A three-hour rattle-trap train-ride south of the old Portuguese colony of Goa, lies Gokarna and a set of five beaches strung together by a sketchy trail, populated by a host of nomads, trancers, and new agers keeping the spirit of the Goa of yore alive — the spirit before the beach raves and Russian hordes descended upon Goa. Lindsay, my travel companion, and I headed down from Jaipur spurned on to catch Lindsay’s long time friend, Shannon, a fellow Bay Area traveler.
Respite from the hordes in the city made our shoes and shirts overly repressive and in need of instant shedding. The wandering tribe of world travelers welcomed us into their midst. Nowhere in all my world travels did I meet more lifers than in Gokarna, a destination for those humble folks committed to a grid-free life, wandering from one destination to the next. The two plus years I’d been on the road paled in comparison to the life journey of this tribe and I felt relieved to avoid the cumbersome banter that comes from fresh-eyed travelers asking the same repeating questions ending in a roadblock of silence. Instead the silence wore like a comfortable t-shirt amongst the group as it jelled and moved like an amoeba — individual yet collective. I imagine it’s the sense that veterans of any long-standing occupation feel when they’re with their people.
India unfurled her rich tapestry on a long moto ride, two to the bike, as we dodged diesel-belching big rigs, and oncoming traffic, all flowing like blood cells through an artery too small. Losing ourselves in the country side we discovered festivals afoot, smiles over flowing, and laughter in spades ultimately finding the seemingly impossible: an empty beach to while the day away. Sunburns bore us back for a cliff side sunset and, after, the comfort of sleep was found on cob mattresses in bamboo huts, the sound of waves and hand drums chasing us into our dreams.
Our feet had memorized each grain of sand on our beach when towards week’s end, we set out to discover the uncharted remaining three beaches, clambering and skating across a goat trail in our flip-flops. Each successive beach became more rugged and less populated until we ended beneath a grove of palm trees surrounded by tents and hammocks as we munched fresh coconut between swims in the sea. A lazy sunset boat ride back saved our feet a treacherous walk in the dark.
As all locations do in travel and life, Gokarna came to an end. Despite the peace and beauty of the place, it was not immune to the drama of the human condition, and I found myself eager to explore Hampi, a UN World Heritage site an overnight’s bus journey away.