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Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Gokarna (Om Beach)

19th – 21st April

Leg 17 – Palolem to Gokarna
Distance – 111kms

Time – 2.5 hours
Average Speed – 44.4km/h

Road – Single lane back road, then 2 lane highway

Leaving Palolem, we were both conscious that so far, in notorious Goa, we had not been asked for our bike papers or licence even once. The border between Goa and Karnataka, on the NH17 is notorious for extracting bribes from drivers, so it wasn’t a surprise
when a barrier was pulled down in front of us as we approached. To our surprise, it was actually the Karnataka police who asked to see our documents. As they were all in order, even our Pollution Under Control certificate, there was no reason for the officer to ask for any money. “100 rupees please” was the demand. Ady questioned what this payment was for. The response “for good luck” was all the officer could say. What could we do?!!! Meanwhile, Sam was also hassled, this time for English pound coins – wishful thinking on his part, its been a long time since we’ve seen one of those! So 100 rupees poorer, we continued the short distance to Gokarna and on to Om Beach. The road was great until we tried to get the last kilometre down to the huts near the beach. A rocky track, with 45 degree inclines made it tricky going with only one moment where we nearly dropped the bike. Sam managed to jump off in time to steady our heavy load and Ady managed to ride up the remaining part of the hill. It turned into a wasted effort though as we ended up staying at a place further back up the road in the end!

Lonely Planet describes Gokarna as the new Goa. A number of travellers we’d met on route had verified this and raved about how cheap everything was. We checked into Namaste Guest House for want of anywhere else to stay. For way too many rupees we had ourselves a room that resembled a bare brick garage with an attached bathroom - hardly the charming bamboo huts of Goa. At least the food in the Namaste restaurant was tasty and cheap! We checked out the beach and came upon an unusual scene… a large group of Indian tourist appeared to be camping out at the edge of the beach. They were accompanied by a police sergeant with a very large stick. He seemed to be rounding up the people with the assistance of said stick! After further enquiries, we discovered that the previous day an Indian person had been washed out to sea, presumed dead. They were all waiting for the body to be washed back into shore.

This little snippet of knowledge didn’t entice us to go for a swim in the sea, although the temperature was scorching as usual and the waves looked like serious fun. When the Indians tried to go in the sea, they were promptly whistled at and if they dared to ignore, were beaten by a very large stick. It seemed that the foreign tourists were immune from this treatment, and could do whatever they wanted! In fairness to the policeman, the Indians we have seen didn’t seem too at home in the water, most swam doggy paddle!

Sam bought a pineapple from one of the local sellers on the beach. We weren't warned that the pineapple would come with a free gift - a pet cow! The cow could smell the fruit and before long it had trampled our sarongs and practically attacked Sam! All the waving of a flip flop in it's face did was send it round in circles. It managed to get the pineapple too. The picture on the right was before it attacked!

After 2 nights, it was time to hit the road again – for us Goa this was not and we didn’t want to hang around on the beach any longer. Oh, the body did appear, the second night we were there, so if anyone is planning on dropping in to Om Beach in the near future, there’s no need to worry!

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