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Trance and truffles

Goa is a captivating bubble of a state, it wrestles with your newfound Indian sensibilities, and throws them to the wayside. I’m staying on Vagator Beach, home of the infamous Disco Valley and open-air 48 hour raves. The party is still here, albeit slowly bleeding away with each passing year.

In Goa trance is king, and even though the genre peeked in the late 90s, the synths are still pumping away, sledgehammers that refuse to stop. I used to like trance once (see Ottawa, Atomic), but now I favor music of a less throbential bent. People come here from all over to set sail in the flotilla of drugs and alcohol, partying until the sun rises again.

Disco Valley

I’ve spent four days now attempting to blend in with the Nu Hippy crowd, misfit Trent Reznor beastmasters, with nests of dreadlocked hair, and fresh om tattoos. I destroyed whatever hippy cred I had when I wore my Indian shirt and Arabian pants my first night out. Mikey, a sun-weary Irishman, who’s been landlocked in Goa since 1994 put me in my place immediately.

“Ok, here’s the deal. You gotta look at what the locals are wearing. T-shirt, shorts, that’s what you need, ok? You look like a tourist. ” By locals, Mikey obviously meant him and his fellow land-claimers. Indians were nowhere to be seen.

I struck up a conversation with Truffle, a wild-eyed drug-dealer from Brighton, UK, who gave me some lessons on travel arrangements. “You see that travel agent around the bend? If you go in there, and say you want a trip to Bangalore, they’ll give you an eight-ball of coke”. I asked him what happens if someone actually wanted to fly to Bangalore. Truffle froze, and looked at me as if his brain had just divided by zero.

Mikey had now picked up the conversational theme. “Traveling from place to place doesn’t work, OK? You have to stay in one place to understand things, OK?. Stay in Goa, it’s a great half-way place to get yourself acquainted with India,” he said, taking a drag from his hash pipe. “And never ever compromise. You can’t give up on certain things.” Smoke seeped heavy around his soapbox.

These guys, particularly Mikey, were starting to get on my nerves. They had a cliquey way of talking, and their whole cynicism of travel got to me. People like Mikey who stay indefinitely in one place have chosen cool and sweet stasis over movement. They all have a disaffection with the world they left, but that world keeps on moving, and here life is a 24 hour party stuck on repeat.

A weedy 40+ man named Jimmy with tufts of hair sticking out of his tank top came up to me. “This isn’t real,” he said with a mischievous grin. “A lot of people here have fake names. They have their Goa life, and their regular life”.

I looked around at the hash-filled clouds and saw Russians, Israelis, Brits, but still no Indians. Apparently there is a new nationality that invades Goa each year. The last couple of years its been the Russians; One guy wrote a book, which in turn resulted in more Russians. Truffle bounced over. “We call the Russians mushrooms because that way they don’t know we’re talking about them. We used to call the Israelis alphas.”

Now this was a new level of cliqueness - these guys actually concocted entire coded conversations about someone without that person knowing. On the other hand, each year the world gets a little different, and perhaps the other world, outside Goa, is having its own conversation, and Mikey, Truffle and Jimmy, codeless, are none the wiser.


I’m leaving Goa today and heading to Hampi to see the Vijayanagara ruins. From there I take a sleeper bus back to Goa, then a 30 hour ‘express’ train up to Dehli.

And yes, I ended up spotting Truffle once more a couple of days later, but it looked like he had just gotten back from Bangalore so I let him be.

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