I don’t usually go in for beach holidays, partially on account of the fact I get bored easily and sprawling across a sarong whilst my tender, English flesh slow roasts to an unrecognisable crisp isn’t my idea of fun. But mainly, it’s sand. I fucking hate sand. Sand is way too keen to get into your pants before it buys you a drink. And your bra. And your pockets. And all of your faceholes. And all of the general places it has no right being. Fuck you, sand. But I’d heard tell of Om Beach, it had come up a few times in conversation and it’s highlighted in the Lonely Planet and we all know I’m a bit of an LP whore so I duly jumped on a private bus in Mumbai, ready to be dropped at my destination. Well ok, about 20km from my destination. At 3.30am. But that’s ok, because I was slightly concerned that this drop off point would be at some random junction in bum fuck nowhere but I was lead off the bus to a road house type place where a few words were exchanged and I was instructed to sit down.
I sat. A lone mosquito terrorised the entire right hand side of my being as a random smattering of men sipped chai and occasionally glanced in my direction. Sometimes one of them would ask me, “Gokarna?” I would reply in the affirmative and they would tell me, “Bus is coming.” Here’s the thing about language though; Tense is important. I know this because I can’t use tense in the embarrassingly little Spanish I know so I use the present tense for everything. These fellas only spoke limited English so “bus is coming” could mean it’s coming right now, or maybe around lunchtime, or teatime, or tomorrow. But their reassurances that there was, at some point, a bus coming was usually accompanied by my absolute favourite gesture used by men who don’t speak a lot of, or any, English but want me know know that shit is cool. It’s the head wobble, usually with a chilled, eyes closed expression, along with a downwards gesture with both palms at a 45 degree angle. I have decided to interpret this gesture as, “Relax, aal izz well.” It comforts me. And yes, that was a 3Idiots reference because I’ve been here 8 weeks now which obviously means I’m thoroughly qualified to quote Indian cinema. Only the English bits though. Clearly.
Anyway, I eventually found out that the bus started running at 7am from a bloke called Raja who happened to be the manager of the lodge/restaurant I’d taken refuge in. I had to get a bus to Ankola where I could get a bus to Gokarna where I could get a rickshaw to Om Beach and all with the amount of sleep usually associated with several Jägerbombs and a significant loss of basic motor functions, please. I might have faceplanted the table and snoozed a wee bit at one point. Raja supplied me with a chai which he refused to let me pay for too. At 7am I shuffled to the other side of the road and realised that I didn’t have a fucking clue which bus I needed so I pretty much just attempted to flag anything. Nothing stopped. I contemplated walking the 4km. Raja joined me on the side of the road about 15 minutes later, let several big buses go by then at about 7.30am, he stuck his arm out for what looked more like a cardboard box on wheels than any means of public transportation and that was it, I was on my way to Ankola. Seriously, for every one person who has overcharged me or tried to rip me off or scam me, a tonne of people have helped me and not expected anything in return. Indians are generally a lovely bunch of people.
Two buses later and a rickshaw driver who didn’t even try to convince me that my destination was further away than the fucking moon, I was walking down a set of stone steps to the beach. I’m not gonna lie, you feel very fucking conspicuous wandering along a beach in long trousers with your worldly belongings strapped to your torso. Om Beach is so called on account of the fact it’s shaped like an Om. Or a number 3. Or the indentation of someone’s arse on a well worn sofa. And as you walk along the first butt cheek it doesn’t seem like there’s anything there. You contemplate just setting up there for the day, y’know, like you always go to the beach with everything you own and what are you staring at anyway?! Then you round the corner into the second butt cheek, the butt cheek I ended up spending the majority of my time in, and there are just the right amount of restaurant and accommodation structures. I mean, it’s perfect. The way some people talked about it I’d half expected them to have gone all Cyprus on it and concreted over everything but every little venue looks like it fits in perfectly. I located Om Shri Ganesh, was shown to my little hut then I went in search of some manner of food product that wasn’t crisps or biscuits or any other snacking device one now associates with being stuck on a bus for what felt like my whole bastard life.
Well it turns out that boredom isn’t really an option here. I swear Om Beach operates on a totally different time scale to the rest of the world, I’m pretty sure hours consist of about 40 minutes and days consist of 20 hours. Time flies by, whether you’re floating in the sea or trying to find the best lemon nana on the beach which is a green, iced drink made from mint, lemon, water and sugar and could probably only be made more awesome if someone added a double shot of rum. Incidentally, it’s Om Shri Ganesh, in case you were wondering. And here’s another lemon nana fun fact; After about four of them in a row your internal organs will threaten you with mutiny if you even think about consuming another, then your intestines will spend the evening cleaning themselves out anyway. So yeah. That happened.
There are a fuck tonne of signs everywhere telling you that if you go into the water you’ll die a horrible, whirlpool related death but I think you can safely ignore those signs. Signage doesn’t apply to me anymore now anyway, not since I used an exit door to motherfuckin’ enter a building. I’m a rebel now. A loose cannon. I’m the kind of person that feeds the seagulls on Brighton Pier in front of the “Do Not Feed The Seagulls” sign. Not that anyone actually feeds seagulls, they just kinda help themselves to your lunch whether you’re ready to part with it or not and you can think yourself lucky they allowed you to keep all of your fingers. But I digress.
The biggest trauma you’ll face here aren’t the imaginary maelstroms of doom, probably just the fact that the metal frames of your sunnies have heated up and now they’re too hot to put on your face, or that the dry sand is really, really hot and you have to do the Hot Sand Beach Jog to get from the restaurants to the cooler wet sand where it doesn’t feel like the bottom of your feet are being stripped away by white hot coals.
Also slightly annoying are the jewellry sellers. There are millions of them. Or six. Or fifteen. Or nine. I don’t know, but the problem is, they’re really nice to you. Yeah yeah, I know it’s a selling tactic. Sit down with the tourists, chat to them, build a rapport, find out how long they’re staying and tell them maybe later they can look at their wares. No rush though, shanti shanti. Chiiiiiill. But when you’re just trying to chill out or have a conversation or read a book, they think nothing of interrupting, and because there are so many of them interruptions occur every seven fucking minutes and the worst thing is, you can’t use either of the tried and tested techniques you learned in Rajasthan to get rid of them because they’re being too fucking lovely! You can’t ignore them. It’d hurt their feelings. And you can’t be outright rude to them because then you’d feel like an utter bastard. All of that western politeness you’d managed to suppress in order to survive with your nerves intact comes flooding back. Dammit. It took me a fucking month to build up those defenses and now they’re ruined. Ruined I tell you. I’m going to have to start being n… n… nice to people again.
The usual animals also call this place home. Cows like to relax on the beach with a good book, albeit by stuffing the book into their gobs. Dogs generally belong to one guest house or another and will curl up under your chair whilst you eat or chat and will gratefully accept anything you weren’t going to finish. And and and! Puppies! There are puppies at Sunset Point which is totes my favourite restaurant and not just because of the tiny little bundles of utter cuteness that just happen live there. That’s just a happy bonus. The main reasons are the fact you can punctuate stints of making cooing noises over tiny, tiny dogs with the amazing “mixed seafood grilled,” and the fact that you can consume this along with an ice cold Kingfisher Premium whilst watching one of the most spectacular sunsets India has to offer and hoping to catch a glimpse of dolphins as the fiery sky ball sinks. There aren’t many other ways I like to spend an evening.
And is all that relaxing getting to you, poor darling? It’s a hard life ay, people don’t realise how difficult things are for us sometimes. Don’t worry, you can break up that gruelling schedule of strolling up and down the beach in between dips in the sea with a walk over to Paradise Beach which I reckon is thusly named because no one will try to sell you any jewellry there. It’s fab. Uninterrupted bliss. Although a bloke did sidle up at one point and ask me and the fella I was with, Kevin, if we’d like to purchase one of his fine pineapples and why yes. Yes I did actually fancy sacrificing half of my tongue to the pineapple gods. Does anyone else get this or is it just me? I feel like I’ve lost about three layers of tongue after scoffing half a pineapple. I love them, I could eat them all day but I’d be left with a little, raw stump and an inability to pronounce any word with an L in it.
If you can’t be arsed walking back there’s a boat that does the rounds between the beaches to see if anyone wants a ride from one to the next for a small fee. We’d already caught a boat to Gokarna town because a few people needed to get cash out, someone had heard tell of a good lunch place, and I needed to find out bus times so I had no more excuses not to leave, like, ever. Even the town is chilled. This place, seriously, it’s like someone hit the slow motion button on life. Even my walking pace has slowed right down and I wasn’t exactly a speedy little fucker to begin with, I often have to scurry to keep up with the mrs if she walks at her normal pace. Scurry is a good word isn’t it. Scurry. Sounds like it should be something you feed to pigs though.
And as for the sand issue? I reckon I can cope with the little particles of evil for a few days. There’s enough wet sand to sit on which has less of a tendency to work its way into whatever orifice it can find, and enough water to rinse off in should the dry sand, y’know, get on me. If anyone needs me Om Beach is where I’ll be, either with a cold Kingfisher in my hand or my face in a pile of grilled seafood.
Om Beach, Gokarna, Karnataka, India
Stayed at: Om Shree Ganesh