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Allan Austin runs his own para-gliding business on top of the hill of Anjuna beach, Goa, and spends most of his time taking people on tandem flights over the sea; these are his personal views of how Goa has changed since the 60s.

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Goa – a personal view

Anjuna beach, GoaRodney Appleyard and Dan Thory spoke to Allan Austin, who is known as Parva in Goa. He runs his own para-gliding business on top of the hill of Anjuna beach and spends most of his time taking people on tandem flights over the sea and hanging out in the 'The Shore Bar' with his friends. Many of these people have been in Goa since the 60s and live with their families in Anjuna. When he needs a break from Goa, Allan heads to the mountains in North India and flies in one of the best para-gliding spots in the world – Himachal Pradesh – over the Himalayas.

What was Goa like when you first came here?
allan austin, parva"I've been coming here since the 60s, but I have been living here since 1988. It used to be the pure essence of paradise. It was much quieter, there was less construction, the environment seemed more natural and the locals were very relaxed about us being here. During the 60s, the people of Goa were not used to foreigners so the atmosphere was not as intense as it is now. Since then, it has turned into a complete tourist resort, instead of a peaceful environment where a few of us foreigners could hang out with the locals and be a part of the community. It feels much more impersonal. We used to have fantastic friendly parties and a feeling of total freedom.
     There was a sense that you could totally be yourself and nobody would judge you. The police were much more relaxed than they are now too. It definitely had the old relaxed hippy vibe, instead of the serious all night raving you find now. We never aggravated anybody, like many of the tourists do these days. You could go anywhere and talk to anybody. But in the early days, it was mainly French and Italians who came to Goa, the English were in the minority and there were not any Israelis. As you can see now, most of the people who visit Goa now are from Israel.
     There are still people here who have been in Goa for 30 years, but it is only in the last 7/8 that tourists have been flooding in from all over the world. It is good for my business though – para-gliding – but it's not so good for the music. The music all over Anjuna is now psychedelic trance, which does not have much soul to it."

Has Goa totally lost its old spirit?
"Yes it has, it is overcrowded and it gets worse every year. Originally the scene was brilliant, with the right formula , a nice scene and a good ambience. I still have a good lifestyle here with the people who hang out in this bar, but we are confined to just a few places now. But the Indian people who run the bar still make me feel like part of the family. I had a bad season a couple of years ago – I didn't make much money to live on through the para-gliding – but the owners of this bar allowed me to live on credit and agreed for me to pay them the following year. That is the sort of generosity and trusting spirit of Goa kindness which still exists in the minority."

What made you decide to set up a Para-gliding business in Goa?
"Well I have been para-gliding now for 9 years. Before then, I used to be a motorbike mechanic. One day, I fixed a local's bike and he offered to pay me by taking me on a tandem para-gliding flight. I agreed to it, and ever since then, I have been addicted to the sport."

How do you enjoy your life now in Goa?
"I love flying, being by the beach, eating fresh fish, coconuts, fresh fruit and veg and generally enjoying a healthy lifestyle. I get huge satisfaction out of taking people flying. Most people find it to be a very thrilling experience. Their excitement makes me feel fantastic too, so I never get bored. It's a hit that builds up slowly but lasts."

shore bar anjuna beach goaAny last thoughts on how Goa has changed?
"It used to be a much more close-knit community, but now it is too big and distant. Everybody used to be on the same high, but now everybody is on different highs, so they can't communicate as well. That's the main problem. If we could all be on the same high, then it wouldn't be so bad."

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Text © Rodney Appleyard; photographs © Dan Thory 2003