My friend and fellow Indian traveller, Jana Owen is putting together a blog, “you know your new to India when…” and while meeting some other American travelers in Arambol, Goa we realized another fact. When many travellers get to India, they create blogs of all of the quirky mishaps. Blogs often trail off because you slowly realize that these mishaps were not cute, quirky, unique happenings – they are every day life here in India. Each day brings something new, and you get to the point where when you’re not busy handling the mishap, you just want to relax. The last thing you want to do is relive the annoying stuff going on by blogging about it.
So, Jana, you know you’re new to India when you still have energy to blog about the “interesting adventure.”
After returning from the WPA Championships in Mexico, I’ve been scant on the blogging. I’m tired of travelling and tired of the unique events in my life. After the first two months with blogs rambling about my mishaps and the odd things I saw in India, I got to the point where none of it was surprising me anymore.
I hopped a plane to Mangalore from Pune to grab my surf SUP so that I could have it with me in Goa for the next month or so. The awesome guys with Surfing India were nice enough to drop my board and me at the bus stop; for this I am beyond thankful. You see, in India there isn’t really any such thing as a “bus stop” for the longer travel busses. After you purchase your ticket online, you are provided with vague landmarks to aid you in finding your bus pick-up-point. Rarely is there an actual bus station, most of the times it will be a gas station, a store, the side of the road, or under some overpass somewhere. Signs are also not required for a location to be a bus stop. If you are given an actual store or valid landmark, you sure as hell can’t Google Map it… you’ll just receive a pinpoint on the map indicating which city it is in. The cities are big, and this is of no use.
If others have already gotten on the bus before you, it is luck of the draw if there is any room for your luggage. In my case, with a surfboard, I had to strap it to the roof of the bus by myself. When the driver decided it was time to go, he just started driving. Luckily, Corey was loading our other gear in the bus and stopped the driver; he let me off the roof, and let me get on the bus. As I boarded, he angrily pointed at his watch and said, “TIME! LATE!” I replied with an affectionate, “FUCK YOU, I HAD TO LOAD MY SHIT ALONE!” After settling into the sleeper seat the bus took off. With speeds ranging from 30 to 110 MPH, I didn’t get much sleep worrying about my board. The bus alternated between lurching accelerations and intense braking, it swayed side to side around mountain cliffs and in between dodging small cars and scooters in the night. Corey took the outside of the sleeper and almost flew out a few times. Speed bumps would often wake us up when our bodies were thrown from the bed into the ceiling. If you understand the bus system, you are smart enough to dehydrate yourself before the trip so you don’t have to pee. They make one stop in the 12-14 hour drive for passengers to take a break. The driver, however, may make a few stops to pee, but he’s quick and he will drive away without you if you’ve yet to finish. At one point, I couldn’t take it anymore; I had slept through the rest stop and had to go. I went up and sat behind the driver to wait. When he stopped for his driver-only break, I leapt from the bus, hiked up my dress, and took a pee standing. The driver looked over with this shocked look after he realized I was a female.
I said, “What? My dad taught me how to handle traveling!” With that, I boarded the bus before he was done and settled back into my bed. This type of bus schedule is not conducive to getting sick, either. If a traveller chooses to eat at the rest stop and risk the street food blues, the bus does not stop for any bodily functions. I, thankfully, have not experienced this as a few others I’ve met have. One bus didn’t stop for a guy that threw up 5 times. By the end of the trip, the vomit was in an even layer over the entire floor of the bus, and people walked through it without batting an eye… some with bare feet. Once my bus to Goa finally arrived, they dropped us at a gas station. The website had said the dropping point was a bus stop with ample taxis. There Corey and I stood, at a gas station at 7:30am, in Mapsa, Goa, 3 bags and a surfboard, and no one around. Finally, someone came by and I asked where I could find a taxi, they told us to walk into town. I stayed with the gear as Corey started walking to investigate. Meanwhile, a taxi stopped to see where I was going, but decided he didn’t want to go there in the end. Corey came back without any promising leads. Without any options, we loaded up and started hiking into town. We finally found the bus stop, where we were not dropped off, and the taxis.
That afternoon we decided to relax on the beach. Upon arriving, Corey gazed out into the open ocean and was enjoying the scenery… except for the one round, rice-bellied Indian guy nude sunbathing. He didn’t notice the soft-spoken Indian ear cleaner approaching him on his left. Ear cleaners walk around with their tools and a certification card to prove they can clean ears and clean out the ears of strangers, mostly foreigners. They then argue about how much you should pay them. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why you’d let them clean your ears in the first place. Corey doesn’t hear so well out of his left ear, so he was unaware of small man approaching him with tools out saying, “some soap in your ear, sir.” I run to push him out of the way just as the first tool was about to get jammed into his ear, and look at the ear cleaner and sternly insist, “No. No soap in ears!” As you relax on the beach, 5-10 people trying to sell you coconuts, jewelry, saris, and massages usually bombard you. They all sell the same things, the same items you can get in one of the hundreds of stores that also all sell the same things. If you’re American, you should always tell them you are from somewhere else. The price gets cut in half. There is a stereotype that all Americans are loaded, like millionaire-loaded.
The rumor was that to get better prices on junk, you should visit the markets like Anjuna and Baga. Corey and I took a scooter to find a market. As usual, with no directions or hint of a clue, we headed off. We enjoyed the ride; there wasn’t too much traffic and only a few cows. Visiting various beaches as we headed south, we slowly found our way to the big Saturday night bazaar after only getting slightly off track twice. Upon arriving, we started noticing large crowds, and found that there was a David Guterra concert. It was 2k INR to get in, or you could sit at a restaurant across the street and see the whole thing for free… we sat in the restaurant. The view was fine, especially with the jumbo-tron, and the music was cool. At one point, I thought the Army/Police had stopped in the restaurant to bust the bar tenders for smoking too much pot or something. They were just there to pick up a few 40oz so they could drink and enjoy the concert too. After enjoying the night market and the concert, we decided to call it a night. Driving back we hit some traffic where a drum wallah was trying to sell me one of his drums. He wanted 700INR, to which I replied, “HA! I’d give you 100.” He put on the act, pretended to be offended, and said, “500.” I laughed again, stayed strong at 100, and Corey started driving forward through traffic. We thought he was gone, when he came sprinting through the cars while we were stopped at another slow spot. He sold me the drum for 200, on the move, as the traffic police waved us on. I drummed the rest of the ride home…