After Hampi, aware we were fast running out of time, we decided we needed one last town, before the bustle of Bangalore and the madness of Kolkata. A new friend had recommended Gokarna, so we tooka train to Hubli, then jumped on a local bus to Gokarna. Or actually to a nearby town, changed buses, then Gorkarna. The whole day took about twelve hours. Incredibly rocky roads, a soviet era bus with absolutely no suspension and a cowboy for a driver. During the drive, we were doubting our decision and rubbing our necks. But, as is often the case in India, it’s not the journey, it’s the destination that counts!
Gokarna (or Gokarn as most signs seem to say) is a small beachside town in Karnataka. We didn’t know until we arrived, but a major festival was just beginning – huge chariots (2 storeys high) waited on the main street – after we left, they would be pulled along the main street, pelted with bananas, carrying gods. As the festival got into full swing, we were kind of glad to miss the crescendo – it was getting more and more crowded and hectic, and it kind of didn’t feel like our place. I still feel odd entering temples – I don’t share the belief (especially now!), so I feel a little like a trespasser (albeit welcomed).
Gokarna, too, is on the threshold of irreversible tourist-led chnange. The beaches to the south of town are quickly becoming populated by guest houses, restaurants selling pizzas and pancakes and beer, women in bikinis facing the sunset doing yoga gyrations, young hopeful local boys selling necklaces… Not surprising, really – the intimate little coves are idyllic, the water (for India) crisp and blue-ish, the countryside green and pulsing with life. The Goa of the future? Still, the town itself has an incredibly strong and independant energy – a tangible spiritual intent, will, hope. Even the sadhus seem genuine. So, there may be hope for Gokarn. Time will tell.
My last India post will be soon. As I write now, it’s my last day here. The relentless, smog-hazed Kolkata sun is setting, the internet cafe is crowded, another thali calls from Park Street somewhere. My flight leaves in about 15 hours. Rachael is already on her way home, via Thailand. I miss her, the home we share, my friends, the drought and fire ravaged place that is deep inside me. Next post will be Bangalore and some reflections, maybe even some photos (yes, 21st century slide night!)…