Goa has provided a series of firsts for me. My first time swimming in the Arabian Sea, my first Ayurveda massage, my first taste of feni and my first long distance trip on a motorbike (and with it my first near-encounter with a monkey).
One thing I haven't had the chance to do is take a native yoga class. I downloaded a podcast to guide me in my morning rituals and it has been pure heaven to run through a downward facing dog sun salutation in the early mornings of a Goan day. When one adds in the gloriousness of swimming in the Arabian Sea it has added a meditative layer that has inspired my writing and brought clarity to my mind and spirit. I was told by more than one person before my trip that visiting India would be mind-altering, and it has been.
Four of the five days were spent in Benaulim at the beach near Johncy's food shack. We would stake out a patio table facing the ocean and set up camp, earning our keep eating while some of us read and all of us chatted, each of us taking turns swimming. The beach was peppered by strays living a dog's life of scraps, sand and sun. More than once I thought about how easy it would be to just go off the grid, and live a bohemian life.
On Monday afternoon, Ramani mentioned that she planned to get a massage. I had heard about these Ayurveda treatments from both Lisa and Claudia and knew that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to experience one. Vikki, the male masseur uses a sea salt scrub on my face and a series of aromatherapy oils in the treatment and massage. A great bargain at $20 for a 75 minute massage.
Throughout our stay at Zen Gardens we are serenaded at daybreak by dogs who think they are part rooster, and visited daily by the resident cats. One kitten in particular, a white short-hair who wears a black collar and bell, searches me out each evening for a tummy rub.
On Tuesday afternoon, Divyanka and George who are on a post-wedding holiday staying at Taj Exotica meet us for lunch at Johncy's. After a late swim, Ramani suggests that I try a local liquor called feni. A spirit made from either coconut or cashew, it is local to the state of Goa and cannot be found outside the area. Feni has a potent flavor and reminded me most of the firewater that George, Claudia and I tasted on our trip to Yelapa. I tried the cashew and it had a medicinal herbal aftertaste which was equalized by the addition of fresh lime soda. I tried the coconut varietal (Ramani had ordered that for herself) which was mixed with orange soda. A few of us linger back on the beach to swim, as I sit in the shallow water by the shore running my fingers in the sand, it occurs to me that it feels like wet suede. A kite flies overhead.
Dinners on the beach; one meal shared with nearby friends at Martin's a local Goan eatery with live music where Divyanka sings an open mic of Black Velvet. One night I am sous chef to master chef Paul who prepares a beef tomato stew over spaghetti that is actually quite good.
Our last full day we wake early and the four of us: Advaitha, Karron, Paul and I double up on motorbikes (I mistakenly think that renting bikes means bicycles) for a road trip. We take to the local roads stopping every so often to ensure we are going in the right direction and after a pit stop at Cabo de Rama, a historical site we find ourselves in Palolem. Heaven on earth, and I am instantly transported to the lido near Taormina in Sicily. We spend the day swimming and
sunning and then head our way back at sunset.
Thursday morning comes much too soon.