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Day 21: The 1000 Rupee Train Schedule

Train schedule scavenger hunt
Aldona Bridge
Quarry (camera doesn't capture its iridescent glow)
Trucks loaded on train
Trucker cooking lunch
Mining road intersection
Naroa station?
No road here!
Boats at the ferry docks

In General Aviation, there is a term called the one hundred dollar hamburger. It's what recreational pilots call a short flight to a nearby airport, to fly for no reason other than the love of flying. The hamburger at the airport café is as good a reason as any to leave the ground.

Indian Railways publishes a book called Trains at a Glance, that includes not only every schedule for every train, but all kinds of information about the booking process, menus, and more. It is a priceless tool for planning a trip. Although much of this information is available online, it is fragmented over hundreds of webpages, and the actual schedules can be searched, but not just downloaded en masse for browsing. The publication costs just 45 rupees (less than a dollar) and is about the size and thickness of a phone book for a small city.

Today I would buy one. I planned a route that would take me past four train stations. Hopefully I would get lost along the way. The words, I wonder where that road goes... always make Sarah nervous.

My first leg was to Thivim, the closest railway station, about 19km away, Northeast of Mapusa. As I turned off the highway at Mapusa, I saw a beautiful windy road with very little traffic, so I diverted. Some random left and right turns later, I found myself riding through Nashinola, a stunning village, full of hills and flowers; also the location of my grandmother's homestead.

Following another interesting-looking road, I rode through a quarry. Goa has hundreds of mining roads, each consisting of no more than a lane of Goa's signature red soil. These are uncharted in Google maps, but are detailed fairly accurately in Bing maps.

What amazed me is how I could follow a dirt path for long distances on mining roads without seeing anyone for 20 minutes, thinking I need to give up and turn around, only to stumble into a little village of 50 people, complete with a general store, following by another 20 minutes of nothing. As this happened over and over, I realized that I was seeing Goa's agricultural heritage. Villages like Nashinola, no doubt started as the crossing of two dirt roads long ago. As I studied my maps in detail, I realized what a huge fraction of Goa's population is invisible; unseen and unknown to the vast majority, accessible only by axle-breaking mining roads, their citizens living their lives traditionally in small communities.

Thivim station didn't have any copies of the book. There was however an example of something Ulrike was telling me she read about the previous day.

To save fuel and tires, freight trucks actually load their trucks onto flatbed rail cars for long trips. The drivers stay in their cabs for the extended journey, where they sleep and cook meals. About 100 trucks were on board at Thivim, and the train was leaving the station as I arrived. Think of all of the pollution, carbon, tires, accidents, deaths, and traffic that is being averted.

My next stop was Naroa Station. I went via mining roads. A photo shows an "intersection" of two such roads. A few missed turns led me to a dry dock on the North shore of the Mandovi river, where I met Sunil. Currently unemployed, Sunil and his friends gather for chat and games in the early afternoon. Impressed by is English, I listened as he told me about working in Dubai, fishing for mud, how to heal a cut, and the dream of working in Canada, only attainable if he can save 40,000 rupees for the work placement.

Naroa Station was not just a short ride away. I mean, it was a short ride away, but it wasn't there. It seems to have been abandoned long ago. Next.

Now in the middle of nowhere, the next stop was Karmali station. Inconveniently, the Mandovi river and Malar Island were between me and Karmali. As I was essentially following the rail line, this should not have posed a problem, except that the train had a bridge, and I didn't. How could my closest of friends, a map, lie to me? Thankfully, there was a ferry there, and after being accosted by a mentally-challenged person, I was aboard and on my way to Malar. I didn't check if there was a ferry on the other side of the island.

There was. The North/East half Naroa island was filled with dense communities of small houses and had the feeling of a European village, windy, intersecting roads at all angles, and often paved with stone. The South/West half was primary wetlands. At the end of the road I found the other ferry to Old Goa on the South shore of the Mandovi.

Karmali should have been easy to find. I had been there before. Twice. I had a map. I found it on my fifth attempt. They had a copy! Faced with success, I realized I had not brought my backpack, so I fashioned the book into a seat pad of sorts.

I checked with Ulrike to what she was up to, and met her at the Urban Café in Panjim.

It's harder to get lost with a GPS, but you can if you want to. 6 hours, 45 rupees for the book, petrol, and I assume I ate or drank something along the way. 1000 rupees well spent.

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