Felt a little out of sorts all day on the Thursday. I offered to help out on the farm and was given the chore of helping prepare vegetables – I didn’t cut the spinach fine enough (they cut it up so fine, when it shrinks away to nothing!) so was relegated to sorting and chopping up small aubergines. The task didn’t take long. I was left pretty much to my own devices after that.
Another housemate moved in – an attractive young woman called Prita who worked in a bank in Bangalore and visited occasionally to see Gopi – her uncle – mainly but also to visit the Trust community. She disappeared off after putting her luggage in her room.
I mooched around and rinsed out some clothes, read a little, wrote a little. Around the farm I saw large sheets with rice drying and another concrete surface with turmeric drying – and women (employed by the community from the local hamlet) winnowing rice and millet. I saw other women roasting peanuts.
I wondered what I was doing, so far away from Steve and family at this time – and felt deeply lonely for perhaps the first time this trip. It was Christmas after all and there were none of the trappings here, in this Hindu place.
That night I threw up, quite violently, at 4am. And then more or less slept all day, feeling chilly, despite the warmth outside. I was woken mid morning by a knocking on the door – Nagarajan (the eldest of the community – and one of the only original founders still left) was worried as I hadn’t turned up to breakfast. He said it wasn’t a good idea to lock my door as no one could get at me if I became unconscious – I replied I’d only done so since Gopi had said that it was best to lock the door at night when he showed me to the house. I felt churlish, had a slight headache, went back to sleep – missing lunch as well as breakfast. I was aware of being checked on occasionally, which was comforting. I was a pitiful poorly baby.
I dragged myself up to the main kitchen for supper – but no one was there (I often got confused as to whether the communal supper time was 7 or half past – and I think it varied). I went back to bed as didn’t feel hungry anyway. I finished my book, which was a tragic and sad story and which I decided I didn’t like overall– though I’d enjoyed some of the descriptive passages.
Managed to sleep all night too – goodness gracious.
I tried to leave early, but discovered I was locked in (the gate to the yard was locked) – the wifi was best ever, so blogged a little while I waited for someone else to wake up. In fact the key was in a box next to the gate – but honestly, how was I supposed to know that? But I was quite a happy captive.
The road was fairly straightforward, no steep hills, and the first half in the shadow of an elevated highway, which this minion was very grateful for. I passed skyscrapers and slums and suburbs with names like “Electric City”. There were the usual street stalls lining the roads selling chai, fizzy drinks, strange packets and vegetables: anything to scrape a living. It was dirty and dusty. I turned right off the main road and headed towards the countryside – lots of new housing, new developments, being built from concrete, with advertising hoardings portraying the dream of happy families. Schools advertised too – with names that included the word “International” in them to attract new paying pupils. I stopped in Arekal to indulge in an icecream as I suspected (rightly) that there wouldn’t be much in the way of pudding over the Christmas period. It was very good ice-cream and I hoped it would be open on the way back too (it wasn’t).
I arrived at Navadarshanum Farm/Community Trust at around 4.30pm – and would have been much quicker if hadn’t stopped so frequently to check I was going the right way. Gumularapuram is a small village. Gangenalil hamlet is even smaller. Navadarshanam is beyond both of them – truly out in the sticks!
I met Deepa first of all. She had been a Primary School teacher once upon a time and would have been excellent at that job I suspect. I also met Nagarajan and Gopi – I didn’t know the names of the others, but all were friendly and welcoming at supper time. I was shown to my own little house – there were other empty bedrooms in it, and a fully fitted kitchen. The roof was adorned with solar panels to heat the water and provide electricity.
Supper was spicy, vegetarian, organic – tasty and lots of it, but relatively plain fare. It was followed by the regular nightly ritual (as I was to discover) of a puja (several prayers and songs from a Hindu music book or sheets) to the accompaniment of a droning electric music box – it would put out two notes which bent, mingled and blended in with each other. There would usually follow a discussion by the adults, with sometimes a quiz of the children. This particular night they were introduced to me and the children were asked about Europe and capital cities.
Tuesday 20th December – Bangalore Bus Station – Windsor Hotel, HAL – Electric Cats Hostel 16.11miles
Lazy morning, and finished knitting the Montenegro square – (bodies on the beach). I had a splash out meal (ie, slightly extravagant, but still cheap by English prices) at a restaurant called Martin’s. Then I went to Kadampa Bus Station and ‘wasted’ the entire afternoon, sat reading my book. Apparently the place has been due a revamp for the past several years, but as it is, it reminds me of the old Newton Abbot bus station – only filled with rubbish.
I got the coach OK – after a bit of wandering around behind the station. Had to pay an extra 500 IR for Rowenna and they wouldn’t let me climb into the luggage hold to secure her, so I’ll swear I heard her sliding all over the shop for the entire journey. I was allocated ‘4L’ which was a single rubber couch on the ground with very little view out of the window, and swaying curtains to screen me off from the centre walkway. Every bump, every bounce, every acceleration is felt in all my internal organs. If the coach braked suddenly, I would feel myself sliding down to end up wedged, feet first against the front of my little space. With my elbow and knee pressed up against the coach wall, I think I slept. I had to hold on to my bladder for a good 10 minutes before the one and only stop en route. Bengaluru finally.
Trevor got up and made me coffee and porridge, which made me feel very special. The entire week has been a great treat and wonderful to meet my neighbour ‘out of context’, summer bird that he is.
Back on the road and the trip was nearly the reverse of the road I took to Agonda last Sunday, but seemed much quicker as I got the main hill over and done with by 10am (just shy of 5miles out). It was a morning to see golden orioles (or I think that’s what the bright yellow bodied birds with black and white patterned wings are called). One tree was alive with them. I also saw two whopping great storks which didn’t hang around long enough for me to photograph them.
Being Sunday again, I also passed women done up in their very best satin ruched and sparkly dresses on their way to church. That Portugese influence very much in evidence again.
Trevor had described the route into town perfectly – first an elevated overpass, then down to a park, which was fenced and green and surrounded by benches all occupied by sleeping blokes stretched out in the sunshine.
I was in Margao by midday, despite stopping for a samosa, but it took me some time to find a cheap hotel. Then more time to shower and rinse out sweaty clothing. I have wifi so will make an effort to blog this afternoon.
HA! Ended up watching English movies with subtitles on the hotel room telly.
Monday 12th – Saturday 17th December 2016 Agonda. 60miles (approx.) pootling around.
Max (Trevor) is so called because, when he first went travelling many moons ago, the Asian tongue found ‘Trevor’ very hard to pronounce, so Trevor gave up and said “oh, just call me ‘Max’” and they did. Max went out of his way to make me feel at home. I was given porridge, honey (sometimes with banana) and real coffee most mornings – which was a fabulous start to the day (those things being my FAVOURITE). He introduced me to the community he is part of (a motley crew of Canadian/Brits) having been coming to Agonda for nigh on 8 yrs (or is it longer?). We ate out, we ate in and we ate with friends. We drank wine and we drank beer and we drank tea. We explored the locality and went swimming. Lets face it, Goa is just a fabulous place to holiday and take it easy.
First day, however, was spent trying to sort logistics – Trev-Max and I cycled into Chaudi/Canacona – the nearest big town, in an effort to find an ATM with money and investigate forward travelling bus tickets. Neither of these missions worked out, but the bike ride was fun and not too strenuous: the ATM was closed (transpired it was a BH) and the travel agency couldn’t guarantee that my bicycle would go on a coach so no point in getting a ticket. We visited Palolem beach (which I’ve since discovered my son Seth visited on his trip to India all those years ago) and had a ‘half hot’ (sexy?) omelette sandwich from a beach stall which was very good. Back to Agonda by afternoon and it’s Trevor’s BIRTHDAY! So everyone met up next door at Gayle and Bogart’s for CAKE and to watch the X Factor final, which featured Saara Aalto from Finland – who had a cousin who stayed in Agonda – hence the fandom. She didn’t win, but everyone cheered her on and it was a nail biting, close finish. That evening the birthday celebrations continued with a supper cooked by Dale and Darryl (Bogart’s parents)– I feel very privileged to be included at the party (and provided some booze as my contribution). Life is good.
Next day, I manage to lose Trevor (no, I don’t know how) and took off to cycle back to Chaudi and succeeded in getting some money (phew). The problems with access to cash continued for the entirey of my stay in India – what a nightmare for those people just coming for a fortnight’s holiday – having to spend hours queueing at an ATM isn’t most people’s idea of fun. I also managed to post the last of the Christmas presents I’ve been carrying around with me. The Post Office guy didn’t ask me to put my address on the back, or the contents, or to fill in a form not even once, let alone in triplicate - I double checked that he didn’t need any of these things – but, despite reassurance, I still leave the Post Office feeling slightly anxious about their arrival. The guy did stick a HUGE amount of stamps all over the packages though. (I’ve since heard that most have arrived so I’m hoping that means they ALL arrived).
I returned to the travel agents – but they were still useless and hadn’t found out anything. On the way back to Agonda I saw a sign on a blackboard saying ‘Falafel’ so stopped to have some for lunch. They tasted nothing like falafel and more like the Indian burger mix I’d been having for breakfast - but served with hummus, so that was tasty.
I Found Trevor at home, much later in the afternoon – laid up with a cold, coughing and sneezing. He’d had grand plans to go fishing under the full moon - this is an auspicious time to catch the big one, apparently – but he didn’t go as he felt too unwell.
Thursday 14th December, and Trevor is still clogged up with cold and in need of paracetamol.
I trot off to an excellent yoga session with Dale (who is a yoga teacher), Pauline and Gail (the mother of the twins – and still lithe and slim and youthful). I appreciate the stretching and my left side feels enormously better. Porridge for breakfast following this – yum.
I try and upload some photographs but the wifi is (as usual in India) painfully slow and awful.
The sky remained heavy all day, weighing us down under a muggy blanket – until the evening – when it splattered a few raindrops. Not many!
The week wound on with a routine developing of long lazy days: some yoga with Dale followed by breakfast (with real coffee); swimming; reading; blogging; socialising; a beer or two; not necessarily in that order.
The sunsets were amazing. I also queued at ATMs; ate in and ate out. Completed very few daily paintings and got very little blogging done.
was a holiday indeed. I loved being part of the Canadian/Brit/Goan community and Trevor looked after me royally (even whilst sneezing). He mended my spindles and made a bamboo sheath to protect them (didn’t work, but it was a good try). Knitting was recommenced. Croatian square nearly complete.
Time to move on. Time to meet Eric (ANOTHER neighbour) in Bangalore for a curry!
Sunday 11th December (payday!) – Dria’s guesthouse, Majorda beach, Salcete – AGONDA! 29.49 miles
Much pleasanter riding today: Passed many, many Goan women dressed up in home made shiny satin dresses and high heels going to church – the boys with satin shirts (and no high heels). The dresses all look to be made from the same pattern with few variations – fitted, with darts to snug to the waist, and wide ribbon like straps that fall down over the shoulders. When I passed the churches, I note thery are filled to capacity and standing room only, with folk spilling out onto the street. What English churches would do to attact such vast congregation! Buses go past with Jesus’ crucifix in the window. There are signs tacked to the trees with “He is Risen!”
Climbing the big hill, I pause for breath every now and then and stand still – watching for movement. Sometimes there is just a leaf caught in a thread of web spinning in the sunlight. Sometimes heavy duty butterflies – looking too bulky to fly – sometimes a flash of bird. I saw a gecko trying to hide from me on the stem of a climbing plant. I saw yet another HUGE spider in the centre of the enormous orb web hung between two trees high up. I see lots of funnel type webs in the scrub and am tempted to poke them gently with a stick to see what emerges.
There’s a very steep hill before the downhill to Agonda. I push up and up but enjoy the downhill thoroughly. Trevor’s instructions are clear: from Betul (not Betelgeuse!) over the big bridge than immediately right over the little bridge and along the dirt track. Past lots of campsites and holiday places to Sara’s cottages. And there it is! With Trevor snoozing in his mosquito net draped bed. I’ve made it! Arrived a couple of hours later than I’d planned, but hey! It’s still daylight!
I have been allocated the room next door to Trevor’s, in the same little bungalow. It has a double bed with four posts to hold the mossie netting up, a kitchen/bathroom – Trevor has set his kitchen up for the duration and he has a fridge and also negotiated a gas cylinder to power a small stove to cook on. He also has a water vat, a kettle, all mod cons! For some reason, he thinks I’m a clean living sort who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t swear – well, we soon disabused him of THAT notion!
The beach is vast and close by. It’s a protected ‘sea-turtle zone’. So – no hotels, no permanent building on the beach itself, no powered boats, jet-skis or watersports and the beach cabins and cafes are all temporary, for this 6 month holiday period only. WE eat out at a great beach front place called ‘Madhu’ and watch yet another magnificent sunset – an orange-red ball disappearing into the haze near the horizon – and then the early full moon glints off the waves as they froth up and wash into the wet sand – I am here in Goa!
NB Trevor is “Max” here in Goa, which is very confusing.
Bad start – owing to following people’s instructions to go to Devbag BEACH instead of Devbag TOWN! It was a lovely ride out along a spit – and I had vague hopes (even as I knew I was going in the wrong direction) that there would be a ferry at the end. There wasn’t, so I ended up riding 14miles and spending two hours to get back to where I’d started. I am grumpy and have missed the rendezvous with Darren for sure. I am bought tea by a lovely motorcyclist from Hyderabad and his pillion passenger friend Fatima, with whom him and his girlfriend are staying. The motorcyclist saw me in Pawas – and stayed at the same place the next night, apparently. I let the grumps go, start smiling again and get on and upwards! I missed the right turning and decided to turn right later on, down an obscure road (meaning an ill shod road that turns into a muddy path) to take me back towards the bridge (rather than go onwards in a large loop along the busy main road). In fact I relished this walk along the riverside, past the small hamlets of Devbag and Ambali. It was peaceful, shaded mostly, with no honking of horns. There were many birds, butterflies and the occasional monkey. The few passersby question me as to where I think I’m going, but I’ve decided to follow my map this time – which says there is a route through. There is – but the path gets narrower and narrower, and rougher and tougher. It climaxes not far from the bridge, when the path suddenly got wide enough for a vehicle again – right next to a nectar filled flowering shrub that was alive with hundreds of beautiful butterflies. There were three different kinds – and I was totally wowed. I stood and watched them do their thing for ages, trying to take photographs of the delightful phenomenon (but failing miserably to capture them – of course). It was amazing and gorgeous and worth all the hassle of the day! (Later, I find out that Darren also had a frustrating day, first by a puncture then by missing the same turning as I had, and he’d taken the same stroll backalong the river that I had –but he hadn’t noticed the butterflies. How could he have missed the butterflies? Unless I’d come upon them at just the right time?
Past Panule, I’ve ridden 33miles or thereabouts, with much walking, and I’ve had enough. I call into a bed and breakfast – but there are only an elderly couple there, who explain (in broken English) that the owner (their son) is away in Goa and won’t be back until later on that night. I can tell they’re getting anxious trying to deal with me, so I move on. I ask around for other places to stay, but one person says the nearest place is 20km away! I’m almost resolved to sleep in the bus shelter and sit and blog for a while.
However, the bus shelter is dirty and dusty and full of ants, so I move on a few miles to the nearest town and sit on the marble platform that is the town centre and decide to stay put. It gets dark and a couple of people approach and ask me where I was going and what I was planning to do. I explained that I couldn’t find a guest house and therefore, if push comes to shove, I’d camp right here unless they could suggest an alternative? They looked aghast and assured me it wasn’t safe to do such a thing but didn’t know of anywhere. A little later on, a couple of chaps pointed to a small restaurant opposite and said this was a good place to get supper. I went there and was pleased to meet a young teenager, who not only served me a wonderful vegetable thali for a very reasonable price but also knew of someone who could put me up for a small sum. She phoned said person and he agreed that he had a room available for me. I followed her for all of about 5 minutes stroll to a place which had small self contained rooms in the grounds – 300 rupees. Sorted – and I didn’t have to risk life and limb by camping in the outside – god forbid.
A newly retired Terri following her heart into a world of woolly creativity. Live the dream