Relaxing back on a beach in Goa, South of India, I couldn’t help but feel I’d travelled 4 different countries without ever having to show my passport.
India does that to you, you’re never the same and you’re left confused at how the vast, peaceful, undemanding beauty of the himalayas could give way to the chaos that is demanded by Delhi, Varanassi and Agra before being turned around and spat out covered in a fine layer of smog and dust into the fairytales of sand dunes, bright textiles and modest beauty of Rajasthan.
The two (very) long days it took to reach the south west waters of India consisted of two sleeper trains and a frantic day in Mumbai which resulted in a sleeper train meal fit for queens.
Outside the window I watched sand and dust turn to palm trees and green fields with mud huts and thatched roofs. And I longed to yell the words of many childhood holiday ‘I can see the sea!’, is that just me?
I’ve been dreaming of this, to see the open water of the Arabian ocean, feel the sea air on my face. The mountains and desert have housed me for too long, a beautiful and memorable forever it seemed, but now the traveller in me wants white sands and blue waters, is that too much for a girl to ask for? The taste of a new adventure is the most beautiful thing.
Starting in Goa we’d chosen the ‘Dunes beach huts’ on Mandrem beach, the quieter neighbour to Arambol and probably our safer choice. Stepping out of our freshly built beach huts onto the hot sands was perfection. Palm trees towered above our heads and I think the three of us let out a sigh as we sunk into our home for the next three nights. It’s funny how when travelling you can do so much you forget to just slow down, before you know it the time is gone.
Out of season, the beaches were quiet and the currents in the sea were strong, we traded the street sellers cries of ‘come inside’ for the beach sellers asking ‘you come my shop?’ and chose to hide in the sea or pretend sleep on sun loungers.
Where we stayed seemed pretty family friendly and quiet, meanwhile up the beach and round the bend Arambol provided light-hearted reprieve with beach-side bars and restaurants lining the shores, perfect for grazing on salads, fruits and possibly the odd G&T which were mere in dreams in northern India.
You were certainly not without your trinket stores which lined the streets, the hippy, laid back feel seeping into the stores with Bob Marley t-shirts and all associated paraphernalia. A wave of fresh friendly faces and with a sprinkle more tourists than we were used to joined us bobbing from one shop to another, while the compulsory cows held up traffic on the dusty beach roads.
For me Goa ticked the boxes I needed to be ticked at the time and after a rather untoward ‘bhang cookie’ incident which left me incoherent and in need of physical support and rickshaw ASAP, I didn’t feel too distraught to leave.
The buses moving us on from the mainstream perceptions showed to me a side of Goa I didn’t expect. Lush jungle and beautiful market towns made me wish I’d skipped the guide book beaches and explored the inland markets and unworn paths. Given more time and a different season I’d of loved to explore the southern (apparently more picturesque) beaches and the markets that pop up in Anjuna in high season. It seemed however the time had passed too quickly and before we knew it we were on the rails again down to Kerela…