Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Scootering to Fort Aguada

December 21st, 2010

It’s easy to make new friends while on the road traveling, especially if you’re going solo. However some people you connect with more than others and in the past couple of days I’ve unfortunately had to say goodbye to some great people as they are continuing on with their journeys. First was the couple Vincent and Isabelle who hail from the south of France and are both teachers. They were staying in the hut next to me and over the course of a few weeks we hung out, had dinners together and even battled it out on the chessboard. I was the first “non-Vincent” opponent that Isabelle faced and Vincent and I had three close games with him edging me two games to one.

The final battle with Vincent:

Isabelle and Vincent leaving:

A beautitul sunset:

The next night the Israeli woman Zohar departed to go inland to a place called Hampi which is rich in temples and strange rock formations. Zohar has been an amazing new friend to me and has helped me a lot over the past few weeks. I wish her the best on her remaining couple of months in India. Hopefully my path will cross with these wonderful people in the future.

Zohar departing Arambol:

Today I decided it was time to explore a bit more of northern Goa on the scooter so I headed south down the highway and then headed out to the coast where my goal was to find Fort Aguada. I knew nothing of the place except for the fact that it was on my little map that I’d picked up at an Internet cafe. I correctly assumed that it was built by the Portuguese as Goa was under their control for many years. Turns out it was built in 1612 and the name Aguada means “watering place” as it was a watering station and safe berth for Portuguese ships. It was free to get in however there wasn’t much to do except walk around the ramparts and enjoy the view of the ocean below and Panjim, the capital city of Goa to the south.

The river near Pernem:

Fort Aguada:

Looking out towards Panaji, the capital city of Goa:

Massively thick fort walls:

I hopped back on the scooter and checked out a couple of other beaches, namely Candolim and Calangute. Both were fairly narrow with many more people soaking up the sun or frolicking in the waves than at Arambol. At Candolim there was a large rusting tanker just off the coast which was a bit of an eyesore. I’m glad I’m staying at Arambol!

A rusty tanker anchored off of Candolim Beach:

And a busy beach it was:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Big Tree & Isabelle’s Birthday Flight

December 18th, 2010

I have been hanging out with some new friends in Goa, namely Zohar, Avishai and Noa from Israel, a French couple, Vincent and Isabelle and a Brit Jon.

Zohar and I headed out for a cruise on a scooter in the late morning. Some of the roads around the area are quite fun to ride with curves, hills and beautiful scenery through the countryside and by a palm tree lined river. By chance we ended up stopping at a massive banyan tree. Another Israeli woman Tal had told us of this massive tree and it definitely lived up to the hype. The base must have been at least 40 feet in circumference and a hundred feet tall. We later found out from a man named Deepak that lived in a nearby house that the tree’s age was roughly 800 years old and it was the biggest banyan tree in the state of Goa. Deepak was kind enough to invite us into his house where we were offered some cookies and he seemed to show off his flat screen TV. After a short stay we hopped back on the scooter (with Zohar driving the whole time...I was enjoying looking around) and continued touring around for another hour or so before heading back to Arambol Beach.

Try and spot me...

Now find Zohar...

What a massive tree!

Banyan Tree:

Our new friend Deeepak:

This was about as much of the tree I could get in the photo:

It was Isabelle’s 30th birthday on the 18th so we had to celebrate. In the afternoon we met up with Englishman Deano to see about a tandem paragliding flight for both Isabelle and Vincent. I met Deano back in September in France at the Coupe Icare festival and by chance we ran into each other walking on the main road in Arambol a few days ago...what a small world it can be at times!

The wind was a bit light but we decided to hike around to the other beach to see if it was flyable. Worst case scenario was that we’d get a bit of exercise. Madu, the long time resident paraglider pilot originally from Holland or Belgium (I met him during my first flight here), was the other tandem pilot. We walked the length of Kerri Beach and at the north end there were three men sunning in their birthday suits. I joked with Isabelle that I had pre-ordered them as a gift for her...she chuckled. We scrambled up the 150 foot hill to the Arambol plateau. Thankfully we saw three gliders in the air, including a tandem one, so our hopes were high that we would be able to fly.

Hiking up to launch:

The lovely couple ready to fly:

Arriving at the main launch area, the wind died off a bit and it looked like the flight was in jeopardy again. Madu went for a short test flight by himself on his large tandem wing and then it was decided that we’d go for it. Isabelle and Madu were first to launch. The birthday girl was a bit nervous but also excited before taking off which of course is normal. Once Madu brought the wing up above their heads, Isabelle began to perform small baby gazelle like hops which made a few of us giggle but really isn’t a good launching technique as it unloads the glider. I gave them a good push and they were off. She had a bit of a struggle to get in her harness but once she was comfortable she really enjoyed her flight.

Isabelle's Launch:

Isabelle in flight:

Next Deano and Vincent set up. I provided anchor support and also gave them a good push. Unfortunately by the time I was set up and took off, the two tandems had already landed although I wasn’t totally sure where. I couldn’t see them on Kerem Beach below so I thought that they must have run around the point to the south to land on Kerri Beach, which saves a long walk. My flight was fairly short but I enjoyed flying over 3-4 monkeys hanging out on a rock. Even though I saw a couple of solo pilots land on Kerem, I decided to chance it and flew around to Kerri and did see Isabelle and Vincent already on the beach. I landed to find them both sporting big smiles...they loved it! We had a post flight beer with the two tandem pilots and then headed back to our huts to clean up.

Vincent's Launch:

Coming in to land:

My Landing:

Post flight smiles:

Followed by the post flight beers:

We stayed at the Olive Garden for dinner (Isabelle’s choice) and had a lovely evening which included some fireworks on the beach, great food and good laughs and it actually went a bit late even though the birthday girl was asleep on Vincent’s lap before the rest of us called it a night.

Our waiter/firework technician Ram:

Panna: Same same but different...

Great display!

Pinku showing our fish options:

The birthday girl and her man:

Me and Deano:

Happy Birthday Isabelle!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Goa’n To Be in India For a While

December 22nd, 2010

Well I must apologize for the big gap in time since my last blog posting but it has not been without good reason. Unfortunately I have run into a legal problem here which I do not wish to delve into on this public domain. Not to worry, I’m alright, it just looks like I’ll be staying in India for a lot longer than I expected. I will begin blogging again as I start to travel to other regions. India’s a big and diverse country so there is a lot to explore...I’m sure that I won’t get bored.

These 2 Minute Flights Have to Goa

December 4th, 2010

I awoke at 9am to the sound of an axe chopping a nearby tree to my hut. I heard the unmistakeable creaking sound of it start to fall and almost thought my roof might be caving in...but no. I dozed for a bit longer and then headed out for a jog.

After lunch the wind had picked up so I grabbed my wing and began the walk up to launch. Arriving there I found Alieg, the Ukrainian pilot I have previously met, about to take off and a buddy of his was in the air. Another Ukrainian arrived almost immediately. I let him take off before me but unfortunately the wind was starting to die down and they didn’t have long flights, nor did I. I only made 3 or 4 passes before it was obvious that I’d be heading to land. Oh well, it’s always good to get into the air!

A pilot flying by:

Coming in to land:

A post flight beer:

Even the cows enjoy the sunset:

Monday, December 6, 2010

We`re Goa`n to Get Wet

December 3rd, 2010

A relatively quiet day today. I had a lazy morning and the winds were not conducive to paragliding and it was also a bit overcast. About mid-afternoon, Zohar suggested that we take the scooter out for a spin seeing as we are paying for it and it’s just sitting there. Our mission was to find a computer store I had seen previously as Zohar needs to get a new charger for her laptop as hers was fried by the quality electricity in this country.

Let's ride!

Some random house:

Nice way to get around:

Heading over a small pass:

I drove today, at least for the first part. It was the first time I’ve ridden a scooter with a passenger and it is a tad bit different but I fared okay. Somehow we missed the store and ended up at the big bridge about 20-30 km from Arambol. We decided to cross it but realized that we needed to find some petrol. Gas stations aren’t ubiquitous here so we asked a few people where we might locate some gas. We were told a market just a few hundred meters ahead. Arriving there, it still wasn’t obvious who was selling gas so we asked again. It turns out that almost everyone was selling it, we just didn’t notice it. The gas is sold in clear 1 liter bottles and even a vendor of cold drinks and fruit included petrol in their offering. We purchased one and were on our way with Zohar taking the handlebars (I was happy to enjoy the ride...there’s so much to see that you miss when you’re driving).

The cow hazard:

Crossing the bridge:

Zo scootering:

Zohar concentrating on the road:

Ridin' with the locals:

I spotted the computer store on our way back. Not sure how I missed it the first time. While talking with the store owner, it began to rain outside. We had seen some nasty dark clouds and they were finally upon us. Nevertheless we hopped on the scooter but within 5 minutes we had to pull over as the massive raindrops were making it impossible to see. We took shelter under a closed bar`s entranceway as the skies opened up. Soon the entire road was running with water...it was quite the downpour.

Safe from the rain:

And did ever come down!

Ten minutes later the rain had subsided enough that we decided to get back on the road. I slowly drove the scooter back to Arambol and we were both completely drenched and a tad cold but it was still a pretty fun experience.

The rain continued on for most of the evening and half of my bed was a bit wet from a minor trickle I had from the roof but luckily it`s a double bed so I was able to find a dry area later when I went to bed.

That night at the Olive Garden I played one of the cooks, Ramesh, a game of chess which he fairly easily won. Later that night at least a dozen Israelis showed up. They would have normally gone to the newly opened and nearby Woodstock bar to jam but I guess it was soaked from the torrential rains. Nice people. I chatted with a guy named Ofil about rock climbing and Sharar asked me many questions about paragliding. It was a bit of a late night but a very fun one.

Duelling with Ramesh:

A happy Dave:

Tal, Pinku and Panna at the bar:

This One’s for You Dad

December 2nd, 2010

Today would have been my father’s 69th birthday but unfortunately he passed away back in May. I decided that he would wish that I have the best day I could, in memory of him, so I gave it a go.

After some administrative duties such as taking dirty laundry in to get washed and cashing some traveller’s cheques, I had a bite to eat and then decided to hop on the scooter to head north. I wanted to not only explore but see if I could find the road that leads to the beach I landed on during one of my first flights here. Turning onto the main road, I found a flat, straight section of road where I let the throttle out! Max speed...a whopping 72 km/hr. It definitely felt pretty fast on the little red scooter.

Some random temple:

About 10 kilometers north along a mostly windy road, I reached a river that cuts off the next section of Goa. There is a bridge currently under construction so in the meantime, a couple of little ferry boats capable of taking about 5 cars at a time are your only option. I wasn’t planning on crossing so it wasn’t an issue for me...I was still in search of this beach. The road headed east along the river and I knew I was going to hit a beach soon but found it hard to believe it would be the one I landed at as I had been scootering for at least 20-25 minutes...but sure enough it was. I drove up near the temple and watched as a couple of paragliders floated about above the ridge. Conditions didn’t look super, but definitely flyable.

At the beach:

Hard at work fishermen:

BC Ferries eat your heart out!

A new bridge under construction:

But they still have a ways to go...

Solo Scootering:

I stopped for some ice cream and took more pictures on my way back. Riding a scooter definitely is a good time.

Back at the Olive Garden, it looked like the wind was still good for paragliding so I headed up to launch. There was a Ukrainian pilot peeling his wing out of the trees as I arrived at launch at the same time as Mardu, the slightly crazy Danish guy that’s been here for 17 years. As he set up and took off, another fellow appeared, a German guy named Class (short for Nicolas he mentioned). He launched so now it was my turn. Due to the strong wind, the wing popped up quickly and I was about to launch when I noticed a knot on the right side of my wing. I pumped my right brake a few times and it popped out but then the wing lurched to the right and ended up coming down, half in a bush. “Okay, it’s my turn.” I said to the Ukrainian pilot. It only took about five minutes to extract the wing but I had to be careful as there were huge thorns on the branches.

It took me a while to set up again as my lines had gotten a bit knotted up. Once in the air, I joined the five wings already cruising back and forth along the small ridge. Thankfully the lift band was fairly big. I noticed a paramotor flying over the sea, headed our way. I’ve seen this guy 3 or 4 times before. After about 20 minutes I found myself about as high as I had been for the whole flight and I decided it was time to see if I could make it all the way back to the Olive Garden. With the northwest wind, I had seen a few wings make it quite a long way down the beach. I arrived at the restaurant with plenty of height. I flew a little bit past and turned into the wind and was briefly parked. I looked down and there was a wooden fishing boat below me. The prospect of me landing in the boat briefly crossed my mind but then I began to creep forward and did land close to the chaise lounges of the Olive Garden...sweet! Tal, one of the Israeli ladies, bound towards me, more excited than I was for my flight. She helped me pack my wing up which was a big help in the strong wind as Ram grabbed a beer for us.

Getting cozy with another pilot:

Nice silhouette:

Heading to land at the Olive Garden:

With my friend Ram at the Olive Garden:


A little later we sat down at a table just inside the Olive Garden. Three guys including the old man Han joined us. Han was sporting some North African looking kind of head gear that covered his head with a band and then draped down on the back of his neck and shoulders. Sir Galahad from King Arthur’s Court was the figure that came to mind to me with his long grey beard and tired looking eyes. The conversation with him was odd at times as a simple question of “Where are you from?” spawned a tangent from him of “Where is anyone from? What a strange question? We are just a collection of atoms that happen to be here at this moment...” Crazy alert, crazy alert... Not again.

Han later brought up that he thought that Penny’s act last night was pretty funny but that she’s a crazy lady. I couldn’t help but thing that it takes one to know one! He and the other guys left but within five minutes, who would pull up the same chair that Han was sitting in? Well Penny of course. Okay, shift my crazy defence system, different kind of intruder... During our conversation, Penny brought up Han and mentioned that he was crazy! Hilarious...from the same chair even...I couldn’t help but giggle inside.

That night I watched and played a few games of chess with Panna and Avi.

Brothers Manu and Panna sharing their soup with me...very kind of them but it was a super bland clear chicken soup:

Avi trying his luck against Manu:

Chef Ramesh:

Naan cooking:

To finish the evening I had a brandy which I took down to the beach to cheers to my dad’s birthday...”Hallelujah, pass the brandy.” Happy Birthday Dad! Love ya.