Our second destination in India was Goa, known as the original hippie town, attracting backpackers since the end of the 1960s. A perfect place to relax and “take it easy”. Although the atmosphere of spirituality, smoking pot around the campfire and full moon parties was still there, it also felt like a place overwhelmed by decades of mass tourism. The small streets were packed with western travellers, mostly British. The little shops and markets were designed to sell things to these day-trippers and felt less authentic than we might have hoped for. The pubs were offering dishes that didn’t come close to the regional, traditional recipes we had tried in Mumbai. Luckily, our cabin was located on the beach away from the main party street, offering a breath-taking view over blue water waves and white sand.
Our first day at the beach was very relaxing. We read chapter after chapter of our favourite books, while ordering coconuts and fresh juices. Our night was a little less peaceful however. We arrived back at the cabin at dusk and didn’t notice a big fat toad sitting on top of our doorknob. When I reached out to open the door, it suddenly came to life. I jumped backwards with a shriek. Its slimy, brownish feet moved slowly towards the window, taking that repelling body along. I quickly opened the door and ran inside, under the impression that the toad was safely left out on the terrace. However, a moment later I found it hanging vertically on the wall next to my bed. I wondered if he was poisonous and had it out for me. I imagined what it was like to try and catch it. Maybe he would quickly jump in my suitcase and nestle somewhere in between my bras, or jump straight on top of my head and get stuck in my hair. All in all, I wasn’t very comfortable with the idea of chasing the toad around, but neither was I with sleeping next to him. I pondered over my options, when I saw my mum wave at me through the window. She was standing with a grey-haired man outside on the terrace, whom she introduced to me as ‘Timothy, the toad catcher’. My mum is the kind of woman who can smile and get anyone to catch poisonous animals for her. Timothy rolled up his sleeves and without hesitation went for it. Seconds later he had put the toad out on the grass in the open-air and kindly gave him back his freedom – and us a good night sleep.
Well, for at least half a night. At around 3 am we woke up from the sound of some heavy animal jumping on the roof of our cabin. We wondered what animal it could be, as we heard human-like steps going back and forth. I mentally checked whether I had closed all the windows or openings to our cabin, when I heard skipping sounds above my head. The wooden roof started to tremble, but luckily held its own. The next morning at breakfast we concluded that it had probably been a monkey, but I guess we’ll never know for sure.
The next day I got an Indian massage recommended by the resorts’ staff (what else do you need after all the stress from those animal attacks). Since it had been recommended to me, I decided to go for a full hour, rather than the standard thirty minutes. This was the worst mistake I could have made. I tend to find that there is nothing more relaxing than a good massage, leaving your muscles relaxed and your mind stress free, but this massage was nothing like that! There was absolutely nothing relaxing and stress-free about it; in fact, it is very stressful having to think of ways to distract your mind from the pain that your body is going through! Muscles I didn’t even know existed were being punched and bruised, and when I finally thought it was all done, I got the bonus of a head-slapping and neck-cracking ending. I walked back to the cabin defeated, which I think the masseuse’s 5-year old daughter realised, as she followed me to the cabin and asked whether she could sit on my lap outside on the terrace. She was the sweetest little thing and soon I had forgotten all about what a wicked woman her mother was.
One of our highlights in Goa was going on a dolphin boat tour. Two tour guides took us out on sea in a charming private, painted blue boat. One of the guides was sitting in the back and controlled the engine; the other was standing in front of the boat and peered intensively at the water. We saw four dolphins, of which one baby-dolphin! I realised what a tough job it must be to be a dolphin spotter and trying to follow or anticipate their movements. Often they would briefly surface and then disappear again. To me it felt like a complete gamble trying to predict where they would come to sight again and I rarely guessed correctly. Luckily the spotters knew what they were doing. Somehow they managed to find them time and time again. They would navigate the boat as closely as possible towards the dolphins without frightening them. Whenever we’d be near enough, they would stop the motor of the boat, so we could float around for a while, enjoying the beautiful animals and the sun rays on the water and on our faces. Afterwards, they took the time to bring us to various private beaches; where we could take a dip into the water before going to yet another miraculous place.
The rest of our time in Goa was divided between relaxing by the sea and going for walks on the main hippy street. A red warning flag waved at the beach all the time, but everyone seemed to disregard it and swam anyway. I enjoyed the tepid waves myself, but didn’t go in too deep and dismissed the idea of going snorkelling. Instead we ate massive amounts of foods at every restaurant.
At home a weekend flies by, but – despite all the animals and crazy masseuse ladies – three days in Goa gave me back all the energy I felt I had lost.