Docked at the Vasco da Gama Pier around 8.30am and the first thing you noticed was the large number of rust-bucket big cargo ships carrying iron-ore. Rust is evident all around.
No tour booked today that had enough interest. We thought of going to one of the beaches but they were hours drive away and our time was limited. Opted for hiring a local taxi to take us to places of interest. The taxis were all the same, small Fiat models. The four of us squeezed in and we were off.
Our hour and a half fast journey was a nightmare! Most roads are two lanes (one each way) and we appeared to be in an outer lane on many occasions. Horn honking was continuous, overtaking on blind bends was common and oncoming traffic somehow moved out of the way. No safety belts - so we held on tight, the wind whistling through the windows, the driver continually muttering and spitting out his window.
Drove past the town of Vasco da Gama named after the famous explorer, described as a modern well laid out city but it appeared to us to be just another village with dirty streets and side street stalls. Past many imposing Portuguese influenced houses, amid rough huts where the locals live. Washing is strung out on trees, bits of concrete anything really. Blue plastic tarpaulin is everywhere, used for temporary cover against the elements on roofs, windows. Lush trees and undergrowth and rice crops. Unfortunately we were unable to take photos as we were travelling too fast.
First stop to Old Goa and the huge Cathedral built in 1562. Not far away is the imposing Basilica of Bon Jesus, home to the shrine of St. Francis Xavier an early missionary in India. Parts of Old Goa were well kept with tall palm tree lined streets mainly around the main tourist areas by the churches. As we keep experiencing, everything is unkempt, unfinished, unclean and wires dangle everywhere. Our driver suggested we visit Panjim, the best place to shop for curios, handcrafts leather goods and cashews. He was correct about the cashews but nothing else. The place was a dog!!! Dirty streets and buildings and the usual traffic problems. It started to rain and the resulting uncomfortable humidity sent us hastily searching for somewhere clean to eat. We found a Dominos which had excellent air conditioning and dried our clothes very rapidly. We tired of walking around the dirty rubbish-filled streets so again braved the long drive hurtling back to the port. Our driver held out his hand for the expected tip, we thanked him for our safe return, breathed a sigh of relief and later on laughed about our second adventure in India.