58 days travelling and we are definitely suffering from tour fatigue.
16th November 2018
Remember a few posts back I spoke about the horn happy bus driver? Well let me introduce you to his cousin, the train driver. Every five minutes throughout the entire night you’d hear the thundering fog horn of doom (as I like to call it) – if he had to stay awake all night he was damn sure you would too. It certainly felt like a 14 hour train ride by the end of it, but we didn’t care as we had finally made it to Goa. All that stood between us and Calangute up in the North, where our tour would be officially ending, was one final hour long bus ride.
Once we arrived we had breakfast and then a quick orientation walk (it took some getting used to the change in heat and humidity) before relaxing by the pool for the rest of the day. The key word here is ‘by’ and not ‘in’. It may have looked inviting from a distance, but it certainly had the opposite effect when you were up close and personal. That evening we had our final meal together, and even indulged in a rare cocktail, at the popular Britto’s on Baga beachfront. If I am being honest, we hadn’t bonded with this group as much as we did in the North – I’m not sure we put in much of an effort having been unwell and feeling slightly tour fatigued. Still, it was an enjoyable evening and we were looking forward to being free from the constraints of the tour and heading to the tranquil beaches of the South.
17th – 20th November 2018
You may be wondering why I haven’t done the usual daily breakdown of what we got up to. To put it bluntly, we didn’t really do much. Which was exactly what we wanted, not be mention desperately needed, out of Goa. Most of our time was spent split between three places; our hotel, our friends hotel (she had decided to end the tour less than 1km away from the hotel we had chosen down South, so our little trio continued!) and a restaurant called Zest Cafe (we shamefully ate there five times during our stay). Not terribly exciting, yet we absolutely loved every minute of it and had to drag ourselves away kicking and screaming by the end of it.
It turned out another couple on the second half of our tour were booked into the same hotel as us, for the same duration too. So the five of us, including our travel-partner-in-crime, all jumped in a rather cramped taxi and headed down South towards Agonda. Sharing not only helped keep the cost down but also made the three hour journey slightly more palatable. However, the driver missed our turn and then tried to take us across an impassable bridge – adding an extra 30 minutes to the journey. Usually we’d laugh it off, but we were so desperate to get out of the car and into our hotel that we all got a little irritated.
I’m so glad we decided to upgrade from our budget hotel and stay at The Bay Agonda. It was tucked away at the Northern most point of the beach in a small secluded bay. This meant it was incredibly peaceful, surrounded by plenty of trees and wildlife too. It had a treetop restaurant that overlooked the bay, which was perfect for watching the sun go down whilst playing cards and admiring the local birds (of the feathered variety). They also served incredibly cheap gin and tonic, which I took advantage of whenever I had the opportunity. The waiter, however, was appalled by my wife’s insistence on wanting to mix Malibu with coke – he couldn’t understand why you would have it any other way than simply on the rocks.
Our room was spacious and came with an outdoor bathroom – which sounds great on paper. That is until you realise the humidity means you break out into a sweat within seconds of merely sitting on the toilet and you get soaked if it rains. All of that didn’t matter as it was still a really cool experience, although a bit of shelter over the toilet wouldn’t go amiss. This also led to an unfortunate run in with the biggest bloody spider I’ve ever seen in my life.
Hearing my wife’s panicked screams, I ventured out into the bathroom to investigate and brush my teeth. I was under strict instructions to keep a watchful eye on the spider at all times – it was perched just below our bathroom door, poised to run into our room at any second. I only took my eye off it for a moment and it had vanished. There were two possibilities, it had either retreated back to where it came from or even worse, it had snuck under the door frame into our bedroom. Without wanting to panic my wife and maintain some sense of calm, I sheepishly tried to explain the situation at hand. It should come as no surprise that it didn’t go down so well. She refused to leave the bed to investigate, which meant we had no idea if it had got into the room or not. Let’s just say we were both incredibly grateful for the mosquito net that night, which we tucked in extra tightly under our mattress.
One of the little quirks of our hotel was that the riverside cottages, where we were staying, and the seafront cottages where separated by a river. It wasn’t particularly deep, maybe up to your knees and to get across you had to use a little boat – unless you wanted to do the long walk around. I felt so bad for the guys either side of the river who had to pull you across by hand using the rope attached to the front of the boat. I was never really sure if we were meant to tip them or not and we found ourselves taking the long route most days to avoid feeling slightly awkward. The benefit of taking this route meant we had to go past the reception, which was home to a small litter of kittens. Now I’m not mad keen on cats, but I could make an exception for this adorable bunch. I often found myself making unnecessary journeys through the reception just to check up on them.
What we absolutely loved about Agonda was how long and empty the beach was. I spoke to the manager at our friends hotel and apparently this was as busy as it got – incredible. It was also remarkably clean, thanks to a group of women patrolling the beach doing regular cleanups. As you’d expect, it wouldn’t be a beach in India if it didn’t have dogs. There were tons of them, all of which seemed to be very friendly – although we didn’t get close enough to touch them. What I hadn’t expected to see, (but then it was India) was a herd of cows that would wander up and down the beach – apparently some of the hotels fed them and they turned up on time every night.
You know how I said we had managed to avoid getting burnt so far? Well, our luck had all but dried up. So much so that I was left with the most ridiculous batman patch on my chest once it all peeled – just great. My wife got off lightly, this time at least.
21st November 2018
The couple who were staying in our hotel were also flying out on the same morning as us, so we agreed to jump in a taxi together to save money and keep each other company on the two hour trip. Their flight was an hour before ours and we usually wouldn’t mind waiting around. Except being the idiots we are, we turned up three hours before their flight and the airport wasn’t even fully open.
Why we had arrived so early is beyond me, as we only needed to get there two hours before as both our first flights were domestic and not international. Matters were only made worse when we got upstairs, absolutely starving, only to realise that there was barely anything to eat as the entire food court was under contrition. Today was not our day clearly.
Thankfully the flight with Jet Airways was pretty uneventful, although it did arrive slightly late for our connecting flight which meant we had a mad rush through Mumbai airport – this was only painful as we really could have done with popping into some of the shops to pick up some hard to find essentials. My wife even managed to find one last vada pav (her favourite fried mashed potato in a bun) before we left India.
Once we landed in Colombo we dodged the bizarre collection of electronics shops in arrivals (think dozens of shops selling washing machines, fridges and TVs) and organised a pre-paid taxi to our hotel. Our driver got so ridiculously lost, I guess that’s what happens when you book obscure budget hotels. We finally made it to our hotel late at night and were just glad to have a bed and some AC. The location was pretty poor, but would have to do for our short stopover in Colombo.
I’ve always said it’s best to leave somewhere wanting more. If you feel ready to leave, then you’ve likely stayed too long.
Until next time.
P.S. We worked out that 3 weeks is our cut off point for group tours, any longer and it starts to become a little exhausting without having a break in between.