I am relaxing in the guest house and spend much time on the terrace with a view into the fishing village, which is just outside the wall surrounding Saigar Sagate. From the terrace I can not see the sea, the small village houses block the view. The village stretches for a few kilometres along the beach in Puri, and houses about 10 000 people. It is time to go down to the beach. The beaches in the area at Puri is considered as the most beautiful beaches in India.
I hear the sound of waves breaking and choose to go through the village to get to the beach. Small houses everywhere. I walk into the labyrinth of paths between the houses. People are doing their daily tasks. Women wearing colourful saris walk gently past me, with 10-20 litres metal pots balancing on their heads. Other women wash clothes outside the small houses. I get glimpses into small gardens where there is a lot of activity, washing of clothes, sorting of fish and cooking, mostly I see only women working. Gangs of children watch closely while I walk down through the village towards the beach. No begging or other nagging, the observe me from a distance. In this village, Hindus and Christians live in a charming unity, there are no religious conflicts here.
The men work at the beach. They sit in groups around small lean fishing boats and repair their fishing nets. I walk between boats and get to the water’s edge. It smells like shit, and I look around and see excrements everywhere. In the shadow of a boat I see a man squatting and relieving himself. This is probably the way they always have done it, the tide and the waves wash the shit away and life goes on. It is a strange first meeting with the beach life in Puri, a swim is not very tempting here.
I leave the village again, and walk up towards the village. A group of women wash clothes in the middle of heaps of plastic, which one unfortunately see everywhere in India. It tears my eyes more than the excrements I just saw, feces are after all organic and are recycled. The plastic on the other hand, is a hideous foreign matter which the nature can not deal with.
The next day we go a few kilometres south of the fishing village and discover the famous beaches. Here there are soft paradisiacal sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. We are completely alone, here there are miles and miles of deserted beaches still undiscovered by the mass tourism. Puri is mostly visited by Indian tourists or Hindu pilgrims, there are not so many Western tourists.
When we visit the various beaches, it is nice to see that the fishermen are still a part of the picture. They have fished from these beaches for thousands of years and belong in place. We are offered pearls by colourful pearl sellers. With intense eyes and theatrical gestures they allure us into a trade. When they see Western tourists they double the price. If you do not haggle, you do not earn the sellers respect.
Indian tourists do not bathe like us from the West. They enter the water’s edge fully dressed, and the water only touches their feet. I enter the water and dive through a wave and swim in Puri. 25-26 degrees water and soft waves wash gently onto the beach, it is perfect.
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