happnin' Goa, India - last fun in India

Yolanda’s bit
We had planned the journey in one way -rickshaw then train- and turned out in a very different one -bus, bus, rickshaw- dragged by some Israelis who seemed to know their shit. Few hours and we were in Benaullim beach, Goa. It was the nicest place in the state we could get to on that day. Far from the full on party scene, many people have started to go there when it got too much in places like Anjuna.

Nice relaxing place, quiet beach, nice seafood. Lots of alcohol available everywhere. And wine! I was dreaming about it. Great Porto. You can easily sense the Portuguese influence around. There's some Latin taste in Goa -not just the wine- which I find very pleasant. On the other hand, in Benaullim in particular this seemed to attract lots of motorbikes, Abba lovers, beer drinkers, fat sunbathers, and lost souls looking for "interesting places" to go to.

We stay a couple of days and we get to e-mail again and catch up with friends after a while of total disconnection. I got a mail from my German friend Christian who is on a six months India trip and I was hoping to meet up in Goa but he just left to Varanasi, ooooooooooh!
He recommends not going anywhere else than Arambol in Goa.
We heard the same recommendation a few times already and we take a three hours pleasant tourist van trip straight to Arambol beach passed the ferry. Luxury! The driver brought a friend with him -as they do- to keep him company and they kept talking really loud the whole trip. I just caught the words "Arambol" and "samosa" a few times along the way. They did stop at some point to get some samosas so we thought they must have been discussing how good were the samosas in Benaullim or Arambol or somewhere else and whether they should get some samosas in Arambol or somewhere else.

We were dropped on the road parallel to the beach and right then a friendly looking Indian woman asks us if we want a room Rs.200. We know it's a small non-touristy place and almost everyone stays in local family houses or beach huts so we follow the flow and the lady. The house -like everything else- is 2mins from the beach. We have an Indian-fourth generation Canadian couple as neighbors. They are in their fifties and it's their first time on the land of their ancestors. They're spending here eight months of their one year holiday break. He's learning Indian classic flute and she's learning tabla. The best places to learn Indian classic music are apparently Poona and south India.

Our bed is far too uncomfortable. Half cm mattress on a hard wood board with bumps. Next morning we wake up at 7.30am with the sound of flute next door and the wall ends 30cms from the ceiling so the sound reception is perfect!

The town is great. It all spreads around the beach line and the small road parallel to it a few meters back (the real village is about 500m further back). Really cool cafes, shops, villas. It's beautiful to walk around the bamboo houses and feel at home with Indians smiling and talking to you for nothing.
The beach is nice and long, wavy but not too much. Seafood is magnificent and they have San Miguel beer everywhere!
This is our last fun week in India before a couple of days of sorting things out in Bombay and fly to Hong Kong! Not bad choice at all.

Burning on the sun. We find a really cool restaurant on the beach which has eleven (funny number for India, uh?) bamboo huts in a circle just behind on the sand between palm trees so we move away from the flute and other noises. Rs.200, beautiful, with a bed and all.

We go exploring and after the phantasmagoric high rocks at the end of the beach there's a little bay with morning Ommers parallel to some cute cafes along the cliff leading to the lake beach which is a smallish wild beach with a cafe and a lake. We were told that behind that there is a mud bath place and a hot spring. We go explore. We should have brought a machete for this one. There's a kind of path but the vegetation is so high and dense on the rocks it makes it really hard to walk and we get scratched everywhere. We don't give up and after a while we get to a real jungle no-further-step point unless you are Rambo.

Time stops here. Even if it's impossible to go any further and vegetation is everywhere, we are in some kind of clear space enclosed by trees. There are a couple of hammocks hanging in the emptiness and obvious signs of human life (cooking gear, etc). A set up only possible for the jungle explorer expert. Miles freaks out. I see a different path from the one we came in which seems to be going back to the beach. I follow it a few meters and get to a small clearing raised up from the ground and completely hidden among the trees. There's a circle of stones and inside, there's a beautiful couple sleeping. The sight is appalling.

We go back the way we came. Next to the lake I ask about the mud bath and hot spring in the little hut that says "Ayurvedic mud massage" and the Indian bloke says it's there and the hot spring is that bit of the lake just beneath it. The mud is some healthy healing earth compound mixed with water. I get a full body mud massage based on pressure points. Fantastic. When I'm all muddy I lay on the sun to become the stone woman and then dip in the hot spring which is hot just because of the sun heating it actually. Back on the beach my skin is nice and smooth.

We go shopping. We haven't been buying much so far for not having to carry things around the world though we have made a couple of shippings back to London with winter clothes and books. But this time we couldn't help it, we found THE shop and we like everything. Some Nepali people making jaw-dropping clothes. We buy trousers, pocket things and bags and work a hard bargain on them.

There's a couple of weird Internet places here. One of them is in Ave Maria convent-guest house and has just one terminal in a nuns' living room with eighteenth century sofas, chairs and carpets and the whole family hangs around and looks over your shoulder. The other one is at Himaya tea-shop and their telephone line is always out of order or the guy can't be bothered in getting up from his floor mat.
There's good techno-trance music at the multicolor lit beach cafes at night.

On the beach, the most sophisticated looking local women carry their shop with clothes and dangling bits on top of their heads. They are dressed in the Karnataka region custom, with their clothes full of mirrors, a ton of brass around their arms and tiny ankles and all sorts of piercings across their faces bearing heavy weight stuff. Clipped to the front of their hair and falling to the middle of their faces, a heavy silver cascade of jangling bits.

Wednesday is market day in Anjuna, the most touristy place in Goa, well known for its hard partying. Miles is sick that day so at 9.30am I take the boat with another ten neighbor tourists. In one hour we are at the never ending market by the beach. The sun is hitting hard and my half hangover from local cashew fenny doesn't help. Lots of cool stuff to buy. Many of the sellers are westerners who make clothes and jewelry as they travel, others sell stuff they bought in other countries. There's the exotic and the most outrageous techno design as well. There's even huge teepees for just Rs.800! I make an effort not to buy everything. After five hours and a full bag, the boat takes us back to our beach huts. I'm soaked like a sponge thanks to the waves and I feel sick.
The coast from Anjuna to Arambol is a continuous beach without much changes in the sand, palm trees, boats landscape. We pass Vagator which means Vaga: tiger and tor: beach because there're supposed to be many tigers there.

I get a wooden frame done in Arambol village Rs.100. Now I've got everything I need to start painting and we're leaving next day to Bombay. I've just got the time to build the canvas with a kitchen grinder hammer and prime it. It feels so good... I sit outside the bamboo hut and spend some time contemplating its magnificent whiteness. I'll have to carry it to Hong Kong and, if it survives that, I'll paint it in Thailand.
I could have spent some more time in this place, I think I'll miss it.

Eleven hours sleeper train to Bombay. This time we couldn't get side seats and we shared our compartment with other four young Indians who are having a party and getting pissed. They are very loud and we fear a sleepless night. We have the always comforting train thali for Rs.20. Before 10pm they're all sleeping like angels. I'm squashed on one of the top shelves -there's 6, three at each side- with my canvas on the side and my bag against my stomach. The fan is on my face and only manage to switch it off at 1am.

By 7am we're in Bombay. DHL brings us to Customs at the airport where the officer tells us we'll have to pay 1000 UK pounds duty to have the Vaio or 100 for warehouse fare and a penalty to have it returned to Europe. We do option B.

Buy the Hong Kong book, post the 2kg India one and a big pack of clothes back to London and watch lots of TV at the City Palace Hotel. Cartoons Network is great with Scooby, Popeye, The Fragels, Muppet Show, Roadrunner, Twiggy, etc.

Miles’s bit