I walked the hill to the fort above the Goa Resort and the Russians didn’t like it.
“It is too hot. Get on.” Scooter after scooter passed me, stopped, waited for me to reach them then offered me a ride. It was very kind but,
“I’d really like to walk.”
“You will die.”
“I won’t die.”
I nearly climbed aboard with one lovely young Moscovite in a purple dress. Her boyfriend came screeching up at just the wrong moment however, said something about ‘ Taj Fort Goa ’, squinted at me, flexing a little bit and figured I wasn’t worth his time. He was right. They drove on.
At one point there was a small Hindu shrine under a tall, weeping tree with a battery powered radio playing a tape on loop. The music was very Indian. There was a small candle and piles of used incense sticks. A pot hung from a chain attached to the tree.
It wasn’t that far and the view from every turn was spectacular. The Arabian Sea spread out before me. I was the only one walking.
My goal, Fort Aguada India, was constructed in 1612 by the Portuguese to guard against the Dutch and the Marathas. It is located just a few miles outside of Panaji, the main town in the Indian state of Goa. A freshwater spring supplied the fort –not to mention the ships coming from Europe, desperate for clean water. Aguada means water. In 1864 the Portuguese erected the nearly 50-foot lighthouse, the oldest of its kind in Asia.
I climbed up along a colorful, boat-filled estuary of the Mandovi River to the fort on a clear, hot afternoon in January 2012.
The fort is so large that it envelops the entire peninsula at the south western tip of Bardez at the mouth of the Mandovi River and in the day, was one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure for the Portuguese adventure in India. Hosting 80 cannons, the spring for which it was named and an incredibly pronounced moat, the fort protected the shipping coming in and out of the Bardez District. Later, the Portuguese dictator Salazar imprisoned his political opponents in the fort.
At the entrance to the fort and slew of women and children crowded under dozens of plastic tarps selling ice-cream, bottled water, beer and all sorts of snacks. I bought an ice-cold bottle of water, sucked it down and handed it to a kid who threw it into a pile of trash under a tree.
In the moat, a solitary man walked around and clipped every living plant. He left every piece of trash wher it had fallen. Later, I saw him burning the cuttings.
The Taj Aguada wasn’t packed. A group of children came through, some Israeli’s and South Africans asked me to take
their photo and two 20-something Indian women in high-heels clung to their boyfriends for support. Every exposed piece of skin on the women was covered in exquisite henna.
The shipping traffic on the Arabian Sea below was thick. I literally could not count the number of ships out there. The air was full of smoke from fires burning all up and down the coast. Not to mention the general pollution from the one billion individuals inhabiting the sub-continent. The sun lit the particulates to give the wild orange/pink/purple color I captured in some of these photos.
Towards evening, I saw a number of Brahminy kites (Haliastur indus) passing In front of my shots. At first, I didn’t want them in the picture. Upon consideration, however, I realized the depth and perspective they could add to the photograph as well as a sense of movement and a sense of place. The orange sunset rounded it out with the aspect of sub-tropical heat. Combined, the sunset, the ships on the sea and the kites rounded out one of the images I wanted and, I think, relate the sense of place I’d sought.
Later, I took a swim from the beach below the fort and the sea was warm like bathwater.