As I've mentioned before, Palolem curves on either end. A mile of white sand and fishing boats - there were no shacks or deckchairs this time - framed against a backdrop of disordered, disorganised, dark green trees.
After our swim and our beer, we decided to go to the other end of the beach to see if we could find any shacks that were open. HR remembered a shack set-up on Butterfly Island. (I discovered that day that what I thought was Butterfly Island wasn't Butterfly Island but I'm too old to change my ways). We went via the sea - sometimes walking, sometimes swimming. HR had boasted about his swimming abilities before and, unfortunately, I was able to witness them firsthand.
I'm not sure how to describe it accurately - let's just say that the only swimmers I've seen who are worse than HR, are the ones who can't swim at all. He looks like a dying fish when he swims. I was horrified and offered to teach him how to be more elegant, more graceful, less embarrassing to his companions...
"Stop suppressing my individuality," HR said, thrashing around. "I am unique, I am the master, I am -"
I ducked him.
Anyway to get back to what I was talking about, we reached Palolem's end. That section of the beach has a fresh-water thingamajig that you can walk across when the tide's low. When it isn't, you need to swim.
The tide was in at this time. Sort of in, anyway. HR had our phones and all our money so I was instructed to go in first.
"If you don't sink," HR said to me, "I'll follow you."
I tread the water cautiously. I didn't mind sinking, but I'm the sort of person who would easily step on a sharp rock and start bleeding to death - a circumstance I wanted to avoid. The water, at its highest point, only came up to my chest. I turned and waved at HR who began to cross, holding both phones and money aloft.
Because HR is a genius, he couldn't remember the path to the island. After a bit of scrambling around and searching, we found one, but it was blocked. So we had to go back down to the sea and walk along the edge. I carefully avoided the rocks again, this time because I saw a lot of dead fish washed up on them. Man, I would rather battle a shark than step on a dead fish. I'd rather battle three sharks. Battling sharks is one of the few things in life I'm confident about.
We climbed through a stone archway and I couldn't believe I hadn't been there before. The hill we were on was obviously a shack set-up, but closed now. So isolated from the rest of Palolem, so very beautiful, perched on a cliff, with uneven grass and low trees, overlooking the sea. I peered over the edge and saw many boulders that formed a path to it - a little like the rocks around Anjuna's lagoon, but what they led to - stray rocks right in water, with the waves lapping around them, and nothing ahead except an infinite sea - was even more appealing than that had been.
"I'm going to climb down to the rocks." I said to HR. "And I'm going to climb across them until I reach the edge."
"Alright," said HR agreeably. "Don't fall, don't hit your head, don't drown, don't -"
"I won't." I said, offended. "I've crossed tree-trunks over raging rivers, I've battled quick sand, I've survived drowning in the oceans of Indonesia, I've-"
"Of course you have." said HR obligingly. I scowled at him and made my way down as gracefully as possible which, between you and me, wasn't graceful at all.
The rocks were slippery. Also, because of reasons I won't go into, my balance is even worse than usual - I get dizzy more easily than I used to. So I had to climb over them like a spider, all arms and legs. First a leg here, then an arm there, then the realisation that I should have used a different limb, and a muttered curse, and then repeating the process all over again. I was nearly there when HR passed me, stepping from rock to rock with ease, for all the world as if he was on an evening stroll.
I comforted myself with the thought that while he had balance, I had hair. It wasn't comforting.
But I finally reached the rock I'd wanted to; there was one a little ahead with a patch of sea in between that I wanted to go to, but HR wouldn't let me. I stood on my rock and I looked out to the sea and I swear, there was absolutely nothing there, no boats, no birds (thank god). Just an endless shimmer of silver and blue and the setting sun.
I took in a deep breath of fresh sea-air and started coughing. I waited for the coughing fit to pass and took another deep breath. This time it lived up to the moment.
"I'm queen of the sea." I said, turning my head to look at HR.
And then we shared a cigarette in companionable silence and it was like we were the only two people on earth. But time was passing and evening was drawing near and we had to get back to Palolem before the tide came in even further. So then we made our way back and I wasn't Queen of the Sea anymore, I was the Fool on the Rocks.
As we crossed a stretch of sand, I noticed a dead eel lying near the shore. I don't think I've ever seen an eel before - dead or alive - so I got quite excited. They actually look quite ferocious but unfortunately this one, with its mouth open, looked a little retarded. No surprise that it was dead.
"Can I take the eel back with me?" I said to HR. Sometimes I get a little childish, okay, retarded, when I'm around HR, probably because he's six years older.
"No, you can't." He said firmly.
"But if I did, I could throw it at the client-servicing people in office."
"You are not taking a dead eel back to Bangalore."
"Can I throw it at the white people on the beach and make them scream?"
"What about the creepy Indian men who film the white people?"
As we were walking back to Silver Star, HR noticed some stone steps on the beach, leading to a garden with trees and two wooden shacks.
We went to see if they were open. The path was made of beer bottles planted firmly in the ground. I fell deeper in love with each step I took.
There was a man beating a broom energetically in the verandah of one of the shacks. I thought he was one of those foreigners who'd settled down to make a life in Goa, but once he started talking, I realised he was Goan Catholic. They usually look and sound extremely angry.
The Man (we learnt his name later) said that we could stay there, although he warned us that since the cafe/bar was shut, we'd have to get food and drink elsewhere. He showed us around. I'm putting up photos below this post because I can't describe how pretty the place was. And the detail - a painted cupboard here, a gorgeous big bed there, a desk I fell in love with - man, if I had a desk like that (and a personality change that would give me more focus), I'm sure I could churn out a novel.
He was charging us 1000 rupees and HR and I regretfully said we couldn't afford that. So he brought it down to 700 on account of how he "liked us". Hah. As if there were loads of people in Palolem clamouring for rooms.
"We have to stay at Silver Star tonight," HR told him. "But we'd love to come tomorrow."
"Ya. Come. Here's Dilip" - a dark man with a pony-tail and a shy smile had sauntered up to us - "He'll be around."
We went back to Silver Star in a very good mood. Our room looked particularly dingy after the gorgeous one we'd just seen but, as HR pointed out, it was just for a night. We rolled a joint and took a walk through the mini-forest that stretched behind Silver Star. And then we came back to our room and took a nap in preparation for the night of drinking that stretched before us.
And what a night that turned out to be.
To be documented in my next post - an unedited version, since my mother doesn't read this blog.
And here are the photos. They are quite pointless because they rotate wrong when I upload them here and Blogger won't let me rotate them, er, right. So if you want to actually see what they're like, you'll have to attempt to rotate your head.
I'll tell you about the cat later.