Friday, December 21, 2012

From haven to haven


Travel round India can sometimes feel like a hassle through turmoil and dirt to get to the next haven. The last 22 hours were a mild example really: walk and rickshaw to ferry, rickshaw to station on the other side; leave luggage for 2 hours while I hunted out a Bienniale venue on the other "mainland" side; buy food for journey; board train into a clean! "compartment" (i.e. alcove of 6 sleeping benches) until invaded by 5 young men - actually very pleasant but hugely ebullient and talkative (Keralans do seem to talk and laugh and smile a lot) and taking a lot of air time and physical space. 14 hours of train passed partly with upright dozing, partly watching the scenery, partly with fitful sleep when the benches went down. The train was good as Indian Rail goes (do they make their rolling stock last for ever? Or just stick to the same old pattern: why not?) Arrived on time in Margao, capital of South Goa, but it was 3.10 a.m. so I sat out, paced out, dozed out and read out the time until dawn and then, as the sky began to lighten, I took my fate in my hands on a motorcycle taxi, me as pillion in the form of a backpack sandwich, day pack in front, main pack behind, as we wove our way around potholes and close misses and via a pedestrian overbridge to the centre of town where quite soon I was able to catch a bus south for about 15 miles, change to a local bus, not much wait, dropped on the road with a gesture to the sideroad, 1/2 mile walk as backpack sandwich (but the day was still young) until I reached an only-vaguely familiar road junction (a lot has changed in 7 years) where I met an English couple who happily recommended a quiet place to stay - "Dominique's, at the end of the beach. Their instructions were excellent and after another say 500 yards walk to the end of the main drag (quiet side) I found the place easily and met a warm welcome. Sound easy? It was really, certainly in Indian terms, but when you factor in the noise and the filth and the fitful sleep I'm glad to have arrived and glad that the place has not utterly changed beyond recognition, glad to have found a charming place to stay (an old-style guest-house rather than a beach-side straw hut), glad then to have walked to the end of the beach and back (1 hour each way) and glad finally to have slept off the deficit - or most of it. (How easy in the heat (and at my age and some lack of sleep) to just crash out.) And now I feel human again. I had to commit for several nights to secure the room in the run-up to the 25th but in fact this is a dangerously pleasant place that could be hard to get away from for the dash to the next haven! At least I know where I'll be for Christmas!

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