After an overnight train from Mumbai, I arrived in the provincial city of Margao just as the poky train to Canacona was boarding. Canacona is the end of the line for travelers headed for beach towns like Palolem in the deep south of Goa. Since this was the last train of the day and the ride takes only an hour, I bought a seat in the lowest class. 35 rupee ticket in hand, I piled in and took the last seat on a wooden bench, pack on my lap, between an elderly couple on their way to Gokarna and a young woman nursing a newborn.
Leaving Margao, we were soon deep in the countryside. All the cheesy water parks and mini-golf courses in Florida are modeled on Goa. Our bright blue train moved through rolling hills covered in jungle. We passed gurgling streams, water buffalo wading in flooded rice paddies, groves of coconut palms, and thatched huts.
In Canacona, I met my first tout. All the guidebooks to India go on and on about touts. They’re seemingly idle guys who wait around outside train stations and tourist sites offering various services. They will guide you through ruins, find you a hotel room, carry your bags, and most of them also drive rickshaws. The archetypal western attitude towards this – if Lonely Planet is any indication – is abject horror.
Why that is, I don’t know, because they seem handy enough to me. I got off the train. I needed a rickshaw. Dude walked up to me and asked if I needed a rickshaw. I said yeah. We dickered over the price a little, agreed, and then drove off: transaction complete.
We took a narrow road out of town, stopping along the way to pick up a more passengers: two aunties who were either fisherwomen or straight from the fish market, I wasn’t sure. But they got in with their baskets of fish and we bumped our way into the jungle.
We passed gangs of kids playing cricket with hand-carved bats under palm trees, roaside shacks selling everything from laundry soap to local beer, coconut orchards, more rice paddies, and dropped off the aunties just outside the tourist mecca of Palolem. We got stuck in a traffic jam. A traffic jam of cows. After several minutes waiting for the cows to graze their way out of the road, we sped past them and into the coastal village of Agonda, my destination for the next week and a half.
- Inspired by BootsNAll’s 30 Days Of Indie Travel Project. Today’s prompt is TRANSIT. -