The majority of the last week in India was spent in and around Majorda, the small seaside village of Goa. This is a place where scruffy stray dogs chase sand crabs along the white beaches and tourists are scattered meagerly on the shore for their last vacation before the wet monsoon season commences. Bets are placed on the exact date of the arrival, but many of the villagers are wagering for the first glorious storm to beat down before June 8. It looks like we are squeaking out just in time.
Above: Majorda Beach at sunset.
Unintended, the timing of the Indian portion of the trip was perfect because it was the off-season stillness before the storm. I observed Indian families sitting on the wet sand, being rolled around in their fully clothed conservativeness by strong, salty waves. A very cautious group of people, not many Indians enter the water for a swim, but instead throw handfuls of wet sand at each other from the shore. A large percentage of locals we met could not swim and would point in awe when they saw tourists bound into the waves, diving under the rolling crests.
Just as amazing as the scenic beaches and ocean was the Indian food. I can honestly say that I never once tasted an Indian dish I disliked. Eating at restaurants was so cheap (about $2-$4 per person) that it became a common nightly theme, just as food from around the world is becoming a main theme of ours in 2008. (Sometimes we jokingly say that we just like moving on to the next country to see what we can eat next!) Often, we ordered a thali, which is a mix of many curry dishes, rice, and breads all with spiced sauces and yogurts for dipping. This way we could try a variety of Indian fare in one meal. Just the bread alone was so delicious, chewy and buttered. Naan, stuffed papad, chaapati, and roti are all different flat breads, varying in baking method and thickness. A few Indian recipes can be seen under the Places tab on this page and I have collected some spices to send home to have a feast when I return, for any interested people.
Above: Indian chilis, veggies and spices at the market.
As far as the lifestyle here, the motorbikes we hired lacked working gas gauges, the rental car boasted only three opening doors, and the electricity, not having the oomph to survive uninterrupted throughout the day, shut off four to five times in a 24-hour period. But life went on and these were all minor details that the locals simply don’t feel the need to fix.
The worst of all of the Indian chaos was the trash- piled in every ditch just outside a house’s gate, unable to be claimed as anyone’s problem. When talking to Sukaad, a local friend, about the garbage factor, he described it as being the inability to possess pride for one’s community. Rather, many people have concern only for what they can see in their immediate pathway. Trash is shoved from one wrong location to another make-shift spot, and that is where it stays, with no weekly garbage service or recycling plan in tact. The poor sort through the piles for what they can reuse and the dogs feast on scraps of uneaten fatty Goan sausages and tandoori chicken bones. Some items are burned along the roadside in the evening, making room for the next batch of goodies.
As far as specific adventures went, here are some of the highlights of the last week in India:
When wind of a local healer drifted by my ears, I knew this was a cultural event I had to experience to believe. I was eating dinner in Majorda with a new-found friend when I learned that a man named Patrick resided in Baga, a beach town nearby, and had discovered a gift for healing when he was younger. He had been told he could choose to use his talent if he felt inclined to or ignore it and live a normal life. Ultimately he decided he would like to heal others of not only illness but also personal issues, by adjusting their inner being and giving advice on what needed tweaking in their lives. Coming from a culture filled with Western medicine doctors’ offices and pharmaceutical cures, I was curious to see what herbal remedies and advice Indian people used to be cured of their ailments and insecurities.
A row of 14 people sat in plastic chairs on the porch outside Patrick’s small room. All patients had signed in before 11 am which was the cut-off for appointments and came streaming in and out of the doorway every five to ten minutes. Most patrons did not look physically sick, which made me think this would be a more psychological experience than a physically healing one. I fortunately had no medical issues and figured for the experience of it all that I would let him evaluate me, telling me which direction I should focus on as far as my travels and life afterward were concerned.
When my name was called, I hopped up from my chair, heart surprisingly thumping and mouth a bit dry. I hadn’t guessed I would be nervous to see him, but I had not known he was so popular before seeing the line, either. Patrick opened the door to the dark, cool room, a vast contradiction between the sweltering heat outside, and he smiled, pushing back his long, black hair. His eyes were deep set and squinting as he introduced himself with a bow, and he possessed a feeling of mystery which lingered around him. His phone rang two times in a row as I sat in the room patiently waiting for him. This ringing reiterated just how popular he was within the village and I heard a few remedial conversations he had with others. Most suggestions involved putting down the alcohol and picking up a walking stick!
He then let a moment of silence come between us to peacefully evaluate me. To my surprise, he announced that he could feel my ego was low and it would do me good to build it. He suggested a very Buddhist method, where one is to ponder everything done for them before partaking in any kind of luxury. He suggested this method of building self-worth before eating:
“Look how many hands it took to make the plate, upon which your food is served. Someone sat at the potter’s wheel forming the plate, someone sold the piece to the store, people planted the fruit and vegetables, watering them for days, and then harvested them…you should feel like a queen every time you sit down to such a meal.”
The healer also commented that jealous people often try to bring people like me down in life and that if I do not build myself up, it will be easier for them to have an influence on me. He said something I think was pretty relevant to all positive thinkers:
“Your perception of yourself is the only truth as to who you are. If you believe yourself to be successful at something, that is the truth, no matter what others may say.”
After Patrick closed his eyes and granted me a clear vision to see all options in life, I thanked him and walked out feeling refreshed and knowledgeable. Who knows if his spell will work on me, but at least I experienced a slice of Indian culture and can share his sound advice for a positive lifestyle.
Dandeli’s River Rapids Surfing Trip
Charlotte, the owner of Vivende, an elegant bed and breakfast in a restored country home, became one of our good friends while in Goa. She has miraculously crafted a dwindling estate into a gem by rebuilding with local materials and adding antique Indian artifacts and unique furniture to her spot in the woods. In the evening she hosts dinners at the long, elegant dining table for the guests of her boutique hotel. Invited twice, eating there was like being a special guest at an important dinner, discussing politics, travel and world news with people from various locations. The sweet Charlotte was always such a gracious hostess and became someone we wanted to hang out with outside of her hotel. We invited her to a weekend retreat to Dandeli, which would be the first full weekend she had away from her job for a few years.
Damien, Jason, Charlotte and I bumped along back roads, weaving around motorbikes and avoiding aggressive dump trucks, so brightly colored with sparkly paint that they resembled county fair rides. We snacked on berries from a road side stand which had been brushed with salt, coconut flavored cookies and ripe bananas. Bobbling their heads from side to side, many Indian villagers guided us through the back roads with directions to our next map point. We didn’t know if their shoulder-to-shoulder head wobbles meant “yes” or “no” but we took it as a uniquely Indian mannerism and smiled at each other every time we saw it. Trying to imitate the motion is even harder, because without practice, an untrained head just can’t shake quickly in that direction. Try it, you’ll understand.
The Old Magazine House was our destination, where we arrived just in time for a delicious Indian buffet lunch and then hiked to a peak where we watched the sun set over the Kali River’s reservoir. Wood and bamboo cabins and a dormitory popped up over the property between hammocks, camp fire pits and picnic areas and made us feel as though we were back in Northern California on a long weekend get-away in the Sierras. We played games of hearts, had pull-up competitions, and played an embarrassing charades games with other Indian campers.
Above: Sunset over the Kali River’s reservoir.
But the purpose of the trip was really the rafting, to take place on Sunday morning at 7 am down the mighty Kali River. Because monsoon season was about to roar to its inauguration, the reservoir for the river was no longer needed and had recently been released into the river, doubling its size and speed. Our guide seemed relieved to have a boat stocked with experienced paddlers and as we looked at the other groups, we understood why. Many Indian teams could not swim and we scared when routinely asked to jump into the still river mouth and practice a drill for getting back into the boat. When the other boats started to paddle into the rapids, we only saw oars and arms flying unsynchronized among colorful saris, looking like crepe paper in the wind.
Because our boatload had a bit of experience, our guide let us try to “surf” a rapid. This meant first bobbing down the rapid, then paddling against the current as hard as possible to balance on the wave. Although Charlotte and I were a bit hesitant when hearing that there was a 75% chance of tipping the boat during this dare, the guys convinced us to give it a shot, as they always seem to do. The first attempt was what I would call a success, setting our raft successfully above the white foam wave and hanging there for a few seconds as the current rushed below us. However, it was not what the boys had envisioned so we tried the stunt again. This time the current not only let us surf but also sucked the front of our raft under so rapidly that by the time I popped up from under the water, I was ten feet from the boat on the opposite side from which I’d been evicted. Jason had also been thrown into the white water and upon returning to the raft, we were all laughs but I have to admit I was a bit shaky paddling my next few strokes into the river.
On the way home that night, we stopped at Horn Bill Resort for a dip in the river. We had floated past the place on the earlier rafting trip and thought it looked like something we wanted to check out up close. As it turns out, we were right. Not only was the beach serene, but amazingly crafted tree houses soared high above the river at this resort and could be rented for 2000 rupees a night, which is $50. This includes all meals and access to the beach below. In every country, including India, we talk about plans for “next time’s visit” and these tree houses will definitely be included in that itinerary.
Above: Horn Bill Resort’s tree house accommodation on the river.
Below: Inside of the tree house, with window looking over river