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Horizons: India - Goa 2012

Anjuna, beach, market, Goa, IndiaGetting Down in Goa

I will say it took the weekly market to bring a splash of colour to Anjuna Beach, our chosen strip of sand for this year’s major crash. For those of you acquainted with Goan history, both from the age of European exploration and more recently, you will be aware that Goa was a Portuguese colony, effectively and amazingly, from 1510-1961 AD, and was only finally wrenched from the Portuguese by a display of force by the Indian Army.

This more recent extent of colonisation is predated by some 3,500 years by an earlier one, when it is highly likely that the Sumerians held sway here; apparently the field units, uniquely in India, are based on the Sumerian measurement system. My own take on this is that it may well have been linked also to the Indus Valley culture but that’s another long story. Anyway, this particularly fertile and attractive piece of India proved different enough by the Sixties to begin to attract groups of hippies, obviously enamoured by the tropical lifestyle but not enough to go for the Vietnam experience! The population in Goa, being over 75% being Christian, was more liberal than elsewhere on the subcontinent and there were other, relative freedoms, particularly in Anjuna, where there was apparently no police station. Here the hippies bedded down and one of the first, “Eight Fingered Eddie”, died only two years ago, still in situ.

As hippiedom faded Goa passed into the “psycho trance” era in the Eighties and “rave” by the turn of the millennium; I believe the phrase “acid rave” is used to describe what is played today but most of the big parties have been banned. This does not stop the few bars and nightclubs from churning out a diet of unpalatable monotone bass led dance music until the early hours of the morning and, with little in the way of soundproofing, the irritation is immense. It seems that today’s typical Goan tourist is Russian, the males obese and the females dressed and made up as if they are attending “Barbie” lookalike parties.

Old Stone Cottage, Anjuna, beach, Goa, IndiaThe remains of the hippy era lay around us as we slept, in a building that had once been a pizza restaurant with a resident DJ spinning disks in approximately the position Andrea is perched in for this shot.

The cottage itself has been loving restored and proved an excellent pace to stay with two exceptions. The first was the music, mentioned above, and on our last two nights it kept us awake, Old Stone Cottage, Anjuna Beach, Goa, Indiaalthough before that it had been fine. The second was the litter; Indians are what “Alex”, the owner of the cottage, calls “first generation plastic users”, and are to my mind, “any generation excessive plastic disposers”. Admittedly, the systems designed to dispose of the litter are yet to be introduced but there is ad hoc recycling.

We were only thirty seconds walk from the beach, although the section directly in front of the Anjuna Beach, Goa, Indiacottage was not ideal for swimming as the volcanic wave cut platform had been exposed. This rock was sharp and it would have been unpleasant to brush up against in the water but just a few metres to the north the sand extended into the water, shelving gradually, so much so that it was difficult to get out of your depth when the tide was out. This shot shows the path down to the beach at sunset.

In fact between the hours of midday and 17.00hrs it was difficult to get out of your depth whatever Asvem Beach, Goa, Indiathe tide. Indians have obviously been viewing too many Baywatch episodes, or perhaps it’s Bondi Rescue, but the patrols are excessively authoritarian, run from both the shore and a jet ski that corrals swimmers into an unnecessarily small area. The beach guards are very honest and will tell you it is the Indians, notoriously bad and drunk swimmers, they are trying to protect, but everyone is affected.

We found that the beach at Asvem (pictured below left) was not only better for swimming but that the beach patrol were content to do the job they’re supposed to do. We spent the day at Asvem and, although the scenery was not as pretty and the weather was pretty awful, it was much quieter, and we both felt it would have suited us better once the season had progressed a little more.

Our holiday actually straddled the start of the season, which arrived on 1st November and the end of the monsoon; which may well have accounted for the louder music on the last two nights. One thing that surprised me was that some enterprising musical thief has taken the rhythm from Led Zeppelin’s Trampled Underfoot and used it as the drum’n’bass line for an entire collection of dance music, one that was played vendors, Anjuna Beach, Goa, Indiarepeatedly up and down the beach.

The weather was great until the last two days when it was overcast, finally raining on our last day. Of course as we live in a desert this was fantastic; it’s wonderful to swim in the sea when it’s raining!

This was intended as a beach holiday but we did get into Old Goa and visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus. It was interesting but not enough to feature in a photo. I did like the photos of the bodies and the idea that there were Christian relics hanging around in India but again, there are far more interesting histories! Perhaps I’ll explore that Sumerian and Indus Valley link at some time.