The Adventures of Two Old Hippies in India; Searching for Bliss Ananda PT5.
April 23, 2023
ARAMBOL DECEMBER 2022
And so, it continued, because the next day I was to meet yet another extraordinary guy.
I enjoyed going to the Secret Garden in the mornings because it’s cool, quiet, and the Wi-Fi works great. I liked to go there to eat their gorgeous food for breakfast and then settle down to writing my book with the soft sounds of a live acoustic musician playing in the background.
This particular morning, a Saturday, the place was very busy. After I walked around searching for a spare table, I quickly realised there wasn’t one. I then spotted a guy sitting in the corner at a table on his own and asked if I could join him; he smiled and said ‘of course’. This gentleman had long white hair with a topknot and a neatly trimmed full beard. He was sitting smiling and staring at a shot glass full of a yellow/green liquid. Speaking in a strong French accent, he proclaimed: ‘not sure, Leroy said it would be good for me’. The owner of Secret Garden, Leroy then joined us at the tables, ‘go on Pierre, it won’t kill you, it has black pepper, turmeric and loads of ginger, good for ya stomach and throat; down it man’.
Leroy, owning a strong east London accent has set up and run Secret Garden since 1982. Leroy has the face of a boxer, a large flat nose and perturbing brow, his blonde hair is long and his Hawaiian short-sleeved shirts make him look like an extra from the ‘Mosquito Coast’ movie. He is a warm and friendly people person who says he left the UK to get away from the likes of Margaret Thatcher. He bought the land where Secret Garden is situated and built it up from scratch; such a unique little oasis was always going to do well and is still going strong to this very day.
Pierre downs the shot and pulls a face, ‘um, not sure Leroy, really not sure.’ Leroy explains the health benefits of the potion and then, after hearing me coughing, insists I have one on the house too. I agree and Pierre looks at me and laughs. As Leroy leaves to get me my shot, as well as the rest of my breakfast, Pierre notices the book I am reading, ‘Vagabonding’ by Rolf Potts, and asks what it’s about. I tell him it is a book I have read five times and it is like a bible for long term travellers. Not only does it give you inspiration to hit the road and explore the world but it also explores the self and ‘who’ we are, our mindset around life, and about really living life to the full.
Pierre quips, ‘I don’t need a book to tell me that, when I first came to India it was obviously a place I needed to be. Its spirituality and warmth are very addictive, so in 1982 I gave up all my other addictions, drinking alcohol, eating meat and smoking, I packed in my job in France, packed my bags and came to Goa for good. I meditate every day on the beach and live a good life living on my savings and retirement money; I have found my Bliss.
I looked at him, his laughter lines, his generous smile and knew he meant it; what an inspiration. My turmeric shot arrives, given to me by a beaming Leroy, ‘down in one’, he says, so I do; I love it, the black pepper and ginger soothing my scratchy throat.
That night I went to watch some live music at ‘This Is It’ Bar; a really nice psychedelic Indian band were playing. I initially got talking to an Israeli man called Guy who had rejected his strict Jewish upbringing and become a travelling hippie. He said his family had more or less accepted his choice now, but it hadn’t been easy. After he left, I sat nearer the stage to watch the band. That’s when I met Bo and Maya, a couple travelling together around the globe. Bo is a blonde, dreadlocked American, rather rough sounding, but with a jovial upbeat manner. Maya, his girlfriend/friend (I was never sure) is German, short brown hair and much quieter than her Bo. They had been travelling the world for some time now and were having a great experience. Bo asked if I wanted to join them and so I did, beginning a fun but drunken evening. We arranged to meet the next day for sunset which I agreed to with a pinch of salt; these travelling encounters rarely last for very long, but I was wrong on this occasion, I was to bump into these two time and again in Goa.
After Bo and Maya left, I started making my way back to my hotel, but as I passed another bar, I saw a French guy I had spoken to the night before after asking if I could stroke his beautiful mastiff dog. He said, “hey Steve, come and join us”. I was a little apprehensive joining a table of strangers, French speaking strangers at that, but I decided why not and joined them, ordering a gin and tonic. They all turned out to be lovely and I got to know them well over the next few days. They too had been travelling the world, but their journey had come to a pause when Mattia, a blonde, upbeat lady with large round spectacles, had fallen from her top bunk and broken her leg. They were now chilling in Arambol until she healed enough to continue their journey, such a lovely collective attitude.
When I got back to my hotel room, rather drunk, I lit a spliff and checked my phone. Deanna, an American member of my Hippie Kushi Facebook community had messaged me. She was in Arambol and wanted to invite me to ‘Twice by Nature’ a live music venue, which had an open mic night the next evening. I said sure. It was my last night in Arambol before I moved on. I knew that the French guys, as well as Bo and Maya were going to be there to, so it would be a fun night.
I slept like a log that night and felt much better for it the next morning. I decided to do a rekey of where my next accommodation was in Arambol after I came back here for New Year and to meet Steve when he finally arrived. I was about to travel down to beautiful Benaulim village in the south for the Christmas period and would be back in Arambol after that.
A walk along the hot beach revealed my next accommodation to be some lovely beach huts. The owner was super nice and showed me inside one. The cost was low here too, not like my accommodation in Benaulim which was going to be the most expensive of the whole trip because of it being Christmas week (£27 a night); but I would enjoy the luxury, as after that Steve and I would be bumming it around the rest of India on the cheap.
Once I got back, I caught up on a little writing before getting ready for the big open mic night. After a few beers I made my way up to the venue and found the French travellers on the street corner leading up to Twice by Nature. We said hello warmly and all walked up together. The place was already quite busy, but we found some nice seats and ordered some beers. Then Deanna, the American lady from my Facebook group came over and said hi. I had not met her in person before, we had only spoken via the group. She had bleached blonde hair and a friendly disposition. Its always nice when people who follow my blog and my Facebook community come over and say hello in person. We spoke for a while and swapped some tips on travel.
After she returned to her seat the music began, and oh what a night. The charming ageing hippie host introduced two folk guitarists, then a guy who sounded like Richie Havens, a Russian folk group, an American cabaret singer, and an amazing Indian psychedelic rock band. We stood and danced and cheered, much beer was drunk, and joints smoked. It was a fantastic friendly evening and I loved it. Afterwards Guy, the Jewish hippie, came back to mine for more beer and conversation about his life in Israel. I can only imagine what compulsory military service is like for a free-spirited hippie. It’s always great meeting all these people from around the world; it gives you a personal insight into different cultures.
“You should feel beautiful, and you should feel safe. What you surround yourself with should bring you peace of mind and peace of spirit.”
The next morning, with a heavy head and fully loaded backpack, I climbed into a taxi and said goodbye to Arambol for now; it was time to go to beautiful Benaulim in the South of Goa.