After 30 hours on a train, Gokarna, India, was a well-needed respite. Although it is completely unlike all other parts of India I have experienced, as well as completely different from what I had expected from a beach town in India, it is in its own holiday-retreat way, charming. Comprised of three main beaches and two lesser developed beaches, Gokarna couldn’t possibly get any more peaceful.
I stayed on Om Beach at the Dolphin Shanti Cafe – the very last guest house perched up on the black rocks that frame the picturesque Om Beach. Leaving Varanasi, I wanted some quiet and that is exactly what I found. Jimmy, the owner, was a very chill man, who fishes in the off-season and hires an additional cook in the height of the tourist season. He and his wife, Dede, were a delight, always welcoming me with a smile and making each dish with perfection. I couldn’t believe I was living in such luxury for a mere 500 Rupees a day (if you don’t mind a straw-thatched hut with no windows and a straw-woven mat for a floor, and if you don’t mind not drinking beer – which are greatly taxed).
Further down the coast from Om Beach are two more beaches that are easily accessed by trail. There is a boat option, which you will find out as soon as you step foot onto the fine sand (Indian captains are as aggressive as rickshaw drivers). But the trail in my opinion is the choice way to go. It meanders through jungle and then pops out on a high ridge overlooking the Arabian Sea, before descending down to Half Moon Beach. Halfmoon has three cafes, two of which serve food, and there is accommodation available as well.
The next beach down is Paradise Beach, which at one time was a flourishing destination for hallucination-seeking tourists, but after several disappearances, the state of Karnataka demolished the city and now disallows permanent structures to be built. There’s still a backpacker scene there: people stay in tents and pack in their own food. If I had a tent, I would have happily joined in on the fun.
Gokarna may not have the “culture” I was expecting from India, but where it lacks in authentic India sights and sounds, it makes up for in beauty, tranquility and pure relaxation… and of course, sunsets.