Back to the Beach

January 19, 2010: Gokarna Beach

After Goa I thought I’d gotten my beach fix. My goal was satisfied—I’d savored warmth, got a nice tan, I got to go swimming and do beach things. I wasn’t planning on returning to the beach, but my friend Irati sent me a persuasive email from Gokarana. She spoke passionately about a beautiful tropical beach just south of Goa and described this bohemian enclave—“what Goa used to be like before it got so touristy.” She spoke to my heart and convinced me that I needed to return to the coast.

I took an overnight bus from Hampi to Gokarna. My neighbors aboard the bus were a couple of Russians who were loud and rowdy while everyone else was trying to sleep. I liked these guys though, and was enjoying hanging out with them in darkness, laughing and drinking tequila from a flask. I stayed up late into the night talking with a kind-hearted Australian girl that I’d met in a restaurant a few days earlier, whom serendipity had assigned to the seat next to mine on this journey.

The beds in this sleeper bus were quite small, and there are two of them very close, side by side. My neighbor was one of the Russian dudes, and so as I lay me down to (try to) sleep this night I found myself basically in bed with this guy. He was a good guy, though, and we had a good laugh when laying down ground rules about spooning and unintended advances.

All through the night the motley bunch of bus drivers and assistants caused me to awake in fear many times. They’d throw on the bright lights. I’d awake and find the bus stopped in the middle the street as these goons were racing around the bus shouting at the top of their lungs, chanting something like “Oyyyyy, Oyyyyy.” In my panic, it seemed reasonable to conclude either terrorists had just attacked the bus, or that some major calamity was before us. But then, with no explanation to the madness, the lights would be dimmed and the bus would proceed on down the road.

That was over a week ago. Since then I’ve been enjoying a most peaceful existence on the beautiful shores of Kudly Beach, Gokarna. My life is simple here. Sun comes up, I go for a walk on the beach, return to my guesthouse for coffee and morning musings while the sun is rising. Up and down the beach you see hippies and eccentrics doing yoga, tai chi, morning stretches, and meditating. It’s nice in the mornings, before the sun has risen to full-strength. When the ocean calls, I go for a dip. When I get hungry I eat killer Indian food. All day long I read and take walks and swim. And once the sun goes down the bohemian celebration begins around a bonfire.

I saw the fire from a distance and could tell there were many people around it. The last colors of the beautiful sunset were fading and stars were becoming brighter. I was feeling good because I’d just gotten off the phone with Ryan and learned about the birth of my new lil’ nephew, Nolan. As I got closer to the fire I saw spirited hippie women dancing around the fire with great big smiles on their faces. I heard many drums and guitars jangling, and everyone was singing Hindu devotional songs and chanting the name of Shiva lovingly. I was surprised that everyone (except me) seemed to know the lyrics to these songs. Little kids and their parents were sitting around the fire. Everyone seemed quite happy here. It was a remarkable bohemian celebration.

A few days later I learned from a mysterious Baba with crazy eyes that the Rainbow Family had relocated from the US to this area. He explained to me that the Rainbow spirit is based in love and freedom and aspires to retain the spirit of the 60’s. Apparently, many of these freedom-loving hippies split straight America and headed to India, where eccentricity is accepted more than anyplace else. This explained why everyone knew the lyrics to these songs—apparently all are part of the family and have been singing these songs for years.

Here at Gokarna, hippie is the populace. Many laid-back people come here and never leave. Every guesthouse is full, no one leaves, and everyday you see the same people lounging around the beaches, enjoying the moments. It’s real easy to get swept up into this life. It costs less than $10 a day to live very well here. At $300/month, why leave? Most everyone I’ve spoke to has been for over a month.

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