Travelogue: Solo backpacking trip – Gokarna

THUMB RULE – If your trip is accompanied by a gang of gurls, then guys might just cancel their prior appointments, could even take sick leaves. If it’s not, then even after  ‘coaxing’  they wouldn’t show up. Anyways, so I made my own Ekla Chalo Re trip on the long weekend starting 29th Sep, as I had taken a leave on 1st Oct n 2nd Oct is Bapu Jayanti – National Holiday. Locking yourself up for 4 days is Bangalore is well-nigh unthinkable for me.

The journey:

29th Sep: Initial plans with a gang, was to Goa….(few dropped – plan changed)…Pondicherry…(rest dropped – plan dropped)….finally, thought of Gokarna. I had never been to this place but have heard quite often about this. Woke up on a Saturday morning, so why not make it there – I said to myself.  Immediately logged into RedBus/ TravelYaari and was lucky enough to get a single to-fro ticket as all seats were packed for the weekend. Boarded the bus at 7:30pm sharp near the East End stop. Plugged in the headphones and went on to my good old pal – FB. The best thing about Social Networks is that they too travel with you – Thanks to the power of 3G! Updated few statuses – a self-assuring one’s here. And after hours of listening to music, went into the limboland.

The arrival and stay:

Day 1(30th Sep):

The view through the mountains to the arrival point reminded of my Saklespur trip. Reached Gokarna check-post around 8:30am, also known as Maruti Katte point (this is where you have to come to board the bus back to Bangalore). Next thing to do was to reach the beach side. Surfed through Wikitravel on my BB and called up few hotels at Om Beach which were filled. Hence, boarded an auto to Kudle Beach for I had a gut-feel that Kudle has more reasonable and better places to stay. Bargained the auto-ricks from 150bucks to 90 (they might not come down from 100/- though). On my way saw this board Namaste Yoga Farm (the contact no. given in the page may not work, do contact Amit – 96205 69868 for bookings), asked him to take me there. I fell in love with this cottage the moment I went to the reception! I checked-in. It was time to take a shower and relax! But before that, I shot a few pics of this wonderful lush green farm-house.

This is where I stayed

This is where I stayed with my blissful solitude.

A neighboring cottage at Namaste Yoga Farm

Namaste Yoga Farm – The way to my cottage








So now, I headed to the beach for some breakfast. After walking for a while I found this lovely beach-side restaurant (Mango Cafe) which is going to be the pivot point of my entire trip as I keep narrating.

The cafe in yellow is Mango cafe. Here most of my trip time was spent. Lazing, relaxing, hogging n sipping in solitude. 🙂

1st view from the cafe to Kudle beach as I had my Spanish Breakfast + a glassful of tea (oh it was a long glass):

The ebb and flow

After having breakfast and lazing at the cafe for an hour, gazing the vast expanse of the sea along with the greenery formed by the surrounding mountains and headed by coconut trees (the cafe boys are very sweet as they won’t get you the bill until you asked them even though I sit for hours without a jolt), I started walking towards OM Beach after asking directions to the locals by the beach side. It’s a small trek at the fag-end of the beach, the trek is around 20mins to OM Beach.

A couple walking hand-in-hand at Kudle

View of Kudle Beach from its left end

There are navigation marks from Kudle to Om Beach as you trek up and reach the plains are somewhat like these:

Navigation marks en route Om Beach

On my way to Om Beach (a bird couple busy on their date)

Reached Om Beach:

The shape of the beach depicts the sacred Hindu symbol – OM, hence the name.

I thought of spending some time at the beach, n get a few shots of me clicked. Couldn’t find a decent looking chap at that moment, so, approached some dude who was half-naked (from bottom). Gave some SLR lessons prior to clicking only to notice – this time I am a victim of Photography Fail!!!. Below pic explains:

A worse victim of Photography fail. This time the photographer himself!

After spending some time at Om, I headed back to Kudle to experience the twilight walking through the beach, sipping beer at Mango Cafe.

As I reached Mango cafe around 5:45pm, the dark clouds suddenly started invading the beach with a heavy shower imminent – it looked some what like this:

As I sit at Mango cafe at twilight with suddenly the dark clouds invading n hovering over Kudle. A heavy shower imminent.

And as expected, it started pouring heavy after some 30mins and just when I was sipping my beer on my own with some firangs and nice people around who I cracked a conversation until 10:30pm which is when I left the Cafe and headed to rest in my cottage.

Sheer bliss – U’re back 2 ur beach…seated at a beach side cafe, with d small surrounding mountains sipping beer…n just at twilight – the rains start pouring heavily with thunders n lightning.

Day 2 (31st Sep):

Woke up around 8am to freshness of the farm-house and felt the aroma of nature. Now today’s agenda – draw some cash from Gokarna town, come back to the cottage, take a shower and explore Half-moon beach after a brunch.

A view of the Gokarna beach while heading to the town to draw cash and explore the temples.

As I enter the town:

A beautiful street as I enter Gokarna town

Vendors ready outside the temples with offerings to the Lord

Some different flowers in front of Ganapati temple

I was back to my farm house, after some uphill/downhill walks and clicks, draped in just a towel relaxing in a jute chair. This is when I found a thud beside me as if someone threw something to me. Suddenly, I discovered it was a snake and it wasn’t moving. Looking at it, even I cautioned myself, did not move (there was a sense of shock and awe in the mind) and gave a frantic call to the cottage assistant so that he keeps a watch on it movement. Thereafter, I rushed to grab my cam ASAP and asked the helper boy not to disturb the snake. And here are some vivid pictures that would tell you the story on what I saw:

Snake that felt with a thud besides my chair on which I was seated with a lizard head in its mouth

The snake is now aware of human beings around him, so perhaps cautioned on any attacks to it








And wasting no time, it had to escape from unreliable ruthless human beings, with the prey slowly gulping into its  throat:

With no 2nd thought, gobbling up the lizard head in its mouth

I have never known snakes too camouflage. The color blue changing to the dry wood underneath it.

Soon after the ordeal, I started on my mission to explore Half-moon beach,which does mean I’ll have to walk through Kudle and Om as well. Already one beach had been covered i.e. Gokarna beach. Now rest 3. (Paradise beach, is yet another secluded (5th) beach but has been taken away by Forest deptt. and is closed now for general public) Had my usual lunch at Mango cafe who’s prices are way reasonable than any pub in Bangalore or shack in Goa. Had a beer and then got going.

Few folks I met at Kudle beach on Day 2

A kid playing football as his mom quite oblivious in her game against the sands.

As I headed Om beach again, made few friends on my way:

Met this nice chap Hari who’s now a facebook friend. Happy to get him few portraits/memories that he wanted. 🙂

So after around 90 mins of walking and some small treks, I did some photoshoot of these folks at OM Beach and without wasting much time headed towards Halfmoon beach. I had to keep time in mind for this was my 2nd and final day when I have to board a bus to return back.

Greeted by eagles that flew across the path to Halfmoon Beach

As I trek towards Halfmoon beach through these serene and breathtaking views

A light house or possibly a view point to the Paradise beach that comes as u head further. It’s more secluded.

Finally, I reached Halfmoon beach. It was totally secluded. It was just me and me. The time was around 4:40 pm. I could even run naked on the beach and there won’t be anyone to notice. 😉

A sense of accomplishment as the trek was little longer around 40mins, than the other beaches. And also a bit more adventurous as there wasn’t anybody who accompanied me.

Few shots of the beautiful and serene Halfmoon beach:

Half moon beach, towards the Paradise beach side

Half moon beach, towards the OM beach side

Spending some 15-20 mins, I headed back. And the thrill and jitters and stress were never so evident on my face than this moment when I actually lost my way back as there were no such marks that lead to OM beach or vice-versa. There were bifurcations. I had no clues which path I took but to realize that I went back to Half-moon Beach again!! I was petrified at this moment as it was getting late and I dint have a torch with me once there’s a nightfall!  I gave a call to one of my friend and let her know the situation. I called up the farm-house owner to keep him informed. He too couldn’t help much. There was no one as it was a Monday and already evening. I had to catch my bus back too. I can’t afford to waste time. Then, i tried searching for some polythenes, bottles (U know this is India, so litters are the marks), plastic to trace my way back. Somehow I found the directions correct. But never had I been this panicky. Below picture is the outcome of it. I tried clicking some snaps there from my Blackberry, so in case I never made it, someone should find them and make a movie on me like Christopher McCandeless ‘s in Into the Wild.

All pictures were shaky even though I tried to make my hands firm.

Eventually made my way back and reached Kudle. Was happy to see fire, if not bonfire but the Firangs burning the coconut tree branches.

Hence, came to the end of my trip on Day 2. I made it bang on my estimated time. Grabbed a beer at Mango cafe. It was around 5:45pm. I headed for a shower in my farm-house. My bus was at 7:30pm. The farmhouse dude booked an auto-rick for me which was waiting for me around 6:30pm. As I stepped out of my guest house, there were some nicely clad pretty ladies heading to the same point where their autos were stranded. I am never short of cracking a conversation, am I? So figured out they too were traveling back in the same bus to Bangalore – SeaBird Tourists .… 😉

The Himalayan Sojourn.

26th Sep, 2009

“The good shine from afar
Like the snowy Himalayas.
The bad don’t appear
Even when near,
Like arrows shot into the night.” — Buddha

It was the winters of 1998. The D-day, the Finals at the Annual Sports Day of KV 1, Bhubaneswar, and I was competing with the National level stalwarts of Eastern zone, in my school at the 100m sprints. I was in 9th std. and my rivals were seniors from 10th through 12th, all steady on their mark. There blows the whistle and I shoot myself out from the mark. I could only see the winning thread at the end, ahead of me but none of my rivals. 11.1 seconds and I am the little champion leaving them all behind. That was an achievement, a true sense of accomplishment for me!

11 years down the line, I could never feel the same level of accomplishment until I saw the Himalayas, until I saw them too close; I breathed the mist on them, touched the snow on their peaks….

Ever since I landed in Bangalore, time and again I used to hear those frenzied trekking stories from my colleagues who make it to the Western Ghats. Deep within, had always wished to go for a trek, but had been apprehensive about lifting weights while climbing hills, thanks to my shoulder dislocation in my graduation final year.

The Prelude:

When the world was reeling in the pain of economic downturn, I was fortunate enough to get a fabulous New Year gift: a better paying job, in a leading CRM product-based company. But then more responsibilities, strangulating deadlines, long working hours, skipped lunches and cervical pains. “For heaven’s sake, I need a break now!”, I said to myself. It already had been a couple of years since I met my ex-colleague Ram Mahajan, who was working in Delhi. Finally, made up my mind to meet this big time trekker, a worshiper of the Himalayas, a native of Himachal and who’s also a staunch devotee of Vaishno Mata. So, planned my leaves, booked my tickets and off I vanished from this IT hub to New Delhi, in the wee hours of Saturday morning (5th Sep).

Meeting a goodwill friend after 2 complete years has always been gleeful.

Visit to Vaishno Mata:

Boarded a train to Jammu the same night and reached Katra next morning at about 11am. We, however, decided to commence our pilgrimage at 5pm. Until then winded up in a rented lodge. It took 5 hours to reach “Bhawan” which is 10 km uphill. Since, it was Ram’s birthday on 7th, so the darshan at midnight would be a good idea. It was cold at the mountain top and we were in sorts. The ice-cold water shower (water right from the mountains) at 11:30pm in the night before Mata’s darshan was an entirely amazing experience. It was 1:00am now and after darshan, we went 2 km uphill again to Bhairo Baba. Legend has it that your pilgrimage would not be ‘complete’ if you don’t make it up to Bhairo Baba. Finally, landed up  on the ground i.e. walked downhill all night and reached Katra early morning at 6am. Our legs were not willing to carry our load anymore. Went flat on bed for 3 hours but then we had got miles to go. Booked tickets to Pathankot. The ride was too exhaustive, the bus rickety since AC buses came to no avail. On reaching, again boarded a bus, this time to Gagal (Himachal Pradesh) in Kangra district since the last Dharamshala bus had left by then. From Gagal to Dharamkot, the latter being our basecamp, we made it there though a cab. Finally there, at the hill station, in Dharamshala. This place records the second highest rainfall in India. As per localites, it has broken the records of Cherrapunji now.

The Great Himalayan Trek:

Great things are done when men and mountains meet. — William Blake

A fresh Tuesday morning, the sun’s rays dilated over the green mountains and a breath-taking view from the king-size windows of the guest house…. what a start to the morning!!

As usual, Ram got up early and asked me to make haste. “Trust me man, will get ready in no time, but please let me sleep for some more ”, I pleaded him. Now this ruthless guy wouldn’t listen to me and asked me to get ready immediately for we need to shop for our groceries, food and everything that is essential for survival in a place where you don’t find any vegetation or habitation. The next door had a German guy who was staying with his girl friend since a couple of months already, and who claims to have sold all his businesses, shut down all his book stores and come down to India for a vacation. Incredible!!

Now my friend Ram cannot just resist from talking to foreigners and he went on and on an on. I, meanwhile, was done with my morning chores and it was his turn to take a break from the “firangi-chat” now.

Holy shit!! It started pouring now. And here comes the pretty Israeli lady Isabelle, who stays two rooms away from ours, at the guest house.

Oh man!!  Ram’s going to go nowhere now (I wondered, seeing the lady). A short intro with her and she left thankfully. Just when we clicked few pictures of the landscapes around the vicinity and got ready to make a move, Isabel came over again, this time with Aon (her Israeli friend) who wished to talk to us.

However, the chat came to an end and we made a move to the town, Mcleodganj. This town has mostly Tibetan inhabitants who have taken refuge and have finally settled down. The “Spiritual Las Vegas” as my friend Ram aptly christened it, for it’s crowded with Israelis. I, myself, was stunned to see more Israelis and firangs than Indians. We roamed through the town and explored the Tibetan handicrafts. Now, when you are in the land of Tibetans, “Momos” cannot go unsavory. And for a big time foodie like me, I gorged on them like a hungry beast. Seriously succulent and deliberately delicious!!!  “Kya yeah saaf hai” (Is this food hygienic), a voice came from a man who was beside me.

With shock and awe, I surmised “Sorry???” He reiterated, in Hindi!!! Yes, he was speaking Hindi. He was a French guy, who had such fabulous accent neutralization that I was simply taken aback with his pronunciation. Never heard such fab hindi for any “firangi” till now. A French guy taking Hindi lessons in JNU, with a Sri Lankan girl friend in Holland, meeting two Indian guys in Mcleodganj, one who’s from Delhi and the other from Bangalore. Wow, a genuine instance of Globalization!!  Asked if long distance sucks, he soulfully utters, “Pyar hai to sab kuch hai”. Simply astounding!!

It was nightfall already, our guide, Kuldeep (alias Kulu), arrived with a pretty long list of groceries and food to be bought from the local store. Kulu was supposed to take us to the mystic Naag Dal lake, as we did not know the route. The shopping was over with a Royal Stag and Old Monk added to the list. The whiskey could not last more than a couple of hours thereafter but we saved the Old Monk for the night stays at hilltops. Save the best for last. 😉

A brand new day, a brand new Wednesday morning! We are fully equipped, with our back packs and rucksacks loaded with sleeping bags, mattresses, groceries, medicines, toiletries, et al stuffed to the hilt. The trek kick started to Triund which was 7 km uphill.

We started off at 9 am in the morning, clicked photographs on the way, took a couple of breaks in between to rest our jaded souls, paused a while for the rain to subside, and pushed ourselves again. Our friends on the way were fellow foreigners trekking back from Triund, mules that were employed to carry loads to sundry cafes on the ridge and flocks of sheep/goat and few villagers.

So, the mission for the day was accomplished. We reached Triund, a beautiful ridge laden with mist with the Dhauladhar ranges faintly visible since the weather was too cloudy.

Albeit we were exhausted by then, but none of us had it on our faces. And the very reason being the scenic sight of the Himalayas our eyes were experiencing. We were at an elevation of 2843m/9358ft from the sea level.

At the mountains, when it is way too cold and the night is ferociously dark, none other than Old Monk can give you a better kick and warmth. At the moment, it’s the best friend of all. We would call it a day now and retire to our beds at the guest houses in here.

Dawn breaks for Thursday morning, and like a cock, my friend Ram would be the first one to get up and wake me up but this time to catch the clear sight of the Dhauladhars, free of mist. Indeed, the sight was just inexplicable. I have never seen the Himalayas as closely as I was seeing right now.

For a moment, when Ram said, “Bro, do you see that peak? That is where we are heading”. Immediately, I got a chill down my spine. I thought to myself, “that mountain is so naked, so rocky, shiny, no green grass even, so steep and this guy is talking about climbing that mammoth one!!! God save our souls.” I just wish there were no hailstone showers when we land up in there for at such heights the size of hailstones are big enough not to fit your palm. And nothing just comes to your rescue when you get them hailing from the top, right on your heads.

But then there was the staunch faith of Mata Di’s pilgrimage, and her blessings are definitely with us, I sighed. So, we would definitely make it to Naag Dal lake on the other side of the Indrahar Pass. Soon, we had our porridge and Maggi for breakfast and got going.

The next stay was at Lahesh caves through Laka Got. From Lahesh, we would be heading to Indrahar Pass and thereafter to Naag Dal lake. After 2 hours of trekking, now we reached the last café in the area, ‘The Snow Line Café’. We met a dutch lady Mariette, who came all alone from Mcllo heading for Naag Dal but couldn’t find the way so came back. She had spent the night in the café and would be heading back to Triund today. After clicking a few photographs, we headed for Lahesh through one of the most pristine scenic beauty that would leave you astounded with shock and awe. We were at the foothills of Himalayas, of “The Majestic Dhauladhars”.

We met Gaddi Shepherds on our way up, who are the known for their courage and acclimatization in the Himalayas.

They scale through the toughest routes and put marks for other fellow travelers to identify the ways. For no wonder many have come and gone and few never returned back. As Ruskin Bond rightly says, “Mountains chooses its own climbers”, one has to follow the norms and be very pure in his heart and soul when he is climbing the Himalayas. In these places, Nature is King, and misplaced bravado might lead you to your final breath in here. The shepherds warned us that the way is too treacherous to Naag Dal and it’s pretty inaccessible that side. Taking those suggestions into consideration, we kept going. The final 900mtrs were way too tortuous and exhaustive. They were damn steep, completely rocky terrain and pretty inaccessible. One had to be utmost careful and had to concentrate on the footsteps. With a 16 kg rucksack climbing uphill, is definitely an “uphill task”. My breaks started to be frequent but as my friend aptly said, we are subjecting ourselves to the odds of nature.

In Muhammad Ali’s words, “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe”.

And honestly, the moment we reached Lahesh Caves, the ecstasy was evident on our faces. Soon it was nightfall, and if twilight was a phenomenon then it should be experienced here on top of Lahesh Caves. We were now at an elevation of 3560m.

At this moment, I felt I am on Seventh Heaven. And when you are in 7th heaven, you do not really have to search for Cloud No. 9.

It was cold Friday morning 4 a.m. The temperature outside was in negative degrees. The weather looked really bad. It was certain to rain with the black clouds hovering. I wasn’t feeling all that good because of a pain that had crept on my lower abdomen (had a surgery last year). I, unfortunately, had to pull back and stayed on the caves as the path above was even steeper. Ram and Kulu headed for Naag Dal. Me and John (porter) after a couple of hours walked down to Triund. It was raining consistently but we never stopped. We walked down continuously for 4 hours in the rain. Ram and Kulu also reached Triund in the evening as they couldn’t make it to Naag Dal Lake for the path was covered with fresh snow and it was damn slippery. Ram was pretty disappointed since he had already been to Indrahar pass before and couldn’t make it to the lake. The evening was delightfully colorful. The sky had to offer us a kaleidoscope of hues at Triund.

Finally, we trekked down to our base camps on Saturday. Bidding adieu to the Himalayas and Mcleodganj, we boarded a bus for Pathankot where we caught a train at 2200hrs to New Delhi.

At 9am Sunday, we were at New Delhi. I couldn’t thank Ram anymore than saying, “It was never possible without you my friend. Thanks for the time”. My cousins were waiting to pick me up for one day out with them in Delhi. We went for a long drive and guzzled 2 bottles of beer each.

Time was running out and my final destinations were minutes away. We quickly got momos packed and had it on our way to the airport. Parting from my cousins with a hug, I was soon seated in the Airbus 360. Finally at Bangalore, the IT hub, the pub city, the garden city at 0030 hrs, my long mesmerizing journey came to an end.

I do not know how to give a final touch to this piece but all I can say if I die tomorrow my soul would always be glad to have had a visit to the Incredible Himalayas!

“Whatever is the Truth cannot be said.
Whatever can be said is not the Truth.”    — Tao

Last but not the least, here’s a naïve film shot by me on Triund showcasing the Dhauladhar (Himalayan) ranges.