Tales from India #4: The Last Sunny Days in Goa

At last, the monsoon season was upon us as thick layers of grey clouds covered the sky and rain began to pour down relentlessly. It started of imperceptible with small showers during the evening, but it culminated in a thunderous storm, that left the entire town without electricity for the greater part of the night and the next day. It was the official announcement that “the times they are a-changin’”.

From this moment forth, the rain dominated the evenings as well as the early and late afternoons. Even during the daytime, the next downpour loomed over our heads like the ancient sword of Damocles. This circumstance made exploration a little more difficult, especially due to the added hardship of the increasingly humid and oppressive air.

The locals were well aware of the arrival of the monsoon. Weeks ago they started to dismantle their bars, hotels, and restaurants at the beachfront, taking with them the entire interior decoration and every wooden plank and window. What was left of the lively bars, where we fellow backpackers spent our time together just days prior, was only the basic framework. The bustling beach vibe from a fortnight ago was replaced by an eerie atmosphere like that of a ghost town where stray dogs were the sole inhabitants. Only the bigger and popular restaurants and bars stayed open for the remaining tourists and backpackers. But even they were leaving, one after another, either back home or to chase the sun for a little longer. By then, swimming in the ocean was restricted as well and the lifeguards whistled every swimmer out of the water who treaded further than up to one’s waist. Annoyed as I first was, in the end, I was grateful that someone watched over us daring fools who should know better. The restless ocean with its powerful waves made it undoubtedly clear that it would punish everyone with full force and without any remorse.

Instead, I used these rainy days as a chance for reading, writing, and introspection. There is a time and a place for everything and fortunately for me, there was a decent café near my hostel that allowed me to pursue those activities. My thoughts went back to the not so distant past when I arrived in Goa with rays of sun burning down my neck. It seemed so much longer ago since I helped the Indians with their boats on Palolem beach as described in one of my previous entries. The hostel was alive back then with energetic backpackers with whom I drove even further down south to Polem and Turtle beach. I remember ditching them at the very end, because “my lone wolf DNA kicked in” as I tried to explain myself in a message to one of my confused comrades. I just couldn’t help myself. As much as I love spending time with fellow backpackers, there comes a time, rather quickly, where I prefer to be on my own. Something always pulls me away from people and I suspect that this might not be as good as I always thought it would be. I crave companionship as much as solitude, but I need to find a better balance between those two. A life in complete isolation is not a life where I could see myself happily living in.

I had one of those solitary adventures shortly before I left when I rented a scooter and explored parts of the far-reaching Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary. In the beginning, I couldn’t decide where to go, for all of the paths and tracks looked so tempting as though they could take me everywhere and nowhere. I settled for one of the shorter routes which lead through the dense thicket of a jungle into a clearing where a treetop rose up from the middle. Midsized stones painted in white were placed alongside the path to prevent wanderers from getting lost. Fortunately, I also had colorful butterflies and small lizards acting as both my guides and my companions. After a few minutes of observation from atop the little tree house, I retraced my steps back to my scooter and took the road towards the biggest temple ground I could find.

Temple_complex It was a Hindu temple to the north-west called Shri Mallikarjuna Temple, tucked in between jungles and hills to the north. One could take the byroad shortly before the temple and drive further up the hills and deeper into the jungle. This, I didn’t do, for my interest was focused on the main temple of Shri Mallikarjuna. As it is often the case, I was the only white person far and wide, so I asked the first Hindu for permission to enter. In Madurai, the City of Temples, I learned that there are some areas within the complex, which are off-limits for anyone who is not a Hindu, so I tried to be cautious. I was allowed inside, but not without a few curious pairs of eyes fixed upon me. After a while, every farangi gets used to this kind of attention, so I simply paid mine to the wooden carved mural reliefs of the various incarnations of the divine Hindu pantheon. Along the walls were elaborate paintings, which, taken all together, were telling one of the numerous mythological stories known in India for Millennia. Unfortunately, my visit to the temple was cut short, because the clouds were getting suspiciously dark and I thought it prudent to leave at once. In the end, my prudence was rewarded, since a heavy rain shower arrived as soon as I dropped off my scooter close to my hostel. By that time, I knew my days in Goa were numbered as well and I needed to make plans for my trip to Mumbai.

I’m glad that I got to witness Goa in this seasonal transition, in its last golden days before the inevitable decline similar to the fate of an empire. But the thing with seasons is, as it is with empires, there is always the next one to arise, whose golden days will shine once more upon the oceans, the beaches, the jungles, the streets and the heads of its people. This is how it has been since the dawn of time and this is how it will be when the sun sets for the last time.


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