It took us 10 days of vegan meals at Bean Me Up, 7 days of yoga at Brahmani and Aum Yoga and second round of antibiotics for Joshua to rid ourselves of the bug that took us out in Bangalore. We were hoping to spend a month doing yoga with the goal of getting our yoga instructor teaching credentials, but after hours of research we realized that the handful of times we had practiced yoga over the last 18 months probably wasn’t a sufficient prerequisite to an intensive 200 hour, month long course. Instead we tried to find a studio where we could drop in for less than $20/class (which is more than it costs in SF!), so we tested several types of yoga practice from Hatha to Kriya during our 10 day retreat in Goa.
The first thing we noticed about Goa was the overwhelming number of tourists…a higher foreigner to local ratio than Rome! Their composition, however, was very different: sun burnt Russians on their annual three month winter exodus, Brits (doing the same), Israelis (perfectly within the just-finished-compulsory-army-stint budget) and the highest concentration of long-term “lost” travelers anywhere in the world. You know the type: one 4-foot long dreadlock, a manual start motorcycle and a knack for surviving off the profits from selling handmade jewelry. Goa has a long-held reputation for being an international party scene. It is widely claimed that trance music was invented here. So what drew us there? Good question.
Well, as I’ve mentioned, scootering has become a very high priority for us these days and the state of Goa was built to be traveled by scooter. Beaches are a few kilometers apart, average road speed is about 30km/hr and there are about three times as many bikes on the road as cows and cars. Despite all the warning signs (like the guy at our guest house asking the owner where he could go to have the accident-related cosmetic blemishes repaired) or the insanely high number of visible injuries that could have only been attributed to skin hitting the pavement; we were committed to the idea. And we found someone that was just as committed to renting us one. We chose the one with the most damage, just in case we needed to camouflage any additional wear and tear upon return. Just to set the record straight, it is not like riding a bike. Our Honda Activa was heavy, cumbersome and had the turning radius of a diesel truck. When idling, it would lose power. When the key was turned in the off position, the engine would still run. We didn’t have helmets, and Joshua’s legs were just short enough to make the constant stop-and-go traffic that much more uncomfortable. For my 30th birthday, Joshua – my driving instructor with only one injury-free fall under his belt – taught me to drive. We practiced low-speed turns and balance in the parking lot. The instructions were simple. Look where you want to turn, and put your feet down if you get scared. And don’t close your eyes.
I still relegated myself to passenger for a majority of the 10 days which left Joshua in charge. All I could do was squeeze tighter.
During our stay in Goa, we were only pulled over three times despite breaking every rule in the book – driving on the highway, having our lights on during the day, having no license, not wearing helmets and our very own rule of no driving at night. I’m not sure if I type this with a sense of pride or embarrassment. Either way, somehow we ended up citation-free without having to offer a single rupee of baksheesh.
To continue one of our favorite traditions, we opted for a Goan cooking class through a company called Siolim Cooking School. The reviews looked great, and Joshua wanted to do something special for my birthday. Goan food is slightly different than Indian…it has more of a Portuguese spice combined with island coconut flair. We visited the market to select the ingredients…a live chicken which we prayed for and then watched bleed to death, prawns that looked more like lobsters and too many spices for me to ever want to cook these dishes again. Definitely something to order in a restaurant…pay someone else to spend 4 hours preparing the sauce! In the end our private cooking class/lunch turned into an over-priced group cooking class/early dinner and many of the beautifully printed recipes ended up being drastically modified, but at least we were able to familiarize ourselves with the Indian spices we have been eating so much of.
Life is centered around the beaches and the markets in Goa. We visited both as frequently as possible as long as they weren’t more than an hour scooter ride away…too much time on that thing made me anxious.
We wrapped up our time in Goa with the end of the world. As the Mayans predicted, the world ended for us with Bollywood-trance music and absolutely insane dance moves by hippies drinking vegan ginger juice and sweating through their drop-crotch poopy pants. We did our best to be just as open and free (sans the poopy pants, leather vests and nipple slips).
Surviving the apocalypse gave us the confidence to risk our fragile bellies and go all-in on the best lamb gyro I have ever tasted, not to mention the view from the patio at Thalassa in Little Vagator.