happnin' Gokarna, India - swinging in smoke

Yolanda’s bit
Sixteen hours overnight -and overday- sleeper train to Gokarna in next state north, Karnataka.
Actually Gokarna is a pretty remote place, so the nearest train station is 50km away. We managed to get into town by the evening and had dinner at the hotel which serves as a base for most travelers who want to explore the area. That's where you leave your luggage for a small fee before venturing yourself for the beaches and stay in them longer than you'll be able to remember... That's also where you get back to have a shower after a few days/weeks on the beach when it gets too stinky.
Our table neighbors were smoking a spliff carelessly. Cool. Miles's eyes popped out and a huge smile brighten his face. It's the first place where we've seen it in public. This weird Greek guy tells us about the beaches and we're dying to get there. We leave our rucksacks at the hotel and head for the mysterious beaches carrying with us just a couple of things for the next few days.

It's a 20min walk from the village but it takes the dimensions of a karmic journey: you'll only find it if you deserve it. People in the village -which is definitely different than others we've seen, really laid back and unspoiled, makes you feel comfortable and women wear no bra under their no-saree piece of clothing- give us directions but still it's no more than turn right at the temple and go to the other side of the cliff.
First of all we get to the wrong beach -the village beach- in which a man offers to tale us to Om beach by boat for an exorbitant amount. Then we take the wrong path from this beach up the rocky cliff past the cave and then e are lost. A vast empty field extends in front of us. We try to walk in a straight line and eventually we bump into a centenarian Indian Guru and his young westerner disciple walking in a completely direction to ours under an umbrella.
We ask the young bloke the way to Om beach and at his attempt to answer the old Guru cuts him off with a non-discussion gesture and says "straight-up-down: Cuddle beach. Straight-up-down: Om beach." -or something like that- with infinite arms and head movements which mean "if you continue the way you're going straight and follow the stones signs and then take the path down the cliff, you'll get to Cuddle beach. If you go to the end of this beach and repeat the operation, you are in Om beach" but also meant "there is only one way. Follow it and you'll get there if you have to. But you'll only get to Om beach if you succeed in Cuddle beach". What he didn't tell us is that there's Paradise beach after Om beach. There must've been a very dark aura emanating from our bodies. The western bloke looked and smiled. A few minutes later we bump into another Guru sitting under the only tree shadow with his young Japanese disciple. We say "hi". On the way down we see the Japanese disciple again and ask him at a diversion of paths "Is this the way to the beach?" at which he answers "maybe it is" and continues his way. We follow him.

The beach is quite deserted and there are about ten cafe-restaurants along. Most of them have straw huts at the back with nothing inside for about Rs.40 (50p) a day. That's where most travelers stay. We go to the last cafe which is the only one with rooms in a brick building quite a bit back behind the palm trees and we get one for Rs.80 with a 2cm thick mattress inside.
There are eight rooms in total, four on each side of the building. On our side we've got Ashley and Katrine next door, followed by Jeff and fed-up girlfriend. On the other side we've got four? eight? ten? Scandinavian giggly kids. There's hammocks hanging all over the place. Cool. Time to try our super huge one.
We do fit together! We swing and swing and listen to the nonstop chatter of Ashley. He's a psycho from the Midlands and has been living in Berlin for the past eight years. Katrine is German. He looks like a scary ex-junkie skinhead and his accent accompanies it. He's actually very sweet, so is his German girlfriend Katrine. They spend all day in the hammocks in the little porch of their room. So do Jeff and his fed-up girlfriend. The Swedes spend all day being somehow always very busy doing something (cleaning, cooking, moving in and out of their rooms) and giggling.

Cuddle beach is nice and wavy and there's never more than five or six people around. The rest are in the cafes or in their huts. This is the more "real travelers' scene" we've been in so far.
On this beach there's also a high percentage of old hippies, New Age families and Israelis on their usually long traveling break after three years army service (two for the girls). All cafes invite to lay around in cushions and swing in hammocks all day long, make friends and have a break from Indian music listening to some good techno and trance. Food is very limited here though. Eggs, pancakes and Indian thali.

We alternate that with dips on the sea. Still soooooo Jot. There's no umbrellas or sunbeds for hire and no "hello pineapple, mango, papaya, you want to buy drum? Just look at my lungis. Promise?"
We play frisbee. We get very stoned. People smoke BOOM! chillums in the cafes and pass them around.
Back at the house the Swedes are swinging and Ashley and the others are cooking the dinner they've been preparing in the last hours with the fish they bought in the morning from the fishermen at the beach. Good alternative to the food available around. They are using the whole of their six months visa on this porch They chatter non stop, Ashley leads. They are fun. Spliffs roll around. And we swing. Somehow it's difficult to stay in bed after 7.30am and everybody is up by then. A bit of community feeling starts to grow and makes me feel a bit uneasy but it's quite nice. We tell our stories and discoveries of the day as we would to our grandparents and they make jokes about them.

After a couple of days we feel ready for Om It was a bit easier this time, another 20mins up-straight-down. We just needed to ask once. "Om?" "yes". Smile.
You arrive spot on Namaste cafe, the busiest of the five cafes on the beach, absolutely soaked in sweat and dripping (me, not the cafe). Things go very slow there. How else could it be in midday sun Om? We play frisbee, swing some more and dip in Om sea which calmness lives up to its name as does the shape of the beach which forms the letter Om

It was Sunday and everyone was talking about the party. On the beach, in the cafes, at the house. It was some German bloke having his birthday party for a week in a beach further away than Paradise beach which could be reached only by boat. There would be sound systems, cafes and all. Nowhere to stay but the sand and no toilets. The Swedes were very excited and packed the first night. Ashley & Co. couldn't be bothered. We thought about it but still wanted to do a couple of things and leave in a couple of days. There would be Goa just after.
Next day the place was deserted and we made it to Paradise beach without asking anyone at all!

This time it was two sets of 20mins. First one across the rocks to a tiny beach with one cafe and one westerner where we stopped for a swim, second one and much wilder rock climbing and walking in a path you could only put one foot at a time and right on the edge of a 200m drop of the cliff to Paradise beach. Just about 30m long half moon shape and three cafes. It feels just right. There's about five huts on the beach and about ten westerners around. I'd love to spend some time here if I had the time (he, he)

The day passes quickly and we must leave before sunset, we have an hour and a half climbing ahead. Unless... There's been quite a few boats stopping at this beach on their way from Om to party beach and reverse picking up and dropping people. The driver says he'll take us and a German couple to Om beach before sunset. He doesn't go to Cuddle beach, it's too wavy. We wait and wait and it starts to be a bit too late to walk back and we didn't bring a torch. The boat stops a few times and tells us a few times he'll take us in half an hour. We are shuffling our chances and considering spending the night on one of Paradise huts if we are lucky.

Around 8pm the boat pick us and the Germans and an English bloke up and off we go into the wet splashing blackness. We are dropped in Om beach. Luckily the five of us go to Cuddle beach and one of us has a torch and he is German and neither him nor his girlfriend have shoes. So we all stick together and walk very slowly lighting the way as we go.

As we reach the top of the hill we start hearing screams "hello!" "Anybody there?" At first we thought it was a bunch of drunk Indians having fun but the voices became more clear and we answered. There they were two drunk English couples, one of the blokes on acid, with only a key-ring torch and completely lost.
They joined the pilgrimage but as soon as the ones with the key-ring torch got their bearings on the place they scoot off ahead leaving the tripping one and his girlfriend behind us in the darkness. She was having a real nightmare (I bet he was) trying to drag him off the bushes and keep him on his feet.
They finally caught up with us and we developed a strategy. The German bloke with the torch and no shoes would walk a few meters, stop, and light the way for us to reach him. And so on. Very organized and very slow. After a few tumbles on the rocky descent we stepped on Cuddle beach sand safe and alive.

With all this open smoking Miles was getting into a catatonic state and I was getting restless. I bought some paints, brushes and canvas with the intention of doing some painting. First time in three years!
I washed the canvas and left it to dry in the sun. It was all rigid with crinkles next morning. I washed it again but there was no way to tension it and rather than getting frustrated in the attempt I decided not to bother.

We spent one day bumming around the hammock and talking to Ashley. A couple of Swedes turned up back from the party in alpha state.
A couple of dips more in the sea and the cafes and it was time to move on. Time for Goa.

Miles’s bit