26 March 2013

Heading south; Gokarna and not-so-Paradise-Beach

Travelling back in time in Bellekan
After ten great days in Goa, it was time to move on. Recommendations from other travellers, led us down towards the state of Karnataka and the village of Gokarna, more specifically Om beach.

Om Beach

At Om beach I sensed a change of spirit in the Indians we met. We were greeted with a friendly smile. My travel companions had also gotten a "guesthouse" recommended. "The Dolphin Bay Café" was like living with an Indian family who doesn't care at all about hygiene or horrible smells. So cheap though (only $2 a night) for a bamboo hut, and even though it's the dirtiest place I've ever stayed at, the food was delicious and the staff was lovely. When I think back to before I went to India, people told me that "there is nothing predictable about travelling in India, except that you will at some point get food poisoning." Not even after eating all the delicious street food everywhere we went (not to mention the food at Dolphin Bay), did I get sick. In hindsight it must have been a stroke of luck though, everybody else I travelled with caught something or other at some point.

There really are cows everywhere in India, also at Om Beach
We honestly did not do much at Om beach, much because it rained for four whole days. But also because, well there isn't that much to do there, just part of the beach bum life style. When the rain had spilt its last drop we continued our adventure to Paradise Beach, a forty minute walk through rather rough terrain, or five minutes with a fishing boat around the corner, that swung by occasionally. With not much equipment we went camping for two days.
Ruins at Paradise Beach
Only a few years ago there was a small community taking place at the beach. A couple of guest houses and a restaurant.  It wasn't long before the government decided that enough was enough and demolished any settlement without bothering to clean up afterwards. A lot of the area is simply in ruins. At the same time there is a banana plantation going on right in the background. It's all very confusing.
Paradise Beach as seen from the mountain road leading to Bellekan. Banana plantation right in the middle!
 But there is some truth to the 'Paradise' name. If you look past the ruins(which has a certain charm to it)and some garbage, it is a lovely and secluded beach, great for bonfires and sleeping under the stars. There is a rather permanent settlement of dirty hippies in the high season(November-February), but they mostly stick to their own kind. There is usually a steady flow of tourists who stay a day or two, sleeping in their hammocks or putting up the occasional tent. We did meet a pretty fun Dutch guy, Rob, who had been travelling the world for two years without taking a flight once. Paradise Beach was his last stop before returning home, and he made it his home for a month, with a kitchen, living room and bedroom made of blankets, simple straw mats, a hammock, a tarp and rope.
Gokarna town; pretty neat place with honest people

The closest grocery store was in Gokarna, which was a half an hour walk up a steep hill and through rough forest, only to reach the bus in the small village of Bellekan. The bus from Bellekan took another half hour to Gokarna. It doesn't sound very hard, but when you're working against 35 degrees and boiling sun it's no cakewalk.
A simpler way of life in Bellekan
Out of pure restlessness, while the others were frying in the sun(one of the girls got a first degree burn), I ventured out into the world on my own. Up through the forest to the only place possible to venture; Bellekan.

Reaching Bellekan was like travelling through time, to a more primitive and innocent time. When I stopped at a tiny little kiosk(the first out of fifty I saw that day)I actually paid the real price that locals do and not three or four times more as I had gotten used to. Walking there in the gravel streets, people stared at me like a zoo animal, like if I was one of the very few white girls they had seen in their lives, which might actually be true.
Straight ahead and a little bit to the left; can you spot the monkeys?
It was a really odd experience, but also a healthy break from the daily routine of slagging off at the beach(what a dreadful life I did lead). And on the way back I saw monkeys hanging out in the trees. What an adventure of a day!

After a few more days we got itchy feet and decided to head further down south to Kerala and Fort Kochi, my favourite destination in India.

1 comment:

  1. I like reading your blog, Ingeborg, Articles are fluent and full of bits of interesting and fun information. India must be quite an experience, such a complex country. Looking forward to more articles.