7 February 2016

Arambol, Goa – A home away from home, my little paradise

Morning mist over Arambol

After the deep freeze of Haridwar the blissful sun and warmth of Goa was really needed. I spent the first night with a friend in Badem (a village that doesn't apparently really exist) near Anjuna and then moved on north to Arambol. I'd read about its hippie vibe and sunset drum circles on the beach, so I thought it would be a good place to start my Goa explorations.

And it really really was. Although, to talk about "exploring" is maybe a tad too grandiose. I got to Arambol, felt at home and stayed. I fell in love with its spiritual vibe and winding alleys, always leading me into unexpected places. Arambol, the place where streets seem to mischievously shift place when you're not looking, so you never end up taking the same road twice – you're just not going to find the same one the second time! Ok ok, I'm exaggerating a bit, but after the relative ease of Koh Phangan, this tropical little village seemed like a true maze. But people always pointed me in the right direction eventually, and I couldn't think of a better place to be lost in than Arambol.

Main street can also be surprisingly hard to find, sometimes
Right after settling in to my first guest house I met a lovely British girl Cara who was handing out flyers about a concert they were having in the place she was staying at, Shakti Paradise. She was so warm and welcoming and offered to show me the way to the beach and where this Shakti Paradise was. So we talked and walked and eventually ended up on the beach (not the way we were meaning to take, but a way nevertheless. All alleys lead to the beach, sooner or later. Except the one behind Once in Nature! True story. But I digress...)

 The hut Cara was staying in was very very basic, similar to the bungalows where me and the ex were staying at Pondok Lestari in Kadidiri (Togean Islands, Indonesia) way back when. If it had had a mosquito net and I wasn't carrying so much electronics with me, it would have surely been a lovely place to stay (right on the beach!). The owner of the place, Prandeep, was a very interesting Indian man (with always a gazillion irons in the fire, like they all seem to have, but yes yes ok my friend evetything is possible), and he had been running his meditation/yoga place for some years now. The atmosphere of the place was very safe and welcoming (and the food was good; he even offered to make me some kitchari if needed!), and this corner of the beach ended up being my eveningtime home in Arambol.

Pradeep the owner of Shakti Paradise and his famous chai. Don't know who Blue Pyramid Skaska is...

After taking a super long detour to my place (yes, Arambol roads can be tricksy if you don't know where you're going) and finding out that the nearest ATM was about a kilometer away, I wanted to rent a scooter to get there. I even exchanged all my emergency euros (the whopping 20 that I had left) to get one, but Sunday = all the scooters were gone. But luckily I could hitch a ride with an Indian guy on his scooter (who also didn't know where the ATM was – the blind leading the blind here) but after asking around we found it and after waiting in line for half an hour, I got some cash, yay. And then it was already time to leave for the concert in Shakti Paradise. As it happens, the power was out and the concert starting later, but as luck would have it, directly next to the place there was a group of people singing bhajans and Osho songs. So I joined them. That night and every night thereafter. Instant home = just add singing!

Bhajan group
What a lovely group of people! I made friends with Ambo from Sweden and Bhavnath (what a beautiful name!) from Mauritius in particular. It seemed like the Universe had led me to this place in time, to be and sing with these people, to feel like I was surrounded with friends. Such a wonderful feeling, this home away from home. It made me stay in Arambol for almost a week and I would have wanted to stay for much longer.

As a foodie, I must dedicate a paragraph or two to the restaurants, especially Once in Nature! <3 Breakfast, lunch and dinner, wonderful and tasty every time. Try their gluten free pancakes! Which means, all of them. Or their muesli bowls with like hald a liter of home made muesli. Will fill you up, guaranteed. Or the stir fried veggies or gado gado that made me cry tears of joy after the starchy root veggies and rice/wheat (or kitchari...) only fare I'd had in Santosh Puri ashram. Did I mention I love Once in nature already? Did I convince you to go there? Good. But: don't think you're getting an ice cream even if you order one. What you will get is a bowl of semi-chilled smoothie-quality goo. Yummy, but calling it ice cream is like calling a steak a salad.

There were also other restaurants that came recommended but I didn't manage to find (Magic Park). And I did go to Cookie Wallah that is apparently an establishment around there, (according to the lovely and knowledgeable Hippie in heels) but didn't sample their cookie desserts which are said to be the bomb. But the shakshuka was nice. Also La Muella bistro (in the backroom of a shop, a tad hard to find if you don't know it's there) had wonderful breakfast: try the vegan potato pancake. Very yummy! I wasn't too impressed with their veggie thali though, so for your evening meal take something else.

 There were also yoga and spirituality groups on offer, but not nearly so in your face like in Rishikesh, for example. I didn't really explore the offerings since I knew I was going to a yoga ashram afterwards and I just wanted to take it easy.

Boys selling yummy coal grilled sweet corn. Just add lime and chili powder salt mix!

Sunset Hare Krishna group singing their hearts out with a circus group and a saxophone player who happened to pass by

So the days were lovely and lazy. Did some macrame, learned some new poi tricks from a Russian guy, made friends with a macrame shop owner and sitting and having chai while browsing through his bead supply. Inhaled the lovely creative atmosphere and marveling at the pieces people were selling at sunset on the beach. Ate delicious food, super carefully picking what to have and tried to persuade my stomach to come to grips with it all (with no real success). On Wednesday I met an older Canadian lady Heather and shared a taxi with her to the Anjuna fleamarket. It wasn't anything special, I must say, and I was looking forward to the Arpora Saturday night market as I'd heard they had more crafts people and also supplies to sell. (Didn't make it there, but that's a story for another post.)

Amazing breakfast at Once in Nature

Absolute favourite in Arambol. Still empty in the morning.

What I didn't know before arriving was how popular Arambol was with the Russians. They were everywhere. Like, 90 % of the people around were from Russia. I'm not kidding. So it was also a lesson in compassion for me, who comes from a country that shares an uneasy history with Russia. But this bunch were cool. At least I didn't come across arguing, loud conversations, drunkenness or anything offputting. I had no trouble with them. They were just fun to watch, especially in Arambol carnival, that happened to take place when I was there: bunch of Russians dressing up in all sorts of costumes (the theme this year was animals) and getting their groove on. To call it a carnival is pushing it a bit though: there was one cart that somewhat resembled a dragon with a couple of people drumming around it, and the carnival people following it up and down the beach. Quite hilarious actually :D

Carnivaly Russians

This is it. THE carnival float.

Beach fun on carnival day

I also got some activity done while I was in Arambol: one morning me and Bhavnath climbed the hill that separates Arambol beach from Sweet lake. What a view! And what a wonderful feeling, to be free from all the usual bustle. The town and beach were still asleep, only a few people about, and the atmosphere calm and serene. If only it hadn't been my last day, I would surely have got up a little earlier every morning and gone out there to do my meditation. But at least I got to see this wonder, thanks to Bhavnath. And the sweet lake, a peaceful oasis just next to the sea. And I got to borrow some of the deep, grounding energy from the huge trees in the jungle we walked by as we trekked to see the big banyon tree. It was also still nice and quiet there, some people who were apparently camping there were clearing out the rubbish (so much of it everywhere... why can't people take care of their waste?) and a baba of some kind was chilling beside the tree. But no hordes of tourists with their loud chatter. Wonderful.

Banyon baba

Sweet lake

On the other side of the lens for a change
We also had a great conversations with Bhavnath about our personal journeys and the difficulties and obstacles in the spiritual path, how everyone is confused but how everything gets a little more clear, step by step. It is always so inspiring to meet someone who's been on the path longer and see how much clarity they have, how much strength and sureness (is that a word?). It gives me hope that one day I will also be able to communicate what goes in my head so clearly and to get these spiritual ducklings of mine in a row. I am on the right way, for sure, as it feels so completely, well, right. Not an easy one, for sure, but mine and so dear <3. We also had a chance to go sit for a moment in silence in Bhavnath's friends dark room (not the photography but the meditation kind). It reminded me of the amazing Osho darkness meditation we did in Berlin's Osho studio with Sven, a friend from the conscious relating group. It's just such a weird but quite profound thing to sit or lie in the darkness with your eyes open, encountering the Universal darkness, not just the one inside your head when your close your eyes. In my experience there's a different quality to it, of a calmer, warmer and more comforting kind. Love it.

I really didn't want to leave Arambol, but I'd promised myself at least one Goa party since I was in Goa. So on Friday I took the local bus to Siolim and a taxi to Vagator. But more about that in the next post!

Cookie Wallas. Very stoned atmosphere. Didn't indulge, not in the smoking or in the amazing sounding cookie-based desserts. Their shakshuka was good, though!

Fireshow to accompany a concert in Shakti Paradise

The mandatory beach shacks

Sokerina pohjalla: jotain suomalaisille!

1 comment:

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