The road to Zostel Gokarna is enchanted. Or so it would seem when you look at it. A narrow lane opens to a small pool surrounded by bushes and a few palm trees.
As I started up the hill I felt energised. The roads were not flooded, I was not lost, all was right with the world. That was for about 3 minutes until my lungs reminded me how unfit I am and I began to wish I had taken a rickshaw! I’m sure people could hear me breathing for miles around. But I made it to the bright orange board and walked in to what could only be described as chaos. The rains were obviously unexpected as I could see a couple of guys clearing up a gazebo while a girl wailed for coffee from a doorway. Not knowing where I needed to go, I looked for someone in charge and I saw a guy in a windcheater who seemed to be the manager. I walked up to him , but before I got to him I glanced to the right. And BOOM , I was awestruck with the view . All that puffing and panting uphill was so completely worth it as I took in the vista. The rain, the angry sea, the beach, it was so completely beautiful, that I only managed to mumble a few words to the manager who very patiently waited for me to form a full sentence before directing me to the common room.
I don’t think I ever got enough of that view. Each day I was there, the minute I woke up, I would open the dorm door to take it in, and every evening, I would get back to the gazebo to drink in the sunset.
But that wasn’t all I did in Gokarna. There are 3 beaches that are easy to get to without a vehicle- Gokarna Beach, Kudle Beach and Om Beach.
Gokarna is the easiest to get to, and so it’s quite crowded. I didn’t see anyone in swimsuits , but there were a lot of families. I spent about 5 minutes here as I realised I couldn’t get a clear view of the water because of all the people. There’s apparently a really good restaurant on the road leading to the beach, called Prema , but I wasn’t hungry , so I didn’t really need to check it out. I then decided to go to Kudle Beach and assumed I could get there without having to climb up the hill. I found out after some time , that was not the case. But I was still determined to get there while expending the least amount of energy, so I climbed up the steps to a temple and then went around it via a narrow ledge over like a 20ft drop. It’s amazing what you can do when you are really and truly lazy.
I walked towards Kudle beach and politely turned down the offer for a ride from a man with a ponytail on a scooter. That may have not been the best thing to do, as after some time, I realised I did not actually know how to get to the beach. I took a left into a wide green expanse of land and kept going until some cows got too interested in me for comfort and I had to make my way back to the main road. I FINALLY got to Kudle beach (just a straight road, no left or right turns needed) and it was calm and beautiful and I spent some time here sketching. It wasn’t as crowded as Gokarna, but still no swimsuits in sight. A friend from the hostel came by and we spent some time talking about the injustice of it all. How the men were frolicking about in very water un-resistant underwear while the women were all covered up.
I ate at a shack, and the food was reasonably priced and quite good, but the quantities were too much for just me (despite the fact that I had asked them NOT to give me too much!). I walked home in time for the sunset from what I found out was ‘Mantra Cafe’ at Zostel and it was truly stunning.
The next day I decided to walk to Om Beach which was a mere 4km away. I did not take into account that most of that 4km was uphill. In retrospect it was a truly beautiful walk, through a bit of a forest , a road with a beautiful view of Kudle beach and finally a road going downhill where you could see the cool blue waters of Om beach. By the time I reached however, I was exhausted and I was snoozing the minute I found a shady spot. The beach wasn’t too crowded, the water wasn’t too deep and I spent a lazy day here, interspersed with snacks from a few shacks on the beach. When it was finally time to go back, I couldn’t bring myself to walk the whole way, and knowing fully well that the rickshaws would overcharge me, I managed to hitch a ride for a short distance. After a standoff with some monkeys ( not really a standoff, they were quite polite and cleared the path for me to walk through), I got back to the hostel for my last night at Gokarna.
The hostel was a great place to meet people and talk about traveling. I stayed in a girls dorm and met some very interesting travelers including a teacher who recommended a few places that I could visit and showed me pictures of her travels as well. It was a convenient place to get breakfast and dinner and nature was showing off, any direction you looked.
On my last day, I returned to that stunning tree that I had seen on my first day in Gokarna. In the bright morning light, and without the rain, it looked quite docile, but still quite beautiful so I took a picture and sketched a little before heading back to the hostel to complete the image.
The common room was a great place to spend the day as I waited for my bus to get back to Bangalore. When it was time, I walked to my bus trying to take in as much of the sea breeze as possible. For my first solo trip , it was definitely an amazing experience and I was already looking forward to planning the next.
Would I recommend Gokarna to a traveler? Definitely. Full of natural beauty, it’s easy to see why people feel a strong spiritual connection to this place. I will definitely be going back soon!