March 27, 2012
Ditched our plans to visit the spice plantation today, a 4-hour trip that would have robbed us of precious chill time, as we cannot get flights on Friday or Sat. and have to depart tomorrow! Thank you for trying Paul!
So instead we hung out in the lazy, slow, pleasantly suffocating heat, and followed up on
Blair's dream to go para-sailing. Clark was going to go with him, but I decided that it was time for me to try something like that - so up we went. Quite the cowboy operation off the coast of Candolim beach, with a central core of beach 'merchants' selling all manner of water experiences. Clark did some heavy duty, rather impressive haggling for a good price (making me wonder if we'd somehow be relegated to a 'bad' boat...and inferior, ragged para-sail!). Waited on the hot sand for quite a while until some straggly, wiry fellows appeared and supplied us with life jackets, then we all climbed into a smaller boat to travel out to the bigger one. Once there, Blair and I were hurried into our harnesses and the enormous sail was put in place with all hands on board holding it still as they attached our harnesses to the rigging. Within moments we were air-borne and I was suddenly obsessed by the quality and strength of the one thick rope connecting us to the boat below (might have thought to check that out earlier). Up, up and very far up, with me behind and Blair in front, it was much quieter than I thought it would be and once I got over a surge of panic and tore my eyes away from the rope, I actually began to enjoy the view of our stretch of Goa and the shipwreck in our bay, with the exception of the occasional 'raft' of garbage we could see floating here and there on the sea below. I think we climbed to about 50 feet. After our planned 5 minutes and after waving at Clark who looked so small in the boat below, they slowly started winching us in. Having seen others returned dry to the deck of the boat, we were surprised as we approached the water about 40 feet back and we realized that this was our fun finale. They dipped us three times in the warm sea and lifted us again until we "landed" on the boat's back deck. All business, the young men decanted us into the smaller boat and whisked us ashore so they could pick up another bunch of eager tourists.
I like our hotel for many reasons, not the least of which being that a good percentage of the guests are from India (the rest from everywhere, but [predominantly Russia and the UK this week. As a Taj hotel (cousin to the original Taj hotel in Mumbai invaded by terrorists a few years ago)they are very security conscious, with guards at the gate and mirrors checking under every car entering the property. When we first arrived, they took all our bags and ran them through a giant scanner.
After a delicious farewell Thai meal under a 300-year-old banyan tree, we grew nostalgic for our wonderful trip and began packing.
March 28, 2012
Up early enough to enjoy a long dosa breakfast followed by a 3-hourd trip with a great cab driver, Rama,to the weekly Wednesday Anjuna market, a half-hour journey away. What a scene! Stall after stall, hundreds and hundreds of them, plying wares of every kind and completely overwhelming. But fun. A girl stopped me and said, "You are SO white!" (Was she talking of my skin, or my white clothes, or the whole set-up??) If not for the heat, I could have stayed the whole day, haggling with the merchants whose friendliness can't help but be mixed with an honest desire to make a rupee or two, especially as their season comes to a close.
Again, driving here offered such a fine glimpse of this part of Goa, a rich green even now in the dry season (nothing, they say, compared to the green of the monsoon). Millions of palm trees, extraordinary dashes of colour from tropical flowers, fields of vegetables that are converted to rice paddies in the rainy season, cows and dogs, as always, wandering the roads.Rama talked easily about Goa on our way back, showing us the school he went to before the state was returned by the Portuguese to India in 1961. He seemed fond of the older Portuguese homes and buildings, and sniffed at the new concrete slabs you see everywhere. We passed a portion of road where dozens of people, men and women, hacked big reddish boulders (sandstone)with axes to create small stones that were then reduced to gravel and sand by another group using a rock to get their jobs done. Manual labour throughout India provides jobs for so many people in the 'informal' job sector, these are eking out a living getting work where and when they can. Many studies apparently show that things have improved in the last decade, and that they have improved the situation of many of the poorest people. Reading Katherine Boo's book, Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, this may be exaggerated - as corruption and bribery still play a big role at all levels.
A quick lunch and another sad dip in the Arabian Sea, and we stuffed our wet suits into our luggage in time to catch the shuttle bus to the Dabolim airport. A quick Spicejet flight to Mumbai left us with only one challenge, getting from the domestic airport to the international one, a 20-minute bus ride away. Despite a few typically Indian and inexplicable delays (which produced even more nostalgia) we made it with hours to go before our flight. Happily, we were allowed into the airport early (having been told we might have to wait outside or in some unknown lounge). At our gate, we endured our parting mosquito bites as we read our books and pondered the ending to this fabulous time.
Mother India is in all of us now. You either hate it or love it here.
We can't wait to come back.