Sunday, 19 February 2017

From The Estuary of the Wolf to The Village of the Cow - Travels To Goa & Beyond




Ten hours and some 411 kilometres later the Malabar Express pulled into Mangalore Central station. Although we'd booked the most basic of sleeper classes the journey was comfortable and, being the only Westerners in a carriage of 76 berths, our fellow travellers made every effort to help us, using the torches on their phones to find our bunks in the dark and making sure we were settled before attending to their own needs.


We'd decided to stay at the Adarsh Lodge, described as A bit of a dive, but cheap and clean in the Rough Guide. Trying to find a tuk tuk willing to take us took an age as drivers get baksheesh from the swankier hotels when they drop off guests and there was little chance of a pay-off from a £4 a night room. Eventually someone took pity on us and dropped us off for 50p. 


Despite only being built in 1984, with the institutional maroon and custard yellow colour scheme, granite floor, squat toilet and threadbare bed covers, the Adarsh wouldn't have looked out of place in a 1960s Cold War film. We could have hired a TV from reception but chose not to, so the focal point was the empty glass case where it should have been. 


After a quick shower we set off to explore all that Mangalore had to offer. Within minutes we'd seen a man barefoot, dressed in a loincloth and covered in orange paint walking up the central reservation.


We took a seat in a pure veg canteen, ordered a "meal" and minutes later were served two huge veg thalis for 40p each.


After lunch we found the Cosmopolitan Club and the splendid Art Deco Prabhat cinema, both of which are mentioned in S Reuben's 1939 Travellers In India which Lynn had sent us before we left. 



In a bid to escape the punishing heat and humidity we thought we'd head to the park we'd seen marked on the street map in the Rough Guide. Assisted by what seemed like the entire population of Mangalore keen to help the two fools wandering around aimlessly in the heat of the midday sun, we finally found it, only to discover that it didn't open until 5pm and that most of it had been carved up by a development company.


So what of the historical Mangalore written of Pliny and Ptolemy and so beloved of Ibn Battuta? Sadly buried beneath one of the monstrous concrete shopping malls dominating the city and filled with the likes of McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Subway and KFC. 


Of more interest were the advertisements for astrologers adorning every corner of the city.  If the future is tower blocks and junk food I think I'll stay in the past.


Sweatier than sweaty things we headed back to our room. After another shower and a futile attempt at a siesta, interrupted every twenty minutes by the over-enthusiastic room boy ringing our doorbell and shouting Sir! Madam! Pani, pani*, chai, chai, coffee, coffee! Dinner was a bag of Malabar chips (fried banana crisps seasoned with chilli) and the remains of an over-ripe bunch of bananas we hadn't eaten on the train, washed down with rum and coke from an enamel camping mug. The ceiling fan had two settings, off or blow your eyelashes off so Jon used his trusty Indian Army knife to prise open the paint-sealed windows for some fresh air.  At 3am, we shook the man sleeping on the floor behind the reception desk awake to let us out, found a sleepy tuk tuk driver on the street outside and headed back to Mangalore Central to board a passenger train to Goa.

*Water.

 The Konkan Railway route is said to cut through some of the most beautiful scenery in all India
What should have been an six hour train journey ended up taking nine but, when you look at the view from our carriage window, it was no real hardship. Could there be a lovelier Monday morning commute?



Finally,  the train pulled into Canacona station in South Goa and we flagged down a tuk tuk to take us to Agonda, the village we've stayed in years before it became the hip, chill-out destination it is today.

Main street, Agonda
Accommodation in Agonda comes at a premium but, as luck would have it, there was a room free at our favourite haunt, Our Friend's Place. Set in lush gardens behind their popular restaurant, home for the next week was a thatched coco hut with a sit-out area, bedroom and a huge bathroom. As we opted for room only (you can have breakfast) it cost £10 a night.


It didn't take us long to fall back into our Goa rhythm.


An early morning walk along the beach.






Breakfast in the tiny roadside cafe, Reshma, where for 30p each, we dip fluffy white bread rolls (pav) into saucers of fiery vegetable curry (bhaji). 


Here's Reshma's boss shopping for fresh veg for the lunchtime thali.


When wandering the shady, sandy lanes behind the beach something interesting always takes our eye - ancestral homes painted in deliciously gaudy colours, garden shrines planted with sacred Tulsi (from the basil family), colonies of fruit bats and quirky, hand painted signs.




I had to laugh at the barefaced cheek of the most expensive hang-out joint in town, they'd only gone and nicked a photo from my blog to advertise their bar. I always knew I belonged in Goa.


Armed with bottled water and a bag of fruit, afternoons were spent basking on the beach...


Being townies, we know nothing about cows, they're simply creatures in fields glimpsed from the van window when we're travelling up and down the motorway on the way to vintage fairs. Until we went to Agonda we had no idea that they loved sunbathing and paddling in the sea or galloping along the shore or even that they had a passion for bananas - several times they've mugged us when they've caught a whiff of banana from my beach bag and we've had to forfeit lunch as they won't take no for an answer. In the evenings they'd wander into restaurants and stand beside the tables, staring dolefully at diners with their huge brown eyes until the proprietor sees them off with a squirt from a spray bottle of water . If I wasn't already a lifelong vegetarian after a week here I don't think I'd ever eat beef again. 


After sunset it's time for a quick shower, a rum and coke on the balcony and ponder upon trickiest decision of the day...where shall we eat tonight?  


Me in action! Jon was trying to take my photo when we were in the bar next door to Our Friend's Place but inadvertently pressed the record button on the camera. Middle-aged people and technology, eh?



 After seven nights in Agonda it was time to move on and, as we'd already travelled by plane, train, tuk tuk and ferry it was time we took the bus. I wish British buses played an Indian filmi soundtrack!

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & The Gang for Visible Monday.

More photos of Agonda & Mangalore HERE

66 comments:

  1. Despite the dodgy decor, that room's not bad for £4! What stunning scenery en route to Agonda, your Goa beach photos always take me back there, especially when I hear that music. xx

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    1. It's amazing how far £4 gets you in India, isn't it? xxx

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  3. The cows certainly look chilled out! Agonda looks like paradise after the concrete developments in Mangalore.x

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    1. Agonda and Mangalore really were worlds apart! The cows are just brilliant, I love them. xxx

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  4. More awesome photos. I agree, the room looks fine to me. Why watch TV? The whole world is out side.

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    1. I agree! We saved ourselves the 50p rental charge and looked out of the window! xxx

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  5. How funny about your blog picture! Did you ask for free drinks? 😄

    I love, love, love that deco building and the beautiful cows xxx

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    1. I didn't - I'm rubbish at blagging free stuff! I thought of you as soon as i saw that cinema! xxx

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  6. I'm so enjoying your travelogue and learning so much. Who knew about cows and bananas? The next time I meet one on one of my walks I must offer it a banana and see what happens!

    What a shame they ruined Mangalore with shopping malls etc but maybe the locals are are pleased - jobs and more consumer opportunities, perhaps?

    Looking forwatd to the next instalment...

    xxxx

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    1. I wonder if British cows have the same tastes as Indian ones? I'd love to know!
      Yes, I suppose shopping malls and burger joints are progress but they're the kind of things I avoid at home so it's a bit depressing to see them on the other side of the world. xxx

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  7. This is a second attempt, the first got so badly auto corrected! Juxtaposing Mangalore and Goa makes Goa look even more gorgeous. I agree about the cows, having a dog makes the thought of eating any mammal impossible. I love the thought of them cadging bananas xxx

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    1. I wondered where your other comment went! Can you imagine tucking into a steak and having a cow standing by your table giving you a sad look? How on earth could people do that? xxx

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  8. I think I've already said it but ill say it again this is the best travelogue you've done. I'm oohing and aahing and laughing and loving every post. Can't believe I'm reading this one while the Good Karma Hospital is on the telly. More please xxx

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    1. India coming at you from all angles! Did you see The real Marigold last night? We were beside ourselves with excitement. They even went to the same Kathakali theatre as we did! xxx

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  9. gorgeous!! best travel diary ever! funny videos too! xxxxxx

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  10. Every year I read your travel posts and every time it is fascinating!

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  11. "What's going on 'ere?" did make me laugh!
    I've been catching up on your posts - oh you do make me want to visit, although the heat and humidity might kill me...
    Fancy having your photo pinched, that's brilliant!
    Your photos and writing capture your experiences so perfectly, I love travelling along with you by proxy. And as always, you look like a goddess in a bikini!
    Love you! Xxxx

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    1. He sounds proper yam-yam, doesn't he?
      I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that photo - it's such a crap looking place, too - all grey walls and vile minimalism. xxx

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  12. I was watching the third episode of the latest Lucy Worsley series on the i-player last night and it was all about the East India Co and then the Raj....we knew that the story the Victorians fed us was basically a load of spherical objects so the content for me was interesting, but a lot of it was filmed over there especially in Calcutta. Arilx

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    1. Thanks for that, Aril! After I read your comment I watched it on the i-player. I'm loving Taboo, too - that shows the East India Company in a poor light, too. It's about time we faced up to how we treated India. xxx

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    2. To be fair, the history in Taboo is highly inaccurate. (Cholera wasn't even in the UK at the time it's set, to begin with.) Though I do enjoy it as fun hokum.

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  13. How funny that they nicked your photo! I hope they gave you a drink or two in payment.

    I wonder if that basil is the same as Thai Holy basil? I know it also grows in India but is sacred there. (It's not sacred to the Thai people, hence they'll stick it in stir-fries.)

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    1. I didn't realise they ate it in Thailand. I wonder what the Hindus would make of that? xxx

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  14. Your adventures continue to enchant us, Vix, especially when we can imagine ourselves peering out train windows at spectacular scenery, breakfasting on bread dipped in curry, or feeding bananas to cows. However, your comments on certain aspects of rude reality ring equally true. That "60s Cold War era" mattress looked less comfy than the bunk on the train!

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    1. I'm glad you're enjoyed the travelogue, Beth. I can sleep anywhere but Jon might agree with you about the mattress at the Adarsh and the train bunk! xxx

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  15. How funny to find a photo of yourself! And those cows, that's quite adorable. Who knew they liked bananas?!

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    1. I couldn't believe it when I saw my photo at that bar! I should have said something and blagged a free beer! xxx

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  16. What an adventure your Mangalore trip was, but how sad that the historical town has been taken over by shopping malls and the like. It must be a relief to be back in Goa. It must have been very weird coming across your photo, though. Love the cows, but like everybody else, I had absolutely no idea they liked bananas ... xxx

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    1. Cows and bananas, it is weird, isn't it? I wonder if the European cows would eat them or if it's just the delicious Goan butter bananas they like? xxx

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  17. Hey Vix. I've been really busy lately and not been able to keep up reading my fav blogs. But this morning I made a point to catch up on your recent vacation posts. And I have to say I was mesmerized. Never been to that part of the world and I am so appreciating your photos and background histories. Fasinating! The colors, unusual sites, the beautiful cows and the food! Yum!

    Theresa

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    1. Hi Theresa, good to hear from you! I'm way behind on my commenting so don't worry! xxx

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  18. Okay! That's it! I'm going to start planning and saving for a trip to India. First stop would be Agonda! I want to sit at the beach and cow watch. That place looks wonderful. My daughter would love it there too (I have a feeling she wouldn't want to leave!).

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    1. You have to god, Tracie! Agonda is heaven on earth! xxx

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  19. I prefer smaller places to big cities, so sad to see many of the places have been developed over. Is that one of your worst nights in India? It didn't sound much fun but at least at Agonda you got back into your kind of India.

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    1. Mangalore definitely wasn't Mumbai - some cities are better than others.
      Our worst night in India was when we went to Kollom , an ancient port city in Kerala. When we checked into the hotel the receptionist gave us her lunch as she said we were going to need it. I was refused entrance to the only bar in the city when the manager accused me of being a prostitute and I woke up in the night to find a cockroach running across my face! Never again! xxx

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  20. It's not a holiday unless you've been lost in blistering heat at least once! Such sights, and that food has my mouth watering. Xx

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    1. In that case it's always a holiday as neither of us can read a map to save our lives! xxx

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  21. The chance of me travelling to India is slim, I so enjoy your travel posts. You two are such troupers, and make such an effort to experience the real Goa, taking the good with the bad, instead of a fancied-up tourist version. I would happily share a sunny beach with some cows, but I don't know I would want one watching me as I eat.

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    1. Glad you're enjoying the posts, Shelly! xxx

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  22. I love the way you and Jon travel, sucking all the real experiences out of every place you go. I could never eat beef (I haven't in 40 years anyway) after being hounded for my banana by a cow! Thanks for linking, xo

    -Patti
    http://notdeadyetstyle.com

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  23. I just love seeing your wonderful holiday posts! Shame that that city was too Americanised!!! Goa sounds much better!

    Mmm, wish I could eat that Thali!x

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    1. That thali was immense! can you believe they tried to make us have seconds? xxx

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  24. Wonderful sights! I grew up on a farm and we had beef and dairy cows and I never knew they would eat bananas. But then we never ever offered them any! :)

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    1. Fancy that! i bet you never thought of feeding the cattle with bananas! xxx

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  25. How amazing that the trendy bar used a photo from your blog! Cheeky but fab at the same time! Just love the cows wandering everywhere and those fruit bats too, but such a shame that the place is being overrun by the usual suspects in those massive shopping centres. xxx

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    1. I know! Bloody fast food chains. I'd rather eat out of a bin than patronise one of those places! xxx

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  26. I need a disco bus like that in my life! I so enjoy reading each instalment of your travels especially with all the photos - the fruit bat one is great. Fancy the bar using your blog photo too? You're a local celeb now! xxx

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    1. We ought to have disco buses here, I bet loads more people would use public transport if we did! xxx

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  27. Absolutely loving these posts Vix. Still mystified why Tourism India haven't snapped you up. xx

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    1. Thanks, JP! I'm here when they need me! xxx

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  28. Its so entertaining reading your blogs about your trip to india , You are a celebrity in India WOW lol xxx

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  29. I love that your photo is up in a bar in India (even though they 'borrowed' it from your blog). Haha! Great video "What's going on 'ere?" Such great images and the cows are adorable. xx

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  30. I am really loving your blog posts about your travels and the lovely photos. That train ride back looked like it would have been amazing. Such a civilised way to watch the world go by. I wonder why there were so many psychics in Mangalore? Wouldn't have sniffed at a pizza looking at that veg thali. I adore the cows, they are absolutely beautiful and would love to have them cadging a banana from me. Love your photo. No wonder the bar nicked it! Xx

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    1. The psychic thing was odd - I've never seen that any in other Indian cities.
      Did you see the Real Marigold last night? They travelled in a posher train class than us but I loved that they gave it a go! xxx

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  31. Agonda looks fun, I love the cow beach - never got to sunbathe with a cow on my travels so it's going on my bucket list! they are such gentle looking things, don't they get thirsty on the sand though? can't wait for next installment. x

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    1. Agonda is lovely both for the cows and the peaceful vibe! xxx

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  32. Famous Vix!! Thank goodness you've arrived to Goa. I can feel the heat and humidity from those pictures. Banana loving cows - who knew!! Love seeing you in action even if by mistake. :)

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  33. How funny that they used one of your pictures - you're famous Vix! The cows look so peaceful sitting on the beach and I never knew they liked bananas, how funny xx

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    1. I should have flaunted that fame for a few free drinks! xxx

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Love from Vix
xxx