Contrary to popular belief, the Hindu cow is a remarkably driven animal. Its goal is to do, or move, as little as physically possible, and it sets towards this goal with a ferocious determination that would be the envy of Olympic athletes and board room executives (if only they’d think of it). This realization came to me as I studied a cow that was standing in the middle of the road, calmly chewing its cud, at peace with everything and at one with the Universe, completely ignoring the cars on either side of it honking as if their lives depended on it.
Goa is one of the Indian states that lets the Hindu cow in all of us shine. I set out along the road towards the beach and away from the honking cars, ferociously determined to do as little as physically possible for the rest of the day. A string of taxi-wallahs failed to tempt me with their offers of affordable transportation.
“You want taxi?” one asked with a half-moon smile so large that it made me think he was about to break out in dance. I said no with a head-bob, frown and a somewhat dismissive hand gesture that had become second nature. “It’s okay, Maybe tomorrow,” he grinned.
My Keen sandals were off the instant I hit the sand. I started looking for a peaceful beach cafe in which I could pass the time reading Siddhartha in between dips in the 80 degree water, but knew I had my work cut out for me. Arembol is renowned as a hippie beach, but hippies invariably drag noisy business opportunities behind them, and the sand was packed with tourists in all directions. Unlike the seemingly deaf and mindlessly serene Hindu cow, I wanted my peace and quiet.
To the north was a somewhat substantial hill that’s a popular sunset viewing and charras (hashish) smoking location. Beyond it was a series of little beachless coves that I knew eventually led way to further beaches. There, I would find my peace. I journeyed through the hot sun around the hill, beyond the coves, to find another identically tourist infested beach. However, the trail I was on continued onto the next hill, and I likewise continued.
I ended up walking for about an hour north of Arembol, mostly in the company of a Czech traveler on holiday. We talked about living in Alaska during our heat-induced water breaks (he had lived in the Alaskan range for four months), and slowly worked our way past the endless coves into an almost completely deserted beach. There wasn’t more than half a dozen tourists within sight, and there were plenty of empty cafes with bored waiters.
The water was warm but not hot, the breeze cooling but not cold, and for one of the first times in India I went more than an hour without hearing a human voice. I could have been there for an afternoon, I could have been there a decade. I was so relaxed it took me until the walk back to realize I had lost my sunglasses in the surf.
The coves just north of Arembol are filled with little shops selling the things that all the shops in Arembol sell; scarves, bongs, sunglasses, t-shirts, drums, etc. I stopped at one to check out their sunglasses collection, but as I already know quite well, I have a massive cranium that most sunglasses don’t fit. The shops further towards Arembol that saw me stop all attempted to beckon me in with offers of cheap t-shirts. “Maybe tomorrow,” I offered.
I slowly walked along the beach back towards our guest house. Fishermen were active along the shore, though not in boats. About five of them would drag a big net out into the water slowly, being careful not to splash or make too much fuss. One would stand on shore holding one end, and the others would sweep out a large crescent in the water as deep as they could stand. They’d spread out until the net was fully extended, then the men on land would start pulling in the net. The men standing in the water would manage the net as it came ashore, and the fish that would up caught in the commotion would be sold as the catch of the day for the local restaurants.
Wandering inland, I eventually came to our guest house. We had arrived after all the normal rooms had been booked, and instead landed what was essentially a shack on the roof. It had a locking door and somewhat sturdy walls, but it was still essentially a shack on the roof. This was made up by the $6 pricetag, the decent and social restaurant, and matronly owner, Piya. She took care of her guests as any good mother would, making quick work of laundry, problems and the question of our future plans. Before I had even stepped into the courtyard she had me spotted and was headed towards me.
“Sam, will you be checking out tomorrow, or staying another day?”
I was completely and totally unprepared for this question. Dave and I had been traveling under a pretty well defined plan up until Goa (based on train schedules), but that had all sort of fallen apart once we hit the beach.
She smiled patiently, and asked, “… Maybe tomorrow?”
We did end up leaving the next day, but there was no way to know that then. All I knew then was that I had just spent an entire day without a watch, clock, calendar, schedule or plan in mind, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.