Tales from Wendy’s Travel Journal

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A few years ago I ran a series of travel posts called “Tales from My Travel Journal.” I wanted to write about bits and pieces of past trips that were memorable to me and Hubby. I wanted, in particular, to write about those special days when you are travelling that are perfect. Not necessarily because of hugely noteworthy events or amazing places, but because the day is a collection of small moments that seem to capture the flavour and feel of a place and its people. I wrote about getting lost on the back roads of Ireland, about a very odd and wonderful place in Australia and about canoeing in Algonquin Park, mining my travel journal heavily for detail each time.

And because we’re not travelling these days, nor for the foreseeable future, I thought I might revive the series.

I know that most of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know Wendy from York. She’s been reading and commenting for years. And she has some interesting and charming tales to tell about her and her husband Max’s extensive travel experiences. Some of which she’s shared in her comments. So I was delighted when she agreed to write something longer for us. In this extract taken from her travel journal, Wendy writes of one pretty perfect day in India, in 1992. She says it’s “almost exactly as [she] wrote it nearly 30 years ago – scribbling away in bed with Max already asleep.”

But I’ll let her tell her own story.

*****

Our first visit to India was to the north which was quite a culture shock. All wonderful mogul architecture, palaces and forts with teeming cities and serious poverty in places. We were in a small group of westerners, and some weren’t coping too well. We found India totally fascinating, but equally exhausting. The contrast of beauty and ugliness was everywhere. We left the group often to wander around alleys and markets alone and never felt threatened by anyone. Perhaps we were fortunate, but we found a smile and a joke goes a long way.  After that we travelled alone.

The following excerpt was written on our second trip to India. And our third day in Goa, South West India.

Sunday 22nd November 1992

We awoke in our lovely, little hotel by the beach at 8 am and decided to take a taxi up into the hills to visit Mayem Lake. A favourite cool spot for the locals.

Breakfast at a lovely hotel small hotel in Goa, India, 1992. Trip details from Wendy's travel journal post.
Breakfast at the hotel.

Our driver was called Geesha. He was very young, thin and handsome in a Portuguese way as many Goans are. Goa was once a Portuguese colony. He was a lovely guy, but I had to give him strict instructions not to drive too fast, or too close to the vehicle in front, and definitely not to overtake on bends. We’d been in Indian taxis before. He looked surprised and hurt that I would think that of him. The only difference it made was that after every close shave (and there were many ) his eyes would meet mine in the driving mirror and he would look sheepish.

We left the coast and travelled through a flattish swampy area before reaching Mapusa which was as crumbling and chaotic as any Indian town. Cows and goats all over the place eating mainly cardboard boxes and plastic bags. After Mapusa we were in more jungly scenery and reached a lovely little village where we were stuck in a traffic jam caused by a bullock cart. The passers-by all waved and smiled at us – this seemed to happen all day. We saw no other westerners on this trip.

traffic jam in Mapusa, Goa, India. 1992
Mapusa town, enroute to the lake.

At the bottom of the village was a big, wide, green river with palm trees down to the water’s edge. On the left-hand side the villagers were bathing and doing their washing. On the right hand side, orange lorries from the local quarry were having a bath. Just as working elephants used to be washed in the river before motorisation. 

We sped on, climbing up to good views of the surrounding hills where we passed signs saying “Lourdes Provision Shop”, “St Anne’s Blooming Buds Primary School” and “Dubea Black & White Magic – Dare you try it?”

We turned onto a tiny road, passing a wonderful old Banyan tree in a village square, and carried on up and up.  Mayem Lake was in a hollow, looking very cool and peaceful amongst the lush greenery. There were a few stalls set up at the entrance where we paid out a quarter of a rupee entry charge (there were 48 rupees to the pound then) and we walked down the steps to a little jetty to negotiate a rowboat.

There was only one amongst the shabby pedalos, and it looked about a hundred years old with odd oars which meant we were whirling round in circles a lot of the time. The price on the board was 50 rupees but we were charged 70 – Max asked if it was special tourist price and the boatman laughed cheerfully and said, “yes!” We also paid a 30 rupee deposit which I don’t think we got back. Then the boatman sent us up to the little café to get food for the ducks as he said they would follow us round the lake then.

We did as we were told. The café guy solemnly informed us that the ducks liked old samosas best. So samosas it was. He seemed to be cramming  a lot into the bag so I told him we weren’t wanting to feed all the ducks in India. We set off in our rowboat, whirling round, Max wielding the odd oars as best he could, trying to gather up the ducks.

Mayem Lake in Goa, India. 1992
Wendy sharing the samosas around.

Eventually we were followed by a procession of big white ducks with pale blue eyes and they certainly seemed to enjoy the samosas. We reached a little backwater area dotted with lily pads where a snake swam through the water to look at us. There was the orange and blue flash of a kingfisher too, before Max pointed out a very interesting old sandal on a lily pad.

By this time lots of locals had joined us to enjoy Sunday at the lake and all the pedalos were out. They seemed to think we were quite a novelty as they surrounded us and kept asking to take our photos. So I took some of them too. When our hour was up we managed to zig zag back to the jetty and went up to the café overlooking the lake for freshly cooked samosas of our own.

Wendy and Max's trip to Goa. Fresh samosas were delicious according to Wendy's travel journal.
Freshly cooked samosas.

The last fifteen minutes of our stay were spent in the woods around the lake watching a large group of noisy teenagers playing a game. It involved all the boys standing in a row, whilst all the girls paraded by in time to music from a transistor radio . When the music stopped the girls raced to find a partner and those that didn’t had to drop out . There was lots of giggling and pushing and coy glances. At the end just one girl was left to get her man and I was asked to present her with her prize.

A children's game in Goa, courtesy of Wendy's travel journal.
The “marriage bureau” game.

I felt like HM The Queen. The prize was a bag of sweets and the winner offered us one. I asked if this was an Indian marriage bureau and did she have to marry him now. She doubled up giggling and ran off to tell her friends who all did the same.

In the next game the girls stood still and the boys paraded so it was all far more boisterous. Max presented the prize to the winning boy and told him he was just the biggest cheater. Lots of laughter. They all waved and shouted goodbye when we set off back to our taxi.

And the day wasn’t over. There were waterfalls and temples after that. Then dinner at a little beach “restaurant” and a local conjurer to entertain us. A pretty perfect day.

*****

So how about you my friends? Any perfect travel days you can share with us? Days when the small pleasures and unexpected events you experienced still make you smile, like Wendy, in remembrance?

P.S. I don’t know about you, but I knew nothing about Goa, and little about travel in India, until I read Wendy’s travel journal extract. So I’ve been on the Lonely Planet website this afternoon, reading up on “India’s pocket paradise,” as Lonely Planet calls Goa.

P.P.S. If you’re interested, you can read the other “Tales from My Travel Journal” … Ireland here, Australia here, and canoeing in Algonquin Park here.

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31 thoughts on “Tales from Wendy’s Travel Journal”

  1. What a lovely story! Wendy,you write so good,I’ve enjoyed the story- you two seem to be a great pair of travellers!
    I’ve never been to India,but Goa is quite known here,a lot of people used to travel to India (and Goa). The son of one of our well known politicians went missing in Goa some 15,20 years ago,so,there were a lot of roumors
    Dottoressa

    1. Thanks Dottoressa. We loved our travelling days but seemed to ‘ get it out of our system ‘ we got very weary of airports & long plane journeys eventually . You can have too much of a good thing . I hadn’t heard of that mystery in Goa . I shall go look it up .

  2. What a perfect day! Wendy and Max sound like adventuresome travellers but in a safe way. When we travel, we do it on our own just joining tour groups for the day, when needed. I imagine this might change as we get older but still want to travel. Thanks for sharing. Made my morning coffee even better.

    1. Thanks Lynn . There’s no perfect way to travel is there . It’s what you are personally comfortable with . Enjoy your future travels .

  3. Thank you, Wendy! Now I want to travel to Goa.

    My perfect day is more of a perfect evening, in St. Malo, where we met a man who survived the WWII bombing of that city as a child, and insisted on buying us a post-dinner Calvados, because “the Americans saved my life.” You know those stories of Americans giving little kids their candy bars during the war? The Americans gave this kid (and others) their rations, because they were starving. He spoke no English, so we only had my bad French to communicate with him (and his friends), while translating for my husband. It wasn’t very long after Freedom Fries and certain people in the U.S. insisting that the French had forgotten to be grateful to Americans, so it was especially meaningful, and a reminder of why travel isn’t just a luxury, but a vital way to learn of the world.

    1. You’re welcome Carol & thanks for your memories too . It’s such a cliche to say travel broadens the mind but like most cliches it is so true . The vast majority of strangers are just like us , with the same hopes & aspirations , whatever the nationality. We just need to communicate .

    2. Hi Carol,
      my husband have too a very nice memory of his “first american moment”. He was three or four years old (born 1942), the WW2 was finished and in his village near Cologne came a american devision. He asked very brave a soldier “do you have chocolat” and his answer was “do you have passport” and began to laugh. The older sisters of my husband had often told this little story at our familar parties.
      Susa

  4. So nice to hear travel stories, thanks Wendy. I have never had the desire to travel to India, as a niece was terribly ill while there of 3 months. I have many happy travel memories, and way too many scrapbooks of them, but right now they are great to dream of. I have a beautiful panorama shot of the Three Sisters in Scotland and also of Loch Ness hanging on the door way to my closet and often take time to remember how much fun that trip was. We have a fantastic video of one of the glaciers in Alaska ‘calving’ a huge section into the water. Many glorious times that we can’t wait to get back to and far too many places on the list. Wonderful daydream prompts.

    1. Just remembered a wonderful evening in a pub in Potterhamworth in Lincoln where we were admiring a picture on the wall above our booth, when a much older gentleman came over to us and after asking where we were from etc. said did we want to see the original building? Well of course, and off we went down the street with him to see his historical old house and chatting into the sunset.

  5. Thanks Diane , glad you enjoyed it . Yes , Max was ill on our first trip to India too . As were the rest of our small group , even a guy who was a doctor & gave us all good advice on what to avoid . I was fine but I’m vegetarian so they all avoided meat for the rest of the trip . Max even joined me as a veggie for life . He was that poorly !
    It’s lovely when you find such kindness on your travels as you did in Lincoln . You’ll always remember that .
    PS we are big fans of Scotland too .

  6. What a lovely take, Wendy (thanks for having her share, Sue). This transported me out of my snow-bound frozen wasteland, where I’ve been working from home for many days and about to climb the walls. The world WILL open back up to us, won’t it?

    1. Thanks Mary Katherine & yes , the world is still out there waiting to be explored when this COVID hiccup is over . Enjoy your future travels

  7. I saw INDIA in SPRING of 1981……….I was 20 years old and we had been told to bring BIC pens, pencils and erasers.Lets just say it was a SHOCK for a girl from CALIFORNIA.I was traveling with a girl who knew a family there so we were invited to dinner.THAT WAS AN EXPERIENCE sitting on the floor eating with the left hand I believe…………
    I do recall rounding the wall to the TAJ MAHL and for the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE MY BREATH WAS TAKEN AWAY FROM ME!The photos do not do it JUSTICE!

  8. What a wonderful idea, Sue! I’m sure there are many great travel stories amongst your readers. I thoroughly enjoyed this snippet of India through Wendy’s eyes and immediately started thinking about travel days that stand out in my own memory. There was an incredible day in Seoul, South Korea and a night climbing Japan’s iconic Mt Fuji. Then there was our overnight visit to Dandong, China to climb an out of the way section of the Great Wall. Oh, so many good memories! I guess they will have to do until we can travel again.

  9. Oh La Contessa – the Taj Mahal ….. just as you say breathtaking . We first saw it on the evening of St Valentines Day . HOW ROMANTIC IS THAT ! ( yes , really needs capital letters )

  10. Thanks Elaine . I’m glad I’ve got you remembering your own special travels . I told Sue I’d really enjoyed doing this as it made Goa very vivid in my mind again . Memories can slip away sometimes . Enjoy your future travels

  11. Hi Wendy … this was wonderful! I literally felt as though I’d travelled to Goa. Your descriptions of people and places are so vivid. I actually read it twice! A great start to my day. My son travelled to India in his late teens and his stories were similar to yours. He’s not a vegetarian but was advised to stick to a vegetarian diet while he was there … like you he was fine but others who’d eaten meat had a different experience!
    As Sue does , you only have to pick up your travel journey to recall every detail … how wonderful that must be. I often regret not keeping a journal … I think next time we travel, I will.
    Hoping to hear more about your travels in the future.
    Rosie

    1. Thanks so much for that Rosie . I know you are well travelled so I’m glad I managed to hold your interest . How lucky our generation was , to be able to travel so far at a reasonable cost . The world really opened up for us didn’t it & we got out there .

  12. Lovely to read peoples’ tales of travel. I have kept journals of our major trips but wish now I had kept a record of all the summer holidays, long weekends and shorter trips. When we get together with our grown children there are often discussions of a “remember when…” variety. A written account might have saved a few arguements! Travel builds such wonderful memories whether it is back packing up a river valley for a week carrying everything you need or staying in a nice hotel with all mod-cons. I am lucky to have lived in a few different countries and travelled quite a lot. Our children seem to have inherited the travel bug as well so we have been able to “enjoy” their trips as well. Keep the tales coming

    1. Thank you Kenzie & yes , I find my journals more evocative than our photos . It’s those tiny little things that photos don’t catch & how you feel rather than how you look . My dad was a journal man & after family trips he would insist we sisters did a little write up . We moaned of course but it became a habit for me & I’m so glad now .
      Perhaps some of you other travelers could write something for us ? Just an idea

    1. Thanks Sue . Yes , my journals hold a pile of memories – thanks to my dad . It wasn’t always easy . Last thing at night after a long day & a glass of wine , I just wanted to sleep but something kept me scribbling away .

  13. Thank you for sharing your blog space, Sue, and thank you, Wendy, for sharing your story and photos. I am glad to see new things and to see new things through someone else’s eyes is a sort of double-newness. (Which, I realized after I typed, is the treasure of books.)

  14. Loved this remembrance! Beautiful memories. We do the “off the path” travels, too… we certainly do not want to be extractive tourists, so we stay away from the “hotspots” and ritzy hotels and restaurants and just try to blend in as best we can with the local populace…or at least be accepted. And those adventures are the ones we remember. Getting lost has always been fun for us, no matter in which country. This was a beautiful memory by Wendy, thank you!

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