The gentle sound of the waves lashing on the beach, a good book to read, and a cup of hot chocolate – that was it. It was a simple fantasy that I had beheld for five years, exploring every beach I could travel to as I yearned for the experience, and finally manifested at the Om Beach in Gokarna.
When I say that I felt like I owned the entire beach for a day when the crowd was thin, I am not kidding. Letting the waves wash over my feet, watching the sand being flushed away by the receding water, and the sensation of the firm grit under my heels was purely tantalizingly enticing, although I was right there experiencing it firsthand, having never perceived anything quite like it before.
As the sun set on the beach, I seated myself on one of the cliff, far away from my residence at Namaste Café with my Kindle and a cup of hot chocolate, while foreigners retired with their fishing rods. I was surprised to learn, later that evening, from the friendly waiter Appu, from ‘Om Shree Ganesh’ restaurant - one of the many shack-like cafes that line the Om Beach – that the foreigners stay on the beach for more than a month while the localites like myself visit the place for a day or two.
Speaking of the Half Moon Beach, Appu informed me that it was a 45-minute long trek from Om Beach. “Half-an-hour’s trek from there will lead one to Paradise Beach, both of which are accessible by a ferry for Rs. 100 per head, provided one leaves before the evening to avoid the high-tide”, he said, sharing the contact of a ferryman, if the need arose.
I couldn’t wait to get going to the “Half Moon Beach” the next day and when I began my trek after a sumptuous Spanish Breakfast, I realised that it’s easy to get lost and get a cut on the knee, if the instincts are wrong, given that there were no directions for the same. Nevertheless, my friend and I climbed up the hills and into the thicket and trekked to the closest that we thought was the beach.
Please beware if you are like me with no sure footing, the trek is not for you. I twisted my ankle and fell down to bruise my knee almost at the foot of the cliff, only to have two wild dogs growl deeply and howl into my ears baring their teeth, simultaneously. Clearly, I would like to keep that memory at bay. But I must say that it was worth all of it, as I reached the atop the hill with the solitary palm tree that one can see from Om Beach.
Staring at the gilded and pristine beach on that afternoon with the sun being a lot more forgiving owing to the beach underneath, I felt like I could sit and read there for long. But no, I couldn’t make it to my destination, wounded as I was. My friends did get to the beach after they had taken me back to Namaste Cafe, and they said that the beach was beautiful, and a lot more calmer than the Om Beach. Well, we all know what's gone into my to-do list for Gokarna on my next visit.
However, I did make it to the Kudle Beach, which is located 6km away from Om Beach. I must tell you that in Gokarna, no auto rickshaw travels by the meter, and has fixed rates for each part of the village.
When I was at Kudle Beach, I comprehended the absolute beauty of the placid waves at the Om Beach, as opposed to the clamorous and vigorous ones over there. When the former is the epitome of serenity and the virgin beauty of nature at its best, the latter is more or less the hub of everything that’s happening with the roaring waves, greater crowd and some littering.
Given my injury, I couldn't participate in any of the water-sports like snorkelling at Om Beach, and the surfing at Kudle Beach. But they also have taken a spot on my to-do list for Gokarna on my next trip.
After my stay at what every tourist I had spoken to has conceded to be “the most beautiful beach” in India – the Om Beach – and having lived my fantasy of finishing a novel with my preferred hot beverage (hot chocolate), I would recommend the beach without any reservation to everyone who is looking for that perfect getaway from the chaotic city-life.
A couple of things to bear in mind when planning a trip to Gokarna:
- Carry no heavy luggage to and from Kudle Beach as the path is uneven.
- Yes, you can try your hand at surfing at Kudle Beach, and trekking to the Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach, provided you are not on your own and would start early.
- Carry a torch when you are at the beach as there are no lights, save for in the far end of it, at Namaste Cafe.
- To my dismay, I also figured that rooms were available on the beach for as low as Rs. 400, and even Rs. 250 on the “Half Moon” beach, when I had paid considerably more at Namaste Cafe.
- The pasta, sizzlers and the vegetable biriyani at Namaste Cafe are good. Unless you are particular about the sambhar that you get for Dosa, and can forgive the lack of ice cream in their ice cream shake, Namaste Cafe provides decent food for a good price, and a priceless ambience with the wonderful view of the beach.
- The months from November – January will be packed by tourists, largely foreigners, is what Appu had to say. So if you really want to save a spot for yourself, book the rooms a little earlier.
- You are in for a wonderful experience; that which people travel all the way from Mumbai on a local train for – the tranquility of the beach with a bonfire that you can easily set up!