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SUN, SAND & SURF: TWO DAYS IN GOKARNA

The Gokarna trip had been pending for a while. There were about a dozen folks who were absolutely sure they wanted to go. And of course, as we approached the day of departure, quite a few backed out. Fever, work, sudden loss of interest : there were all kinds of explanations as usual. A predictable trend amongst people who are very enthusiastic to start off with! “Let’s go,” “Gokarna, I would love to go!” “Count me in!” Alas, when the time comes to actually pack up and go, it’s a handful who remain.

So it was eight of us who finally boarded the bus for the long 12 hour journey to Gokarna on Friday evening : Tony, Chris, Kavitha, Kripa, Anshul, Apra, Annette and yours truly. I’d been for treks and trips with all of them prior, except for Chris, who was a colleague of Tony’s.

The journey
We nearly missed the bus! Bangalore’s traffic and a slightly late start had us in a flutter as we made our way to Majestic. I had a small heart attack on the way. Since we had the tickets, there were a few frantic calls from the rest of the gang waiting patiently for us at the bus stop.
9 pm. Just in time!

A long journey. It’s Chris’ first long bus journey in India and he doesn’t sleep a wink. The rest of us manage to catch some shut eye.

Day 1: The arrival
Kudle BeachAt 8.30 am in the morning, we are deposited at Gokarna bus stop.

When we touch down at Gokarna, we are prepared for slightly bad weather. I had been bothering Arjun the prior week, asking him about the weather on the Western coast and kept getting the same answer, “gloomy and overcast”. Not a good sign.

A man, who was dressed in decidedly holy attire began to accost us almost immediately asking us if we wanted accommodation (cheap rooms, only 100 Rs). Ignoring him, we started to make our way to find some much needed nourishment.

It began raining just as we were digging into our hot idlis and dosas at a small place called Prema Restaurant on Gokarna beach. The town itself is filled with pilgrims and the beach is littered with plastic. Rather sad that people come for holy purposes and conveniently litter and dirty the beach without a second thought.

The owner of the restaurant tells us the way to get to Om beach. Feeling nourished and satisfied, we are off on our small hike.

Magically, the rain stops and the sun is out again. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. The road goes up and down and then we climb up a steep set of stairs through a temple near the beach. A few cows walk faster than us but they seem to have had a lot of practice!

The stairs take us to the top of a small hill and the track is through a green valley. A few minutes down the track and we come across a few friendly people who pointed in the general direction of Om beach.

Mistaken identity
Kudle BeachWe come to a clearing and from our point, we can see the beach stretching out in the distance. “That’s Om beach, see,” exclaims Apra enthusiastically. Another kilometer or so downhill and we descend into the first beach.

After some scouting around, we settle for a place called Sunset Café right on the water. It even boasts of a German Bakery but that only bakes goodies in winter, Tony finds out after a spot of investigation! They have a few shacks available. All they have on offer are very hard mattresses (good back therapy, I am told) : but we’re all prepared with sleeping bags.

A small scare
Sunset CafeLunch is a huge affair. The bus journey seems to have increased everyone’s appetites. The rain has stopped by now. Chris declares that he’s going swimming. He doesn’t realize how strong the currents are, when he loses control out in the sea and another guy on the beach called Tim notices him waving and brings him back to shore. It’s a rather scary experience as we get a first hand glimpse of the powerful currents. After that, we’re all careful about getting far into the water.

There’s hardly anyone around. A few foreigners : Belgians, Israelis, Germans, Australians : scattered here and there. But that’s about it. In the evening, we also realize that we are not in Om, but in Kudle beach.

Om sweet Om!
Om BeachAfter that faux pas, we decide to go find the real Om in the evening. At the end of Kudle beach is a narrow path leading up to the hills. We follow this path for a while until it comes to a clearing and an open space and we’re on top of a hill overlooking miles and miles of sea. From here, you get a nearly 180 degree view of the ocean : and what a beautiful sight it is : we drink in the view for a while and then descend into Om.

The beach has two main long rock strewn necks jutting out and is shaped like an Om : therefore the name. It is much rockier than Kudle beach and the water seems deeper. A few adventurous folks are in the water braving the current. A couple are sitting on the beach meditating. A rather long way to come to meditate, I think, but to each his own!

We walk along the length of the beach : it’s about a 15 minute walk and then watch the sunset. Except for fisherfolk who are busy trying to get their catch of the day, it’s rather quiet around Om.

Moonrise
MoonriseAs the sun sets, on the other side the moon makes an appearance. As if saying, hey, “look at me, I’m prettier.” And she sure is. We’re also nearing full moon night so we’re in for a treat. We sit at Namaste Café drinking in the beauty of the surroundings and the waters shining in the moonlight enjoying sinful delights like masala omlettes, French fries and hot chocolate. C’est la vie!

After that satisfying evening snack, in the moonlight, we trek back to Kudle beach. The weather is gorgeous and the views from the hill at night is magnificent. All you can see around you is the water and all you hear are the waves lapping against the sands.

Dinner is another long drawn affair as we bite into sizzlers, pizzas, prawn curry, pasta, hash browns (it’s amazing how much stuff these small places can serve up!) and other such culinary delights. Anshul decides to make the beer bottle his best friend and is rarely seen without one in his hands thereafter.

Day 2: Eating for two (or three!)
BreakfastNow I know, why it’s called breakfast. Not only did we break our fast, we also ate enough for a few other meals. Chocolate and honey pancakes, omlettes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, finger chips (did we really eat so much?!). Apparently, the ocean does something to the appetite.

After that, we trek back to Om beach. From there, we take another narrow road winding up. There are a few helpful arrows on the rocks. Soon we are walking through a small path that had been carved out of the hillside. On the left is the hill face and immediately to the right is a steep incline and all you can see below is the furious waters lashing against the rocks. One place I don’t want to land up in a hurry.

The view is brilliant to say the least. And a little scary out there on the side of the hill, especially if you’re scared of heights. But we couldn’t help but stop every few minutes to drink in all the beauty. Palm trees fringed the whole path and for miles and miles of blue-green ocean beckon, darkened only by shadows of passing clouds.

Full moon? No, it’s half moon!
Half MoonAnd then the stretches of sand in the distance : the coastline stretches before us like a lazy snake. We make our way down another narrow path, and then catch sight of the next beach – Half Moon. A really small beach, and it is absolutely deserted.

However, in a few minutes we get in the form of a dog, an old woman (who sold us water for 20 bucks per bottle) and 2 other adventurous souls. We decide not to venture further into Paradise beach, which the old woman tells us is another 5 kilometers away. We have the hike back so we decide to stay there and enjoy the cool waters for a while.

Lunch is back at Namaste again. Another 2 hour affair. I love these long indulgent lunches on holiday : pity we only have two days. I could have gotten used to this style of eating. Not good on the calorific front, but what bliss!

Adieu
Goodbye!After lunch, it is time to trudge back to Kudle again. A few more rounds of beer and snacks get consumed. After lazing around for a while, it is now time to leave Kudle and bid good bye to Sunset Café. Was it just yesterday when we arrived? All of us take some extra time to pack and say our final farewell.

We climb back up the hill just as the sun is setting and about 20 minutes later, we are back at the bus stop waiting for yet another bus to take us back home. These trips always seem to go by so fast. Gokarna definitely deserves more than two days. But beggars can’t be choosers as they say. At least we could steal away from the hustle bustle of life. In a few days it will become yet another precious memory tucked in some corner of my mind. But precious memories are what makes life so much more worthwhile. Meanwhile, I need to go hatch my next travel plan 🙂

Getting there: KSRTC buses go to Gokarna town from Bangalore. It is a 12 hour journey so be prepared. There are also trains that pass by Gokarna or another town close by. If you can plan in advance, this is a better way of traveling. From the town you can walk to Kudle beach or take an auto. If you want to head directly to Om, they ask for about 100 bucks. I’d recommend the walk!

Things to do: Walk around the beaches. Just going from one beach to another is an adventure! The hills are very close to the coastline so you get some gorgeous views. Eat. Drink. And generally be merry.

Place to stay: Hotels in Gokarna town. But if you want to stay on the beach, the accommodation is basic. Carry sleeping bags. You might get mattresses if you are lucky.

Eat: At any of the cafes on the beach.

Links:

My Album
Anshul
– Kavitha: Pics | Words
Tony

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