Day 109: Paradise Beach
The first to wake yet again, I sit alone under the almond tree in the guesthouse restaurant to work on my writing. As usual, Aviel is up next, emerging from the back of the restaurant. I have a breakfast buddy! We order food and it arrives in tandem with Shay. Afterwards, the guys check out of their rooms, but we decide to keep mine to store our bags overnight. By the time both of them have dumped their belongings in the tiny room, it looks like a storage locker stuffed to the brim. The three of us climb the sketchy stone staircase up to the lot where our motorbikes are parked and zip in to the town of Gokarna. We buy hammocks, vegetables, tahini, plates, spoons, a pot and pan. I find a breezy long sleeve shirt to hide my transparent skin from the searing sun and a black leather pocket belt I imagine Xena: Warrior Princess would wear while kicking ass, keeping in mind a rather ambitious image of myself.
Then Shay leaves, in search of wi-fi, while Avi and I sit for a hot cuppa chai with old men from France and Germany who look like they’ve spent an intense period baking in the Indian sun without allowing their skin sufficient time to evolve to the hyper UVA/UVB radiation, and yet they’ve accepted it’s leathery fate wholeheartedly.
Sliding the groceries bags onto the motorbike handlebars, we roar back to Om Beach, then eat salad and drink beer and play backgammon until Shay arrives. Once back at our storage locker room, it appears several eggs from the grocery bag have taken the Humpty Dumpty route. The restaurant hesitantly sells some of their supply.
Next to the building where my room is, the three of us are thrilled to discover a well with a stone arch and a pail hanging from it. We grasp on and dangle our bodies over the pit of water far below, taking photos, thinking we are some daredevils who have finally performed the ultimate stunt. It’s Survivor: Paradise Island, and we are winning.
Enough, now. Time for actual Paradise.
We hop on a boat anchored in the shallows at the north end of Om Beach. It motors over to the south end, where we alight onto shore and run up the cliff to the little restaurant on the rocks, buy little cartons of rum, bottles of soda and water. We haul the goods back to the boat and zoom over to Paradise Beach.
Its already 4 or 5, something like that. The beach is busy with hardly-anything-clad young people, but there is a free spot amongst the palm trees to hang our hammocks. Noticing the way some other campers have arranged their sleeping quarters, I help Aviel secure a hammock high up between two palms, leaving a space of six feet from the ground. Below it, halfway between the ground and the sand, we tie the second one to the tree. Avi tests the top sleeper’s stability and instantaneously falls to the ground. After retying them, I crawl into the higher one and Avi takes over the bottom. His voice is coming from beneath me, talking to the back of my skull. I pop my head over the side of the hammock to look down at him. His face is visible directly below mine, his tuft of curly brown hair fluffed out over the edge of the fabric, but his body is encased in the colourful material so that he appears to be a talking Hebrew caterpillar; a human-headed butterfly trying to escape the confines of his cocoon. I nearly topple the six feet to the ground as a barrel of laughter overtakes me and renders my entire being incapacitated by the sight of it.
When I finally collect myself, the three of us meander the beach in search of firewood, going our separate ways. Avi comes across a Russian man who has been living alone up in the trees, high up on the mountainside, for months. I find a path that climbs directly up into the jungle until crossing a well formed path. I go left. A German boy greets me, and joins me down the path that eventually leads to our campsite. He has been camping here on Paradise Beach for a week now. I bring my collection of sticks to the firepit and drop them. Any decent sized firewood has been scavenged long ago, so we pull a few fallen palm frond stems over.
Avi and I run into the water to wash off the early evening sweat and swim out far, trying to touch the bottom. The pressure hurts my ears and I don’t make it all the way to the ocean floor like Avi. We wade over to the rocks, trying our darnedest not to get smashed against them by the rolling waves and climb up, then dive back into the ocean and swim to shore. By this time Shay is already chopping vegetables at the table, so we sit around and peel garlic. Hen comes over to join us with the hilarious ponytail thing that protrudes from his head. He makes beet salad and Isreali salad. Avi stirs up the tahini, then we get the fire going and throw some eggplants in it. Shay makes shakshuka in a big pot while dusk fades to black. We cook by the light of our headlamps.
An old Indian man sits with us, dipping his fingers into a plastic bag of curry and licking the sauce from them. When the food is ready, we eat babaganoush and bread and shakshuka and salad and tahini. The boys prove to make nearly the best meal I’ve eaten in India yet. After scrubbing the dishes with sand and rinsing them in the sea, an Austrian guy joins us. Sanjay, the Indian guy, who is 51, sits with his legs crossed in the fashion of a practiced yogi, looking not a day over 75. He sits like this for 6 hours a day while smoking charra, he says. That’s all he seems to do, along with accepting small “gifts” from people which basically sponsors his livelihood. The little rum cartons come out. We sit around and play Bullshit, a game that entails a person telling two stories about themselves. One must be true and the other false, and everyone has to guess which is which.
Avi goes first.
“In Isreal, if you’re a redhead, you get free carrot juice at every restaurant.”
The group bursts into uncontrollable laughter when I tell my story of the “terrorist attack” that happened in New Delhi when my sister and I arrived there. According to Shay and Avi, that is one of the locals biggest scams for newly arriving tourists. They take them to the tourism office claiming it’s unsafe and blocked off to wherever their proposed accomodation is and helpfully “organize” another place for them, asking for different “fees” along the way.
At one point, Avi accuses Sanjay of being part of the Goonda – the Indian Mafia – which makes Sanjay spew his rum out as he erupts with laughter. The rest of us follow suit.
Set back from the shore near the edge of jungle, a campfire is roaring. Dozens of Paradisers are crowded in the sand next to it, nearly all Israelites, and we join them around the flames. At one in the morning, the entire group makes it’s way to the ocean for a moonlit swim. The plankton sparkles mildly. I swim naked, feeling free in the waves, likely looking like an awkward dolphin.
Finally, we move back to the fire and sing children’s songs in Hebrew.
What’s crazy? She goin, sheggone, shiggashiga shegone!
Then sleep! at 3! in the hammock bunk bed!