On The Road: Temples, tradition and relaxing with tea on the beach in Gokarna

Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Getting to Karnataka's Om beach was relatively easy. Now, though, standing on the dark sand with the sun setting, the sound of an acoustic guitar playing, dogs roaming around me and more hippie travellers than you could shake an incense stick at, I wondered what had inspired me to make the journey. Om beach just isn't India.

As I stroll along, I'm told I'll be lucky to find a room at this hour, unless I fancy sleeping in one of the makeshift cafés lining the beach. This doesn't appeal, so it's time to think about my other options – I can either hike back up the cliff to find a tuk-tuk in order to head back to the train station, or jump on the next (and last) longboat of the day and head to Gokarna.

I choose the latter. The boat ride takes longer than expected, the water is choppy and it's getting darker by the minute. By the time I arrive at Gokarna beach it's pitch black. As I navigate the dusty, narrow streets of this tiny city I already suspect that I've made the right decision in coming here, a feeling that is confirmed when I find myself a lovely room for the night and tuck into a delicious chana masala.

Morning arrives, as does prayer call. With temples and tradition galore, Gokarna is a centre of Sanskrit learning. With its mudstone, low-rise houses, a visit here is like stepping back in time. It's also vibrant, friendly and full of character. I head down to the beach, and when the sunshine makes me too thirsty to continue, I choose a chai stall and sit myself under its shade. As I sip the sweet and delicious tea I watch crowds of people ducking in and out of the sea, and children cooling off from the mid-morning sun – and I'm glad there wasn't any room at Om beach.

Footprint's India Handbook is available now (£16.99)