Gokarna travel diary – “How it changed her life”

“Travelling has always been my way of making sense of life.” The fact that I will be someplace far away from the rat race, sitting in corner, listening to the sound of the water crashing on the nearby rocks or the waves hitting the beach, or the wind brushing through my hair and smell the soil, knowing that my cell phone is out of the coverage area and my office cannot contact me even if all hell breaks loose, is something that allows me the life through the constant pressure of work. There is a sadistic pleasure in knowing that your team might try to contact you but the closest they’ll get to you is a pre-recorded message in Kannada provided by the service provider. Anyway, right after moving to Bangalore we formed this enthusiastic group of people who decided to travel every two months-no five star accommodation (not that we could afford it with our salary, still saying that out aloud made us feel like we had the option and we rejected it), local food, affordable modes of transportation. Our first trip together was in April 2016, Gokarna. We stayed at this beautiful wooden shack facing the beach, lived on seafood and beer, swam in the water till the sun went down. Post this trip, we managed to organize two more trips post which the enthusiasm was swallowed by the walls of our office and the yelling of our bosses.

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(The above images might look like heaven but it’s just Gokarna. PC- My buddy with a DSLR)

 

As time passed by, responsibilities came up but my thirst for travel only intensified. The unavailability of a group made my frustrations even worse and I decided to venture out with a group I found on Meetup. My first trip with these guys was Hampi and second plan was Gokarna beach trek.

Now, this is where my actual story starts (apologies for the long introduction, but some I had to build this thing up). I had just quit my job (Yaay) and I had a month’s break before I joined another. I had a few responsibilities to take care of at home so I had around a week to chill and I decided to make the best out of it-I asked the guy I was crushing on for a date, planned to hit the gym twice a day (“planned” being the operative word here) and I decided to join a meetup group to Gokarna one day before the scheduled departure.

I packed my bags and booked a cab, Achilles last stand playing on my phone, out to combat Bangalore traffic. The team has had a total of 30 people and except for the guide, I knew no one.

We started off around 9 pm, made a few stops for tea and water. Post 12 the bus was speeding on the highway like a train.

Now to be honest I felt a little cramped up, I was sitting next to a stranger (which I honestly don’t mind, but that the guy talked so less!) and the only conversation we had was a “Hi”, and the weather was quite humid, so I wasn’t really able to sleep. I kept dozing off and waking, and all of a sudden, I work up to the sound of a crash, the post which, it seemed as if the bus was flying and there was another mighty crash and the windshield exploded. My entire body jerked and my chin hit my backpack with my mouth smashing on the seat in front of me.

There was a confusion inside. Everyone was up. I could hear moaning from somewhere, someone was crying. The bus had crashed against something, I was alive, but I wasn’t sure if everyone in the bus was. I could hear my guide, Tarun, trying to sound like he was in control but the confusion in his voice was evident. He yelled out to the drivers asking them if they were alright. One of the women in our group had been flung on to the glass, she was bleeding and unconscious. Someone opened the emergency door and I jumped out on the street.

We were in the middle of nowhere. It was 3 am, and we were in the middle of nowhere, scared, confused, injured, cold.

I was walking on the glass with one footwear because I had lost the other one inside the bus. Someone grabbed the injured girl out and called the ambulance. Someone had a bleeding nose, someone had injured her recently fractured shoulder, someone had a huge bump on his lip. I had one huge gash on my knee, the guides Tarun and Jatin were running about, both of them injured. Tarun had a huge cut on his ankle which he was constantly not attending because he wanted to make sure everyone was safe, all the luggage was out of the bus, some arrangement was being made.

Photo from mohanarc

I was sitting on the second window seat on the left side. Post 30 minutes the first ambulance arrived and picked up the most injured people. The second one arrived after another hour and took us back to the hospital where we got our wounds dressed and a mandatory tetanus injection.

Now the big discussion – should we proceed? We were very very close to Gokarna (read 6-7 hours away) and all the necessary arrangements can be made, but if anyone decides to turn back, the entire team would turn back. Unexpectedly most of the team (including the girl who had smashed her head on the glass and had two stitches on her forehead) had agreed to move forward, but there were few people who were reluctant, so the others put their efforts into convincing them to agree. Everyone who agreed to proceed had the same thing in their mind, “If we turn back now, this can haunt us for the rest of our lives and we will remember of this incident every time we plan a trip”.

5 am, plan fixed. We move forward. We rush outside the hospital, catch 5 auto rickshaws (there were only 5 people anyway) and move to the bus stop. I sat beside the autorickshaw driver, in the front, another item crossed off my bucket list!!! We reached the bus stop at 5:45, and took our seats. The people around were staring at us because almost everyone had a bandage somewhere. I personally felt like a badass (as the guy I had been crushing on had once called me).

Post 5 hours of dozing off, being pushed by daily commuters and munching on the energy bars I had in my bag, we finally reached Shimoga. We sat in this small eatery with a huge crowd and brilliant idli vada, filter coffee (if you have visited the South Indian states and you have not tried filter coffee, you are definitely missing out a lot in your life!) while our guides went out to arrange transportation. Post 3 hours including a small halt for lunch, we reached Kumta, 30 kilometers from Kudle Beach in Gokarna, where our stay was arranged. Our stay was in a secluded area, three four houses per hundred meters, the beach visible from our stay, some 500 meters from the locality. Our initial plan was to start at Nirvana beach, take a ferry to God’s own beach, and trek (yes, trek!) to Kudle beach via Hell’s Beach, Half moon beach, Om beach. We planned to stop at Dolphin’s point watch the Dolphins.

Now, none of that seemed possible because we were already too late and tired. Around 3 pm we headed took the bus to Om beach post which we’d plan what to do next (planning the unplanned).

As we came closer to Om Beach, I could remember the trip I had made to Gokarna just a year back. Everything was just the same, the roads, the sights, the moist air near the sea, the cashew shrubs at the side of the roads. I really can’t type what I felt in that moment, it felt like home, it felt like the sea had been calling out to me, to wash off all the struggle I had been through in the past year. It might sound very vague but there was something much more than the pleasure of visiting a beautiful place, there was something about the air that made me anxious. I couldn’t wait to get to the sea.

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On reaching the Om Beach, this was the view that greeted me.

 

The only words that kept repeating in my head were, “I missed you so much”

I rushed down the stairs carved out of stone and climbed on one of the rocks. The weather was warm, the breeze was cool, there were fishing boats in the water. I really needed to live in this moment, away from all the noise

After the others arrived, I dumped my backpack and jumped into the sea. I stood in the water, staring out at the waves. The sand shifted under my foot and I could feel the cut in my knee burn slightly, but that was alright. I stood facing the waves and turned around when there were about to hit me and let it drag me up for a while (created the illusion that I was floating). I stayed in the water till I could see the sun set and I walked out of the water. On hitting the beach I realized that my injured team had decided to try out water-sports so I decided to guard the bags, and I got surrounded by a bunch of locals who were selling handmade accessories (and I am a sucker for these). I turned around and saw Namaste Cafe with the small tattoo shop beside it, the same shop where I got the really bad temporary tattoo last year.

After the sun set, we decided to have a small trek to Kudle beach. Now Kudle beach has brilliant food (so does Om beach, note – Banofee pie at Om beach and Kingfish at Kudle beach, must have food). It was a short trek, beginner level, but not carrying flashlights and wearing floaters made it a little tough. We had an hour to roam the beach and have dinner. I chose a small shack with a seat facing the sea. One of the best things about the shacks in Gokarna is the music. Blues, jazz, vintage rock, you can never be disappointed! After a delicious meal of king fish, prawns, squid (basically every variety of seafood available in the shack) we trekked to the spot where the bus was headed and we returned to our stay to…..

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The shades of sunset.

 

…. No, we weren’t done for the day. As it happens the food and the sea breeze had recharged our batteries. After everything we’ve been through in the past 24 hours, we felt invincible. So 15 of us including the guides decided to change and head back to the small secluded beach beside which our stay was located. This beautiful beach was called Kadle beach and she had a breathtaking, mysterious, haunting beauty at night. We walked through a path full of thorny shrubs to get to here, 10 minutes of walk from the stay.

This beach was different – the 15 of us were the only humans at the beach, no lights, no shacks/stalls. Even the noisiest people in the team turned quiet, there was something about this place. The sound of the water and the wind was crystal clear, there was no source of light apart from the beam from a distant lighthouse. On the right-hand side, one can notice dark outlines of what appeared to be a hill, on which stood the lighthouse, on the left-hand side was another hill was the outline of another hill, possible 3-4 kilometers from where we stood. We lit a fire, roasted some green channa along with the plants. Around 1 am, 8 members decided to leave, while the rest of us decided to stay back.

We went closer to the sea and sat down in peace after which three people decided to trek to the hills on the left-hand side. The rest of us decided to enjoy the calm of the water and roast our feet in the fire. The temperature had dropped and I had my humongous headphones and a dry towel to keep me warm. After awhile we realized we were out of fuel so we found a dried coconut shell and some dried thorny shrubs which we dumped on the fire.

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Craving for a roasted coconut?

 

As for the team who had left for their unknown quest, we could easily track them. Their flashlight was the only light we could see on the left so we had been following their progress all along. They returned around 5 am and mentioned that the route to the top of the hill was blocked off.

We returned to the stay at 6 am, just to pack our bags and leave for the day. We had plans to visit Gokarna town, visit the old temples, hit the local markets (as I mentioned before, I am a sucker for local markets and local food) and then leave for Bangalore at 1 am.

I had somehow remembered the lanes and I headed off towards the market on my own, picked up a couple of things here and there and around 1:30 pm we started our journey back. No bus crash or adventure on the way home.

Just one last thing I want to mention before I end this article – during our first trip we met a Swedish man in one of the shacks. He listened to the blues and drank a cold beer while telling us the story of how he came to India alone post retirement. Now he lives in a shack by the beach, works as a gardener spends the rest of his day staring at the sea and sipping cold beer under the coconut trees. Retirement goals!

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Music & Travel: Discover all at the “Rock capital of India”

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The seven-sisters offer immense support to talented artists in the form of massive local enthusiasm and gorgeous landscapes; it’s no wonder these states are oozing with creative talent. If you love the travel and music combo then you should not miss out on North eastern India.

So, here I begin my bumpy story as I witnessed it.

I had successfully managed to not go to NH7 Weekender so I could save up for this musician I had freshly discovered- Eric Martin, who was going to perform in India in November. Eric Martin happens to be the vocalist of a well-known band called Mr. Big and has this unique raspy voice that had me hooked for good. After a huge confusion between Guwahati and Shillong, given that the musician was performing in both the cities on consecutive days, I decided that I’d go watch him in the former and then go around exploring Shillong.

We were supposed to reach Guwahati by 11 am on the day that the concert was supposed to be. However, the train kept getting delayed after having started off late and reached Guwahati at around 9 pm. The concert was most certainly over by then. I was disheartened, certainly, but I looked forward to making it work the next day in Shillong.

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We left for Shillong next morning, hunted for an inexpensive hotel and decided to split, for it was just one of my friends and me who wanted to watch Eric Martin eventually. I was on a really tight budget and didn’t want to spend on front-row tickets, yet, I wanted to be able to watch him up-close and possibly meet him. So I decided to try my luck and gave one of the organizers a call, explained my situation and convinced him to let me click pictures for them in return for free entry. To be on the safe side, the two of us reached the venue hours in advance and waited patiently for the organizers to turn up. I had no idea how the guy I had talked to looked like, his number stayed busy and I had no option but to wait outside the gate. Finally, one of the other organizers took notice that I had been hanging around for exceptionally long, asked me what was up with me and on hearing out my story, handed me an All Area Access volunteer card, almost frustrated.

I was beyond thrilled; all my patience had finally paid back and I was all set to have the night of my life. Flash forward to the performance, I remember standing right off the stage, the crowd held back by the cops behind me and sang along while Eric Martin performed some of my favorite songs. My hands shivered in the overwhelming winter of Meghalaya, but I kept clicking. And meanwhile, made friends with a cop on duty, who was also a huge fan. After the concert, he helped me get access to the backstage and meet Eric. I was overjoyed to have my CD of Mr. Big autographed by the singer himself. The adventures that night came to a halt after my friend and I were offered a ride back to our hotel by the cops in their Gypsy, for it was way too late to find public transport.

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Another incidence on the same trip happened on our last day in Shillong. We set off for Dawki, which is popular for its crystal clear river and the neighboring village called Tamabil, situated on India-Bangladesh border. We got off at Dawki, asked around a little and managed to take the contact number of a taxi driver before starting to walk towards the border. It was heart-warming to see the locals crossing the border freely and trucks from Bangladesh entering India without a check. Visitors, however, could not go beyond a certain mark some 150 meters off the border.

When it was time to give the taxi driver a call, the three of us realized that none of our phones had a signal. After a little hesitation, I walked up to one of the policemen at the check-post and asked for help. He gladly complied and gave his cell phone to me. Once the taxi arrived, we found ourselves negotiating with him for a gamble. He claimed there was a place roughly seven kilometers uphill which was far better than Dawki, which he could take us to. Again, there was a split in opinions; one of the guys didn’t want to go but the other one and I had a huge gut feeling that it is worth a visit. We somehow convinced our friend and less than thirty minutes later, we found ourselves gaping wide at a view that cannot be explained in words.

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A suspension bridge that started off our feet connected this side of the cliff to the one across. Under it, flowed the clearest waters I had ever seen, of river Umngnot. The tiny boats appeared to be floating on air while the bed of rocks under the water could be seen with utmost clarity. The fact that there was hardly any crowd as compared to the overly crowded Dawki served as icing on the cake. Our originally reluctant friend was now thankful that we brought him there.

Time flew quicker than we could realize and soon it was almost 5, the sun was about to set and our driver claimed we would not be able to find any transport back to Shillong except the over-priced private taxis and suggested we camped there. We could not have afforded to pay for a tent and let the hotel back in Shillong charge us for the night at the same time. I listened to my intuition again, took a chance and we came back to the taxi stand. I had to talk to a big number of drivers before I found one who settled for a modest price. On our journey back, with Khasi rock songs playing in the car and a starry sky above, we finally asked him the hard to pronounce the name of the place we had visited. After a few failed attempts, our driver finally spelled it out for us and we learned how to say- ‘Shnongpdeng’.

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Dorm or Suite style: What kind of a traveller are you?

While you plan your next stay at a hostel, which type of room one should choose?

Make an informed choice and travel trouble-free!

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What is a hostel dorm?

Beds are sold individually in case of a dorm, which means if you’re travelling with two friends and choose a four-bed dorm, you will likely have two more people in your room that you have not met before, which is actually kind of fun!

Hostel dorms vary in sizes, some offer four beds, others offers 10 beds, you will come across hostels which offer them both.

Why chose a dorm room?

When travelling solo, dorm rooms are the best form of accommodation for travellers around the world! Solo or not, the experience of staying in a dorm is unique and must be experienced.

The price of a bed in a dorm room is less than the price of a private room, which is a great thing for travellers and their budgets! Even if you don’t have a budget to maintain, save that money for your next travel!

Travelling solo or not staying in a dorm room gives you more opportunity to meet other travellers than you would have in a private room.

Things to keep in mind when choosing a dorm room:

Since you are sharing a room with others, privacy is limited.

Different people, different plans! Some people might wake up late, some people might stay up late. Open yourself up to these little changes!

All dorms have lockers where you can keep all your luggage and valuables so, there isn’t any trouble regarding the security of your belongings.

37What is a private room?

The traditional idea of a hostel has had a recent change, many hostels offer luxurious private rooms for travellers who don’t want to share a room with others. Since the space increases as you move to a private room, you enjoy the uniqueness and luxury of it. Some hostels have incredible spaces for their private rooms!

Why chose a private room?

Every traveller has a different needs and if you’re someone who loves the environment of a hostel but can’t share a room with others, a private room is just a right thing for you.

When you’re paying on the basis of a room and not a bed, prices vary. Private room cost more than a bed in a dorm room, a lot of hostels provide great deals and packages, make sure to ask them!

When you choose a private room you get the best of the both worlds, privacy and great atmosphere around you.

Things to keep in mind when choosing a  private room:

Sometimes, bathrooms aren’t a part of your package, to avoid trouble, check with the hostel beforehand.

If you’re looking for a break and need some rest before your next big adventure, private room is the best option for you to crash in.

Why College Students Should Backpack

I choose not to start with the traditional way of explaining how beautiful a thing backpacking is.
So I will just shift to the purpose instead. But first, you need to know what college is apart from being an educational business land. It definitely is a long chapter among the contents of the catalog that society lays down for you calling it “your” life: primary to secondary to plus two to college and then to work. That is all. And once you step out of this miserable status quo, society freaks out to you.
But till you aren’t freaked out, this is the best thing you can do for yourself. So why?

You’ve got terribly low responsibility

You have to agree that you do not have to think about anything other than yourself while you are in college. Nobody is expecting anything from you other than your development. Your parents take care of themselves and your needs. And it is all connected. Read the next point.

You learn to be more responsible

Backpacking could probably be the best stepping stone to the journey of responsibility, as firstly, it teaches you how to take care of yourself, and then, makes you more organized because when you are backpacking, you are on your own.  

You gift yourself independence

Backpacking makes you do your own planning, with nobody having a better idea than you, about how greatly or badly you’re geographically placed somewhere and what you should do. Quite simply and clearly, you save your arse when you have to save it. And that is definitely a facet of ‘independence’.

Backpacking is a lesson in itself

Throw away textbooks and bring yourself for the ride. Backpacking involves the whole of you: your body and mind. You plan it and you execute it.

Learning life lessons the way they should be learned

Non-backpackers are surely stuck in the maze with dead ends after promising turns. They think reading about a value would make them achieve it. But it does not work that way, does it? Unless one is exposed to the practice of it, it doesn’t seep into one’s skin. Backpacking gives you failure, fear, joy, tolerance, patience, and perseverance. Hence, it prepares you for a more serious journey in future, whether professional or personal.

Stories to reflect back on and relive

Every human being lives on memories. No memories and we are nothing better than task-executing cyborgs. Backpacking gives you stories of your own, stories which you have written through your footprints on a part of this vast world. They become who you are and who you look forward to becoming. 
College is the last chapter of the life of comfort. That is the tradition. What backpacking does to you, drag you out of your comfort zone and see the world and plan a bit better for the journey thenceforth. So, quite logically, backpacking keeps you a step ahead of everyone. 
Not all classrooms have four walls. Start travelling!

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