The next morning when I woke up in Calangute I could hear the waves on the beach and with Sam still asleep I went directly to the ocean. If you know anything about me (which I hope you do if you are reading this) I LOVE THE OCEAN. I had been thinking about it earlier in the trip and I had not seen the ocean since I left America in mid august and it was now only about 2 months since I had seen the ocean but that was the longest time in YEARS (probably 12 years if my math is right) that I had gone without seeing, hearing and being with the ocean. It really made me think about my life and how the ocean plays a major role and that whatever happens in the rest of my life, going 2 months without the ocean is unacceptable! Anyways Calangute was a good town but sort of too touristy and tacky touristy for Sam and my liking. We still enjoyed the beach for a few days and definitely relaxed but had sort of different visions of Goa. We stayed in Calangute for a few days because we had told a friend, fellow Camel 05 Alumni Susan Taylor to meet up with us in Goa.
If you think my backpacking travels are intense, I am a wimp compared to Susan. She studied abroad in India our junior year and fell in love with India. A week after we graduated college (somehow) she moved to India with a job for a non profit company improving slum life in Pune. Pune, which I had never heard of either, is the 8th most populated city in India and has more than 4 million citizens. Sam and I had been emailing her along our trip but had been giving her pretty bad reports on when we would make it to Goa because we had no idea and kept getting held up in places we liked too much. We finally set a date and place and decided to meet up and BOOM there she was knocking on our hotel room door, no cell phones, just a few emails and alot of faith. We were the first people Susan had seen that she had known in like 5 months! She had been to Goa before and agreed that Calangute was not the best place for us. So we decided to go searching for our picture perfect paradise, with help from the Lonely Planet bible of course. This adventure required a new form of transportation, one that Asia specializes in and I had fallen in love with in Vietnam, motorbikes.
Quick side story about my experiences with motorbikes and not many of you know this story.
My Vietnam study abroad group met at Conn Coll about a month before we left, it was a crazy meeting, seeing all the faces I would see in Vietnam and being shown and introduced to some ideas about what our life would be like fro 5 months. In these meeting I signed an agreement saying I would not drive motorbikes (and some other donts that I broke too) Sorry Conn Coll, I lied. After a few months of getting used to traffic in Vietnam all the men on the trip ventured on an adventure, partly dreamed up by me to go to a casino about 120 km away from our home, Hanoi. Along the way we stopped at a snake village and ate snakes for lunch. On the trip I hit a 18 wheeler on my motorbike, yes you read that correctly. I scratched myself up pretty bad but nothing serious and i messed my bike up pretty good too, the last 20kms I could not drive over 40km/hr because my bike was in trouble. We get to the casino, 5 Americans and are 100% out of place. The casino is illegal fro Vietnamese but legal for foreigners so many Chinese cross the border for this casino. Chinese LOVE to gamble and we walked into a very nice casino/hotel setup dirty and bloodied from the road. Somehow, against all odds, all 5 of us make money in the casino and are doing well enough to buy a hotel room, spent the night and go back to Hanoi the next day. I got my bike fixed along the way and it was one of the biggest adventures I have ever been on. We had no cell phones, lost each other along the way, barely could ask Vietnamese locals where Do Son was and before we left all agreed that whatever happened we were meeting in Do Son and if you didnt make it, go back to Hanoi and never talk about the trip. That is the start of my affair with motorbikes, I am (or was) happily married to my 1991 Volvo 240.
Driving motorbikes in India is normal for Indians but one look from me at the Indian traffic in all cities and most towns overall made me not want to touch the handlebars. Did I mention that India drives on the wrong side of the road? Goa was different because of the laid back beach atmosphere and many tourists rent bikes and venture along the coast, this was still my first time driving on the wrong side. We rented 2 motorbikes and started up the coast, I was less cautious than Sam and decided to take Susan on my bike. She had seen too much Indian motorbike traffic in Pune and wanted nothing to do with driving a motorbike. We started driving, not perfect at first but got the hang of it pretty quickly. Except for traffic circles which I hate even in America (stupid Mass has tons of them) and traffic circles the wrong way was sort of a problem for me. We explored a few towns on the coast, stopped for lunch overlooking the Indian Ocean but decided to continue on. Then we found it, literally parking our bikes on the beach and having our jaws hit the sand with what we had found, Arambol. A perfect beach with restaurants all along the beach, stalls with merchants not hassling you and beach huts along the nearby hill overlooking the beach. We stayed there all afternoon, loving it and even confused a beach hut hotel by asking for a reservation for tomorrow, which was a new concept to them. We left before nightfall because driving motorbikes is a whole different story at night. I almost hit a black cow that was crossing the road at night, I pulled over immediately and could not believe what had just happened. Back to Calangute for one night to get the rest of our bags and then the next day a taxi to Arambol. Arambol is sort of a hippie town and some of tourists look like they have been there too long and have not experienced the real world any time recently but we had no problem with the environment. (One of my pictures is the view from our beach hut that I recommend you check out to get the feeling) The 3 of us were beach bums for a few days, not doing much, getting back in touch with our Conn Coll party lifestyle and eating fresh SEAFOOD, a favorite of mine. After a few days Susan had to go back to work in Pune and we said we would go visit her in a few days but Sam and I could not leave this place. One of the reasons was a great group of people we met up with. We had met a couple Tom and Bridie in Udaipur and kept in touch with emails and when they said they were going to Goa, we told them to come to Arambol. They actually had other English friends there and soon Sam and I were in a group of 10 Brits, only understanding about 80% of their words and having some of ours questioned as well. I cannot remember all your names but Tom, Connor, Nill, Kellie, Olivia, Bill and any others I forgot, you are all cheeky bastards.
To make this beach vacation complete, I rented a motorbike again and took a trip to Paragon, which is home to many casinos (the only ones in India). Some of the casinos I had read about were on boats, which was a dream come true for me but the $40 entrance was alittle steep for a small time gambler like me. I found one, free entrance fee (except for the fact that I was not allowed in with shorts and had to go buy pants). I did very well at the roulette table, bad at blackjack but came out on top and was able to pay for my new pants, renting a bike, gas and a reward dinner at Pizza Hut in India.
One more thing about Goa, it is interesting to see the nationalities that travel and visit certain places. Goa is a mini Israel, it was fascinating how many of them there were, probably more Israelis than all other nationalities combined. It was also interesting to see how many of them had dropped out of their mandatory 3 year military service and were escaping to Arambol. A few days longer than we planned, Sam and I finally left Goa to visit Susan in Pune, in disbelief that we just spent a week in India, not worrying about anything, not getting hassled to buy crap, not being covered in Indian filth and even eating some french fries