Sunday, 25 March 2012

!ncredible !ndia - Goa

Calangute Beach at sunset, where we dined each evening - very nice.
Neil's Consulting work for Space Matrix takes him to India for two weeks every month. Occasionally Ley travels with him and on the free weekends we get to explore. Our last visit together saw us traveling along the south west coast.

Going to Goa 

Goa is a magical, mystical place, its variety and appeal to all travelers is extremely powerful.  With its beautiful beaches, sunsets, feral back packers, aging hippies and Portuguese old world charm. It is really hard not to relax and chill out here.

After breakfast on the beach, we walked into the main street and hired a motor bike to do a little local exploring.  Armed with Google maps in the iPhone, dressed for the beach, we headed off.  The only request was that we wear a helmet if we ride on the "big" road.  We discovered beautiful sapphire blue bays, gorgeous rain forest gullies, local villages with old men sitting around drinking cups of chai, a sunburst of beautiful sari clad women and dusky children playing naked along the roads.  We also saw a lot of very chilled out old hippies, either riding "Harley" type bikes or wandering around the small villages and of course back packers of all ages.  But overwhelmingly was the number of Indian tourists here.

 It was a wonderful day, riding around with the wind in our hair, something we would never do in any other country in the world...Goa really gets into your soul!

On Sunday we hired a car and driver to show us around.  He wanted to take us to the regular tourist spots, but we wanted to explore the path less traveled.  We traveled inland and looked at the many World Heritage Portuguese Catholic Churches and Basilicas.  The Portuguese seafarers and missionaries brought Catholicism to Goa in the early 16th century.

You can see one of these Basilicas towering above the coconut trees that line the river bank in the image below.

We rode car ferries to two of the populated islands in the sprawling river delta. Divar and Vanximare Islands are two little slices of heaven.

On Vanximare Island, we strolled around the town.  By local consensus there are no dogs on this island, but there are many pigs and we heard them rummaging around and running through the bushes, making a quick dart, squealing when then saw us, only to disappear back into the bushes.  A local family welcomed us into their house, shared a cold drink with us and talked about the problem they have battling progress, as there is a proposed tourist resort coming to their small island.

Everywhere in India there is construction happening.  Building supplies are continually on the move, by truck, camel or oxen driven drays and on workers heads.  Sand is moved down river in the deep bilged sand boats, bamboo is the preferred form of scaffolding and sari clad women work alongside their men labouring seven days a week.

We met these ladies clearing the roadside.  They are know as Indian Gypsies, or Banjar, and are mainly from Rajasthan. They are proud, strong women who decorate their clothes with coins and mirrors.  They were not camera shy!

Goa was a Portuguese Colony for 450 years, until it was forcibly annexed by India in 1961.  It had been an important hub for the Merchant ships trading with the Far East since the 16th century and everywhere you look you can the Portuguese influence.  The building styles, street names, cuisine, abundance of Catholic Churches and the locals with their Portuguese names and features bear witness to this strong cultural influence.  You don't have to scratch the surface very deep to see what a deep and long lasting impression these European settlers made.

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