Goa (April 2,  - April 6, 2002)

New Zealand

Hospet/ Hampi
Deep Griha


We're learning more and more about the Indian Train system.  First, trains really do leave on time. We had misread the departure time on our ticket and arrived 15 minutes late - to discover that the train had indeed already gone. Luckily this was the Pune to Mumbai part of our journey so we just jumped on the next train. We were in a fan cooled sleeper car for the 12 hour trip from Mumbai to Karmali Station in Goa. It was quite nice sleeping in our own small bunks - the evening air was not too hot. I don't know how they managed, but many Locals would sleep two to a bunk. This is perhaps understandable as the next class of seats down had about 5 people sitting in the same space.

There seem to be two types of people who interact with foreigners in India - those who try to grossly overcharge us, and others trying to ensure we are not overcharged. This is the yin and yang of India for travelers. As usual, Porters and Taxi drivers are high on the list of people trying to overcharge us - a porter asked for 400Rp to carry our bags in Mumbai (the posted rate was 19Rp). Sarah ended up walking towards a policeman before the porter accepted what we were prepared to offer and gave us back the train tickets that he had been holding hostage. Taxi drivers in Pune wanted to charge us 200Rp for a 30Rp fare. However, these people are offset by many others who are extraordinarily nice - hotel staff who direct us to taxis that they know will not overcharge us, and another passenger on the train from Pune to Mumbai who bought Chloe a bun and drink to encourage her to try Indian food. We have to be careful: it is too easy to travel with 'blinders' on trying not to talk to hawkers or beggars... but if we did, we would be extremely rude to all the people who are just being nice and naturally curious about our traveling family.  It is a difficult balance to find, as they almost all start conversations the same way by asking the same thing - "what is your (good) name?" and "what is your country?". 

But I digress. Goa was a Portuguese enclave until 1961 when it was forcibly taken back by India. The architecture and colours are decidedly Mediterranean (yes, I know Portugal is not on the Mediterranean, just bear with my artistic license), and most people speak very good english. In short, this is not really like any other part of India. We checked into the Panjim Inn in Panaji for 4 nights.

The main reason for coming here was to meet Mark and Penny, Sarah's Aunt and Uncle from England. After retiring, Penny and Mark have embarked on volunteer work for various agencies mainly in Asia. Mark is also completing his PhD measuring quality in education using an area of India as a study. They both happened to be in India at the same time as us, so we had arranged to meet them in Goa.

Mark and Penny with family

We don't often see Sarah's English relatives. We managed to get caught up on various bits of family news, and they helped us organize the rest of our trip. Organizing our trip was unbelievably helpful. Most other countries have a beaten path to follow as a tourist, but this is not the case in India. There is so much to see and do in so many far flung parts of the country, that  we could not piece together a workable itinerary without the benefit of their experience. 

We seem to be so busy organizing traveling with kids that we never get the time to read any more than the Travel Guide's short history. Sarah and I appreciated Uncle Mark's history lesson when we visited the cathedrals in Old Goa. These cathedrals rival most European cathedrals in size and splendour. This included the Basilica of Bom Jesus that houses a glass coffin with what remains of the remains of St Francis Xavier. The kids did not share the appreciation of the history lesson, although they did enjoy learning from their Great Uncle the Indian custom of eating messy/ squishy food with the fingers of their right hand.

Cow on Vagator beach

Heather with hawker on Vagator beach

Goa is known for its beaches. We took a day trip and visited the beach in Vagator for some great body surfing. The beach was as nice as any we've visited in the past year, but it was unmistakably Indian - there were two cows wandering around on the sand 'mooo-ching' for food, and some of the hawkers were about the same age as our kids. We also went on a one hour evening boat tour on the Mandovi River. It was a dance cruise where, unlike Canada, all the boys danced while the girls sat as wallflowers - girls are not considered "nice girls" if they dance.

Time seemed to pass too quickly. It was time to say goodbye to Mark and Penny. We took an early morning train to Hospet, and they departed later the same day in the other direction for Mumbai. With any luck, we'll see them again in a month or two when we get to England.