Posted by: WalkingOurWorld
November 19, 2015
The poisonous gas that spewed into the aircraft as we descended towards touchdown at Goa international airport drew shreiks of protest from the toddler in the seat behind me as the tiny tot sucked the fumigant into her lungs. Her parents had not quite managed to convince her to cover her face. Though there had been a warning issued just prior to the fumigation, many of the adults simply breathed the toxin in. I covered my face with my shirt and shut my eyes and didn’t breathe at all for a full minute. The first careful, tiny breath I took let me know that the insecticide hadn’t yet fully dispersed but still hung in the air. I held my breath a little longer, perhaps 30 seconds before I had to suck in some air. Thankfully it seemed to be close to fresh now and my lungs didn’t inhale too much of the acrid stuff. Fumigation of the passengers is standard procedure in flights into India.
From my window seat I could see the mist or smog or pall that hung in the outside air and imagined it to be the thick pollution that I have read about as indigent to India. I also noticed the lights were dotted about on the land beneath us. No brightly lit orderly highways here, but patches of light, some throbbing and pulsing with remnants of Diwali and dark black patches in between. An aline landscape for this Big White Sadhu coming to India for the first time.
On landing and breathing the air I discovered that what I had imagined to be pollution was nothing more than mist and dew settling after another hot day in this southern Indian region known as Goa, the party region, perhaps a little akin to the Gold Coast or to the Northern Rivers of NSW.
Passing through immigration was more simple than in most places I have visited over the years, with what seemed a cursory check of my passport and the Visa inside, one stamp and a small smile from the immigration officer as he handed it back to me and waved me through. My backpack arrived almost immediately on the one and only conveyor belt and with a little asking I discovered that the oversize luggage came through a door that no-one seemed to be able to open for about fifteen minutes until a man in a dun coloured uniform suddenly appeared and there was a rush for baby strollers (the toddler with the dark tousled hair was now fast asleep) and for boxes and for a big long wooden staff. The officers were surprised by my staff and asked what it could possibly be for. I explained that I intended to walk India and their faces lit up in amazement. Two of them shook my hand and wished me all the best and welcomed me to India.
Navigating a taxi was the next step in finding my way to The Red Door Hostel in Arjuna. At the taxi booking place everyone seemed to be lining up one by one, so I said “I’m going to Arjuna – anyone want to share a taxi there?” It
worked and soon the whole crowd were chatting animatedly and sorting out shared rides.
I found myself with Sabrina as we were going in a similar direction and although the ticketer increased the price for the two stops, we found Marianna outside and reduced our fee to 570 rupee each. That’s about fourteen dollars so I saved about eleven dollars on the “alone” ride. Pretty good start I thought.
We soon left the wider highway, strewn with cows and dogs that look like dingos and quite a number of people and followed what felt like an impossible maze of small streets, mostly paved and navigable, but narrow and winding through piles of rubble, old stone and concrete fences, smatterings of forest and punctuated by places of business, nightclubs and cafes, many garishly lit in strings of party lights and bright advertisements for sim cards and vodka. Sabrina and Marianna talked animatedly to each other in the back of the cab and occasionally I joined in, though I felt too tired to really engage with much energy. At about 11.15pm on the 17th November I arrived at The Red Door, said goodbye to the girls, paid my portion of the cab fare and gave Sabrina the price tag that guaranteed that they would not be arguing about price once they made it to their beachside hostel further up the coast.
I was met by Sadam who welcomed me by name and showed me to my room. With me there are two other travellers in the four bed dorm. It’s clean but not spotless. The bed is narrow and the mattress more comfortable than any I experienced in my whole journey through Vietnam nearly seven years ago. I tossed my things into the room and asked Sadam “is there any way I can get a beer?” Its quite clearly after their “bar” has officially closed but Sadam replies, “I’m sure we can sort that out for you”.
Minutes later I am tasting a Kingfisher and lounging outside in a dusty garden area, peppered with motor scooters and perhaps a dozen travellers all looking a it dressed up, a bit prepped for a party. While I drink my beer a small car arrives and the crowd disperses. Its party time and the cab will take most of the crowd to South Arjuna beach to party all night.
Me? All I can think of, if its thinking at all, is sleep. I shower, grateful that the hot water works and is plentiful, then climb into bed and collapse into a deep dreamless sleep. I am In India!