New Year’s Eve

Well I guess this will be a different New Years Eve to any we have experienced in the past. As Ali and Maisie often go to their Dads in Bournemouth at New Year we alternately either spend it at the pub with friends or go to a party at mums depending on whether we have the kids with us or not.

It was around 8.30 when we woke up this morning and we made our way over the road for a Poonja breakfast which consisted of fresh pineapple juice, cereal, eggs, toast and coffee – plenty to keep us going until tonight and not bad for 120 rupees.

We got our tickets for tonight’s African themed party and decided to visit to the beach which is apparently best accessed through a hotel called The Silver Sands Resort around a 20 minute taxi ride away. Unfortunately when we arrive there is a sign on the gate saying hotel guests only for the 31st December. What a pain and the fella on the gate is having none of it when we try and persuade him to let us in.

We ask the taxi driver where to go and he takes us to the public beach 1.5 km away. It turns out to be quite pretty and we feel like real travellers as we are certainly well off the beaten track here. A deserted beach comes at a price though and we soon realise this also means no sun lounger, umbrella etc and there is very little shade apart from a few scraggy palm trees. We decide to stay for a couple of hours max and this turns out to be long enough. Simon and the kids have a good time playing in the sea but I feel far too self conscious to strip off to my bikini and stay covered up. Despite this I feel like the local tourist attraction as men and young boys all keep wandering over for a good stare.

On the way back from the beach I take the opportunity to have a good look around. Despite there being very little to do I like Mangalore, it seems to be a very laid back and peaceful place and we have been laughing at some of the sights we have seen here.

Maisie now has a bad ear and when we asked for a pharmacy we were directed to “Chemist for all sex problems”. We have also seen lots of signs advertising “The Worlds Last Cannibal”  not too sure whether this is a film or live show but we decide against trying to find out. There are also signs everywhere for palmistry and I would like to go and have our palms read but Simon thinks it’s all a load of crap and refuses to spend a single rupee on it!

At 8pm we make our way across the road to The Poonja International Hotel. The party is on the rooftop and we sit in the bar for an hour first having a drink. I’m developing quite a taste for gin and it goes down well with fresh lime juice and soda water.

When we go through we are fairly bemused to find cat masks on the tables and hats with Happy Birthday on them but put them on anyway and enter into the spirit of it. You would be hard pushed to find any evidence of an African theme but the evening starts off well when Ali beats a group of little girls in the musical statutes competition and wins himself a Bacardi Breezer umbrella. There are a number of competitions some of which we enter and the kids are pretty game considering we are the only westerners there.

These are followed by singers, dance acts and a live band which are all entertaining. Although I don’t think they are necessarily meant to be funny, we can’t help laughing at some of them and have a great night.

As we haven’t eaten since breakfast we are hungry, but by 10.30pm the food still isn’t ready and we get quite drunk on the complimentary whisky and soda. By the time the food arrives I’m too pissed to eat much but I do remember it looked quite nice with lots of different types of curries, fried fish, mixed salads and rice and noodle dishes.

There is no countdown to midnight but suddenly there are fireworks in the street and everyone is shaking hands and saying Happy New Year. The four of us must have looked a bit strange linked arms singing Auld Lang Syne on the dance floor but as we are a bit of a novelty here anyway I don’t think the Indians are particularly surprised by any thing we do.

We try and make some calls home but the lines are all busy and we decide to call everyone in the morning. Can’t remember going to bed guess the Indian whisky must be quite strong then.

Mangalore

We arrive at the bus station in Mangalore and try to ring a guesthouse recommended in The Lonely Planet but it is full so we ask the rickshaw driver to take us to The Hotel Parkway that Simon found on the internet yesterday. It turns out to be nice and we take one large room with three single beds all pushed together. There is a TV which we have all missed especially Maisie and by 7.30 am we have showered and lie on the giant bed watching a film with Ben Afleck called Surviving Christmas.

Mangalore is on the west coast of India in the state of Karnataka and only 15km from Kerala which is where we are heading. We are going to try and book our onwards train tickets later but don’t want to travel overnight tomorrow. We go out for breakfast but can’t find anywhere open apart from a hotel over the road so we go there. They are advertising a New Years Eve party, interestingly with an African theme and are selling it as the looniest and craziest bash in town. As it will cost under twenty quid and is only over the road with live music and food and drinks included I guess we will probably go for that.

When we are walking back to The Hotel Parkway I’m upset to get groped by some fella. He pretended to bump me and then stepped in front of me and stuck his hand in between my legs. It happens so quickly and although I shouted at him and shoved him on the back he just waltzes off like nothing happened and although Simon and Ali are only just a few steps ahead they never even noticed.

I’m not easily offended but I feel really pissed off about it and angry. I haven’t dressed skimpily anywhere except Goa’s beaches where it is acceptable and would like to have to the opportunity to tell the cheeky sod where to get off. Still I think you have to keep it in perspective and not get too uptight about it. After all I had read that many female travellers get sexually harassed in India and until this point we have had a relatively hassle free time.

We spend the day dossing around, we have searched the book for somewhere of interest to visit whilst here but there really aren’t any attractions to speak of. I guess it’s like visiting Derby having been spoilt in London. The train that we need to get to Kerala only runs three times a week though, so we are stuck here and will use the time to catch up on some school work.

We have an early dinner of a very hot and spicy mushroom masala and rice and then catch up with emails and update the website. I chat to mum for ages before we head back to our room. On trying to bolt the door I jam my thumb which hurts so much I can’t even cry so I swear a lot instead, take 2 paracetamol and eventually get into bed.

The Way to Mangalore

It was a early start to the day and we all felt pretty miserable and we where not looking forward to our 12 hour bus journey. But we went to the beach had a nice day and had a nice dinner and we felt not so nervous about the bus journey.

We got back from the beach and had a shower, but we all had to use the same towel, and we got in the taxi to take us to the bus station. We waited for about 25 minutes and finally the bus came we thought it was the big roomy one but dad took us to the small cramped one with no working lights and filthy sheets, but we made it through the night luckily.

Last day in Goa

Today is our last day in Goa; I have mixed feelings about this. When we started on our trip I kept thinking if we didn’t like the rest of India we would just stay in Goa for 8 weeks but now we are ready to move on and I can’t believe it has gone so fast.
Having travelled around the north I have viewed Goa in a different light. It remains for us a fantastic holiday destination and I would recommend it to anyone but we have of course encountered touristy elements here that we didn’t see elsewhere.

As with any holiday I feel we have over eaten and drank too much and I am looking forward to eating a bit more healthily and spending less money doing it. I am sorry to be leaving; it has been great having the apartment and more space. On the other hand we seem to have become embroiled in some type of turf war over business, with the taxi drivers which is a pain and you soon realise if you stay anywhere for long, all the same little niggly problems you encounter at home arise, such as whose turn it is to do the washing up!

We are due to catch the night bus at 8pm to Mangalore. After our previous bus experience I have blocked this fact out until now, but I do know now at least, that although the buses are noisy they are reasonably comfortable. In some ways I feel like we have had a break from travelling for a few weeks and we are going back to it now. This leaves me feeling excited and slightly apprehensive, in fact a little like when we first left.

We spent the afternoon at Bambolin beach, it took us all morning to repack our rucksacks but I have ditched some stuff and left some clothes with Aruna who is going to take them to the orphanage at Saligao. So it does seem like we are travelling a little bit lighter.
After an early meal of baby kingfish, rice and salad and a speciality Goan dish of spicy sausages we head back to our apartment for the last time.

We say our goodbyes to Aruna and promise to email and then get in a taxi to the bus station. When we arrive the bus is late and it doesn’t bode well when the crappiest looking bus turns out to be ours. I suppose it serves me right for thinking after the last bus ride that it couldn’t get any worse as this one turns out to be way worse. The sleeping compartments are smaller, filthy and the only concession to any privacy is a pair of tatty too short curtains. I have brought some sleeping tablets with me for use in an emergency only and they are looking tempting at this point.

The bus also stinks and I lie in the darkness for a few hours alternately trying to imagine if we would fare better if the bus crashed to the left or to the right and fantasying about how I will describe the horrible smell that is completely turning my stomach. This doesn’t quite cut it, but the best I could come up with is a combination of diesel, wet leather, something dead, something dying and urine.

We stop briefly at midnight and I take half a sleeping tablet, I would hardly say it results in a good nights sleep but the next time I am fully conscious is 5am. I’m absolutely desperate for a pee and after enduring every rattle and bump of the bus for an hour I finally ask Simon to empty a water bottle and decide I will try and pee into that somehow. At this point the bus slams to a halt and I virtually throw myself down from my sleeper and run to the front. There is no alternative than to crouch by the side of the bus with another woman whose modesty is a bit more protected than mine as she has a skirt on and doesn’t flash her bum like me, but by this point I am totally past caring and would have peed in the middle of Trafalgar Square if need be.

Bambolin Beach

We wake up quite early and mooch around our apartment for a few hours. Simon does some maths with the kids and I wash a load of clothes, although we had hoped to give up on that we haven’t dared give our stuff to the local laundry as it took so long to get it back last time.

Maisie is sill complaining that her arm is very sore and so to err on the side of caution we walk up to the hospital and ask for an x-ray. It is quite busy but seems to be quite a large hospital with all recognisable departments although I don’t see a sign for Hepatology.
After making our way from casualty to radiology we are seen by a friendly Dr who examines the x-ray carefully and pronounces there is no fracture. He re straps Maisie’s arm with the bandage we had bought and sends us on our way clutching the x-ray and a bill for around one pound fifty.

This all took around an hour and although the hospital was an old building it looked very clean and smelt strongly of disinfectant. We were treated efficiently and there was certainly none of the complete chaos that greets you when you are admitted to the acute medical unit at Derriford. As someone who has always been proud to have worked as a nurse, I think it’s sad when I find myself wondering if patients would be safer here than in an NHS hospital in England.

We catch a taxi to Bambolim which is a local beach, Aruna told us it is the safest beach for swimming as the sea is very shallow and there are no waves. Although it doesn’t turn out to be the prettiest beach, we have a lovely afternoon there and it’s good to be able to relax and read in peace without wondering if Ali and Maisie are being munched by the sea every five minutes.

There are just a couple of shacks playing my favourite sort of cheesy love songs including Leo Sayer and Elton John. The food is simple and cheap and we enjoy watching the cows on the beach who seem really naughty like spoilt pets! One in particular keeps nosing around everyone’s stuff looking for food and they run in and out of the sea kicking and bucking like rodeo horses.

We are going to Panjim for dinner and get a taxi at 7.30. Aruna left us a note inviting us to a party at her place tonight but by the time we have eaten it is quite late and we need to catch up with a few phone calls home. I have a chat with mum, it sounds like they had a lovely Christmas and we get back to our apartment around 11pm.Feeling exhausted again- how can you get so knackered doing so little?

The Beach

Our intentions of getting to Candolim early fell to bits as we didn’t wake up until 9.30.After yesterdays performance by Ali I am determined we are going to crack on with some work today and once they have had their breakfast (of chocolate toenails as they call them) we start some literacy. I have found this quite difficult to teach and today ask them to write a story about the day they got lost in India concentrating on presentation, punctuation and paragraphs. (They didn’t actually get lost mum!)

Looking through Ali’s SATS revision guide I’m not particularly thrilled to see there is quite a large section on Shakespeare. I don’t have a clue how I will go about teaching that and will maybe have to contact the school for some help.

Eventually we get a taxi to the beach and have some lunch of butter/garlic tiger prawns first which are yummy. The waves are a bit stronger today and I watch the kids like a hawk. Ali finds Lewis the boy he played with on Christmas day and they have a fantastic time with body boards and a rubber ring. Simon takes them for a walk up the beach to play the “flicker game” at one of the shacks and Maisie stays behind with me.

No sooner have they gone and we have a bit of a disaster, as I watch from the sunbed a huge wave crashes into Maisie and knocks her down, I run down to her but can see straight away she is hurt. The poor thing is holding her wrist and I have to almost carry her back up the beach as she is so shaky and upset. It takes me ages to calm her down and when I examine her wrist it is so tender I wonder if she has broken it.

As a nurse I rely on a combination of learnt skills, 18 years of experience and instinct to tell me if a patient is unwell, but have always found when any of my family have been ill or hurt that I have to ignore instinct and instead completely rely on assessment skills in order to make the right decision about what needs to be done. Eventually I decide that I don’t think it is broken and needs to be strapped up tightly and I will see how it is tomorrow. I give her some paracetamol which helps a little bit and decide if it isn’t any better in the morning we will have it x-rayed.

By this time it is quite late in the afternoon and we sit at Deva’s shack drinking gin and tonics. Maisie has a sip and then a big gulp which makes us laugh as we have never known her to like the taste of anything even vaguely alcoholic and I figure it will help her wrist pain!

We made the decision this morning to bring a change of clothes with us and stay here for dinner as there is such a large choice of restaurants but in the end we play it safe and go back to After Seven. We know the food is great and figure that if we go elsewhere and have a crap meal then we will wish we hadn’t.

Over dinner Maisie talks about “her friends” – The Simpsons. Every night for the past 3 years at least, we have had an hour of Bart, Homer, Marge, Maggie and Lisa and we tease her that the viewing figures have been noticeably affected since we left for our trip.

We get back to Dona Paula around 10.30 and after a quick shower go to bed. Maisie tells me she is “pour me into bed tired” and looks it – bless her.

Boxing Day

As expected none of us surfaced until gone 10 this morning. Having tidied up the place I set the kids going on some science which unfortunately Alister objected to so strongly he ended up having the privilege of his PSP and internet removed for the rest of the day.
Needless to say Maisie and I carried on while he and Simon had a little chat!

We have now started on the circulatory system and I have had the idea of going to “The Lucky Mutton Store” and buying a heart to dissect. Neither of the kids seem too keen but even if we aren’t able to locate any valves I’m sure we will be able to see some of the major vessels and 4 chambers. Simon isn’t too keen either but that is because he will probably end up with the job of buying it and bringing it home!

At 3pm we eventually wander down to the beach, we take a path Aruna told us about and end up scrabbling over rocks but eventually get there. A long drawn out discussion between Simon and the sun lounger fella ensues over money but we get settled at last!

Ali has decided to spend some of his Christmas money on a further jet ski ride and they go off, while Maisie plays in the sea and I read my book. After a game of frisbee we make our way back and decide where to eat tonight. I’m of the opinion we are on holiday so we should sod the expense but when Simon reminds me of how I was moaning about how fast we are spending our money I see his point and we decide to go to a local restaurant with a good reputation for Goan food.

We walk to The Goan Delicacy, down a tiny dark pathway lit by Christmas lights it seems so difficult to get to that I wonder how their business survives but when we get there it is a large place with quite a few customers. The owner brings us a book with comments in from previous customers and it certainly all looks good!
When the food arrives we’re not disappointed and Simon’s Chicken Xacuti is definitely the winner dish. Ali and I have strawberries and cream for pudding and we leave there stuffed and knackered!

We get a taxi home and although it’s not too late Maisie goes to bed and Ali plays his guitar to me. Simon goes to update the website and I have fallen asleep by the time he gets back. We are planning another day at the beach tomorrow and want to get up early. Must make the most of it, we are leaving for Mangalore on Friday night and our holiday will be over, for a little while anyway.

Boxing Day (by Maisie)

It was the day after Christmas and we where having a brilliant day and me and mum we’re saying how lucky we are and what we would be doing at home (working)
I just came out of the sea and Ali was going to go and play a flicking game with his 10 year old friend and I said I was going in the sea again.

I was playing happily when a monster wave crashed on me and I landed on my arm.
I came out and as I pushed on my wrist I rushed out In case I got hit by another wave. I came out crying and mum sat me down on the bed and asked what was hurting.
After a while dad came back and got me a bandage and a cake to cheer me up.

Today we went to the hospital for an X-ray there was nothing broken and it feels better but I can’t move it very well.

Other than that it was a pretty good day. (kind of)

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas! As usual we are awake way before the kids and lie in bed willing them to wake up. Eventually we hear a little voice warbling “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and go in to find them grinning at us! Santa has made it to Goa and after they have opened their presents we have our breakfast. Ali asks for bacon and eggs but I miss the champagne more and strawberry cornflakes just don’t cut it in quite the same way even with the added novelty that they turn the milk pink.

We get a taxi to Candolim and make our way to the beach. We choose sun beds right by the waters edge so I can keep a close eye on the kids and Ali quickly makes friends with a boy called Lewis. We have a lovely morning; the sea is quite rough with big waves but no under current and it’s very warm. After a lunch of grilled fish and chips, we pack up our stuff and walk along the road to phone home. We have a chat with everyone and I do feel a few pangs when I hear everyone laughing in the background it sounds like they are having a great time.

Still no time to feel down, I’m too busy feeling scared as we make our way to the para glider, my heart is pounding, I hate heights and yet before I know it Maisie and I are strapped into the harness and the parachute behind us is being lifted to catch the wind.
Then, like I have a string attached to my belly button, I’m yanked and we’re airborne.
Maisie loves it and although I don’t look down, I do look around and the views are wonderful. Too soon I hear the whistle from the fella in the speed boat which means we are going to come down and before I know it, it is all over. An experience that I never thought I would have the bottle to do.

For Ali’s present him and Simon are going on a jetski and I run through the waves trying to get some good pictures of them. They zoom off across the sea bouncing along the waves. Maisie and I laugh as we see them doing donuts on the thing and when they come back and tell us they fell off it I’m not surprised!

It’s now 6.30 and we get a taxi back to Dona Paula, 4 quick showers and a bit of pampering later and we’re ready to go. We arrive at Cidade de Goa and make our way to the garden where the dinner is being held. I’ll try my hardest to explain what it looked like but my first impression as we walked through an arch way was that we had stepped into a winter wonderland.

As far as the eye could see the garden was lit with strings of fairy lights and suspended from the branches of the trees was what looked like a carpet of blue and white streamers which almost created a ceiling. The tables were all beautifully laid on the grass around the dancefoor and the waiters were smartly dressed in silver waistcoats with santa hats.
Everywhere I looked amongst the trees were Santa’s, dolphins, stars and elves amongst other things.

In the centre was a cold buffet and it looked so delicious it almost seemed a shame to eat it, suckling pigs sat beside some evil looking fish with big teeth. There were hams, beef and chicken and maybe 30 different types of salads. I had tomato, mozzarella and basil. pasta with olives, and a spicy chicken and bean salad. Big green ice sculptures of Christmas trees sat in amongst the food.

Down one long side were steel serving containers with all differet types of hot food including roast turkey, tandoori prawns, beef dishes, noodles, rice, Goan specialities, fiery curries and so much more. The chefs stood behind were barbequing on request.

We had ordered some beer and a bottle of wine and as we finished our main course the entertainment started Firstly a sort of gospel choir of children sang a mixture of well known English and Indian songs and carols. Santa Claus appeared and as well as handing out a few presents danced a few moves accompanied by the live band who were excellent. At this point there was a huge firework display and it was so good I started crying. The DJ was brilliant and played a great mixture of English pop and dance music and Bhangra which was so lively lots of English people including us joined in. Ali amazed me by dancing around and although he looked a bit self conscious at times he seemed to have a great time and was well up for it.

The desert buffet reminded me of Hansel and Gretels house, backed with snowy mountains there were real gingerbread houses amongst the peaks and a choice of nearly 100 different miniature puddings. I had blackcurrant mousse, strawberry tart, chocolate log and strawberries dipped in chocolate.

Then the circus acts arrived and did their thing with acrobatics, fire throwing, twizzling sticks and other stuff. Until this point I always said I would never want to be away from home at Christmas and of course I would have loved for all our family to have been here tonight but I can honestly say this has been one of the best Christmas days I have ever had.

Because we have spent quite a bit of time at the hotel we actually know quite a few people who are staying there and we chat to various people including Aruna and her family. She invites us a party at her place one night this week and as we walk home at 1am we’re all full of it and what a great time we had.

Finally get in, in 20 years of dancing in unsuitable stupid shoes I have never had to soak my feet before but that’s what Maisie and I have to do as our feet are killing, it is the first time she has ever worn heels and she looked quite lovely and grown up. She has learnt a lesson tonight- oh the price of looking good!

Goan Christmas Day (by Maisie)

Mum and Dad came in and woke us up. For once we weren’t the ones skipping in the room on Christmas day! So after slowly waking up me and Ali found our way to the dining room. We didn’t really know what to expect.
But soon we came to a surprise that we got lots of small games like lasers, flashing ball, guns, games and lots of biscuits but no tea! and best of all -100 and to go parasailing!

So after cutting my new skirt up because it was way to small so mum thought we could cut the sides and it ended up with no elastic!

But after getting ready we decide to go to the beach and Ali met a nice boy and I join in with them. As he was very tall and looked older than Ali we came to a surprise when he said he was ten! Ali said “why can’t I grow!” and we all laughed at him!
After giggling at Ali we went to make Christmas calls and go on the internet.

We then make our way up to the water sports. As I am begging for me and mum to go first mum is saying she doesn’t want to go at all! But in the end I persuaded her to.
It was the most fun thing ever! Mum said her arms hurt at the start and the next thing we knew we were in the air! And it was soooooooo fun and I know I’ll do it again.

In the night we went to a five star hotel and when me and mum arrived in our high heals
we just gasped as we saw all the blue and Wight string and the light up plastic sea creatures and the fire eaters and I could go on but the thing that caught Alis and dads eyes was the buffet that we walked along and at the end the houses made out of chocolate, the strawberries covered in melted chocolate and the sweet tower stuck together chocolate!

The funny thing was that it was the first time I’ve worn proper high heals and after the party me and mum actually had to soak our feet in cold water as they where the first and the most uncomfortable shoes EVER!!!!!! I would rather go in converse.

Today was a weird Christmas and I felt a bit like an Indian but I know I will come here again, maybe not in India.