A beach so beautiful yet inhabited by so few that if you were out on the sands watching the sunset, you would be the only one out there. A beach so cut-off from the common din that if come nightfall, the only light you will see will be the moonlight and the only sound you will hear will be the roaring of the waves. A beach so deeply placed in the cradle of nature that is surrounded and protected by lush green hills. Yes, such a place exists – not only in your dreams but also in reality. In fact, not just one beach, a series of beaches – and the place that houses these untarnished beaches goes by the name of Gokarna, a coastal village in Karnataka. Many have heard of it; at the same time, many haven’t. In defense of those that don’t know of Gokarna – nobody generally associates Karnataka with beaches. Even I didn’t until I reached the place. But ever since, when I think of beaches, I remember the unique South Indian accent, and the place where chilly chicken is called chicken chilly: Gokarna.
There are five main beaches in Gokarna: Gokarna beach, Kudle beach – which is my favourite, Om beach, Half Moon beach and Paradise beach. Out of these, the half moon beach, paradise beach and Kudle beach can only be reached by foot – only just a hint of how pristine these beaches are, because the real sight is almost beyond description.
Though rail transport is an option, the most convenient way of getting to Gokarna is by bus. We boarded an overnight bus from Bangalore, the metropolitan city closest to Gokarna. Buses also ply during the day, but sleeper-class night buses are most preferred – what’s better than a good night’s sleep, even while travelling, so that you wake up to a fresh morning, ready to have delicious breakfast at the Shri Ganesha Café? The bus stop at Gokarna is in the main village, a few kilometers inland. After the 12 hour bus ride, we reached the Gokarna bus stop at about 8 in the morning. A heads-up: if you’ve reached Gokarna in the morning and if you’re carrying anything more than a rucksack, do not consider travelling to the beaches by foot, unless you’re looking for a heat stroke – essentially not during the summer season, when not only is it scorching but also extremely humid. The auto rickshaw ride from the bus stop to the coastline takes about ten minutes and should not cost more than 100 rupees.
We were dropped on a cliff, as close as possible to Kudle, after which we had take a rocky path down to the beach. We stayed at the only one full fledged hotel at Kudle Beach – Hotel Gokarna International; if you ever want to go there during off- season months (June to September), this hotel will be your savior; it has rooms available most of the times. During the season, shacks open up because there are many tourists looking for cheap lodging.
Kudle is a place that will cut you off from the entire world: it is probably the only tourist beach that has no mobile connectivity. Yes, it is true; when you’re at Kudle, you are literally off the grid. Of course, there is one lodge at the far north end of the beach that has a hard-line phone connection – which is in a dysfunctional state most of the times. Also, there is no electricity, except at the hotel; but, if you’re at the beach after sun-down you will find that it is not dark – if the moon is up in the sky; especially if it’s full moon. What’s more? The sea food, of course. Back in the cities and towns, if you’re at a restaurant, ordering a plate of tiger prawns – which are anyway a rarity – you would expect to get only the flesh on your plate, right? But that’s not how sea food is served in Gokarna; I ordered for a serving of tiger prawns. What did I get? Tiger prawns, brought in from the sea, not more than 2 hours earlier – with their legs, tails, eyes and entire bodies intact. They surely were fresh, as they called them. If, by now, you’re planning on visiting Gokarna sometime, during your stay, don’t miss out on the Nutella pancakes. They are so delicious that I’m sure we spent a good chunk of money only on those chocolaty pancakes.
The beach which is most visited is the Om beach. It is called so because it represents the shape of the Om symbol. It is the only one in the world to have such a natural shape. This beach has better facilities in relation to accommodation and food. Interestingly, there are no roads to the south of Om. So, if you want to get to either Paradise or Half Moon beach, which are further down south, you have to venture into the wild – and so we did. After taking instructions from a waiter at Namaste Café(the most famous eatery on Om beach), in order to go to Half Moon beach, we followed a narrow trail that was marked by pointers that could have easily been overlooked; it was a 30 minute trek. After an entire day at Half Moon, we set out for the trek back to Om beach, and then on an auto-ride back to Kudle.
Even though we took the bus back to Bangalore the next morning, it took me a while – almost an entire month – to adjust myself back into the urban way of life. But, it was overwhelming for me not just because I was looking to get away from monotony of city, but mostly because of its stunning beauty.
Gokarna is addictive. It is perfect. That’s about how explicable it is. This, you will see when you get there.
Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/ananth/2366214014/sizes/z/]