Girl Gone Goa

Travel, sex, magic and cycling in an Indian state

Live and cycle in Goa, India for six months? July 2, 2009

Filed under: Magic,Sex,Travel — UR @ 5:30 am
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Girl Gone Goa: Ulrike Bemvinda Rodrigues

Girl Gone Goa: Ulrike Bemvinda Rodrigues

Sure, read all about it on this blog.

I wrote over 60 stories on living in Goa as a single woman of Goan descent for this Girl Gone Goa site.

Read the lively and informative stories in any order, or start at the beginning.

Scan the popular stories sidebar for stories such as Goa Cycle Club’s First Ride, and my favourite,  It Runs in The Family.

I’m a freelance writer, so you’ll also find full-text newspaper and magazine articles that I wrote for publications including columns that appeared in Momentum Magazine; as well as a profile of Ulrike Rodrigues, an opinion piece on tourism and garbage , a discussion of NRI Commission’s “Know Goa” program, and an introduction to the Goa Cycle Club and cycling in Goa.

Enjoy, and feel free to Contact me if you have any questions, comments, or job offers so I can return to Goa!

 

How an average cyclist became an accidental activist July 1, 2009

Filed under: Magic,Travel — UR @ 2:07 pm
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[Published in the July/August 2009 issue of Momentum Magazine.]

Early days of the Goa Cycle Club

Early days of the Goa Cycle Club

Here in Vancouver, Canada, I consider myself just another person in the city who rides a bike. I keep a pretty low profile compared to the cycling artists and advocates I admire. But something radical happened when I bought an Atlas bicycle, rode it, and wrote about riding it in Goa, India for six months. I became an accidental activist.

Hi Ulrike,” wrote a reader in response to one of my Girl Gone Goa blog stories, “We’ve recently returned from the UK, to resettle here. I’ve brought back a bike, but as it needs some basic work, I’ve not begun pedalling here. Everyone here tells me I’d be crazy to try, so it’s good to hear of your experiences.

“We” was Luis Dias and his wife Chryselle. They were Goan and keen to ride, though eight-month-pregnant Chyselle admitted she’d need to have the baby first. Luis and I headed to the Panjim ferry jetty and cycled and chatted along the Mandovi River. He said he was looking for a community project to dig his teeth into.

(more…)

 

Goodbye, Goa March 31, 2009

Filed under: Travel — UR @ 4:28 am

Tears and fears and no place called home

Defence Colony neighbour Marie

Defence Colony neighbour Marie

I’m in the living room of Marie’s Defence Colony home. She’s seated regally – as always – in a divan. Her four-footed cane stands nearby, as do several of her staff. A stuffed toy tiger watches from a half wall behind her.

I’ve come to say goodbye to my 81-year-old neighbour of six months and – after a morning of continuously fighting, then submitting to tears – I find myself once again emptying sadness.

“Why are you crying?” she asks gently.

“I’m sad to leave,” I sniff, but there’s more to it than that.

“You have done and seen a great deal in your time here in Goa,” she says approvingly. “And,” she holds up a Herald newspaper where my story promoting cycling in Goa features on the front page of the Sunday supplement, “You have left your mark.”

This makes me cry a little harder.

It’s true: I’d made a conscious effort to get to know my grandparents’ Goa as best I could. I joined a writers’ groups, a quiz club, a bike expedition, a rural journalism workshop, and a yoga class. I’d attended art shows, music performances, wine festivals, book readings, and even started a cycling club. I’d met award-winning authors, famous actors, newsmakers, politicians and cultural icons. I’d befriended cyclists, columnists, editors, educators, artists, advocates, musicicans, and cooks. And I caught daily glimpse of the lives of inspiring, humble, beautiful strangers.

But I hadn’t started “my book,” I hadn’t met the love of my life, and I hadn’t had a revelation. For many of us travellers, that’s what it’s all about. You are willing to leave your home because you are certain that your life’s purpose awaits you elsewhere. It’s like a bargain: “I’ll give up my comfortable, predictable life for something less certain, less defined – I’m willing to do this for the greater good.”

To rub salt in the wound, two weeks previous – while I was holed up in Patnem Beach trying to write a piece on cycle culture for Vancouver Review magazine – I had received terrible news. It threw my life, my self-worth and my time in Goa into shadow.

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Hostel Association tours Goa by bicycle March 30, 2009

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[I wrote this piece for the August 2009 issue of Goa Today Magazine. The magazine is distributed around the world and many subscribers are Goan expatriates. - UR]

A “Slow Goa” expedition for cyclists and activists

YHAI cycle expedition takes an early start out of Assolna, Goa

YHAI cycle expedition takes an early start out of Assolna, Goa (click to view photo gallery)

Visitors have toured Goa by car, motorbike, bus, boat and train; but now – thanks to the Goa Branch of Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) and Sports Authority of Goa – adventurers and activists  can learn about the state’s natural beauty and social issues from the seat of a bicycle.

Says Panjim-based Program Director Manoj Joshi, who added a series of seven-day, 360-kilometre bike expeditions to YHAI’s popular trekking programmes last year, “We wanted to create a tour with the activist in mind. Cycling is a sport for people who have an awareness of environmental and development issues. This expedition shows beaches, nature, and water falls but it also shows how Goa is being deforested; how the greed of the few is displacing families, and the rape of the nature.”

To that end, Joshi and his team volunteered months of their time researching equipment, attractions and routes. In 2008, they provided five groups of twenty cyclists with knapsacks and 24-speed mountain bikes for a circular route that reached as far east as the Karnataka border. Starting from Panjim, youngsters and grandfathers alike pedaled south along the Arabian Sea on Colva-area beaches, east through Balli’s terraced paddy fields and Cavrem’s mining villages; up into the ecologically significant Western Ghat mountains; and then west along the freighter-trafficked Mandovi River past Old Goa (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and back into Goa’s capital city.

Along the way, cyclists stayed in rooms in Assolna’s sports complex, lodges in Netravali’s Tanshikar Spice Farm, tents near Dudsaghar Falls in Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, and dorms in Bondla Wildlife Santuary. Extra side trips included Budbudyanchi Talli (Bubbling Lake) at Gopinath Temple; a forest trek and swim at Savari Falls; a zoo tour of cobras, guars and leopards in Bondla WLS; and a visit to the Bom Jesus Cathedral in Old Goa.

The YHAI Goa Biking Expedition runs December/January of each year and is open to anyone who buys a membership with Hostelling International or Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI).  Joshi estimates the 2009/2010 fees will be Rs 3000 for Indians and Rs 5000 for foreign visitors. Bicycles, rucksacks, safety equipment, accommodation, and meals are all included in the price of the trip. For more information contact Manoj Joshi, Sports Authority of Goa,
or visit YHAI’s web site at www.yhaindia.org.

Ulrike Bemvinda Rodrigues is a Vancouver, Canada-based freelance writer, photographer and cyclist. She has published stories and photos of her time in Goa at www.girlgonegoa.wordpress.com.  She participated in, wrote stories and took photos of the YHAI’s 2008 Bike Expedition experience .

 

Cycle in Goa? Radical! March 29, 2009

Filed under: Magic,Travel — UR @ 1:00 am
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[This story appeared as a feature in Herald "Mirror" Sunday March 29, 2009. Herald is Goa, India's largest circulation English language daily newspaper - UR]

The best way to see Goa is from the seat of a bicycle

Local girls take to their cycles on a quiet Sunday afternoon in Siolim, Bardez.

Local girls take to their cycles on a quiet Sunday afternoon in Siolim, Bardez (Goa, India)

by Ulrike Bemvinda Rodrigues

“The young lady wishes to ride a cycle all around Goa,” Aloysius explained to the sales clerk, “And she requires one with a basket.” Aloysius and I were standing in the entryway of a cycle shop and since I was a newly arrived visitor, my 74-year-old father’s cousin had guided me here to buy a bicycle.

I’d left my home in Vancouver vowing to buy a one-speed made-in-India bicycle, visit my grandparents’ houses in Olaulim and Nachinola, and – over the next six months –  learn about the rest of Goa slowly, from the seat of a bicycle. This, I discovered, was apparently a radical idea.

My first lesson came in the cycle shop.

“I want a bicycle that is simple, and of good quality,” I told the clerk, “And it should be able to carry stuff because I want to use it for transportation.” The fellow gave me an odd look, then led me through the dark shop and into the alley. A shipment of Barbie-pink bicycles rested against the wall, and I could tell through their cardboard wrapping that they were not designed for the kind of cycling I had in mind.

I peered past the impractical cycles to a dusty pile behind and immediately recognized the archetypal Hercules- and Atlas-brand Indian bikes I’d been seeking: elegant frames, steel brake systems, heavy-duty tires and sturdy carrier racks. “What about those?” I pointed.

The young man shook his head. “Those are work cycles – for sellers, and shops and hotels.”

“Do they come in ladies’ models?” I persisted.

“No,” he shook his head again, “Ladies don’t work.”

(more…)

 

A Gun Search on Patnem Beach March 17, 2009

Filed under: Sex,Travel — UR @ 3:43 pm
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A short tale of guns and fetishes

Patnem Beach, Goa, IndiaTiny Patnem beach is a curve of sand just south of Palolem Beach in south Goa. It is beautiful, intimate and moneyed in an unassuming way. Landscaped beach bungalows with au courant names like “Home” and “Cuba” provide bed linens and filter coffee to slim, healthy-looking visitors.

I am here to “work.” In the last few weeks of my time in Goa, I accepted an assignment with Canadian magazine Vancouver Review to write about bike culture in Vancouver. I rode my Atlas cycle to the bus station, negotiated to load the bike on top of a bus, and arrived here at Goyam Luxury Bungalows ready to research and write.

“Excuse me,” asks one of the handsome young men from north India who run the place, “Does your laptop have internet?” I’m sharing an early lunch with a Swedish family and my fork is suspended above my mushroom and spinach omlette. The laptop is over at another table.

“Er, yes,” I reply, “Why?”

“Can I use the internet for just a couple of minutes?”

“Sure, but it’ll cost you thirty rupees a minute,” I joke. This is an outrageous rate, but yes, yes, he reponds without hesitating, no problem. I finish my lunch, go over to the computer and start it up. I move over to the next seat, and he leans into Explorer, then Google.

“’How to buy guns in India’” he keyboards into the search bar. He has a flash drive handy.

“Whoa, Whoa, WHOA!” I exclaim. “You want to buy guns in India?” The other patrons – sipping espressos and mango lassis – turn curiously.

“I have a serial number,” he explains around the thatched cafe. “It’s for a particular gun.” He clicks a link in the search results page and I imagine how someone, somewhere will see this on my cache and hunt me down. In typically Canadian fashion, I meet his boldness with politeness.

“Um, I don’t feel completely comfortable with you searching for guns on my computer,” I suggest. Surprisingly, he quickly relents. I reach over and slam the door on Explorer.

“No problem, no problem,” he says, receding back behind the bar counter. I slide the laptop over, launch Firefox and return to my own research.

“’Bicycle fetish’” I type. “’Man sex with bicycle‘”. A BBC news site comes up and I feel nauseous and reassured at the same time.

 

Sadho at Sunaparanta March 16, 2009

Filed under: Magic,Travel — UR @ 9:34 am

The Sadho Poetry Film Festival at Goa’s new Arts Centre

Fontainhas, Goa (Ulrike Rodrigues)Sadho is a voluntary organization that aims at taking great “poetry to people” from all walks of life through the use of arts, media and social action. I attended a Sadho film festival at Sunaparanta – Goa Centre for the Arts in Altinho and was quite taken by how well poetry and animation go together.

Coincidentally, one of my favourite poetry films was from the National Film Board of Canada (NFB): A Tragic Story With A Happy Ending. It’s the tale of a girl whose heart is so loud that it disturbs her neighbours. She rides her bike and tries to explain to them, “My heart beats faster because it is the heart of a bird.”

I’ve been to the beach frequently, surfing in the warm rolling waves with a borrowed boogy board (half surfboard). I’ve also been awash with feelings about leaving soon. That night, I found myself falling asleep poetically, and scrawled a quick poem the next morning:

Goa 3am

The 3am air is warm and heavy like the Arabian Sea
And I float uneasily in the night’s discomfort,
Salty skin bound by an accidental sari
Of damp sheet cotton.
Hair brushes pillow, hushes mouth, tangles,
As I am tangled under and inside a net
That traps restless women,
Thirsty mosquitos,
Sheets and saris,
Sweat and sea.
A dog tells the moon that this surface drenched in darkness
Is her own.

 

 
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