I got up in the morning eager to escape Baga beach. I decided to check out Anjuna beach as I had heard that apparently it used to be a party location in the past, with drug fuelled full moon parties going on in the jungle.
I had also heard though that a British girl had been raped and killed by a couple of local men earlier in the year. The news had made it around the world and the police had gone from turning a (presumably paid) blind eye to all of the goings on to totally cracking down on the parties and strictly enforcing an 11pm drinking curfew.
Various versions of what actually happened to this British girl were being banded about but what I could gather was this: She was in her mid teens and on holiday with her Mum, but her Mum left her to her own devices and she ended up hooking up with a local guy and on the night that she died was seen to have taken hard drugs and later on to be having a three way with two local men outside the back of the bar. She was later found dead. The authorities tried to cover up what had happened for ages and wouldn’t let the family see the autopsy results. Eventually when it all came out there was a huge scandal and a lot of focus put on the crazy parties that were going on in the area at the time. Indian authorities are much stricter then those in Thailand and there is generally less tolerance of the behaviour of some foreign tourists on holiday there, so everything was locked down and remained so months later.
I knew all of this before I went to Anjuna but I was hopeful that there would still be some cool bars, a nice beach and potentially more people then down on Palolem. To this end I got in a rickshaw to Anjuna (about a half hour further north) and found a small cluster of shops and guesthouses on the tops of some cliffs. There was clearly hardly anyone staying there as all of the shop keepers were even more eager for my custom then normal, there was hardly any beach and no decent looking restaurants. Admittadly I was only there briefly, but after the Baga beach fiasco I was starting to realise that I should have never left Palolem. I wanted to stay in the same place for my last couple of weeks – not constantly move around. I went back to where I had left the rickshaw but he had gone and ended up getting a motorbike taxi to Panjim, the nearest town.
This was the start of a long journey back down south. From Panjim I caught a local bus, which was completely crowded. I ended up sitting next to this Israeli guy though and we got chatting. He was heading to Palolem as well and so we went together when we changed buses at the next town and amazingly got on a direct bus to the beach. It was took over half a day of travelling though going from Baga up to Anjuna and then back down to Palolem. I was so relieved to see that long stretch of sand again.
I started walking along with beach with the Israeli guy I had met on the bus and it soon became apparent that we had very different budgets and that a lot of places still were not open/not built yet. I ended up saying goodbye to him for the time being and then finding a nice place a little back from the beach for myself. I couldn’t check in until 6.30 pm though so I ended up chilling at a beach front restaurant for a while with the Israeli guy.
That evening was really quiet. The Israeli guy was off doing his own thing and there still weren’t many people around on the beach. I ended up sitting in “Cocktails and Dreams,” one of the 24 hour bar/restaurant places by myself reading a book and generally doing nothing. The layout of these bars was not that great for meeting people either as it involved rows of chairs in the sand that could not easily be moved, if say for example you started trying to talk to someone behind you.
The next morning I got up and headed straight to the beach. The waves off the coast of India are generally quite large for some reason and I spent a long time in the sea playing chicken with the large breakers that were coming into shore. Eventually I got out though as some cows had come onto the beach and were quite close to my clothes – I was worried about one of them shitting on what they could not eat!
The rest of the day was spent chilling in one of the beach front restaurants, then in the evening I headed down to Cuba bar, which was slightly inland. There I got chatting to an older German guy for ages at the bar, but eventually he left. After that I wandered over to a large backpacker group and asked if I could join them. It was a good decision.
So far in India I had failed to see any groups that I could realistically go and try and join. Most seemed to be from one non English speaking country which always makes it difficult as either they all have to speak English or I don’t understand anything. Also there were some family groups and much older groups and couples. This group however turned out to contain four Irish guys, two Swedish guys and two Swedish girls. We then all proceeded to get very drunk. After the Cuba bar closed we headed down to cocktails and dreams and played pool and carried on drinking until 5am. Finally it was all starting to come together!
Unsurprisingly I was really hung over the next morning. After heading down to a beachfront restaurant for some brekky (probably scrambled eggs on toast) I found a motorbike taxi to take me into town so that I could get some money out before heading back down to the beach again.
There was no sign of any of the people from last night and I ended up having dinner at a small restaurant quite far down the beach, where I met this English guy and an older Irish hippy. We all got chatting and drinking until the restaurant turned the lights off and we were sitting there in the dark with only the noise of the waves in the background. We had to move soon though as where we were sitting was the bed of the staff and they wanted to sleep.
The Irish hippy headed back to his room and I went up to Cocktails and Dreams with the English guy. He was a nice guy and had quite an interesting story. He was only about 24 and spent 6 months of the year living down in Palolem. On questioning him how he could afford to do so he confessed that he had inherited a load of money and so worked the Summer in the UK and then relaxed the rest of the time in India. Being India he could live here very cheaply and he was friends with quite a lot of other people who also came from Western countries who did the same thing. There was a group of these people in C&D, however he said that he did not want to sit with them as some were really into their drugs (despite the average age being 40) and he knew that he would be tempted…
We ended up happening to sit beside these two Finish girls, who most bizarrely had strong inner city Dublin accents. Apparently they had gone to work in Dublin and had stayed there for a few years, living in some of the roughest areas in the process. Anyway they were really nice and we had a good chat for a while until I somehow got into a highly random argument with one of the girls about the treatment of cows in Ireland. She was a vegetarian and was under the impression that they were being tortured somehow – the exact details mostly elude me now, but I do remember saying that milking was painful for them which I disagreed with as I have seen cows being milked and they looked perfectly happy.
Anyway the atmosphere degenerated so much that the vegetarian stormed off to bed but her friend stayed up drinking with us. After a while the English guy went to bed. Then the dawn came up and people started to come in for breakfast. Eventually I headed off to bed at 7.30 having drunk through the night. I tried to avoid eye contact with the tourists and the fishermen pushing their boats out to sea and soon was in my bed.
It was the early afternoon before I properly surfaced from sleep and staggered outside. It was a lovely day as well but I least I had seen the dawn, I suppose. I wandered down to the internet place and was highly surprised to find an email from my former boss offering me a job in London! It was a really good job, a contractor position at his new company, a large American Investment Bank. I had emailed him previously asking him if he wanted to meet up for a drink for the week that I was back in London and he had replied with a job offer!
He wanted my cv straight away naturally and so I called up my dad, got him to email my last cv that he could see on his computer (from back when I was looking for jobs in Dublin in June 06) which I then spent the rest of the day editing in a state of shock. This changed everything. I was going to go back to Ireland, stay at home and hope to find a job back there, but now I had a job offered to me on a plate. After not really working for two and a half years. In the middle of a financial crisis. There was no way I could turn it down. Then there was Kathryn who I had met in Cambodia and who lived in Dublin – going back there I was going to see what happened between us as well.
I met up with the Irish lads in Smugglers restaurant. They were already half cut having spent most of the day drinking vodka and orange. The English owners clearly loved them as they were spending a fortune in Indian terms but not causing any trouble. Eventually after some food it was back to the lads place for some cards games and beer before heading down to Cocktails and Dreams again. There we met some more people, played some pool and generally had fun. At one point one of the Irish lads (also called Steve) fell over a table due to extreme drunkenness which everyone found quite amusing. I was back home at 4.30am
The next day was spent changing my cv again as apparently it was in the wrong format and then I went off to chill out by the sea. A tiny pool had formed due to the way the sand had reformed from the retreating tide so I lay in that for a while and tried to relish the experience because it would not be long before I was gone.
A little while later I was walking down the beach when I noticed that Café Del Mar was open! Ahead of schedule! This was the most lively of the 24 hour places and unlike everywhere else that directly faced the beach was more of a bar then a restaurant. I went in and had a beer. I was their third customer.
Feeling excited that Café Del Mar would be open for my final days I headed back to get changed and then met the Irish lads at Smugglers where a poker night was about to start. I am very bad at poker and it was for money so I ended up losing 800 rupees (about 12 quid). Paul, one of the Irish guys, made 1,875 rupees though which some of the pub regulars who had arranged the night were not too pleased about.
We headed off fairly quickly and soon were in Café Del Mar which was really busy but we still managed somehow to find a table. The Finish girls came along in a bit but after a brief hello sat elsewhere – the cows in Ireland row had clearly not impressed them. Also there were some of the people from the night before, including Roger and his two travel companions. The Swedish girls from a couple of nights ago were also in tow and there were some others – we were quite a big group now!
A little while later I was sitting outside of the bar on a raised, cushioned platform on the beach with a couple of the Irish lads and one of the Swedish girls. A local guy came over and joined us which was fine initially but then he started hitting on the Swedish girl in a very direct way. Eventually she made it clear enough times that she was not interested but then I saw him put his hand into her bag!! He did not get away with taking anything but then of course we just wanted him to leave. He would not go however and just sat there in sullen silence watching us despite everyone telling him to fuck off. It was quite disconcerting trying to restart a conversation with him just sitting there watching us.
A long while later dawn began to break and the bar survivors were all sitting outside the bar on the platforms. Someone suggested going for a swim. It seemed like a good idea so we all stripped down to our underwear and dived into the sea (bar one person who stayed behind to look after the stuff). It was another good night and I was not back in room until 7.30 again
I was in a state the following morning, or to be more precise the afternoon when I finally came to. I couldn’t even eat my usual scrambled eggs on toast at the beach café. I staggered into town and on the way almost got run over by a cow that was being chased by one of the mad dogs that roamed the area! Thankfully I managed to jump clear but it was not the sort of challenge I was ready for in my state.
It was so late already it wasn’t long before the sunset and after watching it in one of the beach front cafes I headed into Smugglers, where I found the Irish guys on their 13th vodka and orange pitcher. They actually managed to drink the bar dry of vodka before the end of the night!! Crazy people.
After a while the whole extended group was there. Irish guys, Swedish girls, Roger and his friends, a random English couple, some bald guy with a gotee who was one of the European regulars and Tom the German. The Irish guys regaled the group with tales of crazyness back in Ireland – my favourite one being "danger bowling" where after a game of bowling the loser would have to submit his phone to the lads who would then send a text to whoever they wanted from the losers phone. He wouldn’t know who had been texted or what had been said until he found out who was really annoyed with him! Its safe to say it’s a game I would never play.
Eventually we headed down to a party down the beach. The previous evening we had been approached by a girl called Heather who was on a two week holiday to Goa with her friends and they had paid to hire out a small venue down the beach and very slightly inland. One of them would plug his ipod in and there would be pumping dance music and drugs were to be sourced from a friend of a friend. It all sounded rather good and it all turned out to be exceptional.
The Swedish girls knew nothing about the drugs element of the evening but myself, the Irish guys and a couple of other were partaking. The guy who was providing the stuff was one of the long termer European guys and he kept on telling everyone to be discrete. He gave Steve (not me) some special K telling him only to do a bit but of course as Steve was slightly crazy he scoffed the lot – then later on when I was trying to maintain a relatively normal conversation with one of the Swedish girls while being quite high on a pill myself, he fell off his chair and started crawling around on the floor! At this point I think the Swedish girls suspected what was going on and the guy who had sold us the drugs was looking rather annoyed. Paul, one of the Irish lads, then told a story about when him and his friends were on a beach somewhere and had some liquid acid with them. Paul managed to drop his and ended up licking the sand! It was quite an extreme story.
The night became extremely messy. Dawn saw us all dancing around to hard dance music in the shack/nightclub while the Irish guys tried it on with the Swedish girls; Heather and pals & myself were talking to everyone and the locals were looking on bemused. I remember going out to have a smoke and seeing a local climbing one of the coconut palms to harvest it in the peaceful morning light – a complete contrast to the very western, noisy night going on a couple of feet away. Amusingly as well Tom the German and a Slovakian girl were still up chatting. Both were really nice, both clearly liked each other but Tom was clearly never going to make a move and had pretty terrible conversation skills. She ended up with Roger the next night instead.
Eventually the bar closed up shop and the remainder of the party people headed down the beach. The Irish guys and Swedish girls were gone but there was still Heather, Roger and a load of Heathers mates. Most of Heathers mates went home and then began a few surreal hours. First me Heather, Roger, Dan and myself went to Heathers room and faffed about for a while while she got changed and found some ipod speakers and then we headed back down to the beach where someone decided it would be intelligent to sit outside the only posh resolt in Palolem and play music while we drank beer and monged out on the sand. Naturally the staff started complaining – after all paying customers were trying to have their breakfast a few feet away from us on a nice wooden terrace at which point Heather would turn the music down, and then turn it up again when they left.
After a while Dan and Roger passed out and it was just me and Heather up chatting until after a long while it was time to get food. We all ended up back in Sumgglers and I paid for a fry up for Dan and Roger as they were broke. Then we put the movie “pulp fiction” on in the back room that we had somehow managed to grab for ourselves and drank some more beer.
I staggered back to my accommodation at 2pm by this stage well and truly ready for my bed. I found though that I had lost the key to my padlock and so went back to the shack/club to see if I could find it, even though by this point I could have collapsed on the sand and slept right there. Naturally I could not see it and so had to get the owner of the hut to get some pliers to break it. Goodness knows what they thought of me coming back in the afternoon!
I was awake at 5pm after just a few hours sleep and was actually not too bad. After wandering down the beach I briefly bumped into Heather + pals lying in the sand before going on the internet and then chilling, watching the sunset, knowing that I only had one more full day left on the beach.
The night was just beginning of course though. The fact that I had been out to crazy hours of the morning/afternoon for the past five nights was negated by the rapidly approaching end to two and a half years travelling. There was never the option of not going out.
The Irish lads were to be found in Smugglers with their usual pitchers of vodka and orange and some of the usual crowd was also there. After more mad stories about back in Ireland and a few pitchers later we headed down to Café Del Mar and met up with Tom (the German guy) and the Slovakian girl who were still trying unsuccessfully to pull each other. It was a good night – we all sat on the platforms outside of the bar drinking and chatting and some people went for a swim in the sea, although I couldn’t really face it myself. There was a diversion a little later on by a large puffer fish that someone found on the beach. Despite my best efforts though I was flagging and was in my bed at the shockingly early time of 3.15
The next day was my last one on the beach. I couldn’t believe it, but I was determined to go out in style. After spending the day enjoying the last of the sunshine and then enjoying my last sunset I headed down to Cuba bar where the Irish lads were watching some football. Everyone else soon turned up and I sat chatting with Dee, Roger and Tom as the football didn’t really appeal.
Then it was off to Café Del Mar – on the way I managed to pick up a couple of pills. No-one else was doing any but the most extreme way seemed the only way forward. The evening progressed nicely after that with everyone sitting outside Café Del Mar drinking and chatting but eventually everyone I knew began to drift home saying their goodbyes as they left and I ended up joining this rather strange group as they were the only group left in the bar.
There was an English guy and a load of Irish people and a very bad atmosphere. The English guy was clearly spoiling for a fight for some reason and was being quite abusive and the Irish people were singing extremely republican songs. Given the state I was in it took a little while to realise quite how messed up the group dynamic was but when I did I left it and went to sit on the platforms on the beach and watched the waves.
I wasn’t going to go to bed. There was no point. My plane didn’t leave until 4.30 in the afternoon but I would have to leave the beach at 2pm and somehow just going to bed seemed too sensible. I was upset as well. I had finally to leave this reality of getting drunk on a beach in India and join a much more serious one. One that involved a job, responsibility, bad weather and one where instead of spending money on things like helicopter rides, tubing and drinking with randoms on a beach; I would be paying off debt.
This was also coupled with a fear. A fear of the unknown. I knew myself before I went away and I knew the person I was while I was away, however the person I was now was used to an easy existence where it was normal to sleep 9-10 hours a day and not have to think about work in the morning. I was afraid of becoming depressed when this lifestyle of extravagance was replaced with one of normality and I was also afraid that I had damaged my brain from the excessive partying. Certainly I knew that my thought processes were much slower then what they used to be, but was that merely because I did not have to use them so much or because that was the state that my body was now in?
Anyway while thinking all this deep stuff the sun rose and eventually the group in the bar behind me dispersed. I was in silence in the dawn. I ordered another vodka and coke.
Eventually a Norwegian backpacker came along and dumped his stuff on the platform. We had a philosophical conversation about the nature of attachment before he wandered off to find a room somewhere. A little after that I decided to move and headed up to one of the small restaurant places near to my room and sat watching the sea drinking more vodka and cokes. At one point an Israeli girl sat beside me and I chatted to her for a while.
Finally it was time to leave. I headed back to my room with a heavy heart, packed my bag, checked out and got into the waiting rickshaw that was to take me the 50km to the airport. It wasn’t quite the very end yet as I still had a night in Mumbai but for me it essentially was as I was leaving the beach and everything that symbolised behind.