I have been guilty of letting this project fade into the past but lately, wanted to finish this series of blogs as I have another personal challenge coming up and can't start that without finishing this! Sorry for the delay in getting this written!
Goa is an interesting place and a far more familiar place for most visitors that we’ve met since returning from India. Once you tell someone you’re off to or have been to India, it’s normally followed up by “Oh, are you going to Goa” or a similar response with Kerala as the destination. Without wanting to be too argumentative, I don’t really feel like Goa and Kerala represented the India that I personally felt such an affinity for. This is no-doubt largely overshadowed by my hatred of beaches and sand. I have never liked them. A combination of being too self conscious to sunbathe and a feeling that it counts as ‘doing nothing’ - which can easily be achieved in a sand free environment without the necessary expenditure to fly this far.
The india that appeals to me is the urban and semi-urban life where the cultural differences are far more easily observed and authentically photographed. Goa in particular is an area that, given it’s vast tourist population and decades of visitors from all over the world - but predominantly now the British, Russian and Chinese, it could be almost any sea-side destination in the world.
Our week there was lifted in my opinion by a visit from my parents - who’d flown out just after New Year to spend the week with us. Goa was appealing to them as a chance to see a different part of the country from those they’d visited before. It was nice for The Treasurer (my wife Sarah) and I to have a week to recuperate following what had been a pretty hectic pace of travel up to this point. I was suffering from a nasty sinus infection and for the first day or so was extremely miserable but my mother had brought some antibiotics out for me and that solved the issue almost instantly. You see, she is actually an acupuncturist (and recently retired GP). You cannot say anything to Mum as a medical complaint now without to offer of multiple stabbings from her tiny needles. I do know it works though, years ago, I had accupuncture to give up smoking and it was fantastic - an instant success. Back in Goa, as ever the first option open to me was to have my face perforated by any number of little needles. Being a massive whimp (and knowing she always travels with a small med-kit), I went the western route and opted for the tablets and left my face piercing-free. incidentally, the two congestion points in your top lip (where the needls go) hurt. A lot.
Goa was a relaxing place with a slow pace - or at least that was how it seemed to us, with many (including our) hotels ofering yoga in the mornings as part of their package. I managed one session but The Treasurer and Mum managed all of them. This led to a certain amount of smugness on their part but it was so early in the morning, we (Dad and I) didn’t miss much but gained an extra hour in bed.
On the beach, we were staying in a part of Goa called Colva, there were plenty of fishing boats and fishermen who’d go out and simply not return until they had caught their fish. Some would return late at night and some the following day! All of a similar design, they’d be launched and towed in in a similar manner, on oiled sleepers by a manually operated winch.
Old Goa is a surprising place. It’s tiny and simply consists of a few churches. We were anticipating more of a town but this is all that remains of the old Portugese part of Goa. While interesting to see, there is not a vast amount here - other than a relitively well displayed museum and the old churches. Goa is predominantly Christian and as such, beef is available - something we’d been looking forward to having spent so much time in Hinu areas where cows are sacred.
The towns and villages in Goa were all bright and vibrant, with plenty of markets selling spices and clothing along with the usual overpriced market tat, aimed at tourists not skilled in the art of haggling. One of the most pleasurable things was to simply stroll around, with no plan. The vast difference in the Goan towns from the other parts of India we’d visited is huge. They were a Portugese colony and as such, their buildings - both in terms of design and decoration - were very different to what we’d seen in the preceeding weeks with a more European style to them. Whereas many of the places further north were British, there was a familiarity to them in terms of style and design, The colours, architectural details, wooden balconies and shutters of Goa really gave the feeling that you could have even been in Europe.
We spent a few days doing beach tours for two reasons. Firstly, a whole day on the beach is almost manageable but two days back-to-back is not. Secondly, I felt we should explore a little as Mum and Dad had come a decent way and felt we should explore. So, we went looking for more beaches!
Cola Beach (header image) was a fantastic little cove, where a lagoon meets the sea and two eco-hotels vie for business. We walked down the steep path, to the beach where we spent a few hours and had lunch. This was where Rodders (Dad) decided to take all our orders. Having asked for the vegetarian options yet Mum and The Treasurer was served chicken, and I had beef. He also forgot to order something for himself - not one of his best moments!
The beach was beautiful (I tried to surpress my hatred for sand) and it was scorching so we managed shifts of exploring or swimming before returning to our ‘shady base’ to our accidentally ordered food.
Palolem Bay was next on the list and while very built up with shacks and restaurants where the sand becomes land, the bay is stunning - with the chance of boat trips to the more inaccessible bays and some brief dolphgin sightings inbetween. Many of the fishermen on the businer beaches had adapted their boats to take tourists out at far greater daily wages than their lengthy fishing trips ever could. By adapted, I mean supplied a plastic chair to help people into the boats but beyond that, they were prety basic. This added to the fun really and our trip was thoroughly enjoyable.
Bagga Beach was simply dreadful. It was rammed and filthy and within a few yards, I nearly trod on a hypodermic needle! Luckily it was in its casing but this was no somewhere worth spending much time so we found somewhere rated higly on Trip Advisor for supper and settled in for a surprisingly fantastic meal as the sun set over the sadly extremely littlered beach.
Mum and Dad headed home after a fun week of exploring and silk-purchasing and The Treasurer and I headed to Cochin for wat was to turn out to be a remarkable coincidence and a fun few days.
Having said goodbye to my parents, we were on a bit of a low ebb. I wasn’t really looking forward to the next few days and the trip seemed to stretch out infront of us. We’d been excited by Sarah’s Mum’s visit in December and my parents a few weeks later but there was a bit of a gap until we’d see them again. My older brother was going to meet us further down the coast in Kovalam but that felt a long way off!
We areived a Cochin to find it a charming, small and colourful place. The main Fort was a small region of similarly constructed buildings edged by rows of Chinese fishing nets along the shore of the river. The town was clearly undergoing a lot of rennovation and one amusing sight was a man - free from any protective clothing - using a pnumatic drill on the roof of an old building!
After a morning of exploring, we settled into a cafe for a drink and some lunch. We were sitting under a fan so a little reluctant to leave and a polite chap came up to us and said, “I am about to ask that girl over there to marry me, would you take a photo of it?”. Obviously, I obliged and used his camera (so as not to arouse suspicion). She said yes! Afterwards, I mentioned that I was a wedding photographer and I offered to take a few photos of them as a celebratory gift since buying champagne in the dry state of Cochin was a little tricky!
It turned out, we were also staying in the same hotel, in next door rooms! We got on like a house on fire with Sunil being as socially awkward and inappropriate as me and both The Treasurer and Juhi regularly rolling their eyes at oneanother in sympathy!
We did eventually find a bar that served beer and had a couple of fun evenings with our new friends before they left for a river-boat cruise. Given the time it has taken me to get round to this, they are in fact, now married and back in Canada. Congratulations to Sunil and Juhi.