This year I have been lucky enough to travel through Asia – including India and Nepal – writing about my experiences and searching for information around new substances. The views on drugs can drastically change from country to country, with laws, culture and availability affecting this. One nation may allow for cannabis legalization and psilocybin research, whilst another would deal with these substances extremely strictly.
The world is full of diverse opinions, and I came here to find out for myself. Research is one thing, but on-the-ground knowledge is another. In this article I will tell my story of landing in the south Indian district of Goa and experiencing some of the best hash in the world.
Travelling has always been an important part of my life. Since a young age I have tried to see and do as much as I possibly can, with emphasis on going abroad. There is so much that a person can learn about themselves and other people from experiencing new cultures and new places. There’s food, there’s music, there’s the people, there’s the substances, there’s endless possibilities. It increases empathy and love for the rest of the world, as well as opening your mind to different ways of living. NYU writes:
“We are communal creatures that are all of the same species, yet our location determines societal actions based off cultured and governmental laws. We are so similar, yet our little worlds are so entirely different.”
That is why when a window of opportunity arose to travel through Nepal and India, I wasn’t going to turn it down. Myself and my partner had the money and the time to take our work with us and go away. The Journey started in Nepal in the old hippie trail location of Kathmandu – the capital. After days of sightseeing in an overwhelmingly bustling city, we headed to the small village of Bandipur. When I say small, I mean literally the size of one cowboy-looking street. It was absolutely beautiful. Then came Pokhara, a city stretching around a lake, where true bohemia has found itself. Here we took part in a meditation and yoga retreat, finding the high in transcendence instead of psychedelics. We were basically following in the footsteps of the Beatles before they wrote the White Album. Afterwards we went to the national park of Chitwan, a jungle where a plethora of wild animals run free in their natural habitat. This was where a guide – with only a stick in his hand to fend off tigers and elephants – took us around the huge park. Before we entered and boated across the crocodile-infested river, he offered us a joint. In a paranoid state already, I respectfully declined. I wanted to be completely alert. Fortunately but completely expectedly we survived, and I am still alive now to tell the tale. After this we went back to Kathmandu to have a few days rest, go to the Lord of Drinks (voted 52nd best club in the world by some unknown magazine), before heading on a flight to Delhi and Goa. It was here that the long awaited hash experience finally came to us. Here’s how it happened.
We’ve just landed in Delhi after a 2 hour flight from Kathmandu. It is safe to say that I still do despite flying as a mode of transport. Everytime I get on an aeroplane I have this ignorant hope that, somehow, it will be enjoyable… but it never is. After several pharmacies declined, eventually we were able to pick up some valium without a prescription in Kathmandu. This was extremely fortunate because it took the edge of anxiety off me for the duration of the flight. I don’t usually take any pills before flying, but with two flights in one day I just didn’t think I’d be able to handle it without some sort of substance. The truth is, valium takes away a lot of the anxious thoughts I have when I am on an aeroplane, but not many people advise taking them. Harbourside writes:
“Diazepam is a sedative, which means it makes you sleepy and slows reaction times. If there is an emergency during the flight it may affect your ability to concentrate, follow instructions and react to the situation”
However, I am unsure how much anyone can actually do if a plane is going down. Surely it would be better to be sedated rather than to deal with that emotional rollercoaster. But who knows? According to a study by the European Transport Safety Council, plane crashes have a 90% survival rate. So perhaps being alert and quick in your reactions is important.
We landed in Goa late last night and went to sleep pretty early. We’re staying in North Goa – Anjuna – supposedly the last remaining evidence of the hippie paradise of the 60s and 70s. But our first experience of the place was far from liberal and free. In fact, we attempted to go swimming and within minutes a bunch of old, dodgy-looking Indian men decided to try and record my partner swimming. We’d heard about this potentially happening in the Lonely Planet guide but, to be honest, it was shocking to experience. I very much doubt this sort of thing was happening in Goa’s glory years. Plus, Anjuna beach is now full of commercial clubs and bars, banging out chart music that makes your ears want to die. We spoke to a local who said that the famous clubs of the North – including Curly’s and Hill Top – had closed down due to drug controversy. These were, according to him, the last remaining authentic places in North Goa. Having come all this way, to be told this was nothing short of depressing. Is there nothing left of the old Goa that my dad relentlessly bangs on about?
Today was interesting. We rented mopeds and went half an hour up the road to Mandrem beach. This spot, further north, is supposedly more liberal and full of potential substances. Essentially, it’s been 4 days in Goa now and we still haven’t had the chance to buy any hash. It’s unacceptable. Before visiting India you hear about how much bhang lassis and hash there is lying around, but somehow Goa has yet to prove that to us. When I visited Rajasthan 3 years ago It was very accessible, but maybe there’s something about Goa that makes it harder to find. But today we found a lead. We went to the long-stretched, stunning beach of Mandrem where the smell of cannabis was certainly in the air. We followed the scent and found a tourist smoking a joint and asked if we could purchase some. She declined, letting us have a toke each, and then said that Arambol was the spot to get it and she gave us the number of a dealer. However, she warned us that Goa isn’t what it used to be. Police are now far more strict on drug use, and will fine you harshly. The chief of police in Goa recently said:
“We are conducting raids on those parties where we suspect there is sale and consumption of drugs. Goa will not tolerate drugs,”
We texted the dealer and after a long awaited reply, he responded, asking us to meet him at Arambol beach the next day. The wait for the hash goes on.
I am writing this with a cheeky grin and sensation of warmth, this is because we finally found our Goan hash. In the evening we headed to Arambol beach, the dealer felt it would be less obvious in the dark. The stretch of water was lit up by hundreds of candle lit tables glowing up the beach. It was a very romantic image. Nonetheless, we couldn’t stop and have a coupley meal, we had a goal to achieve. We had to get the hash. We waited for maybe an hour, twiddling our thumbs, standing in the dark. We probably looked like dealers ourselves. Then, finally, a dude with a bucket hat and a tank top walked up to us. He shook my hand and passed me a block of hash – 5 grams. It cost 3000 rupees, which is around $30. Whenever someone passes you a drug with a handshake you can’t help but feel like you’re in a gangster movie. But nonetheless, I kept my cool. The dealer was actually called Adi and he was a very nice guy. We spoke for an hour or so about the culture of Goa and how it has changed. He told us that drug dealers are so afraid of getting caught that they are now seriously limiting their dealings, as well as seriously raising their prices. The days of cheap Goan drugs have gone. You could expect to pay 1500 rupees for an ecstasy pill and around 5000 rupees for a gram of meth – they don’t sell cocaine. Either way, we were happy to finally get our hands on some hash.
The one last thing he mentioned as we got on our moped to go and enjoy our drugs in peace, was to be careful of police on the roads. He said that they are constantly stopping tourists, checking them for drugs, and then giving them a fine if they find anything. I didn’t think this would be relevant until, on our way back, we were faced with this exact situation. I was driving the bike and – out of nowhere – I saw a man in a police uniform up ahead. He waved at us to stop. At this moment I had to make a split decision. There was no legal requirement for me to stop. I did not need to stop. Who was this guy? I had my helmet on and my lights were working. What reason did he have to stop me? So, without thinking, I revved faster and drove straight past the police officer. He shouted but, other than that, nothing else happened. However, if I had stopped, I would have been seriously fined by the corrupt Goan authorities.
When we arrived back at our hostel in Anjuna, we rolled up a few joints and headed to Anjuna beach. The hash crumbled deliciously in my hands and gave the most beautifully mellow high. A complete body relaxation, without any head anxiety. Finally, we had found our block of hash and luckily we had 5 grams of it too, which meant that we wouldn’t be running out any time soon.
All I can say – today was a good day. But it doesn’t end here.