An email to my family during my last weeks in India, August 2013…
I am back in Goa now, after our whirlwind of an adventure around Northern India. I had a few more days with my friends, so I helped them pack up their stuff and roll their paintings, and watched them depart for the airport…me standing underneath the Monkey God Temple, and them waiving from the back window of the taxi. But, things must move on, and they do, without slowing down. Last night I met with a Goan friend of mine whom I haven’t told you much about, but he was close with all of us. After buying several of my drawings, we had dinner with some other locals in my neighborhood. Before I knew it, I was invited to join a “trek” through the rainforest to a waterfall departing at dawn the following day. All I was told was that I needed an extra pair of dry cloths, some food, water, an umbrella and all the other necessities for a long hike. I didn’t have any good hiking shoes but was told that someone could bring a extra pair for me. It all sounded so Jungle book , a trek through tiger and python country.
I left my guest house at 6:30 and met the bus at 7. There was indeed a pair of shoes waiting for me, not great, just some small tennis shoes (made for a man) which happened to fit me perfectly. Everyone on the bus was from Goa or Mumbai…besides one other guy from Wisconson, but he has been living and working as a musician in Mumbai for 15 years. I quickly made friends with so many people, especially a young architect from Mumbai who is staying in Goa working on a plan of the capital city. I will meet her again tomorrow or the next day, and she has offered to show me around Bombay when I make my way up there.
So our ride to the wilderness reserve was 2 hours by bus. I sat with a new friend, the one who had invited me on the excursion, for the entire ride. He offered an endless stream of one sided conversation about his interest in Nature Worship, Fertility Cults, the power of our thoughts converting into the tangible and so on. It was actually a very interesting conversation, I was just so tired, so I kind of bobbed along with the buss as I offered an ever present agreeing head nod. There wasn’t much room to get a word in.
When we reached the parking place for our bus at last, the sun was blasting, and we all set off with glee and excitement. Southern Goa is beautiful beyond belief, but I was soon weary from the heat and discomfort of my wet shoes as we walked through steams and mud. We passed several villages with women carrying buckets of mud, or baskets of laundry balanced on their head, traditional mud huts and children running wild and barefoot. We then began the 2 hour journey up hill to the waterfall…it wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the constant leech jumping off the forest floor onto my legs, extreme heat, and everyone wanting to know my entire life story as I walked on a significant incline through the jungle. I was sweating so badly, that my newly polished leather bag that Anna gifted me when I was 20, began to rub off all its polish on my skin and cloths (I had to get the bag refinished by a street cobbler because it had grown mold during the monsoon season). So, that just added to my growing discomfort and general unattractive appearance.
It seemed like a lifetime of listening to some guy explain how he makes all his money in the tropical fish business and the margin of profit to be made with salt water filtering systems before I heard the waterfall at last. I was literally dizzy, and couldn’t wait to sit down in the shade. We found ourselves at the very top of the waterfall, with many calm pools collected under the shady trees. I have never been at the top of such a huge waterfall before, the view was stunning, and the thought of sitting in the water unbelievably inviting. But when I pulled off my shoes, I found several 1″ long leeches attached to each foot! I nearly passed out at the sight of them, and almost cried as someone graciously scraped them off with a pocket knife…not because it hurt, but because I guess I just have a severe dislike for blood sucking insects wriggling on my sore hiking feet.
Everyone got in the water, with cloths, or swim suits, or underwear, and I found myself sitting in a waterfall with 30 foreign strangers. All so interested in why I was visiting Goa, or where I was from, where I will be going, what does my family do, how old I will be when I decide to get married etc. After I was tired of getting nibbled on by little fish, I sat on the shore and ate my lunch of bananas and potato chips, but was also given Indian flat bread, plum cake and apples by my new friends. There was some excitement over lunch about a viper that had slithered its way under a log, but besides that, the leeches and the nibbling fish, there was not a lot of wild life (although I was told that there are tigers and leopards in the forest).
The way back was almost as hard as the way up, and I fell asleep instantly on the bus ride back, but I felt a great satisfaction with myself for walking 10 km through in Indian wilderness. I am in bed now, sun burned but happy, and missing all of you!