My Experience: Taking Magic Mushrooms in Goa

If there’s one place on Earth where magic mushrooms are meant to be consumed it is the sun-kissed, stretched out beaches of Goa. With palm trees hanging over you like an omnibenevolent presence, the sea glinting for what seems like forever, the sky bluer than you’ve ever seen and, of course, the sound of light trance music comfortably guiding you into a meditative state – is there anywhere better to enjoy a psychedelic trip?

Whilst the south Indian state of Goa had its hallucinogenic hayday in the 60s and 70s, this does not mean that the place has completely lost its charm and soul. Drugs are not as easy to find as they were back then and the party scene has definitely become more commercialized, but when I was offered magic mushrooms by a green-haired lady who looked like a character from a Studio Ghibli movie, I knew I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. Maybe this was the chance to experience what the hippie paradise used to be like. This is the story of how I took magic mushrooms in Goa. 

Goa

Goa is one of the 25 districts that exists within the incredibly diverse and huge nation of India. It is the 7th largest country in the world, with the second biggest population. Whilst most know India for its temples, mountains, deserts and spiritual getaways, there is also another reality. This reality is, in essence, Goa. A coastal district in the south of the country, which still has the remnants of its Portuguese colonial past.

This place has some of the best food in the entirety of India, has beaches that stretch for miles and, significantly, had a large part to play in the 60s hippie trail. This was a gigantic journey around the globe that many westerners took in the 1960s – mostly with only a VW van, some light luggage and some great friends. It was a right of passage, a chance to see the world after generations of conflict. The trip for many started in London, went through Europe, into the Middle East and deep into Asia.


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This was, for many, where it ended; others boated over to Australia. Goa was like the promised land, the light at the end of the road. Those who’d managed to get that far would sleep in beach shacks, live in peace and enjoy all types of mind-altering substances. Duncan Cambell writes about his experiences in the Guardian:

“It was possible to live for months on a few quid. A bed in a shared bedroom could be secured for six rupees a night. “Imagine no possessions” was a creed as well as a line in a John Lennon song. Fresh fish, coconut rice. Paperback copies of Hermann Hesse and Rabindranath Tagore, William Burroughs and the Bhagavad Gita were swapped… Disconnection from the west was complete”

The question people seem to ask when they wander around Goa now is: is this still a paradise or is it a paradise lost? In other words, has its time passed? It is often irritating being told by older generations how much better life was in their day. An image of an old man, sitting in his armchair, reading a copy of Nietzsche comes to mind, saying: “back in my day, no one sat around looking at their screens, they would read books and explore the world”. Well maybe Goa was better in the 60s, but at least we have better healthcare, eh? 

Goa now still has its long beaches and palm trees, but they are no longer empty. The majority of the beaches in the North and South are full of resorts and thousands of tourists, many of them more interested in taking the perfect Instagram photo rather than learning about the culture. However, not all hope is lost. The soul of a place cannot be eradicated, but it can be led astray. One writer exemplifies this perfect: 

“While Goa today may not exude the carefree nature of the early 1970s when it was a hub for hedonistic Hippies from around the world, much of the culture that sprung the movement still remains in pockets.”

That is why when I was offered the chance to take magic mushrooms on a Goan beach I simply could not say no. It would be a disrespect to my ancestors. 

Magic Mushrooms in Goa

The drug scene in Goa is certainly different in 2022 from what it was back in the ‘glory years’. Many substances were easily available in the 70s due to a lack of police authority – hashish, LSD and basically anything else. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid 1970s that the majority of recreational drugs were deemed illegal by the government, before that they were accepted. Now, of course, all common drugs are banned and dealt with harshly. You may have to bribe a police officer 100,000 rupees if caught or be put in prison. Many of Goa’s best and most beloved clubs – including Curly’s and Hill Top – have recently been closed down due to drug controversy. Goan authorities are on a dogged mission to end the reputation of the beach district as a substance tourist spot. 

However, whilst I was in Goa it was still possible to find drugs. In the north beach of Arambol it was possible to slyly find hashish or some dodgy meth that was being disguised as cocaine. However, it wasn’t what I had imagined. I dreamt of a chilled shack that sold shroom shakes and hash, but instead I found myself in a dark alleyway and could feel the fear in the dealer’s eyes; being caught by the police being a terrible threat. The India Times writes:

“In the last seven months, Goa police has seized around 100kg of narcotic substances worth over Rs 2.5 croce. Goa police have not only arrested Goans in the trade but also people from outside the state and foreigners… Ganja, caracas, LSD, MDMA, ecstasy tablets and powder, cocaine, hashish oil, heroin and cannabis are among the drugs that have been seized.”

In essence, this wasn’t what I had really been expecting. However, hope was not lost. A few weeks into my trip I was visited by an elder Indian Canadian woman with striking green hair. She was incredibly warm and comforting, I felt like I’d known her my entire life. She approached me at a beach bar in Ashwem and we got chatting. Her line of work was rather extraordinary. She lived in Goa and worked as toad venom shaman; helping people through their trip. I told her my ambition to try psychedelics whilst in Goa and within 30 minutes she’d sold me 10 grams of magic mushrooms. After that she sort of disappeared into the etha, never to be seen again. 

The Trip

I was in Goa with my girlfriend and we were pretty overjoyed that we’d finally managed to find hallucinogens. The next step was to ensure our set and setting were perfect – we didn’t want any bad vibes to ruin our trip. We decided to take them early – 3pm – this way we’d be able to have dinner in the evening and enjoy a chilled sleep. Although, we managed to buy some valium at the pharmacy just in case we found sleep difficult.

We divided the mushrooms into 2 grams each and found a perfect shaded spot on the beach. We didn’t want to overdo the amount – I mean, they looked like liberty caps but how can you ever be sure? A magic mushroom trip usually lasts around 4-6 hours, with the peak coming at around 3 hours in, which we hoped would bring us to the beautiful Goan sunset at around 6pm. 

Then we ate. They tasted awful but we washed them down with a beer. It had been a few years since my last psychedelic trip so I was full of nerves, but I was actively telling myself to simply allow the experience to happen. My intention for the trip was: to see the beauty in everything. To be honest, I realise in hindsight that this intention was a little vague. Anyway, it was hot, very hot. Within 30 minutes I decided to go into the sea to refresh but as I walked back to the sun beds everything went strange. The beach stretched out for miles and everything sounded different; enhanced.

My body was heavier than it had ever been and I felt like I needed to sit down. The trip had begun. With magic mushrooms you often can’t quite work out why you feel a certain way, which is why it took us maybe another 30 minutes before we finally realized that it was the heat that was making our bodies feel so tired. We decided to walk back to our hostel. On the way back everything felt wavey and technicolor, and each interaction with another human felt like a video game. We tried to buy water from a shop owner and it felt like we had some sort of secret. 

The peak of the trip happened in our air conditioned room. We showered probably around 10 times each just because of how good the water felt on our skin. We cried, we had moments alone, we had moments together. An entire lifetime happened in that wavey, orange room. Nothing and everything had the space to occur. It was only when the visuals began to subside slightly that we felt able to go and see the sunset on the beach.

The trip was on its way down but one overriding sense remained: beauty. The world was beautiful. The people, the sunset; everything. We enjoyed some deliciously tasty food – enhanced by the shrooms – and watched as the sunset turned to stars. Whilst the trip was no longer at its peak, we were refreshed, rid of our anxieties and issues. All there was left was to allow the world to truly be its spectacular self in front of our eyes. 

Final Thoughts

Had we found old Goa? Of course not. You cannot recreate the past and you’ll spend your life disappointed if you try. However, we’d found our own version of Goa. Whilst the overriding sun may have caused us to spend a great deal of the trip inside our hostel room, it didn’t stop the experience from being wonderful.

My intention had been to see the beauty in the world and it certainly had worked. I felt clarity. One of the reasons why psilocybin is now being explored as a therapeutic substance is due to this exact experience – people report feeling happier and clearer for months after a psychedelic trip. If I ever return to Goa I hope I will one day meet that green-haired, studio Ghibli character again but – if not – I will simply write it here: thank you.

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The History of Goa and Its Iconic Hippie Culture

In the South end of India, amidst the palm trees and spicy curries, with an evident leftover of Portuguese rule, lies the historic beachside stretch of Goa. This old heaven – the last stop on the hippie trail – gained huge popularity in the 60s and 70s, becoming known for its peaceful nature, expansive beaches and psychedelic trance music.

You know those places that you desperately want to visit, but your dad sits you down and says, “I’m sorry, it was just better in the old days”, well this is one of those. Goa lives in the past – constantly looking back at a time where it was less touristy, less busy and freer. Well, here I currently sit, with a small moped and a chai tea, on the Goan beach of Anjuna. Does this place have any remnants of what it once was? Let’s take a walk down memory lane and see what all the fuss is about. 

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Goa, India

Before we delve into Goa’s more recent history, let’s first go further back in time. As with any hippie hotspot, there will be a reason why so many people found something special in this south Indian district. First of all, Goa is near the bottom of India – which is the 7th largest country in the world, and has the 2nd biggest population (around 1.4 billion people).

Goa, specifically, has around 1.4 million people living on its 3700km land. The beaches are famous for being massively long and flat, and the sunsets – looking out to the Arabian Ocean – are breathtaking. Many people come to Goa and wonder why it’s so different from the rest of India.

There is a lot of greenery, with coconut trees rising higher than you’ve ever seen, and the smell of sea water and Goan fish curry in the air. But that’s not the main difference. One huge contributor is the evident remnants of Portuguese rule, which began in 1510 – lasting 450 years. The churches and old buildings have an obvious European inspiration, which feels odd to see in an Indian district, but it definitely adds to its beauty. Britannica writes more on how the Portuguese took power of Goa:

“The city was attacked in March 1510 by the Portuguese under Afonso de Albuquerque. The city surrendered without a struggle, and Albuquerque entered it in triumph. Three months later Yūsuf ʿĀdil Khan returned with 60,000 troops, forced the passage of the ford, and blockaded the Portuguese in their ships…  In November, Albuquerque returned with a larger force and… recaptured the city… Goa became the capital of the whole Portuguese empire in Asia.

The age of ‘Golden Goa’ is actually known to be long before the hippies turned up in the late 60s, but actually in the period between the 1500s and 1600s. This was a period when the voyages of Portugal began, opening up a western Europe sea route to Asia. During this century, the Portuguese held a monopoly over the Indian ocean. Goa was used as the perfect sailing point after or before a long and sometimes tumultuous journey. It’s important to consider, of course, that the growth of any empire is not one to be celebrated. Whilst Portuguese rule allowed for much of Goan culture to remain the same, it was still an example of the superiority complex that Europe had. Nonetheless, you cannot deny the beauty of this place. The Goan tropics, Indian food, and a peppering of ancient Portuguese architecture is a recipe for wonder. Outlook India perfectly summarises the experience of the place: 

“450 years of Portuguese occ­u­p­ation have left an ind­elible impact on the cul­ture, cuisine and archite­cture of the tiny state, and giv­es this tou­rist parad­ise a distinct, hard-to-quantify flavour.”

Goa managed to avoid British rule – which dominated the majority of India – due to being part of the Portuguese empire. In 1961, after a long and arduous battle, they gained their independence. It was a great day for the Goan people. However, a new kind of colonisation was about to begin. The hippies were coming. 

Hippie Trail

If you ask anyone about Goa’s history, you’ll most likely hear about the hippie culture that was growing in the 60s and 70s. Young people, travelling by hippie van from the US or Europe, lying on a beach enjoying psychedelic trance and recreational drugs. The world had experienced the war to end all wars and were still living in the aftermath. In America, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war were dominating proceedings.

After a lifetime of wars and conflicts, leaving home and embarking on the hippie trail felt like a chance to breathe. The hippie trail was a driving route which took passengers from Europe to Asia. Whilst airlines and flights were gaining traction, the high prices made them nearly impossible. Therefore, buses around the world became popular. In 1957, the Indiaman bus was organized from London. It took 20 passengers in 2 months all the way to Kolkata, India, with a return price of only 65 pounds. It was this route, and many others like it, that began the hippie trail. Groups in their VW buses – Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Hendrix blaring – would drive themselves all the way through Europe, into the Middle East, and into Asia. History Extra writes:

“For some, it was…  an expression of 1960s counterculture – and for many of those the use of drugs including opium or hash was a key part of the experience. For others, it was just a great adventure: a chance to travel cheaply and encounter unfamiliar cultures… As Rory MacLean notes in Magic Bus, his 2006 history of the phenomenon, they comprised “the first movement of people in history travelling to be colonized rather than to colonize”

The hippie trail would often end in the south part of India. This is why Goa was such a hippie haven. After a journey that had taken months, perhaps years, it was a time to unwind and – for many – to settle here. 

Goa and the Hippies

You only have to visit Goa to understand why many people would have settled here. The prices are cheap now, so to think how low they would have been in the 60s and 70s would be shocking. But not only that, the peacefulness and spirituality of the place is undeniable. After months of travelling round the world, ending up on one of the many beaches of Goa must’ve felt like quite God had spat you into heaven.

It was eventually seen as the end point of the trail – like a rising star in the distance, keeping those travelling on course to paradise. However, the movement was as much about the people travelling as it was about the place. For the first time in a long time, it was becoming fashionable to want to explore the world and learn from other cultures. With this came a desire for global connection, an end to conflict and a beginning of a different way of seeing.

Of course, as is often the case, this movement also brought with it an exploration of psychedelic drugs. Anjuna, one of the popular beaches, was known to have easy access to LSD, hash and heroin – partly due to a lack of a police station. Plus, these drugs were not even declared illegal in the area until the 70s. In addition, opium and other substances had been traded freely through Goa during Portuguese rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, meaning there was an abundance of the stuff. Alongside the drugs came the music. Vice writes:

“Goa’s music scene also grew from guitar-strumming psychedelic rock, to becoming the first Indian state to have an electronic music scene. By the mid-80s, the love and peace motives of the hippie movement began slowly fading away, as the scene gave way to psychedelic trance… And as we descended into the 90s, Goa’s psychedelic raves went from an underground scene to worldwide recognition”

As with any golden age, it must eventually come to an end. As Goa became globally recognized, and flights became cheaper, the alternative movement of the past was taken over by young ravers looking to get ‘messy’. Beaches became overpopulated with people and bars, the police began to crack down on drug use and the locals began playing on the ‘hippie history’ with hollow and inauthentic venues. The real reason and purpose behind the movement in the 60s and 70s was gone.  

Goa Now

It is very easy to say that Goa will never be the same, and in a sense, it won’t be. Even when you enter the airport now, you’re blinded by casino advertisements and pictures of semi-nude women. It is now seen by many as a place to leave your morality at the door. For those who wish to find the hippie culture of the 70s, it is nearly impossible, as almost everywhere is commercialized. Nonetheless, not all hope is lost. No time can be like another.

The coconut trees still grow, the food is still gorgeous and the music still plays – even if many bars are limited to a 10pm cut off time. We cannot go back, but we can look forward. With the world constantly changing, new conflicts looming, perhaps Goa is due another golden era sometime soon. As I sit here, in the old hippie haven of Anjuna beach, I can still taste the history in the air and am ready to enjoy making some more of it.

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