Home | Articles | Listings | Community Noticeboard


Goa seems to have finally disappeared beneath a tide of sunbeds and fish and chips. A woman sitting next to me in Arambol said to her companion in a broad North of England accent, "You can get draw more easily back in The Red Lion than you can here." Too true, I thought; and headed South.

I'd first heard of Gokarn sometime in the mid 90s as the place the old beaching scene in Goa had migrated to- and rattling into town at dusk, in an insane Indian bus, you could see why. This was 'real' India, with its cesspools and sunsets to die for…

Gokarn's a holy beach. Daily Indian pilgrims pour into town to bathe in the sea at dawn and dusk, and do the round of temples, shrines and tanks. There's only one main street and that's dwarfed by two huge Juggernauts (one's seriously big, its blackened wheels alone are nine or ten feet high). Radiating out from there a jumble of alleyways. Mysterious carved doorways. Skinny old geezers with titties who look like Ramana Maharshi. White yantra scrawled everywhere in the red dirt.


A twenty minute hike over the headland takes you to the reason the old Goa beaching scene moved here - a string of pristine beaches stretching for miles. Kootlee, the first one you come to, sets the pattern: not the dull, rectilinear shore of Candolim, more a series of intimate coves with palms overhanging the beach, separated by rocky promontories. Another short hike over the next headland gives you your first glimpse of Om beach - surely one of the most stunning sights of any beach ever.

A few chaishops, some huts, otherwise people are just sleeping on the beach the way they did in Goa twenty years ago. There's a whole scene with people staying for the season (Nov-Feb) and I met some really good folk hanging out there… A motorbikable track has just been pushed through to Om beach from Gokarn, but the further beaches, 'Halfmoon' and 'Paradise', can only be reached on foot and if you want near-total isolation you can have it. There's no indication the area is going to be subject to mass tourism in any foreseeable future.

My own favourite thing was wandering through the surf at dawn and dusk on Gokarn beach while the Indian pilgrims took their holy dip. I was fascinated by the way Hinduism puts play at the very heart of religion. Goofing off in the waves was actual worship. Everyone was fully dressed which at once made it more Surreal and yet paradoxically more integrated with normal daily life. Watching husband and wife (he straightening his tie and specs) pose for a rigidly formal photo with the surf crashing round their waists seemed to epitomise a quite different take on things. You don't get that in The Red Lion.

 Gokarn is a two-hour train ride from Margao in South Goa.It's a wonderful ride down the coast and I think cost 40p. My room by the beach, cool, clean, high-ceilinged, with a fan and mosquito net was a little over a pound a day. A cup of tea was 3p. A thali was 25 to 30p. A gadbad – local deluxe icecream, and boy were they good - was 20p.