Overweight HK food editor shaves 5mm off his waistline on India trek

Mischa Moselle leaves the rural roads of Tamil Nadu to whine and dine his way around Goa and learns the stomach vacuum manoeuvre

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 11:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 1:22pm

Dear reader, perhaps an apology is in order. Here I am having the trek of a lifetime around the magnificence of India and it seems like all I’ve done is whine about cracked pavements and carbohydrates. Cheerfulness will be resumed shortly.

In the meantime, I’m still in Ooty, the hill station in Tamil Nadu that the British used to retreat to for its cooler climate. As well as the rolling hillsides themselves, there are tea plantations and botanical gardens to visit. Despite the natural beauty, I’m still in “whinge mode”. It’s the height of the local tourist season and finding a trekking guide is impossible. I approach the local tourist office only to be waved away with a hand.

That leaves me with those rural roads to walk that I have complained about before. I walk down one and round a blind corner to see that it is lined with short metal poles, each one pointing a different direction, having been bent over by collision with a vehicle. I assume that 20 poles pointing 20 different ways means 20 accidents and vow never to walk down a rural road again. I’m also getting tired of the apparent insistence of every cook in Tamil Nadu to put three types of carbohydrate on my plate at every meal (sorry, there’s that whinging again). A waiter in all seriousness asked me if I wanted steamed rice to go with the fried rice.

So I hop on a train to southern Goa and decide to spend the rest of my time in India walking up and down the beach. I transit an old town called Madgaon or Margao, which reminds me a little of Macau’s faded charms before the casino boom hit. I spend too long in a restaurant called Longhuini’s – I discover that it hasn’t really been mental strength that has kept me away from alcohol but just the difficulty of getting hold of it. It is easy to find in Goa. The amount of time I spent in that lovely restaurant should have been a red flag.

On the beach at Palolem I check into fleapit bungalows that house other Brits, Danes, Israelis, some French and some locals. The household also includes dogs and a pet pig. Actually I’m not sure if it’s a pet or destined for the sausage factory. Who needs an alarm clock when a murder of crows will happily wake you up at 6am for free?

I do manage to spend some time walking up and down the beach but by this time in my trip I had set myself a target of eight hours a day. I’m managing two or three hours. I think some exhaustion has set in but if I’m honest with myself and you, so has some laziness. The beach is lined not just with bungalows but restaurants and bars selling food from around the world. The Goan curries are excellent and the hummus and falafel aren’t bad either. After the stresses and exertions of the last couple of months it’s too easy to sink into a chair and look at the sea as a succession of cold beers arrive.

I do manage to throw a new exercise into the mix – one or two “stomach vacuums” a day. This exercise consists of clenching the hands together while gently bowing and forcefully using the stomach muscles to expel the air from your system. You stop when you feel a slight dizziness. It strengthens those muscles, gently stretches the back and massages the internal organs. “A whole one or two a day – don’t over exert yourself, old boy,” I can hear you saying. Do one and come back to me 24 hours later and we’ll talk about it again – the downside to this exercise is that it makes your abdomen extremely sore.

I think about yoga but am put off by the fact that I don’t have a spiritual bone in my body and by what a friend calls “yoga douchebags”. These are the sort of people who will hike to Lantau’s most deserted beach and strike an incredibly complicated pose just to be able to post the picture on Facebook. There are plenty of ostentatious yoga practitioners on the beach. When I ask other visitors about classes I am told that it is difficult to find one in which the teacher doesn’t spout nonsense.

Well, guess what, my walking has dwindled and I’ve covered a measly 69km. And now for the moment of truth – I measure 118cm around the waist. That means I’ve lost 0.5cm since the last time. Good work, fella!