The good thing about hiring a driver in India is that they're very happy to essentially be at your beck and call for a pre-determined time. So if you want to spend half an hour inside a cathedral or 10 minutes looking at that interesting thing over there - they just happily wait. Of course, you pay for this privilege but to an Aussie, it's a nominal fee. We spent half a day in different locations around Old Goa before returning to our digs, in what was about a 60km trip, and I think it worked out to be about A$20.
The drivers are also good at recommending what to see and what to miss and when to go. One such suggestion was the ruins of The Church of St Augustine in Old Goa. A short drive from St Catherine's Cathedral, our driver suggested we could have a peek at Our Lady of the Rosary Church first, then have a ramble around the grounds at St Augustine. This turned out to be a good idea as we had the Church to ourselves and arrived back at St Augustines just as a load of people were leaving.
ihe Church of Our Lady of Rosary was built in the mid 16th century, in a Portuguese late Gothic style. It is the oldest surviving church in Goa and is unique in that it has high windows and round towers which give it the impression of being a fortress. It's looking a bit worse for wear, but given its age and proximity to the Mandovi river and all its pollutants, I think we can overlook the dilapidation.
Over at the ruins of the Church of St Augustine, a few workers are lazily soaking up the sunshine during a lunch break but there's hardly anyone else around. Despite the little that's left of it, the ruins are one of the most visited tourist sites in Goa but you'd hardly know.
Built in 1602, the Church was abandoned in 1835 after Goan head honchos started chucking out the religious orders they weren't keen on. It first started to collapse in 1842. Subsequent decades have taken their toll, although conservation work is now underway to preserve what's left of the church grounds. The five storey belfry tower remains intact on one side only.