IMG_8786.JPG

As the sub-continent days pass, we move steadily southward, and our journey nears its end, we shed layers of clothing bit-by-bit like strippers in a sticky barroom.

The flight from Mumbai International Airport – a bright, modern facility with a nice selection of latte shops (see where my priorities lie?) – to Goa is only 2 hours with an added 3 hour delay… due south.

Mumbai was warm.

Goa is hot. And humid. And tropical. And lush. And Christian looking.

It’s jarring to see Catholic churches and cathedrals after almost 2 weeks of historic Hindu temples, palaces, and Muslim mosques.

There’s something for everyone in India.

india-map

Goa still exhibits the cultural influence of the Portuguese, who first landed in the early 16th century as merchants and conquered it soon thereafter. The Portuguese oversaw Goa for about 450 years until it was finally re-taken by India in 1961.

Goa is India’s smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population and is also India’s richest state with a GDP per capita two and a half times that of the country.

Slipping along the smooth 4-lane highway in an air-conditioned van from the airport to our resort near the beachfront, we enjoy sparkling beautiful hilly vistas filled with coconut palm trees, lush agricultural fields, new-to-us birds, and ocean views.

The population here is obviously less crowded and so the chaotic driving is, yeah, still chaotic, but relatively calm in comparison to crazed Delhi and Mumbai. You can almost breathe normally in this organized disorganization.

As the mango sun melts into the Arabian Sea, our first evening is spent on the enormous – accompanied by heart-thumpingly loud music and laser-trinket vendors – wide open beach where we have our first fresh seafood meal of the trip, taken under the crescent moon and stars.

Make mine Kingfish please.

IMG_8856.JPG

Sunset on the beach in Goa

The following night, smiling chef Pascoal, sweat beading on his brown forehead, prepares and shows us two curry dishes that both include fresh coconut.

The basis for all Indian food comes, as we’ve discovered in our three earlier cooking demonstrations in Jaipur, Udaipur and Bijapur, in the curry sauce. Hot oil, onions, ginger garlic paste, coriander, tomato, turmeric, cumin.

A few other spices come and go depending  on the locale and the tastes of the cook. But the basics remain the same.

The big difference in Goa is the pleasurable addition of coconut to the mix.

Earlier in the day we wandered through a forest-like spice plantation encountering a full kitchen cupboard of spices growing under, on top of, and over the ground.

The meandering trails we ambled in the sticky heat were lushly replete with vines of black pepper, striped orange roots that looked like ginger but were in reality turmeric, cinnamon bark trees, vanilla orchids, green cardamom, bitter-nut, and nutmeg. A wake of flavour.

Finally, the taxi to whisk us to the Goa airport for our long trek home belatedly arrives.

Quietly taking in the scenery en route allows us to daydream and reflect on the cornucopia of experience and sensation.

Reflect on the friendly faces we’ve seen everywhere; the enthusiastic children, some begging, but most merely enthusiastically aroused by an out-of-the-ordinary white face in their village.

Reflect on the many encounters in the streets and markets, the folded hands and Hindi namastes in greeting.

Reflect on the treasured Indian chai, the soothing drink found everywhere that takes on a slightly different tinge of flavour in each region, a bit more ginger here, a little more cardamom there.

Reflect on the haunting Muslim calls to prayers that ring out across towns and cities in the early morning dawn.

Reflect on the roads thronged with placid sacred cows, plodding majestic camels, motorcycles, tuk tuks, transport trucks, cars and more cars, horns in ceaseless use.

Reflect on the sight of rambunctious pink-bottomed macaque and Hanuman langur monkeys scampering along fence lines where round discuses of cow dung dry for later use as cooking fuel.

Reflecting on the inner knowledge that twice or three times a day curry dishes is just too much intense spicy flavour for our western palates.

India is a maelstrom in our minds.

Colours, textures, sounds reverberate in our heads.

The level of input and arousal is often too fast-paced, too great to assimilate in any reasonable way, like trying to breathe air under a gushing waterfall as it washes over you.

The Airbus A-320 lifts gracefully away from the Goa tarmac and the lengthy flights begin.

The emerald green forests, lush views of palm trees and sparkling ocean below are quietly soothing, like a warm milky cup of chai, fragrant steam wafting gently upwards to the clouds.

NAMASTE!

IMG_8749.JPG

 

Advertisements