After spending 15 hours on a Bollywood movie set (which would amount to no more than 15 seconds of B-grade Bollywood fame, if that) I spent a few days recovering from a severe case of diarrhoea and eventually decided to crack open the antibiotics my mother had insisted I take with. I’ll admit I was disappointed that I had not made it out of India without taking a course of antibiotics, in my mind it would have amounted to the same as climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. All the same, I was grateful for the medication because I was, by now, very sick. Three days was all I gave myself to recover because in three days my brother and my friend Mieke would be joining me in Mumbai and it was a visit that I was anticipating with great excitement. There simply was no space for illness now. At times during this trip when I was severely lonely or the road became too long and I felt like giving up, their visit served as encouragement or an incentive of sorts and I couldn’t believe the time had finally come.
Then the day of their arrival came and I went to meet them at ‘the Gateway of India’ just a 5 minute walk from my hotel in Mumbai. I had a hard time getting my mind to calm down. There was so much I wanted to tell them and share and ask but as irony would have it l fell into a strange and uneasy silence shortly after we greeted each other and were walking back to the hotel. Later, sitting across a table from them at a restaurant, I realized that I’ve been away for almost half a year and haven’t had a real conversation with either of them for all that time. Distance causes distance (that much I knew). But I told myself not to freak out and calm right down. We weren’t on opposites sides of the world anymore, we were together and we had 3 weeks in this crazy country to explore and see and taste and feel things, together. It would take a little time to ease back into each other’s company. In the meantime we had a 3 week adventure down to the South of India to plan.
There was one other thing that needed my attention before the adventure down South could begin in full swing. I had to decide the Yamaha’s fate. My beloved companion had overnight become a burden. The plan to do part of the trip down South on motorbikes faded into nothingness and it hit me that my adventure with the Yamaha was over. To say that it was hard for me to accept would be an understatement. I felt devastated. It felt like I had to sell a friend or a family member. This deep and unexpected sadness made me even more silent and distant but I couldn’t shake it. That night I told Mieke about my heartache and she told me about their beloved family Kombi that their father had sold when they were younger and how sad and empty they all felt after the sale, almost like losing a member of the family. She understood and it felt good.
Our plan was to take the train down to Goa and then move down the West coast of India stopping wherever we wanted but we did not make it out of Mumbai without visiting a Bollywood movie set, again. This time we were not 30 extras. It was just me and Mieke (Mieke and I) that they needed. Poor Hennie was told that he was most welcome to tag along and experience the Bollywood experience but they wouldn’t need him for any of the scenes (as it happened, he did, almost accidently, end up being in one of the scenes). It was another long day and this time Destiny the bus didn’t come to fetch us. We had to take a taxi, a train and a rickshaw to get to the set (in the middle of nowhere) and it was 23h00 when we finally made it back to our hotel. Mieke and I were both beyond desperate to take a shower. We had huge fake tattoos on our arms (long story) that we had to scrub off and poor Mieke had huge amounts of hair gel and hairspray in her hair that would take a couple of washes to wash out. Lying in bed, exhausted, we laughed again at the bizarre day we had.
But like I said, I still had to sort the Yamaha out before I hopped on a train (I couldn’t just leave it in the street while I went South for 3 weeks). But selling a motorbike in India proved to be much more complicated than buying one and it frustrated me that everybody thought I was completely clueless and kept telling me the most ridiculous things. Eventually, after a couple of frustrating days, I gave up and left the Yamaha with a young Indian guy called Rikesh who promised to take good care of it while I was away and would, in the meantime, try to find a buyer. This was trust on a whole other level but I had no real choice. I handed over the keys to Rikesh and hopped on a train to Goa. The bike admin had kept me in Mumbai a day longer than I planned and my brother and Mieke were already In Goa waiting for me. This was the last stretch of my trip and it was with sadness but that ever-present sense of the unexpected that I got on the train to Goa.
The guide books have much to say about Goa. About the beaches, the food, the Portuguese influence but in particular about the infamous party scene. In the late sixties a group of true blooded hippies rocked up on a beach in Goa and indulged in sex, drugs and rock and roll. When there was a full moon they danced naked on the local beaches while Jimi Hendrix blasted loudly from a Volkswagen kombi somewhere. The locals were appalled but not too alarmed. However, the next season more and more hippies appeared and the beach parties became larger, louder and out of control. Soon everybody (hippie or not) in other parts of the world knew that if you’re looking for a good party, Goa was the place. Over the years the parties became even bigger and a little more organized and by the late nineties Rock and Roll gave way to Techno and soon the Goan beaches turned into huge trance party venues all year round. Needless to say, party drugs were everywhere and after a few drug related deaths at such parties the government stepped in and shut it down. I could imagine the locals (and even some of the hippies of old) cheering loudly in celebration of the end of the madness that lasted for several decades. Of course it still lives on (especially during the month of December) and several clubs have sprouted up to facilitate the masses in search of a wild party. The government knows all too well how lucrative the party/drug business is and the biggest party club in Goa is actually owned by the government.
The party scene didn’t appeal to us in the slightest but Goa, surely, had more to offer than just a party and we wanted to find out what it was.