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  • Shelley Dark

10. GOA: a fort and a fishing fleet

Back in Australia I booked a couple of photographic tours of Goa with a fellow called Francisco de Souza.

From the name, I assume he is of Portuguese Goan extraction. We are to meet him at the Chapora Fort on Friday afternoon at 3pm in the parking lot.

This turns out to be a steep hillside covered in thick red dust and fine red slippery gravel. The road is much higher than the land on either side, which has eroded away, leaving a very nasty looking drop over the edge. Peter parks our car and phones Francisco. I am watching a man who answers his phone so know who it is. We meet him. Firm handshake. Call me Cisco.

A sad and sorry Cisco it turns out. His motorbike has just been run off the edge a few minutes before by a couple of kids also on a motorbike who have veered into his path. It is a drop of 2 feet or so, and his motorbike has fallen on top of him. His elbow is bleeding, I can see a little blood coming through the leg of his shorts, and he has hurt his ribs. He is so lucky not to have been badly hurt. If I were him I'd go home! But no, he says he wants to carry on. Are you sure, I say. Really we won't mind. But he insists on continuing, and I see him grimacing in pain now and then during the afternoon. What a trooper. And we discover he is actually not Goan at all but comes from Zimbabwe.

We set off up the slope to the fort, which is really a ruin, hanging on to each other to stop ourselves from sliding down. We are rewarded with great views from the top. Many brahminy kites wheeling overhead.

This couple are on their honeymoon. They're happy when I offer to take their photo with their phone.

The fort provides some good spots for photo shoots.

There are sweeping views north.

Looking to the west is a jungle of coconut palms. Cisco is sad that this week coconut palms have been reclassifed as a grass, which worries him. They are so clearly what gives Goa its wonderfully characteristic appearance, but with this new ruling, they will may be chopped down willy nilly.

John and I love photographic tours, not so much for technical advice, but so that we are put in the right place at the right time (dawn or dusk) to get great photos. It's usually local photographers who know this best.

It isn't long before we can see the fishing fleet coming in, and we want to photograph the boats. Clambering back down the slope, we drive to the river where the boats dock.

By the time we arrive, the boats are already tied up and nearly unloaded.

Fish are being carried on carts along the wharf. Locals are there buying their evening meal.

Young men are bringing in the catch in beautiful dugout canoes from boats which are anchored away from the wharf.

The colours of the boats are so vibrant I'm frantic to capture it all.

They are being reloaded with water and diesel in drums. The water drums are thrown over the side of the wharf, and then as they float, they are pulled to the boats and hauled in.

Some of the workers are already on their way home.

Others are still washing with buckets of water, dressing, smoking, chatting, laughing with each other. Soon they too will go home, although some live on board. All are broad-shouldered, fit and lean.

Cisco asks if we can go down into one of the boats, and the master is happy to allow it. This involves stepping down onto a big tyre suspended against the wharf, down another step on to the side of the boat which moves slightly to and fro, then on to the deck. I hesitate at first, wondering if I'll get up again. I needn't have worried.

The workers seem so young. This boy is pulling a cart with water drums.

I thought this boy could have been a film star.

They are happy to pose.

Some just naturally look like models for a magazine shoot.

There is an Indian flag on every boat. Old and ragged and hand-mended.

The name of the boat we are on.

Some of the workers are fishing for their dinner from their boats, and others use fishing lines on the dock.

We walk along the riverbank. Even a rag washed ashore looks artistically draped.

The trolleys are taken back to shore, empty of their loads.

Cisco is a great photographic guide. He helps, encourages, suggests shots. You couldn't ask for better. As we photograph we learn about him and his life. He has a wife and two children. His photographic work has been awarded. He helps the homeless. He's kind and caring. I like him a lot. I'm glad we are booked for a dawn shoot with him tomorrow. But will he make it?

It's been a big day, and we're tired. Cisco must be dying to be at home with his wife nursing his wounds. Peter has been waiting for us all the afternoon, and it takes him only half an hour to drive us back to our hotel and room service, over the bridge to Panaji.

Don't worry. Cisco is going to be fine and will be up at the crack of dawn for our next tour. Tomorrow I'll show you the Mapusa wholesale markets, and then we'll cross the continent to the Mammallapuram World Heritage temples.

Until then buddies.....


shelley dark, writer 

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