|On the way to Half moon beach. Absolutely breathtaking view <3|
Time for another transition. I can't believe it's been 9 days already! Time just flies so quickly here. I could stay for a month or more, doing pretty much nothing, just relaxing and being.
Gokarna was kind of a lazy girl's choice after the ashram in South Goa: Only 2 hours south by train. The original "plan" was Kerala, but 2 hours train trip plus the chance to spend a couple of days enjoying the dazzling company of Anna won over "the great Indian adventure" of a night train. Maybe next time, yeah?
I chose Kudle beach out of the options available as my digs, as I'd heard there was a super nice laid-back vibe and long-time hippie residents lounging around. I imagine Kudle being something like Arambol was 10 years ago; sleepy and calm, away from the crowds of tourists. The other options would have been Gokarna beach, the one closest to the town, Om beach, which takes its name from its shape, or the even more remote Half moon and Paradise beaches with no electricity and only accessible by a jungle/cliffside trek or a boat. And Kudle delivered. No hotels, no music, no beach chairs. No loud tourist crowds, no stress, no hurry. The accommodation options consisted of bamboo huts with sand floors available for 250 rupees and concrete rooms for 500 (6 euros). I opted out for the latter, since I figured my electronics and camera stuff would appreciate the less sandy conditions and found a really nice room in Gundappa guest house a little inland from the beach. The place was run by a wonderfully friendly family who always had smiles on their faces and who seemed to actually like what they were doing. Highly recommended! They also saved me twice from spidermonsters who seemed to think my room was a cool place to hang out. If I'll be back, this is definitely the place I'll stay again.
After the travel day my stomach decided that it liked life again, so I got to enjoy food to the fullest. Sooo amazing not to have to constantly be worried about what I put in my mouth. Well, of course I was still cautious and didn't eat raw stuff and steered clear of the deep-fried as well, but I did have juices with ice (made from bottled water) and ice cream plus other dairy things. I was actually quite surprised that the local bacteria and my stomach seemed to get along as well as they do: I though that the more rural and less developed places I went the more there would be impurities and bacteria and all sorts of nasties in the water which would upset the stomach. But apparently it ain't so. Or I've managed to India-proof my tumtum. Awesomesauce!
As we're already on the topic, let's talk food then :) Kudle is populated with beach side restaurants with extensive menus consisting from everything: pasta, pizza, Tibetan fare, Chinese food, South and North Indian stuff.... I'm all for variety, but invariably the large menus also mean that not everything will be good. With trial and error and asking around I did find some true favourites, though. Here's my top-5:
1. Prema restaurant in Gokarna town, just off Gokarna beach. Number one on Trip advisor and recommended by pretty much everyone for a reason. The place is totally packed all the time as tourists throng to gorge themselves on their veggie fare and home made ice cream. I had the best food there I've had in all of India so far: cashewnut curry with jeera rice and boiled spinach. And the ice cream (try the mango!) was really nice as well.
|Might not look like much but OMG!!!|
3. Sunset / German bakery. Their seafood sizzler is to die for. Fresh fish and calamari pieces and prawns in a really nice sauce served in cabbage bowl with rice/chips and veggies. This will be my goodbye lunch today, since I just can't leave this place without having that again. Sooo yummy. They also seem to be good with their Indian dishes, at least the alu gobi (potato and cauliflower curry) was really nice. And their chicken schnitzel with tahini (yes, I've been hanging around with Israeli people again...) was also wonderfully crunchy and great.
4. Gundappa. I have to sing the praises of my own guest house, of course. Palak paneer was tasty although the sauce was quite thin, and the daal palak really yummy with lots of coriander. You just can't put too much coriander in my food. Soooo good.
5. Paradise Inn at the end of the beach, close to Uma Garden, serves really tasty tandoori stuff. But the atmosphere isn't that nice, the service not very friendly, and the other dishes we had (daal and fried veggie rice) did leave quite a lot of room for improvement. But the tandoori chicken was worth the visit anyway.
Bonus: Arya ayurvedic restaurant. Mixed quality (don't take the dosa), but I was happy about the daal something. Juice was bad and watered down, and I could persuade them to make lunch/dinner items (Indians love their "items". Endearing <3). for me for breakfast only once. I wanted to try more of their curries but never made it there for dinner. The place belongs to an ayurvedic treatment center, and is more pricey than the usual restaurants, but the kitchen is visible and seems clean and orderly.
Also some bad experiences: don't order malai/veggie kofta or naan in Little Paradise (the middle one of the three restaurants with a bridge leading into them in the beginning of Kudle beach). Awful, didn't taste of anything, and the sauce was just basically thick cream. Yuck. Also the spinach naan was really bland and was dripping in oil. Not a nice experience. And don't try the Kudle cake in Moonlight. At least the one I tasted had been in the freezer for a long time and tasted of it. Blah.
Oh, if you really want to indulge, then have the Hello to the Queen. Warm bananas covered with cookie crumbs, ice cream and chocolate sauce. I think I cried a little when I ate it. And not out of sadness. Sugar overdose but so worth it.
There's also a funny story here: So, I was doing a headstand and asking Hari, our Indian teacher, what I should do if I started to fall. After the first (and very good ;)) advice of "if you don't want to fall, just stay there" he started adjusting my position. "Bend your knees". Ok, maybe this makes sense. "Put your palms on the mat". Say, what? Well, ok. "Now lift your chin up. Lift it!" Err, why and how is this helping me with not falling down from my headstand? "Now you're doing a scorpion!" Which resulted in a resounding "fuck!" from my part (much to the amusement of him and the other students) as the realization of the quite advanced asana hit me, and of course I tumbled down immediately. Hah, just goes to show that it's all in the mind: If he had told me that we were going to go for scorpion, I would've never believed that I could do it. But once you're already in headstand it's actually quite easy.
I also did some trekking, which the linked beaches of Gokarna coastline provide a really nice opportunity for. The next beach from Kudle, Om beach, is shaped like, well, the Om symbol, you know. The trip to Om from Kudle takes you up the hill, through the moonscape looking rock formations and a very surprising park with decorated stone benches which reminded me very much of Gaudi's Park Guell in Barcelona. Very pretty, very unexpected. The hike takes about 20 minutes.
|Spot the om|
|Park Guell, Gokarna|
Om is much longer than Kudle and with less accommodation options and restaurants on the beach. As beaches go, it is prettier than Kudle, and less broad and you can practice being floppy and relaxed in the shade below some trees. There's also a travel agency (Dolphin) there, so if you don't fancy a trip to town to book your tickets, you can do so here. I used them to book my bus to Hampi and they even delivered my ticket to my guest house in the evening. Nice! There's also a huge restaurant/hostel Namaste in the corner of Om beach when you come from Kudle, which serves mediocre food (at least my veggie kofta wasn't anything to write home about, if not so abysmal as the one in Little Paradise) with unfriendly service and bad music. I did see a pretty impressive looking ice cream bowl going to another table, though... And their toilets are nice and clean. I also went to Sri Ganesh guest house near to the weird Hebrew sign halfway up the beach and had an unbelievably and almost painfully garlicky hummus with really nice bread, a cool watermelon mint shake so good I almost died and the previously praised Hello to the Queen sugar extravaganza. Oh see, I'm back to writing about food! Oops, moving on.
The next beach after Om is Half moon, and the trip there takes a bit longer, around 40 minutes. But oh my goodness, what views you are rewarded with! I just stood there gaping on the path for the longest time, taking it all in. This is what I travel for. Just unbelievably beautiful. Wow. The photos really don't do it justice.
Half moon was very small, with a couple of places serving food and offering basic accommodation. Nature Connection at the very beginning had nice hammocks <3. I can imagine how nice and quiet it is there in the night...
|Humble bamboo huts, Half moon beach|
After Half moon comes Paradise, but we didn't make it that far with Anna. There is a tiny beach nestled between quite impressive rocks (which we had to climb to get there) about halfway between Halfmoon and Paradise, and that was enough for us. I like being lazy and doing nothing, but I always seem to forget how exhilarating and empowering trekking is: I really really loved the day and can't wait to do some more treks soon. I'm also deeply in love with my Keen sandals. Such good grip! And so comfy! One of the best purchases ever <3
One day Anna and me also took a peek at Gokarna town, some 30 minutes away from Kudle. You can get there either via Sri Rama temple, which has a spring for really good, natural water, or via the road the tuktuks take. The town itself is jam packed with temples, but that's not really my cup of tea, so I didn't visit any (except the Rama one, for water). A word of advise for temple enthusiasts, though: The temples here are not really the glittering and glimmering, sculptural amazing structures one might think temples to be, but rather humble places of worship. So if one's looking to be dazzled, one should look elsewhere. There are some nice paintings usually, though, but like said, I'm still not much for religion, so temples aren't usually on my to-do list.
The town itself offers quite the normal array of stuff and we didn't wonder around too long since it was boiling hot. I tasted idli (savoury cakes made of fermented black lentils and rice) for the first time though, with some really good curry. Yum!
|Something huge was being built|
|Quintessential India: a temple, a huge tree, many motorbikes|
|If he doesn't have it, you don't need it|
|Palmtrees lining the streets make me so happy <3|
In addition to food, yoga and the occasional trek I didn't really do much. Some macrame, with nice lessons from a Chilean guy Juan, listening to music, reading and hanging out with various Israeli people. The beach is completely overrun by them, which I don't mind, since they're usually a friendly bunch. At least these ones here are very laid back and chill. I still find it very funny, though, that once I've started to get some Israeli connections (Orphaned Land, some other friends...), it just seems that I'm surrounded by them wherever I go. I guess that's just a matter of "what is once seen, can never be unseen". They're an odd bunch but I like them :)
I've also had some truly amazing and touching experiences here. One evening when I was on my way to check the much praised Prema in town, I thought I'd do something different and go check out what's on the hill next to the path to Sri Rama temple. Cresting the hill, I marveled at the quiet and calmness of the landscape: apparently you can still find places like this in India! And it wasn't only the natural landscape and peace that wowed me: I stumbled upon a wish labyrinth which seemed to fit the moment, place and time so perfectly that I think I laughed out loud. I took a stone, stepped along the labyrinth path and left my wish with the rock on top of the other ones. I was about to leave, but something made me stay, and I sat down on one of the rocks, facing the sea. My heart was brimming with gratefulness and joy: Me here, in India! The temperature, absolutely perfect, a slight breeze caressing my skin. The sun still high, but not boiling hot anymore, preparing to make place for the balmy night. I was so proud of myself and my path: it had led me there, sitting by myself in this amazing place in silent meditation, just in awe of everything. Thank you thank you, Universe and me for daring to walk this path <3
|Yes, it is very dry|
|It pays off to take roads less travelled <3|
Another thing I that was interesting about Gokarna was the amount of local tourists. Travelling in Thailand or in Goa I never really crossed path with locals enjoying their own country. But lots of Bangalore people come to Gokarna for weekends to enjoy the beach. The Indians did bring more hassle and business on the otherwise quite sleepy and serene place, and on Mondays the long-time residents let out a sigh of relief when the crowds were gone again. I enjoyed the peace and quiet more, as well, but it was still a refreshing change to see local colour among the holidaymakers as well.
|Covering your pal in sand, the favourite pastime of Indian holidaymakers|
Pheew, I thought I'd write just a small post since I haven't done much but that didn't happen :D. Oh well, I don't really have that much more to do on my last day. Now off to enjoy some last hammock moments and prepare myself mentally for the trip (and the seafood sizzler before :D). Next stop: Hampi!
|Viimeinen suomalaisnauru, Tirsk :D|