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Deserts and Jungles in Goa

We awoke to the sound of the surf in our delightful little bungalow at Cozy Nook. Ours was a little stand-alone hut that hovered about three feet in the air on a set of stilts, and was built from all kinds of found materials – mostly second-hand bits of wood and plastic, with a number of plastic and canvas tarpaulins spread over the top.

Inside there were a few cobbled-together solutions meeting the need for cabinetry, and a large bed in the center, with a vast blotchy expanse of mosquito netting. There was a little outdoor bathroom tacked on the back with a cold water shower, a toilet, and a chipped green wash basin. The place was just dripping with character and quite comfortable. There was even a single outlet for charging our various machines.

We drank our first cup of coffee in the Cozy Nook restaurant. It was Nescafe, so it was decent, but nothing to write home about. Nescafe is sort of like the McDonald’s of coffee. It’s quite easy to find, and always can be relied on for consistent mediocrity. From there, we made our way to the cycles. It had probably been a poor decision, leaving them locked at the entrance to the beach. Certainly, the crowd of locals who formed to chat with us and ask the cost of the Speed TRs thought so. We just thanked goodness they were safe and sound. We asked for a breakfast joint recommendation only to find that there was no option in our current town for local breakfast food. It was too touristy. We would need to wheel to the next city over, about  four km away.

We were beginning to get hungry, and all that Nescafe on an empty stomach was beginning to get uppity, but four km on the Speed TRs seemed manageable, so we took off. Immediately, as I began to pedal, I noticed something was wrong with my bike. I looked down at my chain and grimaced as I saw what the issue was. It seemed that the ring had been quite ravaged by the baggage handlers at Go Air, leaving it bent to such a degree that the wobbling in the chain threatened to shift the rear gear with every rotation of the pedal.

This would need to be dealt with. But first: food. It was then that we realized we were also out of money.

The hunger began to lay in more strongly, as we wheeled in search of an ATM, the damage to my cycle fed into the downward cycle of blood sugar, no money in the wallet, and mounting despair. When we finally located an ATM, we were nearing the point of madness. I was able to get some money, and we should have just eaten at the nearby south Indian coffee house, but when we looked inside, the madness took hold, and we became scared that the place was not clean enough.

So we wheeled on. The next city we came to was filled with uniformed Indian school children, clogging the road, screaming at us, and scurrying to-and-fro in beige pleats. All of them, it seemed, were recently let loose for a lunch break, and we were barely able to wheel through the crowd. We did somehow, and finally made it the rest of the way through this city, but still were unable to find a restaurant that looked like it would not give us cholera. Both of us were becoming frantic and jittery. My stomach was a churning pit of coffee that sent electrical shocks through my body, and my grip on logic and reality was getting quite tenuous.

We turned around and decided to take a random turn through the midst of the crowd of children, toward a spot where a number of streams of traffic seemed to be originating, honking and belching smoke. We wheeled on while the children called out to us, one of them grabbing at my rear rack as we rode by. On the other side, we were able to find a very crowded and decidedly filthy restaurant. We were quite delirious by this point, and parking the bikes proved a harrowing experience, with shop keepers coming out and scolding us for parking, telling us to move on farther down the street. We finally found a spot; it elicited some minor complaints but not enough to raise the shop keeps from where they sat, so we locked the bikes and went into the restaurant.

It was crowded and steaming hot inside the long narrow space. No one seemed to be smiling and we were forced to yell over the clang and hiss of the kitchen. We sat down, but no one came to take our order. The other clientele frowned into their food, hitting us with darting scowls. I have no idea how long we sat there. It could have been three minutes or 30. But finally we just got up and left, climbed back on the cycles, and rode wordlessly back to the original restaurant we had seen near the ATM.

It proved to be delicious. We ate a giant meal of two dosas each followed by more cups of milky sweet coffee. The feeling of blood sugar returning to my system was glorious.

Back on the road, we decided to wheel north, through the beautiful Goan countryside.  We climbed over large hills, the tops of which were covered with senescent vegetation, and the cracked mud of long forgotten rice paddies.

This arid desolation was put in stark contrast with the deep green jungles that lay in the valleys spread out in the mists below us.  We took a few detours to explore the surrounding towns.

Very much unlike the town we had visited before breakfast, these were all tourist industry towns, sporting endless rows of little restaurants, guest houses, and liquor shops. Also of some interest was the prevalence of signs in Hebrew and Russian, indicating that tourists from such places were common here. The road quality had diminished greatly from the impressively smooth main road, and we clattered over potholes and stretches of course gravel, my wounded Speed TR performing admirably.

After a brief waypoint at a nearby beach, we pedaled back to the main road, which was refreshingly smooth. We followed this uphill for quite some time, until we reached a kind of arid highland plateau. The heat and the climb were getting to both of us, so we paused here to purchase refreshments from a bright blue concrete shop, and take stock of our situation.

We finally decided to turn back for the day, lest we be trapped on the other side of this great hill, with little want for the massive climb. So back we went.

It was certainly time to eat again, when we passed an interesting feminist restaurant/commune/shop. We decided to eat there, and support the cause.

We were far from disappointed at the decision. They served an interesting organic take on the classic Indian thali, with beet relish, and a rich fresh vegetable raita.

These were by far the freshest vegetables we had eaten in a meal for all of our time in India. It felt good to put something other than fried batters, potatoes, lentils, and rice into our gullets. Unbeknownst to us, I think the Indian diet was wearing on our systems, for this meal sticks out quite starkly in my mind as one that fueled and improved me significantly.

We wheeled the rest of the way back to Palolem Beach at a lazy pace, as we discussed the finer points of international marketing strategy after re-joining with our friend Sam, whom we had originally met in Cochin.


Comments

  1. Mark/Dad | April 9th, 2010 | 6:38 pm

    Feminist restaurant/commune/shop? What made it seem feminist commune?

    I think you guys need to substitute MRE’s for your seat-tube bike pumps!

  2. Woody | April 10th, 2010 | 8:35 pm

    @ Mark/Dad
    It was full of signs explaining how anything one bought there would either help local women, the cause of woman’s rights, or was made by women. It was also staffed by women exclusively, and sported some feminist sloganeering in the bathroom

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