Goa, sunburn and cycles

Trip Start Feb 24, 2010
Trip End Sep 06, 2010

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Where I stayed
Dercy Guest House

Flag of India  , Goa,
Thursday, April 22, 2010

I'm sat in our beach shack on the coast of Palolem, S. Goa writing to you today and for the first time in weeks I actually feel like we've done something that relates to the day of the week. By this I mean I have sat in front of a big screen, had a few beers watching sport, and Kal has been... er.... elsewhere.. I think. Super Sport Sundays, can't beat em. Only difference is in England it would be mostly motor-sport, here we had F1, cricket and tennis (10 minutes of tennis before the bar staff wondered why that old computer game all of a sudden was being played by men, looked at each other confused and switched it off).

So then, North Goa. Number 1 package holiday destination in India. For parts of it that is, all that can be said of it, actually I need to remind myself here that I'm writing this on behalf of Kal too. My expectation when we arrived was that it would be a mix of t'Egypt and Bali. Egypt (Sharm El Sheik) as it was a shamelessly purpose built resort and does what it says on the tin, very well and in pristine style. Bali for it's tropical beauty. I was surprised to find it is a mix of t'Blackpool and Judy Woods (in Bradford). Blackpool for it's shameless cheese and tatty charm which it does as only Blackpool can and Judy Woods for it's ever winding paths that don't really seem to go anywhere until you finally get out alive and realise you're only two minutes away from where you started. Kal saw, well I never really got to the bottom of what she saw so I'll take the opportunity to rally the troops to help me invite Kal to write a few words here, I'm conscious it is our blog and I'm hogging the limelight a little. Feel free to make your petition any way you see fit. There is one interesting item on the beach in Calangute, a few years ago a huge tanker ran ashore and rather than pull it back out, the powers that be decided to keep it there as a novel keep sake. It is seriously massive.

My version: I saw beyond the European package holiday makers to a nice sandy beach, warm clear blue sea and no locals trying to get a glimpse of skin (this was Candolim)...however...moving on to Calangute and Baga – I agree with Simon...Blackpool/ Torremelinos! (Kal)

Ahem, thanks for that Kal. Did you also look through the rubbish scattered everywhere to see the clear sand?

Now, remember just before I slated Goa I prefixed my ramble with 'parts of'? I was talking very specifically about Candolim, Calangute and Baga. Three small coastal towns in the state of Goa in which the package holiday community congregate i.e. fat Europeans sweating into the largest portions of curry (or chips and beer) humanly possible. I swear the chefs deliberately under salt the food to compensate! The rest of Goa is bloody gorgeous, a green tropical paradise blooming with life, colour and crops not to mention what seem like hundreds of rivers terminating in the Arabic Sea. I think I've crossed more bridges here than in the rest of my life put together. As much as the rest of India is like walking through Victorian Britain, everything so old fashioned and antiquated, Goa is the same but with a much more obvious charm. E.G. Fishing is not commercialised at all. We stumbled across a fish market and I kid you not was the tiniest harbour and there were about 7 boats just pulled up selling their catch and that was it. It was sold direct to the cook of the house and restaurateurs, no middle man anywhere. In fact one lady bought half a carrier bag of squid for 60rs (90p) and ever since I've been trying to convince Kal we should get loads of mixed fish and cook it over an open beach fire, second appeal for help ;)

In order to escape the blubber of the resorts we hired a scooter, at first for 1 day. With trepidation I set out on my own to learn some of the 'etiquette' of driving on Indian roads. I had been studying the roads and behaviours for a few weeks anyway in case such a situation should arise and the key observation had been that the safest drivers will always concede defeat if needed and use skill, timing and knowledge of the machines ability to make back lost ground from the concession. That sounds normal but believe me, until you have witnessed these roads you don't have a clue. I have been in a car on a single track travelling through a blind corner whilst someone tries to overtake and was then confronted by exactly the same situation coming towards us. Four cars battling for a space designed for one on a head on collision course is not fun. Luckily road conditions and vehicle abilities are such that high speeds are nigh on impossible and a safe driver can easily anticipate these situations and make a rapid deceleration so the other people can fight it out amongst themselves. Anyway, second rant over I assured myself I could pilot my fine machine at a suitably slow speed to keep myself and my precious cargo safe, and returned to pick her up. What we were rewarded with for tootling along at a painfully slow – but safe – speed was some of the most beautiful and deserted sights we'll ever see. I strongly urge anyone who travels to Goa to do this and stop off as we did at every wonderful lake, river, bridge, village and get completely lost. Once you get out of the cities the roads are as safe as you want them to be and you get a real belief that you're seeing first hand the beauty that first convinced the Portuguese to settle here. Not that I was tempted to claim the place as my own or anything, well actually I was but I forgot my army and artillery that day. I had a Swiss Army knife but Kal told me to pack it in and stop playing 'Ray Mears' with the wild hogs that roam free everywhere.

Can I add here – the beaches up'north were pristine, idyllic and amazing (Kal)

You mean in the far North where we had to travel by scooter I hope? (Simon)

LOL, yeah (Kal)

After travelling North on the first day and returning all in one piece, we decided to extend the hire and use the bike the next day to travel South to Central Goa, see the sights of Old Goa (once the old Capital) and visit a spice farm. We had already been to Panaji (New Goa capital) which was nice but quite small and uninspiring and expected a little more from Old Goa. The place was steeped in history and is home to the biggest bell in Asia – on the cathedral, which is also the biggest church in Asia. We couldn't see much else worth checking properly so moved on before the heat rose too much and after about 3 hours of riding to find the spice farm were not surprised to find the tour was just a guided walk around a large garden with an example of each spice planted there. It would have been nice to walk around the actual plantation itself seeing how the plants grow in a farm situation but it wasn't to be, so we gorged ourselves on the 'free' buffet to make up for it.

We are now in South Goa in a place called Agonda which is like a deserted island paradise. Nothing really to do but sit back and enjoy the view. Oh, the waves are so strong that you don't need a board to go surfing. You just stiffen up and let them take you for a ride. Before here we were in Palolem which is an absolutely gorgeous bay with a small island just off the coast where the sun sets. There are more English people there than Indian but it's a pretty young crowd with a really nice atmosphere and nice food all round. One note of caution to you all, we bought a local brand of sun cream naming no names (Banana Boat). After 6 weeks of careful sun exposure we ran out of the trusty Boots Soltan (I'm sure this will appear as a crest on the Union Jack soon) and bought said cream. After a week of using it we are both peeling, yes even Kal, and I have little blisters over my chest and stomach. We're over the worst now and back on track with some imported cream (Soltan, believe it or not) but the over exposure took it's toll on me for a few days.
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