Stinking and sweating like a pig, I stand under the shower. As the water hits my head and flows down my body I feel a burning sensation on my calves and knees. “Aah!” I think to myself “Must be those thorns and the bushes”. Its funny how you do not feel these minor cuts and bruises when your sole aim is to get out of the jungle in which you are trapped and lost but as soon as you hit the comfort of your hotel room you realize all of these pains that were non existent just half an hour ago. I smile to myself, something that I do not do that often. How do every once in a while I end up in trouble where none existed. But then that is what makes my travels completely unforgettable.
Paradise beach. Whoever named this beach named it aptly so. It’s difficult to get here. The trails through the jungle along the shore are not well defined and at times, multiple. I take one and hit a dead end and make it all the way back and try another. And when this happens again and again its not pleasant. Sometimes you have to climb a rock on all fours and at other places you climb down the same way. I can see a trail that I feel will lead to the beach, and at times the beach itself, from afar standing on top of a rock along the shore between the previous Half moon beach and Paradise beach which is my ultimate destination, but cannot make a head or tail of how to get there.
A faint trail leads to another and another I have almost reached. A few minutes before I hit the sands of the beach I start seeing signs of civilization. Some people, however may not call it ‘civilization’. There is an old red colored stereo lying on a sheet of paper. Next to it is a dried shell of coconut with lots of cigarette ash. The stereo and the ‘ash tray’ are enclosed in a wall made of disposable plastic glasses and a few bottles of beer. I walk along and a see a couple of hammocks made of cloth to the left and another a few steps ahead in my path. There is lady lying reading a book in the one on the left and when I pass by she momentarily takes of her eyes from the page she is reading. . The hammock in my path is empty and I lift it up and bend myself a bit to go underneath. The lady shouts “ Its not that way. Come back and go along the rocks on the right”. I mutter “Thanks” and she smiles.
I walk ahead and see rubble and ruins. It seems somebody made a structure, a house or a hotel of stone and brick but was razed down. And I move along for a minute or so and I am at the beach. The feeling cannot be described in words. Let me just say “THE BEST”
It’s a small beach but the waves are huge. The rocks, all the more so. And when they hit these boulders the ‘water-works’ are deafening. The roaring waves hit the rocks with great force and go up in a white frothy splash. They recede once again to do the same thing they have been doing since ages. The bubbles, on the frothy waves go back to the seas bursting, making a sound ‘ssshhhh’ as if telling you to be quiet and enjoy the moment you are in. I cannot hear my own voice. I do not want to as well. May be that’s what Paradise does to you.
I sit on a beach and click a few pictures that fail to do justice to the place I am at. I just gaze into the sea. I see a few westerners running on the beach and jumping head on into the oncoming waves. Without a care or caution of where they may be swept off to. Absolute Freedom. This place is hippie cove. Loads of them living a life that they want to. Breaking the shackles of the rest of the world, without a care of the world outside, without a want or a need or any possession. Or rather Free’dum’ (dum a hindi word meaning various things but let me just say breath or guts). A piece of cloth laid on the ground is their bed and a piece of wood dug in at each corner holds a mosquito net above their head. A backpack lays next to it and at times a couple of books. A girl is playing a flute and the rest join around her to hear her music. A few meters away a man with a long beard is trying to carve something on a long piece of wood. He looks at me observing him and gives me a smile. I wave my hand.
Its time for me to move on. I walk along to the end of the beach and I see a trail that leads to the outside world. I follow it and once again hit a dead end. I come back and find someone who points me to the right direction.
As I move ahead the trail gets steeper and steeper. On one side is a valley a hundred feet deep or so on the other side is the mountain and in between is my way out. The trail is dusty and loose soil and pebbles mean that I have to find firm footing before I take my next step. The sweat drenched clothing, the parched throat and the legs that have already covered a walk spanning five beaches are not helping much. I slip a few times as well but manage to find my balance.
As I go up an up the trail ends and in front of me is stems of trees (on both sides of the trail) very close to each other that never attained adulthood but bent towards and entangled in each other as though forming a guard of honor. I gaze through this arrangement and can see that if I cross this hedge there is trail that turns left. I cannot pass through them untouched. May be I can crawl through it if I lie on the ground but even that is not possible. I decide to push through them. Anyways they are too weak to stop my force and its just three to four feet. I push and the first few break down easily but the ones deep in the “guard of honor’ are too strong and suddenly I find myself caught in them like a spider in the web. Only one feet of mine is on ground that too just on the toes and another leg is trapped and so are both my hands.
The first thought that comes to my mind is that what I read from Lonely Planet owned by a fellow traveler with whom I shared dinner the previous day “Do not hike the beaches after dark or alone since the trail is slippery and at times muggings have been reported” Something to that effect. Its already 5pm and soon it will be dark. Is this some trap that’s been laid out for an idiot like me?
I manage to pull myself out and go back. The path back is a descent and slippery one. I trip over root of tree that lay itself hidden beneath the lose soil and the dried leaves. If I had not been walking holding a long branch of tree I might have fallen into the valley. And then I see another trail. It was at the same spot where I stopped and gulped water a few minutes ago. How could I miss this clear well laid out path and take the one that goes deep into the jungle? If getting to Paradise is tough then getting out is tougher. The weariness of the entire day and the misleading trails and your mind as well start playing games with you. You do not see the obvious paths out which are right in front of your eyes. Or may be you do not want to get out of Paradise.
I walk a few more minutes and see a cow grazing along. Whoo!! It means there have to be people nearby. And then few hundred meters ahead I spot a man. I ask him how do get to Gokarna and he points in the direction and tells me the last bus is in a few minutes all the while giving me staring at me from head to toe. I quicken my pace and I see a bus coming round the corner. It drops of its passengers and turns around and I shout and wave my hands from a couple of hundred meters away and it stops. I run and get in. The driver gives me a funny look and asks me where I am coming from. “Paradise” I smile and answer.
I am the first passenger to get into the bus. As I take off my backpack a decent pile of dried leaves, bushes and thorns fall off from the top of my backpack. And as I take a seat and rest my back and take of my cap another pile of the same makes its way to the floor of the bus. I try to wipe the sweat trickling down my face and behind the ears and along with the sweat some more of them stick to my hand towel. I understand the reason behind the funny looks from the conductor and the guy giving me directions. Every passenger who gets in gives me a look weirder than the previous one. I feel embarrassed and pray to God to provide me the strength to endure the looks of pedestrians in Gokarna where I will have to walk my way back from the bus station to my hotel. Thankfully the bus stops right across the gate of my hotel and I dash off without being noticed by anyone. I look to myself in the mirror and click a few pictures of myself to tell you the story.