After a bumpy overnight bus ride that helped David liberate his dinner we arrived to Goa, the southwestern Indian state known for the sunny beaches that stretch along its entire coastline. Goa is a popular tourist destination, luring many visitors from their homes in colder climes, particularly Russians, who often relocate to Goa for months at a time. Several friends recommended we visit the northern village of Arambol. A quieter place to catch the sun off the beaten track, we’d heard we’d be able to avoid the swarms of Russians and the party scene that often accompanies them.We found our way to Arambol and walked along the vacant palm-lined beach, immediately noticing the slower pace of life and the laid-back vibe. The few gentlemen who solicited us to stay at their guest houses were far less aggressive than we were used to and even seemed friendly for a change. The wonder! Austin was so exited to find a small sea star in the sand and picked it up to admire it more closely. When she set it back down she could hardly believe her luck to find another one just a few steps away. And another one! And then another! She then realized that the entire beach was full of these small celestial sea creatures. What kind of heavenly place was this, she wondered. When her toes touched the warm water of the Indian Ocean, Austin declared she’d never leave, and even entertained the idea of staying behind if David and Gonzaga felt the need to move on at some point. On the recommendation of a friend we booked into a guesthouse comprised of little huts located directly on the beach, the waves crashing just a stone’s throw from where we would sleep.After a relaxing afternoon in town drinking coffee we began the walk back to our sandy hut. Had we somehow gotten lost? Where were we? The idyllic, quiet beach scene had vanished and in its place stretched out before us was a bustling boulevard of dreadlocks and drum circles. Teeming with thousands of Israelis, Russians and Europeans, the beach was filled with bonfires, didgeridoos, various performers, and rows of vendors selling gemstones and jewelry. Though we managed to avoid the vodka-soaked raves, we seemed to have found ourselves in the epicenter of a haven for extroverted, exhibitionist hippies. Though just that morning Austin had declared her love for this place, that same evening she rescinded the statement and suggested we make our leave of Arambol ASAP. We began to notice we had a difficult time finding places to eat, sleep, or visit that didn’t seem to cater solely to tourists, as evidenced by the abundant wifi and fantastic espresso.Not yet having fulfilled our desire for a long distance bicycle or motorcycle adventure (the idea originally inspired by our time on the Camino de Santiago and the Lycian Way), David decided the three of us needed some added risk in our travels, as if India itself did not already provide enough. He proposed an afternoon trip to Sweetwater Lake, a small lake nestled in a cove, separated from Arambol only by a rocky outcropping jutting into the ocean. He suggested the three of us swim to the cove, which would involve swimming out far enough to make our way around the jagged, shipwreck-worthy outcropping. Austin timidly accepted David’s challenge while Gonzaga, apparently the clearest thinker in the group, declined, preferring instead the coastal footpath. Being the clear thinker that he is, he promised to keep an eye on those foolish enough to have chosen the maritime route. As we made our way out past the craggy rocks, Gonzaga apparently attempted to wave us back to the safety of land, having assessed the situation from the shore. Not noticing Gonzaga’s signals, we persisted our fight against the wind and current until we got far enough out to sea that we realized the cove was still hours away. Mission aborted. We swam back to land where Gonzaga spared us the lecture and happily matched our slow pace as we picked our way barefooted along the footpath to Sweetwater Lake. We swam in the warm, geothermal water and then ran across the narrow beach to dip in the ocean.
While we failed to ever find a restaurant patronized by locals, we did get a tip from some other travelers about a restaurant on the beach where they had enjoyed a freshly caught dinner. We followed their directions along the beach to a restaurant with candlelit beachfront tables. We wandered up to the restaurant and chose our fish from a selection of the day’s catch. The cook smeared it in lemon and butter, barbecued it to perfection, and it was amazing.