Africa and India - Me & The Kids - Part I

The second part of our half-world journey would be so different from the first that it felt like a completely new adventure altogether! Kick-starting our latest ‘Voyage of Discovery’ with 10 days rest and recuperation in Goa was certainly a good idea –and inviting my two sons, Liam and Carl, along with Hayley’s boyfriend, Craig, to come out and join us for the duration of our stay made the whole thing nothing less than perfect.

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Although the penthouse apartment which Hayley and I had booked through the internet was quite plush inside, the building that encompassed it was seriously dilapidated –along with almost every other building in Goa’s capital city of Panaji! Walking around the streets of India for the first time in our lives was a real culture-shock for Hayley and I, as we immediately discovered how poor the people in this part of the world really are –and what little had been done to try and cleanse this sub-continent of its notorious reputation for being a dirty and smelly country!

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Also the beach in Panaji was certainly not what Hayley and I had envisaged, as it reminded us more of Barry Island, (which lies on the coast of South Wales), rather than being a breath-taking tropical paradise which is synonymous with Goas coastline! However, things soon changed after I hired a car for the duration of our stay –along with a driver, called ‘Bindas’, who would be at our beck-and-call virtually around the clock! Over the next week or so Bindas would take us to Goas finest beaches, where the five of us would enjoy basking in the 90degree (plus) heat, before diving into endless torrents of incredible waves -which would inevitably send us flying through the air with the greatest of ease!

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We also enjoyed the delights of swimming under the incredible Dudhsagar Water Falls, walking through a glorious spice plantation, cruising down the local river on a crocodile safari –and a truly memorable visit to ‘Butterfly Island’, before playing Robinson Crusoe on a deserted beach. The only down-side to our utopian paradise was the swarms of ladies selling trinkets and jewelry, who constantly plagued the life out of us from dawn to dusk, blatantly refusing to leave us in peace –no matter how many times we tried to send them packing!

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The guys selling excursions and boat-trips were equally as bad, as they likewise refused to take “No” for an answer, one of them even throwing a punch at Bindas, when our driver dared to intervene! Needless to say that like all tourist destinations Goas beaches are not short of the ubiquitous con-artists and so it wasn’t long before me and the boys were being conned out of our hard-earned cash by a group of guys who were perpetrating the latest scam of ‘ear-cleaning!’

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To add insult to injury we then met-up with a bunch of drunken Indian businessmen, who not only insisted on having dozens of photographs taken with us, but during each rather-lengthy pose one young buck did his uttermost to grope Hayley mercilessly –that is until Craig gave him a double-handed slap on his chest that sent him reeling backwards across the sand!    

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After 10 days the lads flew back to the UK, while Hayley and I took an overnight bus to Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Unfortunately the journey turned-out to be one of the bumpiest rides we had ever experienced, as the roads were simply horrendous and our driver refused to slow-down for a second, thus causing the pair of us to get tossed around our sleeping compartment like a pair of hyper-active toddlers who had been let loose in a bouncy-castle!

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In Mumbai Hayley and I visited Chowpatty Beach –which, apart from being smothered in (mostly dressed) Indian folk, had its own little shanty-town sitting in one corner of the bay! This was certainly not a blue flag beach –and the place was a far cry from the paradise beaches of Goa! However, in the evening Hayley and I had ourselves a very plush horse and carriage ride along the promenade, which was rather nice. (It also added another one of my ‘Ways’ to my ever-increasing list!)

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On our 3rd and final day in Mumbai Hayley and I took a boat-trip over to Elephanta Island, where, apart from having to dodge the odd vicious monkey, we enjoyed the delights of having an escorted tour around the third largest caves in the world.

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From Mumbai Hayley and I took yet another overnight bus, only this time to the city of Aurangabad, where we made it a triple-whammy by not only visiting the mini Taj Mahal, but also the Ellora Caves (which are the second largest caves in the world), and then the Ajanta Caves, which are reputedly ‘the largest’ caves on the planet!

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After 3 very busy days it was now time to head due north, to visit one of the most famous Landmarks in the World. Unfortunately –and unbeknown to us at the time, but this was the time of the Diwali Festival, a 25-day celebration event, when a great proportion of the Indian population decide to travel across the continent either by bus or by train -and so with not a spare seat available for at least a week Hayley and I had no alternative but to fly to India’s capital city of Delhi. However, we soon made-up for taking the easy-way-out, by booking a 10-hour round-trip taxi-ride to Agra, to visit the Taj Mahal –only to find it closed when we got there –and so all we could do was take a few photos from the outside!

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Continue to PART II >>