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At this point I must leap forward in time and write from several days hence, because I’m now sitting on the porch of a small villa on the beach at Agonda, Goa, on the morning of the 15th. Why haven’t I been writing? Well I got sick of course! And just a few days into our trip – I’m ashamed of myself. Perhaps it was the prawns I had at the Dome – stupid decision – perhaps it was something else, but it crept up on me all through the 12th and hit me like a sledgehammer in the evening.

That morning I felt fine however, and after checking out and leaving our bags at The President, we took a taxi north to Haji Ali Dargah, a somewhat run-down Indo-Islamic shrine built in the 19th century off the coast, reached by a short causeway. The original plan was to take a boat to see the caves of Elephanta Island, but we discovered it was closed on Mondays, and I’m damn sure spending an hour each way on the water wouldn’t have turned out well for me on this particular day; so in the end it was good timing.

The shrine needs some serious work – it’s falling apart – and paying a guy 20 R to mind my shoes only allowed me to walk around to a side view of the covered bier of the saint, and a brief look into a plain prayer room. Carol decided not to visit the other side reserved for women as she didn’t have a head scarf with her. Walking back through the laneway which goes under a new highway being constructed along the coast and to the busy main road, she bought one from a woman tending one of the many stalls.

Nearby we found the entrance to a maze of side lanes that led to the Mahalaxmi temple, built in 1831 and dedicated to Lakshmi, Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity – though the only signs of these were the priests accepting offerings at an unprepossessing shrine reached through a fenced-off queue that made me feel like I was lining up to get on an amusement park ride. Of course it was shoes off at the entrance – after experiencing the touristy north, I was pleased to see there wasn’t always someone trying to get money from you to mind them. There’s something weird about your first experience of walking around a grotty Indian temple in your bare feet, but you soon get used to it, and in fact it soon becomes strangely enjoyable!

A short taxi ride took us to an observation platform of sorts, built off a railway station bridge overlooking Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, an area where clothes have been washed for 140 years, and absolutely jam-packed with lines of washing – thousands of jeans and shirts hung out to dry in the middle of insanely busy, smoggy Mumbai. High rise towers in the background were in sharp contrast to the chaotic jumble.

I was starting to feel my energy draining away, so we took another taxi to a large, modern, up-market shopping centre called the Phoenix Palladium which was close by, and I bought a new cover for my iPhone that had a wrist halyard attached, insurance against dropping the thing at some crucial moment.

So far our taxi drivers had been great, but now we scored a grumpy guy who tried the old ‘let’s go the alternate (ie, much longer) way because of the traffic this time of day’ trick, until we forced him otherwise (the traffic was normal). He also pretended he needed petrol, and then it turned out he didn’t. Eventually he didn’t even seem to know where our hotel was, and dropped us a few kilometres from it. We shoved some money into his hand and got out, and started walking the rest of the way. We really should have got another taxi as it was a long hot walk and I was not feeling well, but we stopped at a chemist on the way and bought some supplies. Back at the hotel we got our bags, then had great difficulty trying to get an Uber – which failed, so we just got a normal taxi – to the more down-market Grand Hotel nearer to the train station (in hindsight this precaution wasn’t really necessary as we could have easily got a cab from the original hotel despite the early departure of our train). It was on this taxi ride that I really started to feel feverish and ill, and everything starts to become a bit of a blur.

About 4.30pm, I collapsed on the bed in our new room. I wasn’t throwing up or sprinting to the toilet, but I did have bad cramps, nausea and a temperature, and I could hardly move. In fact I barely moved a muscle until midnight that night when I woke, and to my huge relief, immediately knew that the worst had passed. Which was good as we had a 5am train to Goa to catch …

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