India Part 4   GOA 2011  Family Visits and Weddings

1st January 2011

We wake up to 2011 on a serene Goan beach.

Martin wakes up with a hangover and spends the day in bed!  I decide to go out for a long walk along the beach towards the centre of town and go shopping, taking advantage of being on my own today!  It doesn’t seem too crowded and all the shops are still open.

We grab a take away for dinner from a restaurant on the beach, and watch a couple of films.

2nd January

We take a drive to Agonda for breakfast; the beach is much less developed than Palolem, the long white sands stretch for a few miles into the distance.  It seems much more quiet and relaxed, with a mixture of basic to luxury coco-huts.  It’s a world away from the busy Palolem beach even though it’s just a short drive away.

There’s a small barrier at the end of the dirt track by the beach, with two men in uniform standing by a sign saying ‘This piece of land has been repossessed and is now the property of the Indian government.’

Entering, we see many vehicles parked including Land rovers, large 4×4 trucks, and a few camper vans.  The area is peaceful, right on the beach, and has a small river flowing through it.  A man approaches us and tells he has been here for 5 weeks.   He says it has everything you need here- a man comes with water, another with bread and pastries, even toiletries and other bits and pieces come too.  Costing only 50rp per day we wish we had found it earlier.

We will however come back and stay a couple of days on our way back down south, if only just to chat to some of the other overlanders, and spend a couple of days on the beach.

It’s our last night in the south before heading back up north for the wedding so we decide to splash out on a meal in a more upmarket restaurant to usual.

3rd January

In the morning we drive to Bastora, where we meet up with Denise, Seline and Tienne.   All Tienne seems to talk about is ‘Calangute beach’ so we think it would be a good idea to take her to Morjim beach, and guessed she wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two!

As the sun is about to go down, the beach becomes deserted.  Looking out on the ocean, we see a backdrop of silhouettes against the red sun.  Tienne looks like she’s having fun playing in the waves with Martin.

We find the accommodation in Bastora is still priced at 4000rp per night (normally it is less than 1000rp) so we head to Calangute to find somewhere cheaper.  After dropping them home, we find some accommodation above a restaurant playing karaoke.

4th January

We head to Margao, where we meet up with other family.   We look for some accommodation, and are quite lucky to find Casa Zeta; the building has six really nice large and new rooms and it’s cheap too.

After unpacking we head to Margao to pick up Martin’s suit; he tries it on, but unfortunately they have completely messed up the measurements, he can’t move in it- they have made the back and shoulders to small, and also the crotch too high.

We point this out, and the shop agrees to make the changes so it will fit correctly.

In the evening the guest house owner kindly drives us to Martins Corner; it’s packed tonight as there is a live band playing.

On the way back, we decide to take a cab home.  After agreeing a price with the taxi driver, he changes his mind, and wants nearly double the amount we agree, so we get out and walk the extra five minutes!

5th January

We return to Magao, to collect the altered suit, but they have not altered it enough and it still doesn’t fit.   The man persuades us that they will be able to get it right this time.  We are not as assured as they would need to make the back bigger which would probably require them remaking the suit.  Anyhow we say we would come back later to collect it.

We go for lunch and have a delicious veg curry, and Nan.

Later we return to the shop- it’s no use, it just does not fit and has not been made to his size, and surprisingly they offer our money back without any hassle.

We pop over the road and order another suit but for 1000rp cheaper.

We buy some other bits and have a walk around Margao’s fresh fruit and fish markets.

6th January

We drive to Maria and Francis’ place and then on to the Three King’s feast at a church on top of the hill.  The area is packed with coaches, taxi’s and motor cycles.  As we reach the top, it’s clear we won’t be able to park here. We drop the others off and head to the bottom of the hill to find somewhere to park- it’s a long hot sweaty walk back up.

The feast is a re-enactment of the three kings bringing gifts to Jesus.  We are surprised that the three kings turn out to be girls.  We feel under dressed for the occasion as everyone is out in their Sunday best! The arrival of the kings is marked with music and loud fireworks and bangers.

The church is in a great location, the highest point for miles around and the views from the top are great.

On the way back to the car, we walk through the food market where many stalls are selling Goan sweets and nuts and decide to pick up three different types and some nuts.

After the three kings we head back in to Margao to check on the suit.  It needs a little tailoring so we agree to pop back tomorrow.

We relax back at the guest house and walk to dinner at an outdoor restaurant.

7 th January

We check out of our room and head straight into town to pick up the suit.

Heading to Bastora for the wedding, we check in to Green Park hotel- probably the worst in Goa for the price-it’s very run down and we have to repeatedly ask for clean bed linen.  Lunch in the restaurant is good though, prawn fried rice and roti.

Relaxing in the hotel, we get a phone call from Denise enquiring as to whether we are coming over for lunch or dinner.  Later we have a few drinks and have dinner, silver snapper which Merwyn caught, pilau, veg and delicious prawns.

8th January

We spend a while getting ready for the wedding (or I do) and drive to the church for Avita and Adrian’s wedding, picking up Denise, Seline, and Tienne on the way.

Although the mass is all in Konkani (the language spoken in Goa) there is also lots of singing and a few songs in English.  There is one main lady singing and playing the keyboard, accompanied by four other singers.  There at least six large fans spinning on the ceiling to keep the packed church cool.

Whilst fire crackers are going off outside, the bride and groom enter together followed by their direct family.  They sit in front of the altar whilst the ceremony takes place.

After some readings, there is the signing of the register, and a very long sermon from the priest that I nearly fall asleep through.  Everyone spills out of the church to give their best wishes to the bride and groom.  The groom is in tears whilst the bride manages to hold it together!  We head back to the hotel as the reception starts later on.

In the evening we decide to take the party bus from Denise’s house to the hall, so that Martin is able to have a few drinks.  The bus is packed with lovely ladies all singing along in unison.

The venue is gorgeous- an open air hall, with a huge dance floor, and a covered seating area.   The guests are lined up around the dance floor as the bride and groom are driven around in and around the hall. The bride and groom are toasted by the toast master (Fatima), and then cut the cake.  Denise says prayers before the meal.

The band is great and everyone is dancing right up until the end. There is a huge buffet of food, including Martin’s favourite,  solpatel, a traditional Goan spicy pork dish.

9th January

We have a lie in and get ready for the second party at the fathers of the brides house (Salis). We meet more of the family.  The couple are blessed, and there is more dancing, singing, eating and drinks before midnight.

10th January

In the morning we visit the local school for sick children where Denise teaches.  We are introduced to the sisters who work there, and shown around the classes, saying hi to the kids who Denise is teaching Hindi too.  The children learn Konkani, Hindi and English.

Later outside some of the girls gather to sing me a song ,they are all extremely cute. We have rice and prawns at Denise’s, later dropping Tienne and Seline for their 14 hour bus ride back to Bombay.

The area is packed with coaches and people.  As we wave them off, Tienne is saying good night to Martin and telling to me to ‘come to Bombay soon!’

11th January

We pick up Cedric and Sharon to drive to Anjuna Beach market.  The market is very touristy with plenty of stalls, selling everything from jewellery to fake to T-shirts to smoking accessories. There is also an abundance of middle aged hippies, many of whom seem to be having fun dancing to Pink Floyd, although we don’t think it’s beer they’ve been drinking.  The market has a few bars with live bands playing.  We have lunch on the beach of fried King Fish, rice and curry, and fries, at Denise’s friend’s restaurant and are given 40% off the bill.

Stop at another bar to visit another one of Denise’s friends and get some more free drinks.

In the evening we drive to uncle Anthony’s in Candolim to say hello.  He is home this time and we are unexpectedly told by Anthony that more family are waiting for us in Santa Cruz, so we head to Noreen’s place (my dad’s aunt) for more drinks and snacks.  We plan to meet again on Sunday evening.

12th – 15 January

We spend a couple days around Bastora, not doing too much, just visiting relatives etc.

On the 14th we have to check out of our hotel at 9am, the earliest check-out so far. We plan to stay with Denise for three nights, Merwyn & Brando kindly give up their room for us.

After some lunch we head into old Goa with Denise and Anita, visiting the church of Dom Bosco, gold covering the front of the church and each side of the altar. The coffin of St Francis Xavier is here, the patron saint of Goa.  Then we walk across to a church opposite with huge chandeliers lining the centre.  Stop for an ice cream then head home for dinner.

16th January

We are due to go to the spice plantations today but have to change our plans as we’re told we have to be at my uncles for lunch!

Drive round to uncles for lunch of rice, plain prawns, spicy large prawns, fish curry, king fish, lady fingers, white fish, chicken cooked in spices, followed by home grown papaya, which is all delicious.

Next is Santa Cruz and dinner with Noreen and her family.  We go to a restaurant called Sea Pebble by the beach in Dona Paula, a nice restaurant overlooking the Dona Paula monument.  We have King fish, spicy fish, rice and curry, biryiani, fried rice, and curry.   Folklore tells of a fisherman Dona who ventures out into deep seas fishing, but never to return and his dutiful wife Paula, who waits so long for him that she turns into stone! But the actual truth behind the myth is not as romantic, as Dona is the Portugese name given to married women, and Paula is the lady who came to Goa in the 17th century.

17th January

We spend the day unloading our car and going through everything we have.   We have lots of things we just don’t need.  Most of our bags have also fallen apart during our trip so we go to the market to buy five more.

In the evening, as we are sleeping, Nicole feels something on her foot.  She screams, it jumps on me, Nicole gets up and turns the light it on, it’s a frog!! A very quick frog as I run all round the room trying to get hold of it.

18th January

We spend a day with my uncle, auntie, nan, and cousin, (I have to sit in the boot of the car!) We visit relatives in Cortalim, and have lunch at Maria’s.  We then drive to visit more family living on an island.  The island is linked to the main land by a small bridge, which has only been there for a decade or so.  Before this, the only way to and from the island was by boat.

19th January

We spend the morning relaxing before heading to Santa Cruz to pick up Glynis and Sandford to go Go-karting.  We have a hard time persuading Merwyn to come with us and drive, but he finally agrees.  He was driving much slower then Nicole!!  Glynis has a great finish as her foot slips on the brakes and she goes in to the back of another cart sending it flying 🙂

We drop Glynis and Sandford back and are treated to fresh king fish and pomfret which is delicious.

It’s dark on the way back home; driving is hazardous with bikes pulling out and not indicating, without any lights etc.

When we arrive home Denise has dinner ready for us and Martin has a go at making chapattis.

20th – 23rd January

We spend the next few days relaxing around Denise’s and seeing the local area and more family.  We take the chance to completely re-pack all of our things and make minor repairs to the car, including car battery problems.

Take a drive to Mapusa market, a bustling Friday market, selling traditional homeware, bedding, clothes etc.

We have a final meal at Anthony’s & Fatima’s, with Denise, my nan and her brother.

24th January

We leave Goa in the early morning, leaving behind our family, to continue the Overland Adventure.  Our route will take us to the beautiful beaches in the south, The Western Ghats & Kerala before we head back up the eastern coast 1200miles all the way to Kolkata, and as far north as Darjeeling.

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Martin & Nicole