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Well…I didn’t want to leave this time… but my visa was running out …..Canadians receive a 6 month tourist visa that starts the minute you get it…and are near impossible to extend, I’m told….
Before leaving, I booked a one week Ayurveda detox program called Paunchakarma at Kaivalyadham Yoga Institute in Lonavalya….two hours south of Mumbai. My week there included two treatments/day…usually something involving alot of oil on my hair and body like massages, oil drips on the forehead (Shirodhara) , etc; plus yoga twice/day, 3 simple and delicious meals/day; and interesting talks in the evenings.
I came by overnight train from Goa to Mumbai, switched trains and headed two hours to Lonavalya, riding in Second Class Non-AC; all that travelling for the grand total of approximately five dollars!
The following week I went to Pune, a sizeable city four hours south of Mumbai. I had an appointment to see a dentist there; and had a couple of days before leaving India. As it happened, I was invited to stay at the Urban Ashram in a busy neighbourhood of central Pune. It is the spacious home of Sheetal and Khushmita; six years ago they opened their home for community gatherings with a spiritual focus.
Friends from home, David and Kathryn, were staying with Sheetal and Khushmita, having met them on their last Indian trip; that is how I received the invite to be there. While there, a workshop to build a cob oven and wall in their back yard was going on; and before leaving, a local artist was hanging her beautiful artwork for a show starting in a few days; she called her show a contemporary view of the god Shiva. Just to give an example of the many varied and interesting events hosted there.
I had found a cheap flight to Morocco from Mumbai…$177. cdn…with Saudi Arabia airlines…and it included a 12 hour wait at Jeddah airport…which passed quickly as it was my first time in that country and I did alot of people watching…a small price to pay for the very affordable ticket price.
Morocco is next…
They are all lovely…..the south is much quieter than the north…and the beaches not as busy…that is why we like it… the main ones are Agonda, Palolem and Patnem beaches….with a number of smaller ones along the way.
Palolem beach is walking distance to Patnem…it has more things happening there…and thus busier and nosier at times…Agonda is about 20 km north and is also becoming quite popular….
My favourite beach is Turtle Beach…a sanctuary for the turtles to lay their eggs…and about a 20 minute scooter ride from Patnem. Each year a few new restaurants are there but because of the turtle sanctuary, there never will be a large hotel complex…hopefully…just a few new huts to stay in..
Chaudi, a bustling town, where one can get a feeling of India without being too overwhelmed by it all, is about 2k m from Patnem Beach. An easy bike road or scooter ride to get there…usually dodging a few bison or cows along the way.
Goa is a huge fishing state..and the fish market in Chaudi usually has a great selection of fish if you get there early enough.
Besides shopping, Chaudi is also important for getting cash…with about five different banks to choose from.
We also go there for the post office, hair cuts, a doctor or dentist, pharmacy, bus station or whatever else we may need.
Well… I would have to say that the Chai Shop is usually the first stop for most of the regulars arriving back for another winter season….Ashant Fondekar, runs the shop with his brother, Prashant and father, Anandu. Always friendly, he usually greets us by name and a “welcome back”….They work hard feeding the tourists and locals…6am – 8pm daily…and earlier during monsoon season when the locals stop by before heading out to fish. Fresh chai tea, fried egg on a bun, banana bread, baji, a lentil type soup, samosas, cookies…all available for under 50 rupees (less than a dollar)….no wonder its packed every morning. My little Israeli neighbour likes the egg on a bun. The school kids wait for their bus just outside, buying snacks before it comes.
Next store is a busy little grocery shop run by their cousin, Kisan Fondekar. Another very popular spot in the mornings for fresh milk, yogart…etc. Its amazing what he stocks in that store. If you need something, just ask…and most often he has it. You never know what you’ll see parked outside the shop. If you dont drive a scooter to get around, you usually call a rickshaw or tuk tuk. (same thing). Some of us have our favourite drivers whowe call regularly…here is Shirish, popular with many. His wife runs a laundry …sometimes peoples knickers are found drying on top of one of his tuk tuks…..
Many people stay in beach huts; however, I preferred to rent somewhere with cooking facilities so the last couple years have been staying in Ismaels house; a spacious flat with high ceilings, just a two minute bike ride to the beach.
What do we do here all day long ……lots of lying around in the heat of the day….as well as many other things….
Yoga… high up with the coconut trees….
and playing Backgammon almost daily…here’s my friend wishing he’d never taught me the game after beating him two days in a row….
We also attend Art Openings, listen to alot of live music, watch the latest Oscar nominated movies (pirated) and meet with friends for drinks, chats or saying goodbye to someone who’s vacation has ended.
This year I became involved in some very active fundraising efforts for the families of more than 31 migrant workers who lost their lives in a very tragic building collapse in nearby Chaudi. The expat community rallied in a wonderful way to raise very urgently needed funds for these people; to send to the widows as well as provide funds for medical care, food, transportation, etc for the surviving workers left stranded by their employer. It vividly brought to light the plight of migrant workers world-wide; who are usually the last to receive any help, if anything at all.
Slowly Patnem is becoming like a second home for me….
NEXT…the surrounding beaches…
Im greeted with friendly “welcome back” from the local shopkeepers and restaurants…they even remember my name…something im not great at doing…that is remembering the names of others..
One of the first stops most visitors make is the local cellphone store…to request a SIM card…which now means a wait of 3-5 days for foreigners. The most popular shop in Chaudi, our local shopping town is the Baba Vodaphone Store…
…which usually means stepping over a sleeping dog…
My favourite staff member … helps me with computer problems,any inquiries I have, etc…always with a wonderful smile and great service. I also enjoy watching them light the candles on their alter each morning…
We rely on good cellphone and Internet service …and thanks to Baba Vodaphone Store…they help us keep in contact with family and friends.
The morning sky was usually beautifully bright blue and clear…with rain in the afternoons. San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2100 metres so it can be alittle cooler there as well.
Many of them are selling things to the tourists …..and some dont like to have their photo taken….and hide their faces….
Two interesting places to visit are the Mayan Museum of Traditional Medicine….
And Cisco, an american who started an Orchid rescue sanctuary over 20 years ago…saving many orchid varieties that otherwise would have been destroyed from the deforestation.