Goa revisited

I was awake earlier than I intended this morning and obviously wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep, so ended up publishing my blog and some photos then going for a walk along the beach and doing some yoga before breakfast. It feels really good to be getting back into yoga again even if it is only around 20 minutes sometimes, yesterday afternoon I was so relaxed I could easily of  fallen asleep in shavasna. 

I’m really enjoying my ambles along the beach and have been comparing it to Radhanger beach in the Andaman islands, these Goan beaches are busier with accommodation and restaurants/bars all along them where as Radhanger is a better quality beach and finer sand with the entertainment coming from observing the thousands of tiny crabs and their antics, here there’s not nearly so many crabs but the people, surfers, yoga and artists of all descriptions are a great source of entertainment. Radhanger is an empty beach with nothing along it so very different to here but would still be top of my list for beach quality.

I noticed on my walk this morning that some of the places around here are starting to gear up for Holi  festival this week with a few posters going up so I’ll have to watch out for that.

I got a bit of a shock earlier when I went back into my room as there was a snake in there about 3 to 4 feet long but quite thin, it was obviously just as shocked as I was and started wriggling frantically and rising up, unfortunately the only way out was past me and when I gave  it room it bolted under a metal locker and along the wall and out of the door, I think it was harmless and  only wanted to get out, I’m not sure what it was but think the only venomous snakes here are cobras but it definitely wasn’t one of those.

I went into Arambol along a different route today intending to get a coffee and a snack at a cafe I had seen the other day called Double Dutch and have an another look at some singing bowls.The route in has a lot more accommodation and cafes and some of the accommodation can be had for as little as 250 rupees a day but I wouldn’t expect much for that price but it just goes to show how cheaply you can live out here.

I looked at some singing bowls I had seen the other day and managed to get them to play quite easily this time, there’s a big difference in quality between the handmade and machine made one’s and you can notice it straight away and as it is for my daughter I wanted to get a good one, the other day I had narrowed it down to 3 and went back to the same place, he offered me to go in to negotiate a better price than he had quoted the other day but I said I would be back after getting something to eat. 

The Double Dutch cafe did great coffee and Apple pie and I will have to return to try their other things. On the way back to the shop I stopped and saw the other singing bowl that I was offered the other day ( it was from his brother’s shop ) and he spotted me so we took it to compare with the other 2 and by trying them reduced the decision to 2 and settled on a price that I was happy with considering the size and quality of the bowl. I sent Becca  some photos and a video of it playing and think she will be happy with it.

So far I’ve not got bored of walking along the beach here and in the evening it’s a nice stroll along Arambol beach and the stalls, the food has started drawing me in though and I may be putting on weight before I get back home at this rate, last night it was corn on the cob cooked over coals, tonight it was first a vegan empanada that tempted me then on the way back a Russian guy was just coming down onto the beach with a large tray of flat breads and was immediately mobbed by customers, I saw that as a good sign and couldn’t resist, as this resort seems to be mostly Russain’s there’s a big demand for their food, I don’t know what I had but will have to find out, it was a flat bread filled with cheese and very good I could of also have had a mixed one but that’s for next time. I’ll call that a starter tonight before my meal later. I should of realised before I bought my empanada that the dogs would spot me and I got followed by a 3 legged one but I’m afraid that a single empanada isn’t big enough to share with anyone ( I may buy him his own next time  ), they didn’t seem so interested in the Russian flatbread though. And of course a cold Kingfisher with each evening meal feels like a treat.

The snake in the room thing from earlier had obviously been in the back of my mind as I’m half expecting it every time I enter the room now and as I went to bed it was more in my thoughts than is probably condusive to good sleep, I don’t feel like I have any phobias and snakes have never really bothered me and I was certain that it wasn’t in the room at the moment as there aren’t that many places for it to hide unless it was in the bed which I resisted checking out of fear of seeming paranoid. It didn’t really keep me awake too long though and I got to sleep in the time it would take me normally.

I was awake at 4 in the morning which isn’t that unusual and would usually go straight back to sleep but this time I was thinking about snakes ! Not the ones here but my experiences of them in the past. I remembered as a kid growing up in Canada and seeing  garter snakes easily identifiable by their black colour with yellow markings and what we called grass snakes only 6 to 8 inches long and light brown in colour and instead of being afraid of them would try to catch them usually unsuccessfully to keep as pets. My first experience of a rattlesnake was in Algonquin park on a St John’s Ambulance summer camp, we had got a lift to the general store to spend some of our money on stuff we probably didn’t need and were waiting in a gravel car park when we saw a rattlesnake, I think it was a Mississauga rattler and being city kids did what we shouldn’t of done and around 8 of us surrounded it, this obviously upset it and this was the first time most of us had probably heard or seen a rattlesnake, it didn’t rattle for long because also being city kids someone picked up a large rock with what was an  extremely and probably fortunately for us well aimed shot ended it, there were no responsible adults around at the time to point out how stupid we were and looking back we were very lucky no one was bitten.

Nothing interesting happened then as far as snakes go until I was out in Belize in the 80s and although we were warned about coral snakes around our accommodation in airport camp never actually seen any. I had heard about the Fer de lance which is a particularly aggressive viper that is common in Belize but fortunately my only sightings of them were from another vehicle when heading into the jungle when they actually stuck at the vehicle in front of us as it passed ! One time we had a member of the Belizian defence force with us acting as a guide and he offered to show me one he had seen eariler, I surprised myself by declining his kind offer because I felt it was too much like going looking for trouble. Another story I had heard while out in Belize and believed to be true at first but later thought it to be one of those myths that get exaggerated over the years was about a Gurka out on patrol in the jungle and woke up to find he couldn’t move his arm, on closer investigation a constricter of some kind had latched on to him in his sleep and made it as far as his shoulder before becoming stuck ! His shouts alerted the rest of the patrol who then cut it off, I don’t know if it’s possible for a snake to do that but like I said I think it’s a myth that’s probably still getting told  today as it makes a good story.

Then again nothing until a trip to Portagul when like the idiot I am sometimes saw a dead snake at the side of the road and thought it would be funny to throw it at Wanda, how wrong I was ! Not realizing at the time she had a phobia of snakes ( later getting over that in the Gambia ) cue lots of screaming and tears and me regretting my childish decision. Sorry again.

Queue May 2018 and Jake and myself starting the PCT from Campo at the Mexican border and hoping to make it to Lake Morena on the first day,  after a break for lunch we got going again and began a bit of an  assent out of what I think was Hauser creek,  not long after I rounded a corner and did what your not suppose to do with rattlesnakes and surprised what turned out to be the biggest one we saw on the whole trail, it surprised me as well as I didn’t expect to see one so soon, I immediately started backing up and bumped into Jake who was still coming forward to see what was going on, I think that was his first rattlesnake sighting. He later described the day as the worst of his life ( I may of pushed him a little too much on the first day to get to Lake Morena but it had milkshakes and cheeseburgers !) It still makes me laugh when I think of it now ( i’m a terrible Dad )  but he stuck with it and kept going. I got a picture of the back of the rattlesnake as it disappeared into the brush which I’ll try to find. On the plus side as well we caught Iceman at the end of the day and stayed together for the next 900 miles!.

Ok I think that’s way too much snake talk, I didn’t realise there was so much, Anyway I eventually got back to sleep and then had a good run along the beach later, I find between 5 and 6 k kilometres is enough at the moment. Afterwards I returned to the Double Dutch Cafe for breakfast which is very popular and managed to find a table towards the back, I can recommend the coffee there and felt like I’d eaten to much on the way back.

I was feeling tired in the afternoon ( must be all the sea air ) but went down to the beach at 3 o’clock to get a little sun then walked along to see if I could find the same Russian guy from yesterday selling flat breads and caught him coming the other way, this time I had a mixed one which was potato, spinach and spices and I perfered it to the cheese one, I’m not sure how many more there are to try but I’ll keep going, Potato and cheese maybe ? That sounds good. I think there called Lepyoshka’s.

Still enjoying myself here and went wild last night changing my beer from Kingfisher to Tuborg ! Whatever next ? Both are good.

This morning at breakfast then later during a walk along the beach into Arambol I was thinking about my time here in India and again the thing that comes up most often is my being fortunate enough to be doing it, which comes down to currently being in good health for which I am very grateful, being able to afford to travel although I do keep costs down to under my monthly pension income and being able to retire at 59 and do things I love but also having the freedom which a lot of friends and family don’t have. As I write this there is as always the thought of being selfish and where do I  create a balance of helping out as much as possible and doing things you enjoy? I am grateful for all the people in my life whether family or friends I’ve met along the way, they’ve all been part of some amazing memories.

As my time in India draws to an end, I’ve been thinking  back over my time here and how and where I’ve travelled in this wonderful country. Arriving in a strange country that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time but not knowing what to expect as I exited the airport and negotiated with taxi and Tuk Tuk drivers, Starting off in the beginning of October before the rainy season had finished and strolling along deserted beaches in South Goa before the tourists started arriving, watching the weather change as a Cyclone off the coast bought heavy rains. Having not made any detailed plans apart from traveling in a anti clockwise direction probably by train and having a list of destinations that were open to change, such a unplanned way of travelling my not be for everyone but it allowed me to make last minute decisions like visiting Hampi and spending Christmas and New Year on the Andaman islands which I had very little knowledge of before coming to India, Looking back I wouldn’t of changed anything that could alter the experience I’ve had here. Amongst all of this is the most important ingredient of the Indian people themselves, friendly and curious, I found myself in many places off the tourist trail and at times felt vulnerable not knowing the language and struggling to communicate but despite numerous warnings before I got here and also when I got here sometimes from Indian people themselves to be aware of scams I haven’t encountered a single problem over my 5 1/2 months here.and have only experienced kindness and offers of friendship, some offering to host me on any return to India.

In a country of over 1.3 billion people India has it’s problems but it’s  people are it’s strength and  amongst the most friendly and generous people I’ve ever met, I see the country moving in the right direction and attitudes changing slowly for the better in ways like women’s rights and equality and far from sitting back, they are coming out and pushing the agenda  forward. Indians are proud of their Country and rightly so, I’ve seen many examples of this on my travels and it has amazed me to see so many Indian tourists out discovering their own wonderful country. Religion and Spirituality is a big part of India and I feel I have learnt  a lot about their different religions and customs and although I’ve seen in the news recently there have been problems in some areas, my experience has been one of them living in harmony with each other where ever I’ve been.

Some thoughts on future travel, though not this year as the PCT and important events ( my daughters masters graduation ! ) will take up some of that and I want to spend some time with friends and family. But I my be able to plan something around the World Police Fire Games that comes around next year and is hosted in Rotterdam, I had thought earlier in this tour about visiting Nepal to do some treking and the Annapunna circuit appeals but would of meant buying all the equipment here when I’ve already got it split between Canada and the UK so it make more sense to come back more prepared, also places in India like Sikim and Ladakah in the north which border Nepal and China could be combined. Also I have a bit of a strange question but is it weird to want to visit a destination purely based on its name ? That place being Mandalay in Myanmar ( Formerly Burma ) there are other places in Myanmar which would go on the itinerary as well but Mandalay has always appealed to me, a lot more research to be done before any decisions are made though, but that’s another thing, do I continue to travel as I have here or plan more ?, I’ve already decided to try to travel lighter most of the time, reducing my baggage to carry on size, even if I am away for  6 months at a time from what I’ve learnt on this trip that shouldn’t be difficult, it’s easier to buy cheap stuff as you need it as I did in Darjeeling then dispose of it or give it away when no longer needed.

Just been and ordered a banana lassi and got speaking to the manager here ( Bunny Jay ) and he was saying the Holi festival celebrations start here tomorrow which i’m really pleased about as I thought I might miss them, it’s very colourful and im looking forward to getting covered in colour ( some people never grow up ! ), there should be some good pictures. I’m going to see if I can find a cheap white single use T shirt to wear later on in Arambol.

I got a white top in Arambol  for 250 rupees for tomorrow’s Holi festival and went to pick up some laundry that i’d dropped off this morning but was told it wouldn’t be ready till 7 so sat on the beach with what  must of been thousands of people in total and watched the sun go down. It’s about a mile back to the resort along the beach and since I’ve been here not been outside the resort after dark, it was a full moon which signifies the start of Holi celebrations and lots of people around starting beach fires and twirling flaming batons but I hadn’t taken my phone to get any pictures so may go back another night.

This mornings run felt good considering I didn’t want to get out of bed, After breakfast the manager here (Bunny Jay ) had organized a Holi celebration with lots of colours to use layed out and water guns and food and drink. It was a mix of British, French, Polish and Indian tourists as well as Bunny and the staff here, after a bit of a tentative start by us Westerners the Indians showed us how it was suppose to be done and we all joined in and got absolutely covered in colour, afterwards I went out along the beach to Arambol and it was obvious to me that our group had the most fun, I got quite a few looks and requests for pictures whilst walking along the beach and didn’t really require any more colour. Going into Arambol there were some dance parties going on and Holi creates a real party atmosphere. I imagine this will continue though the night ( last night’s music only finished at 4 this morning ).Although I’ve got cleaned up apart for some purple that might be semi -permanent on my head I expect I could get covered again unless I locked myself away, which i’m not going to do. I’m glad I was still out here for the Holi celebrations as they are so much fun and  most westerners really seemed to enjoy themselves. There should be lots of colourful pictures this week. ( found out later that coconut oil before starting is the secret to getting it off ).

Yesterday and the Holi celebrations were amazing and it is nice to see so many people enjoying themselves, the Holi party organised here at the resort was great and lots of people got involved, introduced themselves to each other and I had a great time, walking along the beach and though Arambol afterwards was great and I noticed that even the Russians that might normally keep themselves to themselves and appear quite reserved were coming up to introduce themselves and take selfies which was fun. And again I  felt the friendliness of the Indian people come through and they were keen for us to have a good time.

Just enjoying getting some sun this morning and got a few Hemp hats to take back to the UK for people and something for Jake but find it hard to know what to get him but will find something.

A young Polish couple I met yesterday during Holi celebrations here joined me at breakfast and I enjoyed talking to them about India, travel and the panic about Corona virus around in a lot of countries, the hysteria around it has’nt reached India at the moment so I’m pleased about that, everyone along the beach were shaking hands yesterday and only the lifeguards were wearing masks.

Since the end of the Holi festival I have really felt that my adventure here in India is drawing to a close and really enjoyed relaxing here the past couple of days, not feeling the need to go out and do things but quite happy to jog along the beach some mornings and get a few hours of sun each day along with some yoga and maybe a short workout in the yoga studio in the afternoon. It feels like the right way to end my time here after a wonderful experience over the last 5 months. I ‘m looking forward to seeing friends and family over the next few months and will be going to ground as far as the blog is concerned until I travel out to Canada sometime in May before making a start on the Pacific Crest Trail in June, at least that’s the plan at the moment but as I type this President Trump has just announced a 30 day travel ban into the States from Europe although this does’nt include the UK we will have see how things develop. And India have suspended issuing any new visas for 30 days to try to limit the impact here.

I was walking back from the beach earlier and I have to go past a couple of wells that are used for water here, these wells have no guard rails or warnings and it got me thinking about the difference between health and safety in the West and here in India, I have thought for a long time that we have gone too far in the West and it doesn’t allow for people to just use some common sense, if there is a cliff and you don’t want to fall off don’t go near the edge !. It took me some time to get used to the number of dangers here and I think it was Mysore where I first really noticed it with broken or completely missing paving slabs with a 4 foot drop and no lighting at night along what was a path meant for pedestrians. I’ve got used to it now and take nothing for granted and apart from one fall but wasn’t hurt in Darjeeling where I managed to trip myself with a fabric bag being used by a roadwork crew have got away unscathed. As a kid I took risks but seemed to make some sort of crude risk assessment first, if jumping from any height, what was at the bottom ? likelihood of survival ? Go or don’t decision it was that simple. Going into a sewer ? Guards to prevent you going in were usually broken, Don’t go so far in that you can’t find your way out again ! , they were just another playground for us as gross as it sounds now that I’ve seen it I tend to come down more on the Indian side when it comes down to H & S and kids need to be aware of dangers from the earliest age possible and until then watched very closely as you do still hear about children falling into wells here.

This morning at breakfast I met the Polish couple who were travelling back to Warsaw via Paris today and 2 British women out here on holiday, all the talk was about the virus and how it is affecting travel at the moment and whether people get back home without any problems, we all agreed that India and Goa in particular seemed a good place to be at the moment. After breakfast I got a bit of exercise by walking along the beach before finding somewhere to settle and get a bit of sun, there was a bit of a emergency as I walked along the beach with a lifeguard vehicle going the other way with siren going, at the same time a jetski being launched, it turned out that a guy that looked to be in his twenties got into some trouble and probably panicked, the jetski landed him on the beach near me but he walked onto the beach and they put him in the recovery postion. So no harm done and perhaps a lesson learned.

This morning at breakfast I was asked if I had heard the building in the next resort collapse yesterday, which I hadn’t but had a look as I went for a walk this evening, it’s about 75 metres away and higher than anything else around probably around 3 stories, but apparently no one was hurt, the winds have been stronger the last couple of days but only what I would call a strong breeze so wouldn’t expect it to do that much damage. I went down to the beach for a walk and to see if I could find my Russian friend the flat bread seller which I did and as tomorrow will be my last day in Goa possibility my last one here but I’ll have some idea what they are if my travels ever take me to Russia.

The Covid 19 thing seems to be moving pretty fast in other countries with developments happening constantly, I’ve been keeping up with it on the news, and have heard it may be difficult to get travel insurance because of it, whether that will affect my PCT plans this year i’m not sure, we will just have to see how things develop in the next month or so. I’m just taking as many precautions as possible to avoid catching it but apparently it doesn’t like heat so currently I’m probably in a good place.

Tomorrow will be my last full day here and I’ll be off to the airport on Sunday for my flight to Mumbai then onwards to the UK.

I’ll post one more blog when I’m back in the UK summing up my time here in india, I’m looking forward to getting back now with all the uncertainty around travel and glad I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy my time here before all of it started.

I will say goodbye for now and wrap this up here and  post it first thing in the morning.

Take care everyone and wash your hands alot ! 

Wishing you all good health

Regards Chris

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