Goa, India

Things look grim as I peruse the transit options for getting from Kochi to Goa: A pair of overnight buses back-to-back, broken apart by a six hour layover in Bangalore. Weary from the journey up to Munnar, I commit the cardinal sin of Indian sojourning and book a plane ticket. Later, as I squeeze on to the plane I am seated next to a clean-shaven Israeli man; He introduces himself as Udi and we exchange pleasantries. The plane departs and I drink in the view hoping it’ll stave off the pang of guilt I feel for taking the easy option. It doesn’t.

Udi and I share a cab into Palolem, far down the southern end of the state, making a bee-line for the beach. Goa has all the trimmings of a tourist hot-spot: White, sandy beaches, cheap beer pouring abundantly from beach-front bars and an ocean of tourists taking advantage of the only location in India where western swim-wear is acceptable. A few minutes pass before I spot a German couple I’d met in Chennai. I run out to greet them. Shortly after, to my surprise, Amit & Nuriel from Kodaikanal appear as well. Udi asks if I’m the mayor to which we both chuckle; The stay had become a reunion.

For all intents and purposes, this could have been Tel Aviv. The place was bustling with Israelis on tour, many having just finished their stint in the defense force. Later in the week, Amit suggests we all hire scooters and make for Cola, a secluded beach 15 minutes up the coast. I splash out on an Enfield and agree to meet them later. After blasting through the forests of the Cotigao wildlife sanctuary all morning, I made my way to Cola in the hopes of linking up with them. Turning off the main drag toward the beach, I found Udi traveling hastily in the wrong direction. Amit had come off her scooter and he was in search of bandages. The beach road was a rocky, unkept affair jostling even the sturdiest vehicle and a few miles onward I found her sat in the dust, bloody and grazed. I reflected on the nagging unease I’d felt scootering around Auckland a few years ago and was at once grateful for the tenacity of the Enfield — though perhaps chance alone had spared me the same fate.

Boulders edge onto Butterfly beach
Bursting with chrome and leaking petrol, the noble steed stands proud: A most handsome Royal Enfield. Cotigao wildlife sanctuary in the background A lizard scurries out of sight in the Cotigao wildlife sanctuary
Somewhere between the rust and the branches propping it up, confidence in this ladder was not high. One of the navigable obstacles on the road up to the Cotagio treehut A frog eyes the camera nervously in Cotigao
Palolem beach at dusk
 precarious treehut looms over Cotigao wildlife sanctuary The sun sets over Palolem beach