|We woke at 6.30 am showered and were at the restaurant by 7.00 am to order breakfast as Candice said this restaurant, attached to the hotel, is notoriously slow and breakfast needs to be ordered at that time so we can get away by 8.30. She was absolutely right.
We drove to Old Goa to the cathedral in which St Francis Xavier's body is held in a silver cask. Father Francis Xavier used Goa as his base for 20 years and extended his ministry into Japan and was in China where he died and was buried in Hunan. Some 2 years later they arranged for his body to be returned to Goa and they were surprised to find it in a perfect state of mummification. Sixty years later it was still in excellent condition so they cut off an arm and sent it to Rome and eventually Francis was declared a saint. Some think that the fact that the body remained in such perfect condition was a miracle and that is why made a saint.
The guide said that subsequent exhumations have produced perfectly mummified bodies from Hunan, which is thought to be a characteristic of the soil in which the bodies were buried ... but who knows.
The church is impressive but the guide said the impacts of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisition rippled across into Goa where there were mass murders of the Muslim community and the bodies, buried in the area, polluted the water and in consequence, the place was rife with cholera and diseases. The guide claimed 6,000 Muslims were locked in their mosque and the mosque burned. We need to substantiate that claim. That event, coupled with the pollution resulted in the new governor saying that he felt completely uncomfortable in the area giving him reason to shift the settlement to Panjim where the capital is today.
Both the churches are impressive in the model of the great Spanish churches in South America. There are dozens of great churches build in the area as an example of the power of the church to convert the Hindus and the Muslims.
Candice said that every 10 years the silver cast containing Frances Xavier body is taken out in the field and there is a public viewing of the body, which is 400 years old. She said that it was in December 2005 when it was last on display, and she was lucky enough to be here, got in the enormous queue and viewed the body.
Previously the body was on open display in the church until one day a woman bit off a toe of the saint, as she believed he was alive and wanted to see the blood flow.
We drove on to the Sahakari Spice Garden at Ponda where we were welcomed with garlands of white coffee flowers, showered with yellow petals, marked with a red spot and entertained by 7 girls singing and clapping. It sounded like a Motu song. A guide gave us a great rundown on the variety of spices grown on the 130 acres property
There is a large vanillary with rows of vanilla orchids growing up beetle-nut palms. There were rows of nutmeg trees with beautiful nuts thick on the trees, a pale green in the foliage, pepper vines grew up beetle-nuts, curry shrubs, cardamon and turmeric. The guide indicated that the black seeds grew on the cardamom stems rising upwards from the plant (the male) and white one on the stems falling to the ground (the female). This is contradictory to what the guide in Kerala said, who said that black ones were mature and white immature. We need to look that up as well... Robin Hide - I know that they were growing cardamon at Karamui in Chimbu - Do you know anything about the harvesting? They also commented that it takes over six months of drying. Also this area is not above 3,000 ft so I wonder if there is a real cardamom crop or whether it was plants just for show. At Munnar, in Kerala, some 3,000+ ft up there were acres of cardamon plants and when we examined the plants they were all in flower and producing cardamom seeds.
Allspice trees with their dark green leaves initially fooled us as we thought it was cloves. I still can't tell the difference at a distance and if the clove was not in flower I couldn't tell.
Turmeric plants, cashew nut trees, jackfruit trees, guava, breadfruit and the standard bananas, mangoes and coconuts were prolific, although the jackfruit were still small, pawpaw size. The mature fruit grows to 30 kg.
The guide gave a running commentary on the Ayurvedic properties of the spices and a classic remedy for gas consisting of a ground peppercorn in hot water that "Just blows the gas away" amusingly illustrated by smacking one hand against the other.
There in the fresh running creek in the shade of the trees, an elephant was being washed and at the end of his wash he wandered up the trail squeaky clean and almost smiling.
There is a shed for cattle for the purpose of centralising cow pooh which is used for the fertilisation of the property and for generating methane gas in a small digester where 10 kg of cowpads are mixed with water and added daily. That is sufficient to keep the manager's house in gas for the day. The liquid drains out into the gardens. It is nowhere near the size of Ned and Tabitha's digester at Gaubin which provided gas both to the hospital and the house.
In addition the cattle roam the property fertilising as they go and they also provide milk to the plantation.
A truck was unloading a dark rich mulch which the workers were carrying in baskets and large plastic basins and broadcasting around the plants.
In the beetle-nut grove the palms are planted close together - maybe just under two meters and the beetle-nut collector climbs one palm, harvest the nuts, then swings from one palm to another to save climbing the 80 palms that he is required to harvest each day. The regular collection of the nuts is imperative for if the nuts ripen they will attract the monkeys which will destroy the plantation yield.
We returned to the entrance and we were provided with a sumptuous meal served on banana leaves placed in a flat cane dish. We were also each served with a good nip of Fenni a liqueur made from Cashew fruit which is 40% alcohol - 80% proof and tastes like a good quality tequila.
There were huge bunches of banana hung in all the main areas for people to pick and eat.
Win asked about cumin which is a base ingredient for curries and which we have not seen growing. The guide explained that cumin is grown at monsoon time; it grows on a shrub and is replanted each year.
We drove back to Panjim and rested until 5.00 when we jumped in the busses and went to Candolim Beach to watch the sunset and mix it with the locals and have our last dinner of the tour in a beachside restaurant.
A lot of us put on our newly acquired Indian gear. On the beach we found a cow lying in the late afternoon sun collecting a few rays and watching the activity on the beach. Not one local paid an iota of attention: we were all gob smacked.
Some of the behaviour of the other tourists really required improvement - it was crude and totally unbecoming in a society, which requires strict standards of behaviour, dress and respect. Just see the photo of how bad some of the foreigners get.
We all sat in deck chairs, drinking cocktails, gins, beers etc. and watched the sun swell up into a red ball on the horizon then fade and vanish over the Arabian sea.
As it grew dark we walked up to a restaurant on the edge of the beach and ordered a variety of seafood meals. We made the mistake of ordering a plate each so there were few complementary flavours, tastes and textures. In consequence we all ended up with overly spicy food- the Goan Vindaloo is something else - REALLY HOT, rich and fruity. The stuffed crab stopped everyone. - So rich and spicy most people could only eat half. Candice had us on a R350/- per head budget and we all came in well under that. Completely sated, we returned to Panjim.
Tomorrow is the last morning of the gourmet tour and we farewell Candice. Win was to speak tonight but the open setting of the restaurant was inappropriate so we are all having breakfast at 9.00 and we will farewell and thank her for the sterling job she has done in making the trip so enjoyable.