The sun is just setting on Paradise Beach, an orange sphere lending the Sea of Araby an oriental glow. This is being accentuated by Nedev, one of the annual ‘family’ that spend some of their travelling days in this place. He is playing a 72-string persian instrument called a Santur – each of the eighteen main channels is split into four steel wires as the western 12-strings are split into two. He is playing them with two metal sticks & the sound is just divine. I’m sitting in Muli’s restaurant, which dominates the central rocky outcrop that divides the beach. A couple of years ago I was here & really loved his chubby wife’s prawn curry. ‘How is your wife,’ I asked respectfully – ‘O, she died in a house fire in September,’ he said solemn faced, & proceeded to show me the scars on his hands & belly. I didn’t know what to say. I just gave him a wee hug. Then my mate Fee tells me that he’d probably kerosened his wife cos he was fed up with her, apparently a common event on Gokarna! Either way, the moody fat controller that I encountered two years ago is like a little lambkin, happy as larry.
I met Fee, or fi-asco as her friends call her, in Goa two winters back. She’s a mad wee lesbo & a founder member of the hippies that first came to Paradise, ten years ago. Arriving with her I’d felt like royalty, & this time, arriving without her, was no different. The Indians here who run the restaurants & beach huts are proper sound people, & all of them have shown me a strong familial warmth. We are staying in a large round hut that stands at the far southern pioint of the delicious beach, & is in fact the last hut in Gokarna. Me & Charle have matresses on level areas hewn from the rock, seperated by this main mountain range painted white. Fee has slung up her hammock from the central pole, & sleeps in its lazy arc like lavae in a split cocoon. It has been great getting to know Fee – she lives in Cornholm, a 6-mile hike over the Redrose moorland borders from my dad’s pad in Burnley. This also puts her within a late-night drunken walk home from the women’s disco in Hebden Bridge, Britain’s top party destination for lesbians.
The whole island is about 6k-3k square, half of which is luscious jungle & the other rough red scrubland peppered with black volcanic rocks. The coastal strip is dotted with coves, from the huge boob-shaped expanse of Om Beach, to the quietitude of Half-Moon Beach. They are fill’d with scantily-clad ladies, hung like flocks of the golden fleece, daring argonauts to pluck them as we pass. The beaches spread out from Gokarna town, one of the holiest spots in India. Yestreday, after following Fee through half-lost paths in te ejungle, we came across the town & its wonderful water-ghat which I’d missed last time. Sat on the steps were four young Brahmin adepts, knelt cross-legged, their right hand on the guy in front of them’s shoulder, & all four were repeating, word-by-word, the song-chant of their bearded teacher. A very amazing scene.
I’d swam to Half Moon today from Paradise, with an Israeli lady called Suree, who proudly states her age as 38 & a half. Her Jewishness is apparent in both her bisuness acumen – renting out properties sends her round the world – & her nose. She is a very warm lass to be around, smoking weed & playing chess furiously. So I played her, beat her & agreed to become her teacher, Karate Kid style. Today’s lesson involved a kilometer swim round the green warm waters that fringe the coast – she was third best backstroke swimmer u-15s in Israel, apparently – & I was amazed at her practically effortless stroke, especially as she had a plastic bag with chess pieces, board, weed & water tied to her legs. Its great fun swimming with a lady in a bikini, stealing furtive glances of her breasts or watching the watre roll off her sinewy back. At Half Moon the restaurant was being built, a 60-year old landlady smoothing off the cement that gets ruined with each annual monsoon. In fact, most of Paradise is still being built, & its nice to have the place at such an easy pace.
After the chess, the swim back was lovely; doplhins flipping flippers, lone butterflies fluttering over the waves, sea eagles skirmishing above us & out at sea the lightning bolts of a distant storm. Great conditions to write in, with the seawaves accompanying every sound. Being here has chilled me out big time, & what was a couple of weeks ago going to be a furious writing expedition, has now turned out into a sonnet every few days – its gonna be good to digest the food, like these wicked coconut lassis I seem to be addicted to. After getting over the initial shocks, even Charlie’s starting to mellow out & is smitten with the sheer gorgeousness of the place…