My experience with the Kodachadri trek opened my eyes in more ways than one. Don’t get me wrong, I still hesitate when the word “trek” gets thrown around, however my previous experience guided me to the next one. This time I decided to be the one in charge. I would pick a trek that I could survive confidently. “A mad nomad” was offering an amazing trek across 4 beaches in Gokarna and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a slot for myself. This time my family decided to pass due to various reasons and I couldn’t help but feel a little relieved. If you have read my previous post about my Kodachadri trek, you would know that my family consists of individuals who can beat me in a race any day. A single trek left me feeling like an old lady with asthma and my parents feeling like they were 20. Hence, their absence was more like avoiding myself from being humiliated for being so thoroughly unfit.
We were about 30 of us and it took us about 12 hours (including stops) to finally reach the much awaited Gokarna. We stopped at the first beach called the ‘Belekan beach’ where we freshened up and changed into our trekking clothes. Now being a beach fanatic since birth, I would be lying if I said I chose this trek for the exercise. The idea of walking across 4 beaches in one day was enough to raise my heart rate. And so, while everyone else dressed in an attire that would help them trek, I preferred to walk barefoot wearing only my swimsuit and a pair of shorts. My backup, in case anything went wrong, being only my trusty pair of slippers.
It had begun. At first, we walked a little uphill (something I could manage without dying for breath) and then a little bit downhill (my favourite part). Before I knew it, the view of the sea slapped me in the face. We were on top of a hill and had a perfect aerial view of the open sea. I felt myself falling in love. Like a child running after an ice-cream truck, I practically ran (hobbled and wobbled) down the hill to reach the beach below. We were at our second beach, the ‘Paradise’ beach.
True to its name, paradise beach is rather isolated and serene. It can only be accessed via trek or a boat ride from any of the other beaches. I ran to the beach, flung my rucksack near a tree and fled like a mad man into the water, all this while the rest of the group contemplated how I was able to get my body moving at that speed. I was in my element, splashing around and enjoying the cool waves take control of my body. Soon enough everyone (swimmers and non-swimmers) got in and we had a good, fun round of catch in the water. The non-swimmers remained in the shallow waters while we swimmers dared to go a little further into the deep. We then proceeded to play a hearty game of cricket (I got out in the first ball), and then eventually I once again found myself in the water not being able to stay away from it for too long. A good two to three hours were spent on this heavenly beach before we decided to move on to the next one.
The walk to this beach could hardly be called a trek. It was more of rock climbing than anything else. We climbed across scorching rocks in the afternoon heat. Remember my decision to walk barefoot? Yes, I was seriously cursing myself for it. I however pressed on and soon our small battalion of brave soldiers enduring the heat, reached our destination. The “Half-Moon” beach. Now I must warn you, Half-Moon beach may seem a bit rocky at first, but a short walk will reveal a much bigger and smoother beach. My hurry to get into the water was the reason why I spent most of my time in the water flowing between large boulders. It was as if the sea was punishing me for staying away for so long. It would pull me in and embrace me like a caring lover and then push me away and smash me across the sharp-edged rocks like an angry elephant. Had I the patience to walk a little further beyond the rocks, I would have known better. We had our lunch here and once again were on our way.
The trek to the next beach was slightly longer and more taxing. At this point my love for the sea was motivating enough to get me over any mountain ahead of me. Not only were there mountains but large boulders lining the gaps between the cliffs and the sea. I looked around for the first time to see how the others in the group were fairing and shockingly apart from a few heavy breathers, everyone was doing absolutely fine. Even more shocking was that I wasn’t rasping or panting as much either. I mean, we did climb over boulders and rocks and hills but somehow it wasn’t as painful as I had expected it to be. There is one point between Half-Moon and the next beach where you can spot dolphins. Now, in all the dolphin spotting expeditions I have ever gone for, I have never been able to spot a wild dolphin. This has happened to an extent where I have accepted my fate and avoid any kind of expectation I may have. There I was sitting on a cliff, admiring the mind-numbing view of the open sea, looking at how the light of the sun on the water made it look as though the water was on fire, when I saw an abnormality in the picture interrupt my view momentarily. A few of the members in our group let out excited gasps. It couldn’t be. Had I just witnessed a… There it was again!!! A whole school of dolphins! Playing in the water, oblivious to the fact that they were being watched by an entire group of kids tanned to their last bone. And as expected of me, I cried. Fat tears began to fall down my face at the beautiful sight in front of me. I could taste the salt in them as they ran down.
“Om beach” sat right around the corner. By this time, we were rushing a little as we were to watch an amazing sunset from the next beach, hence we didn’t stop to play in the water. However, I did manage to get wet every now and then walking on the shore. Om beach is one of Gokarnas popular and larger beaches and you can expect quite a bit of crowd here during the weekends. We rapidly hurried across people playing Frisbee on the beach, to get to the other side connecting the next beach to this one. Om beach is named after the Hindi chant “OM” as it is shaped in the form of the word.
It is now where I found myself lagging a little behind. The entire group had moved along and I had been left behind. I had given up on watching the sunset by now and I slowed down quite a bit. I changed my mind as I realized how close the two beaches were and broke out into a run (for the second time).” Kudle” beach welcomed me with open arms as I was glad to see that everyone had laid claim over the best seats to watch the sunset and I didn’t have to do much in terms of looking for a spot. I climbed onto a rock farthest into the water and I watched as the sun set. Its glow fading into the water eventually. I love sunsets.
I almost forgot to mention, our little puppy ‘Patch’ from my previous trip had joined us as well. Only this time he wasn’t little anymore. Having being pampered for most of his life, he has sprouted a rather unhealthy confidence in us. He would constantly mess with the other dogs on the beach and once they began to bark he would run as fast as his paws could take him, towards us to seek shelter. This caused quite a bit of confusion at first because we weren’t very sure as to why these dogs would randomly charge at us barking their little snouts off, till we realised that Patch was the root of all this. He was then put on a leash and we headed towards our accommodation on the famous “Gokarna” beach.
As we proceeded towards the bus that would take us to the Gokarna beach, I couldn’t help but notice a small gathering on the Kudle beach. As we got closer, the small gathering had turned into a rather large one where people were singing and playing instruments. A closer look revealed that there were people doing all sorts of acrobatic stunts. There were also people twirling long rods with glow sticks attached to each end that would leave a beautiful trail of light in the dark night. It was like the carnival yet so much more simple and homely. I even saw a tiny flea market set up around the circle of people, selling accessories and various other trinkets. It was a party on the beach. A little enquiry revealed that this happens every night and gets much more interesting after 10:00pm.
The climb from Kudle beach to the main road where our bus was waiting for us was painfully steep. I had to take multiple breaks before reaching the top. The bus ride was nice. I got to speak to a lot of interesting people and I had some pretty interesting conversations.
By the time we reached the Gokarna beach it was already dark. We were to set our tents out on the beach near the waves. It was a dream come true. A glance upwards gifted me a magnificent view of the stars overhead. We set up our tents and flocked towards the café for dinner. Two girls who had decided to join our boot camp when we met them while trekking across one of the beaches camped with us as well. It was interesting to talk to them as they brought a whole new set of stories to the table. Everyone got talking, some much louder and more frequently than others, and I found myself listening to the waves get louder and louder. It was a sign from the sea. I walked on uneven sand (almost falling over multiple times) and sat near the waves. The tide had risen by now and the water was almost near our tents. I dipped my feet in the water and looked up at the sky. I could hear singing in the background and somehow it coincided with the crashing of the waves. A friend of mine joined me and we walked up and down the beach star gazing and exploring. We slept at around 6:00am the next morning when the light of the sun slowly crept into the night sky.
The next day a group of us went shell hunting while the rest played a few games of cricket. Today we were to head back, but first we were to stop at “Yana” to see the melting rocks. It was a nice sunny morning that eventually grew burning hot. We quickly packed up, burning our necks in the sun in the process, and had a good breakfast. And we were off. It took me a while to get over the fact that it would now be sometime before I meet my beloved (the sea) again. My last few moments in Gokarna were spent gazing out into the sea, watching tiny fishing boats lay their nets. I swore to return, and we parted ways. It was heart breaking.
It was a 2-hour journey to Yana down the spiraling road. Our bus driver not making it easier for us with his driving skills. Now, there is quite a bit of uphill walking before you get to see the rocks. I don’t intend on making any excuses, but due to my weak ankles I couldn’t climb up all the way and had to stop once the stairs began. The walk however, is amazing. The path takes you through a cool stream filled with little fish that nibble at your toes. You can hear birds and crickets chirping. And silence prevailed. A friend of mine, a bird enthusiast, pointed out the distinct whistle of the Malabar whistling thrush. It would go on for over 40 minutes to attract a mate. Ornithologists and bird watchers can figure out the age of the bird by its whistle. If you are lucky you can also spot a leopard in the forest. Unfortunately, all the animals except for the monkeys decided to remain inside due to the heat. Despite not walking all the way to the top, I did however see a bit of the rock that is said to have melted. It stood in-front of me like a giant black tower that had been melted by dragon fire. There were long grooves in the rock giving the impression of melting surfaces.
Once back in the bus, we couldn’t help but fall asleep. We were woken only once for dinner after which we played a long game of Anthakshari.
It was a very clichéd yet memorable experience. Something that a lot of us do not appreciate in life. I learn something whenever I travel. This time I learnt how to let go and relax.
1) You can visit the ‘A mad nomad’ website at www.amadnomad.com
2) Please do carry ample amount of water for the trek. There are no shops in between the beaches.
3) Please do carry a trash bag. You wouldn’t want to spoil paradise with garbage.
4) picture credits to: Dennish and myself