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Arambol, Goa

February 29, 2008
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It’s been difficult getting online to submit my blog. Power cuts are are normal here and nobody freaks out when they happen. Yesterday and the day before we did not have power all day. They put new power lines up in the village. When I manage to get online the connection is always dial-up style slow.

I have been in Arambol, Goa for a week and a half now. Initially Ana and I wanted to stay just for a couple of days and slowly make our way down south to Kerala. But things happen that make us stay “just one more day.” Tomorrow we are leaving tough, for real.

Arambol. When I came here seventeen years ago at the beginning of my India journey I was welcomed by a small fishing village. I remember it being very airy and full of old high-standing coconut palm trees and free-running pigs. A lot of Goans are Catholic and therefore eat meat. I stayed with a family that rented a couple of rooms. The bathroom was an outhouse with a hole to the outside and every time I went there the pigs would push their noses through the hole waiting for my poop to come. If I had eaten any pork I would have eaten myself in a way. There were just a view of round beach shacks serving food. Everybody was on bicycles and to get here you had to take a ferry. Arambol seemed far from the party scene further south in Vagator and Anjuna beach where the Goa rave scene just started to happen. There was something really peaceful and magical about this place. The beaches were lovely and you could hike into the jungle via a clear sweet water lake and rest under a big Banjan tree that made you feel like you are about to step through the gate into Alice’s Wonderland. I guess the hash that was smoked there all day long helped you enter that gate.

2008. We arrive here after a twelve-hour train ride from Mumbai.

Arambol has changed a lot in 17 years. It’s evening time when we get here. Already on the ride from the train station to the village I notice a lot of traffic–travelers on scooters and motorbikes riding the narrow streets of Goa way too fast without wearing helmets. Suddenly all the safety precautions you have taken in the West are history and riding without a helmet becomes part of living the Indian Freedom. We are welcomed by a well-lit shopping corridor, which lines the main street down to the beach for about a kilometer. Most shops sell the same stuff–clothes, bags, jewelry, badges, drums, trippy paintings and smoking paraphernalia. Looking at the travelers I quickly notice that there is a certain style of fashion here, which is dominated by baggy Pakistani looking pants and some funky, skimpy tops. I look like the average Joe here with my dreadlocks and feel like I want to cut them off immediately. I have been craving a beer with a cigarette since I arrived in Mumbai and now finally I get what I want. It’s funny, because since that night I have not smoked or consumed any alcohol. Got that out of the way. My initial feeling of wanting to turn around and get the hell out of here immediately softens with the second beer. Ana and I decide that a nice way to get into the Arambol of today would be to do interviews and photographs with people about their stay here and life in general. I will put up a little slide show of Arambol after I have mastered the editing process. That might take a while–be patient.

Arambol, when you get out on to the beach in the morning at sunrise you can usually witness the following: Pale Russians in tight Speedos jogging up and down the beach in military formations; skinny, beautiful people stretching and twisting in Yoga postures; somebody meditating towards the sea; dogs out on their first morning stroll trying to get a piece of fish off the fishermen that just came back from the sea in their ancient-looking boats sorting their daily catch; leftover party people waking up tickled by the first rays of sunlight and hipster hippie families with cute suntanned kids venturing off for breakfast to one of the many beachfront restaurants.

During the day a lot of people seem to be on their way to some sort of healing, tantra, yoga, Ayurvedic-, Tibetan-, Nepali- massage, spinning, self realization, chanting, higher consciousness, meditation, belly dancing, satsang, connect-with-your-inner-child workshop. The other half hangs around, drinking lots of beer, eating lots of french-fries with fried meat and baking in the sun, barely dressed with a joint in your hand waiting for the beach vendors to try to sell them yet another piece of cheap, but overpriced Indian fabric.

In the afternoon the wind picks up and experienced kite-surfers fly forth and back in the waves. There is a kind of Burning Man atmosphere in the air. People playing, taking photos, hula-hooping, juggling, more yoga and stretching or just sitting in groups chatting and watching the sunset over the ocean. The lights of the village come on slowly and the crusty looking beach shack restaurants and cafes turn into magically lit up trance music infused fairy-tale realms.

Since the police have strictly banned loud music between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in order to control Goa’s party scene, any event that goes on starts early. Since I have been here I have seen several live music events with music groups consisting of people from all over the world including India, playing instruments and styles from all over the world. There are still raves going on in Goa, most of them start in the middle of the day and end at 10 p.m., or if you are lucky you end up at somebody’s private house party, which can go all night.

Here are some visual encounters from Arambol.

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