Gilligan’s Island

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale. . . Oh, wait, first we have to get there. Read on. . .

After gathering my luggage at the Goa airport, and meeting my driver, we set off on the long road to the Dwarka Eco Beach Resort, which was recommended to me by the owner of my guest house in Delhi. Clemente, the owner of Dwarka and I have had some E-mail exchanges and he’s told me it will be just over an hour’s drive, with the last two-or-so kilometers being very bumpy. As reassurance, when we begin our drive, someone from the resort calls me to say the same thing. It’s a nice touch. On the way, I throw two sandwiches out the window at the free-roaming dogs. Grace, my seat-mate on the plane, insisted I take as she was worried about me arriving so late and being hungry. After being served meals and snacks on both flights, I’m not at all hungry but it’s a bit like refusing a Jewish mother.

We drive through small towns smelling of burning wood and trash. While littering is officially illegal, there’s also no governmental or private trash pick-up. Some people bury their organic waste in ditches, give their plastic bottles to people who make homemade swill, and burn the rest. Others simply throw it on the street.

After just less than an hour, we turn off onto the bumpy road (they weren’t kidding). We weave down a pitted dirt (not stones, but dirt) road, through a dense tunnel of jungle at about five kilometers an hour. If I hadn’t been told ahead of time, I would think that I was being taken into the jungle to be robbed and have my dead body dumped only to be found by whatever wildlife is living in here. It’s the reason Dwarka calls to reassure guests that this is, in fact, the road to their resort.

Shower

Shower in my cottage

BridgeAfter ten minutes on the bumpy, jungle road, we finally pull into a small, dirt parking area. A man approaches and welcomes me and he and my driver carry my bags across a bridge made of small tree branches lashed together to form a pathway over a lagoon which reaches from the ocean to disappear into the jungle. It’s like walking onto the set of Gilligan’s Island. Small lights lashed to trees light the way as I walk in the sand and am led into my cottage. In it I find a welcoming king-sized bed, soft lighting, a ceiling fan, a fully flushable toilet, a shower (cold water only, but they’ll heat a bucket of water if you request) with a floor made of round river rocks Bedcovered with a small mat made from yoga mat material, and a metal locker with a key-lock in order to lock away your valuables. He shows me the “windows” which are shutters on the side of the cottage and open up into the fresh air, No need for screens as, due to the proximity to the ocean, there’s little standing water and few mosquitoes. Oh, and there’s a hammock stretched between two trees out front. I take a cool shower to wash off the airplane, as well as the city-air and go to bed listening to the sound of the ocean crashing on the shore. I just may have found paradise.

HammockI wake up as I went to sleep, listening to the ocean’s steady waves meeting the sand. I peek out the window and look out on paradise. Throwing on my bathing suit, cover-up and sandals, I walk down the sand path to a breakfast of fresh fruit, bread, a masala omelet, and coffee in a genuine French press (all meals are included here). I’m greeted by Clemente, who, along with his wife, View from HutArlene, own the place, and Sandy, the manager. As the resort has only ten cottages (Clemente is specific about calling them cottages so as not to be confused with the basic “huts” that line many of the beach areas in Goa), there aren’t many people here. A group of four Brits, a family from Delhi, and a couple who live in Goa (he’s an Englishman, she’s Indian). I sit and enjoy a really interesting chat with the couple from Goa; he’s a photographer and she’s a writer. The conversation is engaging with talk about Indian and European politics and culture, as well writing.

LagoonAfter a while, it’s time to take a dip in the beautiful lagoon. Remember my comparison to Gilligan’s Island? Yup, this is just like their lagoon. It’s separated from the ocean by a narrow sandbar which water surges across at high-tide a couple of days per month; it’s that time of the month, so to speak. It’s amazing how entertaining watching the two bodies of water can be when sitting under a thatched-roof hut with your feet in the sand and a beer in your hand. I step into the lagoon which, as Goldilocks would say, is “not too hot and not too cold. It’s just right” and watch a few tiny fish swimming around. I join in a game of frisbee with the family from Delhi before grabbing a kayak and paddling down the lagoon and into the jungle. As I approach the stick bridge, I lie down in my kayak and squeeze underneath. I’m surrounded by a peaceful jungle. This place is a peaceful oasis in a desert filled with noise and chaos.

I paddle back to the main part of the lagoon, grab my beach bag and step onto the sandbar to lie on a beach chair under a thatched-roof hut facing the ocean. It’s not just like I’ve come to a different city or area, but as if I’m on another planet.

ClementeI spend some time talking to Clemente and hear how he and Arlene found the location during a film production shoot (a business they still work in part-time) and how they bought some land and have leased the rest. He tells me that Richard Gere spent New Year’s Eve at Dwarka this year.

I spend the rest of the day writing and attempting to fix my now non-working space-bar on my computer (seriously India, you’ve put a curse on my electronics). With little WiFi reception (you don’t come to Dwarka for dependable WiFi) and a broken spacebar, I still manage to publish something.

SunsetAt about 5:00 I notice the sun beginning to set. Walking along the beach I enjoy the smoke-enhanced sea-air, along with the beautiful, orange sun sinking lower towards the ocean (looking on the bright side, the pollution in India can make for some beautiful sunsets), and try not to think about the challenges of the last couple of weeks, but to simply live in the moment. After a half-hour or so, I walk back down the beach towards Dwarka. The sun takes a long time to set here and, when it finally does, clouds have hidden its final descent into the ocean.

I stop back in my cottage and, at 8:00pm there’s a knock on my door.

“Dinner is ready,” I’m told.

I head down the path to the dimly lit common area where I ate breakfast and a nice lunch of fish and vegetables. I’m offered a choice of fish or continental dinner. I choose the continental which is a very full plate of vegetables, mashed potatoes, fries and a club sandwich. Accompanying my dinner I have a glass of their local Indian hootch named Uraak which comes mixed with a fruity soda. I’m told it’s quite strong, but I find it so refreshing that I have another before the night is over. The entertainment consists of me playing Jenga with the Delhi family, watching some video of their daughter play the keyboard, and Clemente taking out his guitar and playing some Indian folk songs, as well as the Eagles and the Carpenters. Paradise.

At 11:00pm, everyone heads off to bed, content after a day spent in peaceful paradise. While the smell of smoke still permeates the air (it’s inescapable in India due to the trash situation as well as cooking needs and craft-making), my other senses luxuriate in all that Dwarka offers.

Tomorrow – A day lounging in paradise.

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Tomorrow – Another day in paradise.

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