Flying out of India from Cochin, we had to think about making our way back down to Kerala. In between Goa and Kerala is a little gem of a town called Gokarna. With only two days to play with we were umming and ahhing whether it would be worth going, and I’m so happy we did!
Gokarna is a small temple town in Karnataka. It’s a very religious and holy place with many Hindus going there on pilgrimage every year. After busy Goan beaches and being unable to avoid overpriced food, walking down the main road in Gokarna with local Hindus going to the temple and down little side alleys where the streets are alive and the windows and doors of houses are very much open gave me that “yep, I’m in India feeling” again. The town kind of seems like time halted in a previous era . There’s no wifi anywhere – only old school internet cafes with beefy desktop machines – and everything closes around 10pm. It was quite refreshing to becut off from the online world for a few days!
After a slightly arduous bus journey (to cut a long story short we took an extra bus we didn’t need to take and lost three precious beach hours – travel agent’s fault), we had a strike of good luck. With the money situation in India still very much in the red zone, I had 900 rupees to last me till the end of the trip! Cheap accommodation was crucial. Waiting outside while Libby and I enquired about one place, Ellie was approached by a lovely couple called Giles and Kerry who just so happened to have very strong links to Guernsey. This is a big deal because the Channel Islands are pinpricks on the map and what are the chances of bumping into someone from Guernsey in Gokarna?! They took us to where they were staying which was down a quiet alley in a family’s house. We had one bed and two mattresses on the floor for an amazing 350 rupees – perfect!
We walked down the busy evening street to Main Beach where we watched the sunset. It was interesting to just sit there and watch everybody. There was so much going on! Camels, jet skis, school trips and family photo shoots all within a few metres of each other. I was thinking about how different an Indian sunset scene is to back home.
After sunset we had dinner at a popular place called Prema near Main Beach. I had the Prema Special with paneer (surprise surprise), mushrooms and cashew nuts. Libby also had her first palak paneer! The amount of paneer I’ve consumed in India is slightly alarming actually.
Walking back the girls saw a tattoo and piercing shop and seeing as they wanted some piercings anyway we enquiried about prices. It was a tiny shop literally tucked away in the wall. The man was lovely and a little eccentric and we ended up staying in there for ages just chatting about Indian life. With the lack of rupees I had to my name at this point, I was too poor to get anything done, but Libby came out with a belly button piercing and Ellie had a nice new ring on her ear. I did a great job at being the reassuring hand though! To celebrate the girls’ bravery and their new jewells, we went for a huge ice cream, which was shortly followed by bed time! Successful Friday night methinks.
A much needed ten hour sleep meant we were up early and out for breakfast with Giles and Kerry at 8:45am. They took us to their local, a small but very busy spot on the main road, where they do one dish every morning. It’s usually spicy veg semolina with coconut sambol. Really good! They also make the best banana buns and the best part is that they’re still warm! You pay local prices here so it’s super cheap. 45 rupees for breakfast, chai and a banana bun! One morning a hungry bull decided he’d try his luck at stealing my breakfast, but I don’t think he would’ve liked the chillies…
After getting lost in breakfast chit chat for a couple of hours we said bye to the guys and headed to Kudle beach. On the way we passed a natural spring where we filled up our water bottles. The water was perfectly clean (no dodgy stomachs!) and it’s there, ready, available! Travelling and constantly having to buy water not only costs a bomb in the long run but the amount of plastic I’ve used is disgusting. Many locals use the spring to wash too, so it’s an important hub in Gokarna.
We eventually found Kudle Beach and threw our blankets down ready for a hard day of sunbathing. It was nice and quiet and the beach was clean.
That evening, we finished dinner early and wondered what to do. It was Saturday night after all! We decided to just go for chai/ice cream when we were told there was a ceremony being held for Shiva at the lake. Within ten minutes of getting there the whole of Gokarna turned up and wow. Thousands of lights and lanterns and fireworks! Small oil lamps were placed all around the lake and on the steps and walls, and when they were lit it created the most amazing reflection on the water. It was so so pretty! I felt like a kid again at a bonfire night display just standing in awe of all these thousands of lights.
Leaving the ceremony was a mission. There was a huge human traffic jam that was moving at about 0.1 mph. Luckily the man we were stood next to knew a shortcut so we took that and were shortly back at our room.
The next day we had until 7pm until we had to very sadly leave to get our train. We spent the day at Om Beach sleeping, swimming, eating pineapple and practicing headstands. We were blessed with an amazing farewell sunset, ate thali and said goodbye to Giles and Kerry.
As soon as we left Gokarna and arrived at the train station the mellow vibes we’d gotten used to were quickly replaced with turbulence. We’d specifically booked onto a ‘women’s only’ carriage and were told to wait at no.6 on the platform. The train arrived and we got on and nope, definitely not a women’s only carriage. We asked someone who pointed to the end of the train so we ran down but still couldn’t find it. Someone else pointed to the front so we ran towards the front but by this time the train started to move! What a nightmare! With the realisation of “Shit! The train is bloody going!!”, I jumped in the nearest door and Libby and Ellie quickly followed. By the time Ellie jumped the train had picked up notable speed. The three of us with our hearts in our mouths started laughing, this was now acceptable seeing as we actually made it. Jumping onto a moving train/real life movie moment = Check!