Notes from an Italian hermitage – despatches from BOLOGNA #3
Talking Location with author Tim Ewins – Goa
26th February 2020
#TalkingLocationWith… Tim Ewins, author of We Are Animals, a novel that opens and closes in GOA.
I wasn’t a writer when I first visited Goa.
Gemma (my partner) and I had decided to take a nice, relaxing month-long jaunt around India, starting in Varanasi (an interesting, but manic sensory overload), through to Khajuraho (to gawp at some ancient pornography carvings… hey, we like what we like) and then on to the big cities; Agra, Delhi, Amritsar, Chandigarh, across Rajasthan, down to Mumbai, further down to Goa and then finally on to Kerala.
The jaunt wasn’t as relaxing as we’d hoped… we spent five nights in a row sleeping on trains and in train stations just to keep to our own schedule. On the sixth night we booked a room just for the shower.
Sat in Mumbai airport, an hour before our flight, we looked through our ‘India checklist’. We had 10 days left and just two more destinations before we had to fly home: Goa and Kerala.
Our first experience of Goa was the taxi ride from the airport to our first stop, Palolem beach. The driver chatted with us like he didn’t have a care in the world (he drove like that too actually). We drove past palm trees and dusty fruit stalls, and when we finally arrived at our little beach hut, we were greeted with a warm welcome and a cup of steaming chai.
In the morning we found a health food café which served large portions of cereal and fruit and then we relaxed on the beach…all day. At one point we got up to watch the fishermen bring in the days catch, but that was about it. That night, Gemma looked confused.
‘I feel,’ she started, as the seawater gently lapped under our table. I looked at her, waiting.
‘Relaxed?’ I suggested after while, and she nodded; confused, unsettled. This was an India we hadn’t yet seen.
The second day on Palolem beach was similar; we swam, we ate, we watched the fish come in and we talked with the fishermen. Tomorrow we would move onto a different beach, or maybe we’d take a train up to Panaji, Goa’s capital. Of course, we’d see more of Goa… of course we would.
As the train left for Panaji at twelve forty-five the following afternoon, I found myself on the same beach, watching a thousand bubbler crabs rolling sand into small balls just for the sea to wash the balls away again, their hard work juxtaposed against the calm surrounding them.
When the bus left for Arossim beach at three, I was leaning against a bar on Palolem chatting with an aging hippy about ‘his Goa’ – the beach that once was. Earlier, I’d seen that same hippy, beard in a grey goatee, body in nothing but a string thong, dancing to no music and chanting out towards the sea. He doesn’t know it, but that man became the inspiration for the protagonist in We Are Animals, Jan.
We didn’t leave Palolem beach that day, and we didn’t leave the next. On the fifth day I started to write. I wrote about our travels and the country we’d seen and learnt a little about, and I wrote something to do with a sand bubbler crab dreaming about travelling to England. I couldn’t tell you why.
Finally, on the sixth day, the day before we were due to travel down to Kerala, Gemma and I managed to bring ourselves to become active. We hired mopeds and drove through the mountains up to Margao, quickly becoming accustomed to a new, more aggressive, more (ahem) fun way of driving, and then we drove further north to Sahakari Spice Farm. The farm was relaxing… frankly we could have stayed there for a week, but the lady we’d hired the moped wouldn’t have been happy about it, so we didn’t.
Our next week on Palolem was taken up by yoga lessons, cookery classes, exploration of beaches and seeking out the spots where sea turtles occasionally scuttle up the beach to deposit their eggs. Goa, to us, was a small sandy bubble, that we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave.
Even from England I couldn’t quite bring myself to leave it. Palolem beach is the first and last destination in We Are Animals. One day, I fully intend to grow a grey goatee, wear nothing but a string thong and dance to no music, chanting out towards the sea, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll tell another, younger traveller, about ‘my Goa’ – the beach that once was.
I’ve heard Kerala’s lovely by the way, but I couldn’t honestly tell you, I’ve not yet experienced it…
Thank you so much to Tim for sharing his experience of GOA. And it’s Kerala next time, no doubt!
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