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 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.
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.
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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