Orignal Post Created on 08/04/2013 16:19
Sunday was only our 2nd full day off in the three weeks we have been in India and we were ready for it. We decided it was time to explore much further than our immediate location and upon on the suggestion of the lovely Raminta we hired a taxi for the day to take us on a tourist tour. We decided we needed a well-earned lie in though and slept in until 7.30am before heading out an hour later. Our driver for the day was Dada who had also collected us from the airport when we arrived. Indian driving has to be experienced. They drive on the left, just like the UK, but there the similarity ends. It would appear that everyone has right of way and to exercise this right of way you just beep your horn and keep going. The narrower the gap the harder you beep the horn and just keep going with the divine hope that the other person will stop. To be honest most of the time it is funny as you are going at such slow speeds that any accident will be little more than a fender bender unless you are that poor pedestrian who has not jumped out of the way in time.
I became a little bit more concerned, however, when Dada reached the bigger faster roads and decided he needed to wear his seat belt! Andrew and I had been wearing ours from the outset and it became clear that the same Indian Highway Code applied but the speeds, margin for error and dire consequences if he got it wrong were much more at the forefront of my mind.
We had a two hour drive to the Dudhsagar waterfalls which are situated in north Goa and are reputed to be amongst the highest 100 waterfalls in the world. Fortunately we had very few scary moments on route. Dada escorted us to the arrival area where a middle aged Indian man ushered us into the reception saying “Two persons, Vehicle 76, 2000 rupees, 20 rupees entrance fee” I didn’t have a clue what was going on but just paid up and hoped for the best. We followed a driver to Jeep 76, which we shared with a friendly Indian family and were taken on a 20-minute off-road ride to the waterfall. It was a real bone jerker with three river crossings and it did cross my mind that the jeep could break down at any time and leave us stranded. Andrew was not enjoying himself, as he was concerned about the monkeys, having heard stories that they steal things and having promised his dad that he would protect me was working himself into fervour pitch with lots of advice about how to look after my bag and sunglasses.
We saw the monkeys as soon as we arrived and it was fine. The feeding of the monkeys is strictly prohibited, though this did not stop the sale of monkey food in the village at the reception area and as a consequence they monkeys were not aggressive at all, merely curious and hopeful. It was the first time we had seen monkeys since our arrival so we were just as curious but more keen to keep our distance. The waterfalls were a 15 minute walk away along a rough forest track and rather challenging in the heat of the day whilst wearing flip flops but I made it in the end, albeit far too slowly for my 18 year old son. I have, it appears finally become an old woman!
The falls were tremendous and very high with a bridge crossing the falls at the halfway point. There was a large pool at the bottom and we managed to crawl round the Russian tourists perching on the boulders getting photographed and snarling at you as you got in the way and eventually secured ourselves a good spot close to the water’s edge. The water was quite cold and after you got over the shock of it was rather rejuvenating in the heat. We had about 30 minutes here before heading back to the jeep. You were only allowed an hour there in total and we were then driven away through the jungle feeling every vertebrae rattle as we made our way back to the reception area.
The next stage of our journey was a 30-minute ride to the Spice Plantation and as we arrived in the car park we saw two elephants with their drivers waiting to take the tourists for a ride. The entry to the spice plantation was across an Indiana Jones style rickety bridge, which fortunately, was just about 4 feet off the ground. The planks creaked, cracked and wobbled alarmingly. Once we reached the other end we were greeted by a lady who placed a garland of wild flowers around our neck and placed a red dot of paint on our forehead, much to Andrew’s alarm and insistence that I wipe it off immediately. We had an interesting tour of the plantation and saw chillis, cardamom, cinnamon, cashews, pepper, pineapples, palm and much much more. The highlight of the trip was when one of the workers climbed up a 30/40 foot high palm tree in the blink of an eye, started to shake it from side to side and then got onto the next tree along before sliding down. Incredible, I can show you the video one-day. At the end of the tour our guide poured a ladleful of spring water down our spine to cool us off as we were melting in 28- degree heat now that we were inland and away from the cooling sea breeze.
We then had our lunch, which was included in the entry fee. It was a buffet and was just OK but to be fair we did not suffer any nasty after effects. We then purchased some spices to take home before having our ride on the elephant. Andrew was a little bit anxious and concentrated on all of the things that could go wrong and his spirits were lowered even further when two feral dogs jumped over the wall into the path of the elephant. The elephant swung her trunk at them but refused to move any further and one of the dogs came a little bit closer and a little bit closer. Suddenly we heard this gushing noise and realised why she wouldn’t move, she needed to pee and I can tell you that an elephant bladder takes some emptying and it was a while before she just waved them away with her trunk and carried on walking although she had to stop again to rip down a very tasty creeper from a nearby tree to munch as she walked further along. All I could hear from Andrew behind me was the muttering of curse words as he endured the journey and wanted it to end.
Our next stop was Old Goa and we visited the two Catholic Churches and the colonial museum, which provided more information about the Portuguese colonisation, which only ended in the early 1960’s …. can you believe it? The churches were typical large European affairs but were showing their antiquity and it was interesting seeing something of that nature in India.
Our final site was the fort at Aguada, which was on old 17th Century Portuguese fort. Dada sped us there are it closed at 5.30pm and we arrived at the gates at 5.29pm and out of breath … mostly from breathing in as we sped through ever diminishing gaps on the journey. The gates were open and unlike a British Museum we gained entry and had 30 minutes to check it out before having to squeeze past the locked gates when the whistle blew. It was really interesting to see and Mike would have loved it and it was even nicer to feel the sea breeze again as it had been a stiflingly hot day.
Our final pit stop was a French Restaurant at Baga called the Poisson Rouge. Our food here at Sushumna is overseen by Gregory Bazine who is a traditionally trained chef who, I believe, came to Goa about 6/7 years ago. The Poisson Rouge is his restaurant and we decided to give it a try and were not disappointed. It was one of the best French meals I have had for a long time. A fantastic end to a very enjoyable day.
It was only 20 minutes drive back to our rooms and we were pretty exhausted. A quick shower and bed called. It was my turn to moan and groan when the alarm went off at 5.15am this morning. I need another day off to recover but that is not until next week when we start the long journey home. We have now seen some of India and it was a lively, exciting and memorable day.