On Thursday we went on an organised trip.  A coach picked us, and other tourists up from the hotel, then we went to a few other hotels and then off to a Hindu temple., the Shanta Durga Temple in the village of Kavalem in Ponda Taluka then onto the Sahakari Spice Farm.

As with so many temples in Goa, the original Shanta Durga was destroyed in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese in what the Goans call “the Inquisition.”  Basically, the Catholic Portuguese wanted the Indians to convert to Christianity, so they destroyed almost all of the temples, a la Henry VIII in the Reformation.  The current temple was built in 1738in what is known as a fusion of Indo-Portuguese architecture.

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The temple has some of the most beautiful chandeliers, which put me vaguely in mind of Delboy, Rodney and Grandad trying to clean the chandeliers in a stately home in Only Fools and Horses…

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From here, we went on to the Sahakari Spice Farm.  We were greeted at the Spice Farm with a bowl of cashew nuts and a banana.  The significance of the cashews became apparent later…  I saved my banana for what was coming next, when we walked up a hill to have an elephant ride.

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Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love ele-bums.  Have done ever since I first saw them being bathed at London Zoo when I was a child, and the more I’ve learned about them as I’ve got older has just made me like them more.  So I was well up for a ride.  Sitting on a moving elephant is an interesting experience, not so much because of the way the elephant walks, but because its hips and shoulders rise and fall as its feet are planted on the ground.  It doesn’t look much different from any other quadruped but it feels quite rocky, a bit like being on a boat in a rough sea.  Still, it was fun.

I asked the mahout whether I could give our lady my banana, he told me to wait until the rides were over.  As luck would have it, Sheena and I were the last to go.  I now understand why he told me to wait…  I got the banana out of my pocket and started to peel it.

“Don’t bother with that,” said the mahout.

Not that I had the chance to peel it, she just pushed out her trunk and took it from me!  I’d forgotten how strong those muscles are!  She then proceeded to frisk me for more food!  It was just like being at home with my girls (although not, obviously with bananas).

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After that little adventure, we walked through the jungle with our guide who showed us the various spices growing.  I had no idea that the vanilla plant is part of the orchid family.  Nor did I know that there are few natural pollinators for vanilla, and even if then, there is only a 1% chance of successful pollination.  In Goa, it is all done by hand (vanilla is not a native to India).  I was beginning to see why it is so expensive.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, cloves (I didn’t realise how much cloves are used in Goan cookery), chilli, curry leaves, turmeric and ginger are all grown here… and cashew nuts.  The photograph below is of what is called the cashew apple; the cashew nut itself sits in the darker part at the bottom.

Cashew nuts
Cashew nuts

I didn’t realise that you can’t eat the cashew apple raw, because they contain something that causes skin irritation, and it is apparently very unpleasant.  However, in Goa, they use the apple to make an alcoholic drink called Feni.  When we went back to the restaurant for our lunch we were given a glass of Feni.  It put me in mind of what I think rocket fuel would taste like.


© Susan Shirley 2016


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