Cocoons to Barracks

Day 110: Paradise Beach to Om Beach
I sleep almost perfectly in the top hammock, strung between two palms, nestled in my fluffy fleece blanket on Paradise Beach. Directly below me, hanging in his own fabric cocoon, Aviel has had a restless sleep. Without a blanket, even South India is cold at night.

Post-metamorphosis, Aviel stokes the coals from last night’s fire on the beach and boils water. We sit in the sand and drink tea, then go for a sunrise swim in the ocean. A small boat is anchored about fifty metres off shore, so we float up to its side. 

“Let’s capsize this mofo.”

Instead of tipping the wooden vessel on its side and sending it careening to the ocean floor twenty feet below, we grab the rope hanging from the bow and somehow manage to pull ourselves up the side and over the edge.

“Namaste,” we say to the captain. He hardly reacts. 

From our perch on the boat, Aviel and I watch as goats sprint down the mountainside back on shore. We swim in their direction. 

Shay is up now. The rest of our group– the new Israeli friends we met last night– begin to make breakfast, which is interrupted part way through by the commotion of a bunch of people gathered in a big circle near the foot of the mountain. In the middle of the crowd is a goat, and a couple minutes later, a brand-new baby goat. The birth is rather disgusting to witness, but someone with a stronger stomach than myself receives the gooey kid and washes him in a bucket of fresh water. The new mom has all sorts of funky stuff going on with her reproductive bits, and she seems more interested in eating pineapple than meeting her newborn. The cutting-edge kid lets out a never-ending bleat that sounds like a squeaky toy being trampled by a herd of sheep. 

Boys.
Breakfast.

Shoving the event from my mind, I take part in breakfast– tahini, omelette, salad– and then it’s time for another swim with the boys. Aviel decides he’s feeling carefree, and strips his shorts. Gato and Hen, also care- and clothing- free, lead us far out along the coastline, then onto the rocks and into a cave hidden behind a small crest. I notice Aviel is missing as we play on the rocks, and he doesn’t appear until twenty minutes later, no longer naked. 

“Where were you?”

He’s a little out of breath, and his cheeks are looking slightly… sunkissed? His shorts had almost been overthrown by the ocean’s attempt to play a joke on him, but somehow, he recovered them.  

The rocks are dotted with clusters of sun-dried sea salt. We jump in the water and swim back to the beach. 

The afternoon is spent lazing in the shade, reading and writing. Shay heads back to our guesthouse on Om Beach, where the wonders of wi-fi await.

Buh-bye Paradise.

Before sunset, Aviel and I deconstruct our camping spot and pack our bags. It’s time for us to leave Paradise now, too. We hop on a boat bound for Om Beach, where we eat dinner with Shay at the guesthouse restaurant and discuss a sleeping arrangement. We’d kept a single, small room to store our belongings while we camped at Paradise Beach last night, but now all the other rooms are occupied. Aviel and Shay will not accept my willingness to hunker down in my hammock on the beach and leave the room to them. 

That night, I sleep in the single bed, Shay takes the floor, and Aviel spends another night in his hammock, tied up on the porch out front of our room (the hammock, I mean. Not Aviel).

I’m beat. By 11pm, I’m snoring into the surface of my rock hard mattress.


Day 111: Om Beach to Jog Falls

Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

6:30am. I sit in the yet unopened restaurant at the table beneath the tree, writing.

At 7:45 Aviel plops into the seat next to me. We chat over breakfast, then are joined by Shay. It’s the usual order of things. 

After eating, the three of us head back to the room, pack our bags, check out, and carry our stuff up the stairs and to our motorcycles in the parking lot. It’s been days now, but it’s time to ride again.  

At first, it’s kind of cloudy. Then, it’s not. The sun beats down, the bikes fly over the burnt pavement and the motor-made wind is like riding past a row of hot-air balloons continuously exploding right next to us, a succession of burning air whipping at our bodies. There is not an inkling of relief. 

We stop one million times to check the map. I can’t shake the anxiousness making my body rigid, despite the heat. 

One in a million.

I agreed to ride with Aviel and Shay to Jog Falls, which is a detour of 77 km. However, I’ve been hankering for some quality alone time for a while now (despite my affection for people, I require regular periods of solitude. Or perhaps keeping a disciplined schedule of healthy distance from others is how I keep an affection for people), and for some reason, this additional destination to the waterfalls has me stressing. I’m supposed to join them to another destination after that, also–Vattakanal. It’s a hot spot for Israelis, and Aviel and Shay don’t seem to have any trouble making instant besties with their fellow countrymen anywhere we go (that is equal to a lot of besties). India is very popular with Israelis in general. They are a very friendly, incredibly hospitable and inclusive people, but I am often the only native-English speaker there, and I don’t know Hebrew. Once a group of Israelites are together, the majority language takes the trump card. Fair enough. I just have trouble contributing to such conversations.

Shay documents the trip by taking frequent stops to snap photos and make videos. I seem to be permanently stuck taking up the rear.

It’s taking a long time to get there. It should be a five hour drive, but with all the stopping and map-checking, we may as well be on pedal-bikes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  

Our bike gang, manual- or motored-speed, takes the liberty of pulling over to scarf some bananas and chug some water, chat with a British man. Eventually we come to a bridge over a beautiful, marshy river, and stop to take photos. 

We begin to ascend the mountain. Switchback, switchback, switchback. Then, it levels out. We’re at the top. 

Jog Falls is a river plunging from a cliff on the top of the mountain to the valley 253 metres below. Our vantage point is from the cliff opposite, and it’s rather impressive. 

By the time we park our bikes, however, the walkway down the mountainside and to the bottom of the falls is closed for the day. After staring at the falling water for ten minutes, my ability to appreciate the view is overshadowed by an annoyance of spending hours driving out of the way instead of continuing on my own. I’m not sure why I feel like I’m in a hurry, but… well, it could be because I only have a couple weeks left. I could have skipped the falls and continued on my solo journey. Or I could, I suppose, quit stressing about nothing and enjoy the journey.

There is a “restaurant” close by which, inside, resembles an old-school military mess hall. Aviel and Shay agree. 

We return to our accommodation for the night. It’s one large room with high ceilings and four single beds placed side by side. It sounds militant, but in actual fact is more homey, in a your-grandparents-guestroom kind of way. Shay naps. Aviel and I talk for a long time until loud music suddenly barges in through the door. It’s dark by now. Shay wakes up and the three of us follow the sounds outside and to a strange courtyard with a laser show and big fountain shooting water displays to the beat of the music.

Afterwards, we go for chai at a sort of food court place. The lady who serves us is adorable. 

We eat chips, return to our nostalgic room, drink rum, shower, and go to bed. 


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