After leaving the 5 star opulence of Udaipur's Devi Garh Palace Fort hotel, we took a car ride back to reality. Beeping horns, driving on the wrong side of the road around blind hair pin corners, cows eating garbage literally in the middle of the road, people living in shanty towns - we headed for the next leg of our journey. Goa.
Two planes with a weird Tarmac driven interval between, we hoped that our baggage would follow us somehow (you'd hope it would, otherwise I was felt-up at the airport for nothing - behind a curtain, standing on a platform with a woman gently singing in that oh so creepy lullaby in the middle of a horror film kind of way) and we arrived at our destination. The air was tropical and the night was all around us. This would be the first real experience of being out after dark.
We wrangled a pre paid tourist car and after 45 mins of major roads and 15 mins of dirt tracked wrong turns, we cajoled our driver into not letting us wander into the dark path near the beach between huts alone, and finally we finally got in touch with the owner of the place we were staying so he could offer advice and directions - but he just happened to be in Mumbai, where we'd just come from. But eventually we touched down at The Elephant Art Cafe tents and villas.
Back in Melbourne when booking the first night in Goa we had opted for a tent. I thought it would be like the huts in Thailand. Close to the roar of the ocean, breezy and quaint.
It was not.
It was mildew and concrete. "Toilet" with no toilet paper (luckily I had a roll of 14 squares or so, lifted from a previous 2 star hotel - I'd only just relinquished the plush 3 ply roll mere hours before in the hope that not needing it before would be enough reason to ditch one supply), a shower reminiscent of the plastic variety I had growing up, but with a rusty shower head, missing tiles, no curtain or curtain rail and only a dribble of cold water reluctantly released in fits and starts. No matter. We were in Goa. It was Helen's suggestion that we use the sleeping liners we had both brought from home. Helen fully admits that she rolled her eyes at the suggestion when in the midst of packing at our plush apartment in Abbotsford, but that clean home seemed so far away right now, and the sleeping sheet might be the last bastion of hope in us ever seeing that place we call home again. The bed was dank, the room was damp - your basic juxtaposition from going from air-conditioned, marble floored staffed room service with a turn down option, to this - one step better from sleeping outside with the cows.
No matter we were in Goa. Bring on the relaxation!
We headed to the bar to check in where our passports were taken and we were told that we would probably get them back in the morning. Sure. That sounds reasonable. We'll trade them for two beers. We headed to the beach side lounges and relaxed after our journey. I had managed to pull a muscle in my lower shoulder so was administering beer to the mouth and ice to the back. A sure fire remedy from the days of yore. It was a genuine surprise when our hunger kicked in at 12:30am. 8pm airplane peanuts really leave a dent in your hunger. So we shared a plate of carbonara (no spice for one night, just something carb heavy to send us off to sweet slumber in the tent of darkness).
And so we did. We slept like filo pastry parcels in our bed liners, baking at a moderate heat, fan forced. Around 6 hours later we awoke to the sound of birds and other wildlife. Little did we know we were closer to nature than we first realised.
Helen took/braved the first shower whist I read up on the wonders of Goa and looked forward to the day. It was after all a quaint little room. A basic meeting of our Maslow requirements. Shelter... Well, that's it, really. It provided a thin mildewed separation from the air and elements outside.
Helen and I have never yearned for the pitter patter of tiny feet, and today we didn't have to. I heard Helen squeal like a girl. Which makes sense, she is after all a girl. But this was a higher pitched scream than that of "Ew. I dropped my shorts on the floor" or "Eek. The water is really cold". This squeal was far higher than that. And for good reason. She returned (more calmly than the situation called for) to inform me that a cockroach had appeared in the bathroom and started to climb her leg. Ugh. She looked okay though, had survived the ordeal with aplomb.
And so it was my turn. I hung my towel on the only hook next to one of the two big roaches she had seen. It didn't move so I felt okay about that one. Then Helen pointed out the other big one and the baby. They were milling around the floor. Apparently more afraid of me then me of them. So, I have to ask: why did one get into the shower with me and try and climb one, and then the other of my legs?!?! They genuinely seemed troubled by the water and I managed to usher one of them out of the shower. I stood upon the 1 inch gutter edge of the cubicle (uselessly) providing a differentiation between the decaying floor and the fetid plastic of the shower recess. It was a balancing act, a battle of wills as I kept my eyes on the roaches approaching from either side. They had multiplied in numbers. Three had become 5. Five had become 7. They were like prime numbers and I didn't like where this was going. And they were big. The word Xenomorph kept springing to mind. And they were like dogs, too. Rounding me up. Scratching their feelers with their hind legs. All this and I still wasn't actually having a shower/dribble. All soaped up with literally no where to go. I didn't have a leg to stand on - or rather, everywhere I stood there would be legs. Filthy, vile legs by the half dozen. Then I realised the problem. The water seemed to disturb them. Or rather, seemed to have awoken the nest that managed to squeeze themselves one by one through the drain cover. It was reminiscent of Starship Troopers and the only thing to steel my courage to get through this ordeal was the humourous tale this would make. Look on the bright side and all that.
I dressed. We packed. We marvelled at the what looked to be a rabid cat that had somehow appeared inside and then skulked out of the tent. We laughed about this turn of events and enquired about another room. We shall be moving after breakfast. A/C. Doors that lock. Pure white heaven we we come!
Epilogue: the next room was delightful. A first floor villa with a/c that lasted 5 minutes before it blew its own fuse, a shower with separate sink, a cupboard, a ceiling fan - pure luxury. And the rest of our stay at Elephant Art Cafe was simply amazing. Beer, beach, books, sun, sleeps, Jenga. Far less in tents.