“Travelling has always been my way of making sense of life.” The fact that I will be someplace far away from the rat race, sitting in corner, listening to the sound of the water crashing on the nearby rocks or the waves hitting the beach, or the wind brushing through my hair and smell the soil, knowing that my cell phone is out of the coverage area and my office cannot contact me even if all hell breaks loose, is something that allows me the life through the constant pressure of work. There is a sadistic pleasure in knowing that your team might try to contact you but the closest they’ll get to you is a pre-recorded message in Kannada provided by the service provider. Anyway, right after moving to Bangalore we formed this enthusiastic group of people who decided to travel every two months-no five star accommodation (not that we could afford it with our salary, still saying that out aloud made us feel like we had the option and we rejected it), local food, affordable modes of transportation. Our first trip together was in April 2016, Gokarna. We stayed at this beautiful wooden shack facing the beach, lived on seafood and beer, swam in the water till the sun went down. Post this trip, we managed to organize two more trips post which the enthusiasm was swallowed by the walls of our office and the yelling of our bosses.
As time passed by, responsibilities came up but my thirst for travel only intensified. The unavailability of a group made my frustrations even worse and I decided to venture out with a group I found on Meetup. My first trip with these guys was Hampi and second plan was Gokarna beach trek.
Now, this is where my actual story starts (apologies for the long introduction, but some I had to build this thing up). I had just quit my job (Yaay) and I had a month’s break before I joined another. I had a few responsibilities to take care of at home so I had around a week to chill and I decided to make the best out of it-I asked the guy I was crushing on for a date, planned to hit the gym twice a day (“planned” being the operative word here) and I decided to join a meetup group to Gokarna one day before the scheduled departure.
I packed my bags and booked a cab, Achilles last stand playing on my phone, out to combat Bangalore traffic. The team has had a total of 30 people and except for the guide, I knew no one.
We started off around 9 pm, made a few stops for tea and water. Post 12 the bus was speeding on the highway like a train.
Now to be honest I felt a little cramped up, I was sitting next to a stranger (which I honestly don’t mind, but that the guy talked so less!) and the only conversation we had was a “Hi”, and the weather was quite humid, so I wasn’t really able to sleep. I kept dozing off and waking, and all of a sudden, I work up to the sound of a crash, the post which, it seemed as if the bus was flying and there was another mighty crash and the windshield exploded. My entire body jerked and my chin hit my backpack with my mouth smashing on the seat in front of me.
There was a confusion inside. Everyone was up. I could hear moaning from somewhere, someone was crying. The bus had crashed against something, I was alive, but I wasn’t sure if everyone in the bus was. I could hear my guide, Tarun, trying to sound like he was in control but the confusion in his voice was evident. He yelled out to the drivers asking them if they were alright. One of the women in our group had been flung on to the glass, she was bleeding and unconscious. Someone opened the emergency door and I jumped out on the street.
We were in the middle of nowhere. It was 3 am, and we were in the middle of nowhere, scared, confused, injured, cold.
I was walking on the glass with one footwear because I had lost the other one inside the bus. Someone grabbed the injured girl out and called the ambulance. Someone had a bleeding nose, someone had injured her recently fractured shoulder, someone had a huge bump on his lip. I had one huge gash on my knee, the guides Tarun and Jatin were running about, both of them injured. Tarun had a huge cut on his ankle which he was constantly not attending because he wanted to make sure everyone was safe, all the luggage was out of the bus, some arrangement was being made.
I was sitting on the second window seat on the left side. Post 30 minutes the first ambulance arrived and picked up the most injured people. The second one arrived after another hour and took us back to the hospital where we got our wounds dressed and a mandatory tetanus injection.
Now the big discussion – should we proceed? We were very very close to Gokarna (read 6-7 hours away) and all the necessary arrangements can be made, but if anyone decides to turn back, the entire team would turn back. Unexpectedly most of the team (including the girl who had smashed her head on the glass and had two stitches on her forehead) had agreed to move forward, but there were few people who were reluctant, so the others put their efforts into convincing them to agree. Everyone who agreed to proceed had the same thing in their mind, “If we turn back now, this can haunt us for the rest of our lives and we will remember of this incident every time we plan a trip”.
5 am, plan fixed. We move forward. We rush outside the hospital, catch 5 auto rickshaws (there were only 5 people anyway) and move to the bus stop. I sat beside the autorickshaw driver, in the front, another item crossed off my bucket list!!! We reached the bus stop at 5:45, and took our seats. The people around were staring at us because almost everyone had a bandage somewhere. I personally felt like a badass (as the guy I had been crushing on had once called me).
Post 5 hours of dozing off, being pushed by daily commuters and munching on the energy bars I had in my bag, we finally reached Shimoga. We sat in this small eatery with a huge crowd and brilliant idli vada, filter coffee (if you have visited the South Indian states and you have not tried filter coffee, you are definitely missing out a lot in your life!) while our guides went out to arrange transportation. Post 3 hours including a small halt for lunch, we reached Kumta, 30 kilometers from Kudle Beach in Gokarna, where our stay was arranged. Our stay was in a secluded area, three four houses per hundred meters, the beach visible from our stay, some 500 meters from the locality. Our initial plan was to start at Nirvana beach, take a ferry to God’s own beach, and trek (yes, trek!) to Kudle beach via Hell’s Beach, Half moon beach, Om beach. We planned to stop at Dolphin’s point watch the Dolphins.
Now, none of that seemed possible because we were already too late and tired. Around 3 pm we headed took the bus to Om beach post which we’d plan what to do next (planning the unplanned).
As we came closer to Om Beach, I could remember the trip I had made to Gokarna just a year back. Everything was just the same, the roads, the sights, the moist air near the sea, the cashew shrubs at the side of the roads. I really can’t type what I felt in that moment, it felt like home, it felt like the sea had been calling out to me, to wash off all the struggle I had been through in the past year. It might sound very vague but there was something much more than the pleasure of visiting a beautiful place, there was something about the air that made me anxious. I couldn’t wait to get to the sea.
The only words that kept repeating in my head were, “I missed you so much”
I rushed down the stairs carved out of stone and climbed on one of the rocks. The weather was warm, the breeze was cool, there were fishing boats in the water. I really needed to live in this moment, away from all the noise
After the others arrived, I dumped my backpack and jumped into the sea. I stood in the water, staring out at the waves. The sand shifted under my foot and I could feel the cut in my knee burn slightly, but that was alright. I stood facing the waves and turned around when there were about to hit me and let it drag me up for a while (created the illusion that I was floating). I stayed in the water till I could see the sun set and I walked out of the water. On hitting the beach I realized that my injured team had decided to try out water-sports so I decided to guard the bags, and I got surrounded by a bunch of locals who were selling handmade accessories (and I am a sucker for these). I turned around and saw Namaste Cafe with the small tattoo shop beside it, the same shop where I got the really bad temporary tattoo last year.
After the sun set, we decided to have a small trek to Kudle beach. Now Kudle beach has brilliant food (so does Om beach, note – Banofee pie at Om beach and Kingfish at Kudle beach, must have food). It was a short trek, beginner level, but not carrying flashlights and wearing floaters made it a little tough. We had an hour to roam the beach and have dinner. I chose a small shack with a seat facing the sea. One of the best things about the shacks in Gokarna is the music. Blues, jazz, vintage rock, you can never be disappointed! After a delicious meal of king fish, prawns, squid (basically every variety of seafood available in the shack) we trekked to the spot where the bus was headed and we returned to our stay to…..
…. No, we weren’t done for the day. As it happens the food and the sea breeze had recharged our batteries. After everything we’ve been through in the past 24 hours, we felt invincible. So 15 of us including the guides decided to change and head back to the small secluded beach beside which our stay was located. This beautiful beach was called Kadle beach and she had a breathtaking, mysterious, haunting beauty at night. We walked through a path full of thorny shrubs to get to here, 10 minutes of walk from the stay.
This beach was different – the 15 of us were the only humans at the beach, no lights, no shacks/stalls. Even the noisiest people in the team turned quiet, there was something about this place. The sound of the water and the wind was crystal clear, there was no source of light apart from the beam from a distant lighthouse. On the right-hand side, one can notice dark outlines of what appeared to be a hill, on which stood the lighthouse, on the left-hand side was another hill was the outline of another hill, possible 3-4 kilometers from where we stood. We lit a fire, roasted some green channa along with the plants. Around 1 am, 8 members decided to leave, while the rest of us decided to stay back.
We went closer to the sea and sat down in peace after which three people decided to trek to the hills on the left-hand side. The rest of us decided to enjoy the calm of the water and roast our feet in the fire. The temperature had dropped and I had my humongous headphones and a dry towel to keep me warm. After awhile we realized we were out of fuel so we found a dried coconut shell and some dried thorny shrubs which we dumped on the fire.
As for the team who had left for their unknown quest, we could easily track them. Their flashlight was the only light we could see on the left so we had been following their progress all along. They returned around 5 am and mentioned that the route to the top of the hill was blocked off.
We returned to the stay at 6 am, just to pack our bags and leave for the day. We had plans to visit Gokarna town, visit the old temples, hit the local markets (as I mentioned before, I am a sucker for local markets and local food) and then leave for Bangalore at 1 am.
I had somehow remembered the lanes and I headed off towards the market on my own, picked up a couple of things here and there and around 1:30 pm we started our journey back. No bus crash or adventure on the way home.
Just one last thing I want to mention before I end this article – during our first trip we met a Swedish man in one of the shacks. He listened to the blues and drank a cold beer while telling us the story of how he came to India alone post retirement. Now he lives in a shack by the beach, works as a gardener spends the rest of his day staring at the sea and sipping cold beer under the coconut trees. Retirement goals!
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