Peek of a Peak: Kang Yatse 2

On our way from Thochungtse to Nimaling valley

After finalising on Kang Yatse 2, I had my travel arrangements in place and waited eagerly for Jul 12. I had stopped my cross fit training a couple of days before leaving to give my body the required rest before starting the expedition. Plus, I started experiencing lower back pain which would turn out to be a slipped disc case just after a month. Ignoring such rarest possibility emerging out of a lower back pain, I started visualising the summit day and my excitement to be on the top of the world. Having said that, I was also prepared for possibility of being barred from attempting the summit by the trek leader.

Clouds hovering over Kang Yatse
Unpredictable weather on the peak

On 22nd of July at around 12:15 AM, I could sense some bustle going on around the tent. I was unable to sleep due to anxiety over the summit chase we were attempting this night. Last afternoon, we could spot some trekkers coming down the glacier after their summit who looked so minuscule on this mighty creation of nature. I woke up Suresh and Siddharth and we packed our bags with crampons, ice axe, water and food. It was pitch dark and cold. Also, it was a lucky day for us as the weather was calm, both at the base camp and on the peak. Geared with a layer of breathable thermals, quick dry t-shirts and down jackets, we started climbing towards the glacier. I must say it was pretty steep. We couldn’t climb more than 15 steps at a time. The oxygen getting diminished gradually could be felt. After 3 hours of climb, we reached a point at around 5700m where actual glacier trek would begin. After adorning ourselves with harnesses, gaiters, crampons, helmets and ice axe, the guide called upon us to come one by one so that he could tie us by the rope. And then, we continued towards the silent dark.

All 8 of us were in-line secured by a rope. It was a good slope: some 45 degrees. We had to dig our crampon-ed feet in the snow to stay still. One step at a time without wasting much energy. Anyone barely spoke, except the guide. We just treaded through the way, in the dark. Dawn broke over the mountain at around 05:30. With slight light to guide our way, we could see the whitewashed arena. So sacred it felt! Not a single speck of dust, not a single change in colour: Just White! And what’s down there on right hand side? Vast emptiness. It was such a huge glacier! With this kind of slope, anyone would be afraid to slide down. After some 20 minutes of sluggish walking, I asked my friend to look right. He got equally horrified as I because what we were looking at was a whole mass of black cloud approaching us from a distance. I have never seen such a huge black vapour ball so close in my entire lifetime. ‘It must be normal‘, I convinced myself, as the guide was not bothered about it coming towards us like a storm.

Moving ahead, the light got stronger and the views got more astounding. Even though the atmosphere was harsh, the ultimate landscapes paid for it. The clouds disappeared for some time. It gave us a scope to greet other mountains surrounding Kang Yatse which were relatively smaller. The sole fact that no other mountain in my farthest sight was higher than the one I was standing on right then made me feel contended and proud. The patterns formed by the snow-topped Himalayas were breathtakingly fantastic. It seemed like the mountains had draped white rugs to beautify themselves. Some beautiful things come at a good cost and I am glad I paid that cost. (Don’t think in terms of money!)

Also READ: A nature trek at Bir, Himachal Pradesh

Time was an illusion there; so was space. When your mind and body both start playing games with you, you might not know how to react. That’s why rigorous physical and mental training is required. My body weight suddenly felt doubled to me. Each walking step was a mourning gut. Crampons can be blamed as equally as should be thanked. Without them, you are nowhere on a glacier. Wind gushed through us from all the directions. What we wore: The scientific layering of clothing, seemed useless suddenly. Never had I ever felt so dry from inside, constantly in a need of a sip of water which, given our task, was pretty much limited. Even to reach my water bottle strapped in my backpack, I couldn’t garner enough courage to remove the double-layered gloves. We were so exhausted that after every 4 steps, we would need a break. But no one is ever rich enough in terms of time when we do an expedition. There’s a turnaround time and there’s a protocol. Mountains should never be underestimated.

We were gaining height with every step. With every other climbing step, the air became thinner. To survive in this beautiful abode was a test of our ability and will. It’s also important in such conditions how supporting your partners are. Fortunately, I had great motivators in my gang. I remember when one of us at the end of the rope felt disgustingly frightened and was shouting at this height because one of our climbing guides, the only person behind him, took a short break to fix the rope, all of us energy-deprived guys motivated him till the guide returned. Anyone among us in his place would have got terrified. Loads of love for this group!

After some time, we encountered a steep slope to climb to save some time. It required strong use of ice axe. This half a kilogram tool could support more than five times my body weight if properly affixed by the pick. The quality of technical equipments and the expertise of guide matter a lot on the mountains. We encountered a minor crevasse on our way up the slope which we had to jump through by fixing our axe above the crevasse and bouncing our bodies with the push of our legs with full power to get to the other side. It was a daunting task at that altitude for us. Strength training came to help during this moment.

We kept climbing the mountain until we came to a small plain area. Well, it looked relatively plainer. Resting our backs on an elevated, tilted portion of a huge rock, we took out our food supplies. After 10 mins of breather, our guide called to continue. With huge spirits, we all got up on our metal feet. Our trembling legs just had some 200m left to climb for the summit. My breathing frequency had escalated to 5 times the normal. My limbs felt numb. My chest expanded and mouth wide open in search of oxygen. The two sides of the brain started debating with each other whether to continue or not. The side which suggested to continue won. But merely after 20m further, the other side reclaimed its victory. Yes, I stopped there. It seems like a difficult decision but believe me, at that altitude, in those conditions, it was so simple, so relieving! The others continued, apart from us two.

The trek was a much required experience. It officially started on 16th July after two initial days reserved for acclimatisation at Leh during which we strolled down the main roads and small streets of the city and had local cuisines serve our guts.

Chilling (3200m): some 55 km from Leh, served as our starting point as it does for some real good treks including Chadar trek. From Chilling, we had a small trek of around 3-4 hours towards Skiu (3400m). The terrain was monotonously barren on the first day. Skiu was relatively greener and had a river by the camp side. To our excitement, we spotted a double rainbow carving its way between the mountains and forming a canopy over the river. Day 2 showed us a long trek from Skiu to Markha (3700m). Markha valley is so beautiful that in the arid deserts of Ladakh, you cannot imagine such a green place. Thochungtse (4200m) was our next destination which again proved to be an exhausting trek of 7 hours. The locals we met on the way and the journey itself was so beautiful that all our exhaustion melted away. On day 4, we camped at Nimaling (4720m) which was a pretty exposed plain green area resting between Kongmaru-la on the left and Kang Yatse base camp towards the right. The last camping site would be the base camp at 5150m. From here, we could see our goal: KY2. The hide and seek between the clouds and the mountains didn’t allow us to get a clearer picture of Kang Yatse twin peaks till the next day. It looked beautiful and dreadful at the same time.

I would never say I would regret the decision to stop before the summit. The mountain will always be there and I can always come back provided I am alive, fit and fine. It is really important to know our limits and stop whenever required to. It is not about proving our mental fitness but it is about being wise in a calculated manner during such situations. You can map such situations to real life and see the results for yourselves.

This blog comes in relevance to one of my previous blogs on preparing for high altitude treks. Also, if you are planning to build up stamina and endurance, running is a great exercise. Visit my blog on running to know more.

A day out in and around Lepakshi​

Open area outside Lepakshi main temple

I had just one day off last weekend. Although Bangalore is quite self-sufficient when it comes to visiting local attractions, going for a shopping or hanging out for a quick beer, it still lags behind the other metropolis across the country if a day outing is being looked for. With such a small list of places to plan a day travel, there are a few gems which actually need to get a push in the tourism sector. One such place is Lepakshi, which I believe many of us haven’t heard of. Just for a brief introduction, Lepakshi is a small temple town in Ananthpur district of Andhra Pradesh known for its 16th-century architectural marvel in the form of Veerabhadra temple.

This place got my attention when I looked for places near Bangalore, rich in history and architecture, after my trip to Hampi. I found Badami and Lepakshi worth visiting. You can easily drive your way to this religious place called Lepakshi as it is well connected to National Highways. Just follow the NH-44 till Kodikonda where you need to take a sharp left towards Lepakshi road. It takes around 2-3 hours to cover this 130 km stretch and submit yourself to the marvelous art and get lost within the temple premises. Other options are buses, cabs and trains. Hindupur is the nearest railway station located around 15 km from Lepakshi.

Entry gate of Lepakshi temple
Entry gate of Lepakshi temple

As soon as you enter the town, you are welcomed by a huge monolithic Nandi, a 4.5m high sculpture of a bull. The Nandi directly faces the Shiva-Linga which is inside the main temple.

Beautiful carvings on the entry gate of Veerabhadra temple
Beautiful carvings on the entry gate of Veerabhadra temple

The wonderful carvings on the stones starting right from the entry gate to every other pillar, each having its own story, is a jackpot for art-lovers. Not only the pillars but the colorfully painted ceilings tell many tales. You just have to look up. It is said that the 24 by 14 ft. fresco of Veerabhadra on the ceiling before the main sanctum sanctorum is the largest in India of any single figure. There is a Shiva-Linga, a Hanuman-Linga, a Rama-Linga and a Padmavati statue inside the main temple.

The array of magical musical pillars
The array of magical musical pillars

The quaint miraculous structures like the hanging pillar and the musical pillars are heart-throbs. Many people who visit this temple aren’t aware of the hanging pillar. When I was there, I saw a person resting with its support without any knowledge of what he is resting on. I asked this person to move a little off the pillar. Then I took out a piece of paper from my bag to slide it beneath the hanging structure. People opened up their eyes in awe and started clicking pictures.  When you get outside the main temple, you will see that the temple is surrounded by 70 pillars. By looking at its drum-like, grooved structure, I reckoned they must be similar to the musical pillars at Vishnu temple at Hampi. I tried to play this stone with my fingers, and yes, it produced an enchanting sound. Every other pillar has its own pitch. I really wonder what these 16th-century people might have done in unison with these musical pillars.

Intricate carvings on the temple walls
Intricate carvings on the temple walls

Also at the temple’s outer enclosure, you will see a mammoth Ganesha statue hewn in stone and leaning against a rock. Perpendicular to it is a massive Naga with three coils and seven hoods. There is this Kalyana Mandapam, which was never completely built. It’s quite photogenic and people, as usual, had their selfies and group clicks shot. There’s also this huge foot engraved on the ground, which is supposed to be Hanuman’s foot. It was nearly 10 times as bigger as mine. This puts a question to my inquisitive mind- “Are we shrinking?”

The incomplete Kalyana Mantapa
The incomplete Kalyana Mantapa

The thing I liked about this temple is not only its features but also the kind of peace and tranquillity we look for in a religious place. This place is hot all year-round and thus, morning time is the best time to explore this place.

Also READ: Why to travel solo?

Wonderful structures at the back of the temple
Wonderful structures at the back of the temple

Nearby places of interest:

If you happen to visit Lepakshi, you can also visit Dharmavaram (around 90 km) for its famous silk sarees and Veerapuram (around 40 km) for the painted storks all around the village (Dec till June). If you have spare time and would like to visit a model village, don’t miss this beautiful Proto Village near Tekalodu, which is on the way to Bangalore. The exact location of this village is: Proto Village location

TripHobo: A review

Planning trips has never been easy, especially when you are not accustomed to this activity before. TripHobo is one of the many online travel itinerary planners which is gradually setting its foot harder in the market and gaining popularity amongst the ‘wanna travel’ crowd.

TripHobo is a one-stop shop for everything a traveler needs. It contains more than 7 lac readymade itineraries for around 140k+ destinations across the globe. These itineraries are happily handcrafted by its customers who have visited these places. In case you want to cook it in your own style, imagine yourself, being one of its customers, having a whole platform with all the elements you need to create a perfect-for-yourself itinerary. And this itinerary may serve thousands of nomads and groups. Collaboration has always worked in the favor of humanity. Creating itineraries includes everything from flight bookings to hotel bookings, local attractions to visit and popular places to eat at. It has got a really optimized visual algorithmic trip planner.

Apart from this, TripHobo has got a diverse collection of travel blogs from various in-house and guest travel bloggers across the world. This section contains not only the conventional ‘Things to Do’ write-ups but also some of the hidden attractions most of the travel industry isn’t aware of. In addition, it has got the finest pro tips for your travel.

And in case, you don’t need to read or create the itinerary for your trip and want to rely totally on the tour operators, you have got this nice option as well here. And it’s perfectly fine as tour operators are the ones who have ruled the travel industry for decades before the internet revolution began. TripHobo does this job easy through ‘Tours’ section. With optimal pricing, instant confirmation, live guide, pick-up service and easy cancellation and refunds, this feature is like an icing on the cake.

We all are aware that the concept of ‘Do It Yourself’ trips or DIY trips as they call, is gaining ground as people don’t want to stick to a fixed menu. Sudden plans are becoming more and more visible nowadays. And in this age, when we cannot always afford to spend the time to plan trips due to our busy schedules, TripHobo can be a savior. Also, irrespective of the age group, a person sitting in front of computer or mobile should be able to plan things easily. Simplicity always wins and there is always a scope for TripHobo to go simpler in its design.

Some other key points I observed being a reviewer:

  1. TripHobo has a really nice website along with a mobile app. Their mobile app seems to be a bit clumsy and they need to fix some real issues.
  2. A major part of the application is user-driven. Itinerary creation helps thousands of people. Triphobo should consider giving rewards to such users who would then like to revisit the website/app more frequently and do their future travel bookings through them. A win-win situation for both TripHobo and its customers.
  3. Solo travel’ is gaining popularity these days and for such travelers on a shoe-string budget, there needs to be an integration of hotel search with hostel search.
  4. Apart from just the tourist destinations, they should try including small and ‘till-now-unpopular’ destinations which have a great scope for tourism.

TripHobo was officially launched in 2013. In such a short time, this company has got a huge repository and user attention compared to the other competitors like Inspirock, Mygola, etc.

Way to go, TripHobo! 😊

Also READ: Why to travel solo?

Amritsar: A backpacker’s outlook

amritsar

If you had ever wanted to experience a blend of spirituality and urbanization, culture and trend, painful history and yet, delightful souls, I bet Amritsar is the place to be. Even the most demanding gourmets can settle right here, satiated to the next level. Indian revolutionaries or freedom fighters once had a hold of the political situation at this place. Patriots also find their pleasure here as Punjab is a border state and Wagah border is not so far from Amritsar.

I went backpacking to this Golden city with one of my friends, Shivam, at the end of October 2016. Planning for a travel in any city was never in my set of interests as I am a man who likes to keep away from the hustles and bustles of city life. But then I had to see it for myself and today, I consider it as one of my best travels.

Amritsar is around 450 km from Delhi and around 230 km from Chandigarh. Regular flight services are available from major Indian cities. If you happen to start from Delhi, Chandigarh, Dharamsala, Shimla or Jammu, there are several state as well as private run buses. Additionally, there are a few trains from Delhi, which takes just 6-7 hours to reach Amritsar. Also, if you happen to visit Amritsar, do so between the months of October and February, as it is the best season. As a general tip, avoid traveling during summers as the temperatures can rise well above 45 deg Celsius.

Daal Makhani and Roti at Amritsar

I met Shivam at Chandigarh from where we caught a local bus to Amritsar at around 10 PM. There is a huge frequency of buses to Amritsar. The bus was more than full till Jalandhar. We had a good amount of luggage with us so we purchased 2 extra seats just to keep our bags. It felt bad to see people standing while our bags were resting on cushion seats. But then, we had no option. The bus came to a halt at a small Dhaba on the way. I need not mention how awesome the Dhabas are in Punjab, which is supposedly the mother of all Dhabas. After we were done stuffing the unbelievably excellent Dal Makhani with Rotis, the bus started again. We reached Amritsar at around 3 AM.

Also READ: Hampi: A voyage into the past

Just a couple of hours before boarding this bus, I found this really cool backpackers’ hostel at Amritsar on the Internet called Jugaadus’ Eco Hostel. It is situated at Ajit Nagar and hardly takes around 15 mins from main bus stand. As soon as we reached the premises, we could see a neatly trimmed, electric-blue turbaned, handsome man waiting for us. His name was Prabhat. He greeted us and asked us to follow him up towards his small den. It’s a 2-storeyed building. I still remember the narrow red-lit stairway leading us to their first floor. Initially, it seemed like, ‘Did we make a mistake by booking this hostel?’. And it was obvious on our part. They haven’t done any publicity of this place unlike Zostel or any other chain of hostels across India. The only basis on which we could trust was- ‘Go and check for yourself!’. So, we entered this common area after removing the shoes outside. Even at this dark and quiet hours, it felt lively. It was an inventory of arts with a pile of graffitis and loads of innovation. Prabhat guided us to our dorms where we fell down immediately and slept.

Mornings are never early for us. It was 10 AM when we woke up. Now, Jugaadus have a neat day planner board hanging right in the common area. This is the best concept I loved about this place. You can see it in the image above. So basically, they have 7 different types of activities which you can opt for during your stay at Jugaadus. It includes Heritage walk, Golden temple tour, Border tour, Village tour, Food walk, Morning cycling and Cooking classes. You can sign in a day before for any activities you want to do. If they find they have at least 3 members for any activity mentioned above, they will arrange that activity in their specified time frame. We opted for Golden temple tour, Border tour and Food walk for our next couple of days stay. There were many solo travelers from outside India who joined us on our tours.

Aloo kulcha Chhole
Aloo kulcha and Chhole

After getting ready, we had a nice breakfast of Chhola Kulchha nearby. You will love the Kulchas anywhere you end up at Amritsar, I bet. Today, we have planned to take up the border tour. The Wagah border is around 28 km from Amritsar. There you can see Indian and Pakistani troops engaged in artful and aggressive rivalries showcasing their respective talents, hatred and yet respect for their opponents. The Wagah Border security restricts any entry after 2:30 PM, so make sure you reach the place well before 1:30 PM as the queue is quite huge, especially on weekends and holidays.

The place was filled up with patriotism, for different countries on different sides of the gate. I really feel perturbed by the thought that all these people were a part of one country before Independence, and everyone was called ‘Indian’. That glory is lost after the historical partition of 1947. Looking at the people sitting on another side of the gate, it seems like they are like us, in every aspect. I believe people sitting on another side of the gate feel the same. I and Shivam were sitting among the bunch of foreigner friends we made back at Jugaadus. It felt really great looking at the pride and respect Indians hold for their motherland.

India Pakistan Border
India Pakistan Border so near!

It would be around 5:30 PM when you will finally leave the place, taking another hour to reach the city, depending on the traffic. Back to the hostel at 6:30, we took some rest and got ready for the Golden temple tour. We had an instructor named Diljeet who told us incredible stories and facts about this marvelous wonder.

The Golden Temple during night hours
The Golden Temple during night hours

The Golden temple, as also called Sri Harmandir Sahib, is the most important shrine of Sikh religion. The temple has entrances from all the four directions. It stands in all its glory in the middle of a holy tank called the Amrit Sarovar, which is a man made tank. Pilgrims usually take a dip in the holy water which is believed to bear special healing powers. The main hall of the Golden temple houses the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikh religion. This place also holds the largest Langar every day, where around 100,000 people a day are fed for free by temple volunteers and the number doubles during special occasions! Around 12,000 kg of flour, 1,800 kg of rice, 13,000 kg of lentils and up to 2,000 kg of vegetables are consumed every day. Most importantly, the langar caters to people of all castes and creeds. Such a kind fact.

At 10 PM, we observed the departure of Palki Sahib from Harmandir Sahib, carrying Sri Guru Granth Sahib to The Akal Takhat Sahib. It is an interesting ceremony that happens every night. We sat for a while around the lake, observing the golden beauty getting reflected brilliantly in the waters of Amrit Sarovar. I experienced tranquility. The positive atmosphere here will never let you want to leave this place.

Next day, we went for a food walk around Amritsar. And believe me, every single place listed here is a must try and anyone visiting this city should never miss these food joints.

paneer bhurji
The special Paneer Bhurji full of delicious Butter

It was mostly a try and taste tour. We needed to keep some space in our tummies for the next landing place. We started off with Tara Chand Special Paneer Bhurji wala. The delicious Paneer Bhurji completely soaked and fried in heaps of butter! I already started feeling heavy after eating this! Then we moved ahead towards Bhai Kulwant Singh Kulchha wale. We all had nearly half a Kulchha with the tasty Chholas.

Next one on the list was Kesar da Dhaba. Now, this place is quite old with no branches. It was established in 1916 and still retains its old ambiance and delectable recipes of its forefathers. You crush and squash its Kulchha in your hand and by the time you leave it, it would have regained its original shape without falling to bits. And the Paneer Butter Masala- it never tasted this awesome till date. We tried Lassi and Ferni as well. This place is so economical that you can feed 10 people in just around 800 bucks, with desserts!

Next was Gian di Lassi. Believe me, this is the freshest lassi you can get in the whole of Amritsar. They had various flavors of it. This place was, fortunately, the last one because this Lassi will try its best to fill your stomach well above its normal size. So satisfying the meal, so exciting the tour. We had a great time with our host named Sanjay for this food walk who is apparently the founding director of Jugaadus.

Jallianwala Bagh
The historic Jallianwala Bagh

After this walk, I and my friend went to Jallianwala Bagh where hundreds of innocent lives were lost due to the cruelty of a British officer named Colonel Reginald Dyer. We paid our respects to the mighty souls who had a generous and non-violent intention to get India independent.

 

Finally, I and my friend went to The Golden Temple again to glimpse it in broad day light. During day time, it has a different flavor and showcased its true colors. I loved this place to the core.

Amritsar is a place where your heart connects! With its typical Punjabi demonstration, this city has won my heart in all the parameters. I will surely opt to offer services in the kitchen of The Golden Temple the next time I visit.

Also READ: Why to travel solo?

Seeking peace at Gokarna!

Gokarna

I am always enthused about beaches. My long list of travel in this division includes Digha, Mandarmani, and Pondicherry on the west coast of India, Mumbai, numerous popular as well as hidden beaches in Goa and so on. This time, the long awaited, mostly unexplored, silent beach town of Gokarna robbed my heart. This place never caught my attention due to a lesser-acclaimed, self-absorbed nature of this place. But after visiting it, I wonder why people want to compare it to Goa. It has its own essence, its own rhythm. And I loved the way it is and want it to be what it is now, forever!

gokarna map
A short depiction of the outlines of Gokarna

We were 5 this time. 3 girls, 2 guys. An unanticipated weekend plan it was during the month of December when most of the vacationers get on the beaches. We all were traveling from Bengaluru and booked an AC-sleeper bus from Race course road at 8 PM. The journey takes somewhere around 8-10 hours from Bengaluru, a mere 500 km. After a couple of hours of games and chats, the journey paused with a dinner break at a Dhaba near Tumakuru. Thanks to the short duration of halt, we had to hurry up eating the junk, all-prepared food. Thankfully, we had enough bites before boarding the bus at Bangalore. Being full and well fed, everyone went back to sleep as soon as the bus kicked off.

Early mornings while traveling are always special. You get to see the difference between this new place and ours. Different types of farms on the roadsides, different culture of the locals, different landscapes! Being a coastal area, Gokarna seemed full of coconut and Banana trees. The sun was rising up amongst these tall, sturdy, natural structures. The conventional art of a school kid on paper went real! Such a  beautiful morning it was!

The bus reached at sharp 6:30 AM. As soon as we alighted, we saw deserted roads besides some autos standing in the corners. Unlike other places where auto-wallahs rush up at the bus gates to catch customers, this place was quite at peace. We had to reach out to an auto to take us to our destination – Zostel. We were getting a knack of this less-commercialized place. Leaving aside some shacks and resort, the most economical and backpacker-friendly stay we could find was Zostel. It seemed like auto-wallahs had formed a union to quote 100 bucks for any customer, wherever you go in this small town of 11 sq km. We settled them down at 80 and got hold of two autos.

Zostel is around 3 km from the local bus stop. It is located at the hill top near Gokarna beach. As soon as we reached there, we could spot some wooden shacks on the left which were private rooms and a dormitory building in the front. The dorms were relatively clean and well equipped at Zostel, a backpacker’s haven. We reached out to the reception to find out that rooms shall be available only by 12 noon as it is an official check-in/check-out time. We were given this common area until that time which was pretty cool. We had our luggage kept there. After getting fresh, we had some guitar time on the wonderful terrace they have, which has a splendid view of the surrounding beaches and town. It felt so awesome this morning. The only sound of the strings amongst fresh breeze and treat-to-the-eyes-view. So silent it was that it felt like we were hearing what we played, so properly, for the first time.

zostel cafe gokarna
The rooftop cafe at Zostel facing Gokarna beach

There’s this rooftop cafe at Zostel where you can enjoy your meals and drinks while watching the mighty, blue Arabian Sea. We took our sumptuous breakfast of veg cheese sandwich with a much-needed cup of hot coffee. On the suggestion of the Zostel manager, we decided to trek from Gokarna to Kudle beach. The trek is on the sidelines of the sea among the jungles. The magnificent views of the sea this trek provided us are incomparable. Most of the times in our trek, there were rocky parts all the way down where the white waters gushed with a burst. The sound of the waves flooding the black mountains was audible even on the top where we were trekking. The trek was fairly easy. After numerous halts to watch the awe-inspiring views and of course, for photography, we managed to reach Kudle in a couple of hours. There, we found a nice shack called Ganga Cafe offering chilled beer and great food. By the beach we sat, holding the beer in hand, singing songs of love, and thinking of all the precious things God had just shown us.

Also READ: 9 reasons to travel Goa during Monsoons

When you have a DSLR in your group, photography never ends. It continued for one more hour. We had a walk on this clear white sand beach with slippers in hand. The sand was so fine grained, so soft, so tender. This feeling of soft touch below the feet with slight waters oscillating seemed to have a direct connection to your mind and memories. It makes you think. It helps you meditate. It makes you love isolation.

 

meditating at beach
A perfect place to Meditate – Silent Beaches!

 

“Anna, 300 per person to cover all the beaches in a boat”, said a voice from behind. Now Gokarna has overall 5 beaches which can be covered up via trek or a boat. It was late afternoon and Kudle beach has the best sunset view as it faces the west side. So, we went for the latter option after bargaining till 200 per person. On our way, we were able to spot some lovely dolphins slowly swimming their way. It took us an hour to get back to Kudle beach where we happily settled down in front of a resort and watched the orange ball submerge gradually into the waters. It was fabulous.

We decided to gulp one more beer. We had our guitar. We played the strings and sang the songs. Songs of friendship, songs of youth. It was getting duskier with every passing moment allowing the stars to glitter and the tides to rise. It was time to decide a dinner place.

Beach Trek
Trek from Kudle to Om beach

And Cafe 1987 it was. It was dark out there with a full HD, somewhere around 55″ TV with Avatar movie playing on it for some customers. Luckily, candles were another source of light at this popular place at this time. At first, it seemed like we made a wrong choice. But after having all Italian food, our opinion altered. Also, you must try the yummy pancakes here. With heavy tummies, we went back to Zostel by walk. It was hardly a kilometer from Kudle beach to Zostel if you opt for tar roads. Some notice board mentioned, “Beware of robbers!” And from that moment on, our eyes and ears became open 360 deg till we reached our destination.

Back to Zostel by 11 PM, we went to bed as we had decided to start early trek (at around 6!) from Gokarna beach to Paradise beach facing south with Kudle beach, Om beach, Half Moon beach on the way (Refer the map above). This could easily consume more than half a day. The shacks provided us a really comfortable sleep.

graffitis
Graffitis all over at Zostel Gokarna

Mornings are always lazy for me. Our plan got delayed by a couple of hours, making us trek in scorching heat in the end. We had light breakfasts before leaving to garner some energy. We decided to trek from Kudle beach this time and so, had a road walk till Kudle beach. Our trek started effectively at around 9! A slight ascend for some 15-20 minutes followed by a completely straight path, on the edge of the mountain, with just the blue sea below us. Our right side was a full panoramic view. Sitting on the historic mighty walls of Chapora fort at Goa also gives us a similar view. It seemed like we were the only ones on the trek. And it was good in a way. Just the jungles, sea and us. After an hour, we reached Om beach. It got its name as it is shaped like the auspicious ॐ symbol. It is also the center for several water sports activities such as surfing, water-skiing, parasailing, and banana boat rides. 

As soon as we reached there, we encountered this very famous cafe in nearly all the travel blogs – Namaste Cafe! Awesome ambiance, awesome food. Awesome sandwiches actually! Though we didn’t find the service good. Post that, we had some good time on the white sands of the beach. Fortunately, the weather was on our side that day. We sat on the edge of one of the many huge rocks Om beach has, feeling the moist winds on the face, witnessing the astounding beauty of the place. We tried capturing boomerang videos with our names written on the sand being whitewashed by the sea. Amazing time!

Time to move on to another beach – Half Moon. The crowd was even lesser here. Separated by a cliff from Om Beach, this beach is a perfect spot for unwinding and relaxation. With umpteen hammocks set amidst trees, you have splendid reading spots here. If camping is in your mind, just jump right in. We had a good time swimming here as the water is shallow for quite a considerable distance from the shore. And I realized, my swimming movement was so jammed for years! It was already past noon and we were famished. So we decided to have a good lunch in a nearby shack with beers to fight the increasing temperature. This shady shack was home to a couple of nice kittens whom we fed. The beach was so attractive that we went for another round of swimming! All done, we were set to leave for Paradise.

This is the fourth and final beach along the coast of Gokarna town. The hike was a bit tricky but took not more than 25 minutes for us to reach there. This beach is very small, just 150 meters in length. It used to be a Hippie’s paradise a few years ago. It is also ideal for camping at night. It is a perfect place if someone wants to get disconnected! Pure solace. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to stay here as it was already late and we had to rush back to Zostel and catch the bus back to Bangalore. We reached Gokarna beach in about 15 minutes in a boat we hired. Back to our rooms, we packed the luggage and booked a couple of autos for a drop to check post.

Paradise beach
The final beach of the trek – Paradise beach

A journey of a couple of days but it was a feeling where I felt complete satisfaction. A satisfaction of a travel. A satisfaction of isolation from the world. A satisfaction to be at peace. And ultimately, what a person demands from a vacation is satisfaction. So, here I sign off happily from Gokarna! I will visit it again really soon.

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