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Into the Hinterlands in Goa

With the previous day’s unwelcome return of the starvation crazy hour, we decided we had better eat a couple of overpriced fruit salads and drink a few cups of Nescafe at the Cozy nook before heading out.

We then checked out of the hotel, stashed our bags in the sandy back room of the little straw beach shack that served as a front desk for the place, and unlocked the speed TRs. We pushed them toward the sea until the sand became crusty enough to ride, then hopped on board, pedaling down the beach, past all kinds of sunburned merrymakers, and dismounted once more to mash them through the expanse of mounded sand that separated us from the rest of Goa.

We headed away from crowded streets and tourist-centric businesses of Palolem Beach heading south, climbing up into the hills. The sun was bright and the road quite smooth.

Outside of town, we stopped for a more legitimate breakfast of dosas and vadas and began to truly lay into the Speed TRs. I was getting used to riding with the bend in my chain ring, and found that some gears could still provide me with smooth riding. The sun burned the mist off, and the temperature rose as we climbed up into the scrubby coastal hills.

As we rode farther from the sea, the touristy joints became fewer and fewer, and the more familiar Indian roadside stands began to dominate. At one point, we stopped for a bottle of water at a little cluster of painted yellow cinder block shops near the arched entrance to an invitingly remote mountain road. There was a large circular sign proclaiming this way to a “protected site.” What that meant, we were not quite sure. One thing we were sure of, however, was that we had begun to sweat so profusely that both of us looked like victims of a drive by water-gunning. After drinking two bottles of water, we purchased another two and strapped them to the backs of the speed TRs before heading into the protected zone.

We followed the road to a large temple, which warranted a short stop, before a right turn onto an even more remote mountain road called us deeper into the Goan high country. Now we were well into the farmland. The air was dry hot, and ground was cracked and speckled with crusty senescent vegetation. Despite this fact, the vast majority of the farms appeared to be rice paddies, indicating that Goa is not always as dry as we had the pleasure of encountering it.

Onward and upward we wheeled, taking the occasional side road which petered at a little farmstead, at which point we turned around, heading back to the main thoroughfare. By the time we crested the highest point in the road, it was well after noon, and time to turn back. We could not resist the temptation to take a brief detour onto one of the pounded dirt paths that wound its way between the smaller rice paddies.

At one point we found ourselves in a strange area where a matrix of new roads had been recently built, but it seemed the project had since then been aborted. It now lay as a naked grid-work of poured concrete, awaiting houses and businesses to flesh it out. All it got, that day at least, was two fellows on folding bicycles in Panama hats, rolling from the concrete matrix onto the packed earth farm paths and eventually back onto the main road, toward town.

We were able to stop for a quick Indian haircut at a roadside shack;  the haircuts did not result in the desert of flesh favored by barbers in Uttar Pradesh.

We had enough time for a late lunch/dinner at one of the myriad seaside restaurants that flank the white swath of Palolem Beach. It had been a hard wheel and we were tired and hungry. When I wandered to the back of the restaurant, I noticed how at home I had become with the Indian style of urinal. Here, as in many places, the bathroom featured a normal urinal, but with only half the usual amount of plumbing, with a working flusher, but a drain that just emptied onto the sandy concrete at one’s feet. Having been here for some time, I found myself easily engaging in the necessary dance to avoid peeing on one’s shoes and returned to find Scott in the restaurant, our meal steaming before him.

We dined on biryani, fried fish, palak paneer, dahl makhni, and tandoori roti. The sun sank toward the water as we discussed India, and the strange cocktail of stresses that it put on us.

As the sky became orange, we left and walked down the beach to arrange for a taxi that would drive us across the border into the state of Karnataka, of which Bangalore is the capital, and from which we would catch a bus. When we arrived to meet our driver, there were a thoroughly disconcerting number of bait and switches with different models of cabs and different drivers, as they presumably struggled to figure out which cab would accommodate our cycles. Being old hands at packing the speed TRs into even modest cabs, we assured them that any of the wide arrange of models that had trunks would work. Finally we all agreed on a particular driver-cab combo and were off.

Crossing the border into Karnataka required the payment of a little baksheesh to police who were controlling the border. Our cab driver had already alerted us to this, and, in fact, included it in the price of the cab. So Scott and I were none too surprised when he slowed the vehicle down as we approached border control, scrolled down his window, and handed a wad of cash to a cop in shiny aviator sunglasses.

It was night by the time we got to the bus station in Karwar. The bus would have no bathroom, so I dashed off to purchase snacks and urinate one last time, while Scott began negotiating with the bus operators to secure a safe spot for the speed TRs in the belly of the bus. The street vendor that I selected had plenty of biscuits, little bottles of fruit juice, and Magic Masala chips, but was short on change for the 12 rupees he owed me. So we negotiated a rate and he agreed to pay my change in bananas. Laden with biscuits and bananas, I made my way back to the bus where we climbed on to find it very clean and comfortable, equipped with bunks rather than seats, and while there was no A/C, we were able to open a long thin window to let in enough air to allow us to sleep.  The quarters were close, but with the exhaustion of the day, we were able to sleep soundly on the upper bunk double bed that had been reserved for us.

Before we knew it, we were back in Bangalore.


  1. Mark/Dad | April 9th, 2010 | 6:49 pm

    I like the change in bananas!

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