After our malaria inducing backwater boat trip, we boarded a 26 hour train headed to Mumbai. The Indian trains are separated into 8 different classes of cars, the main differences being the number of berths and whether it is AC or not. The AC thing is easy to figure out, it is the classes with “AC” in the name. The other differences are also pretty clear once you know the deal. If the car has berths for seats, the number of beds per wall are stated in the class name, so 3AC will have 3 berths per wall. It is like a 6 berth cabin in Switzerland or Europe. The difference is that these berths are not separated into rooms, the whole car is an open plan. We slept in a 3AC car and it was totally fine. It was nice and cool, as promised. Our beds were actually two that ran parallel to the hallway. We were across from 6 beds that ran perpendicular to the walkway. Everyone was very friendly and spoke english to each other because they were from different parts of India. At night, I slept better than I had on any train in Europe, despite many people considering this Indian train of lesser quality.
|This dog ran up to us in Panjim wagging her tail and so happy, it made us feel like the most interesting thing in the city. Which made us decide we should maybe leave.
During the day we had decided that instead of staying on the train all the way to Mumbai like planned, we would jump off in Goa. Like Kerala, Goa is a state of India. It is known for its beaches, loud parties, excellent seafood, and tourists. We decided this would be more interesting than Mumbai, and let us be honest, I was still not ready for a big city again. Also, we wanted to meet our friend Jess again in Mumbai, and she totally bailed on us like a loser-face so we decided to go to the party beaches!
The Goa stop was scheduled for 5am, so we set an alarm and when Jeff woke me up at 4:30am we had already missed our Goa stop that we wanted (there were 4 stops that were considered “Goa”). Eat your heart out Switzerland, you think your special for your on-time trains? Look at India, they are early, that makes them better, am I right?
So we hop out of the train at the next stop and take a cab back to our original destination, Panjim.
We arrived there around 5:30-6, and believe it or not, not a lot was happening. We walked around for a bit, and my impression of the city I got from Lonely Planet was completely wrong. Panjim is a city, with a rich history from it’s Portugese colonization, but no beaches. Lots of casinos, and apparently a nice Carnival festival, but no beaches. We wanted beaches. Thus, we got into another cab and headed basically back to where we started, in the beach-town Vagator.
We quickly found a room to drop our bags off, for about 8 euros a night, and then went to the beach. The room was fine, and we didn’t have a single problem with cockroaches or mosquitoes. This could be because we had a small black praying mantis guarding us in the bedroom, and a perfectly camouflaged orange frog in the bathroom. These little creatures don’t bother me, but for some reason the other ones keep me up at night.
We were in the sun for about an hour before we decided to go into a little beach hut and get something to drink. The rest of the days we were there followed a similar pattern. Minus the sun, because from that hour in the sun, we were so absurdly burnt that I’m pretty sure it killed the malaria virus I contracted two days before. We spent our afternoons lazing around writing and drawing. In the evenings we would walk to one of the nearby restaurants that our book promised to not be Indian. By now, I couldn’t handle the thought of Indian food. We ate Tibetan, Greek, and Thai, all of which was pretty good. Anything but Indian, which the touristy beach town was happy to accomodate.
In the mornings before it got too hot we would walk along the beaches until the path ended or wasn’t interesting anymore. We would find small pockets of sand that were secluded or at least too small to accomodate anyone else but us. Jeff would take 500 photos of birds while I sat and watched him.
In the afternoon we would sit in the shade and watch the cows sunbath while hawkers bothered the Russian tourists.
There are cows all over the beaches, and they really don’t give a shit about what you are doing. They will sometimes chase the stray dogs, which is amusing and terrifying at the same time. When your sitting there in your bathing suit, the last thing you want is a scared and angry cow running at you.
One morning we walked in the direction of a ruined fort that is on top of a hill near/in Vagator. We continued from the fort down into the neighboring town, Chapora. Our whole walk was only about 5km, so the town was very close to ours, but while our beach town definitely felt like the off-season, Chapora was filled with tourists. There was one traffic roundabout with a small statue in the middle, that was covered in Russian tourists who were clearly drugged out of their mind. I have no idea why this small town was more popular than the one 2km away, but apparently we picked the wrong town. Jeff and I both felt that this was okay though, maybe we are judging, but it didn’t look like those Russians were having a good time.
Despite the fear that came of the Joseph adventure in Kochi, we did try to meet more people here as well. Our highest success for meeting people came from sitting at our guest house bar and chatting up with other individuals or small groups hanging around. We heard several stories of foreign entrepreneurs trying to create their living here in Goa. They didn’t want the privilege western lifestyle with the 9 to 5 jobs and big paychecks. They would rather have the simple relaxing beach life, working only a few hours a day as a DJ, and earning pennies. For a better articulated version of my feelings, read this.
We stayed in Goa for three days total, but it felt like more because instead of arriving and leaving in the middle of the day, we travelled in the mornings and evenings. Our next plan of action was to take a flight to Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat, and from there take a bus to a Wild Ass Sanctuary. It takes forever to travel anywhere in India. Also, our options were limited because of the destinations the Goan airport flies to. If you’re going to India, I strongly recommend planning ahead. Though, we had a great trip, so I guess you really can’t go wrong.