A Mumbai Boy’s First Solo Trip to Gokarna (anywhere really)

Just a few hours back I had booked my tickets to head back to Mumbai. So there I was at around 11:30 pm on a very cold evening at an extremely busy Yeshwanthpur Bus Stand in Bangalore waiting to board a bus to Mumbai. This place was a hub, as hundreds of buses leave from Yeshwanthpur daily, heading off to all parts of Karnataka and beyond. So the place was at its busiest with people running around me, in front of me, behind me, bumping into me – everywhere I turned, there were people. I couldn’t care less though about things happening around me as I was in a different mindset altogether. Sitting there with that AC bus ticket on my phone – the bus was an hour late btw – I kept thinking if I should take a detour and take a solo break before heading back to Mumbai. Gokarna. That is where I wanted to be heading.

I had been in Bangalore for almost a week to visit my family, especially my sister who was expecting a baby soon.  I had been very confused about the return journey, right from the time I had arrived in Bangalore. For quite sometime, I had been wanting to do a solo trip to Gokarna. Gokarna is a small paradise village located in the south of Karnataka. When I call it paradise, I mean it. If you’ve ever been to this place, you may agree with me on this. It is this calm little village which happens to have one of our countries most wonderful beaches, a few of the most ancient temples and an amazing history. If your a fan of seafood (like I am), then this place is everything you could ask for. The beautiful beaches, the mountain treks and amazing food by the beach is all I needed before I headed back to Mumbai.

Gokarna4
Photo by UrbanLadka

 

So there I was at Yeshwanthpur, shivering, confused, thinking of the possible things that could go wrong if I ditched my bus to Mumbai. I had come up with a list of things by now, the risks and why it was a bad idea of going solo with the amount of luggage I was carrying home from Bangalore. Yes the luggage. Except for my huge camera bag and a bag full of my clothes, I was also carrying along with me a big bag full of eatables from Bangalore. Nothing great though. Just the regular fried stuff, sweets and some more perishable junk food. Also there was the fact that I would end up losing the money I paid for my tickets to Mumbai. Although I wasn’t much concerned about the eateries or the money part. What I was really worried about was my MacBook and the Nikon D4. If you know me, you would totally agree to this. I am someone who is overly paranoid with the safety of my equipment and so there was no way I could take all of this along with me to Gokarna. Even if I did, I would have to book an expensive hotel room so that the stuff was safe while I was out on the beach. Then there was the fact that I hadn’t informed anyone about doing this trip, not even my family nor any of my friends. There were too many risks involved and the more I thought about it, the more it felt like a bad idea to me.

In the midst of all this heavy thinking, a sleeper bus to Gokarna stopped right in front of me. I took that as a sign and without thinking twice, I boarded the bus! I’ve done a lot of crazy things in the past but this one topped the list. There were a few empty seats on that bus. I bought a ticket, got on to my seat, dumped my luggage near my leg space, strapped the camera bag to one of my legs and chose to deal with the problems once I got to Gokarna. Simply speaking, I slept off !!!

The next morning, I was in deep sleep when this rude man started shaking me. I was in such deep sleep that I was unaware of where I was and who the man was. Talking to me in Kannada, he was asking me to wake up, telling me it was the last stop. I could hardly open my eyes to check the time. I was shocked to see the number of missed calls on my phone. Most of the calls were from CID, which btw is the contact name on my phone for my Mother!

Now I was slowly getting my senses back and soon I realised that it was 7:30 am and the bus had reached Gokarna. Still half asleep, panicking and confused, I managed to gather my stuff and followed the others who were also getting off the bus. Once everybody was off the bus, the bus left, everyone else from the bus left as well, except for me. I stood there alone with all that luggage, wondering what I had got myself into. My phone was going crazy as my mom kept calling me. For those who don’t know my mom: My mom calls me at least 700 to 800 times a day. I don’t want to talk about it here though because I could write another article on how protective my mother is when it comes to me. But ya now was the time to tell her the truth and I was scared now.

I stopped ducking and with a script ready in my head about what I was gonna tell her I took her call. She was pissed off. She was mad at me for not taking her calls and not informing her about boarding the bus to Mumbai which btw I hadn’t even boarded. I just thought of it for a second and while she kept saying stuffs to me, I told her the truth. I told her I was in Gokarna and not on the bus to Mumbai. I also told her why I had to do it and I would take a bus to Mumbai the very evening. There was silence. She freaked the heck out. It took me a while to convince her that it was cool and everything was ok and it wasn’t a big deal. After all the convincing, she was able to calm down and she asked me what my plans were. I wish I had a plan but at that time, but I really really didn’t. She asked me to stay out of trouble, keep the equipment safe and ordered a bunch of stuff she wanted from Gokarna!

Much relieved after talking to her, I got myself together and first thing I had to do was to look for a decent place to dump my stuff. I wanted to stay at a place which had the view of the beach. For that, I would have to drag all the stuff from the bus stand to the beach which btw was a few kilometres away. My actual concern was coming back to the bus stand the same evening with all the baggage AGAIN!! Thus staying on the beach wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do. So now what ? Right across the street, there was a decent hotel with a few rooms. I chose to stay there as it would be convenient for me to board my bus that evening to Mumbai. Hotel ShivPrasad it was gonna be.

The struggle with the luggage was real, as people stared at me crossing the road with the bags. Made it to the hotel reception some how and asked if there were rooms available for a day. With the number of baggage I was carrying, the guy was shocked to hear I was leaving the same evening. He was a good man though. I told him what my situation was and the good man that he was, gave me a good deal on the room and assured complete safety of my equipment. My room was on the second floor and the lift wasn’t working so had to walk up the stairs. When I reached up and entered the room, I was in mixed feelings with a smile on my face. It was a small but clean room, with air-conditioning, a normal sized bed, a small tv and the best out of all, it had a balcony with a view. Sadly I had it just for a few hours. I was no longer bummed about not having a room on the beach though.

So I had found myself a decent room, my luggage was safe, my parents were informed and my return ticket to Mumbai was also booked the for the same night. Everything was surprisingly sorted within few hours in Gokarna. It was 11:00 am now and I wouldn’t leave the room until lunch as it was hot outside. There was a few hours to that and I was clueless about what I was gonna do until then.

In case you haven’t figured it out, this was my first trip alone and I had no idea what people do while they travel solo. I sat there watching the limited channels available on the TV. Just a few hours into my first ever solo trip and I was BORED. I was carrying a bunch of unwashed cloths from Bangalore. Strangely I decided to use that time to wash the clothes! I had a balcony, it was hot outside, I had a few hours to spare so clothes washing it was gonna be. Walked back down, got a soap and started off. Initially I thought of doing a few of it as I had nothing comfortable to wear for my journey that night. But once I started doing it, I decided to finish the whole lot and get done with it. That took a while but it was done. With still an hour to kill, I set an alarm on my phone and passed out. I had the best nap ever. It was about time I left the room now. As I came down the guy at the reception had arranged a rickshaw for me. I booked the guy (Suresh) for the rest of the day to take me to the beach and bring me back to the hotel. He was a good man and agreed to give me a good price. We then head to Om Beach.

Gokarna1
Photo by UrbanLadka

 

For those who haven’t been to Gokarna, Om Beach is one of the best beaches in our country. The beach looks like the shape of the symbol Om when looked from atop. Thus the name Om Beach. It attracts not just domestic Indian tourists but also tourists from all parts of the world. It was about 6 years back when I had been to Om Beach for the first time and I instantly fell in love with the place. I still am. There is something about this place that takes me back down memory lane to the first time I had been here. So coming back. While Suresh took me to Om Beach, I came across a few places where I’ve had past experiences. Saw the Wine shop which my buddy Vaibhav kept calling Mandir throughout my previous trip to Gokarna. Saw the huge tree which my buddy Shashank had fallen from which btw we had randomly decided to climb on a trip five years ago. Also came across the resort where I had stayed when I had visited Gokarna for the first time with my sister and her kids. Many such memories coming back. It kind of made me sad and miss my friends and miss all the crazy things I had done here before.  Suresh was a good guy though. He kept me engaged in a pleasant conversation. He dropped me at Om Beach and I asked him to pick me up by 7:00 pm.

The beach is at a lower altitude so there are stairs that lead towards the Om Beach. As I was walking down the stairs, my eyes, as always, kept eagerly wanting to get a glimpse of the sea. After peeping through the bushes and the rocks, I finally reached a point from where I could got the complete view of Om Beach. There it was. The blue sea. The sunlight reflecting on the water, making it look like shining crystals in the clear blue sea water. The sound of the water hitting against the rocks, making its way towards the sea shore, the shape of the Om Beach … all adds up making it look and sound spectacular. What surprises me is that every single time I have been to this place, it makes me wonder, is this beautiful beach really a part of India?

Right on the beach is this really cool food joint called Namaste Café. My suggestion to those who are visiting Gokarna, is that you must try the Butter Garlic Prawns there. It’s just amazing. This is probably one of the best places to eat in Gokarna. Located on Om Beach, this quiet little café with the view of the sea is just lovely. I had been craving to eat here ever since the last time I had left Gokarna. Thus I walked into the café and luckily it was almost empty with just a couple of people having their beers peacefully. I was also lucky enough to find myself a table facing the beach. I sat there, took my camera out,  ordered my food and just enjoyed the lovely view of the blue sea. My camera which was left out on the table attracted a little toddler towards me who could barely walk. His parents were sitting on a table close to mine and they seemed quite ok while I took his pictures. He kept running around the cafe and it was fun to watch him. My food arrived, and straight away I started to dig in. As I expected, the prawn was juicy, buttery and fresh! Have you ever been in a situation where in between your meal, you are ecstatic because you realise how good it is, and also instantly sad because it’s gonna end and you wouldn’t be able to have it until your next visit to this place? I was going through that with every bite. The Fish Fried Rice also tasted really really good. It was such an amazing moment. Delicious food with that amazing view of the sea, taking lovely pictures on my first ever solo trip. There was nothing I would ever want. I was happy at that place.

Sadly it was time to make a move. It was about 4:00 pm and almost time to start my trek. I finished my meal with a huge fruit salad. It is never easy to trek with a heavy bag. The trek starts from one end of the beach to the other end. From there, a pathway takes you on top of the hills which divide the Om Beach and the Half Moon Beach. The pathway takes you through a small forest on the hills. It was incredible walking through the forest by myself, listening to the sound of the birds along with the sound of the sea. It felt really calm and nice. I’ve done it several times before and I knew my way through the forest very well. Although doing the trek solo was a completely different experience as it was the first time I felt the calmness in the middle of the forest. As I was walking, I see a group of girls who were stranded in the forest. They were happy to see me but could barely speak any English. Judging from their body language, I realised they were lost and asked me if I was going to Half Moon Beach. I asked them to follow me as I knew the way. The girls were from Russia and were on a vacation to India. I wish I hadn’t met them as I had really started to enjoy my walk through the forest. Good thing that there was a language barrier and thus we did not talk much. We had reached my favourite spot now.  During the trek from Om Beach to Half Moon Beach, trekkers come across this spot  when the pathway takes you from out of the forest on to the edge of the hill where u can see the wide ocean stretch from the top. It is the best view of the ocean ever. An aerial view from top of the hill covered with palm trees and the clear blue sea water hitting the rocks right beneath your feet. If you’re lucky enough, you may be able to see a boat pass by which makes it look unreal. I’ve shot this view several times before but I’ve never been able to do justice to the beauty of this place. This time too I had to take some photographs so I guided the group of girls on the way ahead telling them I would join them soon.

Gokarna3Photo by UrbanLadka
 
 
Gokarna2
Photo by UrbanLadka

 

I took a few pictures and then just sat there, watching the horizon. The sun was to set soon, making the sky look lovely.  The picture perfect view of a boat slowly passed by the rocks. I managed to get some lovely shots thanks to the timing of the boat. Things like this really calm you down. It was at that very moment I realised how important that break was for me as I really felt that I belonged there at that place. I was in such a positive space and I could stay there forever that way. I wish if I could stay there a little longer but I just couldn’t. I had a long way to go. So I continued my journey towards the Half Moon Beach.

It’s a climb from that point which takes you back into the forest. I tried to maintain a decent speed and decided not to take stops as the sun was soon gonna set and I did not want to get stuck there. Also I had some catching up to do as the group of girls had moved ahead. I kept going through the forest till the point I could see the Half Moon Beach. There was no sight of the girls though. I wondered if they had lost their way again, and I started worrying about them. Soon I had made it to the Half Moon Beach. It is probably the cleanest beach out of all with barely any tourists. It’s not easy to access thus not many people prefer to come to the Half Moon Beach which is the reason for it to be the cleanest. It’s my favourite beach out of all the four in Gokarna. Calm, quiet and secluded, this beach looks like the shape of a curved moon when looked from the top. The beach is very small as compared to the others. I sat there for a while and enjoyed the sunset. Also took a few pictures before I continued my journey to the Paradise Beach, which isn’t too far – another 15 mins from top of the hill from the other end of the Half Moon Beach. The view from Half Moon Beach to Paradise Beach is really beautiful. As I was about to reach the other end of the Half Moon Beach, I spotted the girls waiting for me to get there, and we continued the journey – this time we did interact a little.

I managed to complete my trek just after sunset. It was much quicker than my previous times. There it was – Paradise Beach. A couple of boats by the shore and a few people relaxing and doing their thing. First thing I did was to arrange a boat to take all of us back to Om Beach. There was no option of trekking back after sunset and boats were the only way out.

Now that everything was sorted and I had time to spare at the Paradise Beach, I found a quiet spot for me, and started shooting some pictures. It was beautiful. The boats were a beautiful subject with the painted sky and the pattern of the clouds in the back. I was a little proud of myself for pulling it off. I sat there by myself, watching the sky change its colour slowly. It requires patience but for me it is one of the best sights in this world. The seawater was hitting the rock on which I had been sitting and water splashed on my face. It was a lovely experience which I could never be able to have unless I was alone. I sat there for almost forty mins just looking at the shades of the sky and taking its photographs. Sadly it was almost time to head back to Om Beach. The last boat was about to leave soon. I got on the boat and head to Om Beach. On the boat, I thought about my entire trip. It sure was a short one but I made myself a promise to come to Gokarna at least once a year on such solo visits.

Gokarna5
Photo by UrbanLadka

 

The boat ride was a short one and I had reached Om beach. I walked down to the auto stand. Suresh had been waiting for me for a while there because I was a little later than I expected. It was almost 7:30 pm now and my bus was at 9:00 pm, and I had to head back to the room and repack all of the washed clothes. All this time my phone was in my bag as there was no network on it and also I wanted to keep myself away from it. As I sat in the auto to head back to the room I checked my phone if there were any messages and there it was. A big list of things that my mom wanted from Gokarna. The list also included me to visit the Gokarna temple and get her prasad and stuff from there. With hardly any time left for my bus I requested Suresh to take me to the market and the temple. He was extremely helpful as he came up with a great idea. He dropped me off at the temple and went off to buy the spices that my Mom had asked me to get and asked me to meet him outside the temple in 15 mins. I couldn’t thank him enough for it and I promised to have dinner with him before boarding the bus. He dropped me off and zoomed away to the market area to pick up stuffs for me.

I was glad the temple was empty that day. The security there stopped me though – I couldn’t go inside in shorts. I ran to a shop outside the temple and bought myself a lungi and just wrapped it over my shorts. I suppose it looked damn weird as I had never ever worn a lungi before. Then they made me take off my t-shirt, and finally was inside the temple. It’s a lovey temple with a really great history. You can actually feel the spiritual aura and the history attached to it. While in Gokarna one should never ever miss to visit this Shiva Temple. I was so glad that I was able to do the Shiva and Ganesha temple within 15 mins. Suresh also showed up pretty soon although he was surprised to see me in a lungi.

We headed back to the hotel. I took a quick shower and packed my stuff. It was already 8:45 pm by now and sadly there was no time left to have dinner with Suresh. I was soooo glad that I had chosen this hotel which was close to the bus stop and not the one on the beach. By the time I came down it was almost 9:00 pm and I apologised to Suresh and promised him that the next time I would visit Gokarna I would surely have lunch with him. He was a really nice guy and though the bus stop was right on the other side, he offered to drop me. I did pay him a little extra for everything he had done. If not for him, it wouldn’t have been possible to get Mom’s spices or visit the temple.

Things couldn’t have gone any better for me on this trip. Everything had gone so fast that I had not realised the fact that my first ever solo trip had almost ended. Only after I got into the bus, the whole experience started sinking in. There is a feeling that I have every single time I leave from Gokarna. A sad feeling that makes me not wanna leave the place. This time it was even more hard for me, as I looked out the bus window and saw Gokarna fading into the night behind me.

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