The Portuguese effect on House colours in Goa.

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While going through the photos I took on the recent road trip I cam upon these two photos taken in a village in Goa.

I read recently that there was an unwritten rule during the Portuguese occupation of Goa that only churches and chapels could be painted in white. No private house or building enjoyed this privilege. Not only the Goan Christians followed this rule, as white was associated with Virgin Mary, but Goan Hindus also respected this practice. As a result the houses were often beautifully colored like the house in the picture below

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Road Trip Days 6-7 Ratnagiri

_MG_8391We are in our third state in a week, having travelled from the coconut belt, through the Cashew Nut belt and now into an area famous for growing Mangos. In particular the variety known as the “King of Mangos” the Alphonso. Not one of my favourites as I find it too sweet, my preference being for the sweet and sour taste of Chausa; however I am in the minority.
Wanting a change from the frenetic activity in Goa we found a beautiful Farm Stay near the coast between Ratnagiri and Ganpatipule, in the heart of mango country. Set in 4 acres of tropical fruit trees Atithi Parinay is run by Medha Sahasrabudhe, who has converted the ancestral farm into an organic farm stay. Medha is an impressive young lady with a lot of great ideas not just on how to improve her farm but also on how to improve the lives of the people in the surrounding village.
Filled with abundant flowering and fruiting trees the farm is a haven for myriad forms of bird life, filling the air with their song and delighting the eyes with their colours. Sapphire blue Kingfishers, bright yellow Orioles and the emerald-green of Parrots. The cooing of Wood Pigeons, wings fluttering as they court each other in the trees, the rhythmic chanting of Barbets, and the strident call of the Koyal all provide an orchestral soundtrack, much appreciated after the honking of horns and screeching of brakes in the city.

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The first evening wanting to buy some of the famous mangos, Medha took us for a walk down the narrow village lanes in search of the only man to grow organic mangos in the village.

He was nowhere to be found and Medha instead took us to the sole surviving mud-walled village house. Immaculately kept by it’s very proud owner, a sprightly lady whose manner and bearing was much younger than her actual years, this house unfortunately under threat from the next generation. Her sons, seeing all the other traditional houses replaced by new concrete and brick constructions, want to knock it down and replace it with one of the same. “All the neighbours have done it so why shouldn’t we?” They said.

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Admiring the beautifully swept courtyard, plastered with a cow dung plaster, soft and cool underfoot and spreading out like a sandy coloured carpet, we were saddened by the thought of the disappearance of the traditional ways.
Medha took a lot of time to explain to them how unique their house was, how the traditional houses are much better suited to the climate than the new houses, and how tourists would love to stay in the house for a unique experience. She even offered to send guests to them first before filling her rooms if it meant saving the building. To find such selflessness in someone running a business is rare to these days and demonstrates how conscientious Medha is in her desire for a better life for the villagers.
I fear however that the call of “progress” was louder than Medha’s impassioned arguments, but hope that somewhere the seed of thought has been sown and the sons will reconsider.
Later Medha discussed her attempts at encouraging organic farming and discouraging some of the more destructive and harmful farming practices in the area but explained that old habits die hard and all she can do is lead by example. Once the farmers see the results that she is getting with more ecological and sustainable methods they may switch over by themselves.
The next morning after a lovely breakfast in the shade of a jackfruit tree, we headed out to explore some of the beaches and also to visit the famous Ganesha temple at Ganpatipule.

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The beaches here are some of the most stunning I have seen and the area is still relatively untouched by tourism. Miles and miles of beautiful golden sand beaches, cool sea breezes blowing onto the shore and over the lush green of the mango orchards, and hardly a person to be seen. Anywhere else in the world these beaches would be lined with Hotels and covered in deck chairs. Hotels and guesthouses are slowly creeping in but I really hope the pace of change is slow and this little piece of heaven remains.

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The next day we headed north for the 8 hour drive to Mumbai. Mumbai is a fast paced exciting city, the financial capital of India, a city I have lived in and a city I love to revisit. However as we left the lush green hills of the Konkan coast behind and approached the overwhelming greyness that is New Mumbai, the clear blue skies being replaced with a thick haze, I asked myself “Am I heading in the right direction?”

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Road Trip Days 4-5 Goa

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We spent 2 nights in Goa to recharge our batteries after the dreadful experience in Gokarna.
After venturing out to Candolim Beach on the first evening, the massive crowds made us beat a hasty retreat back to the Hotel. Goa gets the maximum share of tourist arrivals in India, some 2.7 million last year. After the near deserted beaches we found further south, the crowds came as quite a shock and we ended up spending all of the next day in the hotel pool. As I steadily turned a deeper and deeper shade of red, the Boss sensibly kept to the shade to protect her lustrous skin.
Goa has changed a lot since I first visited many years ago. Goa receives approximately 13% of all foreign tourist arrivals, many of whom must be Russian as just like Pattaya in Thailand, half of the signs seem to be written in Cyrillic script. A lot of wealthier westerners appear to have made the place home now replacing the penniless hippies of the past. I spotted two Northern European looking gentleman driving around in a beautiful yellow Ferrari much to the delight of all and sundry. When I explained the price of the car to the Hotel watchman, he could not understand why anyone would pay so much for a car that only seats two!
I also saw a lovely old split screen, left hand drive, VW Combi van with French number plates. It certainly put my road trip into perspective. Here I was getting excited about driving two thousand kilometres and they had driven all the way from France in a car over 30 years old! (Now there is an idea for my next trip!)
Making maximum use of the hotel internet (I have struggled with internet all the way up the coast but here in Goa even the beach shacks have free Wi-Fi) I managed to find something quite different for our next few nights, a perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle in Goa, but for that you will have to wait for my next post.

Road Trip Day 3 – Byndoor to Gokarna 107 kms

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Today was one of those frustrating days you get sometimes while travelling.

It started well. Another great breakfast and then we took a stroll to a nearby temple. Unfortunately it was closed but we were rewarded by the sight of a Mongoose scurrying across the path in front of us. Many people consider seeing a Mongoose as a sign of good luck so we were pretty happy.

We then walked on to another temple by the sea-shore which also happened to be closed. (Easy life being a Temple Priest here!)

Temple Pond

Temple Pond

On the way back another two Mongoose (Mongeese, Mongii….. not sure of the plural form) were spotted. Now revelling in our good luck and contemplating buying lottery tickets we headed back to the beach for a swim.

After a good lunch we headed north towards Gokarna on the National Highway 17. Coconut trees gave way to Cashew Nut Trees as we headed further North.

Cashew Trees were brought to the region by the Portuguese in the mid 1500’s and are grown for both the Cashew Nut and the Cashew Apple. The juice from the apple is extracted, fermented and turned into the alcoholic drink called Fenny which is very popular in Goa. Definitely an acquired taste but if you are used to drinking Petrol then you may find it to your liking.

Cashew Apple

Cashew Apple

Cashew Nuts

Cashew Nuts drying in the sun

Gokarna is a famous Hindu Pilgrimage Town and is also famous for it’s beaches, perhaps the most famous being Om Beach which is shaped like the Om Symbol.

We reached by late afternoon and headed for the guesthouse we had found online. However finding it to be less than suitable we decided to look for something else. Although clean, it was not mosquito proof and access with luggage was difficult to say the least, involving as it did, a jungle trek followed by an abseil down a cliff (OK maybe a slight exaggeration).

We continued down to the beach to look for another guest house. Seeing a tanned Westerner with flippers in his hands emerging from the surf we approached him and asked whether he knew of any good places to stay. He named the place we had just turned down and then chuckled and admitted that he owned it! Changing the subject quickly we asked him to recommend somewhere to eat and then headed across the beach to the beach-shack restaurant that he pointed out.

Entering the sand-floored shack and waking the waiters sleeping on cushions at the back, we sat down and ordered some snacks and pondered our options. 45 mins later the food finally arrived and after one mouthful we realised that it would have been better if it hadn’t arrived at all! Deciding that the Westerner’s taste in food was worse than his taste in accommodation we abandoned our plates for the second time this trip and headed back up the cliff to our car in search of something edible and a place to spend the night.

After a quick check on Tripadvisor in an Internet Cafe we headed for another highly recommended place. Upon seeing the room we realised that we were again let down by Tripadvisor ( come on reviewers, are you blind!!??), but by this time it was dark, we were grumpy and tired so we took it and reassured ourselves it was only for one night.

We went to the Hotel restaurant and ordered a terrible dinner which we again abandoned in disgust and cursing the luck of the Mongooses, hit the sack, exhausted, hungry, and not entirely enamoured of Gokarna.

Hopefully tomorrow would be a better day. It couldn’t get any worse………..

But as you will soon see, it would get much worse!!

Another epic road trip!

I am off today on another road trip, this time up the West Coast of India. I will first head West from Bangalore to Mangalore and then work my way up the coast via the hippy haven of Gokarna, followed by Goa, and then the mango district of Ratnagiri before reaching Mumbai in about a week’s time. I once did this trip in reverse about 17 years ago and remember it as a drive along some of the most stunning coastline I have ever seen. Miles of golden beaches and palms as far as they eye can see. I hope the rapid pace of growth in India has left these areas as unspoilt as I remember

The last few days have been filled with pre-trip preparations, getting the car serviced, and deciding what snacks to take ( probably the most important thing). Chocolate unfortunately not being a viable option with the 36 degree temperatures currently prevalent.

This time the Boss and I will be joined by the Junior Vice President, my 6-year-old niece, who has already packed her own snacks, loaded up the Ipad with cartoons, and packed enough clothing for 3 or 4 fashion shows!

My trusty steed for this adventure will be the ever reliable “Roxy”, faithful companion on many a cross-country odyssey and seen below after a 1000km, 16hr drive from Mumbai.

The magnificent Roxy

The magnificent Roxy

I am sure there will be plenty of interesting material for the blog like the photo I took below on a previous trip.

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It’s just a scratch!

My apologies for the quality of the above photo. It was taken on my cellphone while I stood in the middle of the highway as the truck roared past me at the insanely high-speed of 20 miles per hour!

My posting schedule may be erratic though as I will be in areas where there will be no internet signal and sometimes not even a cell phone signal. I may also be trying to recover from another hair-raising day on the road, with my feet up, recumbent in a hammock a glass of wine in my hand, and the laptop far from reach.