I had always heard of Gokarna. Lets face it, if you live in Bangalore, it’s almost impossible not to have heard of it, especially if you went to college there. In my head Gokarna had beaches and a lot of people getting high. But more importantly, it was a night bus away, roughly 8-10 hours. I’ve always loved the beach, the way it stretches forever, how you realise how small you are in comparison to the world, and subsequently how small your problems are as well!
A friend of mine had recently visited Manali and stayed in a backpacking hostel that he waxed eloquent about. I knew about backpacking hostels, but I never really thought of staying there. My thoughts initially about them were exactly the opposite! In 2013 , I watched a Hindi movie called Queen in which the protagonist lives in a hostel as she tries to figure a bit of her life out ( it’s a Hindi movie, the explanation can’t be as simple as that, but let’s leave it at that for now!). I remember being very weirded out by how close everyone was in the dorm room , how these were absolute strangers and how it was SO unsafe. I could never picture myself in a room like that!
But backpacking hostels had two advantages that helped make the decision for me.
1: There was a large amount of information about them online that I could easily access, and they seemed to be authentic reviews and responses ( I also had a recommendation from the friend from the previous paragraph), and more importantly
2: They were cheap.
Bunkbeds and shared toilets come with a very low pricetag, which brings down expenses quite significantly. One of the places I have stayed at even included a (quite substantial) free breakfast. It helped that when I decided to go to Gokarna , the dates I picked were literally the last days before the hostel was to be closed for renovations, so prices were at an all time low.
Let’s talk about my thought process when I booked the hostel, shall we?
I was worrying about where my life was going. I realised I had a few days off coming up. I didn’t want to spend entire days worrying.I found out the name of the hostel chain from my friend’s post on Facebook. I googled them. I went to their website. I looked at all the places they had hostels in. The two closest places were Mysore and Gokarna. I had already visited Mysore and it didn’t have a beach, so I booked Gokarna. And that was it.
The decision was made much easier by the fact that I didn’t have to pay the full amount at the time of booking! I then booked my bus tickets, and in a matter of 15 minutes I had gone from worrying about my life in general, to worrying if I needed to be admitted into an asylum, and I still hadn’t gotten home from work yet!
On the surface I was calm and pumped up about my trip, but I had SO many worries. Mostly worse case scenarios of getting lost, being mugged, kidnapped and eventual death. My mum decided to visit around that time and I almost chickened out and tried to see if I could change my booking to a private room and take her along! The hostel was booked up, so that was a decision that was fortunately taken out of my hands. And so, armed with lists and a head full of travel tips from numerous blogs, I packed my bags and set off for the beach.
When I got to Gokarna, it was raining. Somewhere between a drizzle and a downpour. But thanks to the travel tips and my incessant weather forecast checks, I was prepared with my trifold butterfly patterned (no that’s not an important detail) umbrella neatly packed into a side pocket. Google maps had told me that the hostel was a short walk away from the bus stand, so I ignored the rickshaw drivers calling out and set off in the rain.
Now what google maps had NOT told me was that my bus didn’t stop at the main bus stand but a little distance away. Which would have been fine on a sunny day, but in the rain, my travel time was lengthened by quite a bit. Google maps also did not tell me that it had rained the whole night and the roads that I had decided to walk on were now flooded, in some places knee deep. Google maps also didn’t tell me which of the small lanes between houses I was supposed to take (actually it did, but my phone was in my pocket because of the rain, so I decided to follow some people) and I ended up lost. Thanks to my pre reading, I knew the road to the hostel was up a hill, so a little way into the very-not-uphill lane I realised that I was not on the right road. Before I could panic I saw a beautiful banyan tree. Not a magical speaking tree that would give me directions, but a normal banyan tree made so much more interesting by the rain. It throbbed with energy and the leaves glistened the many hues of green while the trunk was an angry dark purple, soaked with rain water. Vines and roots ran tightly around it , and it took my breath away. Maybe my perception was heightened by the fact that I had realised I was lost, maybe I was tired, maybe it was the rain. But that tree was beautiful and I knew my phone would not do justice to it, so I stood there and looked at it while people gave me crazy person looks as they passed.
After a while I reluctantly peeled my eyes off the tree and decided to find the hostel. I walked back to the main road and an enthusiastic pup ran up ahead of me to the road that had a very clear sign that said ‘Kudle Beach Road’. Now I knew the way I had to go!