They kindly display their renunciation of Babylon – the fascist-capitalist west – and their individuality by wearing a nifty uniform of head-to-toe Ethnic Tat® branded gear. The muted orange-brown roughly woven baggy trousers in either stripes or excessive patterns or – for the executive hippy – an orange lunghi, well-worn OM© t-shirt and brown-orange coconut-fibre shoulder bag are ethnic in that they aren’t western clothes. Yet neither are they Indian; no locals sport this garb. These hippies buy their ProppaTraveller attire from the many tourist stalls that mingle with the bakeries, grocery stalls and paan vendors. The upper echelon of this fashionable brigade are ceremonially awarded, after many years dedicated service, with full military pomp, a crown of Dreadlocks®TM©2009. In full battle dress these seekers of love, peace and harmony attain a spiritual ego the size of Tel Aviv and Dusseldorf combined and become so enlightened that they lose the ability to even see western scum any more as they gaze vacantly beyond attempts at good-natured communication. These holier-than-thous are enlightened only in their own ego-driven, judgmental minds, which unfortunately is the one place enlightenment cannot be attained… Bless ‘em.
Despite this peculiar tribes bad vibes (man), Gokarna is a wonderfully bustling Hindu pilgrimage town cluttered and jumbled with temples, holy bathing lakes, revered lingams and towering ceremonial chariots adorned with hundreds of flags poking outward to form a red and white fluttering globe. A hike south leads to one beautiful crescent bay after another, temporarily populated by hippies and travelers from around the world, each one becoming more secluded and therefore less busy than the last. Roads now connect the first two, Kudle and Om respectively, yet they still retain an idyllic tropical charm even if the residents of the more remote retreats farther south tend to sneer at those of us nearer town. This strictly hierarchical ‘one love’ society becomes amusing after a while and days spent practicing yoga, swimming, dozing and reading whilst staying at a £2 a night guest-house right on the beach do wonders for raising one’s tolerance of the groovy gang, even if they are banging out insipid trance and belching and spluttering chillum smoke from the hut net door till way past our bedtimes (admittedly that’s only about 10.30pm).
Our route to Gokarna began in the overwhelming chaos of Delhi. The red-eye flight and overpriced taxi deposited us right in the thick of it near the main bazaar. The booked hotel had un-booked itself during the flight and we were lead to their filthy ‘sister’ hotel down the road. Too tired, and laden with 85kg of laptops, camera, clothes, boards and paraphernalia we took what we were given and snatched forty winks before stumbling like rabbits caught in the headlights into the heaving throng on our doorstep, all aspects of life being lived in high contrast, maximum volume and top speed. The streets appear like a single, living, pulsating organism whose defining principle is Chaos Theory. Buildings seem to grow from the dusty earth whilst simultaneously being consumed, crumbling back into the earth, tangled webs of electric cables swamp and threaten to engulf the flimsy poles carrying them in every direction, shrouding dark alleyways with the glimmer of private candlelit shrines deep within. Every millimetre of this enthralling tableau is teeming with life; beggars, merchants, rickshaws, children, cows, packs of wild dogs, chickens, goats, a smattering of westerners, teenage boys and elderly couples holding hands…. There were too many senses being engaged and too few active brain cells to engage in speech so Sofie and I ate our 25p thali in silence trying to acclimatise to such a culturally different environment.
We flew to Goa the following morning from the glass & metal gleaming new domestic terminal, the antithesis of Delhi’s bazaar. This is new India, the super-power de jour, the progressive, economically booming India. A 24-hour education in India’s cultural dichotomy.
Goa was a nice place to unwind after the flight and the hectic preparations before leaving England, but the distinct lack of waves and preponderance of elderly European sun worshippers had us packing our bags and heaving our caravan of equipment aboard a rickshaw, a bus and then a train, causing a kerfuffle at each juncture and befuddlement at why we’d be carrying a surf board with us in India. A befuddlement I currently share…