Since this was my last day in Gokarna, and since I was all by myself, I decided to do things at my own pace.
Woke up at around 10am, did my business in the common restrooms, paid for my room/hut and then checked out. Stocked up on water and said my goodbyes to the staff at Sunset Cafe.
My second post has photos of Sunset Cafe but if you want to call for reservations, the numbers mentioned on the card they gave me are: (0) 94485 26270 & (0) 93410 79315. They have huts and rooms with prices starting from Rs. 250 onwards.
I thought I’d be of service to my readers and friends by checking out a few other hotel options that looked like decent places to stay on Kudle beach.
By far the most expensive hotel on Kudle Beach is Hotel Gokarna International.
And by ‘expensive,’ I mean this is the only proper hotel on Kudle beach. Just about everything else offers simple huts and small bricked rooms. Rates here range from Rs. 1200 ($26/€19) to Rs. 1500 ($33/€24) for double rooms. Not all rooms face the sea — so you can imagine which ones cost more. Hotel Gokarna International has a bar and a restaurant serving both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. And don’t worry, no shared bathrooms here.
Next up is a funky little place called Jazzmin Cafe & German Bakery. They were fairly accommodating and asked me to take as many photos as I wanted. So I did.
When I questioned them on prices, they told me it’s best I e-mail them with my “requirements” (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
At the other extreme end of Kudle beach is Ganga Cafe, which looked like a pretty decent place too but I couldn’t have been bothered to walk all the way there with all my bags in the hot sun. Sorry.
So with all my bags in tow, I made my way up the rabbit hole for the last time.
I took it slow as with a laptop on my back, a camera bag on the left shoulder and a tripod on the other — it was literally back-breaking.
I then took the same path over the hill to Om Beach, which is where I decided I’d spend the day before heading back to town. The reason I opted to stay back one more day was to take a lot of videos on my camera (Canon 7D). Of course, I did take photos in between.
It was already past noon by the time I reached Om Beach so I decided to have an early lunch. I walked into Namaste Cafe, by far the most popular joint on Om Beach and a preferred stay for many who tend to book rooms in advance.
Their restaurant was quite busy as well.
Namaste Cafe has a variety of rooms from basic huts to air-conditioned rooms and prices start from Rs. 200 upwards. For more information, call (08386) 257141/ (0) 94481 53643.
Om Beach attracted bus loads of people that day, guessing because some people got holidays for the festival of Holi.
After a long & lazy lunch, I decided to walk up Om Beach and climb up the path to Half-Moon beach. So I asked my waiter if I could leave my laptop bag at a safe location at the restaurant itself. After doing so, with my tripod and camera bag, I set off once again.
I had to wear socks this time as my feet were getting blisters and scratches from my floaters and from walking barefoot on the sand.
I stopped at the point from where if you were to take a left turn, you would be on the path to Half-Moon beach.
As it was nearing 5pm, I decided to head back to Om beach.
Back at Namaste Cafe, I collected my laptop bag, washed up, cooled off with a lime soda and then made my way up to the auto stand.
Got into one, and saw the beautiful coastlines of Gokarna one last time while I made my way back into town.
Since I had some time to kill before my boarding the bus, I went to the Gokarna beach area for some photographs.
By this point, my camera battery was dying from all the video I recorded during the day. But I couldn’t help but click these posters.
I don’t know what the play was about but I would’ve loved to have found out. Going by their faces I’m guessing it involves killing the make-up artist.
After this, I switched off my camera and made my way to bus. The VRL buses begin at the same spot they drop you in the morning coming from Bangalore. By 6:45pm, it makes it’s way to the town office where it picks up the remaining passengers.
I took this opportunity to go out and grab some grub. I had a sudden yearning to have some ice cream but some stores ran out. Others pointed me to an old rustic coffee shop up the road.
As I patiently waited for the old man at the counter to finish tabulating his bills, I asked for “ice cream”. And then he ran down the list of flavours he had. Going by what he listed, I realized this was home-made ice cream and not the usual mass-produced artificially-flavoured stuff.
I opted for a scoop of mango and he packed one up in a generic ice cream cup with a lid and spoon. All this for how much? Rs. 6 ($0.13).
In many ways, Gokarna feels like it’s stuck in time. A time and a place where you can get a cup of ice cream for just Rs. 6, where ATMs aren’t available in every nook & corner and amenities are basic at best.
The very same reasons I seemed to love Gokarna. It may not remain like this forever, that’s for sure, but I’m sure about one thing — I’m definitely coming back!
The next day, we woke up and checked out of our rooms as we were going to be out & about until lunch. We took another small hut at Sea Rock cafe (but slightly better than the Rs. 100 one) to dump our bags — & I needed one for myself as I was going to be spending one more night here. This one cost Rs. 200 ($4). We paid the lady and then headed to town.
We took an auto (cost us Rs. 150) but we couldn’t call the guy who took us yesterday as there is no mobile network coverage on Kudle beach (Airtel and Vodafone — don’t know about the rest).
Gokarna town is a stark contrast from the popular beaches of Gokarna. Conservative, religious, predominantly-Brahmin, laid back. And lots of cows.
We got dropped near the main temple and since it didn’t look like anything we hadn’t seen before, we didn’t bother going in.
So we just walked around it and headed to the beach.
You’ll find small stores selling jewelry, beads, fashion accessories and godly merchandise among a few restaurants en route to the beach.
This is the main beach in Gokarna and it’s quite a big stretch. It’s where the locals throng and visiting pilgrims frequent the most.
And because of that, it’s also the most trashed and crowded beach in Gokarna. We didn’t bother checking it out or walking down the stretch as it really didn’t offer anything special. So we headed back.
We had plans to rent bikes and head for Murudeshwar, which was 80kms from Gokarna but we dropped it in case we were late in getting back. All except I were returning to Bangalore that day and the bus was at 7:15pm. In case you wanted to know, the bikes cost Rs. 300 and above, depending on the kind of bike you want (or at least that’s what the renters told me.)
We roamed around town in search of ATMs.
After withdrawing money from the State Bank of India (there was also a Karnataka Bank ATM), we headed back to Kudle beach for lunch. You won’t find restaurants selling the kind of food you get at Om, Kudle, etc. in Gokarna town. Most eateries are strictly vegetarian.
Once we got back to our room, we checked out again. Why?
Well, there’s an old guy at Sea Rock Cafe who is always drunk and high. The previous night he was chasing a young couple and hurling abuses at them in Kannada. He chased them walking but when they stopped, the old man stopped. Basically he was drunk and was causing a ruckus. But fell short of actually hurting anyone.
Well, he did it again in the afternoon. First joking and then again hurling abuses at everyone. Then he turned his attention to us. He never touched us but we were getting very annoyed. Finally our Kannadiga friend had enough and went to complain to the lady who basically runs the place.
Instead of doing something about their old man, she instead gave our money back and told us if we wanted to leave, we could. So we did.
And then we went next door. We asked Sunset Cafe if they had a room for just me and they showed me a Rs. 250 hut. It was sooooo much better that we didn’t hesitate. We took it, dumped our bags in there and then sat at the cafe for lunch.
It was 4pm and we had plenty of time until my friends had to leave to catch their bus. So we began our long (and lazy) lunch.
As the sun moved towards us, we moved a table away from it.
Come 6 ‘o’ clock, it was time for my friends to collect their bags and head for their buses. So I walked with them until the end of the stretch.
I guess what I liked about Gokarna best were the beaches but also, the kind of people who thronged this place. Take for example these Swiss hippies. One of them was playing a instrument called Hang. It was a unique sound produced on a steel vessel-like instrument. Check it out:
I liked it so much, I even bought the guy’s CD.
After we said our goodbyes and I walked back.
After sun set, I took bath in the common washrooms (as most huts don’t have an attached toilet) and watched the movie ‘City of God‘ on my laptop. (Very good movie by the way)
After that, I attempted night photography.
Sunset Cafe is a much better deal than Sea Rock Cafe and I’m glad we shifted. I can recommend this place over Sea Rock any day!
I enjoyed my sleep a tad better than last night‘s.
We had already been to Goa and after Thailand, I decided not to waste anymore money in India’s much-hyped party destination. So instead, we decided to head to Gokarna in Uttara Kannada, a coastal town 3 hours before Goa.
Gokarna is actually famous for being a spiritual temple town. But of course, that’s not how most young (& in-the-know) Indians know it.
We thought about driving down but seeing that it was going to be a 10-plus hour drive (453 kms from Bangalore) and that we were only planning on a weekend trip, it seemed like a waste of a day. Train options were slim as well. So we opted for bus, which turns out, is how most people go to Gokarna.
We booked our tickets on RedBus.in and opted for VRL’s buses as the timing and prices suited us. Three of us decided to just spend one night while I decided to stay two nights in Gokarna.
We left on Friday night from our offices, took the Volvo bus to Majestic bus stand and made our way to Anand Rao Circle, which was going to be our pick-up point. We had dinner from nearby and waited for our bus, which finally picked us up at 9:45pm.
The bus was just a standard semi-sleeper (push-back seats below with sleeper beds on top) and we were scheduled to arrive by 8am the next morning.
I tried to sleep in my sleeper bunk but barely managed to as I always find it hard to get sleep in rattling buses.
None the less, we arrived in Gokarna at around 8:45am. The buses stop at the point from where one can take an auto or drive down to the coast. Gokarna maybe a coastal town but the beaches most people want to hang out at are 6kms away from the town.
We hired an auto in which the four of us with our luggage somehow crammed ourselves in. The ride wasn’t comfortable but he was charging us Rs. 100 (which we would later realize is at the lower end of the spectrum).
We got to Kudle beach and the auto driver told us that if we ever needed a ride back to town, we could call him (his name is Jalander, mobile no: (0)97412 69429)
The thing about Kudle beach is, you have to park your vehicle on top and climb down the hill to get to the beach.
We made our way down the steps and finally on to Kudle beach.
Prior to leaving Bangalore, I had asked my friends who had visited Gokarna where to stay and one regular suggested I try Sea Rock Cafe — a place he frequented. So we walked up to the “shack” and asked them if they had rooms. An old man there showed us to the rooms with attached toilets, which were a bit inside.
The rooms pretty much everywhere in Gokarna are basic at best (I’ll write about stay options in detail in a later post). The room we were shown with a fan and attached toilet (& the only one that was available) cost Rs. 300 ($6 – yes, that’s how basic we are talking!). Since the other rooms in that row were occupied and we really needed a place to dump our bags quickly, we took it.
The “bed” was a mattress on a stone base… with the mattress being as hard as the stone beneath it. The room had a mosquito net and the fan — well, it worked. No matter at which speed you turned it to, it was the same.
One of us, Ramesh, wasn’t too happy with the room and asked if there were better to be found. So as two of us held the fort (in case we found no other options elsewhere), me & another friend (Anand) went along the entire stretch of Kudle Beach in search of better rooms. Most places were full and the rooms that were vacant were shoddier than the one we got at Sea Rock Cafe. So, we made our way back.
The ‘bricked’ room we got was only a double room so we had to ask for another double room. They only had Rs. 100 ($2) mud huts vacant — so we took one.
After freshening up, we went for breakfast. I forgot the name of the restaurant but it was the cafe before the Tibetan-run joint.
After a good breakfast, we prepared for our exploration of Gokarna’s popular beaches. We decided to trek from Kudle Beach to Om Beach. Everyone told me it was just a short walk over the hill but the others weren’t too keen and opted to go by auto.
I chose to trek.
I climbed back up to the parking area…
… and just started climbing the rocks…
… followed the path through the small trees…
… passed the Dolphin Cafe down below…
… stopped and stared at the place and imagined how cool it would be if I had a house down there…
… descended down, got to the point where the autos were parked and…
Om Beach is by far the most popular beach in Gokarna. Mostly because of its distinct shape from where it gets its name. We skipped on the chance to stay on Om Beach because we felt it being so popular, it would be very crowded and Kudle would have been a better place to base ourselves. But we realized we weren’t the only ones who thought like that because we saw as many people on Om as Kudle itself.
Oh, by the way, the time I took to reach Om beach was the exact amount of time it took for my friends to arrive in their auto. So just take my advice, if you can walk a bit, just climb over instead of wasting Rs. 60 on auto. It will only take you 10 to 15 minutes.
There were boat taxis anchored on the shores offering boat rides to Half-Moon beach and Paradise beach but they were asking for Rs. 500 — which we thought was a bit much. We could see a path in the distance at the end of Om Beach, so we decided to just keep on walking.
Once we reached the end of Om Beach, we began our ascend once again.
As you climb higher, you’ll get a great view of Om Beach.
Walk up further and you’ll come across a distinct looking tree from where you need to take a left turn.
Follow the path…
… stop & stare out into the beauty of the Arabian sea…
… descend down…
… welcome yourself to Half Moon Beach…
… watch hippie white dude practice with a ball…
… reward yourself!
It was hot and we were yearning to quench our thirst with some chilled beer. Plus, the trek was awesome!
We were feeling quite satisfied that we opted to trek instead of hiring a boat. It took us around 30 minutes including stopping to take photographs. Well worth the walk. We were all the more pumped and decided to conquer the final beach via a trek too.
Of course, we decided to take a break first! We sat in an isolated ‘cafe’ on Half-Moon beach, cooled off a bit and had some light snacks before setting off again.
There aren’t many shacks on Half-Moon but then again, it isn’t a very big stretch. We quite liked the thickly sliced deep-fried potato chips at Dama Cafe. Beer was Rs. 100 for a full bottle of Kingfisher.
They had basic rooms and a clean toilet at the back. Looked like a decent place to stay at Half Moon beach.
We asked the guy there how to get to Paradise beach and he told it would only take us 15 minutes. So, with glee, we set off again.
You’ll come to a point you have to cross over a barbed wire fence (don’t worry, we didn’t see a sign saying we were trespassing or anything).
You’ll pass some shacks…
… climb up, climb down…
… wish you could soar above these coastlines like an eagle to get a bird’s-eye-view…
… before you get to ‘paradise’.
Now don’t get your hopes up or anything. Paradise beach isn’t that much better than all the other beaches you pass through, but it is bigger than Half-Moon beach.
We really felt a sense of accomplishment having trekked the entire stretch of Gokarna’s popular beaches. It wasn’t planned but I guess that was what partly made it all the more fun.
And since it was past 3pm at this point, we decided to lunch.
I forgot the name of the place we sat down but it was the only open air “resort” like place there, which is why we were drawn to it.
Clicked some more after we had ordered our food.
The food was just about okay.
I’ve been on treks before but never before by the coast. The views were awesome and I loved exploring the routes. It really was an adventure.
Having said that, we were tired and in no mood to trek all the way back. So we got on to a boat taxi and made our way back to Om Beach (fare Rs. 100 per person, taking a boat back to Kudle costs more).
It was nice to see the terrain we covered from another viewpoint.
The boat ride barely last 5 minutes but it reminded me of a similar one I took in Railay, Thailand.
Back on Om Beach, the guys decided to take an auto back to Kudle beach while I decided to walk back.
Back at Kudle, I re-grouped with my friends and we made our way back down to the beach.
As you can make out from the above photos, it was nearing sunset, so I headed back to our room and freshened up.
After a cool bath, I packed up my laptop and went to the beach.
I had to carry my laptop and use the software from Canon to remotely control my camera as I did not have a dedicated remote/intervalometer. They’re expensive, so I had to make do with something free for the time-being. Also, this was going to be a learning experience for me as it was the first time I was trying timelapse.
First experiment: capture the sun setting. How did it turn out? I’ll share the results later.
After I got all my shots, I packed everything up and went to the joint next door to Sea Rock called, Sunset Cafe (& German Bakery).
We just sat there from evening…
… until night.
Nibbling on snacks and sipping beer. What else is there to do? There was a beach party at one of the other hotels but the music didn’t interest me much. So with camera in hand, we just sat at Sunset Cafe well past sunset.
After dinner, it was one cool walk on the beach before hitting the rock sack.
As the guys went back to the room, I thought I’d try my hand at time-lapse again, as it was a starry night.
I was drawing quite a lot of attention with my laptop in hand and a camera on a stand pointing at the night sky. A lot of passers-by stopped and asked in their various accents as to what I was doing — and I replied back in my accent, a lay-man’s definition of what time-lapse photography is.
Unfortunately, my laptop battery didn’t last the entire shoot so I had to stop at 50 less shots than programmed. (I may seriously have to invest in a remote). Oh well, will see how it turned out anyway.
I packed up in the dark, and headed back to the room.
After a bit of before-sleep chatter, we finally called it a night. Ramesh and Anand took the ‘bricked room’ while myself and Loi slept in the non-fan, non-toilet mud hut.
Not the best sleep I had but the fact that we were quite tired and we tried to drink ourselves to sleep, we managed to pull through.
We had to, for some of us, the next day would have been the last in Gokarna — and there was still much to do!