I’ve been living in South Goa for nearly four months now and yet again, I’m following my old routine of early morning walk on the beach, masala chai, yoga, breakfast then work.
I don’t emerge from my room (or wherever I’m working) until the hottest part of the day is over, which is after 3pm (and usually 4.30pm for me). I’ll then go somewhere on the bike or go for another beach walk before dinner. It’s very similar to my routine in the UK, minus the bike rides.
Two women in the house where I’m renting rooms were shocked to discover that my daily routine doesn’t include swimming in the sea or sunbathing, and it doesn’t even include sunset. They asked me why I come to Goa at all if I don’t do those things.
I am equally shocked that someone might think that Goa is ‘only’ those things. For me, sunrise is the best time of day here – cool enough to walk in layers, quiet on the beach, fishing activities to meditate on, eagles circling overhead, dolphins offshore, incense wafting down the sands, dogs stretching and then trotting over to say hello. At sunset, the beach is noisy and busy, it’s much hotter and humid, mosquitos are starting to come out and the fishermen are long gone. And let’s be honest, Indian sunsets outside monsoon aren’t as dazzling as some I’ve seen in the UK. The hour after sunset is when the magic happens – when the orange-pink glow blushes in the sky.
Despite attempts to force it to be a part of my routine, swimming just isn’t. The waves are hard to swim against here and I find the whole salty hair/sandy body thing a faff. I like doing it now and again when my hair needs washing, but that’s it. I much prefer being on the water in a boat than in it. I don’t like lying in direct sunlight, so sunbathing isn’t for me either – the sun I get is only during my walks or on the back of the Enfield. In a country where pale skin is prized, I’m happy to hang on to mine. I can’t help thinking that a tan is basically just skin damage that fades within weeks, so no, I don’t do that either.
So what do I do in the paradise beach location? Why do I come to South Goa if I am avoiding its so-called main pleasures? Because it’s so much more than that. It’s winding roads through forested ghats, green rice fields bordered with bright saris tied to bamboo poles, villages where puja creates smoky light in the late afternoon, monkeys playing in tamarind trees, blue chai carts next to bridges, temples filled with laughing women, hilltop views over hills and down to the sea, children shouting and waving as they walk home from school. I’d trade a day of this for ‘sun-worshipping’ every day of my existence.