13-Dec-2006

Konkan Trip 6 : Gokarna part B

The day dawned bright and shiny. We were in high spirits. We had not been murdered in our beds, the cockroaches had not appeared again and the distant view of the sea from our balconies assured us that all was well with the world. SA came to inform us that the hotel owner had agreed to give us a lift till Gokarna Beach. The plan was to go from one beach to the next and explore all the beaches in the area – Gokarna, Kudle, Om, Half moon and Paradise. Gokarna beach was closest to the temple and attracted all the pilgrims. Om was the most popular among the foreign crowd, followed by Kudle. Half moon and Paradise were supposed to be quite deserted and suited for people who wanted to get away from the crowd.

Breakfasted and ready, we waited for the owner to appear. SA had not told us anything about what the owner was like. A pot bellied man appeared from nowhere, screaming at all the servants in the area. Then acknowledging our existence, he informed us that he would be ready in five minutes. His face looked a lot like someone had either punched him several times or he had an overdose of strong drugs at some point. He also clearly reveled in showing off his superior position among the crowd of kowtowing servants. He was very polite and helpful to us though and faithfully kept his promise. He suggested that using a ferry would be the best option to travel between beaches and dropped us off at Gokarna beach.
We began to search for the ferry and soon realized that our hotel owner had been referring to the tiny fishing boats with a motor attached to them. There was no jetty. The fishermen just shoved the boat into the sea, jumped in and rowed till the water was deep enough to start the motor. Just looking at it was scary. We decided to wander through the town while thinking of other travel options.


Gokarna town proved to be quite interesting. The temple area had narrow, lively streets, filled with cows and trinket-sellers. Foreigners on a spiritual journey had made inroads into these parts too and no one found it strange that the priests could provide shelter in their pristine, vegetarian, high-caste homes. I also realized there were a lot of positives to having a tourist crowd comprising non-Indians. Even if their personal hygiene habits were a bit worrisome, they definitely had a well developed civic sense and did not litter. The bookshops around such areas stored a good selection across various languages. The continental food prepared by restaurants catering to them was cheap and divine.


After a while we decided to move to the next beach. The options were to hire bikes, autorickshaws or cars. Only PR could handle a bike competently and the hilly roads were too dangerous for NA or SA to polish their rudimentary skills. Cars would be too expensive, and we packed ourselves into an autorickshaw.


The view on the way to Kudle beach was wonderful. The auto driver dropped us off on a hill and told we had to take a narrow track down. Several people passed us on the way and we realized this was the only route down. Clearly no infirm or aged person would be able to walk down. The beach was however wonderful, and fully justified the trip. As per plan, we found a reasonably empty looking shack and began to make ourselves comfortable. All of us opened our books/ordered food or juices/went for long walks on the shore/played in the water a bit and generally lazed around. The day could not have been more perfect.


NA disappeared for a long walk and after a couple of hours, we began to get worried. Sure enough, when he came back, he was looking red and very dehydrated. After being forced to drink plenty of water he fell fast asleep. The original agenda of checking out all the beaches was dropped. We decided to just walk across to Om beach in the evening, after a cup of chai (served in very tall glasses). The hillside was not particularly green but even the brown grass was a brilliant foreground for a slowly setting sun. We went back to the scene of our previous night’s heartbreak. With a reasonably crowded beach and some amount of daylight, the beach did not look quite so overpowering. We watched the sun set and talked and walked and made our peace with Om beach.

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