Travel

Gopalpur on Sea: where sun, sea and surf meet on India’s east coast

As the public transport bus from Berhampur railway station weaves through traffic and rumbles through a road flanked with endless emerald-green paddy fields, the breeze suddenly drops and you can smell the sea. I’m about eight kilometres short of Gopalpur on Sea in the southern tip of Odisha.

Gopalpur on Sea: where sun, sea and surf meet on India’s east coast

Villages with colourful houses with thatched roofs and heart shaped nameplates of the owners, swim into view and then disappear. The smell is now of dry fish — which is intoxicating to those who eat fish, but can send others scurrying for the barf bag. The bus rolls down a slope with houses almost touching its sides, sending dogs, pigs and sparrows scurrying. We are in front of a colourful arch called Swarga Dwar. Beyond it is one of the cleanest beaches in the country, with the bluest of waters. By afternoon, a row of beach shacks selling everything from pani puri, jhalmuri and chicken kebabs to shells, bangles and corals, has sprung up.

Shades of life

The village stands out as a duo-chrome dream, caught between the golden sand and blue of the sea. Touted as one of the best beaches in the country, Gopalpur on Sea, or Gopalpuram as the locals call it, remains an undiscovered haven for those looking for some ‘me’ time or ‘together’ time.

Gopalpur on Sea: where sun, sea and surf meet on India’s east coast

I rise early and walk on the beach; the sea has receded a little from the shoreline, leaving a hard sand bar that becomes a playground for hundreds of scampering snails, crabs and other small creatures.

Fishermen push their vibrantly-painted boats into the waters and the sea spray glistens in the sun’s first rays. The fishermen speak in Telugu, despite the village being in Odisha. A long walk takes me to the estuary where boats are moored to the shoreline. The water that laps the shore is transparent and clean.

A little later, a visit to the village market near the bus stand shows another slice of life. Freshly caught fish, prawns, and crabs are there for the picking. Gopalpur is a fishing hamlet that is surrounded by villages, where farming is the main source of income. Farmers bring their fresh produce and the market is deserted by noon.

Otherwise, the village has limited spots, such as a small temple to Gopalswamy, a lighthouse and an estuary. It also has the Mayfair Resort, which used to be called the Oberoi Palm Beach and was the haunt of the British elite from nearby Kolkata before Independence. In 2016, a few graffiti artists came together to paint some old, rundown and gutted buildings. The sea spray has dulled the paintings and they are hardly visible now.

Gopalpur on Sea: where sun, sea and surf meet on India’s east coast

In late winter and early summer, Olive Ridley turtles visit to lay eggs — but it is a rare occurrence. A full moon rising on the horizon with fishing boats, their sails up, is a sight to behold.

There are steps leading down to the beach, and staring at the sea, listening to the waves at night, is therapeutic. The only link to civilisation is the 4G signal on your phone. Put it on airplane mode and breathe deeply.

 

How to get there

The nearest railhead to Gopalpur on Sea is Berhampur on the Chennai-Kolkata line on the East Coast Railway. Gopalpur is about 20 kilometres from Berhampur station and is serviced by green and white State transport buses.

The nearest airport is Bhubaneshwar, 150 kilometres from Gopalpur. It takes about three hours to cover the distance.

By road, Gopalpur is 10 kilometres from NH5 that connects Chennai and Kolkata.

Where to stay

Gopalpur Mayfair Beach Resort, Motel Mermaid, Swosti Hotel, Blue Wave, Sea Breeze, Sea Pearl and a host of other small hotels dot the beach.

Things to do

Nothing. Gaze at the sea. Long walks on the beach. Visit the temple. Catch crabs. Go on the boat to the other side of the estuary to visit the village of Haripur which is similar to Gopalpur except it has many shrimp hatcheries. Persuade the fishermen to take you out to sea. The ride is very rocky, you get drenched but would be memorable.

What to eat

There are a few shacks that have marinated crabs and fish strung up ready for frying and eating. But a better option is to buy it straight from the fishermen who haul the catch ashore in the afternoon and then persuade the shopkeeper to cook it up the way you like for a small price.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 1:49:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/gopalpur-on-sea-where-sun-sea-and-surf-meet-on-indias-east-coast/article24101788.ece

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