We arrived mid-afternoon to the city’s rivers of traffic and taxied to our hotel, the Treebo Trend the Quar. Treebo’s a budget hotel chain but we were very happy with the clean, newish building, super helpful staff and our room with its big, comfy bed and modern touches. After the long dusty bus ride our first priority was showering. But no towels. Despite a few conversations with hotel staff we never did get any towels and our quest for towels became a bit of a laugh. Luckily we had travel towels; skimpy but workable.
The hotel’s just a couple of blocks from the waterfront, near the Subhash Bose Park, the ferry terminal and around the corner from an Indian Coffee House. Our first evening we walked south, along a series of backstreets, to a rooftop restaurant with views over the city and shipyards (because of the shipyards no photos were allowed). Our walk took us past this atmospheric building, in the midst of a main street’s bright lights. It looked deserted but the tuktuk out front with its curtain drawn added to its mystery.
Next day we went directly to Ernakulam Station, the smaller of the two train stations in the city. I’d had a text saying my sketchbook etc had been left with the station master so we went to his office first. He knew nothing of my belongings. After checking around he suggested we visit the conductors’ office. There we met a conductor who knew about my sketchbook. He phoned another conductor, who had taken it home to safeguard it. He arrived with my sketchbook, pencil case and Sue’s small notebook. We heard how the he’d taken it home, knowing if he’d given it to anyone else it would have likely been tossed out. His son had tracked me down and contacted me, which explained my confusion as to who was texting me. The conductors turned down my offer of a reward, saying they were happy to see me reunited with what was obviously something of value to me.
We left the station and walked the nearby streets, stopping to buy a large backpack for all the spices etc. we were accumulating. We caught a wild bus ride back to the waterfront where we bought a few more goodies in the markets on Broadway, just a few blocks from our hotel. The toasty temperatures kept us near our air conditioned room and its cooling shower (but no towels). We’d scoot out, then scoot right back. Near Broadway we passed this small chapel, surrounded by lush greenery and set back from the road, exuding serenity in the midst of a busy city.
We extended our hotel stay a few hours and arrived at the train station around 6pm for our 8:30 train only to discover it was delayed and not arriving until 11:30. We paid a few rupees hour by hour to sit, eat, read, sketch and watch the passing scene in the Air Conditioned Passenger Lounge. We couldn’t help but notice a tall, draped all-in-white, hair pulled up, middle-aged English woman talking loudly, mostly complaining, to her fellow travellers (two very calm, elderly women), railway staff and a variety of people caught near her. As the train delay extended she became more vocal.
Shortly after midnight our train pulled in. We waited on the platform with a group of tired but friendly Indian women. When the train arrived Sue and I boarded quickly and found our separate compartments. I was near the door and just as I settled in chaos erupted in the aisle. The English woman pushed her way in yelling at the group of Indian women “Out of my way. Don’t let your luggage touch mine! Out of my way all of you!” Luggage cascaded out of the way as she crashed her way through.
Eventually we all settled in, curtains drawn and we slept. Next morning I pulled back the curtain and watched the new day begin with Goa coming up at a train’s pace. Sue meanwhile was sharing a compartment with the imperious English woman. Fortunately she’d calmed considerably but other passengers were still wary of her.
Mid-afternoon we arrived in Madgaon, disembarked from the train and were met by a waiting driver who drove us to Agonda Beach, where we’d be staying the next two weeks.