This was just one of those days of the week where no matter how shit it seemed to get, it all just rolled into place, step-by-step, from ride-to-ride. Between two beards. Read more on The Good Men Project.
The day Animal was stolen from a beer festival. Read how it unfolded on The Good Men Project
Ah, Lusaka. A city of amazing people. But this was just the landing point. Nothing like a barmaid to explain how a certain profession operates after a certain hour. And with such venom, too! Read more on The Good Men Project to find out the rest.
Extending a visa can be a bureaucratic nightmare. But if you make an adventure of it, it can be a very amusing day for ya. Read more on The Good Men Project
Crocodiles. The last dinosaurs on earth. Hardly a change in them in the 200 million years they’ve been around.
And one of the few animals I personally would never fuck with. They have absolutely no fear, even when caught in a tug-o’war deep within a hippo pod.
Read more on The Good Men Project
Nice to be reminded of the dangers of Africa’s animals. This is one run-in with a baboon that I’ll never forget. And the greatest warning I’ve ever received when it comes to elephants. Read more on The Good Men Project.
When I began to realise the influence of Africa’s former colonisers and began to structure my philosophy to what it is today – that we are all nothing more than hu-man. Read more on The Good Men Project
“Come any time, grab a board and hit the waves,” Edy offered.
I couldn’t believe it. At the time, I was teaching surfing at place that took advantage of my volunteering bartering ways, so I quit and found Edy, then based at Pink Orange but now based at Sea Bird Beach Cafe in Morjim, North Goa.
I know what you’re thinking: India and surfing? This pizza-sliced shaped nation is surrounded by water so yes, India and surfing. On the east coast you have the Bay of Bengal which produces some gnarly waves as Appu, India’s surf champ (placed first in 2016 and third in 2017) and owner\operator of Ocean Delight Surf School in Kovalam, described the right-handers to be, “Big, man. Some days we get 6-foot, some days it can be 10, up near Madras.”
On the other side of the sub-continent, you have the Arabian Sea where during monsoons it is impossible to even approach the water let alone think about going in. The undertow would suck you in like a crocodile taking a zebra and spit you out somewhere along Somalia’s coast in a flash.
But during the season, which tends to kick off around September and last through until June-July, the waves are perfect for beginners. Easy going, chunky and rarely exceed the 2-foot marker.
Except when a cyclone hits as it did this year and produced some 10-footers with fast-paced barrels as Swapnil, Edy’s teaching partner experienced.
Which is why Goa and Edy’s surf school – Octopus Surf – is the best place to learn how to tame the most powerful element on our planet – water.
“I love octopus,” Edy explained the origins of the name. “Fascinating creatures.”
Goa’s abundant beach breaks make it a safe spot to learn with nothing but sand to brace your wipeouts. It’s shallow for up to about a hundred meters out and the waves start breaking just 30 meters from the beach itself.
“I’ve been surfing for about six years,” Edy explained. “I love it.”
As do I. I don’t regard it a sport. Rather a connection to the water. It’s therapeutic and meditative, cleansing my being of everything and spitting me back out on the beach with a new, clean slate. I like to think that it’s not me riding the wave, rather the wave allowing me to ride it (until it’s had enough and kicks me off).
Surfing is one of those activities where you either love it or you hate it. There’s no middle ground. And I love it. I taught myself how to conquer Neptune’s anger at a late stage in life, when I was 29.
No one told me I should have started on the white-wash. Instead, I paddled straight out for Lorne’s 3-4 foot powerful breaks that taught me a lesson or three. And although I’m no world class surfer, I’m a world class wipe-outer.
The best time to surf in Goa is from early morning until about lunchtime when the offshore winds change to an onshore, crumbling the waves.
On occasion, if I was early enough, I’d find myself sharing the water with dolphins, watch the Brahmani and Brown Kites head out to sea to fish or a flock of sandpipers flashing from brown to their white underbelly as they follow the local fishing boats dotting the horizon.
Fishermen on the beach would scrub their beached boats, cleaning out their nets while dogs and crows hovered about for scraps. Every now and again a fish or a few of them might leap out.
The waters of the Arabian Sea are usually quite clear and warm with a lot of glassy days. Your main traffic concern would be the tourists who seem to be so fascinated by surfers that they remain where they are in the water as you and the board you’re riding head straight for their grinning faces.
And it’s always good to be able to surf without a wetsuit.
Edy and Swapnil are both locals who know the waters quite well (as does Appu in Kovalam) and are connected to the other surf schools down the coast.
The prices at Octopus Surf School are local (other schools target the tourists and charge disproportionately) and their teachings, from what I’ve seen, are easy to follow.
No matter what level you’re at when it comes to water sports, I’ve yet to meet a student of Octopus Surf that hasn’t managed to get up on a wave or leave without a smile. The boys also run surf camps for kids combining yoga and acro-yoga which go hand-in-hand with surfing.
And you’ll never see either surfers without a smile on their face. How can you not smile when your life is a beach?
If you end up in Kovalam, Tamil Nadu, head for Appu’s school, Ocean Delight.
Tell ’em I sent ya.
Why zig when you can zag? Or even better, do both at ZigZag Livingstone, Zambia, a peaceful place to stay when you Mosi A Tunya, more famously known as Victoria Falls. Read about this awesome place and its proprietor on The Good Men Project
I had to stop.
And not just because I had trekked 2 K’s uphill with my pack and guitar after a 42-hour journey from the southern Indian state of Karnateka to the Western Ghats in Maharashtra.
A journey spanning just over a thousand kilometers on two trains, sleeping on the floor of the waiting room of the Igatpuri train station surrounded by snoring police officers at 01:00 and a bus that planted me in the sleepy village of Bhandardara (Shendi) at five in the AM.
I had to stop because as I stood on the plateau and looked around while the rising sun painted the day with light, I simply could not believe that I was where I was.
The Western Ghats of Maharashtra (just under 200 km from the state’s capital, Mumbai) are home to the state’s highest peak, Kalsubai, rising up to 1,646 meters above sea level to keep watch across the vast valley where the Pravara River cuts through with the Randha Waterfall, the H20 feeding into Arthur Lake and ending at Wilson Dam.
The planet-waking orange orb that slowly came up behind a peak like the parting of heavy curtains began to warm up the day so I de-robed myself of the blanket I was wrapped in.
It was still early and the sleepy village of Murshet, sitting on a Table Top in the heart of the Sahyadri Hills, was just stirring awake. A foggy mist bedded the valley below as I walked through a small forest along the unsealed road.
I had been invited by Prat Chi to spend a few days at his eco-house appropriately named the Chi House.
Chi is the 22nd letter in the Greek alphabet. It’s also the 22nd star in a constellation. But more importantly, it’s the Chinese word for ‘life-force’ or prana.
Chi House is a small, round home with a fully utenislised kitchen, a double bed, toilet and shower and a flat roof sporting a vista of the kind you have to constantly rub your eyes to make sure that you are seeing what you are currently seeing – an endless valley bordered by rising hills with agriculture fields dotting the Pravara River.
The house is care-taken by the family living next door. If you should so please, they’ll cook all your meals for you but it’s best to have a little bit of Hindu in your backpocket as the family doesn’t speak English.
I had arrived after two weeks of detoxing, healing from a shattered heart and was four days from the planet’s biggest party – New Year’s that would end 2017 and present 2018 to a world that was constantly on edge with questionable global leaders making decisions that, well, need to be questioned.
Things I wouldn’t know about having been disconnected from everything up here in the hills. The family had just stirred awake as I arrived and had to clean up a bit so I headed up to the roof and meditated in this new, fresh surroundings before I practiced yoga.
I was presented with breakfast of beaten rice with lentils and curry leaves and then headed down to Shendi village to stock up on supplies. I hadn’t cooked in a long time and I was going to utilise my time here to do just that. Especially with a pressure cooker being made available.
The residents of Shendi are quite friendly although very few that I encountered spoke English. All the tourists I came across were domestic. And as it was coming up to New Year’s, colourful pop-up tents were being pitched around Arthur Lake with the tourists coming to house them slowly spilling in over the coming days.
The weekend saw Shendi come to life, like it had been charged with an electrical current after flat-lining. Hundreds of people descended on the village to take advantage of the markets. The streets lined with vegetable stalls, fish mongers and small shack-like restaurants serving chai and pakodas (deep-fried onions).
I explored the lake-side but the amount of people put me off and I returned to Murshet Table Top to simply breathe in the fresh air of the mountains, cook, meditate, practice yoga and make sure my jaw didn’t drop to often due to the astounding views.
On New Year’s Day I awoke in a tent, having had to move due to the house being booked by Prat’s friends to celebrate the end and beginning of the year (there are beds and blankets to accommodate up to 15-20 people) .
I stood with them, watching the sunrise as I had done what now seemed like a lifetime ago when I had arrived. I collected my pack and guitar, bid them a happy New Year, and headed down to the sleepy village of Shendi for a 36-hour journey back to Goa, my chi vitalised and stocked up for 2018.