Sunday, April 10, 2016

GoKarna - Trekking -

Gokarna, is a very touristic small town centered around temples with pilgrims coming throughout the year and tourists -indians, russians and europeans - coming from december to february for the beaches. The name Gokarna, means cow's ear (go=cow karna=ear) in Sanskrit and is based on Hindu mythology.
The town is popular among Hindu pilgrims as Gokarna has one of the few Shiva's holy temples with what is claimed to be original image of the god (a lingam). It is also the home of several religious celebrations, and some of them denote a good sense of dramaturgy. The most famous is the colorful "Shiva Ratri" festival at the end of february. If you are averse to massive crowd, unfamiliar with local culture, it is advisable to keep away during that time. Tourists arriving to Gokarna will stop at a check-point at the entrance of the town to allow the police to search their luggages. Even in the middle of the night if they come with the Matsyagandha express from Mumbai.
Kudle to Om Beach Dolphin cafe

European backpackers originally visited the place for its warm winter climate and the not-so-crowded atmospheric beaches. An increasing number of foreigners have visited the area over the last 10 years. Additionally, it has become popular with young wealthy Indians coming from Bangalore and Mumbai.So the peacocky people of Gokarna is looking down now to those, who have paid for their noisy motorbikes and their large-screen TVs...
Gokarna is no longer a place for backpackers looking for a basic hut on the beach. Most establishments have upgraded to concrete guest houses with attached bathrooms, and several 4 star resorts have opened up shop.
Moreover, Gokarna is an eldorado for the police officers, who want to fullfill their bank accounts and whose main occupation is to hunt the smoker. Think of that : it's 20000 rps for a spliff...THEY CAN VISIT YOU NIGHT AND DAY IN YOUR ROOM ON MAIN BEACH. Traditionnal disrespect from the locals and the police harassment have sent many foreigners to greener pastures or just back to Goa, where the beaches are nicer and the people uncomparably more friendly. People looking for spirituality should move south to Udupi for its non-commercial and pristine atmosphere. There are four beaches in Gokarna. Internet and travel booking are available on Kudlee and Om beach, but there are no ATM facilities.

Kudle beach Gokarna sunset

Gokarna Beach

Half-Moon to Paradise beach trek
Gokarna beach is several kilometers long and is situated at the edge of the town. It is quite popular with pilgrims and Indian groups but less with foreign tourists. Just the wind and the waves are cleaning this place. When the season is starting, the young workers of the beach-shops are collecting a few plastic bags, but only in front of their business. Nobody's cleaning outside these areas, except sometimes, an heroic foreign tourist (if you do so, be sure, locals will laugh at you... ). After Shivaratri - the biggest festival and picnic in town - it becomes a seven-kilometers-long garbage dump. A local tradition is to use this beach as a public toilet area : so don't take your shoes off...
Swimming may also be a challenge, since the water has an almost permanent dead fish smell. On the top of it all, the brown foamy stagnant liquid of "Gokarna river" is from time to time released into the sea. No wise person would enter the water on that day!
Walk a couple of kilometres north from town along the beach, and things are much nicer and more pristine. The part of the beach closer to the Gangavalli River is actually quite stunning and not crowded at all.

Om Beach Gokarna high up

Kudle Beach

South of Gokarna beach, and accessible by a short downhill walk from auto drop off points at the northern and southern ends of this beach. The northern drop off point is closer to Gokarna town, but the southern drop off point is suitable if you are planning to stay at a place in the southern stretch of Kudlee beach. This beach is exactly what should never happen to a beautiful natural site. Have a look from the road down to the beach : the paddies have totally disappeared and some local building ambitions have led to the destruction of both the sides of the beach. Just a few coconut trees have survived and can recall you, this beach was a green gem... By the way, the lack of water during the high season is the same as in the slums in Mumbai : the toilets of some guesthouses are so disgusting, you gonna be prized by Guinness if you decide to stay there...
From December to February cheap accommodation is hard to come by and snapped up quickly. If you are are returning visitor, expect to pay double or triple what you paid in previous visits, both in accommodation and food.

Half Moon beach Gokarna
Backpackers are no longer the preferred clientele on this beach, having caused many problems for the locals over the years with drugs, parties, theft, noise and and unwillingness to pay for much of anything. Local farmers own strips of land on the beach continuing back into the jungle. In the past backpackers have stolen wood, squatted on privately owned jungle land, and kept locals and tourists awake with parties and jam sessions. Several tourist who have build houses and businesses on the farmland and jungle areas have also suffered greatly due to this behavior, and as a result there are efforts on the part of business and home owners to face out the backpackers, and take back what's left of the nature on Kudle beach.
Half Moon beach Gokarna

Om Beach

Om Beach is further along the coast from Kudle, and named for its shape as it is split by a rocky island. It can be reached by auto, with a downhill walk from there. Mainly occupied by Indian tourists, and sprinkling of forigners. The second half of the beach is packed with restaurants offering cheap accomodation in the form of bamboo or concrete beach huts. In the rainy season there are very limited options for boarding and lodging. This beach is reasonably clean all year round.
Half-Moon to Paradise beach panorama

Half Moon Beach

Half Moon beach is smaller and less developed than Om Beach, and is reached by walking over the headland from Om. Facilities are limited, there are a couple of small restaurants and a limited number of huts.
Paradise beach Gokarna

Paradise Beach

Paradise beach is the furthest from Gokarna town, but does not offer any facilities. The lodges and restaurants have been demolished by land owners (actually the forest department) and the police visit this beach at times to evict any residents and extort large bribes from anyone seen smoking charas. There is only one guest house here.
Paradise beach boat taxi 



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