Report From India

DSCF0912GOKARNA, A PARADISE WON OR LOST?

Kapiti chess guru Guy Burns continues his reports from India

I’m based now in Gokarna which is a small town around 70,000 people, or so, in the State of Karnataka, South India.

It’s a place popular for both Indians and foreigners. Indians go on pilgrimage here because of a famous temple dedicated to Shiva and legends connected to the area. Tourists, like me, come because of the sea, beaches, food, cheap accommodation and overall laid-backness of the place. Indian visitors stay in the town, often at free or very cheap accommodation connected to the temples that abound. Some Europeans stay in the town, but, most headDSCF0779 out to the beaches—either Middle Beach—where I’m at; Kudle Beach or Om Beach.

 

 

Gokarna attracts longer-term tourists, many are old India hands and who have found a magical place where they can hang out to escape the harsh European winter.

Russians make up the majority, followed by Germans and French—in equal numbers—then Israelis, and next, a host of other Europeans, some Japanese, but, I haven’t met any Aussies or Kiwis here this time, as most seem to prefer to stay put during the Southern Hemisphere summers.

The season here is from October to end of early April, when it starts to get hot and the monsoon arrives June. Then most Tourists head north like migratory birds, either back to Europe or to the mountains of the Himalayas. I too will soon spread my wings—it really is getting hot, actually more humid—to Europe for late spring and summer.

DSCF0825But, it certainly is a cheap place to live on the beach. I’ve been paying $4 NZ per night for a basic room with double bed on the beach front, toilets and showers are communal. Nearly all places here have a café/restaurant attached and for breakfast I have a fantastic fruit salad and fresh South Indian coffee for $2.

The local South Indian food is a must for lunch and tea—usually ubiquitous masala dosa (large thin rice pancake stuffed with dry potato curry, or a thali (rice, flatbread and an assortment of curries, with curd)—all under $2 with a local tea or coffee.

It sounds like paradise, but it is not; you can always find a shadow with any Garden of Eden. One shadow is the rubbish—mainly plastic, as cows eat organic material and glass is recycled. Many Indians have a habit of throwing rubbish out of their backyards, into rivers, beaches—anywhere it takes their fancy. The result is tons of rubbish building up in huge layers on the edge of towns and cities, and come monsoon, tons more is washed down rivers into the sea.

Another challenging aspect, for Europeans on the beach, is the practice of local inhabitants to use the sea as a place to defecate and clean up. This practise is not so common in the areas where tourists stay, but, it pays to watch with caution where you step when you go for long walks.

Yes, this is Indian, a place of extremes, no middle ground. A place you either love or hate.