Nestled in the crevices of the Western Ghats is an untouched beauty, a piece of paradise called Gokarna. ‘Gokarna’ literally translates to the ‘Cow’s ear’ and it is called so because of the belief that Lord Shiva emerged from the ‘ear of the cow’ or Mother Earth here.
Gokarna is a tiny temple town situated around 500 kms from Bangalore and the perfect weekend getaway for travelers who want to get away from the hustle bustle of city life. You can just hop on to a bus from Bangalore and reach Gokarna in around ten hours. Most people prefer to take the night bus, that way you can get some sleep on the bus and enjoy the morning by the seaside.
I have been to Gokarna twice and on both occassions, I was in awe of its beauty and charm. It is majorly made up of four beaches namely Kudle, Om, Half Moon and Paradise. The best part is that you can easily traverse through the hills and trek from one beach to another if you are feeling adventurous. And if you want to skip out on all the walking, you can rent a scooter or a bicycle and explore the town.
Breakfast at Kudle
During my last visit, I decided to stay at Kudle beach. The shacks and guesthouses at Kudle are cheap and clean, the best thing is that there are quite a few options so you don’t have to worry about not finding a place to sleep at night. The restaurants and cafes serve great food. If you ever find yourself in Gokarna, then make sure to try the Rava fish fry.
Once I got a room and changed into my beach clothes, I decided to treat myself to a sumptuous breakfast. I ordered my favorite Nutella pancakes, now I have had these pancakes elsewhere as well but I have to say that Gokarna serves the best Nutella pancakes I have ever tasted.
After eating to my heart’s content, I took a stroll along the beach. It was rejuvenating to have the cool blue waters gently lapping at my feet and the sand under my toes. After sun-bathing for some time in Kudle beach, I headed over to Om Beach for a change in scenery.
Lunch at Om Beach
From Kudle, you have to trek for about 30-40 minutes to get to Om beach. The trek is not particularly tough but beginners should wear proper shoes because certain stretches are a bit tricky and slippery. It is also a good idea to carry a bottle of cold water when it is sunny so that you do not feel dehydrated half-way.
The mystical Om beach gets its name from the fact that the beach is in the shape of the symbol ‘Om’ and from atop a hill opposite to the beach, you can make out the shape. Be sure to take your camera along to take some shots to show your friends and family back home.
Om beach has a lot of rocks spread out across the beach. When waves hit the rocks at regular intervals, it culminates in gigantic sprays of water. I found a somewhat comfy spot to lie down on top of one of those rocks and decided to gaze up at the bright blue sky. After all, the sky unpolluted with smoke and dust is a rare sight for city folk. I almost dozed off but the occasional splash of water when the wave hit the rocks kept me awake in an introspective mood.
Om beach, like Kudle, has a lot many good cafes with Namaste Café being the most popular among tourists. My personal favorite is Sangam Café. The food was delicious but what I particularly liked about the place was the huge rack of books they had on display for travelers to borrow and read. They had a fabulous collection. I was tempted to bury my nose in one of the books but I knew that I had to make the most of my stay so I paid my bill and walked out of the cafe, making a mental note to come back when I have more time on my hands.
A Date With The Dolphins
From Om beach, you can trek down to Half Moon and Paradise Beach. Alternatively, you can also go by boat. I decided to go with the second option because the boat driver promised me that I would see dolphins on the way. To my surprise, I actually got to see a lot of dolphins. It sure made my day to see them jumping in the water and playing with each other.
Half Moon Beach is a small beach, so you will not find too many people. This beach is perfect to pitch your tent when you need some ‘alone’ time. Take along your music player, a good book, refreshments and you will be set for the day.
Paradise beach, where I was headed, is similar to Half Moon. When I reached, I befriended a group of people sitting around in a circle, jamming and singing. The thing about Gokarna is that it puts people at ease and you tend to make friends more easily than you would at a party or a social gathering in the city. As long as you are polite and friendly, you will always find yourself in good company. If you are a swimmer, then I suggest you to take your swimming costume along because you won’t be able to resist the crystal clear water at Paradise beach. When the sun was about to set, I bid adieu to my new friends and headed back to Kudle.
The Twinkling Night
Once I was back in Kudle, I found a cozy spot in one of the cafes where I would spend the majority of my evening. At night, Kudle transforms into a very pretty sight as all the cafes along the beach light up with twinkling fairy lights. In Gokarna, you can spend countless evenings listening to the crashing of the waves, looking up at the bright moon and its reflection in the majestic Arabian Sea, striking up random conversation with travelers from different parts of the world and indulging in seafood that will knock your socks off.
I have a certain affinity towards the beach but if you are looking for more unique experiences during your stay then you should head to the famous Mahabaleshwar temple. The Atmalinga or Shiva Linga is deified in the temple. Legends say that people who glimpse it are bestowed with good luck and fortune and that the Atmalinga was placed at Gokarna in the temple premises by Ravana. The temple built with granite stones and in Dravidian architecture is absolutely splendid. You should also make a point to stroll through the streets of Gokarna. You will find curio shops where you can buy souvenirs for friends and family back home.
I fell in love with Gokarna from the first moment I got off the bus and I am sure many other people who have been to Gokarna feel the same way. It has a special charm that draws you in, which is why I tend to make a trip every year. If you do make it to Gokarna, you can be certain that it will be the first of many.
By Manosha Borah
This piece was first published in Eclectic Northeast August 2017 issue