We have now been away for just over a month now and we're just waiting for things to slow down. Yes, we have had a lot of days cut short due to the weather but it's just so exciting being here and every venture out and feels like full on expedition. Thanks to everyone who has left us comments and messages, it really means so much to us and shame on all of you who haven't :-)
We had a great time in south Goa, it was very much the plan to do almost nothing but sit on stunning beaches and eat great food and you know what, we did alright.
The accommodation in Betalbatim was a fully furnished duplex, we arrived and settled in. We discovered very quickly that we were the only people staying in these remote apartments which felt a little eerie.
We bumbled around for that day and had a scout of the local area (more on that later).
The next morning we woke and went to look for the breakfast room, only to be greeted at the door by Mr Singh, the on site chef. It turned out that we had our own chef come to our apartment and cook breakfast for us every morning, this was not what we we're expecting from the B&B, but what a fantastic surprise. Are we travellers yet? No, not yet.
We always asked Mr Singh, the chef to choose what we had for breakfast as we figured he'd cook what he was best at and it never disappointed. Potato bhaji and fresh bread one day, sambar and wadas the next, dosa massala the day after and that guy could cook! We'd been to the local shops and bought some essential provisions for the week, rice, garam masala, veggies, bottle of rum and so if there was a little of something left over from breakfast, we used it in the evening with the rice. It made some delicious and dirt cheap meals.
Breakfast finished and we took a wander down to the beach.
Betalbatim beach is simply stunning. Miles and miles of soft powdered sand, that gently slopes into the sea. There are no hawkers, in fact there are very few people of any description in this part of the world. The sea is warm and so inviting but too rough to swim in, though we can go in up to our waist without getting the skunk-eye from the lifeguards.
The area is also teeming with wildlife, the air is filled with birdsong from countless species during the day, the eagles hover at head height just meters away, then swoop into the surf to catch fish that flap and wriggle with futility in the birds talons. We've also seen mongooses (mongeese?), snakes, lizards and can you imagine, even some dogs.
Our days have been filled with long beach walks, a bit of sunbathing, coconut hunting and some cycling. On one of the beach walks, there were a couple of fishermen pulling in their net, after a bit of persuasion from Jan, I offered to lend them a hand. One of them indicated for me to grab the thin nylon leader rope and walk backward away from
the sea. When the person at the back got about 30 meters away from the sea, they would go back to the shoreline and start pulling again. It was seriously hard work, it took the three of us 15 minutes of pulling to get the net landed, the harvest was minimal (a couple of tiny dogfish, crabs and unknown species of red flat fish), if it were up to me everything would have been thrown back, too small. I'm not sure if these guys were fishing to eat or to sell on, but I can see that when so much effort goes into bringing in the nets, keeping everything regardless of size is understandable.
The rains have been infrequent and brief thankfully and Jan is getting pretty good at reading the weather from the clouds. If the clouds are dark grey and we are getting wet, then it's raining. If the clouds are white and we're dry then it's not raining. I think she has it sussed (actually she seems to be able to forecast rain to within a minute or so).
The sunsets here have been beautiful but not the full-sinking-sun kind that is synonymous with Goa. Instead we have been treated to some spectacular rays of sun as they pierce the cloud like a fat lightning bolt (James).
Within 5 minutes of the sun going down, absolute darkness settles. The noises change just as dramatically too. Gone are the cheerful tweets and chirps of the daytime birds and in their place is an orchestra of insects, frogs and the hooting of an owl (imagine any swamp scene from Scooby Doo). In the pitch darkness fireflies illuminate in their dozens giving the short walk home the feel of being lost in an enchanted forest.
Back at the apartment and the security guard changes from the timid, smiley, plump chap, to the jovial but slightly creepy chap. We exchange pleasantries and he tells us what a lovely colour Jan is, how lucky we are to have each other and that all we need is a baby...once in the apartment, door double locked then bolted and all external windows and doors also checked are secure, we settle down for a couple of rum and cokes before dinner. The great thing about this place is that we have a kitchen and it's been lovely to just cook some simple rice and veg dishes and slump in front of the tv. Cooking has been interesting though, we are in a humid climate and surrounded by fields, so there were a lot of insects around, cockroaches in the cupboards ants on the sides and flies in the air. But very quickly we became less bothered by them all and just got on with it, after all they don't eat much.
We also have a couple of very good and lively restaurants about a 15 minute Scooby Doo walk away.
The food in these places, like everywhere else we've experienced in India is delicious. Both have a mixture of indian, Chinese and seafood (it's Goa after all). One has live music every night which thankfully is a great deal
better than we've experienced up to this point.
The village seems quite traditional, the men will only talk to the men and the women talk to the women, this led to situations at dinner whereby the waiter would ask me a question which I then relayed to Janet, who gave me her answer that I relayed back to the waiter. Even at breakfast Mr Singh only ever asked me what drink I wanted and bought the same for both of us. We found this amusing and frustrating in almost equal measures. Although we loved being in this beautiful and remote village, we also felt the urge to move on to the next stage of our Indian journey.
A local taxi driver had approached us the day before we were due to leave and We negotiated a price for us to be taken to Vasco Da Gama (about 12km away) where our train started from, we could have caught it at Margao (about 2kms away) but we are still a little nervous about the train stations.
Its 6.00am and the cab is outside, we go to meet him when the taxi driver suddenly remembered that he quoted us the wrong fare and tried to bump it up by Rs200. We stood bags on back, arguing. We claimed foul play and that we were deeply upset that he had conned us and apparently I waggled my finger at him and said he was naughty. He quoted several other journeys at higher prices to show that the agreed fare had to be wrong. Eventually, I went and got the Big Guns...creepy Mr Singh. I'm not sure what we expected him to do but he stood there like a rabbit in the headlights, he suddenly didn't understand English and gawped as we tried to get his help in resolving the stand off. The taxi driver finally relented and took us to the station. En route he complained to us how he was ripped off the night before by a group of guys who only paid him half fare or something...and the pieces of puzzle fitted into place.
We boarded the train early and as the train left the station we saw the beaches of Goa for the last time.
Onwards to Hampi for a bit of history and culture!