We took a sightseeing tour one day. It cost £100 and included a driver as well as the tour guide – including lunch. As the car left the coastal resort areas you could see that the country was pretty poor with many buildings merely consisting of corrugated iron and tarpaulins held up with wooden props.
The main roads were in good order and all the uncleared areas were jungly in appearance. We saw cows, dogs and even the odd donkey wandering by the road side. Water buffalo were tethered in yards and along every main road there were stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, including coconuts which the stall holder swiftly opened with a machete and inserted a plastic straw, so you could drink the refreshing contents We visited a Hindu temple and a Catholic church, the two main religions in Goa – Muslims being the third religion. Our guide said they all lived together in harmony.
We stopped at a cashew nut factory and were amazed to see how they grew on the trees, each fruit having just one nut growing beneath it. They pulped the fruit and made it into fenni, a wicked local alcoholic drink. The nuts were then boiled, shelled by hand, then the skin was removed before being hand sorted and packed.
Production of spices was an important industry in Goa and we visited a spice farm and were shown the variety of spices being grown: allspice, coffee beans, cardamon, peppercorns, cinnamon, turmeric and so on. We watched a man demonstrating harvesting the betel nut by climbing a tree twenty metres high, swaying the tree toward the next one and crossing from treetop to treetop. When he wanted to come down he just jumped, slowing his descent slightly with a short length of rope held in each hand and encircling the smooth trunk.
It was very hot and our guide ended the tour by tipping a ladle of chilled water laced with lavender oil down each of our backs – it was a shock but very refreshing. Then it was time for lunch served on plates made from betel nut leaves.
On the way back we stopped at a vegetable market in the capital Panaji. By then it was mid afternoon and some of the stall holders were eating or taking a nap.