A day with a seaside idyll

Gokarna on India’s west coast is a much loved beach destination. It’salso one that plays hard to get, for it’s not easy to see the best parts of Gokarna.

The town lies 9km away from the Goa-Mangalore highway on a narrow, bumpy side road that is traversed only by infrequent rickety buses. The main beachfront, the Om beach, lies 7km away from town, and there's no public transport to the place. From the Om beach, you’ve to traverse 2, 2 and 3
kilometres respectively to get to the best beaches in Gokarna (Kudle, Half Moon and Paradise). And oh, there are no roads to these 3 beaches from the Om beach. You’ve to hike across hills to get there.

The Om beach is named thus because it is shaped like the Sanskrit letter‘Om’. While on the shore, I couldnt see the two semicircular shores that form halves of the Om. But as I ascended the hills away from Om beach, the elevation made the Om-shape stand out in clear relief.

To get to the Half Moon beach, I ascended two hills and waded through foliage and rocks. The Half Moon beach was empty. The golden sand looked never stepped in. The beach was just some 40-50 metres across, yet its solitude gave it an air of purity, of peace. The few shacks being built - wannabe restaurants, hadn’t quite managed to spoil the calm of Half Moon.

Across another hill, Paradise beach was a mass of seaside restaurants. There wasnt much space between the hills and the water, but the six or seven restaurants packed what little space there was. Shacks for rent lay tucked in the hills behind the restaurants, where a few travelers lay slung in hammocks, in the midst of idyllic naps. My initial surprise at the existence of commerce in this outpost lasted only till I noticed boats depositing people here.

I stepped into one of the open air restaurants for lunch. Conversations wafted across the wet, still air from neighbouring tables. There was a “but I’m just disillusioned with all the commercialism” as was “and then she found another boyfriend”.

From the edge of Paradise, I retraced my steps on the two hour trek back to Om. I then began walking towards another beach – Kudle, to the north of the Om beach. Kudle lay across two mounds that were relatively tame compared to the wild, rocky hills I’d faced earlier in the day.

Kudle beach was a semicircular bowl of hills that contained the sea within them. The water was still. Waves rolled in, not crashed through. Kudle looked like a placid backwater, a forgotten lake, a long way from civilization. Along the sprawling half-kilometre circumference of the beach, there were three bathers. The pinprick of a dolphin’s jump pierced the steely water surface.

The late evening sun lowered itself into the water far, far away. Soon, the only remnant of the day was a diffuse orange light draped over the water.

S Rao

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