Got going in the predawn gloom with stars still spotting the sky and the road invisible. Watching the world come into focus was as magical as watching a photo develop in the dark room. It all happens quite quickly and rose tinted.
(I’m still having VERY weird dreams – but I won’t bore you all with the details). Meanwhile – back on the trail and I’m following the reassuring TOD signs again. A Hindu Mendir is blasting out music all over the countryside – one can hear it for miles around (helped by the loudspeakers attached to telegraph poles in fields) and I’m enjoying it! I made a 3mile detour down to Agchar beach for breakfast before returning to the TOD signs that inform me that I only have 95km left to Goa. (Double that to get to the South, where I’m headed to meet up with Trevor).
I decide to quit for the day at Malvan – and it takes quite a bit of searching before I find a cheapish room with wifi – but it’s a fairly big place and persistence pays off. I spend the next hour letting folks at home know I’m Ok as I haven’t posted online in a while.
I wanted to go snorkelling – thinking I could just hire the kit and go on my own until the daylight fizzled out. But they do day trips and the guys organising the snorkelling and diving were just winding up for the day when I arrived So I got 5mins for my trouble – swimming in murky water. I’d also made a classic mistake. The hotel I’d booked into was in the back streets and I’d failed to take note of either the name or major landmarks. The guy who’d showed me to the sea front disappeared and I could NOT find my way back (I was close, but not quite). Just as I was beginning to feel desperate (and pretty silly) I spot one of the lads who lives there – out on his scooter. I wave him over and he shows me the way home. (Never make that mistake again!).
I met up with Darren and another backpacker, Matthieu – a French Canadian who was staying at the same place as Darren – and we went out for supper together (and a beer) in a beach bar. The French Canadian accent is very odd – c’est vrais!
I dream weird dreams in the heat, again. This time I think I murdered someone, but I don’t remember the actual deed – just the aftermath. Hmmm.
Doesnt’ take long from the Jog Residency to reach the beach, which looks so inviting but I don’t stop. I have breakfast when I get to Ganpatipule (which I’ve been misremembering and mispronouncing all morning: “Gopattipoo? Go-pontipool? ) Breakfast is a dry omelette and the usual white roll and chai. I imagine a factory churning these white rolls out. Finished the book I read feverishly all day yesterday – I am not as averse to cliché as one of the main characters, Crispin Hershey. There were many sub plots in the book that seemed inconsequential to the main plot.
I am following the ‘TOD’ signs first spotted by Darren (who I received an email from – he is still laid up with ‘Delhi belly’ back in the chalets but is hoping to catch up with me at some point). He thought the message spray painted in the road said ‘TOP’, especially as it was near the top of a hill and was immediately followed by the message “Nearly There” on the tarmac. For the last two days I have continued to get messages for TOD – which has been particularly helpful with arrows at major junctions and even uplifting when the messages urge one to “hit it” or let you know that there’s “just one more hill!” or “Climb this for an AMAZING view!”
The signs have also led me to this Ashram. They actually pointed the way to a place across the road, but that one is closed and the guy in the shop suggested I ask in here. ‘Here’ being a large building that seems to exist to house Hindu devotees coming to visit the temple next door from other parts of India. The manager let me stay anyway – no charge but a donation encouraged I think. I was shown to a basic dormitory on the 4th floor (4beds with hard matress– but just me staying – with bathroom en suite – indian shower, western loo). I washed some clothes out and hung them up to dry before setting out to go to the Puja at the temple for 7.30pm. I was told I could get a veggie meal too, for a donation. The Puja was fascinating – musical chanting, but I sat out and watched, not participating (couldn’t read the Sanskrit crib sheet) so it felt wrong to get the food. Besides, there seemed to be some kind of registration and queueing system to get the meal, so I just went back to the Ashram and had the three mandarins I didn’t lose today. I also did a bad daily drawing of some bullocks. Hey – nearly forgot to mention – it rained today! Just a few spots – but remarkable.
After breakfast, downloaded a komoot map which showed there were 4 hills to traverse, the first soon after leaving town. Despite me being slow, Darren seems happy to stick by me as far as Goa – stopping at the top of the hills having a ciggie while he waits for me to catch up. I’m good on the downhills though!
We plod on through the sub tropical jungle and see plenty of monkeys along the way. I NEVER thought I could think of monkeys as ‘common’! These ones has black masks like robbers, and bound along like they have springs for limbs. They had extra long prehensile tails too. We also saw some large, weaselly creature crossing the road a few metres away from us.
A ferry costs all of 50 rupees for the two of us, plus both bicycles. A guy holds on to Rowenna all the way across, which is kind. It’s great chatting away to an Irishman – especially one as easy going as Darren. I feel like I’ve known him much longer than just yesterday.
We arrive in Guhager at 4pm. We decide to stay in some nice cabins with a touch of luxury for 1300 rupees. No wifi though L
I cross over two bridges, looking down on colourful fishing boats – their decks and sides painted, and flapping flags in Indian colours. Up and down undulating and pot holed roads past lush vegetation. Once again, there is much evidence of fecundity: chicks following chickens around, dogs sniffing bitches who look like they’ve just had pups but are keen for more. Calves alongside cows and the bullocks roam free with their kohl lined, sleepy eyes.
I am hearing a lot of interesting noises again – birds that hoop, hiccup and some other that squeak like a gate needing oil. I’m sure some of the noises are made by monkeys howling too.
Breakfast was chilli packet soup with Bombay mix crunch on top, served with the usual cotton wool fluffy white doughy rolls that mother would be proud of.
I met Adam in Paj, where the women were hanging up silver fish on racks to dry whilst the crows looked on hungrily. Adam tells me he went to Goa in 1971, and remembers Woodstock well. A crowd of younger lads listen in to our conversation and mimic his laughter, rather cruelly I thought, but Adam takes no notice. Adam treasures post cards from Dutch and German travellers he has hosted in the past – all looking very faded and one I spotted was dated 1999. I will have to send him some new ones for his collection. One of the minxes that was taking the Michael, also zeroed my bicycle computer – so doing some quick calculations I estimate I’ve done 10miles or so today.
I decide to stop for lunch at Murud beach, despite it being off my route slightly, as I’d been told it was a ‘good’ one. It wasn’t particularly. There were a few stalls set up to serve snacks – and the accompanying rubbish strewn around. There was a large crowd of young lads having a lark, strutting like young cockerels and showing off to each other. Then there was a gang of dogs behaving much like the boys. And cars. Not at all the quiet idyll I’d been looking forward to. I felt like going for a swim so stuck my t-shirt over my swimming costume to avoid the audience. After I’d been for a swim, a man approached to tell me that this wasn’t a good place for me to swim, because these were the ‘wrong sort of people’ who were ‘talking about me’ (in a derogatory fashion, I presume). Well – the warning came a little bit too late as I was already getting ready to leave, and I wasn’t that bothered because I couldn’t understand what they were saying anyway.
Onwards and upwards. I was pushing Rowenna up the incline to Dapoli when I met Darren! The first cycle tourist I’ve met in ages, and he was from Ireland. He spurred me on to greater efforts and we got to Dapoli in no time.
Transpires he’s been following in my wake for the last few days – always just missing me. Both Sushan in Harihareshwar and the guy in Murud had told him I’d passed this way. It was great to compare notes about the Indian experience with another European. Darren is a 31yr old Engineer who’d resigned his job to have a great adventure – like me, he hadn’t really done much cycling before – but, unlike me, he’d been cycling around India for the past 3 months – and travelled in the North in Kashmir and around Rajasthan and the holy cities of Vishipress before heading down to Goa. He’d thrown his bicycle on a couple of buses – which was useful information to know. He also wanted to cycle to Myanmar and had been in communication with someone at the embassy. It all looked to be going smoothly until he heard that he had to have an ‘overland permit’ which looked impossible to get – hence the change of plans and journey south. I had decided not to try and get to Myanmar from India at all – and was going to approach from Thailand instead.
WE had supper together and got rooms at the Top of the Town Hotel – I fear I talked too much! There was wifi too – slow, but there – so a little blogging done.
After the ferry I started to go to the right – as my map indicated. However, the road ahead looked blocked and the people where I stopped for chai insisted I should go back and turn up the steep hill, so I did. This was a mistake, in hindsight, as the road wasn’t blocked at all and would have saved me about 20miles, but never mind.
It was a long slog up the hill – but there was the reward of a fort up on top – which had glorious views and I had to myself – free entrance and falling down as it was.
Back on the road again, I saw lots of evidence of fecundity: schoolkids, monkeys and their babies, cows and calves, chickens and chicks. I also saw lush vegetation – huge waxy leaves, or thorny or just prolific and adorned with strange and interesting birds I have no names for.
After I had several people stop their cars to query my route – and say “What, this way?” when I’d say “Kelshi”, or even “Dapoli” – I rechecked my direction and realised I was travelling three sides of a square – very circuitous – and the pain of the hill had been unnecessary. I became hot and grumpy and very, very mean as a result, scowling at anyone who had the audacity to beep their horn at me (which is just about everybody!). But then I met Wasim and his mechanic mate Mahajali (sp?). They insisted on buying me an Indian burger then escorting me the right direction – taking me into their house to meet the family en route – and show off his transport business and fleet of cars while he was at it.
I’d come so far back along the Estuary I crossed the bridge instead of taking a ferry as I had meant to do.
Wasim was getting married in two weeks and invited me to go! Sadly I had to decline. His sister, a dentist, was also getting married and was off to live in the States following her wedding. I got very confused with who was who, as there were 2 young girls, one young boy, two mothers, one grandfather and several husbands floating around. I got fed orangeade and biscuits so I was sugared up and much cheered up and ready to zoom off to Kelshi after that. I even started to smile at the passers by again.
I found a very cheap room in Kelshi, and very basic – complete with mouse droppings in the shower. However, at 250 rupees including an all I could eat supper, I wasn’t about to complain. Tomorrow, I intend to stick to the coastline, even if the road does look closed.
A newly retired Terri following her heart into a world of woolly creativity. Live the dream