Beach time in Goa!
Oct 22nd. Flew down to Goa, beach capital of India.. (it was too far and not enought time to bus or train it!) and realised I was completely useless and couldn't remember the name of the village my brother Myles's friend Dan lived in! Knew it began with a P - Palolem, Panjim... something like that! Pretty pathetic eh, .. but as luck would have it, there was an internet cafe right outside the airport terminal. Let me tell you this is almost unheard of so yet again, lucky, lucky me! Checked my email, realised it was Patnem Beach and off I went in search of a taxi!
Goa is a weird enigma in India - one of the two most visited states in the country (the other one being Rajistan where I'm going soon!). It has a completely different vibe than other parts of India - with tons of tourists coming here for two week package holidays or hippie types who stay here for months at a time. No judgements at all - but with lots of alcohol, a wee bit of the old "happy foods syndrome" AKA Vang Vieng in Laos, and lots of almost-naked gorgeous people on the beach working on their perfect tans, you do a double take and say, "wow, this is a very different kind of India"....but enough of that!
(Quick aside - this shot is of a cow, yup, another one, that has been painted and dressed up for Diwali.. cool eh!). The taxi driver took me down to "Patnem Beach". Although Dan and I had been emailing and he knew I was popping down for a day or two, (and my brother and his girlfriend had been earlier in the year to visit!) I hadn't quite thought to ask hence didnt realise just how rustic and small this "village" was. The taxi driver drove me up as close to the beach as was possible, then said, "here you are". Hmmnn.. as I was in my new mode of "I'll just find somewhere when I get there"... I asked him, "now where exactly would I find the guest houses?"...realising I couldn't see anything really resembling that kind of building except one hotelly-type place at the top of this one road we had come down. "Oh, just walk along the beach, there are one or two there" he said smiling! Okayyyyy then.. so off I trot, carrying my ridiculously heavy backpack through the sand, looking for a wee place to rest my weary head!!!
Hmmn... due to ongoing legal restrictions between the police and the people who own the guest houses and restaurants on the beach (the police keep telling them they can't build a certain distance to the beach; they keep building too close; the police come along and knock the buildings down!)....there didn't look like anywhere that even resembled somewhere I could stay! I finally found "Namaste" the place I was thinking about. Met a lovely English lady there - Janet - who told me they had no rooms, cos most of them and the kitchen had been demolished so they were re-building....but she very kindly went next door to Arupa's house where the family have built on a room for lodgers... and thankfully it was free - so lucky me!
Arupa is one of the most beautiful woman I have ever met - as are her children! So gorgeous - she looks like a super model, I'm not kidding! She was so lovely and made sure I was comfortable and happy with everything....unbelievable how sweet people are here! After a while I began to think about maybe some dinner (hey, what did you expect, it's me!) and as it had gotten dark pretty quickly, I headed off with torch in hand, down to the beach (less than a minute away) to one of the few restaurants still standing, for dinner! As I was walking, felt this presence behind me! Hmmmmmn - decided to turn around .. and found Josh! Introduced myself to him, a teacher volunteering in Chennai for a semester, who admitted he had been following me along the beach 'cos he couldn't find his torch and it was so dark! Had a great chat with him over dinner - small world, he is originally from Western Massachusetts, about 2 hours from Boston! Very relaxed already here in Patnem; will look for Dan tomorrow as we haven't connected yet via email but it's so small here; already have Janet and the guy who owns Namaste texting him, so I know I'll see him soon!
Oct 23rd. Gorgeous blue skies today! Went for a walk along the beach.. just beautiful here! Something really nice about this beach being so quiet..just one or two restaurants and only a handful of beach hut guest houses and no-one here! Heard it does get very busy in high season, which is just about to start apparantly so lucky me that that I got here before that! Had breakfast at Seaview and talked to the Dutch woman who owns it! And yes, she too knows Dan and his wife Charlotte (did i mention she dances in Bollywood movies!! yup! She was off in Mumbai doing just that, so unfortunately i didn't get to meet her) and their two children Lily and Ruby! Told me she'd look out for them and tell them I'd be on the beach.. which is exactly where i was for a few hours...just lovely, although went for a swim and quite a strong undercurrent...got pulled out quite far at one point, but strangely had had a conversation about this happening a few weeks ago with a Dutch guy so knew how to swim against the current and not panic so finally got back to shore. Phew - that was a work out! So hot here! Decided it was time for an afternoon snooze...ahhh !!
Went for a walk in the afternoon and had chai at this old mans club - only girl there and got lotsa smiles from the ancient, wizened old guys as i sat there drinking my tea! Get a perverse pleasure out of this type of thing - not in a show offy kind of way, more in a "I'm a girl and I'm sitting down here for a chai if i want to!"....one of the first things you notice about India is that the streets are dominated by men. Men are everywhere and to be fair, although sometimes it seems they are all just sitting around drinking tea and chatting, they are also the street stall cooks, the laundry people, the restaurant waiters....but the complete lack of women on the streets is a bit of a shock at the beginning. You do notice it right away! Anyway i digress!
Back to Goa. Had dinner on the beach, watching the sunset - just gorgeous! (note to self, need to get more adjectives for India - lovely, gorgeous and beautiful will no longer suffice!!!). Big table of people next to me chatting away. Janet stopped by and we had a nice chat, then as a guy and his children were walking away from the table next to us, she said "I think that is your friend Dan"....and lo and behold, indeed it was! Had a giggle about how the whole beach was looking for me - and him, and here he was right next to me and we didnt even know it.. not having met before of course! We made a plan to meet tomorrow and head off to some beaches with his lovely daughters and Suzanne, a friend visiting from England who is so interesting as she runs her own circus (no animals for those PC people like myself who hate seeing animals in circuses!). But how cool is that that she and 10 of her friends run their own circus...and she has lived all over Europe and is quite a live wire let me tell you! Great girl!
Oct 24th. Another gorgeous day in paradise. Decided to take a walk to Palolem, the "tourist mecca" of this area, about a 20 min walk away. Of course typical me, i got lost but had an interesting time finding my way through bits of jungle - loved this sign in the middle of nowhere! The town is very geared up for tourists but a bit much for me, like my quieter beach much better. Headed back then off to meet the gang for our big day out. Took scooters - Dan, Lily and Ruby on one, Suzanne (excellent driver!) and me on the other. We chatted to some fishermen for a while, then headed off to Turtle Beach (didn't see any but think they are there at night - hmmn not sure about this but did see the big holes they make for their nests!). Beautiful beach and also a river nearby, had a great time here just hanging out and playing with the girls who are so gorgeous! Lovely time! The drive to and from this area was really beautiful too - this is quite the idyllic place to live. So low key - well, apart from the fact Brangelina were here last week - how did i miss them! Bummer! But a really lovely afternoon!
Met Arupa in the evening, and she invited me into her house for chai and to meet her family and watch as her daughter gave her son his bright red tikka as part of the traditions for the last day of Diwali - so lovely and so nice to be asked to be a part of this beautiful festival. Later I headed off to dinner on the beach again - yup, tough life! Met a big crowd of Suzanne and Dan's friends who were out visiting.... such nice folks! Part of me would love to just hang out on the beach for the next two weeks, but part of me is also a complete freak who needs to run around southern India like an idiot seeing as much as she possibly can! So obviously, I went off to pack 'cos I would be leaving very early tomorrow for the train to my next stop - the holy city of Hampi!