Picturesque Goa

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Caminhao - A classic of yesteryear

 Replica of 'Caminhão' of the 1950's, Goa, India.
1/8" plywood, 10" long.
 Handcrafted by Tony Fernandes.

This was the popular mode of transportation from city to city and town to town, making several scheduled or unscheduled stops, winding its way through picturesque villages, stopping to whistles or a loud high-pitched "rau re" (Konkani: 'rau' means stop, 're' is a form of address to a male) from a lone passenger or small groups of people waiting along the way.

The coaches were built in Goa on imported Bedford, Ford or Dodge chassis. They were quite unique in their appearance. The coachwork consisted of wooden framework, wooden panelling on the inside and brass sheeting on the outside. Some passenger seats were made of leather while others were made of wood. Fitted on the roof were a "carrier" consisting of a metal rail that would hold and transport a gamut of goods - from paddy sacks and metal trunks to bamboo baskets of vegetable produce to firewood, and also the spare wheel and a tarpaulin cover. The rear of the bus was fitted with a iron ladder for access to the top. Driver and passenger sides had doors. Vertically hinged passenger door was at the rear of the bus. The windows had sliding glass doors. Somes of these buses had longitudinal and parallel seating arrangement. Some of the engines needed to be cranked up to start. Most of these 'Caminhões' (Portuguese: plural) were fitted with a brass blow-horn that was quaint, and had its own charm and tone that was easily discernible.

These type of buses were known as the 'caminhao' generally, and called as the 'carreira' on regular routes with apparent fixed timings. They were seen plying all over Goa and came in small, medium or large sizes. The larger ones plied on longer routes like Panjim to Margao via Ponda, Margao to Vasco da Gama, or Mapusa to Betim, Mapusa to Siolim, and Mapusa to Aldona, Tivim, Colvale and Bicholim. Small buses seated 15 passengers, medium ones 22 and the larger ones up to 36 passengers. On rural routes most of the smaller buses exceeded far beyond their capacity - a trend that hasn't changed even up to this day - a span of more than 50 years since the good old 'caminhao' made its final retreat and exit.

The larger models were often hired by schools as transportation of students on picnics, to football tournaments and for occasions like weddings. The medium and smaller buses plied from Mapusa to Calangute and Mapusa to Candolim as regular private services.

In the late fifties the first modern bus appeared on the scene plying between Mapusa and Betim, and by the early sixties modern buses replaced most of the old 'caminhoes'. The first bus looked very fascinating and exciting for us, who were very young kids then, especially in the night when it plied with its interior lights switched on. It was red in colour, unique speed-stripes, with shatter-proof glass windows, flat front driver's cabin and parallel seating for all passengers and could seat, front entry and rear exit .

The caminhao is fondly remembered today as a true classic by the last of veterans of that era. As for me the 'Caminhão' is still retained as a nostalgic memory, as I recall travelling on these buses to various places in Goa from childhood to early teens - visiting relatives, attending weddings and going on my annual vacation to my grandmother's house in Siolim in the month of May.

Other than the driver it was manned by a conductor, who we loving still for some reason call as a 'kilinder' (perhaps a corruption of the English word 'cleaner' in the local dialect, who was in charge of the passenger fare collection and cleaning the bus. The driver and the 'kilinder' or conductor had, and still do, their own brand of a communication and signalling system with each other, a certain rhythmic tap on the side of the bus to reverse, a whistle here and shout there to stop and leave, or completely ignore waiting passengers when it is full to the brim. Loud conversations among passengers trying to make themselves heard over the noise of the coach engines were the norm and seeing someone hurrying along the path leading to the road to catch the bus was a common sight.

As the 'caminhao' took off, the conductor would be the last to board. Requests in colloquial Konkani by him like 'Bai matxem mukar voch' ('lady please move forward) or 'Baba matso pattim sor' (gentleman please move back) to a passenger would be often heard. On leaving the bus stand they were expected to stop wherever they found passengers waiting, and if there was available space for them. There were no specified stops on shorter routes. The passengers waited mainly at land-mark points like for example 'Undracho Posro', 'Parra Tinto', 'Nakear', 'Tiktear', etc.


rite2phils said...

"The return of the old memories" is wht your BLOG has done.I still remember travelling in this Caminhao and the conductor saying "Rau re" and "Chol vos"or "Chol yea".Those were the days.

Kevin Saldanha said...

Hi Tony,

what a labour of love. Beautiful work. Hope to see you at the convention.


GA said...

Hi Tony, nice write up.. I would like to share this story on, a blog founded to get the Goans having passion for automobiles..

Ashton Singh said...

This is a very interesting write up, I never knew about the caminhoes. Never even heard anyone speak about it. But then, I was born in an era long after the caminhoes. I can only imagine what those days would have been like. But your post does present a very vivid picture. I was born and and brought up in Goa but I have been living in Mississauga now for the past 2 years which find to be a pleasant co-incidence between us.

Edvin de Mapuca said...

Hi Toni
Memories linger on and on....those unforgettable days...all squeezed in one, in a can of sardines (better known "tarle")
One could 'always' find place, even if it was the last caminhao to Baga.
Did you research on the 'match box' a contraption on two wooden bullock cart wheels, a door at the rear, driven by oxen or 'padde' with brakes -the hemp rope, accelerator the tail and shouts like hiri paddea...
A journey from Anjuna to Mapusa took about an hour or so, if you reackon my the speed, mud roads and fuel used.
My capelao the Chaplian who said the weekly mass on Sunday had one of his own and travelled up and down from Bastora to Corlim, he was never late, always punctual, never faced traffic jams of today...i am talking of the early 50's of the bygone years in Portuguese India in Cidade de Goa as it was then called.
Your Caminhao also had parallel runs, but this 'boilachi gaddi' had its days of glory, grandure and comfort. It was on call 24/7 any emergency Caetan was there to move you to the nearest hospital or clinic in Mapuca.

tonferns - Tony Fernandes said...

Dear Edvin de Mapuca,

Please click on the following link to my blog or copy and paste it on your browser to read an article on the memories of the famed 'Boilanchi Gaddi' of yore that I fondly remember and cherish.

Tony Fernandes, Author.

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