The holy water poured from the cows head spout outside of Gokarna’s Ram temple and looked clear. “Yes, yes eet’s good to drink”, my new Russian friend said. “Everybody comes here for dis sacred, clean water, Indians and Westerners both”, she assured me, while drinking and nodding her head eagerly. I wanted to believe, I really did, but I was hesitant. I haven’t had a whiff of stomach trouble in India and I didn’t want to blow it with bum holy water. I’m not very careful with what I eat (years of conditioned stomach abuse combined with plain good luck) but I am generally careful with the water I drink.
When my ankles had had enough hiking, I took two trains and three buses to Gokarna for some leisure time. I arrived late at night and arduously trudged through the soft sand on the silent, dark shoreline, asking at each of the dozen or so rudimentary restaurants if any of their bamboo hut’s were vacant. No luck – that is until the last restaurant at the end of a two kilometre stretch. One crudely roped together hut was available. I couldn’t have been happier if it was the Taj Mahal (well, maybe a little happier).
Travel weary and exhausted, I un-shouldered my pack, collapsed on the raised netted bedboard, and fell fast asleep.
In the morning, I awoke to the sound of the surf, and a handful of Europeans doing yoga on the wide expanse of white sand, and nothing else. The beach was clean and perfectly quiet.
I have been here for a few days now, time comes and goes with the waves, I read and try not to think too hard about anything at all. There is a gentle energy about this place that I love and I have what I need; a hut with my own hole in the ground, an almost empty sandy shoreline, and delicious food (I close my mind to the giant fruit bats with a two foot wing span, and the rats and lizards that jump down from the trees onto my bamboo roof).
I continue to relish the Indian food but it is so carb, oil, and sugar heavy that I generally eat only one meal a day and supplement it with pineapple, banana, or watermelon. A dish that I love is ‘banana bun’; a kneaded mixture of flour, water, banana, and sugar. It is deep fried and served with a spicy chick pea curry (costs 15 rupees – about 30 cents). Another favourite is curried potato and onion with deep fried bread and a side of yogurt with onion. I’m pretty sure that my sweat now smells like onion and curry.
Gokarna has been one of India’s sacred sites for more than 2 millennia and the devout travel from far and wide to pray here and to drink the holy water. I filled my bottle and raised it to my lips. I would join the faithful and believe. But at the last minute, I chickened out and tossed in a purifying tablet. Clearly, my faith needs a little work.