India

Three weeks ago I arrived in Goa. The plane touched down, I stepped out onto the runway (there’s no bus to take you to the main building) and pulled off the heavy woollen jumper I was wearing – revealing my pale body in a culturally-inappropriate thermal vest with spaghetti straps. I’d forgotten how hot it was going to be, even at 9am.

After standing around for far too long, filling out forms galore (the Indian government is somewhat bureaucratically-inclined), going through passport control in a manner akin to bees leaving their hive – no proper queue, just hundreds of hot Brits looking red and fat, squashed in a small space and trying to push each other out the way – we reached the taxi rank. We were bumped, obviously, but got in anyway and headed for south Goa.

When we arrived at our first destination, Cola Beach, this is what we saw (click on images to enlarge):

…a deserted beach, with seven fancy tents – a *glampsite* – and a shack, which served food and drinks.

Meals at Cola Beach are served at specific times – breakfast at 8am (too early), lunch at 1.30pm (too late) and dinner at 7pm. Breakfast is paper-thin white toast which tastes like sugared cardboard, a glass of orange squash and some rotten pieces of papaya, which is fairly foul even when it’s not rotten. Lunch and dinner are buffets of Indian food – curries, pakora, rice – and are ok but not worth the $$$$$.

In spite of the restrictive eating times and fairly crap food – we had a chilled few days reading, writing, running on the beach and drinking beer.

Although the Goans celebrate Christmas Day (religious remnants of Portuguese colonisation), on Cola Beach they didn’t acknowledge it at all. That was ok with us. But one of the Brits staying there had decided it would be a good idea to lug Christmas crackers and a heavy Christmas cake all the way from England. He handed me and Rich two HUGE slices and watched as we forced down the dense fruit cake coated in sickeningly sweet marzipan and icing. We smiled and thanked him then managed to make a quick getaway and buried the remains of our cake on the beach. Impressed by the effort, but some Christmas traditions are best left in Britain.

Christmas day:

Sandman:

Next stop was Agonda beach.

But there’s too much to say so I’ve condensed it into ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ bullet points – interspersed with photos…

Highs:

– being allowed to burp freely after food

– hippies, living the high life, parked up on Agonda and watching the dreamy sunsets every evening – inspiring me to pack up and live life on the road:

– watching the sun set over the beautiful beach every evening:

– food: paneer tikka masala, Slice mango juice, sweet milky masala chai

– walking up and down the long, white-sanded Agonda beach each afternoon, talking about our big plans for the future

Lows:

– raucous cows EVERYWHERE – on the beach, outside our beach huts – constantly kicking up sand and preparing to charge

They move in posses:

Rich took this – he’s fearless:

La Dolche Vita. Yeah – for the cow, maybe. He was chilling here every night. We didn’t eat here once:

– rabid dogs gnawing on their own stomachs, flicking fleas with their paws

– cockroaches on the bedroom floor

– mosquitoes flying through the toxic anti-mosquito incense we burnt, finding miniature holes in the mosquito net, nuzzling their way through the layers of Deet I obsessively applied and leaving their poison in my blood

– not being able to walk down the street without being hounded: “hello sir (they called me sir, as well as Rich), yes please – come my shop”

– Having to avoid meat, fish, some dairy (because of the power cuts that happen about 20 times every day), all tap water and some mineral water if the seal may have already been broken

– getting seriously dry hands from all the anti-bacterial soap. But the actual dry soap is definitely a high – because we managed to avoid any sickness or shits and it was largely down to the manic hand-washing

– the fans that don’t silently push the air around – but instead sound like generators and release gusts of wind that force the moths into the side of the mosquito net so that I woke up every morning face-to-face with a dozen monged-out moths, splattered open-winged on the net

But really, in India, it’s the ‘lows’ that make it so funny. It’s always a bit of a relief to get home but you never leave India without lots of stories.

We returned to freezing cold, quiet, grey England but just as we instantly forgot how cold home was when we arrived in Goa – and embraced the heat – we have now forgotten how it feels to be in that heat and have pulled out our wooly hats and scarves to embrace the snow.

When it does get a bit sunnier, though, I have lots of lovely silk and cotton jumpsuits that I brought back from India to sell. Watch this space…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *