The next day, we had our night bus to Goa. As we left Mumbai, we watched the city lit up with firecrackers, including many which were far too close to the bus for my comfort! In any case, I was feeling very excited to see the ocean the next day but my excitement waned after two flat tires and a four hour delay on our broken down bus. We finally arrived in Goa in the late afternoon. After some quick research in an air-conditioned cafe (the luxury!) to figure out what beach we wanted, we took a local bus down the coast. An hour later, we realized we had gone the wrong way and had to retrace our steps. As the sun was setting, we found ourselves at Vagator Beach, which was not exactly where we had wanted to be but close enough. We then set on the hunt for a guesthouse. Clean and cheap guesthouses are hard to find but cheap happened to be our bottom line, so we settled for a filthy room complete with roaches in the bathroom and sandy sheets. We reassured ourselves that we would find a new place in the morning and brushed off the bed. The next day we awoke in time to greet the other early risers on the beach, the cows, and to take a walk along the surf. Then we headed to a veg restaurant (finally!) called Bean Me Up. We weren’t sure if the place still existed or if it would be open since it wasn’t high season yet, but we had our bags with us on the hot beach so I elected myself to walk ahead without the baggage and check it out. After an hour of searching in the hot humid sun, I found my place. By then I was out of water and of courses hadn’t thought to bring money. I looked anxiously at the menu and wished I had money to get a drink then but promised the woman I’d be back.
A hard sweaty walk later, and Julian and our new French friend settled down at Bean Me Up. I ordered a mango lassi with soy milk and was posing for a photo with it when a giant black bee stung me on my knee. I started screaming which caused Julian to yell at me to be quiet–the dense boy did not understand the source of my pain!–and a man came out of nowhere with some sort of balm to calm down the bite. I relaxed and dried my tears and Julian apologized too and then our food arrived. Phew. traumatic beginning to the meal! but still, yum. Bean Me Up makes all sorts of soy products so I had a plate full of tempeh, tofu, homemade mayonnaise and a salad. It was fairly tasty though I missed tasting Indian spices!
After a hot day in Goa, we decided Goa wasn’t for us so we decided to just leave early and take an overnight bus to Bangalore where we could attend a vegan meet-up taking place the next day. This time, we upgraded to a semi-sleeper AC bus and we were shocked at the quality of the bus. I mean, we had clean blankets, reclining chairs, movies, and AC. I know I should say that as a hardened traveler, I am now immune to the Westernized luxuries but I was incredibly grateful to buy a night of comfort on that bus. We vowed to return again to this bus company for our next trip.
Once we arrived at In the Pink, no joke, the name of the all organic veg restaurant, we knew we had made the right decision. It was gourmet food (Ban)galore. Stuffed ravioli, hummus and falafel, Indian dishes, and dessert! Ice cream and pudding plus fruit. We lucked out in another way too– we were sitting by ourselves and a friendly woman named Carol started talking to us. After a few minutes she asked where we were staying and we said we still didn’t know and she immediately offered her place saying she had an extra room and they loved having guests. Wow. We felt so lucky! Especially since Carol, her husband Sujoy and their adorable three-year-old daughter Nikita were such a sweet vegan family. After the amazing gorge-fest and a screening of Forks over Knives, the die-hards and activists socialized for a while longer. It was SO refreshing to be back in with a vegan crowd and especially vegan activists! We started talking about activist strategies and they told me about their plans to leaflet in a mall, and showed me this handy booklet on milk consumption in India that one community member made. Then the talk turned to vegan foods and restaurants around the world, and Julian and I felt right at home.
We spent the next two days eating delicious Indian food, making pancakes and freedom toast, playing card games, watching movies, getting to know Carol, Sujoy and their friends, and adoring little Nikita. It was the first time on our trip that I felt truly “at home” like I could move into this community given the congeniality of this group of friends. Our last night was Halloween, and I got to go trick-or-treating around with Nikita and Carol. Nikita was scared of her friends in costumes, and refused to wear her own, so she instead wore a typical Nikita outfit with frills, a garden of pinks and purples, and butterflies which was undeniably cute-as-cute-could-be. I felt so old witnessing the excitement of the children running from doorbell to doorbell. Nikita began the evening scared of accepting candy but soon blossomed into a diehard candy collector chiming in with her sweet “trick or treat!” with the rest of the children. My heart was touched when Carol asked Nikita to share some of her candy with children of an Indian worker family who were sitting silently in the dark street watching the ghouls and witches pass. An hour later, we were scarfing down delicious vegan Chinese food as the taxi arrived to take us to our next bus to Chennai, and I had tears in my eyes as we hugged our new friends good-bye.