Do you know where you’re going Gramps?

What a night at Mike’s Place and no hangover the following day – Result!!!

We had decided before the frivolity of Friday night that we all wanted to see as much of Goa as we could. We all knew we were on borrowed time you see as the monsoon was supposed to have already started so every day we had sun whilst we were there we wanted to make the most of it. Locals and weather forecasts both stated that the rains were coming so we spoke to the concierge about the trips that are offered by the local taxi drivers.

Eva and Shaun had been to Goa two weeks previously but were keen for us to see the Shantadurga Temple and also go to a spice plantation and  do the tour. The pre-arranged tour that offered this was selected and it also included a visit to the beach on the way back so we could swim in the Arabian sea.

‘Our’ car pulled up in front of the hotel and we could all see that the driver looked about 150 years old!!! Not wanting to repeat my judging a book by its cover we all got into the car. The Toyota Innova’s they have here are 7 seaters so we have been taking it in turns to travel in various seats in the car. The good thing with these is that the aircon is always cold and there are vents all throughout the car so you can always get cold air no matter where you are in the car.

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I snapped various pictures of the countryside as our journey took us towards the temple. Slowly but steadily we travelled. I’m glad we didn’t have any other plans that day apart from this tour.

We had been on the road for about 20 minutes when we all started to notice that the driver didn’t seem to know exactly where he was going. He had slowed right down at a couple of road junctions before making his decision on which way we were going to go. It did give me the opportunity to get the picture below. I could not believe this was going on in a crowded street 😲😲😲

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Shortly after this we went through some quite major road changes as they are upgrading a lot of the road network around this part of Goa so there are a lot of diversions and instances where you’re never quite certain which way the traffic is going to be going.

Once we finally got through the road works we then turned off the main(?) road and continued down along smaller roads that threaded through the forests and fields and eventually we got a glimpse of the Shantadurga temple.

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We parked up and started walking up to the temple in the heat. It was only mid-morning so wasn’t too hot or too busy but there were people arriving all the time whilst we were there.

As with almost anywhere around India there was a small gathering of local crafts at the entrance to the temple complex selling everything from flower garlands to wooden carvings and carvings in coconuts. All very elaborate and very colourful. The problem was I couldn’t take any pictures of them because if I stopped it was almost cart blanche for the sellers to peddle their wares so we kept on walking up and into the temple grounds. Shantadurga was stunning and immaculately kept. We were able to walk freely taking pictures before returning to the car to continue onto the spice plantation.

The driver seemed surprised when we returned to the car although he was not sitting in it with the aircon running which I was very surprised at. Luckily Shaun and Eva seem to have the same sightseeing ethic that Anita and I have. Get to a place. Look round and get out. There is absolutely no point. in my opinion, in spending too much time in one place unless completely necessary 😉😉

So we set off for the spice plantation. Our fears were confirmed. Gramps (as we had started calling him) really didn’t have a clue where he was or where he was going. We pulled out onto the main road (where the road upgrades were taking place and he turned the wrong way (not that any of us had any idea of that at this point. We drove for a while and then he turned from the main road onto a road that ran along the side of a hill.

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Anita had chosen the front seat which was on the side with the REALLY steep drop down into the trees 😲 (she was definitely not having a lot of luck when it came to her views of the road 🤣🤣)

The road would have been a fantastic road to drive as it wound its way up and down the side of the hill. It was absolutely smooth new tarmac. I sooo wanted to be driving but it turns out we shouldn’t have even been on that road. Gramps pulled over and asked some guys working by the side of the road the way to the spice plantation. I am picking up more and more of the language and the mannerisms here (definitely down to Anita and Khaleel) so although I couldn’t understand exactly what was being said it was clear we were way off track. Shaun and Eva had both said that they did not recognise any of where we were compared to their last visit.

Gramps turned the car round and we travelled back the way we had come. Back onto the main road and then we came to a large roundabout close to the Goa Engineering College. This where ‘we’ had gone wrong and so we then took the right road and proceeded to the spice plantation.

As we entered Sahakari Spice Farm we found that, although busy, we could still get parked easily in the main carpark a short walk from the main entrance of the farm. Based on the de-tours we had taken this was an amazement, so we left Gramps and went into the plantation. We were greeted and blessed with flower garlands and a Bindi spot on our foreheads as we entered. Shaun and Eva, having been here before, warned us that as we walked around and got hot the dye would run and that it is very difficult to get off so we kept an eye on that during the day.

We first had a cup of chai tea made from the spices on the plantation and it was explained to us that different combinations of spices could be used for various ailments and health problems. There were cards laid out that we could read detailing different ailments and which spices were used to ease and/or cure them.

When the group was big enough we were taken around by our guide who showed us many of the spices and leaves that grow here (we couldn’t go around the whole site as it covers about 60 hectares)

As  we made our way through the plantation there were other groups going around so we kept crossing other but when we got to one point on the trail there was a lot of commotion. We eventually got to the front of the group and could see an elephant washing itself in the river. AN ACTUAL ELEPHANT!!!

This made the trip for me. I could have gone home right then to be honest and I would have been a happy man having seen an elephant in India. Superb…

 

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We had noticed when reading through the info pack at the start of the tour that some of the different spices can be used in the remedy of certain sexual and intimate body matters. We had got to a point on the tour where the guide was trying to explain that the spice we were looking at was particularly good for firming up ladies boobs if mixed up with certain oils and then rubbed on. He was trying to find the best way to say it in english but I think a combination of feeling a bit awkward due to the subject matter and not fully knowing the english made this more difficult than it should have been but he kept looking at and indicating to Anita’s boobs in an attempt to explain.

This started us all laughing and the more he indicated to try to make his explanation clearer the funnier it got. Anita made it a little easier for him because as soon as she understood what he was trying to say she grabbed her boobs through her t-shirt and said ‘Oh you mean rub it in like this???’ It was very funny. The guide did not know whether to laugh or apologise and also didn’t know where to look either so he just changed the subject and said we needed to move on… quickly 🤣🤣🤣🤣

We were almost at the end of the tour so just had to cross a bridge over the river to get back to the starting point and as we did so, there in the river was the elephant, with a woman on its back, spraying itself and her with water 😲😲😲 What I did find a bit sad was that it wasn’t as natural as it first seemed as the elephant was spraying when it was commanded to do so by the guy with the stick in the pictures. He didn’t actually touch the elephant but every time he barked a command and tapped the stick the elephant would do something. It was still great to see the elephant once again and this time even closer

Included in our tour was lunch but before that, as we were all really hot, the guide asked if we wanted to be cooled down? (He didn’t mean by the elephant) At the end of the tour there is a bucket of water that has had certain spices added to it and he stated that, if we wanted, he would pour a ladle of the water (infused with spices) down our back. He promised us that although our clothes would get wet it would be very refreshing Any where else this would be a massive problem for most people but because it is so hot our clothes were wet with sweat anyway. The water was not cold but because of the infusions caused it to evaporate and cool us down. Amazing!!!

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We had lunch and then after Anita and Eva had ‘cooled’ themselves with some more of the water courtesy of Shaun’s hat we then made our way back to the car (I didn’t buy any of the ‘special’ spices 😉) where Gramps was chilling (?) with the other drivers. The car park was absolutely rammed by this point and people were even parking their cars right the way up the approach road back to the main road.

Gramps really struggled to get out of the car park. Not only because of the idiots that were just driving down the road and blocking the way but because of a lack of driving skill. How the clutch lasted as he slipped it to try to manoeuvre out of the car park I do not know. I also don’t know how he didn’t hit any of the rocks or rip either of the bumpers off of the car on the way out but somehow we got out all in one piece.

From the spice plantation we then travelled to The Basilica of Bom Jesus which is a huge UNESCO listed Catholic Church situated next to the Se Cathedral on the way back to the hotel and is a very famous church in Goa as it houses some of the remains of St Francis Xavier. I am not for one moment going to pretend or start to go into a history lesson about either the church or the cathedral because I honestly do not know who St Francis Xavier was or what religious significance he has/had.

I thought the outside of the church was impressive but that was nothing compared to the inside. Loads of ornate and decorative carvings from the moment you get to the massive entrance doors right the way down to the altar area which was obviously closed off so it could not be damaged in any way.

We sat in silence in the pews and respected those around us that were praying but we were allowed to take a few pictures as you can see below. Once done we then left to continue our journey home via the beach

It was still a far drive to get from the church to the beach that was part of the tour. This took us along one of the estuaries that led to the sea. Here we passed a large number of casinos (both land and boat based) Thankfully all Gramps had to do was keep the estuary on his right and we were on the right road

We arrived and it was, as expected, very busy. Gramps found a parking space right outside to entrance to the beach (more luck than judgement) and we then all walked towards the sea. This little walk highlighted a thing that Anita and I have in common. We both dislike sand!!!

I know this is going to get some reactions and disbelief but I just cannot stand the stuff. It sticks to your feet. It gets between your feet and your shoes and your toes. It takes an effort to walk on and it gets EVERYWHERE!!! Shaun and Eva whisked their way across the sand towards the sea as Anita and I trudged along, muttering and chuntering. It was bad enough walking on the sun-baked soft sand but when we got to the compacted sand at the sea and I got my feet wet. Well…

When we eventually caught up with Shaun and Eva they could see from our faces that all was not good. They did say that they thought this was not a good beach. Yippee!!! Glad they agreed with us 😁There was rubbish all over the place (even though there were plenty of bins around), no-one was allowed to swim in the sea but were just allowed to paddle and the sand was not the beautiful white colour any of us where expecting so we decided to go back to the car and get Gramps to take us to the beach Shaun and Eva had been to two weeks previously.

The walk back was even more tortuous than the walk down to the sea as I had got my feet wet in the (admittedly) incredibly warm Arabian sea. I, therefore, decided to walk back to the car without any shoes on, my thinking being that the hot sand would dry out my feet so all I would have to do would be to brush off the sand at the car. This worked fine whilst on the white(ish) sand but as soon as I got onto the darker sun-baked sand as seen in the pictures above it was unbearably hot so I had to put my shoes on  😭

One thing we did notice as we walked from the sea back to the car was the amount of people just standing (as we had done) just at the water’s edge. As we walked away from the sea and looked back the view was exactly like a scene from the Nicolas Cage film City of Angels. Proper freaky 😲

We got back to the car and Gramps was nowhere to be seen as he clearly expected us to be a lot longer on the beach. Shaun had already gone off looking for him by the time Anita and I got there. Then Gramps appeared so I went looking for Shaun.

All then back at the car Eva asked Gramps to take us to the beach they had been to previously as it was on the way back to the hotel. He huffed but didn’t say no so off we went. When we got there it was definitely the right decision. I still dislike sand immensely but it is so much more pleasant being able to walk bare foot along white sand from the car park right up to the sea. Very little rubbish and no burnt feet 😁

After having another paddle we decided it was way past beer o’clock so walked to one of the beach front bars and sat in the late afternoon sun enjoying an ice cold Kingfisher (or two) chatting, people watching and also watching the street dogs that had been sleeping under the sun beds on the beach start to wake up and move around.

We all agreed that we could have stayed there all afternoon but Anita and I wanted to have dinner at the original Fishermans Wharf which was not far from our hotel and which had been highly recommended to us by a very good friend of mine so on the way back to the hotel I called them and booked the table for the four of us.

Gramps seemed to take forever to get us from the beach to the hotel (I shouldn’t have been surprised really) but we eventually did. We had to pay him and he even asked us if we wanted him to take us on another tour the following day – bless him!!! He gave us a card anyway and told us to call if we needed him. ‘Tonight. Tomorrow. Whenever…’ We got a different taxi to Fishermans Wharf.

The evening and food were superb although I have to say that both Anita and I do prefer the Hyderabad branch (sorry Sunil) but the original was overlooking the Sal River so we could see lights of the boats and the houses and buildings on the other side twinkling 😁The restaurant was a little quieter than the previous night at Mike’s Place but there was still music and dancing which was great so we joined in with that a little.

The day activities were starting to catch up with us so we decided to get the taxi back to the hotel where Eva decided it was time for her to go to bed but Shaun was up for a nightcap. As I said at the start of this blog, the booze in Goa is ridiculously cheap so we had already been down to the shop within the hotel complex to get some for our room for just such an occasion 😉

We had been advised to look out for a brand of dark rum called Old Monk which is plentiful in Goa and at ₹175 (about £2.10) per bottle it seemed rude not to get a bottle just to try (even though I’m not a fan of rum) We had a drink and a chat on the balcony before Anita then went to bed so Shaun and I had another nightcap while we chatted, watched a Hummer weave its way in front of the hotel and also watched a rat climb its way down one of the hotel drain pipes. Don’t panic. No pictures of Roland.

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Drinking Old Monk was a mistake…

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