Goan Coastal: In the Company of Creeps

Day: 93: Hampi to Goa (Mapusa)
In a languid slumber at 7:30 a.m., it’s not any noise that wakes Marnie and I, but rather the lack of it. The usual Carnatic music that jangles across the river every morning is playing hooky, and it’s rather hauntingly pleasant. Hampi hasn’t heard a quiet dawn since our arrival.

Yesterday’s struggle to plan ahead proved a barren endeavour, so we did what any subpar planners with a name to uphold would do–we put it off ’til tomorrow. Oddly enough, despite the reality of the eternal now phenomenon, today is yesterday’s tomorrow, whose weight we unloaded onto our future selves, and well, even the thriving procrastinators in us have to admit that our today selves actually have to plan something. Hampi, you are beautiful, magical, a fantasy affair. But there is a ringing in our hearts, and it’s the devilish advances of a lusty harlot.

Goa calls. 

I run to the restaurant wi-fi zone to hop aboard the online train booking service before it becomes unavailable between 8 a.m. and noon. Whatever technical issues or technological incompetence that impeded my success yesterday just flips me the bird and chucks chai in my face today. Even the bus booking site spits in my eyes. Fine. Fine. Fine!

Over an Israeli breakfast of shakshuka, Marnie and I clench our teeth and make a decision. Around the corner at the travel office, the agent says he can book us an overnight bus to Goa, at a gastronomically higher price than the online tickets. I do a quick calculation in my head: time plus sanity multiplied by zero (success) divided by two (one arm plus one leg) . . .

The agent accepts his allotted opposing limbs in exchange for two spots on the evening bus to Mapusa.

 Ring ring. Ring ring. We pick up the phone. Namaste, Goa. See you in the morning!

The two of us sprint back to our guesthouse to check out before we’re charged for another night. We’re both too low on cash to pay our room bill, and the ATM next door is broken. The nearest machine is eight kilometres away. It seems that no bike rental spots will lend out a scooter for less than a day rate, but finally a guy waves us over.

“Okay,” he says. “One hour.”

The scooter-propelled wind is about as refreshing as being held up by a gang of angry hairdressers armed with blow dryers. The sun pounds us with thirty five degree Celsius heat, liquidizing my cortex into a psychotic soup. An hour later, with the scooter safely returned, Marnie’s only response to my nonsensical rambling is to, of course, laugh in my face as I Fear and Loathing around her, signifying an emergency iced coffee stop. We sit down and let the cold, sugary caffeine stabilize our sanity levels. We dawdle down to the river and I stand in the water until goosebumps are raging war against my sweat glands, then squat on a rock with my back to sun, arms wrapped around my knees, attempting to capitalize on the heat from the sun whilst hiding the largest surface area of skin possible from it’s searing wrath. I know my semi-ginger epidermis has garnered all the attention from the sun that it can handle for the day. Marnie is sprawled face up next to me, smiling into the rays as though the worst thing it could ever do was paint her a golden goddess. I sit scrunched, contorting my skin away and yet into the sun for thirty minutes before giving up and retreating to the shade of the guesthouse to pull some long pants from my bag, which sits safely in the restaurant lounge. I sneak under the semi-privacy of a leafy tree next to an uninhabited bungalow and ninja into fresh clothes, slathering aloe vera into my rosy (read: burnt) skin.

Back in the restaurant, I plop onto a floor cushion and write distractedly, my eyeline trailing to the chiseled jawlines and sylphic bodies floating around me. Then Marnie walks in, all maroon a-glow and ready for a cold one.

The beer, the heat, the floor seating–all diminish our energy to match that of a wet noodle, and we strain ourselves away from the floor, lest we fall asleep in Hampi and miss our bus to Goa. Dragging our packs and comatose bodies down to the boat launch, the sun has somehow gained momentum, but the breeze across the river carries with it a surge of vigor so that we may forge on up the ghat on the opposite side, through the streets and finally to another restaurant, where we loll lazily on the floor eating curry. Then we put our shoes on, head to the bus stand and pile onto the local shuttle. 

Even your tin shacks can illuminate my ashen corners, but they cannot scratch the itch in my feet.

In Hospet, it’s an hour wait. Travelers sit around in clumps with their bags, chatting, or wander the streets for snacks and chai. The bus arrives and tosses our preconceived ideas (based on the last sleeper bus) of space into a vacuum sealer and squishes it into a corner. The “sleeper” part is just the right size to toss two strangers into third base. In our case, we have to lay on our sides with our heads at opposite ends. Our bags we shove under our legs so that they are elevated at awkward angles. But all our worldly possessions are at our feet, we have each other, and we’re on a bus bound for the BEACH! We’re goin’ coastal, baby. And if it takes a crick in the neck and thirteen hours to get there, so be it.

An hour later, we are stopping for a ‘dinner and toilet’ break. Spoiled! The entire population of the bus gets in line for the two stall outhouse out back, and Marnie and I take to the bushes to beat the crowd. At the restaurant, we sit at one of the covered tables outside. A kid brings over a bottle of beer and two cups. A few tables are occupied by locals drinking rum, thus suggesting this is the only party spot around for kilometres. When it’s time, we follow the herd back onto the bus. In the front cabin where the driver and his assistant sit, the driver stops us as we step inside.

“Smoke?” He waves a cigarette pack in front of us. “Come, sit here and smoke with me.”

A swig of cigarette-butt beer would be more pleasant than the looks we shoot him, in response to his own creeping gaze. 

“What? No.” We continue through to the bunks. “What a fuckin’ weirdo.”

His eyes don’t leave us as we walk back to our sleeper. One of the workers presses against us as we pass in the pencil thin walkway. 

Throughout the bus ride, sleep comes in spastic increments, interrupted each time the driver hollers out a stop name. Sleep becomes entirely impossible when my bladder threatens to burst, so at the next stop I go to the driver and ask to use a toilet. Marnie and another girl follow as his assistant leads us down the street, around a corner and to a large public washroom. A guy screams at us as we leave, asking us to pay, but we have no money, and the three of us walk away, his yells disintigrating in the dark as we round the corner. 

Back on the road, the incremental dozes return, and when we wake up again, Marnie looks upset. 

“Somebody was touching me,” she says. 

She was sleeping, she says, and having a weird dream that someone was feeling her chest and then woke to a man’s hand touching her crotch through the sleeper curtain. She bolted up and looked through the drapes but the guy was gone. 

We fall asleep again. 

I wake to Marnie screaming.

“Why are you fucking touching me!?”

She rips apart the curtains, revealing a shocked bus worker, standing there. 

“Glass! Glass!” He shouts, waving his hands around.

“What are you talking about?”

We’re glaring at him; he just repeats ‘glass’ angrily. The language barrier leads to a futile conversation. When, half an hour later, he is yelling something into our cot, we push the curtains aside, but cannot understand him. The bus is now stationary, so I assume that he is calling out the stop name.

“No,” I say. “We are going to Mapusa.”

“Yeah.” He starts waving his hands in the air again, points at Marnie, and mocks her angry reaction from last time. We both lose our temper in a snap moment, craning forward like synchronized homing pigeons looking for a fight. 

“You don’t touch! No touching!”

Outnumbered, he walks away, and Marnie and I fall asleep next to each others feet until the sweet, sweet screech of the bus pulling into Mapusa sings in our ears, and we garner one last evil glare from the driver as we step down onto the Goan asphalt.

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