The train ride from Goa to Gokarna was several hours of pure bliss. I watched the landscaped fold before me, changing from massive rivers to forests to farmland. I sat on the floor with my feet dangling out the open door, the only things that seemed to be still. Behind them the ground was rushing by.
Arriving in Gokarna, I stepped out of the train station at about 4pm. It was a small town, with no restaurants or stores. Yellow flowering trees paved the way. I opened up my phone and looked at where I am on the map. Maps.me is a must have app for any traveler. You can download offline maps that catch your location even when your phone has no data and is on airplane mode. Paradise Beach, a friend had told me to come, was a place not reachable by car anyways.
“You can camp here for free!” He texted. I wasn’t sure how I would sleep considering I didn’t have a sleeping bag or hammock… but I guess I’ll figure that out when I get there. I do have a towel/blanket. The map showed two ways of getting there. One, you can take a road 13 km to Belekan Beach, and then walk the last 1 km. The second was this odd dotted line (for a walking path) That went as a hypotenuse directly through the water. 15 km. It estimated three and a half hours. I was stoked to explore what this dotted line was.
One of the benefits of being a light weight traveler is being able to do things like this. Although my slackline adds a lot of weight to my bag, it’s still a day pack size. I haven’t seen any other travelers that aren’t burdened with huge 65 L bags and sometimes multiple (i.e. usually a smaller day-pack sized bag they wear on their front). I wandered down the road, past all the rickshaw drivers yelling that I was going the wrong way, crossed the train-tracks, and after maybe 1 km arrived at water. There was a path indeed. A raised little path of dirt shot out into the horizon with water and mangrove trees on both sides.
My phone was almost dead at this point, and worrying that I would need it for a flashlight and definitely for navigation, I was only able to take one photo. Although sometimes the inability to take photos makes us all the most absorbent. Hours passed as I walked and the sun was turning a deep red. I passed small empty huts that looked enticing for a rest, but I pressed on worried about limited sunlight. I felt like a trekker, lucky to be surrounded by such visual euphoria. Eventually the path gave way to land, and I walked along a village that had beach front property. Oh, what a beautiful simple life it would be to be a child here! I passed some women shelling oysters, and some children chased me shouting in English, “Hello! Hello!” After the path touched land for some time, it continued back into the water.
The sun was now getting friendly with the mountains, and I looked at my map to see the unfortunate 7 km I still had remaining. There was the next part of the map, where right before the path connects to the land I’m trying to get to, you actually have to cut inland and go about 1 km out of the way. I was hopeful as I approached this point that I would find a way of crossing the water. Arriving, I saw one man on boat pushing across. But he did not hear my calls. The mangrove trees at some parts looked connected, and I even imagined climbing across. But it wasn’t worth the risk of the water with my phone and stuff. I took the road defined by my map. This area was empty, as was the whole path, and all along the side of the road, I could see spots to rest my eyes.
None the less, I continued on. I walked past a village where everyone looked so surprised to see me. I was following a trail on my map that would lead me over the hills to the beach on the other side. It was starting to get dark.
I was now only 4 km away but my phone was down to just a few percent and I knew I would be screwed if it ran out of power while I was in the dark up some trail in the forest. I was hopeful that it wouldn’t come to that, but then as I was walking a man and a little girl waved at me, “hello!” they said. I kept walking and then from behind me I heard them calling. They had come down the steps and were motioning for me to come.
I don’t mean to sound unappreciative, but Indian hospitality I’ve come to accept. Their family consisted of two babies, a young boy and girl, a mom, a grandma, and a father who works as a fisherman. They insisted I come in and eat, inquired why I was walking so late, and when I told them, insisted that I just sleep here and then keep moving in the morning. The mom was beautiful. She had long thick black hair to her waist and a beautiful joyful smile. She was the mom to two babies. I could hardly communicate with them, but eventually found out that we are the same age. What a different life! We had fish curry and rice for dinner, and I slept on a mat with a blanket. It was heart warming and I’ll never forget them.
In the morning I coninued walking the last 4 km and finally came over the mountains, to catch the first sight of Paradise.