On the other side there are exotic hippies (a cultural term here), quietly dancing to the sunset drumbeat, in almost exactly the same attire as the rest of their tribe. Long dreadlocks adorned with beads and cloth are tied up in elaborate concoctions on top of their head. Tattered, but new, short skirts over Leopard tights seem to be the uniform and half-shaven heads are not uncommon. It was tempting for glance.
I’d had enough. Everyone had, I think. You could tell the general attitude of the place had been tarnished. The Russians were not the friendliest group of vacationers and it had a domino effect on every one there it seemed. I found it very useful to casually let the shopkeepers know in the first 20 seconds of conversation, that I was indeed, not Russian. But they could already tell by then and most likely before I even walked in the door. I found myself frustrated. Deflated.
I made my way South, out of the not-India area to find a perfect mix. Gokara is a holy city with the perk of being on a set of beautiful beaches. You can hike from one beach to another, each getting more desolate as you go. Shanti shanti, peace, I imagined in my near future. I went to the one right before I would be sleeping in straight sand. Half Moon Beach has 2.5 cafes, no electricity and basic huts with a mat that has never been washed, just beaten with a stick. The bathing quarters were a half mile, at least it felt like, walk, so you only went there when absolutely necessary. It was like camping with a café!
The door to my hut didn’t really even shut fully; there was a gaping hole of about a foot underneath for onlookers or crawlies to enjoy. There are no locks but I created my own fail-proof system of a carabineer and a second sarong fabric door that would protect me from all evil. I guess gigantic resentful ants and massive spiders do not classify as evil as they kept me company through each night.
You really had to make use of your day light because once the lights went out there were not many options. There was a steady but good flow of visitors and residents that you got to know quite well through long evening candle light chats. My first night there seemed to be the most dramatic. I went to sleep early with my earplugs in position. I was wakened to hear someone sobbing and loudly declaring, “I want to die, just like this, here. No one I can trust. They all are false. I just want to die.” I was alarmed, of course. I hadn’t quite got the feel for the place and who knows what could happen out here. I took the earplugs out and listened from my hut. It was an on-going saga of the same over and over. I had to see what the hoop-la was about and how much on guard I needed to be, so I joined the audience.
Sanjay, I sweet but saddened man on many glasses of rum, was poring his heart out. It seems like this was not the first time as the general reaction was one of non-concern. Except for Victoria from Boliva. She was tired of it, she was feisty, full of fire. She quickly stood and went into the kitchen.
“You want to die? This is what you want? We will give you what you want. Take this!”
She handed him the largest kitchen knife they have. It was a odd mix of cliché and unchartered waters but it helped. Sanjay changed his tone and became quiet.
“No, I do not want to die. Just here, I could die here. But I will not take my own life.”
This was a welcome relief. We all settled in, got to know each other a little better and let Sanjay sleep it off. It was a speedy introduction to a group of friends who had worked together for months and were clearly at their limit. It was nice to be cut-off again from the outside world but I also slept well knowing my phone was still charged with a signal.
First each hot morning I would hop up, put on my suit and run to the water. ‘First’ being not so early. Then enjoy a milk coffee and a tomato omelet. That would take up about 3 hours. Then plan a trek maybe, to another beach, over the rocks with a sea-view trail. To Paradise Beach, where people used to live.It technically is government land but as India goes (T.I.I.- This is India), people moved in. First the hippies built a camp, then the Indians built a café for the hippies, then the government tore everything down and kicked everyone out. This only took about 10 years more or less.
Each night I could walk out into a star-filled dark night and kick my feet in the water. When you did this the plankton would glow. At first thought, I was afraid we might be hurting a glowing creature by kicking at it but soon discovered they were plants and glowed even brighter with each of our kicks so they must have been okay with it.
I spent a night in the big city of Gokarna to come back to some Indian men from Goa who were drinking rum at 11am in the café. One had a very palatable cunning demeanor. Things had gone south. This guy was scary and drunk and intimidating and occupied the hut that shared a wall with mine. I wanted nothing to do with him but he would come join us at every opportunity. An eery, blank but dangerous look inhabited his eyes. You have to be tough with the men here. They do not view us women as humans as much. Women stay home in the country, they don’t speak up and they do what needs to be done. Life is dictated by the husband that was dictated to you.
This guy would not leave us alone though, he would open our hut doors when we slept, tear off our covered cloth windows, and follow us down the trail just to hand us a pamphlet on Hampi in the dark for absolutely no reason. He would stand too close and forcefully tell me to sit, to be friends and to drink his rum. Nothing was off limits. I started hiding my passport in the wall of my hut. I would booby-trap areas so I knew if anyone had been near. It was time to move on. The next morning I woke to him opening hut doors announcing, “My friend! Do you have a phone? Wake up! Hello? Some one took my money. My wallet, it is gone! Do you have a phone?”
No, I do not have a phone, good luck.”
I moved to the city. My first bathtub since I have been gone. The lady actually bargained me down to a lower price. She needs to practice or she just has a very loving heart. I am getting the blue and white tiled, hot water from 7:30 am to noon, bathtub room for $12 and I live like a queen. I bought a bathmat because I am moving in. This will be my new home for 2 weeks.
This town, Gokara, has all the spiritual, wonderful feel of India but is small, the horns aren’t as piercing and food is good and healthy. Everyday I eat boiled spinach with a lime juice covering and coconut lassies. It makes me feel strong. The locals smile often and love to have their picture taken. I think I will just settle in for a bit, write and spend that time with myself that I crave but also run from.