Peter and Lesley's World Cruise 2007 travel blog









27th March

"A puff of wind, a puff faint and tepid and laden with strange odours of blossoms, of aromatic wood, comes out the still night, the first sight of the East on my face. That I can never forget. It was impalpable and enslaving like a charm, like a whispered promise of mysterious delight. The mysterious East faced me, perfumed like a flower, silent like death, dark like a grave. Joseph Conrad [1857-1924] Polish-born English novelist. Marlow, in Youth [1902]

Goan history begins with a succession of Hindu sultanates and intrigue - various factions gained and regained regional control. The groups united in the middle Ages as worries about neighbouring clans paled in the face of a new threat posed by foreign invaders from the east. First Arabs, then Europeans traced the spice routes to Asia. Portuguese merchants seized land from the last Bijapur kings in the early 16th century. Lisbon was mad for silk, ginger, nutmeg and saffron. Commodities previously rare or unknown outside Asia. Goods travelled both directions and Goa received fine European goods as ships headed further east to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and china. Harbours were built to receive the ships and Goa thrived.

Portuguese merchants made the small commune capital of their South Asian holdings after Cochin lost that status. Together with several other enclaves [Diaman and Diu to the north], they carved out an Indian empire. By the beginning of the 1600's civil fighting broke out. The British, Dutch, Arabic and Hindu attack that followed reduced Goa's capital, Velha Goa, to a plague-ridden and broken shell. Finally in mid-18th century, residents abandoned the city and re-established their capital at nearby Panaji [Panjim]. In the 1960's the last of the remaining Portuguese colonial landholders finally left. Portuguese influence is still pervasive. About 30% of Goans are Christian and many women still wear traditional Portuguese clothing.

The ship docked at about eight am. in the port of Mormugao and at the side of an ugly iron ore loading station.

The dockside was full of soldiers, communist party union officials and taxi drivers looking for a fare. Sandy, Tommy and June joined us on our day's exploration into the town and to the beach.

Our taxi drivers name was Raju, he was 25 years old, just married and seemed happy with the fare of 50 dollars for the day. He quickly became extremely helpful and friendly and packed the day with visits to a variety of spiritual and religious places including Basilica of Bom Jesus, Convent of the Jesuits, St Catherine Cathedral, Palace of the Inquisition and Convent of St. Cajetan.

We later visited Margao, which is the second most important town in Goa state. Here Margao's church of the Holy Spirit dominates the central old market square.

We ate lunch at the Cidade de Goa hotel at vaniguinim beach and this included various curries with the usual accompaniments, Kingfisher beer, soft drinks, and Lesley's new favourite drink, Mango pulp, which is basically gin and mango.

The price was ridiculously cheap at a total cost for five people of $55.

The delightfully happy day was spoiled and our driver traumatised when we returned to the dock. Here the soldier on the gate demanded a bribe to allow the taxi to enter and this was followed by the union official demanding a percentage of the fare we had just paid.

Earlier in the day Raju had explained to us that every shop he took us to paid him 100 rupees and he would earn commission if we purchased gifts. We boarded the ship angry and frustrated at a communist system which was corrupt and involved both army officers and union officials.

Later that evening many passengers said they found the poverty and degradation irreconcilable. Several Americans said they found the squalor offensive. They would not believe me when I said the streets of Calcutta were much worse than Goa!

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