Agonda has now become so familiar, returning is like a homecoming. Strange to feel at home somewhere so far away as India. But Goa is not really India – the Portuguese influence is still very strong and the people more Portuguese than Indian. At a tiny café that serves freshly cooked samosas and the best chai in town, directly across from the large white Catholic Church, the choir music wafts out over the early morning air – pretty but decidedly Portuguese.
Nothing much has changed here. There seems to be fewer tourists this year – a combination of the snow (cancelled flights) and the economy in Europe. But at the same time, after last year’s good season, there are more restaurants, more knick-knack shacks geared towards women wandering to and from the beach. Thankfully everything is still on a small scale – no high rise flashy hotels. And the lack of night life in Agonda appeals to an older age group like us.
Fatima welcomes us warmly at her guest house and we get the best corner room on the upper floor facing the ocean. But there have been some changes at Fatima’s. She has rented out her large roof terrace to a yoga teacher dressed for the part, who holds classes and discourses throughout the day. He’s attracted a fair sized group of young tourists. For some reason, he feels the need to communicate via a loud speaker and begins singing and chanting before 7 am. He stays on the roof except when he takes off for the beach on his motorcycle with two scantily clad female students on the back. Day long, there’s a constant stream of young people in yoga clothes going back and forth past our room to the roof. It interferes with our morning meditation in a way that a Hindu temple or mosque does not. Why does it put me out so much, I wonder? I’m supposed to like yoga. The invasiveness –into our space uninvited. Taken over by a yoga camp – if I wanted to attend, it might be different, but I am not encouraged – the good looking, well robed yoga teacher, the intensely earnest students… It’s all a little too trendy for me – like something out of Eat, Pray, Love. Maybe a room change is in order.
The sea is a positive constant. It is the most beautiful beach I’ve known. Unlike the never ending beach in Kanur, Agonda is a very large cove (3 kms), bordered each end by grassy bluffs. One of the reasons I love the sea so much is the buoyancy and lightness I feel when swimming. Perhaps a release from the stresses and worries that weigh me down on land. The soothing rhythm of the waves; the water warm and viscous on my skin. Like a dog, Gerard acts indignant at being coerced into water, but with a hint of a smile as he paddles around, betraying that maybe he’s quite enjoying it!
There are surprisingly few mosquitoes, but a spider has bitten its way across Gerard’s back and one of his feet. As last year, an allergic reaction has set in– the bites have become hideous red welts. The sea water is soothing, and he’s started to take the same anti allergen medicine prescribed a year ago.
Two of the couples we met last year are here as well: Richard and Jane and Tony and Jen from England. We all pick up where we left off. I’m glad I loaded Gerard’s paintings on the netbook; Tony spends a long time peering at them appreciatively with a magnifying glass. He ended up saying he was prepared not to like them because he’s not drawn to cities where he feels nature is obliterated (they live in an old cottage with Norman sections in a village in Norfolk).
At lunch with Keith, an elderly fellow (older than us) from Vancouver, who is remarkably healthy considering how many cigarettes he smokes, we talk about metaphysics. Keith was moving apartments and had a two week wait, so decided to do a little traveling in the meantime – that was two years ago! He says he’s learning too much to go back home. This morning we had breakfast with Manfred who left Germany last July to travel to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan before entering India via Nepal. He’s a nurse, enabling him to take off for long periods and still be ensured of employment when he goes back. Even though the prospect of going to central Asia is very appealing, he mentioned he felt forced to give up being a vegetarian for the time he was there. Like us these people are taking a break from the harsh reality of India in the ease of Agonda.
After two weeks or so, we will probably have had enough of sun and surf (Will I ever have had enough…?) and will be back on the road again.