Go to Goa!on December 2nd, 2012
2nd December and we sail into Mormugoa, the port for the city ofVasco de Gama, the main entry to the region known to many tourists and students of Portuguese history asGoa. The ship docked amongst the floating dry-docks, tankers, container ships and coal wharfs of this less than impressive harbour. But it is what lies behind that makes this an interesting place. We decamped to our buses and were driven away at a speed a little less than breakneck through the siesta suffering streets of the town. Fruit stalls shuddered as we passed by and pedestrians, cyclists and holy cows veered to the verges as we convoyed our way towards the first destination. We passed the airport which showed signs of near completion or recently commenced demolition and turned down several side roads to reach a dusty and dispirited rural museum. The young men in white vests banged noisily on an assortment of drums and the ‘young’ ladies gyrated in a set dance routine which historically was about as old as I was when I was ten! Our tour guide trumped everything the local museum guide had to say which ensured she received a smaller tip than we had previously considered, and having partaken of the mandatory coconut milk, straight from the nut itself, we headed to the resort of Taj Exotica (yes that is its name – check it on the net – it is as good as its name suggests), where we could partake of all the goodies on offer – the Arabian Sea, a huge pool, dwarfed only by the size of the towels we were given, sun beds and an assortment of pastries and hot sweet tea. What a delight. The grounds were expansive, the staff helpful and numerous but not visible and the hotel itself was so spacious, we lost each other in the same room! And then the trip back. I recall a film about a bus or a train which would explode if it failed to maintain a speed of 50 mph. We were on that bus. The 50 minute trip back to the ship was a continuous episode of near misses. I recall I-Max films of street chases being less exciting. We wove our way through the turmoil of country towns, village gatherings and crowded junctions where our driver, who should be signed up immediately by Red Bull, Maclaren or Ferrari, gave not an inch, but bullied his way across any intersection or junction and played ‘chicken’ with any on-coming bus or vehicle. I believe the road planners ofGoa made sure that the width of the road was just less than the width of two vehicles. We arrived back at the ship with our senses and backsides bruised from this experience. But it did take our breath away in more ways than one – this is an exciting place, crowded with people where they can gather, but with expanses of paddy fields and lush greenery littered with water buffalo, egrets and wild pigs. Where the crowds of young men attending an illegal bull fight (the bulls only push each other until one gives up) blocked the road with their motorcycles, and the Catholic church with it’s fairy lights was full to bursting point on this Sunday evening. Enigmatic – that’s the word for this place.