After the luxury of having a local friend of mine as a guide and a motorbike for transport it was now time to leave my comfort zone entirely and carry on my travels with only myself for company. Travelling alone seemed like a daunting task at first however you soon warm up to yourself and realize that a your journey into the unknown will split into two: a trip into the deep crevices of your mind with your physical journey into the wonders of South West India as the backbone.
There was no road map from this point on. No plans, no friends, no internet, just this creaky bus ride taking me on a pendulum drop South from Pune into the hub of Goa.
There are no seats on the bus and you are expected to sleep as the snores of 12 men make counting sheep impossible. With my jumper as a pillow I dreamed of what was to come and I was determined not to be disappointed.
The Indian ocean soon spread out in front of me spilling gently onto the crisp shores of Arambol, and at next to nothing my accommodation was set: a small beach hut with a view of the horizon. Arambol has a unique energy and everybody seems to be dancing to same tune.
The beaches here operate on a time table, I observed from my outpost. The morning attracts the yoga enthusiasts, who are occasionally crossed by the joggers as the thumping of pads can be heard from the nearby boxing club. As the clock hits noon however the soft copper sands are deserted. Time stands still at this hour as temperatures soar to over and above 45 degrees. The sand is now too hot to walk on as I learnt the hard way after leaving my camera in the neighboring hostel. That five-meter stretch unbearable, made harder without flip-flops!
As the stillness of the afternoon dries up early joggers emerge and beach-lings slowly take over the sands once more. Life returns to the hub and it gets even more interesting as sun set as the beat of 20 bongos can be heard for miles. Individual beachheads attract crowds who appear out of nowhere to celebrate the days end by playing music and chanting. Like a scene from our early ancestors the beach is now alive with foreigners whose common language is a beat and an inaudible chant.
Nightfall welcomes a new breed of person: the entrepreneur. Hippies clad in loose colorful garments lay out stalls on the beach looking to sell on their daily purchases from the uptown market, which opens weekly. These entrepreneurs will pitch for a far higher price but tourists do not seem put off as Rupees exchange hands rapidly. Still I find myself wondering to myself why on Earth these tourists would rather purchase their souvenirs from a foreigner rather than a local tradesman in a local market.
Arambol seems a tricky place to master. On the one hand the activity on the beaches seems great however I felt the overall impression left was a phony one as described in the scene above.
Squashed I found myself clinging to a rusted bar, sandwiched between two old locals. To every second a bump was felt and the air supply was growing thin. A click of the conductor’s finger demands cash for the ticket and we were on our way. I was heading for the unknown and determined to get away from Arambol’s deceptive façade I hitched on four bus rides, ending up in a place called Palolem.
Palolem sadly was not as kind as the name implies. Sure she was warm with charm however that charm soon led to a tummy bug which grounded me for two of the most relaxing days of my life. When I emerged from my hut however once more I was a little let down by the mysterious Goa. Commercialization is the way of life here and people only talk to you if they spot your wallet. At one point no less than four Indian ladies surrounded me as I turned my pockets inside out to show I was carrying no cash. My tip here: leave your wallet in your hut, locked away, and carry just a few rupees for that one gift that might catch your eye. The less bling on this beach the better as locals are attracted to it like bugs to a light.
The height of sales here was reached when a 12 year old lured me to her shop where she sold all sorts of fine fabrics. She did so by speaking no less than five languages as in 30 minutes there she spoke Italian, Spanish, German English and what seemed like fluent Russian. If that does not define over commercialization I do not know what does and frankly I could not wait to go to a more genuine part of India, one not ruined by tourism so I hastily booked my 17 hour train ride down south to Cochin…