A long weekend at the start of the third term, here at IIM Kozhikode, saw me set off with 3 friends for a trip to the beach side town of Gokarna in North Karnataka, India. Tickets were booked by Ankit for a train that departed from Kozhikode at 0220 (odd time, you say ?) on Friday – on the Ernakulam LTT Express. Once we found our births, it was time to hit the snooze button, but for some damn reason, I found (find, rather) it pretty difficult to doze off on a train.
The railway line snakes its way through some very picturesque places on the western coast of India and at about 1300, we alighted at Kumta railway station. If you’re cash strapped, do not take the auto rickshaws waiting outside to Gokarna. They charge a whopping 500-600 for taking you to one of the beaches. It is much better to take the auto to Kumta bus stand (30 bucks for 3 people) and then ask the locals which bus will take you to Gokarna (round fonts used on state transport buses will stump you unless you’re well versed with Kannada), each ticket will cost you only around 22 bucks.
Almost 1 hour later, we were dropped off at Gokarna bus stand, a little surprised to find cows mingling with people at the stand and seating area. Some directions from the locals (courtesy Chethan, our language expert in these parts) and we found ourselves on what seemed like a long winding uphill path (dotted, no carpet-bombed with dried cow dung), then climbed down a rocky, dusty road on the other side of the hill. The road opens up to shacks through which we had our first view of Kudle beach.
Asking around for accommodation, we found that most of the shacks were already occupied and crowded. A little more searching around, and we found one shack which had a lone occupant, who turned out to be the caretaker. We got 2 huts (4 people) at 200/- each for 1 day. The huts had a bed, a bulb and a fan.
Lunch was priority number one and we went to a nearby shack to have some food. All of the shacks make reasonably delicious food, but the prices can be on the higher side. Two cats gave us company when our food arrived, one even did its best to try and please Ankit by licking his feet (who gave a scooby-doo kind of yelp), but our stomachs wouldn’t allow any. One annoying fact is the condescending attitude the owners in some of these shacks have towards Indians. Wonder if any restaurant in the developed countries would do that to its own citizens.
Stomach gods pleased, it was time to have some shut eye in the afternoon heat. Kudle, it turns out, has a lot (lot) more foreigners than Indians, and does seem to be one of the more uncharted territories on the western coast. The beach comes alive in the evening. There were people playing volleyball, some were practicing Yoga on the beach, a few were trying their hands at juggling, and most were in the water. We had a dip in the water and dried ourselves in the setting sun. I rushed back to the shack to fetch my shiny new DSLR, a beautiful sunset is worth its weight in gold to any aspiring photographer and my prayers went answered when the sun chose to throw splendid colours all across the sky as it went down.
Nightfall, and the twinkling lights of the shacks along Kudle beach lit it up. Clear, starry skies are a treat for Mumbaikars like me, who are more used to seeing stars due to the noise and pollution in Mumbai. At night, the sea seems very, very mysterious and moonlight seems to cast a dark silvery sheen across the waves lapping up on the shores. Sitting in the shacks beside the seashore, watching the sea make its own sounds, chatting up a couple of friends about anything in general..and the accompaniment of bacchus – does make you ponder about the things that really matter in life. One thing has to be said about the music played in these shacks – it is a combination of psychedelic trance, electronica, country music, indian classical and sometimes a fusion of two of these. Juxtaposed against the sylvan surroundings and people of other nationalities, it is something of a throwback to the hippie lifestyle.
Lulled by the sounds of sea, it was time to call it a day and we retired to our shacks for sleep. Night time can get a little cold and we didn’t put on the fan, which made us a perfectly good meal for mosquitoes. Their bites are one thing, the sound of them buzzing in your ears while you try to salvage some sleep after a tired day, is another thing altogether. Somehow, the tiredness from all the walking around during the day meant that a a good 4-5 hours of sleep could be salvaged, in spite of the mosquitoes.