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Day 19: Quiz and Maracas, but not Together

Ulrike Rodrigues and Ralph Pinto at Maracas

I finished my taxes.

Ulrike and I had lunch at Maracas, where I introduced her to Ralph Pinto, the owner.

I attended SEQC quiz night in Madgaon. The topic was science. My team kicked butt.

Day 18: Taxes

Apartment building construction

Thats it.

Today I did Red Cell's corporate income taxes which are due tomorrow. I did them at the new public library. It doesn't have WiFi, had oppressive security, and a lady yelled in Konkani in the room next to me for 3 hours.

I stopped for a cold coffee with Ulrike and Jessica at the Crown Hotel before calling it a day.

The picture is from the hotel. I took it for Maren. I though she would appreciate the scaffolding. I think it is made of cane.

Day 17: Recovery

Yvan, Matt, and Becky

I worked during the day, primarily at the Urban Café.

Ulrike checked out Goaphoto 2015.

I had a nice beef tenderloin at Maracas, followed by their weekly quiz night. Look, I'm being social!

This was our quiz team, "The Foreigners", me, and Matt and Becky who are Brits who have lived here for 7 months, because Becky's company opened an office here. Becky's voice is delightfully like Hermione Granger's.

"Are you mad, Harry?"

Day 16: Nature. Check.

Trip map
Anjuna Dam
Lake Anjula
King cobra

Yesterday I used Google Earth to plan an amazing motorcycle trip. The loop took me along the northern edge of Goa, up the Western Ghat mountains, into the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, East through Maharashtra, South through Karnataka, and West back to Goa. The trek would begin about 50m above sea level and would peak at almost 1000m (3280ft).

I began the trip around 10:00, leaving to the North up NH17, and East at Mapusa toward Mhadai. Near the entrance to the park is Anjuna Lake, and the Anjuna Dam. Once in the park, I made a few stops.

The first was a path by a small stream. I entered the trail only about 50m to get away from the road to discover what I could hear and see. As I stood quietly, I realized I was surrounded by hundreds of monkeys. They climbed and swung from tree to tree. Although I got a few pictures, they were very difficult to photograph. They were in constant motion, and due to the canopy of the trees, light was insufficient for a fast shutter setting.

The next stop, much further up the mountain, was a lookout that faced Anjuna Lake. It is a beautiful view of the Western Ghats facing the West, Anjuna Dam in the distance.

Although the temperature started to cool as I climbed the mountains, I decided to change out of my jeans, and in to my shorts. I wouldn't normally wear jeans, but I've had enough mosquito bites this week; and covered legs are recommended for snake encounters. However, noon approached, and the heat was increasingly uncomfortable.

Further along, my map showed a mountain road. It turned out to be a trail. I could see on the map that there was a waterfall nearby, so I hoped the trail would lead to a view of the falls. I got off the bike and started trekking. Had I read the sign at the entrance to the trail I would have realized that it was a 6km trail to the peak of Vagheri, the main direction being up.

Tigers have not been confirmed in Mhadai in about 8 years, but it is ideal habitat, and it is estimated that there could be up to 50 living in the 400km² Mhadei and Bhagwan parks. Tigers like jungle, water, trees, and paths, so who knows!

After about 30 minutes of walking, the path on my map had run out, yet the path ahead just kept going. I couldn't hear any sign of waterfalls, so I gave up and turned around. It was around noon by now, but even in the shade, such a steep climb is exhausting in 30C temperatures.

As I walked back down the path, the leaves crunching under my feet, I kept an open ear for any signs of mammalian life. Many lizards scattered as I walked, and possibly the odd mouse. It would have been cool to see a boar, deer, or monkey at least.

I heard rustling in the bushes ahead. Then I heard what sounded like a large mammal taking a pee. Holy shit, I thought; this could be a tiger. I stood dead still as the sounds moved in the bushes, my eyes focused on the location of the sound, looking for motion. It took a few seconds before I realized that the motion no longer coming from the bush, but it was crossing the path in front of me.

Let me clarify, that I am not afraid of snakes, as such. Back home, a walk in the tall wild grass will often stir up a few garden snakes. They are usually about 20cm to 40cm, are quite narrow, and kind of cute. I don't go picking them up, but they don't bother me. Last night, I was reading up on Indian snakes, just in case I encountered one. That's why I had worn the jeans (that I changed out of). Of course, India has venomous snakes, and although for the most part they try to ignore humans, some 40,000 people die of snake bites each year. It is obviously a populous country, and on a per-capita basis it would  be comparable to about 1100 Canadians, about the same as the number of deaths by accidental falls. Nonetheless, while death-by-tiger would be the ultimate honourable sacrifice for my favourite mammal, death-by-snake-bite would leave me humiliated for eternity.

I mention this because the snake that was crossing in front of me was about 250cm long, and 8cm in diameter. At this point I was about 6m from the creature. Remembering my previous night's reading, I slowly stepped backward and grabbed my camera. It stopped to check me out. Remembering that stomping on the ground would send the snake vibrations that a large scary predator was nearby, I gave it ago. Now, I didn't spend any time while learning about snakes to memorize all the patterns and colours, and which ones were venomous, I did recall that only the cobra does that thing where it lifts the front third of its body and makes that hood shape and flicks its tongue at what it perceives as a threat — like the snake in front of me was doing.

Adrenaline kicked in, and I don't remember what I did next, but it resulted in the snake slithering away and doing its thing. I confirmed that its noise was going well into the distance before proceeding.

The rest of the trip was beautiful and enjoyable. If you made a list of what motorcyclists love, it would include twisty roads, mountains, little traffic, and perfectly manicured asphault. That was exactly what I got; at least while in Goa and Maharashta. The roads in Karnatika were awful. I had to ride for several hours in first gear, dodging pot holes, some 3m in diameter and 15cm in depth.

Sister wasn't home yet when I returned, so I went to the local shops and had a beer with the local men at the "wine store". Ulrike arrived shortly after I returned. I fired up the computer, curious about what snake I found. It was a King Cobra. In fact it looked exactly like this one:

I think that was my last nature walk in India.

Day 15: Hot and Humid in the 'hood

Bannu feeds the neighbourhood dogs

Today was mainly a research and planning day.

I got the scoop on the Ali Salem Bird Sanctuary, the tigers waterfalls in the Mhadei Wildlife Reservation, some amazing roads to check out on the motorbike, and a train route that winds up the Western Ghats, through tropical rainforest. All are nearby.

For reference, pepper spray is available on, but anti-venom is not.

I went through the infuriating process of trying to get a (second) SIM card in India.

During a walk to the shops, Ulrike and I ran into Bannu, feeding the neighbourhood dogs. They all know to show up at 5:30 for chicken and rice.

Day 14: Shave and a haircut, 10000010 bits


Best value so far: INR 130 for shave, haircut, and head massage. I'm definitely a fan of the straight razor shave and massage; all told, about 45 minutes.

I got a button sewn onto my shorts while I wore them.

The neighbour really wanted to visit us. We weren't sure why, but thought it could be exciting. Weren't we disappointed when he tried to recruit us for Amway.

Day 13: Sunday at the Beach

Ulrike at Ozran Beach

Happy birthday, Mama!

Sunday was a "day off".

It was mostly spent at Ozran beach, a small beach south of Vagator.

We rode our bikes home, ate "Chinese food", and watched The Kings of Summer.

Waking Up Over Tea and Paó

Tea and Paó

We are usually up around 8:00, and Ulrike has introduced me to the ritual of Tea and Paó on the front veranda. The air not cool, but not yet hot, it's the perfect time to wake up, breathe the fresh air, listen to the birds and dogs, and maybe do some planning.

Tea and milk is accompanied by Paó with butter and marmelade.

Paó is a legacy from Portuguese colonization. Baked in a central location during the wee hours in the morning in mud-lined ovens, it is distributed by Paó wallers on bicycle, their horn honking as they wind through the residential laneways. It is the perfect combination of thin chewy crust and soft doughiness.

You soo soo in public once, and the girls never let you live it down.


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