Gokarna really is a paradise. So much so that I am going to stop mentioning it and urge you and everyone else never to go. I have been just as lazy here as I was in Hampi but in a different way. Hampi was just quiet and I was now ready for a bit more life. Not Goa-style trance parties but just the chance to let off a bit of steam.
I was very lucky with my choice of guesthouse, on a little farm. We have, in the last 12 days, become like a little family. Mia, from Belgium, who came here last year and befriended Krishna’s dog, Bangari (which means Girl). This year Bangari sealed their friendship by having her litter of six puppies on Mia’s bed. The puppies’ eyes are nearly open and we have watched their enchanting story unfold daily. Life is tough for an Indian dog and these little ones have had a better start than most.
Anna and Denis, my Russian friends, have been travelling for a year and a half. They have a huge Enfield motorbike that they have conquered India on. Sven, from Germany, has been to India many times and at 31 decided that he needed just one more trip before settling down to a serious life. Dave, the American who I don’t think will ever stop travelling. Robin, also from Germany, who went back to make a romantic fresh start with his girlfriend after travelling for one year. The Croatians, Tony and Hrvoyer, who don’t stay here but never seem to leave. Krishna and Guru work endlessly providing us with sustenance and removing bugs from rooms etc. And so on. We swim and eat, smoke and chat. And in the evenings we listen to tinny music on laptops and drink rum.
Black Moon (the opposite of full moon) is a big deal in Gokarna. A large chariot is pulled through the main street by barefoot villagers chanting and clapping. As the chariot passes by houses and shops women cover their heads, bowed in prayer and normal activity stops momentarily. Traditionally the chariot stops at certain important houses for some sort of blessing. Afterwards the very holy statue of Shiva is carried back to the temple and again important families come out of their houses and the priest gives them holy fire from a lantern which is then taken in to the house.
Mia’s friend, Wanda, an English woman, who, after visiting India for many years decided to settle in Gokarna about seven years ago, invited us to a party she was throwing to celebrate black moon. We arrived first and Wanda still had a lot to organise, not least a colourful rangoli for the road outside. A tomato sauce was needed and I eagerly volunteered. “How do I turn this on without killing myself?” was my question on looking at the precarious gas cylinder. It was a good question because, when a few moments later I was faced with my first ever chip pan fire (right next to flammable curtains and everything) I somehow managed to act calmly and turn off the gas and extinguish the fire. Apparently I was so calm no-one else in the house thought it was necessary to panic. I shook violently for about ten minutes afterwards.
The rest of my time in Gokarna passed in slow-motion from early morning swim and ‘fruit salad, muesli & curd’ breakfast. Afternoon swim, game of backgammon with Anna, we somehow managed a constant, diplomatic one-to-me, one-to-you score, visit the puppies, to Dinner and merriment.
I became quite close to Anna and Denis and knew that leaving them would be hard. Never make a commitment whilst you are travelling, I concluded swimming in the wonderful sea, gazing inland at palm trees and blue skies. Not only did they fix my computer, let me use their modem and have screenings of ‘Friends’, they turned out to be proper friends. They drove their beloved Enfield down to the train station to see me off. Dennis was helping me on to the train and to my seat when a yelp from Anna alerted us to the fact that the train was moving. He dumped my stuff and hurried off the train. I shoved my hand out of the window to grab Anna’s hand.
Taking some advice I’d received from someone to let my guard down a little, I went with my genuine emotions. Anna was crying on the platform and I, all alone on the train, with no husband by my side, was ‘weeping’...again.
P.S. I have a Freckle! on the end of my nose.