“Finding a sanctuary, a place apart from time, is not so different from finding a faith.”
― Pico Iyer, Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of The World
So to humour myself a little more, I decided it was time to take off
on yet another solo trip; the previous one being a good six months ago [Read: iWander | Exploring Kutch
|Sights from Om beach, Gokarna: Of sunrises and sunsets, boat rides and quiet time|
Destination: Om beach,
Gokarna (meaning cow’s ear) is situated along the western coast of
India in the state of Karnataka. It’s known for its temples and stories from
Hindu mythology. Though that has been overshadowed by the sun-and-sand along
these seven beaches -- Gokarna, Main, Kudle, Om, Paradise, Half Crescent and
It’s about 160 kilometers south of Goa (takes about 3 – 3.5 hours) and
680 kilometers from Mumbai.
Om beach is located south of Kudle beach (which is south of Gokarna
beach) and earns its name because of its shape.
|The ever mesmerizing Om beach, Gokarna |
Getting there: As it’s that
time of the year right after the monsoons, taking a train along one of India’s
most scenic routes is a ‘must-do’. The train journey from Mumbai to Gokarna is
an overnight one that takes about 13 – 13.5 hours and costs INR 500 (approx).
The station to alight off is Gokarna Road. Autos and taxis are available right
outside the railway station and charge around INR 300 for a distance of 15
kilometers. Bus tickets could cost you upto INR 2500 one way between Mumbai and
|Flavours - inside and outside - the train. Matsyagandha Express|
|When roads run parallel and perpendicular to the railway tracks|
Stay: Om beach offers some
good options for one to stay at. I opted for Namaste Café – which if not for
its rooms then definitely makes the cut for the upper deck at its restaurant
that’s mostly reserved only for patrons staying at their hotel.
does ‘do nothing’ even mean? And how do ‘you’ do nothing?
‘Doing nothing’ on the train:
A confirmed window-seat ticket is
the stuff the traveller in me digs at. Sights and sounds from both inside
(courtesy: co-travellers, vendors) and outside the train (courtesy: nature
bedecked after the rains) kept me well occupied during those 13 odd hours.
A train journey (the more you do them, the more you’d agree with me)
are an insight into the lives of the average Indian family – I, for one, was
surrounded by two senior citizen couples off to Karwar for a break from city
life in Mumbai #Respect;
A young couple with their year old kid who my heart went out to
because of the ‘humidity-unfriendly’ clothes he was made to don #SighParenthood;
And two RAC (Reserved Against Cancellation) gentlemen one of who I let
have my berth during the day as they’d otherwise have to share one seat
While the vendors kept me omnoming, it was Mother Earth who had me
torn between staring agape at the green carpet cover stretching over land,
plateaus and hills dotted by wild flowers of every size and colour only to be
enticed by butterflies.
That’s when I wrote in my diary: Train
journeys are about fleeting memories. You can either sit in anticipation to get
that one good click or you could sit back soaking in the entire landscape with
your every pore but no click!
|All the hues to behold|
|Is that a big sheep in the sky? May be it's a poodle?|
‘Doing nothing’ at the beach: Frankly speaking, this is the most easiest of all. For the three days
I was at Namaste Café I realized I’d worked out a routine (a realization that
dawned on me much much later) – wake up, head to the upper deck at the
restaurant that overlooked the beach, stay put and head back to the room post
dinner #Easy (Not quite however if you are wired and plugged in to a task list
on a day on day basis. Easing into this state of liberation can then pose
somewhat to be a challenge.)
Armed with nothing but a book to read and a diary to write in, the
sound of the sea and the breeze I realized were my most critical muses.
|The good life. My favourite shot. | Pancakes. Masala Chai. Pico Iyer and my diary|
Inspiration, however, even for a solo traveller on a ‘do nothing’
mission, is incomplete without the people. My intention behind this solo trip
(and refusing company from everyone who wanted to tag along) was to enjoy some
downtime i.e. get far away from the maddening crowd. Little did I realize that as
the timing coincided with a long weekend, I inadvertently ran straight into
this maddening crowd! #FML
So I entertained myself watching almost everyone indulge in selfies,
group-selfies, posing when being photographed by this ‘being’ with a DSLR
|Boats that add a dash of sass to the coast|
And it wasn’t all that bizarre
either. On Day 1 just as I was getting used to the throngs of people on the
beach sometimes howling in general when not howling back at their already
howling kids (yes, we Indians are a noisy bunch) and the numbers around me at
the restaurant, being the only solo person in there at a table when everyone
else was scrambling for space to sit, I was approached by two 35-something men
on whether they could join me at my table. This moments after I’d WhatsApp’d my
mother that I really wanted to have a beer without drawing any (let alone
unwanted) attention towards myself. Of course I decided against the beer myself
soon after. Back to the two at my table I decided it was alright to have
company. Interestingly enough it turned out quite well with conversations only
veering around places we’d travelled to and places we wanted to travel to. I
think what took me by surprise was when the waiter at my table enquired with me
whether these two were being a bother and if I wanted them to move
So besides chatting up with other fellow travellers and conjuring up wisecracks in my diary to share with my folks later, doing nothing also included perching myself on a little rock high above the sea only to be lured by the waves crashing at the bottom. Equally important was the time spent in pigging on all the food and sea-food in particular the restaurant had to offer.
|Always looking out for a higher vantage point to get yet another shot|
And I observed. A snippet from what I penned then:
She hears them converse. They
talk about business to an unseen face over their phone or about politics to the
face in front of them as they scroll down their phones.
She sees kids frolicking in the
sand sometimes stumbling over their own feet bawling crazily much to the
annoyance of their already embarrassed parents.
Someone’s stirring sugar
crystals at the bottom of their chai (tea) cup. Another’s still trying to get
that selfie perfected.
She drowns those distractions in
the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks. But these people around her –
they seem happy as if delighted to be let out of a prison. The prison of monotony
mayhaps? The rigour of a regime? Following the diktat of the norms no one knows
Will their shiny happy images
redeem them from this spell?
|Waves crashing on the rocks|
- It’s alright to be uncomfortable on the first day of your solo travel –
even if this isn’t your first solo trip. Find a corner that’s less ‘happening’
if it’ll help you ease a bit.
- People around you may not be used to a solo traveller. Whether in the
train (or any other local transport) or the restaurant and hotel, come prepared
to be ‘watched’. And if you’re a solo traveller with a pen and paper/diary then
even more so. Be assured its harmless watching, mostly out of curiosity. That’s
why you need to be at ease with yourself before dealing with everyone else’s
- Be aware nonetheless
- Budget travel is an option you can consider even when travelling solo.
Even when you’re a female travelling solo. Gokarna was just that for me. Disclaimer: This only works well if you’re prepared not to be treated
like a princess (applies to both male and female solo travellers)
- Keep your sense of humour handy. Always. Even when there are delays.
Especially when there are delays – whether with a room being provided, your
food order coming through or even transportation for that matter
- Staying put translates into being a known face in the vicinity. Some
may use it as an opportunity to strike a conversation with you. Depending on
whether the conversation is initiated before or after a couple of beers, use
your discretion to indulge in them. While I mentioned the good guys in my post
above, I had to tell a seemingly tipsy fellow off (for the obvious reasons)
- Don’t forget you’re out to’ enjoy yourself’ – it has no definition for
a reason. So do as you please J
|Sleep deprived after an overnight train journey nothing could beat this rising sun welcoming me to an extended weekend of nothingness!|
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