my time in goa has either been very lazy or very busy, depending on how you look at it. i guess convalescing isn’t necessarily laziness, but it was necessary! my cold hit hard after the party and i was sick for several days and semi bed-bound.
since jacqueline’s arrival, we have established a sort of routine of waking up and coming to robert’s house, which has a more functional kitchen than we have at our disposal at usha’s new place. we have coffee (usually from the farm in kodaikanal, grown by jacqueline) and start the day on the front porch in the shanty shanty breeze.
on wednesday, the anjuna flea market is the big affair. booths set up near the beach in anjuna sell jewelry, clothes, trinkets, crystals, incense, bathing suits, sarongs, saris, pipes, purses: just about anything you can think of. usha has a booth and sells clothes along with sandwiches from the restaurant where she works and coffee and jam from jacqueline’s farm. ganesh and i rode the scooter into town to meet them at the flea market and browse the shops.
we met jacqueline at usha’s booth, overlooking the ocean. jacqueline had an appointment to collect money for some of her coffee at a french bakery and ganesh and i went with her. the roads in goa are crazy and more built for scooters and bikes than cars, which is kind of refreshing. we went up a dirt path onto a one-lane (for a bike!) bridge over a body of water – perhaps a river? a beautifully situated house stood in ruins in the middle of the river. we continued up the hill and found ourselves at a sweet semi-outdoor cafe called baba somethingorother. we ordered breakfast as we waited for her appointment. bakeries are highly prized in india, especially those that make european-style bread and serve good coffee. here they served it in bowls, parisian style, for dipping bread in it. we sat at a table with a man who was there alone. he was from germany and we chatted a bit about the states and this and that and then another foreigner, a brit, joined us and we ended up talking about america and propaganda and politics – very interesting conversation for me, though perhaps not for my french/indian companions. we left and went back to the market.
we walked along the beach and i looked for a sarong – the going rate was about 200 rupees or 4-ish dollars, but i couldn’t find the right one. the beach in anjuna is full of shops and restaurants. everyone who was in goa 15-20 years ago talks about how much it has changed. some of it has to do with the drug culture, to be sure. not that drugs weren’t part of the culture when “freaks” from the west started to come to goa in the 60s, 70s and 80s. perhaps it was just the erstwhile earnestness of that era that made for some of the difference, but certainly commerce has changed things.
now the once natural place has been built up and filled to the gills with: sunburnt westerners with alternative lifestyles and gauges in their ears, a plethora of dreads and tats, lots and lots of russians. with rastas and australians and grizzled hippies from who knows where? i bought some crystals for usha’s house and a bag because my bags are rather stuffed. we swam in the ocean with jacqueline and the water was the perfect temperature, the sun a lovely strength behind the cooling breeze. i realize that this is the 5th “west coast” of my travels: starting with morocco, then the west coast of france, of course the u.s., and then even the west coast of florida, which is very different from the east. and now here i am on the west coast of india. coincidence?
anyway, we planned to go to arambol, a town about 30 km away from anjuna. it was in this town that jacqueline and her late husband, thierry lived when ganesh was born. they had a house on the hill overlooking the beach. when they lived there, there was little around them – now it is all shops and restaurants, though at least they have kept the majority of these off the beach. down from their former house there is a small fresh water lake – “sweet water” as they call it here – that actually comes up to the beach from the other side. cocoanut palms were planted there, providing welcome shade for the padded chairs there. i bought 3 nice sarongs for $10 – including the blue one below.
we swam in the ocean water, warmer than the springfed lake. it was shallow enough to walk quite far without swimming, though it was buoyant and wonderful to swim in. then we went to the lake to swim before going for a small hike into the woods to see a banyan tree there. when ganesh and usha and their other brothers were young, this was their stomping grounds. they led me to the tree which is a strange and amazing thing to see: its branches have spread wide, sending down trunk-like roots into the red rock goa is known for. the trunk is surrounded by such branches like a lattice and even the branches are wrapped likewise. it took me a minute to realize that the tree itself had died and disintegrated long ago, but the branches and their roots had sent out a new network of their own, keeping the whole alive. an old man, very thin indeed, was singing with a drummer by a smouldering fire with other tourists all sitting around as if in a temple. there was none of the idols soaked in ghee there – the tree was both temple and idol.
and refuge for some. there were several sleeping areas set up in the protection of the great tree. the baba below us bummed a cigarette (baba is what you use as a term of respect, esp with religious ascetics) to make a chillum and we communed with the tree. ganesh is an avid climber and this was his childhood playground. he scaled one tree to such a height that it was almost impossible to see him.
we stayed there, seemingly suspended is time, the sunlight filtering down through the branches of the massive tree. as we made our way back, i had a deja vu from a dream long ago. there was a stone carved bowl, in situ, with the words “take if you need, leave if you have” just at the crossing of the stream.
we walked back to a place where the stream was running and a lovely yellow clay could be found and we smeared it all over ourselves for the rest of the walk back to where jacqueline waited for us by the lake.
after a swim and some tea and sandwiches, ganesh and jacqueline and i took a walk up the hill and over to the other beach and a cave which ganesh remembered fondly from his childhood. the walk was hot and steep and we arrived to the far side to crouch through the entrance to the tunnel and cave.
the water crashes against the black rocks by the sea and ganesh climbed them as jacqueline and i enjoyed the lovely and sometimes odd scene: a man passed us several times holding an uncomfortable looking seabird, casually. despite the seclusion of our spot, a man came by selling green cocoanuts just as we ran out of water. we sipped our cocoanut water and then the man chopped the flesh out for us to eat.
we walked back for one more swim before taking the scooters back to vagatore where usha’s house is.
next day we went to mapusa: ganesh for wedding preparations and the rest of us for shopping at the friday market. i managed to lose a small bag full of undies when a zealous bag checker emptied my entire backpack in london, so i needed some replacements. usha and i got some undies and tank tops and then went looking for things for her house and some other little items for me. one of my favorite stops was at a perfume stall where the man was selling lovely pure oils and botanicals.
we had lunch in a diner: uthapam! then i rode back on robert’s bike, him with a new mattress between his knees. time to relax!
later that night usha was working at her restaurant and ganesh and i went there for dinner and drinks. i was still feeling delicate from my cold, but the spicy north indian curry i got was delicious. everyone else was feeling “full power” and wanted to go out, but i went home and went to bed.
saturday we didn’t have any grand plans until the night bazaar and took it easy. everyone had stayed out late, except jacqueline and me, and there was some late sleeping on all sides. the night bazaar was in a nearby town and we took the scooters there. jacqueline had eaten before, but usha and ganesh and i got yummy vegan food from a stall in the food court before going to find their friend mira’s stall in the market. i’m pretty sure it is the same place i sang the last time i was in goa, though i couldn’t swear to it.
sunday we took things shanty shanty, deciding against the beach which is apparently notoriously full of people on their day off, crowding every inch of anjuna beach and any other available spot.
it was also the day that ganesh’s friend was getting married. we planned to join for the reception after the ceremony and rode the bikes over in time for dancing and dinner. goa is heavily christian and this was a christian wedding, so none of the typical elephants and white horses you think of when you think “indian wedding.” we drove back, leaving ganesh to finish up the party.
monday was his last day before leaving to catch his plane back to bangkok from mumbai. we had planned to go to the beach, but then usha heard of a pool party at the nearby lotus inn.we went after breakfast for a lovely day of sun and swimming and dancing in a green paradise.
we left in the afternoon to visit ramji and vesna, friends from kodaikanal. ramji is a kind of baba – respected man – and has some followers who live with him. vesna is yugoslavian, but has been in india with ramji for many years.
then one last afternoon at the beach. we ordered food and swam on spaghetti beach until it was time to take ganesh back to the house to get his things. we all said goodbye on robert’s porch and jacqueline was very sad to see him go.
since he left, it has certainly felt different. i slept late wednesday to recover from my lingering cold and then went to the market again with jacqueline. last night we went to a restaurant together and enjoyed some lovely fire dancing.
today i will leave for varkala – the first train of my indian journey. i’ll arrive in cochin tomorrow morning. i was there before. it is an old portuguese port with influences from chinese fishermen and jewish immigrants in the middle ages, this was central to the spice trade and saw greeks and romans, and later dutch, portuguese travelers all passed through, bringing their culture and traditions. and of course religions.
i hope to visit a museum there and then continue to varkala to meet jacqueline either that day or the next.
ok – love and miss!