13th December 2004 - From Gokarna

We took an overnight bus to Panaji in Goa and stayed in the centre for one night. Wow, what a difference!

Goa is like a totally different country from India. Now we know where all the paint and tarmac goes. Gone is all the poverty, street rubbish, stinking open sewers and general neglect. Buildings are now freshly painted in bright colours, streets have smooth tarmac (with yellow lines!) and trees and green grass do after all grow in India.

Traffic is light and generally well behaved, although scooters and cyclists still ignore any rules. As this is the first bit of civilisation we have seen for a month we must relax and enjoy it. Our first stop was a fairly deserted beach at Benaulim where we enjoyed our first dip in the sea.

Most of the tourists here are British and Joan relished the opportunity to natter on and on to the others. To our surprise, there were quite a lot of wealthy Russians staying in a nearby five star resort, which charged 200 dollars a night, but probably did include meals.

A group we talked to were from St.Petersburg and invited us to have lunch with them, but we had already eaten.

About 5 miles away was a resort called Cavelossium which was a beach with a river David tried fishing in the river but only caught a tiddler.

After five days at Benaulim we moved on to Cavelossium so that David could do a bit more fishing. The beach fishing here is pretty useless at the moment although the boats are netting huge amounts. In the river David catches catfish and snapper which we give to the locals. Many tourists told us to go on an all day tourist boat trip up the river, which we did. I was extremely good value and for 8 pounds each we had a trip out to see dolphins, a bird-watching trip up the river, a prawn and kingfish dinner and as much drink as we wanted.

Still enjoying the Goa way of life we moved on only 15 miles over hilly forested roads to the most peaceful place yet. A very small fishing village called Agonda had rejected tourist development and had no beach sellers, no tourist shops, no hotels and only a few beach huts. We stayed in a hut right on the beach and within a few yards of turtle nests. At six in the morning a knock on the door woke us up and we were told that a turtle was laying eggs only yards away. The local people protect the turtles by enclosing the nests until the young turtle’s hatch.

On the way south, we looked in at Palolem, a resort described in the guidebooks as "idyllic and peaceful", It was nothing of the sort. The last few years had transformed it into a bustling budget tourist resort full off stalls, touts and grubby looking accommodation.

We turned around and continued south to Karwar, the first town outside Goa. The roads were reasonably quiet and reasonably surfaced, but the wind was against us and the terrain up and down. The midday heat makes it tougher, but we try to stop by lunchtime if possible as we are no longer able to do 80 miles a day in these conditions as we used to.

On to a resort called Gokarna where many Indians visit many temples and even the sea is holy. Joan found the day hard as she suffered the first of her tummy upsets which made her a bit fragile. Since Goa, the prices have fallen to similar to those in the North and a hotel room is about 3.5 pounds with dinner for two about a pound.


Regards,

Dave and Joan Wooldridge