Gokarna, a beach town on the Goa Karnataka border is a must go if you are a beach lover, the kind who loves secluded beaches, searching for solace accompanied with only the sound of sea. Do not expect the hustle and bustle of beach parties here, especially if you plan to visit during the off season. Here is a write up of what the four of us did…
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On the state border between Goa and Karnataka, a secluded piece of land, a temple town dedicated to Lord Shiva, Gokarna (literally meaning cow’s ears) started gaining the momentum of tourism a few years ago. It was primarily the foreign tourists who discovered the tranquility and serenity of this coastline.
We set a three hour train journey from Udupi to reach Gokarna. Though bus journeys are more popular and in fact the bus stand is more central inside the town, we preferred hopping here by train. It is a lone, single platform station amidst the fields, even away from the village, which may remind you of the Bollywood scenes from the 90s era, shot on a barren platform. It was a bit expensive but a great idea to arrive by train for the auto journey till the beach was beautiful. The country roads smelled only of emptiness, by the face of it; it looked shriveled and uncared for, keeping the primitive spirit alive. The houses were old, at some places the walls were cracking up, there was no particular scent in the air, and the city looked unresponsive. It was a different kind of vibe, neither positive nor negative. I kept alert all this while and didn’t want to trust the rickshaw guy immediately. Gradually we entered the main city and we rushed past a series of temples. Leaving everything behind, he took us to the beach straight away. From this point on unfurled the real magic of Gokarna.
Gokarna in its present avatar is all about beaches. What is quirky about these beaches is that they are all separated from each other and from the main city by hillocks. In order to walk along the coastline, from one beach to another, one would have to hike through these mounds. The hike is an easy one and in fact the sea accompanies all along. Because of these hills, these beaches are disconnected from the main city, making them a private setup for the tourists. Away from the world, this is a peace-realm, a quiet abode, to be restful and enter the halcyon state of mind. The stillness prevails for miles and pertains to the sea. Only a handful of tourists invade into the sea and safely conquer the tides.
There are five popular beaches in Gokarna, where the tourists slip, slide and saunter – Om, Kudle, Paradise, Half Moon and Nirvana. Our gang found its base on the Kudle beach. Though Om beach is the most popular one, Kudle feels a bit more personal and undisturbed due to its small size. We walked down from the main road; the steps pass through a narrow gorge of hills on both sides and suddenly open our sight to the sea. It is amazing how the compressed pathway leads to a vast expanse of land or rather sea. With this sight, the pupils widen up and so does the smile.
Because of the off season, most of the guest houses were not open to the tourists, so we found shelter in one of the shacks on Kudle. Most accommodations here are compact and shady, there are no maintained standards of hygiene, and they are pretty friendly to the pocket as they are often bargained upon. Ours followed the suite. But surprisingly, the food options on the beach are wide and so are the booze options that one can experiment for days. And so we did, not only at our shack but also at the neighboring ones.
One of the mornings, we hiked from Kudle till the Om beach. It was a simple one; we did it without the trekking shoes, but carried water along. Within thirty minutes we were on the other side of the hill. Mornings are a perfect time to leave the laziness behind and get a perfect reddish tan on the skin. Om beach is much wider and longer than Kudle, the number of tourists are also more here. We walked till the next hillock, crossing it would have led to the Paradise beach, but it was a longer walk. During the season, beach hopping sounds like a cool idea but as the sun rose higher we decided to sit for breakfast at the popular Namaste Café.
As we stepped down to the beach, we stood at a point and glanced towards the next hillock; from this very spot we understood the moniker OM. The beach is in the shape of the sanskrit word OM. The sand and the rocks are arranged naturally to give it a divine shape. During the afternoon, as the brain started to drowse, we picked up our portable music system and the playing cards and moved ourselves till the next shack to try something new on the menu. In two hours, I lost about 35 games of rammi, and won about 12 games of dirty 7.
By the evening, when we could not sit on the chairs anymore, Nikita picked her camera and we climbed the hillock on the other side. We went up those narrow steps and took a left turn opposite to Café 1987. We did not have to walk till the edge of those rocks to witness the enormity of the sea, its gigantic spread and mammoth expansion caught our eye, heart and soul. We lost our pace of walking within seconds and yet tried to grasp our breath. As I rolled my eyes from the sea to the sky, not much of a distance to be covered there, the shades changed constantly. It was like a multilayered cake lying on the table of the sea. Starting from the light blue horizon, on top of which were the unorganized dark grey clouds, giving a smoky effect to the landscape. There was also some foam of cream formed by the white clouds. But what all of us were looking for was the orange crunchy ball eclipsed under the dark grey layer. From within the swirl of these dark grey layers, the orange-yellow light penetrated and fell as a spotlight on the table of the sea; you could perceive, imagine and visualize the life of a human being rising from the lower energies to higher energies. From a normal body, the soul will rise to the divine, and the divine has sent his spiritual spotlight to liberate him from this life. This was by far the most overwhelming sunset that I had ever seen, my thoughts in my mind lost their ground and were floating over the sea. Looking at the sea from an altitude, for me, it was the first time ever when the sun, sand and sea were edged by a hill, setting in a sense of completion.
Gokarna not just promises a spectacular natural beauty but also an array of cool travel experiences which make it an ideal hippie junction. We met travelers from different walks of life, there were books on philosophy around us and when some of them played guitar and the rest prayed to Shiva, café 1987 turned into the coolest place ever. Our last evening in Gokarna was lovely.
Fifteen days passed by and filled us with gratitude, towards mother earth, our country and our culture. A happy kind of sadness overtook us, as it was almost time to part ways with these travelers. We finally hopped off at the Bangalore station the next morning and cheered over our last filter coffee together.
From Majestic, we boarded our respective buses and moved on to our next goal. While for the rest, the travel ended, but for me it was to continue for one more week. The HOHO chapter of our life rested here for the time being and I stretched my time for a few more places to visit in the south before I finally headed north.