“Did you ever dream about a place you never really recall being to before? A place that maybe only exists in your imagination? Some place far away, half remembered when you wake up. When you were there, though, you knew the language. You knew your way around. That was the sixties.” Henry Fonda as Terry Valentine
And the sixties live on in some form in Goa. For those that don’t come to India to find themselves, there are plenty here who come to be themselves. Of course these two things should be the same really, but rarely are. Initially the northern beaches of Arambol appear to be full of Indo- and Euro-hippies, but for many that is just a uniform in itself. The atmosphere feels more hipdonistic, with many racing wildly on mopeds and Enfields to get to that new yoga workshop or that place that serves all natural energy blends. The laid-back locals seem untroubled by the buzz and many foreigners scratch out a seasonal living on the beaches of Goa, before ‘following the sun’ elsewhere.
After a short time we acclimatised to the random goings on and enjoyed our laid-back days and regular sunset haunts on the beach. Every night a throng of freestylers would gather on the sand to syncopate with the drum circle (or the Krishnas if you were unlucky). By the end of our time in Arambol, someone could have ridden a unicycle past us with their head up a pig’s anus and we wouldn’t have looked twice. That was the vibe.
We moved further down the coast to Morjim for Christmas and New Year. In comparison to Arambol, the Russian enclave of Morjim was, frankly, boring. I don’t know at what point in recent history techno music became irreversibly welded to Russian culture, but it had followed them to Goa and was emanating from beach shacks round-the-clock. Thankfully our deluxe palace (courtesy of our local fixer and landlord, Romaldo) was far enough away from the textureless thumping, but only a 60 second walk to the beach. And to the dogs.
The dogs of Goa would be the name of our new band. These lucky dogs follow the seasonal workers and spend half their year watching red sunsets from the sand. They work the fishermen and scavenge for fish bits. They work the tourists and scavenge patiently for dinner leftovers. They run around in big packs fighting and fornicating. They get injured and a couple of charities put them back together again. In comparison to other dogs in India, this is a charmed life. Then the monsoons unleash and Goa battens its hatches. The food disappears and the dogs plunge into the abyss of malnutrition. Once more, the dog charities pick up the pieces and help the dogs survive each wet season. Amazingly, these are some of the most tranquil and well adjusted dogs you’ll ever meet.
Simple maths will tell us that dogs+India=rabies. One particularly excited and teething pup decided to gnaw through Nickiy’s skin, so we took a trip to the doctors to get some more jabs. The puppy had already been vaccinated but we discovered that our immunisation was coming to an end, so we both got a new course of injections. We had become quite familiar with this doctor as he had cleared up the infection in my lip wound and removed the stitches in early December. He was probably glad to see the back of us.
One of our reasons for staying in Goa for all this time was to catch up with the Toronto Project Office. Having muled a vast array of supplies through international airports and past hotel security guards, we got to do some major surgery on Stein in between our own recuperation. On the outside of the zoo looking in, is Susan’s analysis of this period in Goa, which, let’s be honest, is more amusing than ours!