Planning for the next adventure

As I said before: Man proposes God disposes. I am just planning the North India trip which was curtailed when I hot tailed back to the UK from New Zealand in March 2020.

1 Sept  Thurs;              Arrive New Delhi (Broadway Hotel). Met at airport by presentative

                                    of Trinetra Tours     34 - 25       


2 Sept   Fri                  Rest

                                    Trinetra tours

3 Sept Sat                    Akshardham Temple, Noida Ashram


4 Sept Sun                   Moth Ki Masjid and Hanuman Temple





5 Sept Mon                 Leave New Delhi for  Ranikent. (1869m17 - 25  I assume your driver will pick me up from the Hotel. I will probably stay at the Hotel Broadway.

En-route you make a brief visit to Kainchi Dham, Neem Karoli Baba Ashram, to seek a blessing from the immortal Guru. After that, you will reach Ranikhet by 5 pm. For the next 3 days, we will be making overnights stay here in Ranikhet.


6 Sep Tues                   Free day - Ranikent

This day you do not move for any scheduled excursion, you take your free time to build a relationship with the nature of the Himalayas, take a long walk in the Forest Healing Center Ranikhet nearby, interact with local and make the Himalaya your friend


7 Sept Wed                 Babaji’s cave

Post breakfast, check-out and you will drive to Kukuchina (2407m) village, it is a point of beginning your long-awaited spiritual quest to assimilate a divine aura of Mahavatar Babaji cave. From Kukuchina, you have a trek of 60-90 minutes to reach Babaji Cave. After reaching there, you get plenty of free time to observe silence in the cave or nearby cave on your own; there is also a Hut of YSS, Dwarahat Ashram. So, you can join the collective meditation retreat. The cave is the place, where, Babaji revived Kriya Yoga through Lahiri Mahasaya.


8 Sept Thurs                Free day - Ranikent


9 Sept Fri                    Kausani  (1004m)  18 – 22)– Gwaldham (1940m 14 – 4)

After morning breakfast, check out from the Hotel, drive to Kausani, en-route sightseeing, the Baijnath Dham, a Shiva Temple in Kausani, the Bageshwar Dham, Bag river & temples. Later, drive to Gwaldham, in the late afternoon, check into Hotel of Gwaldham, have free time in the evening to walk nearby places, have a relax, dinner & overnight stay at Hotel in Gwaldham.


10 Sept Sat                  Gwaldham – Joshimat (1934m  -23 -13)

Breakfast at Hotel, check out, drive to Joshimath via Gwaldham & Karnprayag. En-route visit Buddhist Gompa Temple in Gwaldham which has a picturesque location at a height of 2000 meters and enjoy and experience the scenic Himalayan nature. It offers a panoramic, 180-degree view of the snow-clad Himalayan Mountains. Later in the afternoon, you will be reaching Karnprayag, the confluence place of 2 Himalayan holy rivers, the Alaknanda  river & Ram Ganga river, later, continue to drive to Joshimath, upon arrival at Joshimath, check into Hotel, after that, you have free time to move in this tiny town on your own, have dinner & overnight stay at Hotel in Joshimath.


11 Sept Sun                 Joshimath – Sri Badrinath

Morning breakfast, check out & visit Joshi Math group of temples and the nature-made cave where Adi Shankaracharya meditated, then drive straight to Sri Badrinath Ji. Joshimath is a winter seat of lord Shri Badrinath Ji, for six months the idol of Sri Badrinath Ji is kept in Joshimath Temple.

Upon arrival, check into Hotel. Later in the afternoon, drive to the last village of India, which is called “ Mana village”,(3200m  8)  which is populated by the ethnic Tibetan Buddhist people, in the late evening, drives back to Badrinath. Have dinner & overnight stay in Hotel. [There was a problem with his last time and you suggested visiting Auli a Himalayan ski resort and hill station and taking the cable car to Auli and seeing the Valley of Flowers National Park.


12 Sept Mon               Joshimath – relax

After breakfast, visit Sri Badri Vishal temple to participate in the morning puja and the meeting with the chief priest of the temple, Sri Rawal Ji & the rest of the day, you are free to explore the town on your own, Dinner & overnight stay.


13 Sept  Tues              Joshimat  - Rudraprayag (895m 15 – 5)

Post breakfast at the hotel, check out and drive to Rudraprayag, en-route visit Vishnu Prayag, a confluence of two divine Himalayan rivers, Koteshwar Mahadev Temple, is a cave temple, perched on a deep narrow valley between two Himalayan mountains, on the bank of the Alakananda in Rudraprayag. Rudraprayag is a district centre and famous for its religious importance, is a confluence of Alaknanda & Mandakini. Later check-in and rest of the day, you have free time to relax. Dinner & overnight stay


14 Sept Wed               Rudraprayag Rishikesh (372m 19 – 33)

After breakfast, You will proceed for the Rishikesh, en-route visit, Dhari Devi temple, a floating temple in the Alakananda river, Devprayag, a confluence place of Bhagirathi river & Alaknanda the river along with Raghunath, an ancient temple of Lord Rama, later, travelling down towards Rishikesh town.

En-route stop at the sage Vashisht Cave, which is located by the river Ganges in the midst of natural settings, have free time to observe silence in the cave or those, who wish to take a deep in the river, they can take. After that, drive to Rishikesh, which is a 1-hour distance from the cave, upon arrival in Rishikesh, check-in, dinner & overnight stay.


15 Sept Thurs              Rishikesh

Breakfast at the hotel, first a visit the Divine Life Society Ashram, Swami Sivananda. The ashram houses the Samadhi Shrine of Swami Ji. Here, in the Ashram, you have free time to explore on your own, then drive to the Laxman Jhula, a hanging iron-wired bridge& Kriya Yoga Ashram, Tapovan Saray.

Later, drive back to the hotel for the lunch and you have free time to explore the river on your own till the late afternoon, later, drive and walk for the evening Ganga Aarti of Parmath Niketan. Dinner & overnight stay.


16 Sept Fri                  Rishkesh

Visit Sarg Ashram, trek to Patna water fall, visit Divine Ganga Hotel and Ashram next to it.



17 Sept Sat                  Flight home  from Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun to New Delhi

                                    New Delhi to London.


If not possible to connect with flight to London on Saturday can stay Saturday in Rishikesh and leave for Delhi and London flight on Sunday. It would be nice to spend Sat 17 in Rishikesh and return on



India post postponed

Man proposes - God disposes!

I thought I would be returning to India on March 29th, 2020 to tour Delhi and the Himalayas. No such luck. The Indian government banned the entry of all foreign nationals until April 15th due to the corona virus.

I hope to be there on the first plane on April 16th. Let us see what the future brings.

Revised Travel and Visa Advisory - COVID 19 (12 March 2020)

Posted on : 12-03-2020 | 
  • Consulate General of India


1.                   In supersession of all earlier advisories issued on this subject the following visa restrictions are issued for implementation –

i All existing visas issued to nationals of any country except those issued  to  Diplomats, Officials, UN/International organizations, Employment, Project  visas  stand suspended till April 15, 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13, 2020 at the port of departure of any foreigner for onward journey to India.

ii.             Visas of all foreigners already in India remain valid. They may contact  the nearest FRRO/FRO through e-FRRO module for extension/conversion of their visa or grant of any consular service if they choose to do so.

iii.           Visa free travel facility granted to OCI card holders shall be kept in abeyance till April 15, 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13, 2020 at the port of departure of any foreigner for onward journey to India.

iv.           Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reasons may contact the nearest Indian Mission for fresh visa, which will be approved by the authorities in India in each case.

v.           All incoming travelers, including Indian nationals arriving from any destination and having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany  on or after February 15, 2020 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13, 2020 at the port of departure of such travelers.

vi.              International traffic through land borders will be restricted to designated Immigration Checkposts with robust medical screening facilities. These will be notified separately by Ministry of Home Affairs.

2.               In addition to the above visa restrictions, the following travel advisory is hereby issued in accordance with instructions of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare -

i.           Indian nationals presently abroad are advised to avoid non-essential travel. They are hereby informed that they can be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days on their arrival in India.
ii.           All Indian nationals are strongly advised to avoid all non-essential travel abroad. On their return they can be subjected to quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days.

Leaving Goa

The last day starts with a swim. The hotel pool is pleasant before the sun becomes hellishly hot. Billy comes to tell me goodbye, brings me a lovely small clay pot - he is aware I can't carry to much on my travels - and some cashew nuts. He says I can keep the tourist booklet about Goa. A truly nice man and very helpful individual who introduced me to Alan a terrific tax driver and guide.

The bag is easier to pack than in London. It's just a matter of packing what is in the room not deciding what to pack. I am busy with the blog until Alan arrives. I suggest we play a similar game at the shop next to the hotel but decide it's better to just go out for a nice meal.

We drive to a nearby beach 4kms from the hotel and have a pleasant dinner at a restaurant on the beach. The sweet and sour vegetables and rice are as I know them and Alan enjoys his dhal. He has eaten a lot of dhal recently. As we drive to the airport couples walk along the side of the road. Boys are drinking beer.

Alan can't go inside the airport as he does not have a pass. He lifts my bag onto a trolley gives me a hug and off I go inside the small, pleasant terminal. There are no issues with the bag being over weight which is good and I manage to buy the tea shirts for a London friend. He has not specified the wording so I chose two which I think will be appropriate.

The flight leaves at 1am. It is only one hour and I sleep all the way. My flight from New Delhi does not leave until 13.15 so its a long wait. I take my bag and sit myself down on a seat. A pleasant young man talks to me. When he leaves to catch his flight another comes. He works on a cruise ship and has just flown in from the Caribbean. He also does vegetable sculptures and helps with the crocodile safaris in Goa.

Bags are checked in all the way to Auckland. I have a bad feeling Air India will lose the bags. Thank god the lady and her husband I sit next to on the Air India flight talk and have some interesting stories to tell. The lady's son recites the Gita and gives commentaries about it. She is traveling to Sydney to see him. I watch an Indian film she has selected. A sad story about a man who gets a stroke and is cheated  by his family until his grand daughter comes to his rescue and retrieves the family home her father was trying to sell. Serious stuff!  Air India seems very India orientated in its entertainment and choice of films.

The  12 hour flight is not as bad as I thought it would be. Sydney's Kingsford Smith airport is small and welcoming. I discover an e visa is now needed for New Zealand and I don't have one but the lady on the check in counter at Virgin Australia manages to get me an electronic visa using the internet on my mobile.

When I arrive in Auckland the bag is not there - the  price I pay for not following my intuition and not asking  to collect the bag in Sydney.

My first experience of India for 43 years has been wonderful. I have learned that sightseeing in 30 degrees plus is a no no and has to be done between the crack of dawn and 12pm or after 4pm. A valuable lesson for New Delhi where I will not have a rest day in between sight seeing trips. The next Indian adventure beckons on April 30th after I have spent six weeks in New Zealand where I was born.

North Goa

I slept for 12 hours totally wacked by the heat. It was time to sort  out why I had  been charged three times to book the Silken Sands Hotel. The website of Expedia said your booking has not gone through, try again. So I tried three times. On the third attempt I was told to use another card. The Vanquis card went through but the Lloyds card was also debited.

The manager was very polite. He offered me coffee and spoke a bit about Goa about how it had changed with the Russian mafia getting involved in drugs. He assured me that the hotel received no money from the bookings and the problem was with Expedia. So I have to return to Expedia who told me that the booking could not be cancelled. I was not asking them to cancel the booking. Just to refund the money. It will take many more emails to get the money back and I suspect in the end the credit card company will refund it.

Started the blog. I am not sure how it will go. I have never written a blog before and I don’t know how to upload videos. But videos are not really necessary.

The restaurant in the hotel never ceases to amaze.  Rice and vegetables means raw carrots so I pick the carrots out of the rice. The Nepalese waiter tells me rice is boring. We talk about temples and first he says he is 100 percent Hindu then he insists he respects all religions and in the end he comes to the conclusion that the Buddhist religion is best as it is not a religion. In front of his parents he is a good Hindu and sticks to the rules but he does not like a religions with a lot of does and don’ts.

On the what sap conversation with my Hindu friend in London I am asked to buy some grass from one of the old ladies who sit in front of the temple and feed a cow on behalf of his family. I say I will do it but there were no such old ladies sitting in front of the temple  I visited yesterday. He misses India and he was meant to  go to north India with me to Babaji’s cave but life dealt him a difficult set of cards and he couldn’t come.  It is difficult to understand what the cosmic decides for each of us but we do not have the wide vision of the creator of the universe and have to accept what we do not always understand. Easier said than done.

This is the second day of touring. At breakfast an Indian gentleman asks me where I am going today. I tell him to a temple, a mosque and churches. As soon as he hears mosque his mood changes and he launches into a diatribe about how there is going to be a blood bath in India as the Muslims want to divide the country once again. He says the most fanatical Muslims are in Pakistan and in Europe. He is convinced they want to take over Downing Street and the world. He is a man with rigid views. Even if you want to have a discussion he will not let you get a word in. I am glad he wishes me a  nice day and leaves. Of course the Muslims have done and are doing things that are grossly out of order in India and elsewhere. But I don’t need these politics, these harsh realities. I just want to enjoy the beauty of Goa.

Alan arrives on time as  bright eyed and bushy tailed as I am. There are lots of scooters on the road. I have not seen one person wearing a crash helmet. Judging by the electrics they are not so hot on health and safety either.

“People were loving and helpful here once,” Alan says with a note of sadness in his voice. “Now they only look at what you have and what they can get out of you.” I assure him everyone I met was very nice to me. “You have been here two days,” he replies sarcastically. “Stay here a few months and you will change your speech.” Who knows maybe one day I will stay for a few months and I might change my speech!

Our first destination is the Shree Chandreswar Bhutmath Saunsthan Temple. It is on top of  the 350m high Chandranath Hill near Paroda Village. It is a pleasant drive through the trees but there are no monkeys. I did not pray to the monkey god Hanuman who I like so much to send me monkeys. “You believe in that?” asks Alan. I tell him I am a devotee of Hanuman and he just looks at me. “Maybe he will send you a monkey.” I can tell by the tone in his voice he thinks it is all a  big joke.

We climb the 295 steps to the temple. It is early morning, before 9am, the sun has not come out in full force yet and there is a pleasant breeze. Half way up (I am counting the steps) is a very small temple with some small photos of various gods.

When we reach the temple Alan sits down and says “I will wait for you.” We have an understanding that half an  hour is allocated for the temples. I have to do my meditation. At the entrance to the temple is a picture of a snake with seven heads. My Hindu friend tells me later on whats ap that it is samudra manthan one of the best-known episodes in the Hindu philosophy narrated in the Bhagavata Purana, in the Mahabharata and in the Vishnu Purana. The samudra manthana explains the origin of amrita, the nectar of immortality. I wish he was here but as Lenin said “by peace if we can by force if we must.” I adapted his saying regarding travels with friends: with you if I can without you if I must. Sadly it is without you because I must.

Shri Chandreshwar Bhoothnath Temple is one of the oldest and most famous temples of Goa,  dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is said that Chandreshwar is an incarnation of Lord Shiva and is worshipped as Lord of the Moon. According to lore water seeps out of the Lingam(a symbol of divine generative energy, especially a phallus or phallic object as a symbol of Shiva) when the rays of the moon fall on it. The Shivalinga is placed in such a way that the moonbeams on a full moon night fall upon it. Located on the Chandranath Hill in Quepem, this temple has been renovated several times. The Chandranath Bhoothnath Temple is associated with the Bhoja dynasty.  They named their capital Chandrapur which was changed to Chandor by the Portuguese. Next door to this temple is a smaller temple dedicated to Bhoothnath, the Lord of ghosts, also another name for Lord Shiva. There is a palanquin procession of the deity held every Monday evening and food is then offered to the worshipers.

There are the usual things to buy inside the temple: garlands of orange flowers, coconuts and incense. No cows and no old ladies selling straw. Orange robed priests are chanting. They look radiant and healthy with ample flesh but not obese. They give me a welcoming smile. The sun seems  to shine out of their eyes.

I sit myself down with my back against the wall on the marble floor. No obliging chairs here but surprisingly I am fine. By the time my meditation is over the priests have gone. I bow before the large statue, leave a few rupees and take my leave. A young man looks surprised I have left money. Hanuman will get the garland and the coconut.

Even Alan remarks that it is a nice temple even though he has never set foot inside. Going down stairs is harder on  the knees than going up and we reach the car with only one rest. I want to buy water but Alan says not from here. He would rather a shop keeper in the town sells it to me. As we pass a Catholic school Alan remarks that Hindus send their children to Catholic schools.

We arrive at Big Foot in Lutolim. It is a recreation of yesteryear with bright statues, lots of explanations of how things were in those days. Alan really does not like this place and has only brought me here because Billy put it on the itinerary. And as Billy gives Alan lots of customers – including me – so he does what he is told. He lets it be known that few customers are as nice as I am. Some just sit in the back and say nothing. “I can tell from their faces, their eyes what kind of people they are. They do not need to talk.” He could write his memoirs as a taxi driver. He has done the job for around 20 years. 

I buy the ticket. Alan tells me to only buy one ticket as I do not need to see the historic house. But the ticket seller has other ideas and I have to buy two tickets. As soon as I have bought the tickets a man in a uniform takes me by the hand and leads me to the Case Araujo Alvares, Goa’s first sound and light heritage house.

This house is  totally different from the house of horrors I went to two the day before yesterday. It is brightly painted and there is a welcoming little man, rotund  as a barrel who tells me I have to wait until the end of the current sound and light show. “The house had six people, 20 servants, and one care taker and was built in 1755,” he says smiling as if he expects me not to believe him. It does not take long for the latest sound and light show to end and it is very pleasant sitting on the shaded veranda.

As soon as you enter the house the happy music of the Mediterranean greets you and a confident matter of fact lady’s voice tells the story of what is in each room. There must be underemployment in Goa because the little man follows me round and repeats what the woman on the recording has said. After two rooms another man appears, this one taller and leaner and does the same thing. Before the visit is over I have at least four guides in addition to the audio guide. They have all learned their lines to perfection and I write down what they say in my note book and look interested – which I genuinely am.

Casa Araujo Alvares wears her glory in antiquity and grandeur not unlike a grand dame of yore. From the wide entrance to the stately interiors, the house beckons the visitor, like a platter of sumptuous meals. This 250 year old mansion belongs to the Alvares family and forms part of the ancestral Goa tourist complex set up to recreate Goan village life under Portuguese rule. It was named after the owner Eufemiano Araujo Alvares a prominent lawyer. The mansion is constructed round an interior courtyard and features a chapel at its centre. It is gracefully furnished with European antiquities and old photos. Each room is preserved as it was centuries ago, including the kitchen filled with traditional implements. Alvares office has an intriguing desk with secret drawers and corners and a collection of pipes. Other unique items are a collection of Ganesh dolls and a prayer room with 300 of icons (pictures) of Jesus. There are bullet holes on the walls next to a metal locked door. The family locked themselves in this room with their valuables when thieves came and they did not manage to steal a thing. “We preserve so you may observe” is an obligatory sign in every  room. In the garden a Roman statue and Ganesh exist in a happy symbiosis.

The last real life guide is impatient for the recording to finish so the next lot of tourists can be let in. I want to say goodbye to the rotund little man but he is nowhere in sight. I return to the car and Alan and explain that I was more or less forced to see the house. He just smiles but he is happy I enjoyed it. I learned early on that when someone takes you by the hand and says “come” in India  you just go and it turns out for the best. Well it has so far.

Big foot is a large complex with a winding path and ‘this way’ signs which gives a penetrating flash of insight into the village life of Goa. There are brightly painted statues like in a gaudy theme park but it’s a fun place. There is also a wishing well which I don’t find.  Alan scoffs at such things but asks if I want to go back and ask someone to tell me where it is. I don’t want to spend to much time here as I sense Alan  is in a hurry to get me to our next destination the Safa Mosque.

Big foot is a miniature Goan village set up to recreate the rural life of old days. It is privately run by an artist called Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alvares. The open-air museum recreates Goan rural life as it was a hundred years ago. In this model village one can also see different miniature houses that showcase traditional occupational and social classes such as fishermen,  and Goan artisans. There is  a music school known as Escola da Musica, farmers, liquors shops, the village market, and a  distillery. The museum has many sections with the reception and Parasuram, the legendary lord who is the avatar of Lord Vishnu is believed to have created the land of Goa by shooting an arrow from the Sahyadri mountains into the Arabian Sea. The museum also has fisherman  a cowshed and haystack. Then comes the Bhatti- Jaki's distillery where Goa's famous "Feni" and "Urak" is distilled. Then the potter - Nandu, then  the carperter - Inas and the Shepherd-Krish. There is also a  craft village where craftsmen are busy working on their wares. Then comes the flower-seller, basket weaver, bangle seller, gram seller, the cobbler and Tinto - a market place where fresh food products are sold. Then Anand's House, the music school of Maestre Cloude, Posro, the general stores or a shop, taverna , the country liquor shop made of stone and mud. And finally Big Foot. Legend has it that anyone stepping on the big foot with a pure at heart will be blessed with good luck. The longest laterite (a redish clay material) sculpture in India is that  of  Sant Mirabai measuring 14 meters by 5 meters  created by Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alvares in just 30 days. It  shows the  influence of the Gandhara School, a style of Buddhisgt art.  The kumkum on the forehead, the armlet, pattli on her wrists and the paisona around her ankles give the sculpture a characteristic Goan appeal.

Even though there are 70 mosques in Goa they do not get a lot of publicity on the tourist route.  We are off to the Safa mosque in Ponda town. Mangoes are being sold by the side of the road and Alan tells me  there is a special way to eat them with a preparation of salt and spices.   When we reach town Alan is not sure where the mosque is. He speaks to a local in konkani the Goan language and off we go. I remember the word rasta (road). We go through a concrete tunnel and Alan parks by the side of the motorway. I hang on to his hand for dear life as we cross and come to the Safa Mosque complex. It is magnificent with lawns and a water tank with niches in the form mihrab arches around the structure. A natural spring keeps the tank filled with water throughout the year. It is 55 metres long and 38 meters wide with six flights of steps leading into the water. Great place for a swim. Bad joke. Alan is horrified by the suggestion. “You will go to jail,” he says. Getting me out of trouble is obviously not on his bucket list.

On the outskirts of  Ponda town is the historic Safa Masjid or The Shifa Shahourie Masjid. This Islamic ecclesiastical structure is a historian's delight. In fact, the hustling modern town life of Ponda has not affected the serene, sublime and elegant period look of this great mosque. It has withstood the ravages of time.  Literally, the Arabic word ‘Safa' means clean, chaste and pure and the title befits this beautiful structure which is devoid of any mindless extravagance and grandeur. It is meant for the chaste, clean and for the pure at heart and a devout Muslim.  Sultan Ali Adilshah I  built the Safa Masjid of Ponda in 1560 during the rule of Sultan Ali Adilshah I ( 1557-1580).  Ponda was captured by the Portuguese in  the mid 18th century. The greatness of the Safa Masjid lies not in what is left of the one time prosperous religious complex but its ruins which vividly recapitulate the past glory. The most interesting is the huge tank with 44 ‘hammams' (hot air baths) dotting its four, interior sides in the typically Islamic Mehrab style archs. The tank has a flight of steps  in the typically Hindu bathing ‘ghats' style. This green rectangular tank holds a  mirror to the small mosque which stands elegantly facing it. The tank and the mosque is made of  laterite stone masonry. The mosque originally was built up of the exposed laterite which was dotted with a number of Mehrab style arch and niches for people to pray accompanied with the original laterite pilaster. You can still see the remnants of the mehrab archs on all the four sides of the mosque where the top half of the mosque is plastered with a cream colour with chhajja (eaves) design and Persian style Mehrub double arches. On the top half of the mosque, the ‘mehrab' double arches are crowned with a beautiful lotus bud motif which adds to the serene beauty of this simple mosque. Here the mehrab style windows are square in shape. The Safa Masjid is a fusion of Indo-Islamic style. The roof is tiled and you also find some ruined standing laterite pillars. The mosque and the tank were formally surrounded by an extensive garden with many fountains. 

I sit on the steps leading to the water. Alan sits some distance away. The beauty and simplicity of the architecture is breathtaking. All cares and worries, not that there are any at this point, are dissolved in the water.

Having done justice to  Goa’s Hindu and Muslim heritage it is now time for the Christians. I have seen the outside of many Christian churches but now it’s time to see the inside of the churches. Alan is very happy. He is in his element now. Enough of idolatry – well that is how he looks at it.
We start by driving up  a hill to the Lady of the Mount Church. Alan tells me that girls and boys slip away from school to make love on this hill. He takes me there for the magnificent views. The church was whitewashed for an Indian movie and is now a hit with the Hindus. I remember an Indian film I saw 43 years ago. Everything was larger than life with the hero managing to outrun a wild dog.  Escapism is good. Forget the bobby wood kitchen sink dramas.

Although its secluded location often leads to this little church being overlooked, it is certainly worth a stop on a tour of Velha Goa (Old Goa). With simple exteriors, lavish interiors and wealth of historical significance, this chapel is what one might call a hidden treasure. Its plain whitewashed walls present a delightful picture at sunset, and the view from its vantage point is truly breath taking. Situated as it is atop the Monte near the Church of St. Cajetan, it overlooks the expanse of the Mandovi and the islands of Devar and Chorao.  It is on the top of the “Monte” that the chapel of Our Lady of the Mount” was built soon after the conquest of Goa to mark the site from where Adil Shah positioned his artillery against the Portuguese forces to retake Goa in 1510. So when Afonso de Albuquerque defeated the Sultan’s forces, he made a vow to construct a church at the very strategic point on the mount. The church was constructed in 1519 and has been rebuilt twice since. The churches chancel has three altars. The main altar has at its centre the image of Our Lady of the Mount holding the child Jesus. Above it is a picture of the coronation of the Virgin Mary, and below that a picture of Our Lady of the Assumption. 

After that we head to the waterfront where there is a Viceroy’s Arch  with a large engraving of Vasco de Gama. I really don’t know what it is with Alan and his admiration for the colonisers. “They brought as railways, communication, the English language.” Well, yes but they also plundered India. I guess they weren’t all bad but it is strange to me that an Indian is actually supporting them. I suggest Alan reads Inglorious Empire: What Britain did to India. Don’t think there is much chance of that and if he is happy believing the colonialists were beneficial to India,  God bless him.  He recites children’s nursery rhyme: Vasco de Gama created a drama. He dropped his pyjama and showed his banana. It’s good he has a sense of humour.


I have met others who were supportive of British colonialism. The Sudanese gentlemen in London who are more English than the English and speak of the glorious times in Sudan under the British when there was a functioning administration. The South Yemenis had a movement bring the British back some years ago. When I was in Aden an old woman came up to me on the beach, kissed me and asked me why did you ever leave?

The Viceroy's arch in Old Goa was built in the memory of Vasco Da Gama in 1597, by his great-grand son Francisco da Gama after he became the viceroy. There was a ceremonial importance attached to this structure during the Portuguese rule. Every governor who took charge of Goa had to pass through the arch. Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese explorer who sailed to India from Europe. Gold, spices, and other riches were valuable in Europe. But they had to navigate long ways over sea and land to reach them in Asia. Europeans during this time were looking to find a faster way to reach India by sailing around Africa. Da Gama accomplished the task. By doing so, he helped open a major trade route to Asia. Portugal celebrated his success, and his voyage launched a new era of discovery and world trade.

We walk to the water front and take a look at the car ferry. It only has one car and  does not look very steady to me. There is also a crocodile safari. Of course you see a crock. The guys on the boat put some meat in the water to make sure the crocs put in an appearance. Pity the same tactic does not work with the snow leopards. Divar Island is in the middle of the Mandovi  river. It looks small and uninviting.

One church is definitely not enough in Goa. Next on the agenda is Se Catherdral, the Church of Saint Cajetan, the church where Saint Francis De Xavier’s body that will not decompose is kept and the Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

All the churches are majestic. There are magnificent carvings, altars and statues. The Christian religion means a lot to the Goans. Whenever we enter the church Alan makes the sign of the cross with holy water and I do the same. “Do you like the churches,” he asks. “Of course I like them.” How can one not like these historic monuments to Christianity? I sit quietly in the Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church. Two meditations in one day. One in a temple and one in a church. Praise be to one God, the architect of the universe. Alan likes that. “The architect of the universe”, he says thoughtfully.

Se Cathedral has an interesting  name. The word ‘Se’ means ‘see’. It was a symbolic structure built to showcase the Portuguese’s victory over an invading Muslim army in the early 16 th century. The exact day of that victory is celebrated as the Feast of Saint Catherine, in this church. For the construction, the expenses were tallied by funds procured by selling the  crown’s properties. In the mid of 15 th century, the then-governor of Goa started to enlarge the structure and the construction was completed in the  middle of 17 th century. This structure had two towers. A little after 120 years from the year of construction, one of the towers collapsed and was never built again. Pope Pius XII presented the honorary ‘Golden Rose’ to the cathedral, which is now placed on the tomb of Saint. Francis Xavier, inside the cathedral.

The Church of St. Cajetan lies half a kilometre to the northeast of the Se Cathedral at Old Goa or Velha Goa. Built by ‘Theatine Friars’ in 1655, the Church was originally called  Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence as the main altar was dedicated to her. (Born Gaetano dei Conti di Thiene (Cajetan Thiene), an Italian Catholic priest and religious reformer, Cajetan is recognised as a saint in the Catholic Church, and his feast day is August 7.) Since St. Cajetan was the co-founder of the Theatine Order, a contemporary of St. Francis Xavier, the Church was named after him. One of the altars on the right side of the entrance has been dedicated to him. The church is in the form of a Greek cross and has a large dome with Latin inscriptions from the Gospel of Matthew on its inside. The Corinthian style facade of the church has four granite statues of Saints Peter, Paul, John the Evangelist and Matthew. The church has seven altars, with the main altar dedicated to Our Lady of Providence.
The Basilica of the Bom Jesus (Church, St Francis Xavier Church), a UNESCO world heritage site,  is located in  Old Goa the earliest settlement of Portuguese voyagers in India. The word Bom Jesus means the Good or the Holy Jesus.

The Spanish Jesuit St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) was a pioneer of Catholic missions in eastern Asia. Known as the Apostle of the East Indies, he has been acclaimed as one of the greatest missionaries in history. The basilica was built as a memorial of St Francis Xavier. It is one of the oldest churches in India built under the order of archbishop Dom Fr. Aleixo de Menezes. The construction started in 1594 and the inauguration was  in 1605, the  year which also marks the calendar year for the propagation of Christianity in India. The church holds the mortal remains of the revered St Francis Xavier. It  is one of the architectural marvels of European renaissance built in  the Baroque style. The gothic framing, the transcending pillars and arches, the gilded altars, decorated walls and ceilings  have a mesmerizing effect on visitors. 

It may be a great church and he may have been a great missionary but I found the whole experience very ghoulish and distasteful. Every 10 years the body, which has not decomposed, is brought down for viewing. The next viewing will be in 2024. Alan has seen it before and he may see it again. I wouldn’t mind seeing it in 2024. Yogananda’s body did not decay either but the Hindus are not engaging in such a spectacle. The gurus may get more followers if they did but like Christ said: You have believed because you have seen – blessed as those who have not seen but have believed.”
It is hellishly hot. Goa is like Sudan. There are only three seasons, hot, very hot and hellishly hot. I feel the back of my back which is not covered by the kurta (a loose Indian shirt) has been burned. Alan confirms this and I cover it with a scarf. Post cards are bought  and we go to Habitat a very upmarket handicraft shop.

“We are going play a game,” Alan says. “For every customer I bring I get 500 rupees. So go into the shop look at everything, ask about the price in dollars, get their visiting card and leave. I will collect 500 and we can go and have lunch.”

The shop is a cut above the rest. There are amazing kurtas with gold threads and Kashmiri rugs. They can be sent to the UK. Perhaps the joke is on me. I would have liked to buy something for real but it is too early in the trip to spend big bucks. Alan got his 500 rupees. He shows me the receipt. If I buy something he gets 20 percent.

Lunch is at a local restaurant on the Mandovi river. The red wine is rubbish and the vegetable kebab does not come on squer but is a mixture of potatoes and vegetables like a pastie. Indian interpretations of food never cease to amaze.

Alan talks about the rackets and cheating that goes on among the taxi drivers and about his life. He was born in Goa but spent 18 years in France. His first marriage, an arranged marriage, did not work out as his wife was a gold digger and he went through a bitter divorce. He then married another woman from Goa and had a son. I saw him briefly, a very happy, polite young man. Sadly his second wife died four months ago of a brain haemorrhage. 

Our last stop is  Dona Paula. Dona Paula was a young girl,  the daughter of Portuguese Viceroy Dona Paula de Menezes. She fell in love with a Goan fisherman but  when the viceroy found  about their affair, he became very angry and  forbade young Dona Paula to meet her lover again. In the Goan version of  Romeo and Juliet only Juliet jumps of the cliff . The  grief stricken viceroy names the area of the Arabian Sea where his daughter lost her Dona Paula. The memorial is closed so Alan and I sit on a bench gazing out to sea.

The drive back is exhausting and I fall asleep. There is a hold up on the bridge. Back at the hotel at 6pm I go to bed after a shower and wake up at 2am the next morning.