After Mumbai and a couple of weeks of moving from place to place in quick succession we were ready for a break and for Goa. We caught a day train and then an onward taxi to Anjuna. Anjuna is famous for its trance parties but we’d picked it based on some criteria that we’d put into a famous booking site and then just chose the cheapest, best reviewed place based on that.
The taxi ride did fill me with excitement (and it wasn’t just the adrenaline from the crazy driving) – Goa looked beautiful. There were palm trees with coconuts, the Portuguese influence was clear everywhere and was that a supermarket I just saw?! The hostel has also received great reviews which talked about a chilled atmosphere and people staying for days on end. We’d booked two nights to start but as soon as I walked in I knew I wouldn’t last beyond the first night.
There were dorm beds in the reception area and the dorm areas appeared to be separated by a bit of netting. The dorm we were in was the crampest room I’ve ever seen. It was when a fellow guest greeted us with the words ‘hello beautiful souls’ that I realised how out of my depth with this hippie lark I was. As everyone else sat around in a circle playing drums and taking drugs I was working on an escape plan and frantically messaging friends to tell them the latest hostel horror story.
I booked a guest house in the same town and we exited stage left. This was a great move in the end as we ended up with a much nicer place and meeting some incredible people who became our Anjuna family for 5 days. Joey was brave enough to hire a scooter and so we set off exploring North Goa and it’s various beaches and supermarkets (did I mention Goa had supermarkets?!). We even went to a trance party which was probably the weirdest party experience I’ve had. Everyone seemed to stand in a line and barely move. Luckily the family all seemed relieved when we indicated that we were going to head back. Unfortunately no one seemed to know the way and it took about 3 hours to walk home. No one is entirely sure about what happened en route only that involved a herd of cows and a police car.
When the time came to say goodbye it was sad, but we were ready to head to the next beach. We headed north to Mandrem which was one of the beaches we’d explored earlier in the week. It was a fairly quiet beach but popular with Russians. The only drawback was the aggressive nature of the beach sellers. I appreciate that they need to make a living but they surround you and won’t take no for an answer. I’d decided that at some point I’d like to get a henna tattoo so on the beach watching the sun go down with a beer seemed like a great time to do that. Unfortunately it turned into beach seller mafia warfare. Other sellers that I’d said no to that day were very affronted and another guy proceeded to lay out all his wares in front of me and try and guilt trip me into buying something which actually made me more determined not to buy anything.
From Mandrem we caught a local train to Palolem right in the south, thereby going from one end of Goa to the other. Getting off the train was hilarious, it appeared that the train had stopped only there was no platform, it was only two locals telling us that it really was our station did I realise that I was going to have to jump 4 feet down from the train with my rucksack on. Then to exit the station we had to walk over the tracks and then clamber up to the platform on the other side. Bad day to wear my skirt! A tuk tuk was waiting and wanted to charge 200 rupees (just over £2) to drive us 2km. Given that we’d paid 60 rupees to go 100km on the train there was no way we were prepared to pay that, so we walked 25 minutes in 33 degrees with our 15kg rucksacks.
Palolem was lovely, so chilled, some great waves to play in and we bumped into a couple that we’d shared a dorm with in Agra. We’d actually seen them the previous week in Arambol and they started to joke that they were just checking my Instagram and following us.
We knew we were getting cosy in Goa and hadn’t really done much other than laze in the beach and watch the sun go down. We were definitely finding things a little too easy so it was time to leave the beach behind and get back on the road.
We took the train towards Hampi which is one of the weirdest, surreal, mind blowing places I have ever been. It’s full of ancient ruins, incredible stone carvings including a stone chariot. The town is full of huge boulders whilst also being surrounded by banana plantations. It was Bedrock meets Ancient Greece in India. We spent three days exploring the ruins and watching sunsets and sunrises. It was quite a shock to be back amongst the hustle after Goa but we certainly needed to get back into that mindset.
We wanted to end up in Gokarna on the coast, a couple of hours south of Goa but unless you fancied getting a local bus that left at midnight from the next town the only option was to get one that arrived at 3am. We didn’t much fancy that either so decided to live up to our name and meander our way there. So we headed 420kms south on a night bus to Mysore. Mysore is the South’s yoga Mecca and it wasn’t a bad stopover point, there was a nice palace to visit and it had a Decathlon store which we got to play in on our homeless day. My back had been really hurting again, a combination of trouble from 3 years ago, hard beds and a lack of decent seating so I decided I needed to sort myself out and start stretching again. So I bought a yoga mat. When I do stretch it does help but it’s difficult to always find the space to do it.
From Mysore we got on another night bus and headed 450kms north again to reach Gokarna, at the respectable time of 8am. I was starting to feel a little bit ill at this point (as my lovely friend Clair put it, I had ‘Mysore tummy’!) and accommodation is best found once you’ve arrived in Gokarna so we headed towards Kudle beach to find a guesthouse. It’s not much fun traipsing around trying to find somewhere to stay when you feel rough so we didn’t really negotiate and plumped for the first place we saw with a western toilet and in our price bracket.
Gokarna means ‘cow ear’ as it is where Lord Shiva is said to have emerged from a cow’s ear. We spent a lot of time just chilling here and planning our onwards journeys. We did receive a treat on our last day though when Raakesh, our Indian brother from our Anjuna family turned up to meet us. What a fantastic way to spend the last day on the beach!
We spent quite a lot of time planning whilst in Mysore and Gokarna and booked a flight to Sri Lanka, it’s hard to believe that we only have a few weeks of our first India leg to go having already been here three months!