Saturday July 20, 2019

Beyond Goa: Welcome to sun-kissed Gokarna

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By Arundhati Roy

I think I speak for the majority when I say that every Indian’s idea of a beach holiday ends up in Goa. Surely, it can be heavenly for some with the sound of some upbeat music hanging in the air as they sunbathe under the summer sun. But what if I told you that there is a place which is reminiscent of a Goa that existed 20 years ago? The place is called Gokarna.

Gokarna is a small pilgrimage town on the coast of Karnataka. Pilgrims and tourists flock to this coastal town throughout the year. Gokarna, which means Cow’s ear, got its name from 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 the original image of god (a lingam). However, the town witnesses a complete flipside with the influx of backpackers from around the world. Gokarna charms its tourists with the simplicity that it has to offer.

Gokarna is famous for five beaches:

Gokarna Beach

This beach is mostly popular among pilgrims since it’s centrally located in the town. It is several kilometres long and the wind and the waves do most of the cleaning. Swimming is strictly not advised on this beach partly because the water has a perpetual smell of dead fish! No wise person would want to enter the water. It won’t essentially make any difference if you give this beach a skip.

Kudle Beach

This beach offers the best of both worlds. Located at the south of Gokarna beach, it provides cheap food and accommodation to backpackers, right on the beach! Little hammocks hanging in the verandah sets the mood for some quality ‘me’ time. Beer seems to be the staple drink on this beach, and the local Upbeat beer does the trick for many! There are many cafes stretched along the beach which provide a wide range of snacks for your after-swim hunger. Evenings are made magical with a random jam happening at some far corner of the beach. Kudle is the perfect destination for the ones who want to be alone but not lonely.

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Om Beach

Further from Kudle, this beach gets the name from its shape and is split by a rock island. Mainly occupied by Indian tourists and a sprinkle of foreigners, it offers a range of sea sports for the ones interested. It is reasonably clean all year round. Swimming is permissible on this beach.  The second half of the beach offers cheap food and accommodation too. It is a long beach and a walk in the evening along the shore paints a completely different picture than a walk in the day.

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Half Moon Beach

This beach is accessible after a short trek over a headland from Om beach. It is a very small beach with limited facilities. The water on this beach is a perfect turquoise and even though swimming can be a little dangerous on these waters, it is surely a worthwhile experience. Sunset on this beach is something which should not be missed.

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Paradise Beach

Also known as Full Moon beach, this beach is further ahead of Half Moon, the farthest from Gokarna. Previously a nudist beach, it is now enjoyed solely for its natural beauty. Untouched and raw in its appeal, the beach is far away from the hustle bustle. Paradise is a delight during late evenings with the breath-taking sight of the sea shining in the bright moonlight.

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On the outskirts of Gokarna, remains a beach which is still unknown to most people. Nirvana beach needs to be reached through a town named Kumta. The tide on this beach does not cease to light up one’s mood. A swim into the white, foamy waters of the Arabian Sea at sunset is the perfect way to end the day. With just a few shacks scattered in the vicinity, this beach provides utmost privacy to its visitors.

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The town of beaches will never fail to meet your expectations. There seems to be a beach for every kind of personality. Whether you come to Gokarna on a solo trip or with your family, the place will take care of you all the same, a perfect getaway from the commercial buzz on the beaches of India.

At Gokarna, blue water under blue skies will chase all your blues away

Next Story

Meet These Communities who Clean India’s Mountains, Beaches of Garbage Trails

"It is really about exploring spaces with empathy, and sense of preservation and sustainability"

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A man guides a raft through a polluted canal littered with plastic bags and other garbage in Mumbai, India, Oct. 2, 2016. VOA

With an environmental crisis looming over the planet, is the way out community-led? Two cleaning initiatives in India, targeting heavily-visited – and littered – mountains and beaches, show how civic conviction can turn into an on-ground impact that ropes in local stakeholders.

‘Bringing back our old Dadar beach’ was the simple phrase motivating Chinu Kwatra, 28, when he first picked up garbage from the squalid Dadar beach two years ago — the first step of removal of more than 2,000 tonnes of garbage — and set the ball rolling for a community-led beach cleanup.

Recalling the episode, Maharashtra’s Thane-based Kwatra told IANS how momentous changes begin small. For his collective Beach Warriors, it began with a day-long cleanup drive after he saw ‘visarjit’ (immersed) Ganesha idols everywhere on the beach.

A Facebook post about it travelled to an old professor, who then suggested that they extend it beyond a day. However, even in the campaign’s second week, it was the same three people doing back-breaking work to free Dadar beach of its detritus. “I felt I will lose the battle if more citizens didn’t join us,” said Kwatra, who quit his job to take up community work.

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There are an average of 20 volunteers cleaning each of the seven beaches they work on — Cuffe Parade, Worli, Bandra, Juhu, Erangal, Madh, and Dadar. Wikimedia Commons

To Kwatra’s surprise, it wasn’t long before local support started pouring in the form of students and “within an hour, from three the number rose to 25”, and then, attracted even more. What involved just two of his friends at first, propelled many communities into action. The team now gets volunteers from organisations, corporate houses, schools and colleges.

The social changemaker leads a core team of 40 Beach Warriors. There are an average of 20 volunteers cleaning each of the seven beaches they work on — Cuffe Parade, Worli, Bandra, Juhu, Erangal, Madh, and Dadar, he said.

Inviting other people to step forward in their respective communities, Kwatra said that they aren’t doing “anything great” but only what “every citizen must do”, regardless of administrative intervention.

Kwatra said he was inspired by Afroz Shah, an environmentalist and lawyer, who led another set of volunteers cleaning Mumbai’s Versova beach — often termed as the world’s largest beach cleanup drive. It has removed thousands of tonnes of waste from Versova beach. Kwatra has now trained his eyes on cleaning up the highly-polluted Yamuna river in Delhi.

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Workers from a recycling company load garbage collected and brought from Mount Everest, in Kathmandu, Nepal, June 5, 2019. VOA

In the northern part of India, another cleanup drive targets mountains. Trekking enthusiast Pradeep Sangwan, who leads a similar volunteer-driven cleaning initiative in the Himalayan cities, advocates for sustainable tourism along with encouraging communities to step forward for damage control. His collective Healing Himalayas Foundation, founded in 2016, collects garbage from trekking routes and areas around waterfalls.

Having worked around Manali, Kheerganga, Shimla, and more recently, Shrikhand, the sustained campaign has been vocal about reducing the carbon footprint and plastic waste tourists leave around, to the extent that “if a lost trekker follows the litter trail during a trek, she could find the group”.

ALSO READ: Nepal Conducts Month-Long Cleaning Campaign to Convert Mount Everest Trash into Treasure

Speaking about their cleanup drive around Manali’s Jogini Waterfalls, Sangwan told IANS that it was relegated from a space for meditative activities to “a party place”. “Simply, the campaign is about saving waterfalls from becoming a big dump-yard. We organise regular cleaning drives and educating local communities and schools.”

Like Kwatra, Shah and several other community-oriented change-makers, Sangwan too stresses the importance of a collective change that takes birth within people’s hearts and shows in their actions. “It is really about exploring spaces with empathy, and sense of preservation and sustainability,” he strongly believes. (IANS)