May 15th – The end of the season, pt.II

We spent the day on the beach today, enjoying the stunning sand and crashing waves. As ever, the calm ripples of the early morning sea had been whipped up to a rough-and-tumble by the time the sun was above us. We alternated between the tea-and-pancakes beachfront cafe and the sand below. While Alec took an extended buffeting in the surf, I finished the last hundred pages of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

As the early evening approached, we headed back over to the bar we had been at last night. We had both thoroughly lapped up the previous night’s entertainment and we ready for more of the same. However, we arrived to a strange and disappointing sight as we rounded the beach-head.

The bar was being physically pulled down in front of us. This previously vibrant and life-filled place was now dotted with teams of Indian men pulling ropes that wrenched at the very frame of the building. With the band, the drinkers, the furniture and the equipment all gone, it was clearer to see that the entire structure had been built with flimsy wooden beams and thin lattice screens. Now, they bent and crumpled easily under the heaves and groans of the men around us. It was a very surreal sight to behold, given the vivid and colourful experience that the previous night had been.

Beneath the bar, a concrete base was all that would remain after the splinters and beams are taken away. Suddenly the numbers of empty plots that we had seen dotting Anjuna beach made sense; they were similar wooden structures that had been pulled down at the end of the season. The alternative, it seemed, would be to leave these unsubstantial structures to the mercy of the heavy monsoonal rain, which would – evidently – destroy or wash away the building anyway, but in a much more chaotic fashion. It was a very strange and vivid insight into the seasonal life of a tourist resort.

That evening, we ate a delicious burger in a busy restaurant tucked over the hill and beyond the remains of the bar. Music for eclectic tastes drifted on the soft breeze. My burger was absolutely superb and it was followed by the surprise indulgence of a chocolate brownie and ice cream that I would have enjoyed even in a restaurant back home.

A variety of westerners ate around us speaking all kinds of languages. It seemed that this bar, as with last night’s venue, had attracted the remaining tourist population in Anjuna. In front of us, a group of French kids sat with studded leather jackets and scrappy mowhawks smoking a traditional Indian wooden pipe. They looked, as many of the crowd did last night, that they had been here for a long time. It was easy to see why.

We continued on to another bar further down the beach, where we sat on a wall overlooking the bay that was bathed in the eerie silver of the moon’s glow. It brought a mysterious chill as we walked home down the beach. Our faces washed pale in the light, we could only make our two-tone shadows on the sand ahead of us.

It was, therefore, with almost no warning at all that we stumbled across one of the packs of dogs that we had seen loitering and chasing each other across the sand that day.

Feral dogs are everywhere in India. The wider population do not regard these animals as domestic pets to be cared for and taken into possession, but the entire subcontinent nonetheless teems with dogs. Instead, they scavenge the streets for food, fight, breed, are chased away by humans and occasionally chase humans themselves. Most of them are clearly in ill health and frequent warnings are given to travellers about rabies in India. Rabid animals are not social creatures and most will fight other animals or be killed by them before they become infectious. But despite this, India still has the most rabid dogs of any country in the world, most of which are located in the countryside where solitary animals can roam for longer. Some estimates suggest that as many as 20,000 people die annually from rabies infections, of which 99 per cent are from dog bites.

The members of this pack, however, seemed to be just defensive, hungry and mangy rather than displaying the unnatural behaviour of rabid animals. As soon as one of them spotted us the barking began, which woke up the rest of the pack, who had all dug into small sand-holes for the night. As a result, we were suddenly surrounded by ten barking, growling dogs all around that appeared almost from no-where on an empty, dark beach. We had been quite literally ambushed.

It is times like these that you find yourself having resist the base instinct to run away, which would mean being chased and then perhaps falling and being attacked as you lay on the floor. This really would be bad news for you; staying on your feet is the most important thing to remember. A bite in the calf can be fought off and treated much easier than a bite in the neck.

Luckily, I was a couple of beers ahead of Alec by the point and had some of the Dutch courage that was needed in this situation. My waving my arms around and yelling at the top of my voice seemed to do the trick and, after some false charges and well placed kicks, we managed to intimidate the animals enough to break through the crowd and back away from them down the beach. A few kicks of sand and hurled sticks ensured that we were not pursued as we made a speedy escape up the beach.

It is illegal to kill dogs in India. However, it is hard to see how many such situations like that we had found ourselves did not end that way. Thankfully, everyone walked away from this altercation intact.

***

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