How We Nearly Died Looking For Paradise & Got Saved By Locals in Gokarna!

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We had finally bid adieu to college life. Having survived five gruelling years of architecture, our motley group of six friends decided to commemorate this great achievement by gifting ourselves a vacation. Gokarna caught our fancy since it was just a 2-hour train ride away from Manipal where we were at that point of time. The next morning we put on our backpacks and embarked on our journey, confident that finding accommodation in a place like Gokarna would be the least of our problems.

We reached Kudle Beach and realised that getting a roof over our heads was hardly a cakewalk. With few of us annoyingly picky and having to tug around large suitcases in the process as we went stay-to-stay, at this point, the so-called ‘wanderlust’ was diminishing and instead rapidly getting replaced by hunger lust. Frustration took over as we were in dire need of a washroom as well. 

4 Scores and three infuriating hours later, we finally found a haven at Namaste Cafe on Om Beach. The place was a tourist delight, with a beautiful sea-facing cafe, quaint little exposed brick cottages close to the beach, we couldn’t have been happier. By the time we finished freshening up it was almost 5:00 PM, so we decided to hit the beach. It was just the three of us for the jaunt, and since I do not want to bring out any names, let us christen my partners-in-crime, Mr Adventurous and Ms Sensible and yours truly. 
Om Beach (Where it all started) Source

Mr Adventurous (true to his name) here was particularly keen on doing the famous beach trek from Om Beach to Paradise Beach right away, refusing to contemplate the time of the day we were in and the dire consequences that we would have to encounter. Faced with such adamant enthusiasm Ms Sensible, and I decided to follow him on this dangerous adventure. Armed with cellphones with dying batteries, a power bank and some cash, the three of us made our way to the beach, and that’s when he decided to head for the forested area grandly announcing “I’m doing the trek”. 

Ms Sensible realised that his phone was running low on charge and the only thing overflowing in abundance was his confidence in accomplishing the trek before sundown. Born to be Good Samaritans with a deep sense of loyalty towards friendship, the two of us decided to throw caution to the winds and accompany him. The vista was breathtaking, but, oblivious to the dramatic greenery enveloping us, we gingerly made our way through the woods with no idea whatsoever as to where we were going. Destination Paradise seemed aeons away, and our only hope was to reach there by sunset and take the boat back to Om.
The Map Showing How Lost We Got

As we bungled down our trail of confusion, relying only on our instinct and intuition, we spotted a clearing with a small little hut and an aged couple seated outside, cooking food over a wood fire. Relieved to see some fellow homosepians, we approached them and enquired how much further we would have to go to reach Paradise Beach. In a different Kannada dialect, the old lady replied ‘around ten minutes’. Gratified that we were just a few moments away from our destination, we relaxed and conversed for about five minutes or so with the amiable villagers who were curious to know where we were from. When we mentioned that we were from Mangalore, their excitement knew no bounds. Refreshed and rejuvenated after this five-minute break, we bid adieu to the couple and continued with our trek which didn’t look as impossible since we had just ten minutes more for our ordeal to end.

As we trudged deeper into the forest, the foliage seemed to get thicker and far more intimidating. The promised ten minutes had flown by over half an hour ago, and the sun had ominously set and our status at that moment seemed to be ‘lost in the woods’. We felt alienated from civilisation. Then suddenly, as if the Gods decided to shower their benevolence on a desperate us, one of our cellphones came alive. But our excitement ended up like a flash in the pan because the call happened to be from our friend who had stayed back at Namaste, informing us that the boats which were supposed to take us back to Om Beach had stopped operations for the day. The sky above mirrored our dampened spirits as flashes of lightning whizzed across as if mocking us and saying “Ha, Ha! There’s a storm coming, you guys are screwed”.   

At this point, we so-called adventurers dissolved into a catastrophic meltdown in three glorious forms. I went into a suicidal mode and just sat myself down on a boulder concluding sadly that this is how I die and with an immense hearted benevolence I murmured “You go. I’ll stay here”. Mr Adventure had transformed into a cuckoo clock that kept chanting “this is my fault”, and Ms Sensible seemed to have been possessed by the ghost of the Survivor himself and PM Modi’s new BFF, Bear Grylls. She went into the motivational mode and managed to wake up our sunken souls to believe that all is not yet lost. It was like she had practised her entire life for this very moment.

A ridge between Om beach and Half Moon Beach Source

Pictured: Unknown guy on Flickr. But this was the exact same edge I was worried to walk to Om Beach on a stormy night. 
We couldn’t afford to die; death was not even an option since we had to report back to work in a few days. So following Ms Sensible’s sound logic, we started to trudge back on the way we had come from, which at that moment, we thought was the most sensible thing to do. With the woods now enveloped in complete darkness and with just one cellphone flash illuminating our pathway, we slowly made our way hand-in-hand in case one of us got lost. I bet if we had bumped into someone he would run for his life thinking we were on some quality hallucinogens. After an hour it seemed like an eternity of just walking and hoping to find familiar landscapes, we notice to our great relief a wall and a faint light a short distance from us.

“OH MY GOD I SEE SOME LIGHT” I yelled like a wild banshee because it was after nearly an hour of enduring the Grim Reaper with arms scarily open, we found “light” at the end of the tunnel. We could soon recognise the house which belonged to the elderly couple we had met on our way. Kindly note that this was just a humble little hut with a tiny farm and a few storage sheds. For us, it wasn’t less than Buckingham Palace. I never in my life imagined that my heart would burst with such joy at meeting this aged couple again. They looked equally glad to see us. When I asked the old man, how much further we needed to go, he replied, ”It’s just five minutes from here”. Leaving us wondering if they are the descendants of The Flash, the reason being, it took us forty-five minutes to find their place the first time. Realising that we would be risking our lives if we continue to head back and with the threat of a thunderstorm and the terrain getting increasingly slippery, we requested our host if they could accommodate us for the night. 
Paradise Beach (Where We Wanted to Go) Source

Without giving us a reply, the old man turned his back and walked away, leaving us bemused and baffled. Our heart sank and soared again when we saw him clear out a shed and gesture us to enter. This is no exaggeration, but at that point of time, it could have been one of the happiest and comforting moments of our lives, since we realised we were safe with a metal roof over our heads. While our friends slept in luxury at Om, we were cocooned in what felt like home.

As we settled in, the old man offered us slices of fresh watermelon that he had picked straight from the farm, and while we were relishing this surprisingly 'organic' feast, he gathered some firewood and lit us a cosy little bonfire. Things just seemed so beautiful, and we had this new sense of realisation that this was indeed an adventure, perfect material for a movie script.

We slept like babies through the wild stormy night and woke up in the morning to discover it was still drizzling. We decided to take some time off to explore the little farm. Surprisingly after just two minutes of wading through a full set of trees and eye-catching greenery, we finally arrive at a beach. White sand and crystal clear waters with humongous black rocks on both sides framing the vista like a gorgeous picture. As we stood enthralled, mesmerised by the beauty of it all, our phones suddenly sprung alive. We got cellphone reception! We quickly checked our location and discovered that we were at Half Moon Beach. Happy that we had a landmark, we immediately called our friends who were worrying back at Om and assured them we were alive and kicking and would be back in a short while. We decided to leave right away as the rain has stopped too. We paid the friendly hosts and bid them farewell, which was quite a sad ordeal. We continued our journey back to civilisation. It just took us ten minutes to reach Om. So I guess we were wrong. The old couple weren’t descendants of the Flash after all and we were just terrible at directions. We finally arrived at the shores of Om beach and were welcomed by our friends with such exuberance and admiration that we felt like warriors returning from a great war.  

The bubbly vibes of Om beach and in the comforting company of friendly and familiar people just made me aware at that moment the trials and troubles we endured and how dangerously awry our adventure had turned out to be.

Takeaways To Avoid a Surprise ‘Adventure’:

- Book in advance if you’re planning to visit during peak season. Spontaneous trips during then maybe a bad idea.
- Carry a power bank & money with you AT ALL TIMES
- Avoid going on any treks after six if the weather forecasts show rains
- Know all information regarding timings and pricing for the boats and other accessibility options before the trek in case of emergencies.
- Wear the right shoes.
- Be kind to the locals.
- Be sure of the trek path in Gokarna during the monsoons as a path tends to get washed away.
- Pro Tip: Try camping out on Paradise Beach during a full moon night to see phytoplanktons!

This post was published by Shalaka Sen

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