard "F**k It!! over here!!" and there sitting in a beach lounger was "Overland," also known as Indian Mike, and various other nicknames, sitting with a blonde English bird, whose name I do not remember, as she does not have a nickname like all the rest.
Overland Mike is an interesting character, and a bit of a local celebrity in the province of Goa. A Goan born, England raised man of 36, his father was a doctor, who died with a dream of travel at the age of 49. Mike decided not to make the same mistake, and so, with a late-model Citroen wagon with a steel roof rack and turtle-top carrier decided to drive from England to Goa.
This is the "hippy trail" that the hippies (most of whom are still here, it would seem) went through in VW buses and motorcycles to reach this part of free India. Palolem was one of the first beaches they populated, and have since moved more to the North as the onset of tourism brought the rest of the Western world to these beaches.
33 days he spent on the road, and has been featured in all of the papers around here, as well as Goa Life Magazine, and was also interviewed for TV.
This is not the first daring journey Overland has made. He also once drove the perimeter of North america, up through Alaska and made his way back through dirt roads in the Yukon, Saskatchewan, and most of wild Canada.
I think his father would have been quite proud to have such a son.

Later in the week the rest of the "crew" arrived, English Dan, also known as "caveman," and various other nicknames, a man-mountain, tougher than steel with a heart of gold.
Stuart, a scot from the south of scotland, a ballad-singing, joke telling man, quick with a smile, and even quicker with a hearty laugh, "T-bone," his girlfriend, who, even though she sometimes thinks it is time to go, only gently prods and does not make too much of a fuss about it when "Sheep head," as Stu is nicknamed, wants to toss one more back.
There was also a rather short and stout Scotsman whose nick name was "Numty," or something like that, I think a private joke or one of those Brit slang things I just do not understand. We all took to calling him "Benny Hill" after a while anyway, as he does bear a slight resemblance.
"The Sheriff" got his nickname when they were all sitting around having a bit of a fart session, and someone (I think it was Paul, as the Sheriff used to be called) mentioned Blazing Saddles and the famous scene from that brilliantly humorous movie. Well, then Caveman, as I am told, pointed to Paul, pronouncing: "And you're the Sheriff!!" well, the name stuck, and I have to say, Paul does look quite a lot like the Sheriff, not for the fact of his dark complection so much as his actual facial structure really does look like him. . .
There were also varoius others, including two blonde, and I think both British women, who, though we hung out a bit, I do not remember their names, as neither really had been christened (cursed?!) with a nickname. One of the ladies, however did get a nickname later, which is a story in itself, and if I can hold out, I will tell that one as well.
On the first night I met with the full crew, there was a party at Titanic, just down the beach. Ostensibly a 'reggae' party, but, as Sheephead commented, "I've heard more reggae played at a ku klux klan rally. . " Well, the music was mixed by a DJ, and he did play a good variety of music, and by the end of the night I cannot say that I did not turn into a dancing fool like the rest of them.
The Crew always seems to find the best seats in the house, and this night was no exception. There, in the back shadows where one could hear another's voice we all sat, comfortable on the cushions and low tables. The Sheriff had only just recently gotten his nick name, and was doing a little complaining about it. I told him it could be worse, he could have been called "f**k it" like I was. Besides, The Sheriff is a great handle, and by the end of the night, of course, everyone in the whole place (which seemed to be virtually everyone on the beach) was calling him by his new name.

Overland and I watched the Sheriff in action, talking with the many pretty girls there, and then Overland turned to me and told me he thought the Sheriff might be making an "arrest" tonight, and that either way, he was investigating the case. . This led to more and more funny metaphor, and belly laughs ensued.
Most of the crew dropped off early, they had had a long night the night before, and were tired. Finally it was myself and the Sheriff left from the whole crew. By 3 am we were dancing, as was everyone else, and I did make the Sheriff drink a little more than he wanted.
The next day he was not seen by anyone, we thought perhaps he had cracked a case, but I thought that I "shot the sheriff" by buying him that last drink. . .

Another night with the crew a couple of days later involved Caveman doing handstands on our table (he is quite a big man, so this was something to see), pool games with Benny Hill and myself, and a nice table for ten with a Hookah filled in the middle of it. .

It was on this night that one of the English Birds got her nickname. . ."Swipe" or the "kashmiri cash station" got her dubious distinction from being one inch away from being scammed, or "rinsed" of all her money by a handsome and charming Kashmiri. .

There is a scam perpetrated on Western women here, known by the long-timers, and it invariably involves a handsome Kashmiri "gentleman" who owns a Travel Agency, and preys on the aspirations of marriage that many single women over 30 seem to have.
The Man will meet, wine and dine the woman, sometimes she will even fall in love with the man. He may even promise marriage, though, being mostly muslims, Kashmiris need to have permission from the parents to marry. . .
Well, Swipe was about to fall victim to this scam, she was saying how she wanted to marry this man, she had met his father (who gave her a bunch of old coins, saying they were valuable to sell in the west. . .) he had given her tours, dinners, romance, the whole 9 yards, and she said she thought she was falling in love with him, and that she was going to buy a ticket from him by credit card to fly within India to somewhere and that he could get her a cheap one, as he owned a "travel agency.. . "
Well the men and women of the Crew had seen this one going on for years, apparently what they do is get the credit card or debit card number from the woman, get tickets for her, and as soon as she is in the air, the account is drained, the credit maxed, and the charmer is nowhere to be found.
The woman, of course is left broke, and even brokenhearted sometimes, "rinsed," "sewn up" and generally taken for a ride.
There is much worse that can happen, drugging and unmentionable acts inflicted upon some of these women who dare to trust or agree to "marry" these men. No one seems to know why it is primarily Kashmiris who do these things, it just seems to be so. They are invariably already married, and have a wife and children in Kashmir. As Sheephead, always concise, put it to "Kashmiri Cash Station:" "How do you think he got all that money in the first place?!" An investment of a couple of hundred roops to wine dine and charm a lonely woman is part of the game when the return could well be many thousands of dollars, pounds, or euros. . .
I do believe the scam is much more nuanced than that, but one should always beware of strangers bearing gifts. . Things are not always what they seem. . .

Don't let all of this put you off of India, though, Indians, at least the Goans, are a wonderful people who enjoy a good laugh and are generally honest. The restaurants will even let you leave without pestering you for payment if they know you, they know you will be back to pay, and believe me, they will not forget. They write everything down.

Oftentimes there will be a restaurant associated with your Guesthouse, and they will let you run a "tab" for the whole time you stay there. I find it is a good idea to keep your own tabs as well if you do this, as sometimes they do make an "honest mistake. ."
For myself, I usually pay each day as I go so that the shock won't kill me when I check out. .
Only a few times has anyone tried to overcharge or shortchange me. It is good to count your money when you get your change, know the prices of things, and once caught in an "honest mistake" generally the restauranteur or merchant will not try this with you again, as they all seem to remember you, especially if you have "caught" them. .

The Police, as we all know by now, are completely corrupt. They are always looking for "Baksheesh" as they are paid peanuts, and do need to feed their families. Baksheesh is usually negotiable as well to a certain degree. Photocopy any and all documents, and when asked for originals (passport, Driving license, etc.)tell them you do not let anyone touch those, "safekeeping" they are at the hotel in the safe, too hard to dig out of backpack, any of these should work if you have a good photocopy. Especially true in traffic cop stops, which mostly happen at roundabouts, roadblocks, and often at night.

Of course, invariably they will find something wrong, and will try to fine you. If it is a legit something wrong, try to bargain your way down. Usually they will drop the "fine" to a hundred or two rupes, and you can be on your way.
If all is in place and there is nothing wrong at all, you may want to request that you get a badge number and receipt for the fine. This will put them off of you generally. .

This is all secondhand, of course, the best thing to do is to travel in the morning, and wear a crash helmet on a motorbike. Safest thing is not to drive at all, especially if you are the nervous type, these roads are not for ameteurs, in condition and with the other drivers. Hard Core, as we would say back in Boston.. .

Well, dear readers, I leave you now for the moment, there is still much to tell, about how I became a Goan fisherman, Arm-wrestling champ, and got offered a part in a Bollywood movie. . .

But that shall be for another installment.
I hope all is well wherever you are at the moment. . .
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Natalina on

Thank you for advicing people about the Kashmiri scammers. I need to advice people that there is more than just one man at Palolem beach scamming western women:

A lady staying at Palolem beach has been scammed by a Kashmiri jewelry seller. She did not lose all her money, but she lost her health. This man needs to be tracked down as soon as possible.

He works, or used to work, as a jewelry seller in Palolem beach, Goa (he doesn't own the business but works or used to work for an older couple from Srinagar). He is quite tall and thin, about 25-30 years old, appears a little older than he really is. He has tattooed "Maryma" on his right arm. If you know this person, or know someone from Palolem who might know him, please contact me at:

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