On March 20th we headed to the main (Majestic) bus station in Bangalore to catch our bus to Gokarna. We left Sumanjayan Homestay a little past 7pm and hired an auto rickshaw and reached the bus station around 8pm, in plenty of time for our 9pm bus. When the rickshaw stopped we didn’t realize at first that we were already at the bus station. But as soon as we got out we were met by the craziness. Up to that point, Bangalore had been so much calmer than we had expected India to be. But at the bus stop we found the chaos we had imagined. It was dark out and we couldn’t tell at first which side of the bus station we needed be on. We started walking to the right side, but then realized those buses looked like local buses, but the only way to cross back at that point was to take a crowded pedestrian overpass. There were people standing on the stairs, waiting for buses, and people rushing by on the overpass. It was the first time I could really see a reason to worry about pick-pockets.
We made our way across to the other side and began looking for platform number 4. Down a row of buses, around a corner, and then we reached platform 4. There were multiple buses, some red, and some white with “Executive” written on them. We sat on a bench and rested for a while, adjusting to the madness. Then George asked one of the bus drivers which bus was going to Gokarna and he told us which slot our bus would pull into at 8:30pm. I also realized that the bus drivers were calling out their destinations, “Sagara, Sagara, Sagara, Sagara.” “Gokarna, Gokarna, Gokarna.” They were just speaking so fast it was hard to understand. A bit more waiting and then the bus driver came over to tell us our bus was there. We loaded our big backpack in the back compartment of the bus, and hoped it would still be there when we arrived. Then we took our seats and waited for departure time. I found a good use for the hookable strap on my daypack. I was able to loop it through the handle on the back of the seat in front of me, so my bag could hang in front of me instead of taking up room on the seat or sitting on the dirty floor. George was able to use his cable lock to secure his bag at his feet, so we could feel better closing our eyes and sleeping. At about 9pm the bus pulled out of its slot, but then we were stuck behind a huge traffic jam of buses trying to leave the station. Some were honking loudly to get others to move, so they could back out. Perhaps each bus had to wait a while to merge onto the main road. It took 20 minutes just to get out of the station.
Then we were on our way. It was too dark to see the scenery, so we just tried to sleep. As expected, we didn’t get much sleep on the 12 hour ride. It was a narrow road, so whenever a truck approached from the other direction the bus would honk and slow down to pass. It started out hot, since it was a non-AC bus, but after a while a cold breeze was coming through the window. I would wake up for a minute and slide the window further shut, and then I’d wake up a while later and it would be more open. I thought George kept opening the window, but when I saw him wake up and asked him he said he hadn’t. Then I thought it was the lady in front of us, until George watched and saw that the window was opening on its own. So the routine went: Close the window, fall asleep, be awakened by a cool blast of air, repeat. We used ear plugs, but the high pitched drone of the wheels was hard to drown out. We finally reached Gokarna, the final stop, at around 9am.
We hadn’t heard back from Mariana (our Portuguese friend who we met while traveling last year) before leaving Bangalore about where to meet, so we walked down Main St in search of an internet café. We saw Pai Restaurant, which was mentioned in the guide book and paused a minute before heading across the street to check email, but then I thought I heard someone call “Heidi.” And a moment later, Mariana came out of Pai Restaurant with a big smile on her face. Apparently that was our meeting point for 9am that morning! So we joined her for breakfast of dosa, banana banse, samosas, and chai. Mariana has already been traveling in India for four months, as part of an around-the-world trip, so she became our expert adviser.
After breakfast we left our big pack in her hotel room and set out for the town beach to walk south towards a more secluded beach, in search of a beach hut.
We first reached Kudle Beach and stopped for a cold drink and checked a hotel there.
Then we kept walking to Om Beach, where George and Mariana took a swim, while I hid in the shade to get a bit of relief from the glaring sun. I guess I forgot that my tan had already faded, and hadn’t reapplied sunscreen after our bus ride, so my arms and face turned pink. We decided we preferred Kudle Beach and went back and found a beach hut we liked, before taking a very bumpy rickshaw ride back to town, so Mariana could check out of her room. Then a quick lassi break, before our return ride to our new room. Finally time for a shower! And now we could relax at the beach…