By Ankita Joshi aka @married_to_a_beardo. This blog was originally featured in the Economic Times.
"Next weekend we are going to Gokarna!" I said, on a video call with mom.
'Where's that?" she asked.
"All I know is that there are beaches and its in Northwest Karnataka", I said.
Two days later, while in a meeting, I received around five calls in quick succession from my mom. Worried that it was some kind of emergency, I called back. To my surprise and relief, my mom answered the phone in extreme excitement, and asked with enthusiasm:
"Aren't you guys going to Gokarna?"
"Yes" I said. "But why are you so excited?"
"I Googled the place." she replied. "It's a very holy place, Ankita, it's so good that you will be visiting Gokarna. Its also called the Kashi of South."
I was in awe of her thought process. Let alone the fact that it was called Kashi, I didn't even know there was a temple in Gokarna! I realised how different our priorities were.
This trip was special, particularly because we got a chance to meet our lost love - the beach - one of the many things that we miss about Mumbai. We set out on a Friday night to make the most of our long weekend, taking one of the several buses which departs from Bangalore city at regular intervals.
Gokarna, popular Hindu pilgrimage destination around 500 kms from Bangalore is also known for its breath-taking beaches. We reached Gokarna at around 7.30 in the morning, and it wasn't hot and it wasn't hot as it was January. We took a rickshaw from the bus station as we saw no other option. It was either the rickshaw or a long walk, which a lot of backpackers opt for. The rickshaw only went till a particular point, and from there we had a climb down to Kudle beach. We chose Kudle since we heard that Om, the most popular beach, gets a bit too crowded during the holidays. Our decision indeed paid off! Inhabited by very few people (mostly foreigners), Kudle was one of the most peaceful places I had ever visited!
One can find multiple shacks and resorts with basic accommodation facilities. Frankly, it didn't matter how lavish the room was, as every room has the same view because they all stood in a line on the beach. We stayed at the 'Sunshine' shack, and those people sure knew how to ensure that we enjoyed the beach! The rooms were basic: just a bulb, a fan and a washroom (in some cases). Their idea was to get people to relax outdoors, and not to sit inside the room. Every shack had its own restaurant, so there was no need to go in search of food.
Unlike Goa, Gokarna is a place to do absolutely nothing, which is precisely what we did. For people who would feel incomplete without activities, there are boat rides across all three beaches on the coastline. In addition to this, one can indulge in water-sports (depending on the season), visit the temples in the area or take hike to Om Beach.
We spent the entire day in front of the beach, drinking in the salty sea, eating delicious food and having long conversations with locals as well as non-indian visitors. The popularity of Gokarna among people from around the globe was very visible. Many of them are known to go and stay there for 1-2 months. It felt good to see hippie families just hanging around, soaking up the sun, practicing yoga and doing other such things. During one of our lunches, we saw a cute little girl going up to every table in the shack and saying 'hello', while her parents looked at her making new friends. The family was from Argentina. The entire scene made me ponder on the cultural difference between them, the foreign travellers, and us. Indian parents would never allow their kids to leave the table, let alone going up to strangers and saying hello.
The next day was our trek to Om beach. It is a 45 minute walk across a small hill. The beach remained in our view throughout the pleasant walk. As we expected, Om beach was overcrowded with locals. The minute we reached there, we saw a stark difference in the behaviour of Indian and foreign travellers; Indians seem to think of the places they visit as their own private property and tend to abuse its environment. Not to insult Indians, but this was our experience. with plastic waste, beer bottles, and the like. Om beach was 'decorated' with plastic waste, beer bottles, and the like. People stared - or rather, leched - at foreigners without regrets. Sadly those atrocities overshadowed the beauty of the amazing beach. This made us not feel like taking a walk on the beach, so we ended up going to Namaste Cafe, one of the most famous cafes on the beach. After spending some time there we returned to Kudle and witnessed a spectacular sunset.
The night brought us wonderful surprises: we saw a group of street artists performing balancing acts on slackline, juggling, and playing some beautiful music! Post dinner, we near the beach listening to a group of guys playing some nice country music.
We did nothing the next day as well.
The day after that, it was time for us to leave for home and return to doing things for a living. So, with shoes full of sand and without visiting the famous temples, we bid adieu to Gokarna. And, yes. It was tough to explain this to mom.
Your Guide :
Stay - Sunshine shack, Kudle beach (Rs. 500 - 1000 per room per day) multiple shacks with local seafood options, less options for vegetarians
Go to - Om beach, another extension with a good view, explore new beaches and most importantly the famous "Shiva Temple". There are multiple small treks and beach extensions that one can visit but because of a lack of time, we couldn't do it all.