From the beaches to the backwaters

Trip Start Jan 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 30, 2012

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Flag of India  , Kerala,
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Goa, an ex Portuguese enclave in India and for me my first contact with beaches since I started this trip ! Goa, and principally Anjuna & Vagator, the place I staid, are famous for endless parties on the beach. But when I staid there, it looked like it was an ended story... Of course, there were a couple of parties every night on the beach, but very few of them continued after 10pm...

On my first day in Goa, I slept nearly all the afternoon. On my second day, I wanted to get animated, but I got sick. Perhaps it was something I ate, perhaps it was the water... or the consequences of my 8 hours seated in front of the toilets of the train, but I got very sick. It lasted 2 days, and during this time, I spent many hours reading or seated in a coffee nearby that offered free Wifi. I took some small walks on the beach and in the hills nearby, but I did not have a swim or joined a party.

Finally, when my situation got worst, I decided to seek treatment. I bought a liter of mineral water for the first time since I am in India, and took my last and probably fake pills I had bought in Pakistan during a previous crisis. Perhaps it was due to the fact that my body has been virgin of any medicine for the last few months, but my recovery was spectacular ! In a mater of hours, I felt better and decided to move on.

I thought it was safer to continue drinking mineral water only for the next couple of days. It did not mean that before I drank tap water, but since I travel a lot, I think it is costly and useless to buy plenty of liters of mineral waters. Actually, it depends what the locals do. I am not talking about the poor Indians who can even drink the polluted water from the Ganga, but the middle class. If I see they drink tap water, I do it as well. No need to be paranoid, because the body has to get use to new bacteries and anyway one inevitably drinks the tap water without being aware while brushing teeth or bathing... But in India, they don't. Everywhere (in all public buildings, train stations and even in the street) can be found drinking water stations. It is nothing more that filtered tap water, but is is enough to guarantee a safe drinking, and since I am in India, I kept feeling my 2-liter bottle (kept from Nepal !!!) at these stations... And so far, I had not any problem...

I arrived in Panjib, Goa inland. There I met with Aditya, the Indian guy who was Helene's friend and had come to the cinema with us on my last evening there. He was spending Diwali with his family in Goa and had invited me to stay at his place. I left my backpack at his home and went to Old Goa to  make some sightseeing. There were not many things to see, but still the atmosphere made me remember of the colonial towns of my lovely Brazil, another Portuguese colony... After, I met with Aditya in Panjib. I had some problems to follow his mind. First, he wanted to spend the night on the beach to have a run early the next morning, then decided to stay not to let his mother alone. While we were in Panjib, he wanted to run along the river, then preferred going to the church... Then he wanted me to get up at 6:30 the following day to go cut the grass with him I don't now where... Sure, I refused... But then, he changed his mind and would not go early the next day... Finally, we came back to his home. I was still a little bit weak because of my sickness and slept early....

The next day, I left Aditya with some kind of relief. He was very nice with me, but very exhausting. I believe meny Indians would behave like this with foreigners, it is the reason why I did not couchsurfed with Indians so far... I like to discuss and spend some time with locals, but I love too much my independence... I took a bus to Magdaon, the state capital, and walked to the train station, where I caught he early afternoon train to Gokarna, 2 hours Southern. After my journey in 2nd class to Goa, I decided that from now I would travel only this way. On one hand, it is cheap (because it is free) and on the other, it does not require planning. No need to make reservation, just go to the station and jump in the train. And having this liberty is costless for me !!!

There were other foreigners in the train, but they all stayed in Gokarna village, while I walked the 5 kilometers to Om beach under a heavy rain on a precarious path up the hills and down the beaches. I had to hurry because it would not have been safe to walk after dusk and arrived completely wet at Namaste guesthouse, directly on the beach. There, I met with Victoria, an English girl I had known from Rajasthan and with who I had kept in touch on facebook. She had told me she would stay in this guesthouse.

After I dried myself, I went back to the restaurant, where everybody had taken refuge from the rain. There were plenty of foreigners, but the profile of the people that travel South India are a little bit different that the one who roam the North. Less backpackers, more holiday makers who travel only 2 or 3 weeks. I talked a lot with Victoria and an English couple because they wanted to know some of my stories in Pakistan and Tibet... Eventually, Victoria and I ordered more beers and we were still talking while everybody had left the restaurant...

Fortunately, the next day, the rain had stopped. Victoria and I walked back to Gokarna town to have lunch and then had a lazy afternoon back in Om beach. Nothing more to say about this day, I usually avoid this places because there is not much to do, but it was also nice to rest a little bit and I had many books to read. I was finishing "City of Joy" by Dominique Lapierre, a story of a rickshaw puller and a polish priest in the slums of Kolkata (Calcutta at the time) in 60-70's... The next day, Victoria and I walked to another beach where we saw crazy plants (watch the video), and in the afternoon I left for another overnight trip in 2nd class to Kerala.

The train was less crowded than the one I took on Diwali's eve, but still I had not a seat. That was not a problem, because I found the perfect spot : seated at the door, my legs pending outside the train, watching sunset and sunrise... A kind a position that would probably provoke a heart-attack to any mother seing a child seated like this, but definitely one of my best joys of Indian trains...

Once more, I picked the curiosity of many travelers, and the situation was more favorable to dialog. I talked a lot to a Muslim guy, who was living in Dubai, and had come back in India to get married. An arranged wedding, he told me, his parents sent him the picture of the bride and he accepted. Soon he would go back to Dubai, leaving his new wife alone in India... I thought it was an elapsed time, but in India most of the marriages (principally among the poor) are still "arranged". And the caste system, even if declared illegal many years ago, still has its place into this "transactions". When I was staying with Aditya in Panim, I had a look at an issue of the Indian Reader's Digest. At the end, there was a list of ads from prospective grooms and brides, and it was almost hilarious to see request like this : "must be from the same caste", "Must be from a wealthy family", "must live in Europe or USA". There were also a mail section to seek solution to one's problems, and one of the letter was the one of the guy who explained that his father was against the wedding because the prospective wife (I don't think that the term girlfriend or fiance is appropriate) had dark skin !!!

Like in my last journey from Mumbai, several people offered me a seat. but this time , I did not want to move, I was obsessed by the fantastic scenery that scrolled along the way...

After a 4 hours connection in Mangalore, I took another train in the middle of the night to Kochi, my first destination in Kerala, and the gateway to the famous backwaters, ending a week among the beaches of India, without being into the water one single minute !

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