Friday, December 2, 2011

Going to Goa

Riverine laundry scene. See the saris?
The next day we rode to Calangute, which is in Goa.  Goa is largely known for its counterculture popularity for smoking weed and getting in touch with a higher spirituality in the 60s and 70s .  It's now a popular package tourist destination for Europeans.  Historically, it was a Portuguese colony until the early 1960s, when the Indian military came in and said, “you gotta go.”  Many of the small towns that are tucked in the hills still have crumbling, colonial buildings and are quite atmospheric, but for all of the package tourists and the businesses that go with them. 

The ride that morning started out promising, since the morning was cool and there was little traffic on the much smoother roads.  We were back in the Western Ghats, and today it was possible to actually look around a bit.  Through sweeping switchbacks we rode and were reminded of how nice it is to ride motorbikes.  Then the roads turned to hell again.  As bad or worse than they've ever been.  Through one particularly bad stretch, I heard a funny noise from the rear of my bike, but saw nothing amiss when I looked back.   

I witnessed the source of the “funny noise” from behind Colin.  After hitting a really bad patch of road, one of the spare tires bounced loose and hung by the yellow bungee cord, swinging for a moment, before it let loose and bounced and rolled across the road and down the ravine into the tall grass.  Happy that for once, I could actually help, I pulled over, trotted across the road and climbed down into the weeds to retrieve his runaway tire.   

 Shortly thereafter, we both crashed through a particularly large crater in the road that was hidden in the shadow of a bridge.  Re signaled to let me know there was a problem, and we pulled over to find that her speedo cable had popped part-way out of the front wheel.  Swiss Army knife to the rescue, we reseated the cable and hit the road again.  Approximately five miles from the Goan border, the road disappeared entirely.  We went through a section of bridge construction, where the road surface turned into cratered, heavily rutted dirt.  With about a mile of Maharashtra left, the road suddenly reappeared, and we pulled over for a check of the bikes and a much needed drink of water.  Before I could tell her not to, Re shut off her bike.  Crap.  Our bikes are not the easiest to start when very hot, and having spent the last four miles at no more than 15mph, they were plenty hot.  We had our drink and got ready to press on, but when Re attempted to kickstart her bike, it refused to comply.  I took over starting duty, and after 25 kicks or so, with the throttle held at various positions and under the watchful gaze of the small audience that had gathered, I gave up and we proceed to swap the now gasoline-soaked plug for a dry one from the spares kit.  Two kicks later and her bike was purring.  We climbed the steep hill into Goa and the scene suddenly changed.   

cows enjoying the Goan beaches
The road surface became a ribbon of smooth tarmac!  Oh my, was it ever beautiful!  As we got closer to Calangute, we saw a bunch of non-Indians on scooters (of course, with no helmets).  We followed the hordes into town, joining the slowly moving stream of beeping autorickshaws , buses, and scooters.  We found the guesthouse, the Indian Kitchen, where we'd reserved a room, which turned out to be a nice respite from the insanity of town, and settled into a nice little bungalow by the pool.  

The restaurant manager and rooms manager are both avid motorcyclists and we chatted bikes for quite a while before heading out to see the area and grab a quick lunch before heading back to the room to unpack and relax by the pool.  Later in the afternoon while making use of the wifi, we met the owners of the guesthouse and discovered what a truly small world it is.  Lorraine and Anthony are an Indian couple who have traveled extensively with their two daughters.  It turns out that they were in George Town, Malaysia at the same time we were last year, and in fact, tried to stay in the guesthouse that was our home away from home, but it was full, so they stayed two doors down.  They also visited many of the same places we did, including the zoo in Taiping, where no foreigners go.  We spent about an hour comparing travel notes and then went out for dinner. 

a huge thali lunch, and yes, I ate it all
We spent the next day in Calangute, wandering around town on foot.  We found the local market, which was small, and I bargained for a watermelon (50 rupees, less than a dollar for a good-sized one.  On our return from the market, we stopped in at at a restaurant for a gigantic thali lunch.  The serving trays each had a mountain of rice in the middle surrounded by about nine bowls of stuff, plus a plate heaped with papadams and pooris each.  We practically rolled down the stairs, we were so full afterward, but it tasted sooooo gooooood!  In order to work off some of our lunch calories, we walked on the beach back to the guesthouse.  The beach here is interesting, because unlike many places we've been, a large proportion of the tourists at the beach are Indian.  In other countries, most people don't have the ability to afford a beach holiday, so there is obviously more wealth here.  Since the signs on the beach said that swimming was not permitted(?) we went back to the hotel for a dip in the pool.  

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