We were staying in an amazing hostel called Tantra Beach Shacks, where there are 3 storeys of tree houses built on the beach. Ours was right in the middle so you had to climb up very wobbly wooden steps to make it in. There are no walls or windows, just frames and then curtains that you pull to make the walls when you want privacy (we literally only closed them to get changed as it was so hot, and even then the sea breeze was opening the curtains, flashing Ollie’s bum around to anyone trying to take a peek). This place was amazing and waking up and being able to see the sea metres away from you, and knowing you’re up amongst the palm tress is the most relaxing feeling in the world.
Admittedly, whilst the location is amazing it’s fair to say that the area is incredibly grubby. We couldn’t find bins anywhere and there is rubbish everywhere once you’re out of the hostel. It’s out of the main part of Anjuna and there are dogs everywhere. Everyone was petting them and having a them in their beds but the itching and biting they were doing wasn’t exactly making me cry out for a cuddle. We were actively repulsed despite the cuteness of some of the tiny, stray puppies we found and had to help get to a sanctuary.
On the first night the culture shock was huge. We were knackered, running on one hour of sleep, and really feeling like we would rather be home in bed. We went for a veggie curry and a Kingfisher (living up to every Indian stereotype) at a beach bar, where they charged us too much and shouted in my face when we tried to argue it. Safe to say this didn’t help the feeling that we had done the wrong thing. We pulled ourselves together after a lie down on the beach and went up to the treehouse to sleep, knowing we are just grumpy when we are tired.
The nights are so much colder than we thought they would be and I woke up in the night to Ollie wrapping himself up in our mosquito net, looking like the catch of the day (or the exact opposite). We woke up feeling loads better and went out to explore. A lot of Anjuna is gorgeous, although a little dirty. It’s really dry with big palm trees everywhere, and unbelievably scorching hot. We searched for somewhere vegetarian and busy looking for breakfast as we aren’t eating meat on this trip to avoid any illness, and also because animal welfare laws are really different here so I feel terrible. We found a lovely place called Artjuna and had the most amazing breakfast of eggs poached in a spicy tomato vegetable sauce with warm bread and a freshly squeezed orange juice. We ended up going to this place multiple times at the food and atmosphere was amazing, so I would really recommend it if you’re heading to Anjuna.
I did have one meal which wasn’t my favourite in the world (understatement, but I did eat some bread) but Ollie had an amazing falafel burger. I’ll admit that I got Nutella waffles to make up for the disastrous dinner.
We have discovered that the money situation is absolutely terrible here. We walked around the town and every bank or ATM was closed, or out of money. The banks are meant to be open for locals to exchange the notes which are about to be discontinued, so I don’t know what’s going on there. Eventually we were only left with the option of hiring a moped and riding around the town to search for money. Nobody was exchanging British pounds but people with euros and dollars were fine.
We hired a moped (£3/£4 pounds for a day!) and had the absolute time of our lives. The views were incredible and you have no idea how much the wind was appreciated. They drive like maniacs so you just have to go with their mindset: nobody actually wants to deal with killing anyone so they’ll stop heading towards me eventually. There are cows, goats, turkeys, people, tuktuks and cars all coming towards you which is hilarious, if a little scary. After searching about 10 cities and stopping twice for more water and petrol (served on the road side in water bottles), we eventually found am ATM on the outskirts of Mapusa, which is a big town at the bottom of a hill. We sucked up the charges for each transaction and broke the rules, taking cash out in bulk before heading back.
En route home I gave the whole riding thing a go with Ollie on the back. Straight away we whizzed forward narrowly avoiding a ditch and we swiftly returned to the original formation with my pride well and truly destroyed. We took our bike back before lying on the beach for a few hours, sunbathing and snoozing. As soon as we sat down we were swarmed with locals offering manicures; pedicures; massages; jewellery; henna; hair braiding. They’ll touch your feet and hair and make you pinkie promise you’ll come to their shop later. Their most used phrase is “how are you so white?!”.
There are very few people in Anjuna, with the locals telling us that business is dead, and them putting it down to the cash crisis. I would advise anyone coming to arrive fully loaded with euros and bracing themselves for horrific exchange rates, or you’ll be traipsing around for money. We are just doing with the flow and hoping it’ll get better as time goes on. It’s really noticeable in the town, with most cafes closing at night as there is just no one going into them.
All in all, Anjuna is a cute relaxing town for beach days, moped tours and afternoons in the shade in cafes – which often have wifi. It’s not it’s finest right now due to the money problem, but it is hopefully getting better. We have had an amazing time here and it was a really nice way to ease into a calmer India – other than the taxi journey here at rush hour!
I’m writing this whilst lying in bed on an overnight bus further down South, which I’ll tell you all about in the next instalment!