Go Slow in Gokarna

Apr 15th-17th, 2017

The last thing Tracy needed after suffering for one week with India’s famed Delhi (Mysore) Belly, were delays and setbacks. 

As I had previously mentioned, the only bus running between Mysore and Gokarna was a non-AC sleeper. If on time (and they rarely were), it was scheduled to arrive after 10 hours on the road. 

So after waiting for 30 minutes in an alley which doubled as a meeting point for rats and as a septic tank for Mysore’s bus station, we finally boarded the bus. 

With the windows open, it wasn’t as hot as you would expect, but it wasn’t as comfortable as an AC version would be. 

As Tracy’s luck would have it, around 8 hours into our bus journey, we seemed to have reached a dead end and started going south. It continued like that for nearly an hour. When it finally turned around, it picked up a handful of passengers from another bus which was seemingly broken down. 

We were back on track again soon, but it was short lived because we reached a small town and pulled over on the side of the road and some men started changing the bus’ tires. Tracy already wanted nothing more than to get off this bus and we were stuck with yet another delay. At this point, it was incredibly hot in the bus due to the morning sun’s rays pouring in. Soon enough, we were on the road yet again.

Gokarna, meaning cow’s ear, is one of South India’s most sacred sites for Hindus. For Westerners, its biggest draw are its rugged and beautiful beaches. 

We finally reached Gokarna town at 9am, two hours after our scheduled arrival time. Tracy was longing to just check in and lie down for a bit. As luck would have it, our desired accommodation, Namaste Cafe (namastegokarna.com) was super busy and they didn’t have a room ready yet. 

A man assured us that we could get our budget room for 3 nights and we could just chill at the beach-side restaurant until then. 

We walked down a steep path and got to see Gokarna’s famed Om Beach for the first time. It’s called that because it is a double crescent shaped beach reminiscent of the Hindu Om symbol. 

After a wonderful breakfast which Tracy watched me eat and a beautiful view, we trekked back up the hill to the reception. Of course, the dumb staff had given away the room they promised us and said we had to pay more for a better room. We both started to give them shit and said it is not our fault that they gave away the room we were promised so finally they relinquished and gave us a nice room at a budget price! But only for our first night. We had a spacious room with private balcony but later had to move to a little shack with a mosquito net that barely fit the bed and a view overlooking the parking lot. Budget rooms come with budget views. 

Since it was the weekend, the place was just teeming with Indians. Many young affluent people from Bangalore and Mysore often make the 8-10 hour drive up for a long weekend. Because of the large quantity of Indians, this means that the beach was less than pristine, and garbage could be seen throughout most of the first crescent. They also smoke like chimneys and drink like fish and turn a serene place into a bordello.

What’s also consistent with Indians is that even if the beach is 100km long, they will all still bunch up and hang out in the same area. Maybe they just love high population densities, who knows? This means that walking just a few hundred meters further to the second crescent brings a much more pristine beach, with fewer Indians, more whities and considerably less garbage. 

Tracy and I lounged in the sun as long as her continuing dehydration could endure and I jumped in the intense waves for a bit. 

We were both so happy to finally get a change of scenery after spending almost a week holed up in in a small room in Mysore. There isn’t much to do in Gokarna except lounge and chill, so that’s exactly what we did. Om Beach is surprisingly long and sunset walks along the beach were really great. There is also a hilariously large amount of cows and dogs on the beach so it makes for great photos as well. 

The next day we wanted to see the more spiritual side of Gokarna, so we got a tuk tuk to bring us into town. Gokarna’s most famous temple is the Mahabaleshwara Temple, having been constructed in 345-365 A.D. Unfortunately, non-Hindus are not allowed inside, nor in any temples in Gokarna apparently, so we had to do a boring walk around it and hope for glimpses of its famous vimana (spire or tower). 

A little dejected, we walked over to the disappointingly dirty Gokarna Beach, before getting the tuk tuk driver to drop us off at Kudle Beach. 

This beach was way less busy than Om, and seemed to be the de facto backpacker spot. This beach was wide, long, and quite clean. 

We parked ourselves at a nice beach front restaurant and I enjoyed a beer while Tracy had some of the first real food she’d eaten in a while. 

After a wonderful day of lounging, it was time to make our way back to Om. There was actually a pass that allowed you to walk between both beaches but Tracy was too weak to make the hike, so she took a tuk tuk back and I did the walk. 

The first portion gives you a really great view over Kudle, but after that there isn’t really anything to see, except tuk tuks trying to offer you rides. The walk itself probably took 15 minutes or so, and was pretty enjoyable.

Once back, Tracy and I were enjoying our lovely parking lot view, looking at our laundry drying next to parked cars when an Indian guy starts brushing all of the dust off his car right towards our laundry. Tracy got furious and marched over towards him and started giving him shit, asking if he’s careless or just stupid. She demands that he cleans them again and offers to get him a bucket. Truly a sight to behold! 

Gokarna is also known for another beach trek, one which brings you from Om to the more secluded and rugged beaches which can only be reached by foot or boat in high tide. I decided I needed to do this trek before we left. 

I woke up at 6am and made my way to the beach. When the tide was low, it was pretty easy to reach the beginning of the trail, but it soon gets rocky and confusing and I found it surprisingly challenging. 

When I got to the top, the views were absolutely stunning: the jagged rocks, solitary palm trees and not a person in sight made this a beautiful experience. 

From here I walked through the jungle on what I thought was a path and was soon required to climb up some more jagged rocks before finally arriving at the first secluded beach known as Half-Moon Beach. 

This beach was quite small, but was really beautiful. There was a dilapidated little shack near it but I’m assuming it was empty when I passed it. I took a moment to gaze out at the sea and enjoyed the privacy so rarely found in this overpopulated country. 

I passed two little beach shacks and continued on towards the other beaches. 

I now had to climb over Hell’s Cliff, at least that’s what Google Maps calls it, which would make sense since the beach on the other side of it is Small Hell Beach. 

This was the most difficult part of the trek and I cut my foot open while nearly losing my footing (I was wearing flip flops while trekking).

When I got to Small Hell, there were a couple of whities lying on the beach completely naked. They were all alone and I guess they didn’t expect to see me waltzing over at 7am. 

I pretended I didn’t see them and continued on to Paradise Beach, the most secluded and furthest from Om. 

Between the two last beaches there was quite a lot of graffiti and quite a lot of garbage as well. This is the spot where most hippie backpackers come to chill and do acid. 

Paradise Beach is a misnomer because it was the shittiest looking of all the secluded beaches due to the amount of rubbish on its shores. 

There were two hippie couples lying near the palm trees and one Indian guy who is likely the one charging them 300 rupees per night to sleep in haggard hammocks strung up between the sparse palm trees. 

They looked at me with some contempt because I had wandered into their domain and I didn’t have dreadlocks or Aladdin pants. 

I tried to shoo away a gimpy 3-legged dog that was ruining my beach pics before heading back towards Om. 

The walk back was easier than the walk there because I could actually see which trails I was supposed to take. The walk there took just under an hour and the walk back around 45 minutes, but I think that it is really worth walking rather than taking a boat when the tides are high. 

I met back up with Tracy who was still all cuddled up in bed and we just enjoyed another wonderful day of nothing on Om Beach. 

While not Tracy’s favourite because of all the stray dogs and garbage on the beach and in the waters, Gokarna is still a wonderful spot to lounge around and recharge, especially after shitting our brains out in a big city. 

Since we were here in low season and many restaurants and beach shacks were closed, it’s hard to say how busy it would be in peak season, but I’m sure you can always find some solo space at one of Gokarna’s five beaches. Just make sure to grow some dreadlocks and bring some acid if you plan on staying at Paradise! 

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