11 February 2016

In sickness and in health? Vagator and Anjuna

Vagator beach. Not what I would call a hotspot of activity.
After bidding a tearful farewell to Arambol and all its joys, I headed towards the party central of Vagator/Anjuna. I wouldn't have left, but now that I was in the birthplace of Goa trance, I really wanted to check out at least one party. I knew the sound would probably be a little more on the forest/dark side of psytrance than I usually go for, but come on, when in Goa, right?

So I took a motorbike taxi to the bus stop in Arambol, managed to hoist my bags on board the local bus and off we went. The trip to Siolim took about 40 minutes and I then lucked out in getting a proper taxi for quite an ok price to take me to Vagator which I still thought to be an Arambol-like village of some sortst. Little did I know... I hadn't done my research, but I went with the assumption that a beach is a beach and along the said beach there will be guest houses. Well, as the taxi dropped me next to the beach, I found out that I was wrong. There was absolutely nothing going on in the north end of Vagator beach, accommodation-wise. Or otherwise either, as far as I could see. If you weren't a cow. They seemed to be enjoying themselves.

 So, boiling midday heat, and trundle trundle back the beach road I went. I checked out 3 places before settling on one 500 rupee room with an internet connection a couple of steps away, next to the rooms of the family who were running the place. Not optimal, but it was only for 2 nights and I had zero interest in going a millimeter further with my earthly belongings which seem to get heavier every day. I almost splurged on the neighboring hotel with 1100 rupee bungalows with a/c and your own fridge and looked nicer than I even remember a room could look like, but I still managed to talk myself down from taking it. I figured that if I can still bear the idea of a 500 rupee place without wanting to scream, then I should go for it. I'm sure there will be a time when that ain't so any more, and the extra budget will come in handy then!

Vagator beach. No beach side guesthouses in sight.
 The friendly owner of the Reshma guesthouse where I was staying also had scooters, so I finally managed to get two wheels under me again. Yay! Now I can officially tick the box of "driving somewhere in India" off my list of things I've done that seemed unnerving at some point. India is so vast that a vehicle of some sort just really is quite mandatory, if you're not staying in a resort where all your needs are catered for or in a convenient little place like Arambol where you can apparently do without a scooter for almost a week (if you don't plan to go to the ATM or check out any of the restaurant not in your immediate neighbourhood). But Vagator seemed empty. I figured out that I just hadn't found the place where the action happened, but after two days I figured out that there really isn't a central place here to be found. It's all scattered and you really need to know where you're going if you want to find anything. Or that was my experience anyway. But I'm jumping ahead of myself, sorry.

So, scooter! Vroom off I went to try and scout a place for lunch. I was starving by that point, so I parked at the first place where there seemed to be at least some people (although mainly enjoying midday beers and conversing with their iPhones), the Mango tree. A fish curry on the menu was only 100 rupees, so I should've known that it won't be anything special, but still when the bowl of red soup with a sad little fish cut in half was served, I wished I was back in Arambol. The soup itself didn't taste of anything except chili and the fish was nondescript and bland and just generally off-putting. I did eat the small amount of meat that I managed to strip off the bones of the poor thing, but the meal was really the worst I'd had since I arrived in India. Folks, beware!

Luckily then my Israeli friend Ito called and I walked along the beach to meet him at Shiva place in the south end of Vagator beach. In that end there were a couple of beach restaurants and quite posh looking resort complexes along the hills, so at least I'd found the place where the beach accommodation lives. Looking at them now, I'm glad I didn't find them before, since there was no way I could've afforded these places, but exhausted from carrying my bags around, I might have caved in. So yay for Reshma Guesthouse's colourful 500 rupee room! <3 Shiva place was nice and chill and I had a decent plate of Chinese sweet and sour veggies. So, food problem solved for a while.

Beach population
We were supposed to go to a party in Monkey valley in the evening with Ito and he'd even got us a free entry, but the Universe had other plans. By the time I was back at my guesthouse I had the kind of a headache I only get when I have fever, and lo and behold, the Sickness was back. To use the definite article is actually misleading, since I've had so many various health issues in India already that The Sickness was more like The Multihued Array of Bodily Annoyances. But yeah, fever is fever. This time I decided to go the western way and packed my body full of ibuprofen and paracetamol. I read Dune, tried not to panic and felt generally lonely, doubting the whole point of this India trip madness and wished I was at least feeling sorry for myself in the 1100 rupee room. And grudgingly, the fever broke. In the evening I felt well enough to go and check out the nearby Japanese restaurant Sakana, recommended by Hippie in Heels. And I had a wonderful time! After the fever induced loneliness it felt wonderful to be surrounded by people. The restaurant had a really lovely atmosphere and decor, the staff was very friendly and I was so grateful for the food. Sushi! Miso soup! And as a perfect ending, ginger-green tea and hazelnut ice cream, one (too tiny) scoop of each. Being such a foodie it felt doubly good to have the wonderful meal and to be actually well enough to enjoy myself. So, in the end, the day didn't end in tears, but in delicious, delicious food and a sense of being ok with myself and the world again.

And the following morning I felt quite ok, so my scooter and me went on a little adventure. Driving around Vagator and Anjuna and trying to figure out the lay of the land, consulting Google Maps every which way. I managed to find a nice organic restaurant called Blue Tao near Anjuna and had a really nice and filling tofu scramble with a massive side of brown rice for breakfast. It felt wonderful to be on two wheels again and free to go where I wished. I took detours and small roads, and found out that all the lines that look like roads on the map really aren't. Google Maps, you lie. More like a jumble of boulders, many of them. And if a sign says a bridge is closed and you should take a detour, it doesn't mean that's true. Just follow the other scooters and you'll find a way.

Tofu scramble, Blue Tao style
Scooting along and admiring the landscape

A random temple. India, I love your colours <3

This bridge leads to a restaurant with nice psytrance but not a scooter-friendly connection to the main road. 

As I missed the party on Friday I'd made plans to go to the Arpora Saturday Night market in the evening and then continue on to the Bamboo forest party if I felt good enough, but yeah, you can guess how it went. Around four the fever was back with a vengeance. And after a couple of paracetamols did absolutely nothing for the 38.0 temperature I decided that instead of shopping in Arpora I would go to the hospital and get myself some really nice bloodwork. A girl has to spoil herself once in a while, no? It was an interesting feeling actually: on Friday I was way more panicky about the 37. something temperature I had. Now, as I sat in Natti's Naturals, another wonderful restaurant recommended by Hippie in Heels, I just accepted it all. Ok, no need to panic, no reason to fight. This is how I feel now, and I know where the hospital is, I have a scooter, so let's just get there and get this over with. Of course I hoped I didn't have anything serious (denguemalariatyphoidfeversomething) as I was about to start by tantra yoga retreat the day after (non-refundable), but somehow I had also made peace with whatever was coming.

I only wish I had felt better to enjoy the food to the full, but still in my feverish state the lemongrass cooler and veggie burger with gluten free bread (!) was nice. The menu in Natti's Naturals looked pretty amazing and they also had a cute boutique offering everything from yoga clothes to food items and cosmetics which would have been wonderful to explore. But not in this fever zombie state...

St. Anthony's hospital looked kind of worn down and oldish, and I really didn't cherish the idea of staying there for any longer period of time. But I did get my bloodwork done with good news: no dengue, malaria or typhoid fever! Wohoo! The doctor prescribed me 3 days of ominously sounding Nazi 500 antibiotics and an anti-parasite pill. In Europe I would have been hesitant to take the antibiotics, but here, I just wanted to get rid of whatever that was ailing me. The antibiotics were for "the cold" I had (sinus and forehead pressure was there full force), but they might have also done something for the bug in the stomach I was pretty sure I had.

Good news in a newspaper bag
Anyway, I was relieved and very proud of myself that I went to get checked. I'm sure that at some point when I've had fevers on and off a couple of times I'll start getting less panicky about them. But for someone whose normal body temperature is closer to a hibernating lizard than a human being and who never gets fevers, whenever the temperature rises, say, over 37.2, and I happen to be in the tropics, the fear of Something Serious is still very strong. But slowly slowly, shanti shanti, I will get to grips with this Fearmonster as well!

So, the 2 days in Vagator weren't like I'd planned (surprise surprise) and I really wished I'd stayed in Arambol till Sunday. But this was the way it went this time. And on Sunday I took a taxi to South Goa, a really off-the-beaten-path beach Galgibag and Shri Kali ashram.

And I am loving it here. Really really loving it. I feel good, it is quiet and peaceful and in the middle of nature and just wonderful. But stay tuned for the next post where I'll get into more detail!

1 comment:

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