Monday, August 26, 2013

A Third Canadian Visitor

August 5th-7th, 2013

Last year in September I met a fellow Canadian who has been living in Hong Kong for the past 5 or 6 years.  Sev is a first officer with Cathay Pacific Airlines and was on a 48 hour layover between flights in Bangalore so he came up to Goa for a few days on the beach.  We hit it off right away and on the day before he left I took him for a tandem paragliding flight.  It was great fun to take a pilot of a large plane complete with stewardesses for a flight in my “little 2 seater”.  I let him take control for part of the time as I obviously had full confidence in his knowledge and understanding of the principles of flight and we flew for over an hour and we both really enjoyed it.

In early August I received a message from Sev that he had another layover, this time in Hyderabad, and that he was returning to Goa.  I warned him that the weather would not be as agreeable as it had been the last time as August is still monsoon time, albeit starting to taper off.  This did not deter him and by chance, the day he arrived happened to be the nicest day we had had since the monsoon started in the beginning of June.

On the first day we hung out at 21 Coconuts restaurant for a few sunny afternoon beers, returned there later to satiate Sev’s hankering for a fish curry and then finished the night off with some pool on the cruddy table next door at the Seahorse.

The next day, with the weather still being relatively kind, we decided to rent bikes to go for a little tour.  My usual source for the rentals didn’t have any so we had to wait for an hour or so until a few were sourced for us: a motorbike for Sev and a scooter for me (I had recently hurt my toe on my left foot slipping on my stairs so gear shifting a bike was not an appealing idea).  During our wait the weather was decent as we ate breakfast on the beach but sure enough, as soon as we got the bikes it started to rain.

Live To Ride...

Ride to Live!

We rode over to Kerrie Beach and then hopped on a small ferry to cross the river to the small toehold of Goa on the other side.  Even though I’ve been here for a few years, I had yet to make this crossing so it was new territory for both of us.  Our destination was Fort Tiracol, a small Portuguese stronghold to protect the entrance to the Tiracol River.

"Don't pay the ferryman, don't pay the ferryman...until he gets you to the other side." - Actually it was free anyways...

Disembarking...somewhat of a free for all:

Arriving at the fort, we were greeted by two very bored security guards.  One guard told us that the hotel was closed but the fort was open.  We didn’t even know there was a hotel there but one has been built into the one of the inner courtyard buildings.  The friendly guard had one of us sign in a book where we realized why these guys were bored as we where the 5th and 6th people to visit that day, and it was already 3pm.  We wandered around all that we could but were finished within 10 minutes as there wasn’t a whole lot to see although the views back to Kerrie Beach and the ridge where I paraglide a lot was beautiful.

Walking up to the entrance:

Into the courtyard:

Which is protected by Jesus:

Sev up on the rampart, the yellowish building is the hotel:

The view back to Kerrie Beach and the ridge that I paraglide:

Hopping back on our bikes we ventured towards the border of Maharashtra hoping to go another 7 kilometres to Paradise Beach but there was a police blockade preventing us from continuing unhindered.  Policemen seeing two foreigners on bikes at this time of the year would see virtual money signs above our heads.  All they’d have to do would be to ask us for our drivers’ licences and they’d find some problem with them and want baksheesh (a bribe) of around 1500 rupees each ($30).  We decided it wasn’t worth the risk so we rode back to the ferry.  The crossing takes all of 5 minutes but we happened to arrive at the workers’ lunchtime as we waited for almost an hour until we got underway, which wasn’t all bad as it rained during this time and we would have been soaked if we were riding at the time.

Returning back to the Arambol area it was time for a late lunch so we went to a fancy place called Riva which turned out to have a limited menu but it was still tasty although that night I made pasta at home for us and I think I preferred that meal!

The next day it was back to work for Sev and so my third “2 day visit by a Canadian friend” this monsoon season came to a close.  Great to see you again Sev...and keep yer stick on the ice!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Short Stay Steve

July 12th-14th, 2013

I was lucky to have another friend from my hometown of Victoria come for a short visit.  Just like Tony before him (see the last blog entry) Steve works for my former employer Schneider Electric and he too was in Bangalore for business meetings.  He booked the same flights to and from Bangalore, arriving early on a Friday morning and returning on Sunday afternoon.  Unlike Tony however, poor Steve arrived at the peak of the monsoon season, on the rainiest day of the season yet!
We met in 21 Coconuts (one of the few restaurants open right now) and he immediately was introduced to the infamous Juan from Chile.  Juan’s been here for many years and I’ve mentioned him in previous posts and Steve even had a heads up about him from Tony but nothing is like the real thing.  Surprisingly Juan was in pretty good spirits (he had not imbibed too many spirits...yet) and even remembered Steve’s name as we left which impressed me as it took over a year for him to remember mine.

Nuevos amigos Steve & Juan:

There wasn’t much for us to do outside on such a rainy day so our activities involved me introducing Steve to Carrom, which was fun as we used to play the similar game of Crokinole back in Canada, and some pool on probably the worst table that both of us have ever played on.  Some of the felt was missing on the table with some very crude stitching (think Frankenstein) trying to hold it together.  Still, take what you can get.

Taking a shot while Sukhee (it means "happy" in Hindi) watches on:

The following day the weather lightened up a bit so we decided to take a chance and grab a scooter and tour around a bit.  Our first stop was the small nearby city of Mapsa to see if Steve could purchase some Kadai serving dishes, a request from his lovely wife and good friend of mine Sheryl.  I’ve been in the market enough times that I’m recognized by some of the sellers but Steve was fresh meat.  A common ploy that they use is to walk along side you, start asking you innocent questions like “What country?”, help you find the shop you’re looking for but then plead for you to come and visit their small shop, which turns out to just be a burlap sack tucked in a corner somewhere.  We started with one “guide” and soon had 3 others tagging along.  Steve was a good sport and did oblige a few of the sellers and I even bought a new, big rainbow coloured umbrella but then we had to get out of there.  We scootered off to Anjuna, a nearby beach that used to be famous for its big parties in the 90s and even though the police have cracked down on it, it still goes off at time to time.  We had lunch at a place called Hippies and then headed back to Arambol.

Nice matching jacket and bike:

My new umbrella...which sadly lasted about 5 days before it broke:

Lunch at Hippies:

The following day the weather was even better and we walked around to Sweet Lake.  I hadn’t been around there since Tony was here back in May and what a difference.  In May the lake was not flowing out to the sea, and hadn’t been for 3-4 months so the algae and garbage build up was pretty disgusting.  Now with the rains, the lake flowed freely and what a difference (although there was still plenty of garbage on the beach itself).  Accompanied by four dogs, we hiked back over the lusciously green hill where I paraglide and back to the main beach.

Walking with Old Boy:

Our posse near Sweet Lake:

Returning over the hill...which is super nice and green at this time of the year:

We had a final meal at 21 Coconuts and then Steve was off to catch his flight.  It was a short visit, but a sweet one...always nice to catch up with a good friend, especially in a foreign land.