For those of you who have followed me and my blogs in the past, you’ll know that I’m quite attracted to the small beach town of Gokarna, situated right at the tip of Karnataka and about 150 kilometers below Goa. I’ve written about my travels to Gokarna extensively on MirrorCracked here, here and here. Read it when you have the time.
Early this year, Mansi’s best friend Joanna got married in Goa, which meant that Mansi and I returned to the overrated city, this time as wedding guests. This was my first full-fledged Goan wedding and I was not unhappy after it got over. It was perhaps the largest and most elaborate wedding I’ve ever been a part of. I envy Goans for the kind of awesome food they eat every day. Anyway, we had planned our trip in such a way that we would have about a week between the wedding in Goa and the reception in Kalimpong, so that we could put our feet up and relax in Gokarna. Being her best friend’s wedding, Mansi had been in Goa a week before the event, fulfilling her bride’s maid duties, and was thoroughly exhausted. She needed the break in Gokarna before the reception – a reception that we eventually didn’t attend due to last minute changes in flight schedules. More on that in later posts.
We took a bus from the Margoa bus stand to Gokarna – a journey that took about 6 hours, and ensuring that we reached Gokarna in the late evening, about 6PM. We checked in at the Namaste Cafe and found a place at the courtyard restaurant and let the cool sea breeze wash over us as we felt the stresses of the wedding and the exhaustion of the travel leaving us. We washed up in our quaint stone cottage and went on an exploratory walk all the way to the other end of Om Beach and walked back in the dark, in the high tide. It was a thrilling start to a four-day escape.
The next morning, our friend Rohit Nayak, joined us from Bangalore and we had a very satisfying breakfast together. One of the things I love about Gokarna and Namaste Cafe in particular, is their cheese toast. I’d kill for it.
We did another walk down Om Beach and climbed over some rocks to reach an almost inaccessible cafe called Shiva Cafe, hidden away midst foliage and rocks. A cup of tea and stories later, we decided to take a boat up to Paradise Beach and meet with the community of beach-bums from all over the world who had made their home there. I had the distinct pleasure of sharing a joint with them the last time I was there, when I learned that these guys came from all over the globe, settled in at this makeshift community on Paradise for months on end. Their community was totally self-sufficient – they fished, they grew whatever little vegetables they’d need and they partied all night around bonfires. It was like something out of a movie. Unfortunately this time around, when we reached Paradise, all we could see was ruins of a handful of people selling tender coconuts and tourists. When asked, we were told that the government had cleared away the settlers because the land belonged to the forest department. I wonder who they were hurting. Such a shame. We did find their calling card, though. A slab of stone where they had inscribed a message of peace in all the different languages, indicating the truly global community that lived here, now remembered through a few lines etched in rock.
We headed back to Om Beach and had a lovely lunch at one of the other cafes on the stretch and decided to lounge around for the rest of the day. I love those hours of pure silence when there is absolutely no one on the beach and all you can hear is the sound of waves gushing up to meet the land and the wind whispering sweet nothings in your ears. Stretching out with a cup of hot tea and watching the sun go down in Gokarna is probably one of the most serene things you can do.
We did the short trek up to Kudle Beach the next day and spent the day there. Kudle is a fantastic experience – almost white sands, pristine blue waters and a beach head that extends almost up to a mile and a half. This called for a swim – it was Mansi’s first swim in the open sea and she loved every stroke. A small disagreement with a waiter about the quantity of food, a very relaxing post-lunch session of lounging around and doing nothing, and a satisfying cup of tea later, we headed back to Om Beach.
We spent most of the next day in Namaste, reading books and drinking tea in the courtyard, watching the water and swatting flies away. It was the most relaxed we’d been since the chaos of the wedding in Goa. We were glad that we came during the week when the beaches are devoid of too many tourists.
Once our days at Gokarna wound to an end, we were supposed to head back to Mumbai by bus and catch a flight to Kalimpong for our friend’s wedding reception. But due to a last minute change in the schedule, Jet Airways informed us that there was no way we could catch our connecting flight from Kolkata without having to spend an extra Rs. 20,000! So, we dumped the idea and instead, did something totally cool! Mansi will probably tell you all about it in another post. Wait for it. 🙂
[PS: This post has been in drafts for over two months and I’m publishing it now. The reason for this sacrilege will be made abundantly clear in the next post.]