The terrible weather finally drove us out of Madikeri. Of course, the weather improved once we got on the bus, and after an hour or so, we even had partial sun. Halfway down the mountain, the bus stopped and we had to wait for another broken down bus to be cleared from the road. The passengers from that bus had been waiting on the roadside for over an hour, and eagerly crammed into our bus. The remaining four hours to Mangalore were hot and sticky, but we met a nice dentist who told us some interesting stories and was able to point us to a decent hotel in Mangalore. Mangalore wasn't too exciting, so let's jump to Goa.
Goa is the big resort area of India. It has some pretty nice beaches, and in the high season, is the site of some major partying. As the monsoon had hit, most of the hotels and restaurants were closed up. Our options were pretty limited, but we were able to get a great deal on a pretty nice room. We spent the first day exploring the beaches and visiting a nearby wildlife refuge. We didn't really see too much wildlife, unless crazy village people count. In the deeper parts of the park, there are small communities, and we drove by just as all the kids were getting out of school. They all waved and yelled hello, but it was pretty disheartening to see many of them hold their hands out and ask if we had any rupees. These weren't especially poor children, but I guess they had just learned that white skin means walking ATM.
Unfortunately, that seems to be a common thing in India. I don't mean to say anything bad about India or Indian people, but I do feel like almost everyone we come into contact with has some ulterior motive. The taxi drivers are all very nice and friendly and try to strike up conversations every time we pass them in hopes that when we need a taxi ride, we'll choose to go with them. I know this isn't something that's unique to India, but it does make you feel suspicious of everyone that you meet, and that's not a great feeling.
Anyway, continuing on with the wildlife sanctuary. After spending a significant amount of time lost, someone pointed us in the direction of a waterfall, and after several dead-end trails, we found it. Once again, we were helped by a kid who could have just pointed us in the direction of the trail, but instead walked us about 200 meters into the jungle. He finally stopped and gestured that we were to continue. We thanked him, and he paused awkwardly, as if wondering if maybe we were going to give him a tip. While he was more deserving than most of the beggars we pass by on the street, it still is somewhat annoying that everyone is only interested in our money. In any case, the waterfall was pretty amazing, and we wasted no time climbing up the rocks into the falls. It must have been around 70 feet high with nice clear water. One of the nice things about India (and many countries) is that there are never any restrictions on where you can go. The trains have open doors that are just made for jumping out of, and the government could care less if you feel the need to go swimming in a dangerous area. There is an occasional sign that lets you know that it might not be the best idea, usually accompanied by a skull and crossbones, but no one ever tells you that you can't do something. Probably worrisome for parents, but nice for me.
We spent a little while looking for some treetop observation platforms, but got lost and hungry so we gave up. I've been questioned about this quite frequently, so I'm finally going to put the whole issue to rest. It really doesn't bother me to be lost, and luckily, it doesn't seem to matter much to John either. As we are wandering around looking for some random landmark, a typical conversation will go something like this
John : "How confident are you that we're heading the right direction?"
Alex : "Probably around 30%."
John : "Oh. Okay."
And we continue on. In 'Travels with Charley' Steinbeck sums it up pretty well:
"In Spanish, there is a word for which I can't find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere but doesn't greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction. My friend Jack Wagner has often, in Mexico, assumed this state of being. Let us say we wanted to walk in the streets of Mexico City but not at random. We would choose some article almost certain not to exist there and then diligently try to find it."
That's pretty much how I feel. I know it's frustrating to some people, but if you don't care where you're going, you can never really be lost. It's worked out well for me so far. The rest of our time here in Goa has been spent wandering around on the beach and eating. We'll head to Mumbai tomorrow evening, and spend some time exploring the city before we go our separate ways.