Here’s to a good New Year

We’ve been following news reports about the tsunami and earthquake with great interest. Our plans were to head down to the coast of Kerala on 9th January, reports say everything is okay but we may go up to the hills and mountains in Kerala instead. After that, we might skip Pondicherry and try to get to Bangalore for our flight back to Delhi on 1st Feb.

Our next flight after that is scheduled to be the one to Sri Lanka, but we’ll wait a while to see how things develop there before working out what to do. We’d still like to go but if the country is still going to be in chaos, we’ll obviously have to skip it.

There have been more tsunami warnings here, which is a cause for some concern, but we’re looking forward to celebrating the New Year.

Our thanks to everyone who has sent emails or phoned to check that we’re okay. If anyone would like to donate to the disaster relief effort,you cando so via the International Red Cross web site.

A Very High Tide

We went down to the beach around lunchtime yesterday and took up our usual position on our sarongs on the sand.

We chatted to our friendly beach-seller, Suresh, for a while and at around 1:30pm were lying dozing or reading when we suddenly felt water on our feet. The tide had suddenly come in very quickly. We grabbed our stuff and moved it a little way up the beach but seconds later another wave came up and lifted some of the bags and books up and started dragging them into the sea.

I grabbed the floating items and we ran further up the beach away from the tide, asking if this was a normal occurance.

We headed back to Ivon’s to dry out, and spoke to Martin, who thought it could just be a high tide.

We’d been back at the room for only a minute or two when my phone rang. It was Vic’s father ringing to ask if we were okay. “Funny”, I thought, “how does he know we just got wet?”

He had heard about an earthquake off Sumatra and that it had affected India and was obviously worried. Fortunately we were fine, and with Goa being quite far North as well as on the West coast the area wasn’t badly affected.

We put the BBC World Service on the radio and listened to early reports, and then went back down to the beach where the water had subsided. We started telling people about what we’d heard and as we watched the water came back up the beach, about 15 minutes after the first surge.

Further surges carried on throughout the day and evening, and the fishermen moved their boats back along the beach as a high tide was expected anyway as it was a full moon.

So we were very lucky. Some of our other future destinations were not so fortunate, including Kerala, Pondicherry, Chennai, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Our thoughts are with all the people affected, and their families and friends. Lots of people here in Arambol have friends who are in Phuket or Koh Phi Phi and are naturally worried for them.

BBC News report on the waves hitting India


Reading the local papers I’ve noticed lots of adverts for technical training courses such as the Cisco CCNA and Microsoft MCSE. These are often offered with basic accomodation included and are much cheaper than the equivalent courses and examinations in the UK. It may be worth anyone considering taking one of the certifications investigating the possibility of studying in India as the saving would almost certainly more than cover flights etc.

Ivon’s Holiday Calm

A bit more information regarding Ivon’s Holiday Calm (aka Ivon’s Guesthouse) is in order.

The phone number for Ivon’s is +91 832 229 2672. If you do call, try to call before 8pm (Indian time 5.5hrs ahead of GMT) as Martin tends to go to bed around then as he has to get up in the early hours to go fishing each night.

The guesthouse is named after Martin’s late brother, and opened in approx 1998, growing from a single building with three rooms to the current complex of 3 buildings totalling 19 rooms.

There are three blocks, the oldest consisting of 6 rooms over two floors with shared bathrooms. These are on the beach side of the family home, with views of the palm grove and of the sea (from the upper storey).

Next is the block that we’re in. This has eight rooms, again over two levels, each room having an attached bathroom (sink, toilet and shower). These rooms look over the family enclosure with it pigs, chickens, coconut palms and washing areas. Each room has a balcony area at the front, which is where we have hung our hammock.

Finally, there is a new block, opened on 1st December 2004. This is adjacent to the first block but consists of five rooms over three levels ( the ground floor only has one room). All of these have attached bathrooms.

All of the rooms are about the same size, and have basic facilities such as a variable-speed, ceiling-mounted fan, large double bed with typical rock-hard Indian mattress, and a small bedside table. The bed is provided with a large sheet, but no other bedsheets or towels are provided.

There is a single main light in each room, with a secondary smaller light, usually with a coloured bulb, and a light outside each room on the balcony.

Washing of clothes is done by the household, usually within a day or so, for Rs8 per item.

Music is banned, in an effort to retain the peace which comes with being away from the main guesthouse area of Arambol, and drugs are likewise prohibited.

Each room has a window (with security grille) and the door is secured using a padlock, making for a safe place to store your belongings.

There is no restaurant on site but there are loads within a few minutes walking distance, either along the beach or towards the main Beach Road.

Martin charges Rs300 per night for a room with attached bathroom, Rs250 for shared bathroom, though discounts can be negotiated if staying for a while.

There’s no hot water, but the water storage tank on the roof does warm up during the day so that showers taken in the afternoon could almost be described as warm. Occasionally the tank will run out over night, but the family will happily refill as soon as they know.

You need to bring (or buy) your own towels and toilet roll, and bed sheets if you need them can be bought for about Rs170 near the beach.


One of the things which occassionally shatters the peace that is Ivon’s Holiday Calm (besides the workmen building a guesthouse in the next compound, and the music blaring out of the local church speakers) is the killing of a pig.

The compound has a number of pigs who are free to wander around and who can often be found venturing as far as the beach in search of interesting things to dig up and eat. The pigs come in the usual variety of sizes, from tiny piglets following their mums to big ol’ grunting porkers who eye everyone with a combination of fear and malevolence (before promptly running away).

Most Indians don’t eat pork; the vast majority being Hindu or Muslim (the Indians, not the pigs, though I suspect the pigs are probably followers of one of the ham-avoiding persuasions), but Martin’s family like many Goans, are Christians and thus are partial to a bit of spicy pork curry.

The downside of keeping pigs and eating them is that they have to be killed before you can eat them (they become quite objectionable if you try to skip that step). The killing always seems to take place in the morning usually before 9am.

It’s not a peaceful end for our porky friends. In most parts of the world, animals are usually slaughtered by having their throats cut and bleeding to death, and so it is for the porcine occupants of the compound. Unlike many animals, pigs make a great deal of noise when being slaughtered, as is their right given what’s happening to them. It starts with frenzied squealing, growing quieter and weaker as the pig loses blood, stopping as the unfortunate creature loses consciousness. The whole event takes a minute or less depending on the animal, and I’ve heard that it’s one of the more humane ways of slaughtering animals. That may be true but is little consolation to the pig. As I’ve mentioned before, almost all of the food we’ve had since we arrived in India has been vegetarian, and hearing the pig being killed strengthens ones resolve to avoid eating animals. It’s sadly true that bacon is one of the more tempting meat-based delicacies and I doubt our good intentions will last beyond the offer of a bacon sandwich in white bread with ketchup.

Few, if any, of the restaurants here serve pork, ham or bacon, probably due to a combination of many of the restaurant workers being Hindu and many of the visitors being Israelis.


One odd moment of incongruity:
When Tulsee was driving us back to Jaipur from Mahansar, he decided to put on some music. He rummaged around in the glove compartment for a while and finally retreived a cassette which he duly inserted into the cars player.

The music started halfway through a track and was a kind of electro-reggae. At the start of the next track, I recognised the intro and realised the tape was a Yellowman album. As the album proceeded, it became apparent to me that not only was it a Yellowman album but it was the only Yellowman album I ever bought, which I bought (also on cassette) in London back in the mid-80’s. I hadn’t listened to it in ages but recognised most of the tracks, and here we were in cab in Rajasthan getting on for 20 years later listening to the same thing.