Sunday, March 9, 2008

NIght train to Goa.

Saturday was not a particularly good day. Tummy was WAY bad. Spent most of it moving from internet cafe to internet cafe or sitting in a very Starbucks-y cafe sipping ginger tea, talking to my new friend Lawrence. I really wasn't so sure about the train but I didn't have a hotel for the night so I thought I'd risk it. After barely eating all day, I was nauseous. Tried to choke down some hummus and pita and a 7-Up before hailing a cab. It was ten pm - the cabbie asked me, "Goa?" when I told him that the train station was my destination. The Goa train leaves at 11 p.m. every night so I guess if you're a westerner and heading to CST at 10 o'clock, that must be where you're off to.

Train station was madness. I guess I should be used to the crush of people by now, but wow. Totally nutso. I headed for my train which was already boarding. The first few cars were a scene out of a wartime evacuation drama. People shoving luggage in over he heads of the people in front of them, cramming on to the train, bulging from the doors. "I have to get on that???" I thought in a panic? But now, those were the cheap seats (although my very expensive 2nd class sleeper with no a/c was about 6 bucks). I confusedly continued walking. People kept trying to help me but I tried to find my own way. There were other just as confused Westerners. Finally I was standing in front of what I thought was my train when a man in a red shirt insisted on guiding me inside. I was seated with 6 other white guys -- 3 UKers and 2 medical students from Temple U. Then the guy demanded 50 rupees for the service. Um, no. I offered 20. He got frustrated and kept demanding more. I gave him 30 and the guys waved him off. What a little bugger.

So, it was the 6 of us: Andy, Duncan and another guy (can't remember name) from the UK and Erik and Nick from the US. We played cards for a bit before deciding to retire. I got an upper berth and settled in. I listened to "Railway Rock" for a bit. It was nice and breezy but a bit on the choppy side. My stomach had mostly settled down but at one point I had to use the bathroom. With my stuff all chained up (and Erik keeping an eye on it) I climbed down and realized that the train was PACKED. People were sleeping on the floor in the aisle and sitting on the ends of my fellow travelers bunks. I climbed over people and found it even more packed by the stinking toilets. A 3 year old boy was perched in the window. I successfully negotiated the squat toilets on a moving train (which just dump right out onto the tracks - lovely) and moved back to the bunks. By the way, at some point I'm going to need a new shipment of Purell sent to me. Gah.

Wallahs kept their cycle through the cars all night: "Chai chai chai-la chai-la chai chai chai". Every time I would start to dream, it would get puncuated by "coffeecoffeecoffee" or "samosasamosasamosasamosasamosa." I gave up on sleep around dawn and so did the boys. We folded our bunks back up and sat together drinking chai. I had some sort of potato ball and bread bun. It was a relief to be able to eat again. Two of the Ukers decided to get off at the first stop in Goa. The Temple boys got off about a half hour later. I decided to stick with Andy and go to the last stop. The North of Goa is very crowded and touristy and filled with the hippy-dippies. Ugh. South Goa was pretty quiet, only a couple of back-packers got off with us. Andy and I got on a taxi with some Americans who got off first and stuck us with the bill. We got off a bit later and hiked down the road and moved onto the beach. The water is lovely - not very blue but very warm.
We wandered a bit down the beach and decided to stop for lunch. We were so relaxed we decided we might as well just stay at this place so the manager showed us to two beach huts out back with beds strung with mosquito netting. Not too shabby and only 6 bucks for the night. We regrouped and headed for the water. I could have stayed out there all day. Lost my sunglasses though. Kept finding lovely cone shaped, spiral shells for Mom... unfortunately they were all occupied. And the occupants were not happy to be out of the water.
Finally headed in and collapsed for a snooze on a cabana chair. Before going to sleep some girls selling scarves/sarongs came by and would not take no for an answer. We told them that we didnt' have money on us and to come back later. "When? One hour?" "We'll be sleepiing in an hour," says Andy. "Two hours? Three?" "Yeah sure," says Andy. "Okay, you remember us. I am Sharon. You don't buy from anyone else." "No no," says Andy. 45 minutes later, I'm sound asleep and I hear chitter-chatter 3 feet from my head. The girls are back and have plopped themselves down a couple of feet away and are having a very lively conversation while waiting for me to wake up. Now, as some people might now, I can be... a tad... grumpy when I wake up from a nap. "Not a good way to make a sale, ladies," I growl, gathering up my things. "I'm going back to my hut," I snarl at Andy and stomp past the girls.

Some time later, Andy, fearing for his life as is proper, timidly knocked on my door to see if I wanted to come out and watch the sunset. I am still grumpy but come out. The sunset lasts about a minute before disappearing behind clouds. We decided on having some beers and then walk down the beach to find dinner. We find a place with tables out on the sand. Our own "resort's" dog (one of many) follows us down the beach until another "resort's" dog runs him off. It seems every beach bar has a bar dog. Our own has a puppy named Jimba. She's sweet. She does a lot of napping. She'll get up, stretch -- a little "downward-facing-dog" and go back to sleep with a nose-full of sand. The other dogs like to go out and lie in the surf. I've decided that if I come back as an animal, I'd like to be a beach bar dog. Not too shabby a life...

Anyway, back to dinner -- a couple of king prawns and a fruity cocktail with an umbrella called a "Goan Sunset." "Hopefully it won't disappear before it's finished like tonight's sunset did," I joked with the waiter. The waiter told us that the prawns were 250 rupees. We didnt' know he meant 250 each. A bit steep, that -- like 6 bucks a prawn. When your dinner costs twice your lodging, something's off. THey were huge though. I got mine cooked in garlic and butter and Andy had his in masala (he's eating EVERYTHING in masala so far). We traded one to each other. After dinner we walked a bit further down and then headed back to our resort. A group of tourists coming towards us said, "Do you folks speak English?" (They were also Brits). "Yes," we replied. "Well, you might not want to walk further than that next resort (which was ours)," the one guy said. "Why?" We asked. "Seems a body washed up on shore and the locals are keen to keep the tourists away. We're heading back to call the police if they haven't already." Oog. "Is it a local?" I asked. "Yeah. A fisherman, likely."
That kind of ended the evening. Andy and I said goodnight and headed to our huts. Unfortunately, we realized we'd chosen poorly in the "resort" department as ours was right next to a raging disco. The strains of Hoobastank's The Reason pummeled our eardrums. I told ANdy I had earplugs if he needed them, but I guess he didn't hear me. I climbed into (another hard, lumpy) bed and fell asleep pretty easily...

Well, we're off to go further south. Bus is coming soon. More later!

1 comment:

Every Good Boy Does Fine said...

Beach Dog! Yes, I'll be a beach dog as well...so I can sniff out all the bodies that wash ashore...