A few years ago I ran a series of travel posts called “Tales from My Travel Journal.” I wanted to write about bits and pieces of past trips that were memorable to me and Hubby. I wanted, in particular, to write about those special days when you are travelling that are perfect. Not necessarily because of hugely noteworthy events or amazing places, but because the day is a collection of small moments that seem to capture the flavour and feel of a place and its people. I wrote about getting lost on the back roads of Ireland, about a very odd and wonderful place in Australia and about canoeing in Algonquin Park, mining my travel journal heavily for detail each time.
And because we’re not travelling these days, nor for the foreseeable future, I thought I might revive the series.
I know that most of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know Wendy from York. She’s been reading and commenting for years. And she has some interesting and charming tales to tell about her and her husband Max’s extensive travel experiences. Some of which she’s shared in her comments. So I was delighted when she agreed to write something longer for us. In this extract taken from her travel journal, Wendy writes of one pretty perfect day in India, in 1992. She says it’s “almost exactly as [she] wrote it nearly 30 years ago – scribbling away in bed with Max already asleep.”
But I’ll let her tell her own story.
Our first visit to India was to the north which was quite a culture shock. All wonderful mogul architecture, palaces and forts with teeming cities and serious poverty in places. We were in a small group of westerners, and some weren’t coping too well. We found India totally fascinating, but equally exhausting. The contrast of beauty and ugliness was everywhere. We left the group often to wander around alleys and markets alone and never felt threatened by anyone. Perhaps we were fortunate, but we found a smile and a joke goes a long way. After that we travelled alone.
The following excerpt was written on our second trip to India. And our third day in Goa, South West India.
Sunday 22nd November 1992
We awoke in our lovely, little hotel by the beach at 8 am and decided to take a taxi up into the hills to visit Mayem Lake. A favourite cool spot for the locals.
Our driver was called Geesha. He was very young, thin and handsome in a Portuguese way as many Goans are. Goa was once a Portuguese colony. He was a lovely guy, but I had to give him strict instructions not to drive too fast, or too close to the vehicle in front, and definitely not to overtake on bends. We’d been in Indian taxis before. He looked surprised and hurt that I would think that of him. The only difference it made was that after every close shave (and there were many ) his eyes would meet mine in the driving mirror and he would look sheepish.
We left the coast and travelled through a flattish swampy area before reaching Mapusa which was as crumbling and chaotic as any Indian town. Cows and goats all over the place eating mainly cardboard boxes and plastic bags. After Mapusa we were in more jungly scenery and reached a lovely little village where we were stuck in a traffic jam caused by a bullock cart. The passers-by all waved and smiled at us – this seemed to happen all day. We saw no other westerners on this trip.
At the bottom of the village was a big, wide, green river with palm trees down to the water’s edge. On the left-hand side the villagers were bathing and doing their washing. On the right hand side, orange lorries from the local quarry were having a bath. Just as working elephants used to be washed in the river before motorisation.
We sped on, climbing up to good views of the surrounding hills where we passed signs saying “Lourdes Provision Shop”, “St Anne’s Blooming Buds Primary School” and “Dubea Black & White Magic – Dare you try it?”
We turned onto a tiny road, passing a wonderful old Banyan tree in a village square, and carried on up and up. Mayem Lake was in a hollow, looking very cool and peaceful amongst the lush greenery. There were a few stalls set up at the entrance where we paid out a quarter of a rupee entry charge (there were 48 rupees to the pound then) and we walked down the steps to a little jetty to negotiate a rowboat.
There was only one amongst the shabby pedalos, and it looked about a hundred years old with odd oars which meant we were whirling round in circles a lot of the time. The price on the board was 50 rupees but we were charged 70 – Max asked if it was special tourist price and the boatman laughed cheerfully and said, “yes!” We also paid a 30 rupee deposit which I don’t think we got back. Then the boatman sent us up to the little café to get food for the ducks as he said they would follow us round the lake then.
We did as we were told. The café guy solemnly informed us that the ducks liked old samosas best. So samosas it was. He seemed to be cramming a lot into the bag so I told him we weren’t wanting to feed all the ducks in India. We set off in our rowboat, whirling round, Max wielding the odd oars as best he could, trying to gather up the ducks.
Eventually we were followed by a procession of big white ducks with pale blue eyes and they certainly seemed to enjoy the samosas. We reached a little backwater area dotted with lily pads where a snake swam through the water to look at us. There was the orange and blue flash of a kingfisher too, before Max pointed out a very interesting old sandal on a lily pad.
By this time lots of locals had joined us to enjoy Sunday at the lake and all the pedalos were out. They seemed to think we were quite a novelty as they surrounded us and kept asking to take our photos. So I took some of them too. When our hour was up we managed to zig zag back to the jetty and went up to the café overlooking the lake for freshly cooked samosas of our own.
The last fifteen minutes of our stay were spent in the woods around the lake watching a large group of noisy teenagers playing a game. It involved all the boys standing in a row, whilst all the girls paraded by in time to music from a transistor radio . When the music stopped the girls raced to find a partner and those that didn’t had to drop out . There was lots of giggling and pushing and coy glances. At the end just one girl was left to get her man and I was asked to present her with her prize.
I felt like HM The Queen. The prize was a bag of sweets and the winner offered us one. I asked if this was an Indian marriage bureau and did she have to marry him now. She doubled up giggling and ran off to tell her friends who all did the same.
In the next game the girls stood still and the boys paraded so it was all far more boisterous. Max presented the prize to the winning boy and told him he was just the biggest cheater. Lots of laughter. They all waved and shouted goodbye when we set off back to our taxi.
And the day wasn’t over. There were waterfalls and temples after that. Then dinner at a little beach “restaurant” and a local conjurer to entertain us. A pretty perfect day.
So how about you my friends? Any perfect travel days you can share with us? Days when the small pleasures and unexpected events you experienced still make you smile, like Wendy, in remembrance?
P.S. I don’t know about you, but I knew nothing about Goa, and little about travel in India, until I read Wendy’s travel journal extract. So I’ve been on the Lonely Planet website this afternoon, reading up on “India’s pocket paradise,” as Lonely Planet calls Goa.