India: Swervin’ the Cops

I’ve been in Goa for two bloody weeks and I tell you what, if I ever see a coconut again it’ll be too soon. I’ve not stopped sweating; even now I’m sitting a little bit drunk alone on the terrace and my arms are so wet I could fist a cow. Goodness, fist a cow? Where did that come from? Nevermind, we’ve no time to turn back now. So yeah, I’m ready to leave Goa and start travelling again. In Rajasthan I craved company and parties, but now I’ve been here a while with plenty of both, I’m ready to go solo and begin learning again.

I’ve grown a little bit jaded of being around people – and there’s a fair few people in India. The last couple of days I’ve sacked off the group I’m with (politely) and spent some time alone. I like sitting on the beach. I’ve taken to leaving my phone in the dorm, along with the rest of my shit. When I head out I bring a few hundred rupees with me for beer or occasionally food, and bum around and see what pops into my head.

When I was in a more sociable mood a couple of days ago, I had a fun time riding back from a water park where we’d spent the day hurling ourselves down badly constructed slides. I had Bam on the back of my moped, and as we were riding back to the hostel in Vagator we came upon a police blockade in the road. I’d met a bunch of travellers who’d been pulled over by the police. They are all corrupt – they pull over tourists, check for driving licenses, helmets, and whatever else they can think of, and if you don’t have it you can pay a hefty fine or go to a cell for the night.

I say hefty, but in reality this is a negotiable fine that starts at around 20 quid. A reasonable bribe in other parts of the world, but it’s not the bribe that pisses me off, it’s the principle. You can haggle it down to a couple of hundred rupees if you’re smart. But I didn’t have my license on me and I couldn’t be arsed handing over a fistful of cash.

So then, as the officer strode into the centre of the road and waved at me to pull over, I, er, didn’t. Fuuuck the po-lice. I zipped neatly around him and didn’t look back. Ten metres down the road the officer’s mate tried it on, waving us down and stepping in front of the bike. I whizzed on by without a word, and sped off down the road, laughing like a madman at my own audacity but also a little bit frightened that they’d hunt me down and I’d be slung in some far flung gulag. But this is India, and it’s fucking hot and there’s always another tourist to scam, and we were left alone, free to wheel back to the hostel laughing all the way.

That was back in North Goa. I spent last night sleeping on the floor of a wooden shack on stilts down on Palolem beach. I would have liked a bed, but the group I’m with booked the shacks while I was out lonering for the day; I mentioned I might leave that morning and seen me absent from the hostel and assumed I’d moved on to Hampi. So I was left bedless, of course, which was a bit of an inconvenience but if the worst hardship I’ve had in India so far is sleeping on the sandy floor, I reckon the country’s been pretty kind to me.

Seven of us drank on the tiny little balcony of the hut, with the sands below us and the endless ocean roaring in the night. It had finally cooled to a delightful 27 degrees, and we drank gin and played music until the early hours. One of the guys in my hut was a Norwegian called Bror, and he told me he’s a DJ and music producer, and that he’s come to India to seek out new sounds. He’s touring the country alone for a few months, bouncing between random towns and cities and beaches searching for strange and interesting vinyl records to collect and bring home. I like that a lot. There’s something really romantic about it.

*****

After the above entry I went out for my last evening in Pallolem and in Goa. With Bam, Jack, Lily, Conor, Pierre and Bror, I headed out for one last Goan sunset. We hired kayaks to head to sea and watch the sky. I was quietly glad of the chance for some exercise, because all this boozing and currying is making me porky. I’ve been sticking(ish) to a routine of 50 press ups, 50 squats, a one minute plank and 50 tricep dips a day, but some mornings it’s too hot or I’m too hungover or both, and so my body is slowly becoming shit. So kayaking was a welcome idea.

I shared a kayak with Bror and we rowed out to Monkey Island – at least, that’s what I heard someone call it – because it was the only landmark up and down the beach. It was a couple of kilometres to row, but the waves were calm. We passed huge jellyfish drifting through the warm water, and out to sea we saw the tails of dolphins playing. We reached the island and skirted around it, passing by Sunset Point where a dozen friends from the hostel were spending the day dropping acid at a secluded beach bar that you have to wade through water and clamber over rocks to discover.

In the shallow stretch of water between the island and the beach bar, we hopped out and waded along, letting the tide carry our kayaks for us. The girls met us there; they were too slow to circumnavigate the little island and skipped it out. We floated around together for a while and watched another wonderful sunset. There was a little net floating beside us that was, I assume, to stop kayaks drifting onto the rocks. However, we found that dozens of crabs had become tangled in it. I pulled the net up out of the water and between everyone we tried for 20 minutes to free one crab. Some Indian teenagers came wading over to help, standing around watching with interest and offering advice. They helped Bam and Pierre to free it, and after a second’s elation on our part, the teenagers pulled the legs off the poor crab and threw it away. There are some things I just don’t understand.

We played around on the beach a while, and Jak climbed a huge rock that looked like an elephant’s head. I tried to climb up but my arms are shorter and I missed a grip, slipped and twisted my shoulder sharply backwards. I scrambled back down feeling nauseous with pain, worrying I’d sprained it, but it faded away quickly. On the very top of the rock Jak found a pair of old eyeglasses and large, rusty knife. No idea how they got there.

As it grew dark we set off for the 2km back in the kayaks. I was with Jak now. The tide had changed as the sun had gone down, and random currents kept spinning our boat around, meaning we had to fight and paddle and fight to keep it straight. We ended up panting and sweating all the way back to shore, taking twice the time we took on the way out. But Jak and I beat the other two kayaks back to the beach, which was cause for a celebratory beer.

Back at Summer hostel there was a pub quiz, which everyone played together on the terrace. Jak, Bror and I came joint first, which was cause for further celebratory beer. I had one of those lovely moments that night where you sit quietly in the midst of the hubbub around you and gaze about, and you are filled with sudden appreciation for your luck. Around me sat a host of lovely people I’d known for anywhere between two weeks and one hour: Max, Seb, Ada, Jak, Bam, Pierre, Lily, Conor, Bror, Krusan, Mitch, Ante and a bunch more, and the evening air was hot, the beer was cold, and music was playing.

The clock hit 9pm, and it was time for our group to split. I hugged goodbye to everyone amid the usual sad false promises to keep in touch, and along with Lily and Conor, boarded the night bus to Hampi and left Goa finally, after two boisterous weeks.

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