A Pilgrimage to Goa

Goa, famed for its beaches, Portugese influence and hospitality is India’s favourite holiday destination and one of those places that has loomed large in my […]

Goa, famed for its beaches, Portugese influence and hospitality is India’s favourite holiday destination and one of those places that has loomed large in my life for many years. In the late 80’s and early nineties it was the place everyone seemed to disappear to and come back with new beats, ideas and psychedelic inspiration. Much of the trance music and associated symbologies that I have been promoting, listening and partying to ever since, draws its origins and inspiration from that time and place.

In Rishkesh, one of our fellow yogi aspirants, psy trance DJ (Lusid), psychic alchemist and our favourite Indian – Rohan, had pointed us to Chakra View. A 3 day ecological festival in the jungles around Goa featuring a great musical line-up, yoga and meditation – it seemed like the perfect way to engage with the Goa of my youthful imaginings. So after a brief civilizing experience in Delhi hosted by Rohan, we booked our festival tickets, accommodation and cut short some of our planned Rajasthan tour in order to get to Goa in time. And then just at our most planned and organized, Goa pounced and stripped us bare! Mid way through our 12 hour train journey from Mumbai the phone started buzzing – politics had kicked in, the police weren’t on side, the festival was cancelled and by the time our train reached Goa the phone was almost dead, the party had changed locations 3 times and we, completely at her mercy were shuffling Goan train stops with each new update.

Eventually we alighted in Chapora, rented a scooter and found a quaint shack behind a funky beach café in Morjim, just south of Aranbol with some of Rohan’s other Indian friends. Comfortably located amongst a swarm of Russian beach tourists (no-one ever told me about that) and close to the last suggested location of the migratory festival, we dived into the pristine waters and relaxed on the beach, waiting for the next move. The festival, as with many things to good to be true,  never happened of course despite several more attempts and the longer we stayed in Goa the more we understood that this was how things usually work here. No-one could remember the last time there was ever a 3 day festival in Goa. Our foolish enthusiasm in buying tickets / accommodation in advance nicely contrasted the Japanese organisation and security of our recent experiences, with all of India’s special quirks. In the first 3 days alone several other parties were cancelled with numerous others popping up instantly to take their place. The initial frenetic mobile viral network that greeted us just kept evolving and almost without realizing it we became seduced by the chase of the party itself and capturing the underground buzz.

Goa has many faces and obviously as rewards its popularity, many more than we actually got to experience. We based ourselves in Northern Goa entirely throughout, where there are a plethora of clubs, night markets, shops and cafes all designed to cater to the Goan trance and hippy scene. A strange insulated bubble in the Indian experience – meat dishes and wine flow freely and there always seems to be a beat in the background here somewhere, anytime of day. Joints flow freely in the restaurants and chillums on the dance floor and the place is awash with LSD – definitely a one drug town. Many of the markets, clubs and bars still have glowing salutes and remnants of their heydays in the late 80’s – fluro escher like designs in the ceilings and old hippies in all the garb. Around Anjuna and Chapora the party folk congregate during the evenings, waiting news of the latest updates, regaled in all their funky, fashionable tribal best. The parties, like the music are always full power and relentless, though much less psychedelic and fluoro tipped than of old. Many of the bars shut at 10pm and move indoors now and you have to bike-up to travel to the more remote, underground destinations in order to get a full night / outdoor experience. Fleets of trancers on motorbikes and scooters brave the dark labyrinth of roads, villages and their own respective states at night getting to and from parties. For the first few days this was a completely disorientating and nerve racking process – slow, steady and at times completely lost, but after a week, we too were pro’s.

And of the Goan parties – after the seemingly endless chases and disappointments of the first few days we started to find ones with music that really worked for us and by the end of our 2 week stay we were firmly in its clutches. Days were spent recovering on the beach and perfecting the first semblance of a tan that I have perhaps had in 15 years (Set bizarrely amongst Russian supermodel wives in bikini’s, their kids and Indian sari clad nannies). While each evening seemed to produce an even better party than the last – a subtle conspiracy designed to keep us there just that little bit longer. The parties themselves are fascinating in that Indian way and probably best defined by Shiva Valley, next to Curly’s on the beach in Anjuna. While a truly global citizenry dance the night way, swarms of enterprising Indians work the periphery. Everything is always instantly on hand and a seemingly endless stream of young male faces appear out of the dark in front of you proffering anything that might be needed that moment – water, food, cigarettes, glow sticks and the rest. At the same time, mothers and grandmothers guard comfortably, thatched squares on the surrounding sand and sell chai, rolling papers and food to any escapee’s from the dance floor that happen to wander by chasing a moments’ respite.

Amid all the other party tourists, our experience was made most especially magic through Rohan and his network of Indian friends – old Goan pro’s from their university days treating the occasion as a reunion (Andy, Sid, Viru, Aditi, Praveen et al – big shout outs and thanks!), as well as an Australian couple, Lucy and Adam who we merged paths with for our post Goa recovery. Totally well hosted, crewed and sorted on all fronts, we got an insiders, Indian perspective of the Goa scene – a fantastic way to really connect and bond with some locals on the same, shared wavelength and hopefully make some friends for life!

And after almost 2 weeks of searching we did find our ultimate Goan party; a mix of progressive and intelligent psy-trance at “Club West End”, a beautiful Portugese style old mansion with an outdoor dance floor and a pool, secluded in its own discrete valley and featuring a more refined crowd. After an all day marathon we were well spent and in its wake the remaining crew began to slowly break-up – ultimately succumbing to those compelling, but increasingly unheeded calls for a return to reality. Reluctantly and with considerable reticence on our own part, we too caste aside Goa’s spell and managed to plan our escape as well, keen to clear the head again and strangely seeking a holiday from Goa’s relentless cycles of pursuit. I somehow suspect that we will be back at some point though 😉