Paradise Lost

Today is a sad day, for I must leave Dwarka. This has been a place of respite from the   challenges I encountered up north and I fear leaving the protective cocoon. Unfortunately, they’re full for the next few nights (damn that wedding party) and, well, it’s also a bit above my budget. Still, I might have splurged if they had availability, as this place is a bit like the Betty Ford Clinic for this overwhelmed and sensory-overstimulated traveler. It’s time for me to go back into the very real world that is India and see if I can stay sane without the assistance of the drug called Dwarka.

KayakOnce again, I wake up to a breakfast of crashing waves, tweeting birds, and a freshly cooked omelet and toast; oh, and the French press coffee. I chat with the couple who, yesterday, had the Indian stomachs, and hear about their travels. They mention a snake which fell from the tree just in front of them while they were kayaking down the lagoon and into the jungle. I’ve been told that there might be the rare snake here but the staff knows of no poisonous ones here (at least they don’t admit to it; only harmless water snakes. Still, if one of those “harmless water snakes” lands in my kayak, I fear both the snake and me will end up in the water. While I take no kayak ride today, it’s not out of fear of the snakes, but simply time.

BridgeI sit at the dining/bar area and spend some time writing before taking one last dip in the ocean. I enjoy lunch at Dwarka before my driver comes to collect me to head out into the big, bad world. Thanking the gentlemen who have served me for the last three nights, I cross the rickety branch bridge, climb the steps up the hill to the parking lot, and depart Dwarka to check out some more of South Goa.

Forty-five minutes later, after a curving, hilly-drive which threatens to introduce me to my lunch all over again, we arrive at Martin’s Comfort Hotel. This has been booked for me by Elvis (yup, he’s alive and well in Goa), a friend of a friend. Here’s the thing in India; it’s really difficult to book your own hotels as, well, it’s a crap shoot. You can study TripAdvisor all you want but, with all of the fake reviews, as well as not-so-realistic photos posted by owners, what you see is not necessarily what you’ll get. It’s part of my now untrusting nature in India, and it’s a shame because there are legitimately good properties (especially guest houses). It’s just difficult to figure out which one’s they are. So, Elvis has not left the building, he’s found it for me. Oh, and you know how I depend on the kindness of strangers while traveling? Well, while India has had its challenges, Elvis has been too kind and has prepaid my hotel room and won’t accept my payment for it (and he and his brother bring by some water and juice for my refrigerator). There is no possible way to thank him for this kindness.

PoolMartin’s Comfort is what India would call a three-star hotel. While the room is fairly basic, the staff is incredibly nice and helpful. The room has a queen-sized bed (not always the case as often you’ll receive a twin, especially if you’re traveling solo). a nice, clean shower with hot water which you don’t need to prepare the water heater in advance to get, a really nice pool (my patio overlooks it), and television with many channels in English and Hindi. While there’s an extra charge for WiFi, it’s only 200 Rupees ($3.20) for twenty-four hours (hear that Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, et al?). Note that this is only good for one electronic device. If you want to use both your computer and iPad (a necessity for me due to my non-working space bar), you’ll need to purchase two passes. Oh, and “high-speed” is in the eye of the beholder.

I shower and work a bit before heading across the parking lot to Martin’s Corner Restaurant. This Martins Corneris a locally well-known restaurant which has the India-feel I was looking for. It’s a large, open-air place with ceiling fans cooling the place to a comfortable level. Indians and Westerners alike enjoying dinners ranging from classic Goan specialties, to Continental, to Italian. I order up a Kingfisher, the predominant Indian, beer as this is the first place I’ve found it on tap. It’s served with absolutely no head in a tiny mug which practically begs me to order another.

Martins CornerWhile this is the Indian restaurant I pictured, I order-up a non-traditional Indian dish, Spaghetti Bolognese (I simply cannot look a masala anything in the eye one more time). Goa, being more Christian than the Muslim areas up north, actually serves beef in many places. And while they have a list of salads, my continuing fear of Indian water (I’ve brushed my teeth with bottled water for two-weeks now), dissuades me from choosing it.

My spaghetti is soon place in front of me and, for the first time in a while, I enjoy the scent of freshly grated parmesan. I dive in and whether it’s incredibly tasty, or simply a taste of home, I have no qualms in saying that this is the best spaghetti I’ve ever had. While I enjoy my spaghetti, the house band begins playing (actually a keyboard player and a singer). Yes, here I sit, in an Indian restaurant (in India!), eating spaghetti Bolognese while listening to the duo sing Rhinestone Cowboy. In this moment, all is well.

I end my meal with a fabulous warm bread pudding before heading back to Martin’s Comfort to attempt a good night’s sleep on another hard bed. After working for a while, before I know it, it’s 1:00am. When I finally decide to turn in, I notice the bed has no blanket. While there is an air conditioning unit in the room, as well as a ceiling fan, it’s on the warmer side and I’m just too tired to call and wait for an uncertain amount of time to secure a blanket. Tonight I pretend I’m back in Arizona in the summertime and make do with a top-sheet.

Tomorrow, touring Old Goa , a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visiting a plantation, and a fabulous dinner on the beach.

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