Arambol, North Goa
27.02.2014 - 05.03.2014 31 °C
As we've checked out of our hotel room and are spending the day readily awaiting our overnight train to Mumbai, I thought I had better blog about our time here in Arambol.
Arambol is one of Goa's northernmost beaches. We decided to spend our second week in Goa here after being warned off the lively area of Anjuna. We'd read of Arambol being one of Goa's best beaches and a popular place for yoga.
Craving some routine and also some exercise, we decided to enroll in a 5 day course at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre. We had never experienced Iyengar yoga, but it was the most recommended in our guidebook so we thought we'd give it a go.
The centre was in fact a small bamboo village comprising of a few large huts where practise took place and a series of smaller huts for accommodation. We enrolled with the friendly Indian man at the office hut, where we had to fill out a lengthy form detailing our background and any medical problems. The rules for course attendees seemed rather strict, stating we were not to sit in the sun for long periods, nor eat before practise, or have late nights, or drink alcohol. We were a bit dubious as to what the course would be like, but we were ready for some openminded commitment.
Arambol's beach is the longest we've visited in India, although slightly less busy than Palolem. There's a lot of Russians and the travellers are those free hippy types, who never wear sandals and dress in dirty frills. The main road stretching from the beach is lined with stalls selling clothes and crafts, and is named "Glastonbury street" after the Birtish festival. The food places are less impressive than we've seen previously in India, with many of them serving the same average, but very cheap, meals.
Our days were spent partaking in the yoga course from 8-11.30, and then filling our hungry bellies, lounging in the shade, people watching or reading our books. (Dan finally managed to find the second Game of Thrones book after finishing the first a few weeks ago. He dragged me to every book shop, stall and resturant used book area searching for the damn thing!) One afternoon we also walked the north cliff edge to a smaller, quieter beach where there was a huge freshwater lake leading into the jungle. It was so picturesque!
The yoga was not like any other yoga we'd done before. Whilst the Ashtanga and Haha yoga we've tried out have many similarities, Iyengar yoga is all about finding balance in the body. The focus is on the feet, learning the perfect way to stand and using these as an anchor which align the rest of the body. There were no sun salutations, deep stretches or challenging strength postures. Instead, we were taught how to stretch our toes, to use the centres of our heels, and to reflect on the way this changed the rest of the body's positioning. Iyengar yoga doesn't rely on just a mat. These yogis believe in using a huge range of cushions, belts, and blankets until you are completely comfortable and can stay in a given position for as long as 20 minutes.
And that was that. Each lesson was spent practising our standing postures, and then our relaxing postures, along with a series of spine twists, back bends, and inverted shoulder stands. We're were supposed to relax in each pose, but our slouched, tense and inflexible areas meant it was impossible to remain comfortable for more than 5 minutes and no amount of "concentrating on the breath" could stop us focusing on the pain and longing for the teacher to declare we could move. Dan was often using tens of blankets and cushions piled high into the sky, a funny sight for those of us who are a bit more flexible and could manage with just a couple. Yet he still complained about how uncomfortable he had been once the class was over. Haha!
It's safe to say we have left the course feeling sceptical and confused. The yogi told us that all other yoga types are bad for us and we should only practise Iyengar. Much the same as all other yoga teachers we've met. Who the hell are we supposed to believe? Iyengar was in the most part boring and uncomfortable, but we both feel the benefits it's had on our body.
Every sunset Arambol beach was, like Gokarna, filled with travellers practising all sorts of magic tricks. We would call it "wizard o'clock", when we would sit on the beach and watch the dancing, juggling, martial arts, and acrobatics unfold around us. This was also the time when the travellers stalls were set up on the beach, where people from all over the world would sell their crafts - the most amazing handmade jewellery!
The last things to mention are our current emotions. We've witnessed horrible sights throughout our journey so far, as you would expect in India, but some things have occurred over the last few days which have stuck in our mind and we have discussed at length on our strolls along the beach..
One early morning on our walk through the backstreets to the yoga village, we heard a loud crash and turned just in time to see an Indian man being knocked from his moped by a taxi. He flew through the air and landed with an almighty thud onto his bike. The taxi had a huge dent in its side. We panicked. We were a distance of around 20 metres away, and a handful of passers by had already rushed to help. We were helpless anyway. So pressed on to our yoga class. But it was the first road accident we've witnessed so far, and we couldn't stop wondering if that man was okay.
We have also seen injuries obtained from road accidents here during Amiee's follow up appointment at the hospital. We were sat waiting for the blood results when an Indian man with a bandage on his eye came to talk to us. He was asking lots of questions and offered us a drink which he paid for from the hospital canteen. Not wanting to seem rude, we accepted and chatted with him for a while, although we were very dubious as to whether he was after something from us. He and his wife had been in a very bad car accident where the car had rolled numerous times. His wife was upstairs in their room at the hospital and he kept asking if we wanted to go and wait for our results there. We had our big backpacks with us and we're still quite dubious, so Amiee offered to go and say hello to his wife while Dan stayed with the bags. He said she was getting lonely as she couldn't leave the room and she was upset from the accident, plus the hospital had lots of security guards everywhere. Upon entering their room, the injuries to the ladies face grabbed my attention straight away. Her mouth was cut to pieces, with long incisions on either side of her mouth. She was unable to smile, although I don't even think she was happy to see me anyway. She looked completely depressed. She talked about the accident and how she was just grateful to have such a wonderful husband who looked after her.. although I immediately sensed some sarcasm there. I felt pretty uncomfortable perched on the bed next to hers. They spoke amongst themselves in Hindi for a a few moments and seemed to be bickering. Then the lady suddenly started to punch her husband and her eyes filled with tears. She repeatedly hit at him with every bit of energy she had on her injured body whilst he just laughed and made out like she was crazy. She was crying, telling me that this man beats her. Even since her injuries he was beating her in hospital. I had no idea what to do. It just wasn't my business. And the man was now pushing me out of their room and then he locked the door behind me. I thought about telling a security guard. But was it really my business?
Domestic violence is illegal at home, and we're are often made aware that it is more common than we think. We will never really know what happens behind closed doors. But in India, a wife is treated more as a husband's possession, and many locals will not intervene in domestic violence.
One more incident which happened last night.. A man was publicly beaten on the beach by a group of older Indian men with bamboo sticks. They took his bag and then persisted to hit him so hard with the sticks that his head began to bleed and he screamed out in pain. Lost of tourists, including us, ran over and tried to help. The locals were shouting that he had hit a young boy and that he should be punished. Eventually, a Russian family who had seen the incident managed to talk the locals out of beating the man and he ran as fast as he could down the beach, escaping the beating.
Our morals are constantly being questioned here. We were instantly asking ourselves that if the man had really hurt a child, did he still deserve that beating? Nevertheless it was a horrible thing to witness.
I guess whilst we are looking forward to venturing up north, we are also aware that this things will be much more common. We are going to see a lot of pain and suffering and even death. And we don't know how to prepare ourselves. It isn't our country. It isn't our culture. And we are helpless.
I guess we're a little nervous to arrive in Mumbai..