Writing from: an Arumbol internet cafe with a bellyfull of cinnamon tea and a promise of curry after…
I foolishly assumed that once you went travelling then the travel bug would curl up on its back and have a nice long nap. I was wrong. Itchy feet seems to be even more of a problem here than it is at home.
So far we have shot from Mumbai to Palolem Beach in less than 24 hours and day three saw us deciding Palolem wasn’t quite the palm-tree paradise M and Mr Tea had stumbled upon three years ago.
It’s just before the start of the season in Goa, and all along the coast they are still throwing up the rickety bamboo posts, ‘come drink my bar’ signs, and lie-in-all-day-with-coconut-full-of-rum hammocks. So, while there was some life in Palolem, it was still hatching, and we were hungry for new Indian ground under our feet already.
Back on the road again. Firstly to Agonda, another pre-tourist ghost town which we whirled into and whirled out again so fast I barely had time to see the beach. After a bit of talking round our taxi driver agreed to carry us waaaaaay up the coast to Anjura, Lonely Planet causing us to believe it might have a bit more get-up-and-go and Rough Guide shaking its head in haughty disagreement.
So I’d like to introduce you all to the wonder that is the Indian Road. The Indian road is like a montage of every major genre of movie all conveniently played on the widescreen that is the windscreen of your you-want-taxi-lady?
You have the wish you were here travel epics, featuring all the scenic lovliness you ooo and ahh at on the big screen. The rivers sliding through the utter utter green of post-monsoon coastline, cameos from multicolour temples and faded churchfronts, comedy in the style of immovable cows who don’t bat even one of their languidly long eyelashes at your motorised vehicle knocking the seeds from the piece of long grass sticking out the corner of their chewing chops, wildlife in the spinning swirling flights of snake-carrying birds of prey, romance in the be-saried beauties who perch pillion-wise on puttering motorcycles behind their dark-eyed mustachioed riders in their peacock-coloured shirts and terribly high-waisted trousers, and, as I’ve already said, the endless horror thriller that is near misses, almost accidents, and peering at visions of yourself twitching at the bottom of roadside ravines, a little of your limbs there, a little of your brains over there, your internal organs being pecked by sleek-beaked Indian crows.
By the time the credits roll and you stumble onto terra firma you feel like you should be picking popcorn from your teeth.
So onto the story. Anjura didn’t do it for us either. Its beach was somewhat not a beach (but waves crashing against the rocky coastline were ever so awe inspiring), the streets were short and silent (even the ‘Taxi? Taxi? Taxi lady?’s were infrequent), and there was an uncomfortable feeling about the place like someone had left the light on while everyone was trying to sleep.
What made me smile was a moment before we made our way back to our guesthouse, sitting in an almost-empty restaurant drinking hot chai, and eating banana pancakes, engrossed in a wind-up-torch-charge race (it was that quiet and we lost our pack of cards) we fell into a bit of an unwanted conversation with dirty-fingernailed, on-more-than-just-the-local-firewater wannabe hippy crusties from back home. They proceded to slur at us (I think it was aimed at us though both seemed to be speaking to people slightly to our left and above our heads at some points) about online poker being the route to all riches, while the juice from the steaks they were tucking into ran down their chins and onto the recently-bought but already-fragrant stripy Indian shirts they wore (eating steak, much as I love the still-mooing meat back home, in a country where the cow is a sacred beast seemed all kinds of wrong to me).
But at one point the less-crusty of the two lamented, as we were yawning our goodbyes, that he had been here two days and was still jetlagged and didn’t think he’d ever get over it. We all shook our heads and smiled wisely yet sympathetically. Our manner said “Fear not newbie traveller of India. Soon you too will be as unjetlagged and happy to be here as we.” We had been here three days. India seems to have made know-it-all travellers of us already.
So now we’re in Arumbol, up the coast, on the beach, living in two rooms up a crazy cliffface which is best climbed when not full of Kingfisher beer. A t-shirt seller on the main street is offering one with the legend “The hell was full…so I came back.” The hell. Not one of those pretenders. Who wants me to bring them one home?