Sunday, March 20, 2011

Living at the Edge of the Sea

(Written in Mandrem, March 16th.  You will note I'm a few days behind, but I'm trying to spread out my posts instead of adding them all at once -- I didn't have internet access for a couple of days so am playing catch up.) 

Wow, I’ve gone 25 kilometres up the coast and I’ve landed in a completely different world.   Anjuna, even this late in the season, was still relatively full of people by comparison; here, in Mandrem, I sit on the porch of my tiny little bamboo hut and stare out at the dark sand.  No lights, except the moon.  No people.  No sounds except the waves and a barking dog somewhere in the distance.   

I left Anjuna Beach this morning, after breakfast overlooking the sea (food always tastes better that way).  I set out to get a rickshaw, having decided (for no logical reason) that I would pay 200 rupees for my taxi ride to Mandrem.  It isn’t well-served by public buses — getting there would involve a bus from Anjuna to Mapusa (inland), up to Arambol, and a final hop down to Mandrem — so I decided a taxi was worth the money to save myself the all-day journey. 

Well, it seems that the taxi drivers had other ideas.  The first guy I approached wanted 500 rupees to make the trip, citing the ridiculously high price of fuel and the horrendously long distance.   (Did I mention it was 25 kilometres?  Hardly the other side of the world.)  I declined graciously, and — as inevitably happens when I start to walk away — he was prepared to negotiate.  I couldn’t get him to budge below 450, though, so I thought I’d carry on and see if I could do better.

As I went further down the beach and onto the road leading inland, the prices started to drop.  I never did manage to get away with 200 rupees — but then, I didn’t really have any good reason to expect to — but I did catch a ride for 300, or about $6.50.  We wove through some lush green countryside and a few chaotic and colourful villages on the way, reaching Mandrem about 45 minutes later.

Sunset view from my front porch
At least I think it’s Mandrem.  There’s no actual village, just a scattering of huts and cafes, which sounds about right to be Mandrem Beach.  But I wasn’t quite sure, as the driver dropped me at the side of the road and pointed out the path down to the beach, speeding off as soon as I’d closed the door behind me.    (I was even more confused later in the day when I took an exploratory walk along the beach and found myself in Arambol after about half an hour’s walk.  Either they’re much closer together than I’d realized, or I’m not where I think I am.)

It looked beautiful when I got out of the cab, anyway, wherever it was, so I was prepared to stay a while whether or not it turned out to be Mandrem.  I wandered for half an hour or so from hut to hut, seeking one for 300 rupees a night or less.  (Yes, I had another arbitrary price in my head.  Well, maybe not quite so arbitrary as it was reasonable based on Anjuna prices.) 

It took a long and sweaty walk down the beach, but I finally landed in one costing only 300 rupees.  It's not the nicest one I saw (that one was 1,500 rupees), and it’s probably the flimsiest structure I’ve ever seen — I think my camping tent would stand up to high winds better than this hut!  But it’s got four walls, a door that locks, and a bathroom with running water; I have learned that these are all things you cannot take for granted in Goa cheap-hut beachland.  (If you really want to live on the cheap, you can give up luxuries like a lock or a bathroom and sleep for about 150 rupees.  I didn’t want to save money quite that badly.)  It does not have a mozzie net, which I may live to regret by tomorrow morning, particularly since the sole window has no screen or shutter to keep the little monsters out.

But for now, it’s working for me.  As I sit here on my tiny front porch, the Arabian Sea crashes into the shore about 20 metres away.  There’s hardly a sound, except for the rhythmic pounding of the surf.  There’s not a soul around; miraculously in this country of a billion people, I’m completely and utterly alone.   Getting my fix of solitude, after the constant crowds and chaos of previous weeks, ought not to be a problem here.

There’s nothing between me and the water except fine white sand, almost glowing in the clear soft moonlight.  The sun set a couple of hours ago — it’s now about 9 pm — but a hint of radiance still lingers in the sky. 

I think I’m going to like it here.

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