Three years after my first trip to Goa, here I was another visit, but this time with a different group of people. We took another route from Bangalore to Goa, different from the route I was on in 2005. This time around we went from Bangalore -> Tumkur -> Kadur -> Shimoga -> Honavar -> Kumta -> Karwar -> Goa.
I woke up at 6am today. Not that it was when I set the alarm for, but that’s when electricity goes off everyday in El Nido (until 2pm). As the fan stopped turning and the humidity crept in, I had no choice but to get up.
I had plenty of time as I only needed to be at Art Cafe by 8:45am, but instead of having breakfast at Spider Pension House, I decided to have it at Art Cafe itself.
I wanted to have a light breakfast as I was going to be getting into the water for snorkeling.
Unfortunately, the pancake at Art Cafe was quite thick and heavy. I felt stuffed by the time I was done and had my orange juice. I mean, the pancake tasted great and all, but… my tummy was already bulging!
I didn’t want a repeat of what happened on my first island hopping tour in Thailand, where I slipped and ended up plunking my camera bag in the water, so I stepped into the water carefully and boarded the boat. I didn’t rush to get a spot in the front of the boat.
Those who paid for kayaking got into their kayaks and made their way towards the small lagoon. The rest, including myself, had to swim all the way there.
As I got in the water, I was supposed to follow the guide but got caught up floating in the water and staring at the corals underneath. It was a beautiful sight… which is all I can say, because I don’t have an underwater camera. (I really wish I did)
I couldn’t float around for too long as the guide had led the group through a small opening and into the small lagoon where there is a small cave.
So I swam fast and made it past the small opening, but just then, my limited swimming experience led to my right leg developing cramps. It hurt a bit as I stressed myself to catch up with the rest of the group. The guide came back for me and when I told him my right leg felt cramped, he told me not to stress it and asked me to sit on a stone inside the small lagoon. He had to lead the rest of the group inside the cave, so he told me to swim back after my leg felt better.
As I sat there massaging my right leg, a nice old Filipino woman who sat beside me on the rock suggested that I take her kayak back to my boat as she had another kayak in her group. I smilingly said “it’s fine,” but she smilingly insisted that I ride back instead of swimming back. I thanked her, and got in the kayak. Even though the kayak belonged to another tour agency and was even manned by one of their staff to paddle, I politely asked him if I could paddle instead. For someone who has always wanted to try kayaking, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be! I rode all the way back with relative ease and thanked the staff for letting me paddle his kayak.
Once I got back on board my boat, another one of boat staff massaged my right leg and it eased my muscles up a bit. As I sat on the boat, I felt I should have gone for the kayak option for this tour. It was a lot of fun and as soon as I got back to the boat, I felt like asking for another kayak. Sadly I couldn’t, as the tour boats can only carry the number of kayaks based on the bookings.
We were supposed to anchor here and then be allowed to do whatever we opted to do, but the boat operators were informed they couldn’t anchor their boats for some reason.
And if you thought: “Man, that above panorama shot would make an awesome wallpaper!”, then here’s a 1920×1080 sized version! 🙂
The food – grilled fish, grilled pork and sticky rice – was, well, quite dry for my liking. So I just had to gulp it all down with some beer (which the staff were selling for ₱50 a can). Post lunch, we sat on the beach while the staff cleaned up and took all the trash back to the boat.
One of the women on board kept screaming to her partner in the water warning him of the presence of the jellyfish, though some only swam to get closer to it for a better look.
When they did, some of them were panting for breath. The two Italian girls in our group said the currents were quite strong and they required help from our guide swimming back. Quite a scary experience according to them.
Our boat didn’t anchor itself close to the shore, so we had to swim all the way there. I wasn’t going to stay on the boat again, but this time I really wanted to take my camera with me. So the guide told me he would carry it in a plastic bag and ensure it didn’t get wet. He’s obviously a much better swimmer, so he raised the bag in one hand and still swam to the island.
Once we all swam to the island, we had to walk barefoot on prickly shells to enter the lagoon through a small opening.
The ride got a bit bumpy on the way to our final stop on our tour, 7 Commandos beach. I shielded my camera bag from all the saltwater that was being splashed at us.
With that, Tour A was over.
I went upstairs to pay the balance amount for the tour, which cost ₱700 ($16/€12) plus the ₱50 for the beer I had. I told them I used the kayak once, but they said that’s fine.
Even though I may not have made full use of the tour (due to my limited swimming capabilities), as you can see from the above photos, it was still pretty damn worth it! Sadly, today was my last in El Nido and I so wished I had another day to do another tour (like Tour C).
I left Art Cafe, said my goodbyes to the rest of my tour group and walked on. I now needed to go to Las Cabanas beach which is a five minute drive away.
I approached a tricycle taxi and asked how much it was to get to Las Cabanas beach. He said: “₱200”. I asked if that was to take me there and back, and he said “no”. I said ‘no freakin’ way’ and continued walking. As expected, he followed me and we ended up bargaining it down to ₱80.
But it wasn’t a pleasant experience. There were mosquitoes and other bugs buzzing around me and I just couldn’t stand still, having to whack each one away. The tripod with the camera would often tip over in the sand as well.
(I’ll update the page with the video once it’s ready)
I took one last panorama shot and left Las Cabanas beach at 6pm.
Once I got back on to the main road, the tricycle taxi driver who dropped me here was still there and I approached him to take me back to the village. He said: “₱100”. Sigh. I told him I paid ₱80 to come here, why should I pay more to go back. He just shook his head to say ‘no’. So I started walking…. and again, he followed me and asked me to get in. Ugh!
As we rode back, I had to ask the driver to stop again when he showed me an observation deck they built for a nice view of the sea. The sky looked beautiful and I just had to capture it!
Once I got back to the village, I went back to the ‘family day’ celebration which I visited yesterday to see if there was anything special going on today.
I leisurely walked back to Spider Pension House and told Joy that tonight I would like to try their seafood buffet for dinner. Electricity was gone again, but Joy still managed to make me a ‘boku milkshake’. I was then joined by three French youths who had just arrived today, and we began chatting.
After a satisfying dinner, I settled my bill and paid for everything as I was checking out early tomorrow. I asked Joy to book me a seat in a private van back to Puerto Princesa.
I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my Philippines journey. Coming all the way to El Nido for these beautiful waters was worth it! If these 159 photos (out of the 861 photos I took) don’t tempt you to take a vacation to El Nido, well, then try this video — it’s all real!
(It’s available in 720p HD)
P.S: There is still one final post left in this series
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.
UPDATE: A reader who visited in December 2017 was kind enough to share some numbers of places to stay on Kudle beach:
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!