Very drained and little frustrated at work, I wanted to take a small break and windup this year with a quick trip to some place I didn’t visit before. I earnestly dug through the very familiar and helpful book ‘Outlook-Weekend breaks from Bangalore’ and zeroed in on Gokarna.
Gokarna literally meaning cow’s ear -Lord Shiva is believed to have emerged from an ear of a cow- is 486KM NW of Karnataka.
There are no direct trains or flights operating from Bangalore to Gokarna. Fortunately we have government and private buses like Seabird travels, VRL travels etc. available. It’s approximately 12 hours journey by bus. One can easily book tickets online from here.
For those who aren’t comfy with bus journey, there is a roundabout way to reach this place. Take a flight till Goa and then train from Goa till Gokarna. Of course you can drive down or simply use cab service. Or even better just pop in an avomin just like I did and use the economical bus service to save time, money and energy…
Gokarna is the destination for ardent beach lovers. It has five popular beaches namely Gokarna (in the town), Kudle, Om, Paradise and Half Moon. Om beach seems to be the most popular of them all.
Gokarna is definitely a magnificent place for a beach holiday. It is downright inexpensive. Food and accommodation believe me is dirt-cheap on these beaches.
There are as many as 12 Cafés on Om beach. Namaste Café is the most sought after café; meaning you will barely get to stay here, during the peak season that is. And none of these cafés allow advance booking. Accommodation is available in the form of shacks and huts. And the cost will range anywhere between 100Rs - 600Rs for 24 hours for shacks, huts are available for mere 50Rs., can you believe it? Of course they are not as comfortable as hotel rooms but what the hell you are literally living on the beach here.
COLORFUL WRISTBANDS AT THE TEMPLE
I have loaded myself with calories enough for 1 entire year in a span of just three days. Now you know what my New Year resolution is!
Food again is inexpensive and the variety includes Mexican, Israeli, Continental, Chinese, Indian and various other cuisines. You name it and you will have it (please be reasonable while you are naming it ok?). I haven't seen any dish costing more than 150 bucks on the menu and all the dishes I tried so far are-slurp slurp, give me just one moment while I wipe my drool-very yummy. I wouldn't mind visiting Gokarna again just to treat myself with the scrumptious food it offers.
On the beaches only Beer is available; under the table rum available if I'm not mistaken. Consumption of hard liquor is prohibited here.
Oh yeah Fruit juices, Lassi, Soda, Mocktails are definitely available.
Smoking here is inevitable. People smoke all kinds of stuff, grass, chillum, smoke on fire and what not right under the nose of no smoking board. Rolling, stuffing, puffing everything happens in open.... bindaas… no shy business at all.
Have you ever seen a waiter serving the customers while smoking? It happens here and it is not considered offensive….all in good spirit.
ISRAELIS SMOKING CHILUM
More about Gokarna beaches:
Gorkarna is by far the best beach holiday I’ve experienced. I literally lived on the beach. This place is busy with bevy of hippies from all over the world strolling the beach and doing all sorts of things. In fact you will see only a handful of Indians holidaying on these beaches. It feels like you are in a foreign land.
I heard through the grapevine that Gokarna tourism is also suffering in the wake of Mumbai mayhem. Some of them also claim that Scarlett Keeling's case contributed to the diminishing tourism! I'm not sure how true this is!
Kudle is the first beach you will encounter as you enter. Om beach is 25 mins. walk from Kudle. It will take one entire day to trek all the four beaches.
FRUIT SELLERS ON KUDLE BEACH
From Om beach we trekked till Kudle beach. Kudle is as good as Om beach. It’s very serene and oodles of hippies getting conned by the local vendors selling fruits and beaded necklaces on the beach. In fact one of the vendors told us their motto is to con the foreigners. This is exactly what he said ‘ek sau pachaas saal phirangi saalo ne hum ko loota, ab hum unko lootenge’ literal English translation ‘ one hundred fifty years foreign brothers in law looted us, now we loot them.' Little do they know which foreign brothers in law actually looted them? For that matter I don’t know the accurate history myself. Shame on my dirty parts I know!!!!
We then went to paradise beach in a boat. Boat ride is fun too. Smell of the sea, sound of the water, Seagulls soaring high up against the sun studded sky, water sparkling like diamonds under the sun rays, beautiful view of the horizon. It’s a thrilling experience; you have to be there to believe it.
Boat ride would cost anywhere between 50Rs to 150Rs whatever be the destination. It depends on the number of people boarding the boat.
Less number of people (around four people) = 150Rs per head
More number of people (around five to eight people) = 50Rs per head
Paradise beach is a very small and sequestered beach. It almost feels like a private beach. There is just one café on this beach. We trekked from Paradise to Half Moon beach. In order to reach Half Moon beach we have to walk through the hot sand, trek through the wet and cold boulders infested with crabs, climb up and down small hillocks for approximately 25mins and there you are. Half Moon is also secluded but much bigger than Paradise. There is only one café on this beach on a small hillock overlooking the sea; the view of the beach from the cafe is extraordinary. This café is crowded with the trekkers, hippies and general populace gulping down bottles of chilled beer and hogging away yummy food to glory.
PARADISE BEACH TREKKING
All types of birding possible here. However there are very few real birds one can sight close to the sea.
Here are some of the birds I sighted:
White breasted Kingfishers
White bellied blue flycatchers
Brahmini Kites (like how we sight Black Kites in Bangalore)
Take swimwear along.
Pair of flip-flops/slip-ons
Shoes for trekking
Couple of Bedspreads will come in handy while relaxing on beach (you can buy them on the beach close to Namaste café also)
Water bottle (optional)
Gokarna beach is located close to the town and unlike the other beaches it's not a sequestered beach . It's crowded with pilgrims taking sacred bath in the sea to attain atonement before visiting the famous Mahabaleshwar temple.
MAHABALESHWAR TEMPLE DOME
Atma linga of Mahabaleshwar temple has a very enchanting story associated with it. I have been very fascinated with this story for years now. You can read the story here.
Everything about this town is very quaint- temples, narrow roads, shops, people, houses, etc.. Language spoken here is so musical to ears and people are very generous.
SADHU BABA ON KUDLE BEACH
We visited the popular Ganapati and Mahabaleshwar temples and offered prayers before making our way back home.
It was definitely one of the most joyous trips I've ever been on.
A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ONE AND ALL!!