Day 516, chronicle 083, Ratnagiri (N20°42.388′ E070°54.786′) India, 9 March 2011 12:45 pm –
My permanence on the island of Diu continued until the last possible day before, we had to join Giulio and Chiara, two dear friends from Tuscany and already my fellow travellers in the north of Thailand just a year ago, who were waiting for us in Mumbai. Therefore, on February 27, Giacomo, the bicycle on the roof and I embarked on the deluxe-sleepers bus covering the distance to Mumbai in 22 hours. These types of buses do not have seats but only single and double bunks to sit with legs crossed or lie down, even if they miss just that couple of inches to be able to fully stretch one’s legs. I requested to Giulio, and I thank him sincerely for doing so, to bring me a new pair of tires, because I did not find my size even in Delhi at the Merida’s dealer, who does not import my model being “too expensive” for the Indian market. The four of us hanged about the peninsula of the Indian cinema capital, without meeting any actor or actress!, nearby the imposing arch called Gateway of India, and erected on the occasion of the visit of King George the fifth and Queen Mary in 1911. Both Giulio and Giacomo did not miss the opportunity to taste the local cuisine in elegant and expensive seafood restaurants.
With the departure of my friends on March 4, I found myself alone again and I started to pedal south direction Goa. Even without looking at any map, temperatures and blazing sun show that I am far below the Tropic of Cancer. Following the scenic highway NH17, which crosses the arid bushes covering Sahyadri hills area and borders the lakeside of Koyana on the east, I reached the charming coastal town of Ratnagiri, 250 km from Goa. Here the sea breeze is cool and the Arabian ocean water has a temperature much nicer than in Diu. I have settled in a small hotel on the main street, not so busy and noisy for Indian standards, and here I will spend a few days to update the blog with new videos and texts, as well as sea bathing in the afternoon, the only time of day when the sun is not so scorching. Until next time.
Day 526, chronicle 084, Anjuna Beach, Goa (N15°34.984′ E073°44.234′) India, 19 March 2011 4:10 pm -
“Today is the first day of Holi, the festival of colours and love that marks the beginning of spring. The faithful overflowed the Hindu temples lighting smoking incense sticks to statues of gods and images of Lord Krishna, while groups of children and adolescents are fighting a peaceful battle using as weapons polychrome water and dust. The targets are bystanders who graciously submit to get wet and coloured and cycling I have been an easy target”. I wrote this a year ago for the same holidays when I was in Bishnupur, a 1700 km on the east coast across the Indian peninsula. I remember that I returned to the hotel with my hair covered in yellow and green powder, while the bicycle, usually white, had become like a colourful Hindu temple. I also recalled scenes of teenager’s gangs colouring violently each other, not even sparing the animals, especially cows that looked like a Harlequins on fours legs. None of this at Anjuna beach, where I am, sea resort for Westerners, with a predominance of Russian and English. This is territory of Goa, a Portuguese colony, where the Christian churches and chapels outnumber the pagan temples and most of the population has names as Santos Fernandes, the owner of my guest-house. The place is famous since the sixties when it was a haunt of hippies and, looking around, over the years, it has not lost its hippy vocation. I went to have a look at the Free Market, a weekly show of “alternative” humanity that converge from all over the area to buy and sell clothing, objects, creams and ideas to make other people “alternative”. The thousand of vendors comes from all age groups, starting with vintage “flower sons” with long white hair and beards, dressed in animal skins with leather fringes and baggy pants, exposing bracelets of their making with a classic design, but always in vogue; and ending with the Russians in their twenties in shorts and with Maori tattoos, selling bags of jute and t-shirt with psychedelic colours. In fact, the new generation of modern alternative-hippies movement are from the former Soviet Union, untouched by the historical 1968 youth revolution and kind of happening now. The thousands of visitors were divided into several categories: the curious who will not buy anything, I was one of them; the curious who will buy something as a souvenir of that place and time but will not ever wear it, such as the small-middle-class; those who would purchase and wear it, such as the children of good families; and finally, there were those who would normally be dressed that way, now citizens of a social world outside the common patterns …
The naturalistic setting is magnificent, between the Arabian Sea and the low hills that sometimes come to the water creating headlands eroded by waves. The National Highway NH17, that I followed to arrive here, is one of the most varied and picturesque route to India, with a succession of hills covered by thick tropical monsoon forest, interrupted by valleys where rivers flow in rocky banks with crystal clear water. I am enjoying these last few days of Asia, before moving to the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Until next time.
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