Seeing in the New Year in Gokarna, Karnataka
Gokarna: No Room On The Beaches
Gokarna and the surrounding beaches had been recommended to us by several people so we headed there on the train from Mangalore. There were more backpackers getting off at the small Gokarna Road station than we had seen in one place before. They were besieged by rickshaw and taxi driver offering to take them to a guaranteed room on the beach of their choice. We stood back and watched them file away then got down to some serious haggling. Although we had a room booked in Gokarna town we knew nothing about it and had heard and read it was much better to go to one of the beaches. So, we plumped for a taxi in the end to Om beach (personally recommended by my lovely sister Jess) and the narrow, very bumpy ride ended outside Namaste Cafe, the last place accessible by road and completely full, with other travelers also left homeless.
Rock Climbing by Torchlight
We paid the man and decided to check out the beach. It was quite an adventure and I would say much safer done by daylight. With our backpacks on and just sandals on out feet we started the decent to the beach. It would have been impossible without our super bright torches and involved some real rock climbing at times where the path and steps had collapsed. Reaching the beach we could see from the moonlight that it was beautiful but there were backpack laden people going in both directions, all reporting that there was not a room to be had. After some exploring we accepted that and made the reverse climb back up to the rickshaws and headed to our first place in town.
Gokarna, The Temple Town
The town of Gokarna has two sides; the temples and the visitors that they bring and the overflow of tourists from the four surrounding beaches. Thus, the town is made up of many tourist shops selling clothes, drums and the like, many shops selling devotional items and many cows in the streets. The roads were busy by day with coaches coming from all around the country to visit the temples in the area and large groups of school children seemed to be around every corner. It was a vibrant mix and we enjoyed not being on one of the beaches in the end. The downside of it being a temple town was that there was no meat or alcohol on sale anywhere so we became vegetarians for a few days.
New Year’s Eve on the Beach
After a night at the first hotel we went to a home stay up the road which we had booked in Mangalore as well. It was a vast improvement and half the price. On actual new year’s eve I was convinced that we would find a party on the beach so we went out in the late afternoon and scoped out the beach. We found many Indian tourists and locals, but no fires. We watched the throngs on the beach from a distance and tried to capture the sunset. A very loud shout went round the crowd and they cheered the final sunset of the year with gusto. As the light faded we went to eat and then ventured back again and walked miles along Gokarna beach In search of a little fire and guitar action. Finding none, we decided to make our own fire. It was no campfire really and we managed to keep it going for less than an hour. It became clear that there were probably no fires as it was actually quite warm enough and the heat was not needed in the same way it is on such occasions in the UK.
We took a leisurely walk home and around us the town was packing away for the night. We had a wash with some lovely warm water and then watched the midnight fireworks from the roof of our building with our bottles of water. It was a lovely way to spend the evening and I just kept thinking as we were walking around in our t-shirts and feeling quite warm how different it would be in the UK in a few hours time when people would be out celebrating.
Delicious Thali Ends Badly…
We stayed in for most of the 1st and I finally finished War and Peace (quick review in another section not made yet to be added soon) and we had a thali parcel dinner which was delicious. I met a parade when out to collect it who were drumming and pulling a decorated float for hours afterwards (we could hear the drumming until about 2am)
At 4am I woke up struck with a terrible stomach issue that I will not go into too much but I did not leave the bathroom for hours. Unfortunately, our lovely room was booked and we had to leave that day so although it was not yet the end of the peak season (we knew it would be pricey) we boarded a local (no a/c or proper toilers available!) train to Goa.
Gokarna, 29th December 2011 – 2nd January 2012