A Big Fat Goan Wedding & Onwards to Gokarna

6:19:00 PM

Half Moon Beach, Gokarna (Image courtesy: Google)
The World didn't end on December 21st, 2012... And this is how we celebrated Life... :)

PART 1 - THE WEDDING
Lisette - The Bride
I had 4 reasons for attending Lisette's wedding (apart from the obvious friendship factor) -
  1. I had never seen a Catholic wedding.
  2. The wedding was in GOA!!!
  3. I was already travelling to Gokarna (So someone travelling from Mumbai has to pass through Goa).
  4. And of course, who would want to miss such a beautiful bride in a beautiful white wedding gown.
Day 1, December 22, 2012: The bus dropped me at Madgaon at 12:15 p.m. instead of the scheduled time of 9:30 a.m. - thus ruining half a day's plan. A bike taxi (I love them) dropped me at Hotel Madgoan Residency where few other friends were put up. We had lunch at Longuinhos, which was bang opposite the hotel and then started the dressing-up-for-the-wedding session. On majority votes, we decided to skip the Wedding Mass and go directly for the Reception party. I thus missed the wedding vows and the part where they were pronounced man and wife (and of course, the You-may-kiss-the-bride part).

We reached the Reception venue - The Blueberry Hills at Verna at 7:00 p.m. and helped setting up the place (Well it was already set, but our job was to ensure that it was set perfectly). The theme was Pink and Lavender and the setting looked exotic.

The Blueberry Hill
We grabbed a glass of wine each and waited for the couple to arrive. Soon enough entered two cute little flower girls scattering confetti as they lead the Bridal Procession, followed by Lisette and Joel - hand-in-hand, followed by her entourage which consisted of six bridesmaid and both of their family. Once the couple cut the wedding cake, a toast was raised in their honor. Some blessings from close family and friends followed and speeches from the groom and the bride, after which the bride and the groom performed the Bridal Waltz - their first dance together as husband and wife. Soon the bridesmaids joined the couple with their partners and then their families.

Top left: Bridal march; Top right: Cutting the wedding cake; Bottom left: Bridal Waltz
Once the MC invited the rest of the guests on the dance floor, it was fun time. I had never seen a happier bride. We danced and danced till our feet started aching, but she never stopped dancing. When we joined the floor back after dinner, Lisette was still dancing, this time with her father - which is also one of the traditions. Finally, it was time to toss the bridal bouquet and before I knew what was happening, I ended up catching it :-P.  

I was so awed by all this... Seeing it in pictures and movies is one thing and experiencing it 'Live' is another. The white wedding gown has always fascinated me, and all the ladies wearing gowns and dresses instead of sarees and lehengas were a soothing change to the eyes. There were Bands instead of Dholis and like I said, the bride wasn't a shy 'dulhan'. Time flew and soon it was post midnight. We finally spent some time with Lisette and Joel and posed for some pictures (which were instantly uploaded on Facebook).

The Bride, the Groom & us
We reached Madgaon at 1.30 a.m. That night I had as much trouble sleeping as I had on the day I had run the 10 Km Pinkathon  ;-).

PART 2 - GOKARNA

Day 2, December 23, 2012: After a disastrous breakfast at Longuinhos (they serve whole garlic cloves on buttered bread and call it garlic toast), I went to the market to pick up few port wine bottles and from there started for the station - again on a bike taxi. My train was at 1:15 p.m. I made two friends during my wait at the station - both of them from Columbia (I never asked which Columbia). The train journey was for 1.5 hours during which we passed Karwar and Ankola. I was picked up by one of my friends at the Gokarna station - an isolated two platform station at the middle-of-nowhere. The station was 8 Km from the main town, from where we took a diversion towards the Kudle beach. The bike could only go till one point and after that we had to trek down through a uneven downhill path. All my tiredness was gone, as soon as we landed on the beach. I absolutely loved it. It was serene and beautiful and yes, we were staying right on the beach. There are many makeshift shacks on the beach, out of which we booked one at the southern end of the beach. There were hardly any Indians around. Soon after we joined another group who were playing beach volleyball. That's another thing I loved about Gokarna - there is no concept of 'strangers'.

A beach volleyball session
After grabbing a yummilicious lunch at our shack restaurant and few pints of beer (alcohol is banned on Gokarna beaches; all you can get is a chilled beer), we walked into the sea. Walked - as it was shallow till a long distance. We swam, we played with the waves and pulled each other into the water when the other person was least suspecting any prank. Standing waist deep in the water, we watched the Sun set - it felt like the perfect holiday. A few distance ahead of us a couple was swimming. They kissed as the Sun touched the horizon. It was a wow moment with so much of romance merging with the beauty of the nature. It would have made a great picture had I been able to click that. But some of the best moments of life just can't be captured by the camera. They are meant to fly by and all we are left with are memories.

After lazing around in the sand for sometime, we changed and drove to Om beach. Again after one point we had to walk down after parking our bikes. It was almost a mile long walk but the almost-full moon showed us the way. Om beach felt a little silent than Kudle, though a Google search had indicated otherwise. The sea was closer to the shacks here and the light from the shacks were creating beautiful reflections on the water.

A Cafe's reflection on the water
Om beach is named so because the shore is shaped like an ''. We decided to come back in the morning to check that.

Day 3, December 24, 2012: We woke up early as we had planned to trek the entire coastline of Gokarna (All other beaches except Om are not accessible by roads). The place is also a yoga destination. We saw few people meditating on the beach and some who preferred jogging ran past us.

Kudle Beach views; Top Right: The most attention seeking pup I have met
7:30 a.m.: We left Kudle from its Southern end and climbed up through a narrow path that led to a hilltop. From there finding the way to Om wasn't a tedious trek (apart from one wrong turn which had us trapped inside thorny shrubs). Soon enough we reached the spot where we had parked our bikes the previous night. There were concrete steps from there which went straight down to the beach. We landed right in front of Namaste Cafe and decided to have breakfast there. We had an amazing breakfast - Porridge, buttered toast, cheese mushroom omlette, pancake with butter and honey and hot chocolate, and just this much away from the sea.

View from Namaste Cafe, Om Beach
9:30 a.m.: I would have preferred a hammock right there, had we not planned the day long trek. While walking by the sea, we found several shell deposits. When we reached the middle of the 'Om', we sat on the rocks and relaxed for sometime. Once we had crossed the rest of the beach, the uphill path started  again.

Top left: Shell deposit, Top Right: Om beach top view;
Bottom left: Southern end of Om beach; Bottom right: On the way from Om to Half Moon beach
10:15 a.m.: Partly through narrow hill tracks and partly through sea side rocks, we reached Half Moon Beach. Out of all the beaches I have ever been to, this one was the smallest beach and also the 'cleanest'. It is of the shape of a half moon and hence the name. There were just two shacks providing food and accommodation on the beach - one on each end of it. We relaxed in the shade of a huge boulder, till it was time to trek further.  

Half moon beach
10:45 a.m.: There are two ways to reach Paradise beach from Half Moon Beach - one through the hills and another through the rocks on the coastline. The heat was growing stronger and we planned to take the safer path through the hills, but instead missed a turn and ended up on the rocks. And we absolutely loved it. I already had several cuts from the thorns we encountered while trekking from Kudle to Om to Half Moon and I preferred figuring out the right path through those boulder shaped rocks instead.

The rocky path to Paradise beach
I was a happy girl when we landed up on Paradise (Oops! Did I forget to mention the word 'beach'). There were hammocks under a small coconut cove - a wish come true. It was finally time for a nap under the shadow of the coconut trees (The thought of a coconut dropping right on my head did cross my mind). I took a 10 minutes power nap while the others sipped on tender coconuts (the price for hiring the hammock :-P).

I wanted to lie there forever (or atleast for few hours c'mon!!) but I was soon pulled out of the hammock to trek back to Kudle. By now I was getting cranky. First, dancing crazy with a stilletto on and then trekking 4-5 kms of a rugged coastline - my feet needed some rest. Neverthless I left the comfort of my hammock and we trekked and trekked.

View of Paradise beach from top
We trekked till we were at a beach called Belican, outside the realms of Gokarna. We took a bus from Belican that dropped us at Gokarna main town. As we walked through the main market, we spotted numerous shops selling harem pants, cotton sun dress, jhola bags and a lot of hippie clothing. I shopped  as much as I assumed my backpack could accommodate and then we took an auto to Kudle parking lot.

1:00 p.m.: I literally shouted out - "We're Home" once my feet touched the sands of Kudle. I loved Kudle, among all the beaches I visited today just 'cause it felt like home and I felt in peace with myself there.

After freshening up and a much awaited lunch, we left for Karwar on our bikes at 4:00 p.m.. Visiting Karwar was entirely my idea as I was intrigued by the fact that Rabindranath  Tagore had fallen in love with the place and composed his first play Prakritir Pratishodh (Nature's Revenge) there. But I was rather disappointed when we reached Karwar after an one and a half hours drive. It was just before sunset and we felt (The opinion is solely mine), the beaches of Gokarna were far more pristine and tranquilizing.

Sunset at Karwar beach
But I would rather say we needed more time to explore Karwar than contradict the legendary composition. We waited for the Sun to go down and then started back for Gokarna. The drive back was chilly, something we had not anticipated and we had not carried any woolens.

8:30 p.m.: We were back at Kudle. We had dinner and then strolled around on the beach till midnight - it was Christmas Eve.

Day 4, 25th December 2012: We knew it was Christmas as the night sky was suddenly lit with colorful firecrackers. There were no Christmas trees or Santa but there was this spirit of Christmas - Everyone from our shack and from the nearby ones sat around a huge bonfire and chatted with each other. Some played guitar, some bongo drums and the rest sang along and soon enough we all were dancing around the bonfire.

Christmas Bonfire
We spent half of the remaining night sleeping on the sands until one of our sane friends dragged the rest inside the beach huts. 

My morning started with a meditating session, preceded by a lot of 'Good Morning, Merry Christmas' from the stranger-turned-friends who passed by. Sitting some distance away from where the waves were crashing, I closed my eyes and concentrated. I could hear the waves crashing close by, footsteps as someone walked by, a bird chirping somewhere on my left. I could feel the touch of the sand and fresh morning wind rustling through my open hair. It was an ultimate relaxation - the perfect end to a crazy year.

My train to Mumbai from Gokarna Road station was at 6:20 p.m., but we left the secluded Kudle post lunch as my friends had a 3:30 train.

I felt sad as I waited in that desolate station for my train. I love Mumbai - without any doubts. But sometimes the crazy life I lead in this busy city, makes me crave for some peace, some air which is untouched, unpolluted. And Gokarna gave me exactly what I was craving for - Freedom. The train when it arrived, halted hardly for 2 minutes. As I lied down in my berth, I felt I had left part of me behind.
A wise man I met at Gokarna had said -"Gokarna is not the poor man's Goa, but rather the wise man's Goa". 

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