I always chuckle to myself when I hear people say things like “time flies” or “hard to believe it’s been a year.” For some people I’m sure it does, but when you’re constantly on the move, sleeping in a new bed every few nights and seeing new people and new places every day, a month can seem like six. Or twelve. I guess that explains why it feels like I’ve been in Goa for ages when in reality I flew down from Kathmandu on December 26.
I’ve spent the last month exploring five different beach towns: Dona Paula, Anjuna, Ashwem, Agonda and Palolem. I’ve met some exceptionally nice locals, had a reunion with a Toronto couple who I first met in South America, and caught up with a Dragoman driver who I hadn’t seen since Mongolia. New Year’s Eve on Anjuna Beach was fun, especially when the party moved from the beachside trance and techno bars to dozens of bonfires that burned up and down the beach. I survived the cacao ceremony that I chronicled last week as well as a couple of late night motorcycle rides that a more sensible person would have turned down. I’ve hung out with an interesting crowd of international DJs, reggae musicians, aging hippies, Russian thugs and mobsters, and of course hundreds of backpackers of all ages and from all parts of the world.
But to be honest, I didn’t travel to Goa to hang out with anyone; I came for some alone time. When I graduated from auctioneering college last September the instructors stressed that we should spend at least an hour a day “out behind the barn” doing number drills and voice exercises. I haven’t spent 10 minutes doing any of this, mostly due to a lack of privacy, so I figured that a secluded beach hut in Goa might be the answer.
I chose Goa based on the cost of living (cheap), rainfall (negligible), temperature (about 30C warmer than Toronto right now), and glowing reports by other like-minded backpackers. I met an American girl in Thailand who spoke fondly of her time in Goa. A few years ago she rented a scooter and a simple beach hut in Anjuna. Her daily routine consisted of a morning dip in the ocean, peeling fresh mangos to top her breakfast cereal, working on her laptop for about three hours each morning, afternoons on the beach, and dinner and drinks in town any time she felt like some company. As an aspiring screenwriter, she swore that a secluded beach hut and a case of wine was all that she needed. An Oscar nomination was surely in the bag.
But as he tends to do when things sound too good to be true, Old Man Reality reared his ugly head the very day I arrived in Goa. I quickly learned that beach huts are a dime a dozen (okay, maybe $600 a month) but under no circumstances could they be described as remote or secluded. Most are temporary structures that are erected for the tourist season and removed for the winter. To maximize profit, the absentee landlords typically jam as many huts as physically possible onto each beachfront lot. You’ll be sleeping about one metre from your neighbour, if you’re lucky.
Unfortunately I didn’t know this when I was studying online ads from Kathmandu. I chose a pretty blue hut with a thatch roof, indoor toilet and shower, hot water, a deck overlooking the ocean, a decent bed, mosquito net, overhead fan and two deck chairs. It was simple but at the same time perfect. And not only was it available for a minimum two-day stay, it was about half the price of some neighbouring huts. Where do I sign?
Once I arrived in Anjuna it took but a minute to get to the bottom of the pricing mystery. The reason the pretty blue hut was half price was because it was half a pretty blue hut. The scumbag of an owner (who was obviously adept at Photoshop) had added a second bathroom and hung a sisal rug from the ceiling that effectively divided one medium sized hut into two small spaces. And as odd as it may sound, sisal rugs really aren’t that soundproof. You learn that very quickly when your neighbour is a belligerent, vodka-swilling, coke-snorting pseudo Russian mobster of about 50 who is traveling with his very clingy 21-year-old “niece.”
I hope I’m not providing too much information, but you’d think that a guy who was permanently drunk might have some, ah, stamina issues. Not Sergei. Actually I don’t know that to be true as it’s possible that he and Svetlana were traveling with an otherwise unseen and unheard small child who liked to jump up and down on the squeaky bed for an hour at a time, five or six times a day. Somehow I believe that to be an alternative fact.
I’ll put it this way: If I can tell how many lines Svetlana has snorted off her hand mirror, or whether Sergei has set his gun on the end table or the dresser, then it’s possible they would hear me if I tried to auction off 500 imaginary hogs every morning. To avoid a potentially ugly showdown with a guy who still uses Brylcreem and whose every third word has four letters and starts with C or F, I decided to put the Leroy Van Dyke shtick on hold until I have either rented an industrial unit in Toronto or taken a job driving a combine in Saskatchewan.
So what else is there to do in Goa? Twice daily walks on the beach? Done that. Drinking way too many Kingfisher beers in overpriced beach bars? Done that. Another cacao ceremony? Nope, one was enough. No, it was time to make a decision. The theme song from the Littlest Hobo came to mind: “Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down; Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.”
After breakfast on Saturday morning I found a travel agent and booked a berth on the 8:00 PM sleeper bus to Bangalore. I’ll be 609 km to the south-east of here in India’s high-tech hub come Sunday morning.
(Note: I have now been in Bangalore for a week and I’m on the move once again. Check back in a few days for the next update.)