I got back from class and I see Vikram waiting in the living room with my friend Lauren.
Plans have changed. We must leave now.
There are 30,000 pilgrims coming through Pune and the police will be closing all the roads. If we don’t leave now, we won’t be able to leave.
Oh, we are going to my house; my wife is making us lunch.
We get to Vikram’s house. I am so glad Lauren is with me because she has the ‘gift of gab’ (as my mom used to say) and I on the otherhand have no idea what to say! His family is so wonderful and his wife is an incredible cook. One thing I noticed in India is everyone really wants to continue to feed you long after you have become full. I had several servings of everything!
Lauren stays behind to wait for her driver to take her to the airport and I continue on my way to Diveagar. The scenery is incredible and Vikram stops many times for me to take photos.
When I asked Vikram to plan this trip, I asked to visit a non-commercial, rural area of the Konkan coast. The only criterion I gave him was I needed my own bathroom. In retrospect, I should have asked for a shower, soap and towels. However, after the initial mini-jolt of surprise realizing I had just a bucket and a faucet for my bathing facilities, I rolled with it.
The owners made an amazing fresh-caught fish and prawn dinner. It has taken some getting used to eating properly in India. Not using my left hand has proved most problematic (being a south-paw) and using chapati as a scoop to pick up food takes some practice. In more rural areas you eat your rice with your fingers. How is it possible that everyone around me stays neat without using utensils and I look like most two year olds after a meal?
Unlike the other areas I visited, most people are not happy to see a foreigner in town. They want the extra income of tourists because their crops can only sustain them for 4 to 6 months during the year, but they don’t want this quiet village to become another Goa.
Vikram showed me one of the nearby beaches. I asked him if the water was calm and he said, “Yes, yes, very calm.” So when I got to the beach and saw six foot waves somehow I wasn’t surprised. Since I wasn’t sure of the bathing suit protocol in India, I took off by myself as far away from others as I could get and jumped in. I can’t say it was swimming exactly, more like jumping up in the air every 30 seconds to avoid being knocked down by the large waves. The water was incredibly warm and the mountains surrounding the beach were beautiful.
When I came back from my swim Vikram said. “I saw you go under. I thought you were gone.”
The next morning I got up very early and went off by myself to explore the town and return to the beach. It was so peaceful. No car noises or horns, the air was fresh from the recent rains, everything was green.
I walked on the beach for a while then some men whistled to get my attention. When I turned around, they waved me over and made a hand signal for a camera. I didn’t really know what they wanted but when I got over to them they were pointing to something on the ground. It was a 3 foot (maybe larger) venomous sea snake. It had recently eaten a meal and was digesting it on edge of the shore.
I think the men expected me to scream, because they seemed very surprised when I started to take photos and were horrified when I got within a couple of feet of it. They were trying to tell me it was poisonous (this I already knew so I was being cautious). I would have loved to get a photo of me holding it, (they have very small fangs) but my brain kept me from doing anything too stupid and I was content to leave it on the ground to digest its food.
Later that morning Vikram took me to another beach and we found an unfortunate sea turtle. A predator, possibly a shark, took both its front flippers. Although the wounds had healed, the turtle had been unable to swim fast enough to catch fish and was slowly starving to death. It was so thin it was heartbreaking but there was nothing I could do to help it.
We drove further down the beach and Vikram hung out while I enjoyed the waves some more and watched the bald eagles fly overhead.
It was my last adventure in India and my mind is turning toward my return trip home. It’s been an amazing ride in this beautiful country and I hope to return in the not too distant future.